Venture capital (VC) accounted for $3.6bn (£2.95bn) of investment in the UK tech sector last year – a 70 per cent increase on the previous year.
On a per capita basis, the country is now the second biggest destination for VC money in the world. But while it’s a valuable option, it’s not necessarily the simplest kind of funding to pursue: with the money comes a number of responsibilities, complications, and sacrifices.
This year, we secured £20m of VC funding in the form of a £5m Series A funding round and £15m in debt funding, as well as a Series B funding round worth £14m. The cash injection was vital, but it also requires careful management. If you’re pursuing this kind of funding, here’s how you can make a success of it.
Stay responsible and accountable
You can’t secure VC funding without making certain assurances. When a firm puts thousands or millions of pounds behind your company, it expects a return on this investment.
If you’re still figuring out what your business is, having to commit to milestones, growth targets and deliverables (while keeping your endgame firmly in mind) can add a great deal of pressure.
When you give up your equity, you inevitably give up some measure of control. Every business owner has to think about unit economics, brand equity, direct revenues, and operating costs, but when you’re accountable to VC investors, your margin for error narrows considerably. You’ve made promises, and you have a responsibility to keep them – it’s not just your money at stake anymore.
This added level of accountability can be a good thing. It keeps your business goals firmly in mind, it minimises any deviation from the plan, and it ensures you stay focused on improving and growing your business.
Manage your investor relationships
There’s far more to VC investors than a cash injection. They can be an enormously valuable resource for an ambitious, growing business. Remember, they deal with companies like yours on a daily basis. It’s extremely unlikely that, in all their experience of business, they’ve never come across your particular issues and frustrations. They can spot potential problems from a mile off, and they can advise you on how to resolve current problems. Seek their advice, and you’ll inevitably make better decisions.
That said, you also need to work to impress them. VC investors don’t believe that no news is good news, so when you’ve delivered on one of your promises, when you’ve hit one of your big milestones, or when you’re turning more profit than you anticipated, shout about it. This way, they’ll be more inclined to offer additional funding when the time comes.
Plan for Series B
The best business plans are always long-term, so the time to start planning for Series B is the moment you’ve closed Series A.
Earlier funding rounds are about establishing your business and proving that it has a viable path to profitability. Series B is about taking your company to the next level, so show that you’re ready for it.
At this stage, early investors are often willing to invest again, but you need to decide how much further equity you’re willing to offer, and be able to show them clear, metrics-based evidence of success.
But Series B funding is also an opportunity to look beyond these early financiers, and towards firms which specialise in later-stage investments.
Shop around and see who’s interested – and whatever you do, don’t be complacent.