Should you raise startup funding from friends and family?

So you think you need to raise funding for your startup? You may be right, but before you being to raise startup funding from friends and family, take a moment to assess whether your startup is ready for investment. It is so much easier to raise investment when you have traction.

Should you raise startup investment from family and friends

There comes a point when all startups need investment. As Founders, we do what it takes to build our startups, to make our vision a reality. We use our savings, we load up the credit card and we bootstrap to fund our startups but if this isn’t enough to get the business to “traction” (the point at which professional investors get involved), the next best option may be to raise startup funding from family and friends.

Startup investment is very likely to come from people you know

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that a startup’s first funding round will come, predominately, from people known to the business. So speaking to friends and family isn’t a bad idea in itself. People who know you, your skills, strengths and experience, are more likely to believe you can take your startup to the next stage. They know your abilities. They trust you. They are, in effect, backing you.

But, should you do it? Should you raise startup funding from friends and family?  Should you take money from your nearest and dearest when there is, inevitably, risk involved. If things don’t go to plan with your startup, will you regret mixing business and personal relationships?

What does it mean to raise startup funding from friends and family?

Before we explore the emotions that arise when you raise startup funding from friends and family, let’s consider the different forms this type of funding might take. Friends and family funding could be:

  • a gift – with no expectation that the money will be paid back
  • a loan – perhaps with low or no interest and a long loan period
  • a commercial arrangement where you offer shares (equity) in your startup in exchange for the cash.

All of these options could give you the cash injection your startup needs but, with the possible exception of money offered as a gift, the money comes with expectations – some of which may be explicit, but not all!

Relationships with friends and family run deep. When you raise startup funding from friends and family the people who back you trust you – with their hard earned cash. Depending on their education, career and financial situation they may not realise the risk they are taking. The implications can be far-reaching.

I know one founder whose father invested in his startup and – when that business failed – the father lost all the money he had invested. As a result father and son didn’t talk for years. Worse still, the father almost refused to attend his son’s wedding. A betrayal of trust isn’t easily forgotten so proceed with caution when raising startup funding from friends and family!

Be clear about the risks

Approach any conversation with friends and family with frankness and honesty. Nine out of ten businesses fail in the first two years of trading. Running a business is challenging and influenced by some factors beyond the Founders control. Make sure anyone making an investment in your startup realises this. Business Angel investors know the risks and are usually in a position to spread their risk across a number of investments. Your friends and family may not be in a position to do this. They may only be backing your startup.

Explain this is a long term investment

There is no quick return on an investment in a startup either. Indeed, if you raise startup funding from friends and family, they are unlikely to see any of that money back for a good few years. Startups don’t pay dividends. Early investors, and this includes friends and family, don’t get their money back until there is an “exit”. That generally means until the startup has grown to such an extent that another business (or other investors) want to buy the business. It takes time (between 5-10years generally) to get to an “exit”. Can your friends and family wait that long for their money back?

Consider the impact of future raises – and don’t over-value today

Then there is the issue of valuation. Valuing any early-stage business is complex but valuing a fledgling startup is very difficult. It is often difficult to know where you start. There is also a risk. If you get the valuation wrong you could end up selling too much of your business at too early a stage. This can then hamper your ability to raise further rounds. As new investors come on board, the Founder and other shareholders become “diluted”. Depending what proportion of shares were sold originally, you may find you no longer own enough of the company to take on new investors and maintain control of the business.

To raise startup funding from family and friends can be a good route

Nevertheless, raising startup funding from friends and family can still be a good option – and may be your only option. But, if you want to stay friends, full transparency and honesty are essential. You have to be responsible about what people are getting involved in. Be open about the risks.

You can enthuse about the opportunity – but you must also level with everyone about the risk. The decision to invest is then theirs to take, or not. It gives your friends and family the opportunity to choose whether or not to invest and at a level that hopefully won’t sour your relationship if things don’t go to plan. It moves the transaction onto a business footing.

Being honest in this way creates space for personal choice, without any feeling of pressure that family and friends might feel to support you at all costs. As the Founder, you must also be willing to accept any answer with good grace, especially if that answer is a “no”.

If you can do that without ranker or grudge it gives you freedom. Freedom to ask almost anyone to consider an investment in your business. And that opens a world of potential investors to you.

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Find out whether your startup is ready to raise investment by taking the Startup Investment Score card

Book a Funding Clinic

Lack of investment is one of the biggest barriers to startup growth. Now more than ever. If you have developed your product, launched your business and want to understand your funding options booking a Funding Clinic is a good first step.

What is a Funding Clinic?

A Funding Clinic is an opportunity for you discuss your investment
requirement in an informal but focused 1-2-1 with startup funding expert, Hatty Fawcett. A Funding Clinic will demystify the process of raising early-stage investment and outline your options.

Each clinic lasts 30 minutes and, after an initial discussion about what
your business has achieved to date, will provide practical,
tailored advice on the funding options open to your startup. You can
expect frank, no-nonsense advice which gives you a clear, honest picture of your funding options and what you need to prepare to raise investment. You will leave with clarity about your next steps to unlock investment.

Funding Clinics are conducted via Zoom video conferencing. All you need is
an internet connection and a laptop/computer with a webcam and microphone to take part.

Who are Funding Clinics for?

Funding Clinics are designed to support startups and early-stage businesses who have launched their business and developed at least one product. They are most suited to startups looking to raise between £75,000 and £1 million of seed (or pre-seed) funding. It may well be the first time you have raised investment – that doesn’t matter.

