Thursday, May 26, 2011

Should I walk the outside Funding Pathway?

Earlier today, I saw a question that essentially boiled down to:

"I see this great opportunity, it takes more resources than I have, should I put it on the credit card, get a loan , ask an Angel or get a VC?"

I had many thoughts as I read this. Let me see if I can put them into any type of order:

First, being in the midwest is not a problem for accessing capital. There are several Angel networks and more growing all the time. Rain Source Capital is based in the midwest and supports several angel groups across the country

You can use Angel Soft as a way to locate Angel Groups -, so finding Angels is not hard at the initial stages.

However. Getting loans, getting Angel money and getting VC money are all very different animals for very different reasons. They look like they are the same (getting money), but they are not. VC money is other peoples money, in large chunks with specific expectations. Angel Money, if it is to be really useful comes with expertise, attention and introductions into the industries. There are appropriate times for each of these and there are many more times when you should not take outside funding.

The best place to get funding is from your customer. If you have figured out how to get to the right place with the customer base, then you will have flow and you can use outside money to grow faster. If you spend outside money on operations instead of growth enabling changes, then you will have wasted the opportunity. Most people have a hard time seeing the difference between operations and growth enabling changes.

You have the opportunity to build connections and relationships with Angels before you ask them for money. If you find the right Angels, you can have conversations that will transform how you approach your ideas even before you get to the point of asking for money. The angels would much rather have a deep sense of who you are and where you are going and where you have been, than to have a quick pitch and have to make a bunch of guesses.

I sense that you have a new direction. This suggests that you are about to pivot. As such, you are still in the discovery phase of things. And you are still trying to validate the idea. And this suggests you can be focusing on testing and experimenting to know if this idea really has legs. If it does, you should be able to get orders booked. If you have orders booked and you have a product that people want, you will not need a lot of outside capital at this stage.

Build the relationships now with the funding agencies (banks, angels, advisors) , but save the request for outside money until you have a backlog of orders.