Founders & Funders: Nov 18, 2014

beerwall

It’s that time again – to bringing together the people that start emerging technology businesses and the people that fund them, early.

Who should attend?

Uhm, yeah. Founders & Funders.

Founders

You are a founder of a emerging technology company or a technology-enabled company. You are actively raising a round of capital or starting to think about raising your next round. Feels like we’re leaning to Seed and Series A – basically if you’re name is Tobi or Ryan most investors know who you are ;-)

Funders

Space for funders will be limited. We have room for approximately 60 people. And we like to keep the ratio of 3:1 founders to funders. This means we roughly have room for 15 funders. We’re going to be picky, the target will be Seed and Series A.

Why should you attend?

Relatively small and intimate gathering of other emerging technology company founders and the people that fund them. The funder mix ranges from individuals that write first and very small cheques to larger institutional funds.

  • Social event – no formal pitches
  • Community is the framework – chance to talk to other founders about the current fundraising climate

What to expect?

It is a chance to have a bite to eat and a drink with other founders and investors that are actively investing in Toronto companies. It’s a chance to figure what has worked for others, to figure out which investors you want to spend more time with, and just connect.

How do I attend?

Submissions will end on Nov 10.

How we raised a $2MM seed round in 2 weeks

CC by Dino Quinzani

This is a guest post by Mike Katchen, founder of Wealthsimple, Canada’s first online investment manager. He recently moved back from San Francisco where he led marketing at 1000memories (YC S’10, acquired by Ancestry.com).

In May, we raised a $2MM seed round for Wealthsimple (and didn’t really tell anyone). It took us 2.5 weeks to raise from 15 amazing investors in Toronto including David Ossip, Dan Debow, and Roger Martin. Here are a few tips based on what I think we did right.

Note: Table stakes for seed rounds are a good idea (in a massive market) and a killer team.

1. Find your lead investor early.
Most first-time founders I know make the same mistake. They think that fundraising is about convincing investors of the merits of your idea and the strength of your team. Unfortunately, that’s bullsh*t. Investors follow the herd. They care more about who else is investing than what you do as a company. When you start to fundraise, laser-focus on getting your first investor. Don’t go broad until you have your lead lined up.

I met our lead investor the day we started fundraising. He is an icon in the financial services industry. We got him on board through a combination of special terms and appealing to him emotionally about building his industry “legacy”. It took 2 meetings over 1 week to get him to sign. Once he was in, it took 1.5 weeks to close the round.

2. Your angel investors don’t have to be in tech.
We closed our round with 14 angel investors, only 5 are from tech. The other 9 are from financial services. I see lots of entrepreneurs focus exclusively on local tech angels and VCs like those listed in this great post by David Crow. That’s a mistake. Look for successful entrepreneurs and executives in your industry – you’re likely to find a sizeable group of potential investors that actually know your business. A few industries with strong local investors include real estate, financial services, professional services, and healthcare.

3. Most decks suck. Make yours good.
A compelling deck is short, clear, and well designed. If you have a solid story (don’t forget the table stakes above), then tell it in 4-5 pages: (1) what you do, (2) market size, (3) team, (4) growth plan, (5, optional) competition. Here’s our pitch. You can also find great examples at bestpitchdecks.com. Keep it short, pretty, and exciting.

4. Set a deadline.
Fundraising has a nasty habit of dragging on. As soon as you have your lead investor, set a closing date (2-3 weeks out) and use that to drive urgency with other investors. You don’t have to stick to it, but you’ll find that things move way faster with a deadline.

5. Put some money in yourself (if you can). It goes a long way.
The Wealthsimple team were the first investors in our seed round. If you can afford it, investing in your own round goes a long way. It signals to investors that you are committed, aligned, and will be a responsible steward of their capital. Surprisingly few teams invest in their own rounds so it can also help you stand out.

Let me know if you have any tips to add or want to discuss fundraising strategies – always happy to chat. You can reach me at [email protected] or @mkatchen

Searching for life on MaRS

MaRS Phase 2. This does not bode well...

MaRS Phase 2. This does not bode well…

Yesterday afternoon I decided to visit MaRS and see for myself… just how empty (or occupied) is Phase 2?

Of the 20 floors, only 3 had any tenants. And all but 1 tenant (a clean tech fund with 2 errr vultures according to MaRS 101 h/t Mark McQueen, but in my estimation exceedingly nice guys) were provincially funded organizations! Not one startup to be found in Phase 2.

It is a new building after all… so unfazed, I continued on to Phase 1 which has been open for years. If PR statements are to be believed surely I’d find a hive of startup activity.

I saw a sign for Execusuites… perhaps this is where the serial entrepreneurs have set up shop?

So I turned down a dark hall to find… empty offices (again the listed tenants almost entirely provincially funded agencies), there was one lonely but pleasant provincial employee at her desk.

Execusuites. French for empty seats…

Execusuites. French for empty seats…

The MaRS office, stationed behind the main lobby, had perhaps a dozen staff members mulling about in an area with 30-50 desks. I backed out and continued on…

Could I find even a single Ontario startup?

Yes, exactly that… just one startup!

While I admittedly had low expectations walking up to the building for a spot check, I was pretty shocked to discover what the ~$1B (real estate and operating budget) netted.

I sat down with the founder of this MaRS based startup, to learn how he ended up at MaRS, which if any programs he thought had value, and what might be done to improve the situation.

It turns out his company took over space previously leased by GE, apparently many of the corporate tenants have logos on doors but next to no staff using the building!

Did his startup get substantial value from the advisory services, educational programming, or market research? His answer was pretty much… No.

How about investment? His company had recently raised several million dollars from notable valley and local investors, was IAF interested in joining the round? No again. In IAF’s opinion his startup didn’t need their capital – is the IAF policy to prioritize allocation of capital to weaker startups? It seems so…

This founder agreed that MaRS required structural change and that most if not all of the programming should be canceled. However until such change was implemented, he wondered perhaps something could be done to extract some value for Ontario startups and was working toward this end… the best idea currently on the table? An open space for startups to connect, use WiFi, etc. otherwise known as a coffee shop (now being planned for the empty ground level auditorium still under construction in Phase 2).

He had been pushing for this open space (an improvement over the status quo in my opinion as well) within MaRS… The administration’s concern: How could they ensure visitors were registered / counted as MaRS clients? I thought, perhaps a MaRS client card with every latte… but was pleased to hear him say that they relented.

So this my friends is the absurd result of the much ballyhooed innovation stimulus programs at MaRS – a $1B coffee shop (and two towers filled with bureaucrats).

Le sigh.


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