Pro's & Con's of raising out of boostrap for a $1m+ ARR company that grew 300% last year

As an Australian startup, it's ingrained that before talking to an investor you really should have proven metrics. The irony is, once you've got good metrics, you're likely running a tight ship, you know your numbers, you have a scalable sales method (with a magic number of 5+), have proven partnerships and have a global customer base... You sort of wonder if it makes sense to raise... Especially if you're already profitable. I'm interested in your thoughts on this?


I would bootstrap as long as possible.

As long as you're able to engage engineering resources for continual product enhancement; the customer support team to ensure customers are churn-proof happy; the marketing team to generate awareness, leads, and optimize the sales process; and the sales team to close business, keep going on your path.

Where things get tricky is in terms of competition. If you're bootstrapped, it's harder to compete against a well-funded adversary (or adversaries) because they can do much more in terms of generating awareness. Their marketing team can attend many conferences. If your sales cycle is aided by in-person contact, conference and trade shows could be important. They are not cheap.

Your marketing needs may also require a huge amount of demand generation. This can become really costly. (See the Fan Duel sports betting marketing campaign in Q3/4 2015. Mega expensive!).

Depending on your product category, investment can also play a role in how prospective customers perceive you. If you're selling to the enterprise, having Blue Chip backing from Kleiner Perkins or Sequoia will impress those who look for this external validation. (You've surely heard of the “No one ever got fired for buying IBM” statement?). VC funding also helps with publicity, and media coverage if you care about that and need TechCrunch clips.

There are many successful startups that never took any money. The vast majority or startups, in fact, don't.

Based on your description above, though, it doesn't seem as if my thoughts apply to you. If you already have partnerships that are working for you, global customers you can leverage in those regions, a product that is clearly providing value to your customers, and you can fund growth from cash flow or other options (debt financing, perhaps), I'd keep to your path. The larger and more successful you become, the better the terms you can negotiate if and when you decide you can't live without outside investment.

Answered 8 years ago

Early on, I often thought the same thing - once you're ready to invest, I won't need you. In hindsight, I think that's a narrow view.

You have to look at it from their perspective. Investors aren't looking to put money into an exploration project. They are interested in putting money into a business that will use it to grow more quickly than they otherwise could have. If you grew 300% last year, could you have achieved 500% with additional capital, a more robust marketing campaign or through adding employees?

Also, just because a concept works well at a small stage, doesn't mean it will be successful as it scales up. Growth slows, customer acquisition becomes harder and a company's culture changes. Those are all risk factors for investors. Bootstrapping is great, but you should consider bringing on investors if they can provide capital as well as guidance, connections to clients or other valuable intangibles that will take your company to the $10M+ mark.

Answered 8 years ago

Bootstrap. Read "How To Get Rich" by Felix Dennis. Or better yet just remember the camel's nose in the tent story.

Listen, in any business you have to take some chances and some risks. Make sure you don't need a license and go for it. Remember, timid business people have skinny kids. Paraphrased from Zig Ziglar.

I am not trying to sell you on calling me. Really, I am pretty busy with my businesses and consulting. However, I need more info before I could have a greater impact in helping you.

Ask, Ask, Ask, then Ask again.

Here is $10,000 worth of information for free and in a nutshell.

Concentrate on the 3 M's. There are actually 7, but 3 will do for now. These are Market, Message, and Media. They come in that order.

Who is your target market (customer, clients, buyers, users, etc.)?
Tailor your laser focused message for this target market.
What is the best media mix to get your message to that market?

Here's what you do...first, make it an offer that is so incredible that they cannot resist. Secondly, do all the work for them. Make it so easy to make the purchase now that they can do it virtually without effort. Thirdly, give them an incentive to act right now. Fourthly, offer an almost unbelievable guarantee. Fifth, offer a bonus for acting now. There are many other incredible steps, but these steps should help the novice to the professional sell anything.

Whether you are selling B2B or B2C, you have to focus on selling to only one person. You can actually sell to one person at a time while selling to millions at a time. They are one and the same. Don't get off track, what we call digital marketing selling is just selling in print. And that has not changed since Cluade Hopkins wrote "Scientific Advertising." Really long before he wrote the book.

The secret to success: I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with some of the biggest names in business, celebrities, actors, entrepreneurs, business people, and companies from startup to billion dollar operations. The number one reason for their success is doing what they know and love while doing it in new, creative, and innovative ways.

Ask, Ask, Ask. Have thick skin and learn from each "mistake." In a short while, the market will tell you what you need to do and who and what you need to ask. But get started now even if that just means asking a contact on LinkedIn.

While you are thinking, think big and think of something at least 1% better, newer, or different. And being cheaper is not a winning strategy.

Make decisions quickly and change decisions slowly..unless you are actually going off a cliff.

Remember these two 11 letter words...persistence and consistency. They are two of the most important tools ever invented.

Treat everybody you talk to and everybody you meet (including yourself) like each is your number one million dollar customer.

Best of luck,
Take massive action and never give up.

Michael Irvin, MBA, RN

Answered 8 years ago

It sounds like you don't need money, but you need connections.

VCs are valuable as such, because they can provide intros to Woolworths CEO etc.,which saves you 3 months in your sales cycle.

At your point of traction now, you can get a really good deal for your round, so it is definitely worth it. However, I would also hop over to the U.S., to speak with some investors there, it's definitely worth it.

I'm not sure if you know the Aussie Mafia, but simply search for the Facebook group and make a post there, they will connect you to relevant investors.

Answered 7 years ago

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