Typically, the founders Hatty Fawcett works with are aged between 40 and 60. About 60% have had a successful professional career but have left corporate life to create their startup, a further 25% are serial entrepreneurs. 

Scroll to the bottom of this page to book your Funding Clinic.

What people say about Funding Clinics

“If you are a startup needing advice on virtually any level of the
business, Hatty is the person to talk to. She clearly has a wealth of knowledge
spanning from the basics of starting a business, building and articulating a
value proposition, through to raising investment for your startup. I started
having conversations with Hatty on her Funding Clinic and found her to be both incisive and attentive. People who have real experience in fundraising – and are actually good at it and willing to share in their experience – are hard to come by, and Hatty is one one them. Moreover she is a thoroughly pleasant human being.”
Manish Patel, Interim CEO at Jiva.ai

“I spoke in detail about funding options and Hatty put us in
contact with several useful organisations. I would recommend Hatty’s
expertise to anyone who has a start up idea or a fully functioning
business.”
Robin Dolton

“Hatty is a true professional and a breath of fresh air in this
sector. I felt very comfortable in sharing my new business app idea with Hatty, and it was inspiring to receive external validation from an expert like Hatty. Hatty’s advice helped spur me on to take the next steps in realising my
idea.”
Valerie Lothian

“Hatty gave me clear, concise and invaluable advice on how to
improve my e-commerce presence and grow my business.”
Becky Lewis

Booking your Funding Clinic

Funding Clinics are free and in heavy demand. Funding Clinics must be pre-booked (via Calendly). Once booked, please make every effort to attend. If exceptional circumstances occur and you can’t attend please use the Calendly link to either re-schedule or cancel the Funding Clinic (or email Hatty) as soon as you know you can’t attend. This allows your Funding Clinic to be re-allocated to someone on the waiting list.

After booking your appointment, you will receive a reminder email with a Zoom link. You will also be given the opportunity to complete an online assessment which gives you a snapshot of how an investor sees your business, and provides pointers on areas you could improve your investor readiness.

Book here:


 



If your internet browser does not display the booking form, click here to be re-direct to the Calendly booking page.

If you require more information about Funding Clinics, email Hatty at hatty@focusedforbusiness.com

Want to raise equity investment? Is your business ready?

So you want to raise equity investment – but are you ready? Rather than leaping straight into action writing a pitch or talking to investors, take a moment and ask yourself three questions.

How much money do you need?
What will you do with the money you raise?
How will your business change and grow as a result?

If you can answer these questions properly – not just in an off the cuff manner – but by providing real detail, facts and figures, then you probably are ready to raise equity investment.

But the devil is in the detail.

Investors don’t back ideas, hunches or broad-brush thinking. They want proven products (or services), thoughtful plans and evidence to support your approach. These things aren’t just conjured up by brainstorming, desk research and theoretical plans. They are created through action, hard work, persistence and a lot of iteration.

I touted my theoretical business plan around VCs and angels before the penny dropped that I needed to get the business going before anyone would back me.

I learnt that the hard way. I touted my theoretical business plan around VCs and angels before the penny dropped that I needed to get the business going before anyone would back me. The next time I tried to raise equity investment, (just six months later – but six incredibly busy months) I had not just a web platform but paying customers and a detailed marketing strategy. I raised £150K in one week – from pitching to money in the bank.

The proof was in the pudding. Investors call this “traction” and it speaks lounder than words.

Traction speaks louder than words

Be honest, ask yourself what stage your business is at:

If you have a business idea but nothing tangible yet, don’t waste your time talking to investors. Instead invest your time into creating your product/service/app. It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles but it needs to deliver the essence of what customers are looking for. This is often called an MVP or minimum viable product. It allows customers to trial your product, give feedback and for you to understand what needs to change to meet your customers’ needs better.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to develop an MVP. In fact, it’s better if you don’t

How do you fund this? Invest your own money (if you can), talk to family and friends to see if they will lend/invest money or explore a start up loan (but be aware that you will probably have to start making repayments immediately so be sure you can generate revenue quickly or negotiate a repayment free period). You don’t have to spend a fortune to develop an MVP. In fact, it’s better if you don’t – the chances are your MVP will change when you get customer feedback.

If you have got an MVP, focus on getting your first customers – whether they are paying you or not. Being able to demonstrate you can attract paying customers is best, but honest – hopefully positive – feedback can be just as valuable. Work on really understanding your customers – who they are, why they like the product and how you could find and sell to similar customers. This information is gold dust for your marketing strategy. Tried and tested marketing strategies do attract investment.

Work on really understanding your customers…Tried and tested marketing strategies do attract investment.

And then? Well, it’s back to the three questions we started with. To raise equity investment, you will need to explain in detail how much money you need, what you will do with it and how that will grow your business.

Growth is the key here. Investors don’t want you to stand still. They want you to create value by finding better ways to work, developing new products, attracting more customers. Investment isn’t philanthropy. Investors want a financial gain and that is created when the business grows – fast.

Investment isn’t philanthropy. Investors want a financial gain and that is created when the business grows – fast.

If you’d like to speed up the process of raising funding, it’s worth talking to a professional. Someone who understands the process, someone who has “been there, done that”. Investors are looking for specific information when deciding whether to invest and it pays to get the inside track on what you’ll need to provide – as well as having someone to help you prepare, to challenge you and give practical advice on how to improve your pitch.

If your business is ready for equity investment, and you want to speed up the process find out how Funding Accelerator makes it quicker to attract investment.

If you’re not sure if your business is ready to raise investment, why not take the online assessment “Would an investor back my business? or Book a Funding Clinic to explore your funding options.