Getting funding: good or bad?

Getting fundingIf you read my month­ly news roundup (and if you don’t, you should!), you have prob­a­bly noticed that a fair amount of the con­tent is on get­ting fund­ing. Why? Well, for one thing, big (or even mod­er­ate) mon­ey is inter­est­ing. Fund­ing can also tell you some­thing about which types of recruit­ing com­pa­nies folks out­side our indus­try have the to grow sub­stan­tial­ly (wit­ness: pro­gram­mat­ic). Fund­ing can also serve as a recog­ni­tion of suc­cess (‘that com­pa­ny did with the ini­tial round, let’s give them some more’). And some­times, well, it just means that the com­pa­ny has a good ‘pitch team’ and/or good con­nec­tions in the VC world.

The real­i­ty is, most com­pa­nies in our indus­try don’t ask for or get fund­ing. They are ‘self-fund­ed’. They start, they strug­gle, they grow. Or not. I think most founders whose com­pa­nies do get fund­ed are doing so for a cou­ple of rea­sons: a) they want to accel­er­ate their ; and b) they are will­ing to give up some or most of their own­er­ship in exchange for a quick(er) exit. (Yes, there are oth­er rea­sons, but these to be the most typ­i­cal that I’ve run into).

But…

What if you did get fund­ing? What would you do with it? And why? I would posit that this is a use­ful exer­cise to go through – it makes you think about where your is going, and why. Many times the lack of mon­ey isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly linked to a lack of progress toward goals. Instead, it may be an absence of goals.

So let’s think this through. For the sake of this what if exer­cise, assume that you’ve just received an amount of fund­ing equal to the gross busi­ness income you expect for the cur­rent year. So if you’re gen­er­at­ing $5M in sales, you’ll $5M in fund­ing. Also assume that in return, you will give up 25% of your own­er­ship in the busi­ness. You still con­trol the busi­ness, but not com­plete­ly. What are you going to do?

  1. Go hog wild on mar­ket­ing: If you look at what most com­pa­nies say when they get a fund­ing round, they will say ‘spend on mar­ket­ing to increase mar­ket share’. In oth­er words, spend to grow. Is that what you’d do? Or….
  2. Invest in new product(s): Maybe you’ve got a great idea that has nev­er tak­en flight because you could­n’t invest in it. Or per­haps there is a prod­uct that’s ‘half-built’. Or would you rather…
  3. Acquire new You can have your cake and eat it too if you hire new sales staff – you’ll grow sales AND you’ll get big­ger – prob­a­bly. Or maybe you’ll pick up some super-smart devel­op­ers who will wean you away your cur­rent ‘off the shelf’ sys­tems. Or…
  4. Acquire a com­peti­tor: Quit com­pet­ing with them and instead, take them out of the mar­ket! If you’re lucky, you’ll pick up mar­ket share AND top notch staff. Or…
  5. Retire debt: OK, I don’t hear this too often. I guess it’s the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble. But swap­ping debt for own­er­ship? Well, it hap­pens.

So which one did you pick? Why? Now take your new­found knowledge….and do it any­way! If you’ve been hold­ing off on mar­ket­ing, cut back in some oth­er areas and use the mon­ey to dri­ve sales – the lack of lots of mon­ey usu­al­ly makes your spend­ing more tar­get­ed and care­ful. Or – don’t leave that new prod­uct on the shelf – get it done! Sell it! And so on.

Sure, you can’t do these the same way as if you had lots of some­one else’s mon­ey – but most of the time you can still reach your goal. You’ll just have to get seri­ous about actu­al­ly achiev­ing the goal. Do what’s most impor­tant, and don’t wor­ry about the rest of it. So ask the ques­tion – what if? Remem­ber – get­ting fund­ing is only half the process!

And yes – you’ll get to make more mon­ey and keep your com­pa­ny!

Note: The Doc­tor is enjoy­ing Memo­r­i­al Day, so this is a post from a few years back – still rel­e­vant!

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