Now I Know My A, B, Seeds

As the global startup ecosystem brings in more capital, navigating the market is becoming increasingly challenging for new founders. To help demystify the fundraising process for aspiring entrepreneurs, three founders share valuable insights drawn from their own experiences of raising Seed, Series A, and Series B funding.

Seed:

Band Protocol Team

Band Protocol Team

With product blueprints finalized and potential market fit researched, startups that intend to move beyond ideation raise a Seed round of funding. Mainly led by angel investors, these rounds pave the way for future revenue growth.

In February 2019, Band Protocol, a Singapore and Thailand-based startup that focuses on decentralizing data curation, raised US$3 million in Seed funding led by Sequoia India. The company’s CEO and Co-founder Soravis Srinawakoonis delineates how founders should approach Seed rounds based on his recent involvement in fundraising circles.

 

What did you look for in potential investors for your Seed round?

We looked for strategic partners who can contribute beyond just funding, so we opted for traditional venture funds over cryptocurrency funds. Traditional venture funds, such as Sequoia India, tend to be more hands-on and can help us with marketing, finances, legal, etc. Since our product is B2B-driven, having investors with that experience and the right connections to potential partners is extremely helpful, especially for a young startup.

 

Did you consider raising a pre-Seed or taking part in an acceleration program?

We wanted to be laser-focused on product development. It was a conscious choice to bootstrap the startup, which ensured full commitment from all co-founders. It allowed us to be lean without having to worry about pre-Seed or an acceleration program, which would have taken away our time and resources.

 

In your experience, what do investors value the most for Seed funding?

If you are in an early, pre-product stage like us, the team is what investors value the most. As a young startup, we will have to inevitably pivot, and it will take a few iterations to get to the right product-market fit. What remains is the team. If you can execute and work well together, the original ideas or early revenue figures don’t matter as much. 

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced during the fundraising process?

We raised funding in what was probably the worst bear market in the history of the blockchain. The global cryptocurrency market has been slow to recover ever since its dramatic fall last year.

We overcame this with tenacity and perseverance, pitching to over 50 investors–giving them detailed valuations and projections on potential market sizes–to convince them that this is the right sector and right time for them to invest.

 

What advice would you give startups looking to raise a Seed round?

Have a clear vision of the problem you are solving and make sure you assemble a team that can execute. If you are a first-time founder without much experience, then build a prototype to show how you are solving a real problem, with numbers to prove traction and application.

 

About the Founder

Soravis Srinawakoon, CEO & Co-founder of Band Protocol

Motivated by the world-changing potential of blockchain technology, Soravis Srinawakoon founded Band Protocol in 2017. He possesses a strong technical and business background, having earned his M.Sc. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.

Prior to founding the company, Soravis worked for two years as a Management Consultant with Boston Consulting Group. His management consultancy experience allowed him unique insights into entrepreneurialism, which have been pivotal in establishing his company.

bandprotocol.com

 

Series A:

After the Seed round, the next step in the fundraising process is to obtain Series A investment from VCs. At this point, startups aim to begin generating revenue by introducing their product to the market through a defined marketing strategy.

MyDoc, a Singapore-based digital healthcare platform, intends to streamline outpatient care facilities. The company raised $5.2 million in Series A funding, and is currently working toward a Series B round.

MyDoc CEO and Co-founder Dr. Snehal Patel draws upon his experience as a VC to describe what founders can expect from the Series A fundraising process.

 

What are the important things a startup should consider before they begin fundraising Series A?

Series A is that point when a startup should offer ownership to investors. On the economic side, it is key to have done your homework to know the capital required and how you intend to use it to grow the business. A precise estimate of what the operating cash flow will look like is mandatory, as is a contingency plan. Founding teams typically underestimate cash flow issues and overestimate revenue forecasts.

Another critical consideration is whether the new investor gets your mission and has what it takes to support accelerated growth for your startup.Founders, in turn, should be asking which sales channels funders can help open up, or what kind of mentorship they can provide.

 

What did you look for in potential investors?

Healthcare is a long-term play. We intentionally sought out strategic investors who understood this, could help with the growth, and also provide longer-term capital.

 

What do investors value the most in a Series A pitch?

A simple articulation of the unique opportunity you’ve proven in the market. The right investors are not looking for incremental ideas, but high impact opportunities that can create new markets or change traditional industries in significant ways. Capture their imagination and demonstrate you have the chops and the team to seize the opportunity.

 

How did your Series A experience contrast to raising your Seed round?

The challenge increases as the startup progresses from Seed to A, B, and onwards. Seed and A rounds in SEA are relatively easier, as there are more investors focused on these early stages than B and later.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in the fundraising process and how did you overcome it?

MyDoc launched in 2012, and we were early to market in a specialized, professional industry with a complicated ecosystem. Educating investors on the healthcare and healthtech landscape, and why our approach works, has been the biggest challenge.

We were lucky to find our lead investor, who built a successful business at the intersection of insurtech and healthtech in the U.S., and deeply understood our value proposition. That sort of understanding is still scarce in SEA, but is changing as more successful business models continue to launch. Having an unwavering belief in the future you are building is vital.

 

What advice would you give to startups preparing to raise Series A?

