How to make the most of your startup’s big fundraising moment
Prior to becoming CMO at Hum Capital, Scott Brown led marketing for Sapphire Ventures, a $6 billion VC firm based in the U.S. and Europe. He has had a 20 -year career in enterprise technology, holding senior marketing roles at Facebook, Google, Cisco and several startups.
Late-stage startups are facing major fundraising headwinds, but early-stage investing is still a bright spot for startups until they hit Series B rounds.
Traditional venture capital dollars are harder to come by these days, but institutional investors are still looking for smart investments, and industry watchers are hungry for the good news a new round of financing suggests. While the market is uncertain, founders need to be ready to use their capital infusions as an asset that extends beyond the cash it represents.
In any market environment, a fundraising event can act as a vote of confidence or validation from investors, supporting your company’s growth via talent acquisition and brand awareness. No matter the size of the round, securing external investment is a key milestone in many companies’ journeys, and it often takes a tremendous amount of effort. However, after putting all that work in, many founders make the mistake of letting a funding moment pass by without extracting all the value they could have.
Over the course of my 20 years as a marketing leader at startups, venture capital firms and large tech companies, I’ve helped dozens of companies announce funding news, ranging from $1 million pre-seed rounds to $50 million raises.
Here’s my playbook for founders looking to make their “big money” moments go farther:
Rethink assumptions about fundraising news
Publicizing funding news lets you create incremental value beyond the capital investment by highlighting your momentum and driving brand awareness.
Founders may overlook the value of announcing funding news for several reasons, but the biggest one is assuming the round isn’t “big enough” to warrant attention. When you see other companies raising hundreds of millions of dollars, it can be easy to think no one will be interested in hearing about your startup’s much smaller round.
Fortunately, that isn’t true. While big numbers may draw splashy headlines, smaller rounds can still drive interest if the announcement is executed well and you can connect the news with some larger industry/technology/societal trend.
Another reason founders hesitate is if all or part of the new capital is through a debt investment. Though it’s becoming more common, especially as VC investors pump the breaks, there is still some stigma around debt funding, and founders may worry they’ll be penalized for adding debt to their balance sheets.
However, securing a debt investment often requires even more rigor than an equity investment, so highlighting a debt raise can actually indicate your business’ fundamentals and revenue numbers are strong enough to support repayment.
Founders may also worry about giving competitors too much information about their business and prefer to make progress while flying under the radar. There are benefits to keeping certain information under wraps, but it’s important not to get so focused on building behind closed doors that you miss the opportunity to get more visibility with the prospects and partners that will drive revenue.
Finally, funding announcements are sometimes just not at the top of a founder’s long to-do list, largely because they are either unsure of how to run an announcement or lack the marketing expertise to execute it effectively. This next section should help on that front.
Three steps to maximize the marketing value of your fundraise
The future is unknown, so when you have a funding round locked up and cash in the bank, you have the opportunity to make the biggest impact you can with the news you have in hand.
To leverage this moment and be successful you need to:
Step 1: Plan ahead
Preparing for a fundraising announcement takes time and strategic thinking. As soon as you’ve reached the point in your investor conversations where term sheets are a likely next step, you should assemble your marketing team to start working on a plan. This includes aligning with your investors early about their ability to participate in a news announcement.
Some key questions your marketing lead should consider include:
- Who can offer public quotes or commentary on the investment?
- What are the key messages you would like to communicate about this round and what messages would you like your investors to amplify?
- When is the investor available to review announcement materials and participate in potential media interviews?
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.