If you’re not well equipped to deal with emotional rollercoasters, then raising money for a startup might not be for you, writes C-suite Co-Founder and CEO Dean Carroll. This article was originally published on the C-suite Founder Download blog in September 2020 as the company was fundraising.

What is the most difficult thing about building a startup? Before embarking on this journey, I assumed it would be finding a problem big enough that it demanded a bold solution. Or putting together a team with the capabilities to execute the vision. On both counts, I was wrong. No, the real conundrum is finding others who also believe strongly that there is a whale-sized problem and that your team has the audacity to solve it. Or to put it another way, investors.

It’s true for the smallest startups like us (we are a team of 3.5 currently) and it’s just as true for those that quickly morph into unicorns. No, correction, decacorns. For we know that even Facebook dynamo Mark Zuckerberg was not able to do it alone. First, he received micro-investment from Eduardo Saverin and then macro investment from Peter Thiel. The formula is: idea + team + investment = the starting line.

In fact, the greatest companies in the world never get built, due to the lack of one thing. Investors. In our first C-suite Leadership Mixer, the ad industry firebrand and startup founder Cindy Gallop talked about how scientific research had proven that the best founders were aged between 45 and 60. However, unlike their millennial and Gen Z counterparts, these expert folk can’t afford to work for free (due to kids, mortgages, and all manner of life expenses). So if they don’t get funding, their ideas stay just that. Ideas.

And when it comes to fundraising itself, just deconstructing the lexicon is tough enough. Do you know your seed round from your series A? Have you got to grips with convertible notes?

On top of that, can you pivot your pitch depending upon whether you find yourself in a call with an angel investor, family office, or VC? Are you adopting agile methodology, rather than waterfall, on your tech build? These are just some of the elements you will have to master.

With all that in mind, C-suite is now raising funds. We’ve got one angel onboard, with two more just waiting to receive their SAFE documents from us. And SAFE is “simple agreement for future equity” in case you’re wondering; there’s another one for the learning list fellow founders. But I digress. A number of other angels are interested in us too, but it all takes time. You have to learn to be pragmatic, but most of all you need to be patient.

Besides that, we’ve taken the plunge to place our offering on the Angel Investment Network and appointed a broker to kick down some doors for us. It’s quite costly to do for a startup, but you have to try every avenue to validate what you’re doing. We’ve been speaking to potential C-suite users for months now, in order to get proof of concept, although that’s very different from conversing with investors.

Perhaps somewhat optimistically, we’ve even reached out to some VCs. One said “no” because our offering didn’t fit into their portfolio narrative. Another said: “This has potential, we’ve never seen this before and we like it. But you’re too early. Come back once you’ve built your MVP [minimum viable product] and have some traction with it.”

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Meanwhile, our Kickstarter campaign is failing miserably. Hopefully, that’s simply due to our product not really being a great fit with that particular hip and happening crowd. We knew ‘ExecTech’ might be a stretch for crowdfunding, but no experience is wasted. It’s all a learning curve.

Be warned though that the whole fundraising process is a roller coaster emotionally. I’m lucky enough to enjoy roller coasters, but it’s not for everyone. It can take its toll if you lack the bulletproof resilience to just keep moving forwards.

My advice – if you are thinking about building your own startup – would be to learn as much as you can about the process before jumping in. When you do jump in, it has to be with both feet. There’s no dipping your toe in the water, it’s all or nothing.

One resource which helped me immensely was the Y Combinator Start-up School. Not only is it free, but you can do it in your own time. Another great learning/networking forum is the weekly Ask a VC webinar by Seed Ventures here in Singapore, where you can pretty much participate in your very own Shark Tank experience.

Aside from that, read all you can about what makes investors tick and how best to communicate your game-changing product to them. And it has to have the potential to change the game. That’s the prerequisite. Even for angel investors.

Register free for the next C-suite virtual event on April 29 (7:30-9:30 PM, Singapore time) on how to build & lead a high-performing team. Some 17 expert leaders will be on hand to provide advice during this free-flow discussion. You can even ask the panel questions and talk about your own best, and worst, practice leadership experiences.

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