you’ve been brushed away your Keynote skills, you’re giddy that you can finally start paying yourself a living wage, and you’re eager to pitch your startup’s next round of funding to your investors. These are tumultuous times, sure, but just hit the other pedal there, buddy – you might be forgetting something.
After working with hundreds of founders to raise money — including the fantastically popular Pitch Deck Teardown series here on australiabusinessblog.com+ — there’s one slide that almost every founder has got hopelessly wrong. The slide is often referred to as: the question† Or, as one investor friend puts it, “what’s my $10 million going to buy me”? to shove.
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The Ask is a sensitive topic for many inexperienced entrepreneurs, which makes sense. Getting the right size funding round can be a bit overwhelming, and there are a thousand different ways to build a startup. If you managed to raise $8 million, you can do things one way. If you raised $12 million, you might be able to launch more features of your product a little faster, or experiment more, or get into an additional market sooner. You know that. Your senior staff knows that. Your investors know that. But either way, you need a Plan A.
What should those important stats look like to pick up not this funding round, but your next funding round?
What should you do?
Many founders will tell you that they are trying to raise enough money to survive the next 18 months. That’s probably true, but it will be true no matter how much money you raise. A better approach is to think about what you need to achieve to make your The next financing round and work back from there. This is probably a combination of stats and milestones.
Statistics are the measurable parts of your business that grow and evolve over time. One of the best metrics you have is revenue, but there could be many more: number of sales, average order value (AOV), monthly or yearly recurring revenue (MRR or ARR, respectively), customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (LTV), daily and monthly active users (DAU and MAU), retention rate (usually expressed in inverse, churn rate), and much more. What should those important stats look like to pick up not this funding round, but your next funding round?
Milestones are also measurable parts of the business, but instead of tracking them over time, they are usually binary: you’ve hit a milestone or you haven’t. For startups, these can be important hires; Finding the perfect, experienced CFO to help bring your company public is an important milestone that many companies must reach at some point. Product launches (coming out of beta), launches in select markets (launch in California only), and localization (launch of your app in Spanish and French, for example) are also important milestones. Financial milestones are also common; the first time you earn a single dollar from a customer is a huge shift in the business. When a customer starts earning you more money on average than it costs you to acquire them is another. For companies that are at an earlier stage, completing a customer validation phase by talking to say 100 potential customers is a milestone.
When you raise money, you map out a series of milestones you need to meet to validate your business. In addition, you set some stats trigger points – for example, reaching $1 million ARR, having 5,000 daily active users, or finding a combination of customer acquisition channels that allow you to acquire customers at a reasonable mixed CAC.
So let’s take a look at how to put together a great ‘question’ slide by identifying what it takes to determine how much to raise, how to create a specific set of goals, and how to pull everything together into a cohesive whole .