Make partners out of your investors and four other tips from successful Canadian founders

Bridgit

When Mallorie Brodie describes the process of preparing for a pitch, I can tell I’m talking to an expert. Bridgit Solutions, the company she and her co-founder, Lauren Lake, started has raised over $9 million in capital to date, even though she initially didn’t expect to receive any angel investment when she first started the company. The difference, she tells me, is that the market research she and her co-founder had done was spot-on, and as soon as one financier showed faith in them, others were quick to follow suit.

PwC started the Raise podcast: to share the stories of founders and their hard-fought journeys to raising capital.

These are the sorts of experiences, insights, and success stories that only seasoned entrepreneurs can speak to; and they’re important lessons for budding business leaders.

That’s why we at PwC started the Raise podcast: to share the stories of founders and their hard-fought journeys to raising capital. As the podcast host, I use each episode to engage in one-on-one conversations with Canadian tech company founders who have recently secured funding, to hear firsthand how they networked and negotiated for the capital they needed.

In the first six episodes, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from Marc Castel, founder of Fiix Software; Taylor Bond, head of growth at SalesRight; Braden Ream, CEO and co-founder of Voiceflow; Mallorie Brodie, CEO and co-founder of Bridgit Solutions; Hussein Fazal, CEO and co-founder of SnapTravel; and Lindsay Goodchild, CEO and co-founder of Nudge Rewards. And we’re not done. We’ve had so many more candid conversations on how to navigate the high-pressure world of venture capital that we can’t wait to share.

On that note, I’d like to reflect on five common insights from the first episodes. If you’re looking to attract investment for your next stage of development, these may steer your path:

1. Ask yourself: Is VC right for your business?

We don’t talk about it enough, but VC investment can be complicated, and isn’t necessarily the right path for all growth-stage businesses. Before you even start figuring out the right steps for attracting VC funding, you first have to determine if it even makes sense for your company and where you want to take it. This is a consideration that each of the entrepreneurs I spoke with thought hard on before they moved ahead with their investment strategy.

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It’s important to remember that with funding comes investors, real stakeholders with a legitimate say in your business, questioning your decisions and helping to determine your direction. So if you’re bringing on a VC investor, remember that they’re there for the long haul and can potentially be more important than some of your senior hires. In Fazal’s experience, that’s meant attracting investors that are aligned with SnapTravel’s vision and mission, not just the prospective numbers. If you opt for the VC model, having stakeholders that offer both funding and a strong belief in your business model can make for a much more fruitful relationship.

2. Keep your investors close

In his episode, Bond [SalesRight’s head of growth] shared an interesting insight: seed-stage companies can benefit from engaging local investors in unique ways. Venture capitalists are well-versed analysts who make it their business to know what’s happening in a given industry, and if you can walk down the street – or in Taylor’s case, down the hall – and pay them a visit, so much the better.

While local proximity may be important in a company’s early stages, that will change as it matures and raises Series A and B rounds, because, by that point, it’s likely to have an international profile. So as your company evolves, bring on experts and investors that are located in the markets where you’re actively looking to build your business and then draw on their expertise.

3. Know your narrative and your numbers

Pitches can happen when you least expect it, and before you know it, you have three minutes – or 30 seconds – to explain your business. This is something that all founders know from experience, and they’ll tell you how crucial it is to always be prepared to articulate your company’s story.

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And if the founder isn’t the best person to do that, then they should seriously consider appointing a CEO who can truly sell the vision. Beyond just the narrative, make sure you have the numbers to back it up. Keep your data room up to date and have metrics ready to share. Certain investors care less about your milestones than they do about your momentum; show them a sound strategy and path to scale, and they might show you the money.

4. “No” is not the end of the story

So you’ve pinpointed a VC investor who would be an ideal fit for your company’s mission and values, you’ve made your pitch – and they turn you down. It can be disheartening, but while that chapter may be over, that doesn’t mean the book is closed.

Having a network is critical for scaling companies. Build relationships with investors that interest you, then nurture those connections.
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For one thing, there will be other pitches, sometimes just a matter of minutes or hours later, and it’s crucial to keep your eye on the ball. Voiceflow CEO, Ream, talked to me about his agile approach to presenting, and how his team was able to pivot strategies between pitches in order to pre-empt investors’ questions and objections. Voiceflow is achieving success now, but Braden said that some of his initial meetings went horribly, and he just needed to treat the experience the same way he treated his startup, as an iterative, constantly-evolving process.

Additionally, having a network is critical for scaling companies. Build relationships with investors that interest you, then nurture those connections. Just because someone declined to invest once, doesn’t mean they won’t be interested once you’ve grown.

In his episode, Castel [Fiix Software] told me that he’s in regular communication with roughly 100 venture capitalists. That may not be a realistic goal for everyone, Castel’s career as an entrepreneur is long and well-established, but it’s good insight into what’s attainable as you progress through your own journey.

5. The old saying holds true – timing is everything

Foresight is key, and the further you can project into the future, the better. Why are you seeking funding, and what will you use it for? If you’ve obtained capital, how long will it sustain you? For Brodie, when she and her co-founder were building Bridgit, they had a clear understanding of what milestones they would hit with their funding. To her, being fully prepared with a solid view of the future was critical to getting their funding.

Meanwhile, when it comes to planning the next round of financing, Castel has found it best to raise funds two cycles before he’ll need the money; that way he’s always prepared with a built-in contingency and isn’t forced into difficult positions when it comes to funding.

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One of my favourite things about the Canadian innovation ecosystem is the fact that there’s such a wealth of support and knowledge-sharing within the community. Even those who are competing with each other still want the best outcomes for all companies, because a strong sector elevates every one of us.

The Raise podcast provides a platform for founders to impart their stories, ideas and inspirations to their fellow startups and scale-ups, contributing to the growth of our industry.

There’s still so much more to learn and we have an exciting roster of speakers lined up to help us do just that—I hope you listen in.

If you are interested in being a guest in a future episode, or know someone who may be a good fit, please reach out at rich.adam@pwc.com or @richgadam.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Rich Adam

Rich Adam

Rich Adam is responsible for the firm's efforts in the Technology Sector for Ontario. With 20+ years experience in the Canadian Technology industry as a business operator, helping develop scale ups with pioneering technologies to successful exits and $100M businesses, Rich shares his experiences and expertise to aid clients as they navigate their way to success.