After recently going through a capital raising process with my SaaS (Software as a Service) startup, I wanted to summarise five key learnings from engaging with over 40 investors across Australia and South East Asia.

I’ve read many articles over the years about what makes a startup attract capital, usually (rightly) discussing the importance of forming strong founding teams and how to achieve the ever-elusive ‘product-market fit’.

Whilst this is all critical, I wanted to take the time to talk about my firsthand experience with what some may call the ‘boring stuff’…

That’s right, I want to talk about some of the key documents necessary to satisfy investors! Whilst not an exhaustive list of the reams of PDFs and excel sheets you will need to generate, in my experience these are the ones that take a lot of effort to get right.

startup

1. Navigating the usual suspects

navigating-the-usual-suspects

 

The above illustrates the hierarchy and names of documents within your Dataroom that I’d recommend preparing early in your capital raise journey.

On reflection, I’d estimate 80% of questions asked by investors directly related to ‘market sizing’, ‘go-to-market strategies’ or our ‘high level capital deployment strategy’. Luckily, as our round has progressed, we have saved a lot of time by having these documents at the ready so we can keep conversations moving quickly.

What makes preparing this set of documents a challenge is understanding how interrelated they each are. Like pieces of a torn treasure map, they each needed to fit seamlessly together for your startup to take shape as a solid business case worthy of investment.

Visually, each of these documents within your Dataroom (and your pitch) needs to play a part in articulating this story:

capital-deployment-strategy

2. Building a meaningful financial model around go-to-market strategies

 

For many years I was skeptical about how useful financial models were for SaaS businesses. Fundamentally, everyone wants to see hockey stick growth, and if you’re early stage, there few variables you can play with to depict that outcome (such as customer churn and your compound user growth rate to name a few) and you are probably going to need to use proxies based on industry standards. Following these conventions, the model may not tell you much about your own business and result in wasted hours building something quite generic.

From a financial lens, each go-to-market strategy is a pocket of future revenue, discounted by time to execute and its probability of success.

 

Investors want to fuel your growth, not just help you build a cool product. For that reason, building your model around the expected revenue and costs from a sequence of go-to-market strategies over the next 12-18 months gives confidence to the reader around the value of the growth and operations activities they are investing in.

Additionally, any concerns about the accuracy of your model with an investor will naturally result in a conversation about the potential effectiveness of a go-to-market strategy instead of a debate if the correct churn or compound growth rate was chosen.

3. How to articulate a clear link between the market size and your pathway to £100k MRR.

Defining your market size can be difficult, especially if your business intends to be “market expansionary” and doesn’t fit into any single existing industry nicely. Ultimately, you want the market sizing part of your documentation to stand up to scrutiny, providing a sense check to any reader that your proposed pathway to the next revenue milestone is achievable (eg: £100K Monthly reoccurring revenue).

The approach described below may seem a little in-depth, but it arms you with a thorough “Top-down” and “Bottom-up” framework to generate evidence-backed numbers:

business-industries
  • Using a few google searches, find all the existing industries that your business currently or may operate across. Their combined capitalisation can be regarded as “Reference Industries’ and indicates the uppermost boundary of the business’ total addressable market. Additionally, your chosen reference industries each have systemic risks so ensure you can articulate how you are mitigating them to investors.
  • Assess each industry within your chosen set and identify what percentage of activity fits your business’ current or future operations. This will help you weigh each to derive your “Top-Down” TAM.
  • You need a potential customer count to derive a meaningful serviceable obtainable market (SOM). Whilst you probably can’t service every customer in your TAM right now, let alone find data to find out how many potential customers exist out there worldwide. Instead, consider a set of constraints that will be in place whilst you deploy capital as part of this raise. For instance, you may only focus on servicing the market within one country, or won’t be able to monetise a certain customer type because your product is not mature enough yet – these are meaningful constraints. Keep layering constraints atop your TAM until you can start utilising actual public datasets to find an evidence-backed, potential customer count.
  • With a total potential customer count from your SOM, you can now articulate how your go-to-market strategies and product development roadmap will allow you to reach your next revenue milestone, sense-checked against the feasible market size that could be monetised given your businesses current constraints.
reference-industries

 

  • Notice that as your business grows over the years, the goal is to remove each constraint on SOM, resulting in a larger market opportunity.

4. Understand the different types of investors

 

Investors come in many different colours such as Venture Captial Firms, Accelerators, Angel Investors and Family Offices to name a few. However, if you’re not aware of how each conducts their diligence and fail to prepare your documentation to match your audience type, you’re going to lose momentum during your round as your team pushes meetings back to find the time to thunderously reformat documentation and write the 10th high level summary of the business!

The solution?

Discuss with your team the type of investors that are/may seriously consider investing in your business. If you are targeting multiple investor types, ensure how modular your documentation is to accommodate different forms of delivery that may be expected;

 

In my experience:

  • Family Offices prefer Investment Memorandums (IMs) and financial models that follow accounting standards (Forecast Balance Sheets, Income Statements, etc) along with printable summaries that can be distributed in hard copy at a meeting.
  • Venture Capital Firms appreciate short, precise decks. If impressed, they will likely request access to an online Dataroom (Which you can host on google drive or a tool such as ansarada)
  • Accelerators usually have targeted, bespoke written questions as part of their application process, followed by considerable face-to-face pitching. Sadly, completing these applications take time, so aim to record all your answers so they can be repurposed in the future.

5. Don’t forget that you also run a business!

 

Writing documentation for your startup’s round is all about de-risking the investment opportunity for your potential investors.

Whilst it takes great concentration and coordination with your team to prepare a compelling investment opportunity, don’t forget that your business needs to continue to grow at the same time as the raise takes place. This is a challenging juggling act, especially once multiple meetings a week with investors start taking place and the time to focus and write diminishes.

To note, these are all my opinions formed from my firsthand experience, your experience may differ. However, I hope that the points above help founders who may be considering embarking on their first raise by casting a little light on the documentation required to get far!

business

This article was first published on LinkedIn. Republished with kind permission from Andrew.

Andrew Pankevicius

Andrew is a technical product manager who has worked across three countries to date within corporates and startup technology businesses. With experience raising seed round capital, these are some of his key recommendations to ace your investment documentation!