As venture capital funding markets freeze and economic clouds fade, startups have scrambled to prioritize their people, sharpen their business models, and lengthen their catwalks. I am strengthened by the determination of our community.
For those considering raising equity crowdfunding, here are five steps you can take now to ensure you can handle the rigors of such a campaign while keeping your business alive for the other side.
According to Birchal, startups embraced equity crowdfunding in record numbers in 2022 as VC funding markets tightened. It’s just common sense that more startups will go down this path in the near future as the world decouples from historically cheap money.
HelpPay completed a pre-Seed round in October 2021 and we have been in the market since March last year. This week we launched our equity crowdfunding campaign with industry leader Birchal. It made sense to us because a) as a social fintech, the crowdfunding model fits our own business model and b) like many startups out there, we’re in an interesting middle ground to attract VCs.
We feel a bit like a theater production. Until it’s showtime, you haven’t really accomplished anything. But now that we’ve gone through the process with Birchal, we’re excited to share our lessons with fellow startup founders.
There are five rules.
1. Plan early. In our experience, a successful equity crowdfunding campaign requires a minimum of six months of planning, from building your pitch deck to lining up your investors.
Start early to give yourself enough time to develop and effectively execute your strategy. The general advice is that you should budget about 10% of the amount you want to raise for marketing – so be sure to put money aside early.
2. Second, be prepared to balance campaign demands with running your business.
Equity crowdfunding is an incredibly time-consuming process. It’s challenging and rewarding work, but it certainly looks much easier on the outside than it is in practice. It’s essential to have a team that can manage both the day-to-day operations of your business and the demands of the campaign.
You and your team must trust each other completely, as you will inevitably divide and conquer some tasks and work closely together on others.
3. Third, check in with your equity crowdfunding provider regularlyr, in our case – Birchal.
They will be your partner throughout the process, and it is critical to maintain open communication and collaboration, otherwise work units are likely to get out of sync or you will waste time trying to solve a problem on your own.
Ask what are the metrics you need to get after the campaign goes live to make sure you’re not only focused on going live, but also making sure the campaign is a success.
4. Fourth, make sure you’ve surrounded yourself with people you trust who can work under pressure.
While all startup founders strive to hire outstanding artists from the start, making sure you have the right team in place during a crowdsource boost becomes essential.
You need outside accountants, lawyers, videographers, graphic designers, copywriters and internal marketing automation. It’s a critical time for the company to execute on its strategic goals in a timely manner and you simply won’t have the bandwidth to see someone through it.
5. Finally, crowdsource fundraising needs an audience, so have a robust database to market.
Your campaign depends on having a large and engaged audience. While crowdfunding platforms bring their database to the campaign, no one cares more about your business than your users, people who know your founders, your existing investors, and other databases you’ve built up over time.
Build your database early on and invest time and resources in developing relationships with potential investors and then build those relationships leading up to and during the campaign.
Making the loudest noise you can to people who care about your business, ask for favors, and use networking is essential to a successful raise.
Balancing these five elements is an ongoing process. There will be weeks where you get one right but not the other, and vice versa. Fine.
But a sustainable consideration of all five elements ensures that you can perform the two most important tasks: getting the crowdfunding campaign started and keeping your business running effectively. If you can’t keep the five elements together, you’ll probably ruin the campaign, the business, or both.
This is a critical time for our industry. It takes between 3 and 10 years for many start-up business models to grow into profitable businesses. When these business plans were written, interest rates were low and valuation growth was virtually guaranteed. That is not the case now and probably will not be in the foreseeable future.
I have a lot of empathy for fellow founders who are very concerned about the longevity of their business models. But we need to lift our eyes and remember that there is technology out there to help us as much as it does our customers.
- Rowan Wilde is co-founder of social fintech HelpPay. His Birchal CSF campaign is now underway here.