For most, if not all startups, funding challenges are always at play. And when it comes to raising capital, one option many fledgling businesses now turn to is crowdfunding. In fact, such is the power of crowdfunding that companies like Monzo return to the crowd, even when capital could be secured from institutional investors.
The decision to crowdfund is personal to each startup, and for every crowdfunding round that meets or exceeds its target, there are still more that don’t make it.
Here at Wrisk, we’ve completed three rounds on Seedrs, and met our target pretty quickly on all occasions, so we’re often asked how we did it. The truth is there’s no silver bullet, but there are a few key things we’ve learnt along the way. This blog shares our key learnings to help you get your equity crowdfunding campaign off to the best possible start!
Preparation, preparation, preparation.
While it may seem obvious, there’s nowhere to hide if you launch a crowdfunding round unprepared. The eager and eagled-eyed investors will pick apart every word, picture and number in your pitch materials (quicker than you could imagine).
There’s nowhere to hide if you launch a crowdfunding round unprepared.
Here are our top tips for a successful equity crowdfunding campaign:
- Be clear on your objective: What is your investment objective and why are you are fundraising now specifically?
- Tell your story: Investors need to know why they should believe in your company, the founder(s) and broader team. Be honest – show them why you are investible now. Without a strong brand name, a startup’s key currency is the founding team, how they’ve built the business and, importantly, demonstrable progress.
- Show how you plan to grow: So you've got a strong story, but how are you going to deliver on it? Tell the crowd you know your market, your competitors, and who your target audience is. Show them you have a well-thought-through roadmap, with achievable and realistic targets.
- Every plan needs to be supported by the numbers. Ensure everyone who works on the campaign understands the high-level financials and KPIs. If you are pre-product, your numbers will be a best possible estimate, but they can’t be plucked out of thin air, so it’s worth investing in getting your business model planned out professionally and validated by others. This can take time, but we can’t overstate how important it is - you’ll be asked to justify them, from your valuation, sales forecast to your burn rate (to name a few).
- Define your capital requirements: Have a clear understanding of your current equity ownership (the cap table) together with your plans for growth and near-term capital requirements. Crowdfunding takes time and effort, so you need to raise enough to see you to the next phase of growth, but at the same time avoid diluting your equity too much (especially at an early-stage valuation). Set a target and be clear on how you’ll use the funds.
- Choose the investment type: Not all fundraises offer plain equity – some may use convertible equity, for example. The choice will depend on the requirements of your business, but whatever you choose, be sure you know your terminology. In the case of convertibles, the need to know your ‘longstop to conversion date’ will soon become apparent! Overall, you should be able to explain how your investment will work for investors. Will you have SEIS/EIS status? What’s the share price? What is the current ownership status? You get the idea...
- Building your campaign: With the above done, you’ll be in a strong position to write the copy for your campaign page. Each crowdfunding platform will have its own template – make sure you know any word/character limits before you start. Think about the images or graphics you could use to break up the text and make sure you have evidence to back up any numbers or statements you make.
- Invest in campaign content: Most crowdfunding campaigns are supported by videos. Whether it’s a short teaser to warm up potential investors before launch, or a longer piece that tells your story. So much more can be delivered through film and it’s a great way for investors to get to know your team. Your pitch deck is super important too. Not only does it need to look good; it also needs to communicate in just a few slides (ideally 10-12) your business plan, in a clear and simple way.
- Make a decision on overfunding: In the event you reach your target ahead of your campaign’s close, it’s easy to get caught in the moment and just keep going. Without a plan, you could end up giving away more equity than you originally wanted to. So think about overfunding before you launch and know how much (if any) you’re prepared to overfund by.
- Create FAQs: Think about the questions your investors might ask that aren’t covered in your pitch materials. This could range from how your product or service is built, to distribution to who any of your larger investors may be. Look at other crowdfunding campaigns to get a feel for the depth investors go into (you’ll be surprised, on many levels...)
- Generate buzz: Once you know when your campaign is due to go live, you’ll need to spend time warming up potential investors and advocates for your business. You might end up having a lot of coffee meetings or maybe host an event - pizza and beer are great inducements 😉. Tell the crowd why you are fundraising, get their buy-in and support.
- Tell everyone you know: As your campaign launch approaches, send emails, texts, post on social, write blogs to build momentum and tell as many people as possible. If you hit milestones quickly, be sure to spread the word. You may also want to issue a press release. Just be aware that a crowdfunding round is rarely newsworthy enough in itself, so you’ll need to think about other good stories that you can use as additional hooks.
Once your campaign is live, the fun (and the rollercoaster ride) really starts. Be ready to:
- Be responsive: If you have documents that are only available on request, make sure you don’t keep investors waiting. Plan ahead on how you’ll manage out of hours requests.
- Answer questions promptly: Your potential investors will have a lot of questions and the best way to manage these is by answering honestly and transparently. If you don’t know the answer, tell them you’ll be back soon with a reply. It’s important to ensure consistency in your responses – hence why we suggest pre-prepared FAQs. Being reactive and honest will show your investors that you’re focused, which helps to build credibility and trust.
- Keep your cool: It’s not uncommon for some investors to post provocative questions or statements. Your instinct might be to go on the defensive or panic, so take a step back before replying. The last thing you want is for your campaign to turn into a heated argument in public view.
- Your new job: Crowdfunding can become a full-time job, but no one is taking away the rest of your day-to-day. Manage your time, perhaps carving out slots to respond to investors as well as dedicating time to your other tasks.
It might sound like a lot to take in, but these steps should help you to be well on your way to running a successful crowdfunding campaign. So keep calm, carry on, and take the time to celebrate (and sleep) at the end of your campaign – you’ll have earned it!