Focus on the core items investors want to see: product-market fit and a go-to-market strategy. Spend time ensuring you have credible traction to prove those metrics. Layer that on the available market of your approach, and you are likely to have fruitful conversations. Most of all, spend some time figuring out the investor profile that is right for your startup. The right one can be a tremendous asset to your growth, and the wrong one can be detrimental to your plan.

 

About the Founder

Dr. Snehal Patel, MyDoc CEO and Co-founder

Dr. Snehal Patel, MyDoc CEO and Co-founder

Dr. Snehal Patel moved to Singapore from the U.S. in 2008 to found and lead the healthcare team at the Chandler Corporation, a multi-billion dollar investment fund.

Prior to practicing law at Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York, Dr. Patel was offered a Fulbright scholarship to study the differences between health economics in the U.S. and Singapore.

He received an M.D. and a J.D. from Columbia University. A VC and entrepreneur with investment and operational experience in multiple markets, Dr. Patel has a unique combination of medical, legal and business experience and qualifications.

my-doc.com

 

 

Series B:

Once a startup has raised Seed and Series A funding, the product should be generating revenue. At this stage, scaling the business becomes a priority. With the help of Series B funding, startups can work to increase market share, stave off competition, and diversify revenue streams.

In January 2019, Urgent.ly–a U.S.-based digital roadside assistance platform–raised $20 million in Series B funding from four investors. Urgent.ly CEO and serial entrepreneur Chris Spanos clarifies how founders should prepare for Series B rounds.

 

What do you think are the most important things a startup should consider before fundraising Series B?

Relationships are critical in all fundraising rounds. When preparing for a Series B, it’s important to nurture relationships with current investors, while establishing relationships with new investors who can help move your startup forward.

Your early investors may not be those who invest in your Series B round, but they can contribute to the success of your fundraising by talking positively about your company with other investors.

Another essential part of your Series B is to identify and meet with potential investors early. Hopefully, you’ve established a degree of rapport and trust by the time you are ready to begin pitching. Almost all investors in our Series B round were partners we had been speaking to and working with for quite some time.

 

What did you look for in potential investors?

Generally, you start with a broad group of potential investors. After a few meetings, you narrow down the list to people who best understand where you want to take the business and how that aligns with investor expectations. We sought out investors with ties to the automotive and mobility sector who could understand and embrace our vision for creating a new approach to roadside assistance.

For our Series B, we met with BMW’s i Ventures team. They were rigorous in their analysis and came back with good questions about the business and our performance. To us, this showed a level of commitment and eagerness for understanding the long-term potential. It was clear our goals aligned well and one of those circumstances where everything just came together perfectly.

From here, we expanded our circle of potential investors to include other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and strategic partners like Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover, and few others. We feel very fortunate because Urgent.ly’s recent financing is one of the rare times in which global OEMs have come together.

 

What aspects of a pitch do investors value the most for Series B?

At this stage, investors are most interested in the things you would expect: revenue growth, margin improvement, the leadership team, and the vision. In our case, prospective investors were looking for evidence that Urgent.ly had gained traction with service providers who are the backbone of our roadside and mobility assistance network, as well as with the OEMs and insurance companies that are essential to the mobility ecosystem.

We also had to demonstrate that our leadership team was comprised of talented individuals, with a track record of success and a passion for turning Urgent.ly’s vision into a leading market solution.

 

How did this experience contrast to raising your Seed or A round?

Seed and Series A are early, so you raise money based on a future vision of the company. We started Urgent.ly as more of a B2C business and were approached by a global automotive OEM to run a pilot.We performed well, which opened up new opportunities with even more B2B partners, and ultimately convinced us to refocus our strategy. As a team, you have to execute your vision while watching for unexpected opportunities that can drive meaningful returns.

By your Series B, you have figured out what is working, so it’s more about scaling. You also have a track record with investors because you’ve already successfully raised funds in prior rounds, which is where relationships come into play and can propel you even further.

 

What was the biggest challenge you faced in the fundraising process and how did you overcome it?

One of the most critical and most challenging aspects of the fundraising process is telling the right story with the right set of metrics about the business. When you have been operating a company for some time, it often helps to get people you trust around the table and ask for their thoughts.

I don’t know if this is a challenge per se, but it’s something I have learned over the years: soliciting feedback drives new ways of looking at the business and often leads to better outcomes. This exercise certainly helped us in fine-tuning the Urgent.ly story.

 

What advice would you give to startups that are looking to raise Series B?

As you approach your Series B, don’t become so bogged down by the numbers that you lose sight of the company you are trying to be. Also think about the kinds of partners you want to have by your side for the long-term, and find ways to involve those who share your vision and your passion as you enter this vital phase of your company’s growth.

 

About the Founder

Chris Spanos, CEO and Co-founder of Urgent.ly

Chris Spanos, CEO and Co-founder of Urgent.ly

Chris Spanos is CEO and Co-founder of Urgent.ly, a leading global mobility and roadside assistance platform. A lifelong entrepreneur, Chris has been a co-founder or principal in multiple successful startups and projects across a wide range of vertical industries.

Prior to Urgent.ly, he launched several startups (Animators at Law, SeniorChecked), managed multiple successful ventures (AOL Local, Going.com, Repair.com), and was an award-winning film producer. Chris has proven a proven track record  leveraging innovations to compete with market leading incumbents and creating new growth opportunities.

urgent.ly

 

About the Author

Khadija is Jumpstart’s Editorial Assistant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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