This blog has moved to Thanks for reading

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SLP Boston - How I got funded event

SLP’s first public event, a panel discussion entitled ‘How I got funded’ was a resounding success! On Monday night, Michael Mullins, SLP Boston Program Leader, welcomed a packed crowd of over 70 to Polaris Venture Partner’s Dogpatch Labs. As a participating Boston Region Entrepreneurship Week (BREW) event, BREW-founder Joe Caruso stopped by to offer support and talk about advocating Boston-based innovation and entrepreneurship. Panel moderator Shawn Broderick, managing director of TechStars Boston, then kicked off the evening’s main event by polling the audience for key discussion themes. He asked our panel of 4 founder/CEOs, who had recently raised between $250K-$1MM each, to introduce themselves and walk us through their funding journeys, focusing on lessons learned, while emphasizing the themes established by the audience. This was followed by a lively Q&A session. The panel comprised 3 SLP-fellows, Sidd Goyal of Assured Labor (MIT-founded online marketplace that connects employers and workers in emerging markets via web and SMS), Bennett Fisher of Retroficiency (lowers building operating costs by identifying and analyzing their energy use and emissions), Leon Noel of Social Sci (a survey platform to connect researchers and participants for scientific studies), together with Dogpatch-based Raj Aggarwal of Localytics (a real-time mobile analytics solution).

Although each of the panelists achieved funding in a variety of different ways, all of them emphasized the importance of ‘making the right choices for your start-up’, i.e. there is no one-size-fits-all plan for success. Their differing pathways included pivoting the business model, re-negotiating initial terms and utilizing the friends and family network. The panelists also discussed the language of funding, funding sources, fund-raising timing, valuations and key milestones, in response to questions from the audience. Despite their differing paths, the panelists emphasized a number of overarching themes, which I’ll summarize as the take-home points.

1) When raising first money, seek funding at a key inflection point in growth. The slide-deck is not enough. Lock-down IP, have prototypes for investors to play with, provide user data and partnering information if you have it.

2) Think carefully about the financials, how much you need and what for. This shows initiative and that you have thought how you plan to build your business, while demonstrating to potential investors, the investor-profile you fit into.

3) Engage your friends and family network and target key investors specific to your space, rather than general investors, since they have better subject matter expertise.

Summarizing the discussion and the predicament of the early stage startup seeking first money, Shawn emphasized that in lieu of a customer base, early-stage startups should instead leverage their passion, vision and opportunistic smarts to differentiate from the pack. In closing, Michael highlighted SLP’s encouragement of candid engagement and knowledge sharing among the Boston-based entrepreneurial community as a key to success. SLP-Boston plans to continue this dialog with the community through a number of future events, so stay posted!

No comments: