Hello and welcome to Part Four of my coverage of the Startup Conference LA! If you haven’t read parts one, two, you can find them below:
After the pitches, Gagan Biyani, co-founder and President of Udemy took the stage to talk about raising money for first time founders. Gagan recently raised four million dollars and has met with over 100 investors so knows how to work it.
Gagan quit his job in February of 2010 when he found himself having investor meetings during his work-at-home Friday’s as a consultant for Accenture. He learned from this experience that before you start raising money, make sure that you’re ready.
When Gagan first quit his job they had not product, just an idea. Five months later they had over 10,000 users and a real product, that’s when the timing was right. So what did Gagan do to go from quitting his job in early 2010 to getting four million in funding?
The first step was meeting tons of people. Affiliate with great startup brands, things like incubators, coworking spaces, or other affiliations. Go to conferences and events but don’t only listen to the talks, also spend time meeting interesting people and learning from each other.
Don’t be afraid to pitch at startup events, even if your pitch sucks it’s still a great opportunity to practice pitching and get feedback. Apply to dozens of competitions and do everything you can to get into them. Don’t pay to pitch, this is a waste of time and money.
When meeting with investors pick the right people. Don’t start with the famous guy, start with his friend. Fellow entrepreneurs in your space can be a great asset, especially those who are not yet successful but are “on track”. Industry experts like lawyers can be useful as well but should not be relied upon.
Grab coffee/drinks with people and ask for specific advice. Try to pick a location with WiFi so you can really show what you’re doing. Angel List (Angel.co) can be a great place to find information about investors and get your name out there and into the community. If you’re posting on Angel List it’s important to show social proof, some data point that will show someone why you are important.
Once you get a “Yes” from an investor use this as a springboard to approach other investors. If an investor is not okay with you using their name with other potential investors then they probably aren’t a great lead investor. This gives you enough credibility to get meetings with other investors.
One of the most interesting things I learned from this talk is about emailing the pitch deck. Gagan recommends that you do not email your pitch deck until after you’ve been able to schedule a face-to-face meeting. You can send-out the deck once you have the meeting scheduled but if you can’t talk through the deck then you lose a lot of the value.