Seed Fundraising — The 4 Stages of a VC Processby@ashrust
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Seed Fundraising — The 4 Stages of a VC Process

by ash rustMarch 29th, 2019
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The venture capital (“VC”) meeting process can be opaque and leave you wondering when you’ll get a decision on if they’ll invest in your company or not. Here’s an overview of the standard process for seed funds (in Silicon Valley) and what you should expect at each stage.

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Seed Fundraising — The 4 Stages of a VC Process

The venture capital (“VC”) meeting process can be opaque and leave you wondering when you’ll get a decision on if they’ll invest in your company or not. Here’s an overview of the standard process for seed funds (in Silicon Valley) and what you should expect at each stage.

Stage 1 — Initial Filtering

This first meeting is an introduction between the VC and yourself. Their goal is to find out if your company is worth exploring further for investment.

What to expect: These meetings are usually casual and sometimes scheduled outside of an office setting, such as a coffee shop or members club (e.g. Philz Coffee). Because investors like to talk, it’s up to you to focus their attention on your pitch; and always use your deck if you can. If the VC is interested, they will often follow up within one business day, but remember, no matter how positive they sound at this stage, a commitment is not imminent.

What the VC is looking for: At the seed stage, VCs are looking for a sensational team first. You must demonstrate how your team will beat the odds and dominate a massive market. If you’re looking for a $1M+ investment, most VCs will expect a minimum of $5K/month in revenue to start. Next, the expectation will be exciting growth of 10%+ per month on that revenue, or equivalents such as customers or daily active users.

Stage 2 — Socialization

Now the VC is socializing your company. Their goal for the meeting is to build consensus with a few of their colleagues.

What to expect: Meetings are usually done at your office or the VC’s, and at least one other investor from the VC firm will join. Expect this meeting to be a much closer examination of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, as the attendees have typically reviewed your deck and discussed the opportunity amongst themselves in advance. If your product is publicly available, they will have tried it and you should expect questions on the experience.

What the VC is looking for: The VC is hoping you will get their colleagues just as excited as they are, connecting your recent growth to a long term vision. Strong answers to the core questions raised by the VC are imperative, e.g. market opportunity, customer acquisition, competitive advantage. They will also want to see that you are willing to answer probing questions, and debate thoughtfully if needed; resist any temptation to become defensive.

Stage 3 — Partner Meeting

This is the VC’s decision time. Their goal is to have their colleagues agree to offer you investment terms.

What to expect: This will be the most formal meeting of the process and will include all available members of the investment team, which could be a group of up to 10 people. Expect a wide array of questions, often reviewing answers you’ve given previously. Remember that the group will have access to your materials and, for some, this will be their first time meeting you. You may also be asked about the round’s participants and where this VC fits in, i.e. how much capital could they invest? If things go well, the VC will ordinarily let you know the same day.

What the VC is looking for: The VC will need a high level of excitement from the investment team, with a majority in favor of investing to proceed at this point. Remember, your VC contact already wants to invest, but is not likely to dissent from their colleagues. Be sure to give clear and detailed responses to the firm’s core questions (usually repeated multiple times by this stage) and any newly raised issues, so a final decision can be made without further delay.

This is the verification stage, often called “diligence”. The VC wants to verify the company they’re investing in, is the same one you pitched.

What to expect: Be prepared to provide financial and legal documentation for your company. Many VCs will also want to validate your customer contracts and/or other major agreements. Some VCs (including myself) ask for a background check to verify founder credentials. If the round is priced (not a note or a SAFE), your lawyers will work with the VC’s lawyers on documentation where standard questions will arise on how to handle existing investors, employees, or the future equity option pool.

What VC is looking for: The VC is expecting no surprises — ideally everything they understood from your pitch is exactly what they find during diligence. A rapidly growing company may have some room for variance but significant differences can kill the investment and be extremely negative for the company reputationally. The VC will want to see pragmatism and poise from you, to negotiate terms and get the investment closed ASAP.

Enduring the VC meeting process can be tough, but knowing where you are in each stage will give your fundraising a much better chance of success.

This article is part of a series on Seed Fundraising:1. When to Raise Money2. How to Build a Deck3. The Basics of Meetings4. VCs vs Seed Funds vs Angels5. How to get a Meeting6. The 5 Most Common Pitch Mistakes7. How to get Early Momentum8. How to Handle an Angel Investor Meeting9. How to Close the Lead Investor10. 4 Investor Gotcha Questions11. 10 Traits of Successful Founders_12. The 4 Stages of a VC Process_

If you’re a B2B company at the seed stage looking for help, you can reach me at [email protected].

Thanks to Kaego Rust for their help on this article.

Photo by Arthur Osipyan