Bluedot is a success story out of Melbourne that to date has raised a total of USD $3.1 million in the two years that they have existed. Their recent round of funding allowed them to raise USD $2.2 million and was lead by Jeffrey Katz who sold his company, Mercury Payment Systems, for USD $1.7 billion.
Filip Eldic and Emil Davityan founded the company and have managed to revolutionise location-based technology that has been previously been dominated by providers that have a significant drain on the smart phones battery. In short, if you’re building an app you can add their technology and be able to trigger actions to the user such as payments or advertisement’s based off a geographic location, without their privacy being breached and having any personal identifiers of that user.
The guys have had success in being able to engage large US mobile commerce applications and Big 4 Australian Banks. They also have successfully completed live trials of the world’s first mobile tolling platform on Melbourne roads as well as being able to present their technology to the likes of Microsoft and Samsung.
After having a chat with them, these are their top 13 tips that all startups need to know about raising capital.
1. Consider an incubator program before seeking serious investment
Before you go out trying to raise a large amount of money you should consider an incubator program first, where you will typically be given a sum of money that is less that $100k to test your idea. In the case of Bluedot, they saw this process as fundamental because they were trying to sell their technology to a large, slow moving industry in the early stages, which would have burned a lot of capital trying out the idea.
Being first-time entrepreneurs without the experience, the incubator was able to point out the deficiencies in their business model that then allowed them to pivot their idea very early on.
The only consideration, that startups need to be aware with these programs is that you usually have to give up a little bit of equity although Bluedot believe they wouldn’t be where they are without it.
2. Decide if the valuation investors are giving you is fair
Test the market and see what investors will be willing to pay you and expect investors to negotiate very hard with you. It’s also important to know what sort of equity they expect in return for that valuation of your business.
It’s not uncommon for investors to offer you half as much as your initial seed funding. Try and benchmark your startup against global averages that can be obtained from websites such as pitchbook. They produce quarterly reports about global raises and how companies perform in the Venture Capital context and then you can take their valuation, reduce it a little to be conservative and then put a valuation on your startup that is less than the average. The advantage of this is that you’re making it look attractive to investors at the same time.
3. Be prepared to say no to more investment opportunities than you say yes too
Often you will sit down with investors and everything will sound fine until you get into the term negotiations and then realise that their idea of what the companies worth is a lot less than yours.
In these circumstances, be prepared to walk away and to have to do this many times.
4. You will need to engage multiple sources of funding before you find one that will invest
For Bluedot, they contacted between 200-250 Venture Capital, private equity institutions, and individual investors before they found one that met their requirements – they did this on a global scale in Australia, USA and Asia.
“It’s a numbers, game like anything else. Get the word out and try as many different leads as you can until you convert to a successful one. “
5. Be methodical in what material you give out to potential investors
You need to have a pitch deck and a two pager for an initial approach. The most important thing is to have your pitch deck incredibly summarised and very much to the point. You also need your pitch deck to talk about what you do, where your market is, your traction so far and your unique selling point.
Bluedot found that in a lot of cases potential investors depended a lot on the covering email with the first couple of sentences. This must be good and to the point, otherwise you won’t get them to read your pitch deck or the supporting material.
As a second step, if the investor had gone through those two things then Bluedot would provide them with a complete due diligence pack which contained every possible, conceivable thing about the business such as employee agreements, insurance contracts, sales pipeline, product descriptions, business plan, information memorandum, shareholder resolutions, director resolutions etc. This would be provided to the potential investor via drop box so that it was very easy for them to digest the business in the due diligence phase.
6. Getting your staff to contribute their own capital is not necessary
This is important because some founders ask their own staff to assist in raising capital by investing their own money into the startup. Staff are an important factor to the startup but not when it comes to raising capital, the main investment you need from them is their time, although, before taking on new staff you should always get them to show some skin in the game first. This can be achieved by them working part-time, contracting to you or even working for free for a period of time. They need to show some sort of dedication.
All the people that put in the least and asked the most usually never have enough commitment to stay through the good times and the bad.
7. What you do with the money when you get an investment is important
The first thing you should do if you get an investment is put it into a high-interest account or term deposit and then crack a beer or two to celebrate after. Clear a lot of the liabilities and get up to date with your bills so you have clean books.
The obvious thing to note is that investors will usually put something in the term sheet to stop you withdrawing large amounts of cash without board approval.
8. There is not that much difference between raising the money locally or overseas
A lot of startups focus only overseas when raising money, but it’s worth looking locally as well. For Bluedot, they were firm believers in raising money locally as well and successfully raised $1.1 million before they went offshore. Be prepared though that if you attract overseas investment, you could be asked to move the company over there. Whilst it’s not a must to do that it’s worth being able to know how to answer the question if it does come up.
If you are looking to the popular USA to raise capital one difference that you will see is that because they are fairly experienced in the capital raising industry, compared with other countries, their questions about your startup will be very direct and a lot better thought through. This means that you need to think through the aspects of your business a bit more.
The biggest goal with these conversations is to get to the first meeting and then sell your heart out. If you have done this successfully then hopefully you will get someone who buys in on the vision of the business.
The raising landscape in each country can be very different though. For example, in Australia its very easy to get up to $1 million or $5 million plus if you have the right business metric’s but if you’re trying to raise money around the $1-5 million mark it can be very challenging, so your better off going overseas for this level of funding.
9. Understand what investors are looking for in your startup
They are generally all fairly similar and are looking for where they can put their money and get the biggest return with very low risk. Things that can affect their decision are your team, current traction, the product, history and ability of the company, the size of the market and the competitive landscape.
You should never just rely on one of these and make sure you hit every aspect.
10. Give the investors a really good demonstration of your product
You absolutely must demonstrate your proposition and features in a simple way to investors so that they can relate to how it works and feels, without them having to go away and test it out for themselves. This is an important point because it can often be hard to demonstrate what your startup does and for Bluedot, their technology is not always easy to explain.
A great thing that the BlueDot team did was to use Webex instead of doing a Skype call with overseas investors so that you can share your desktop with them and really demonstrate the whole offering effectively.
11. The way you deliver your pitch to investors is important
Before you go the meeting you should spend some time, in the days leading up to the pitch, to read about the fund / investors / venture capital firm and where their focus has been. The focus of the fund is very important because your not just getting money you’re getting their expertise, their connections and their experience instilled into your business. On the day of the pitch you must make sure that your confident and fully prepared as winging it will most likely see you fail.
The first part of the meeting should be you asking them about where the focus is, what their previous successes have been and what they don’t like to see and then that immediately shapes what you’re going to tell them in your pitch that follows this conversation. The types of things that they might focus on could be customer acquisition metrics, intellectual property, servicing enterprise level clients or the market.
The first part of your pitch should be a short, concise, one-sentence summary of what your startup does and the benefit that you deliver. Then go into the rest of your presentation from there with demonstrations, etc.
12. Partnerships are important and will get you bonus points with investors
The partnerships are important because they provide you with extra revenue streams and eliminate some risk that investors might perceive by diversifying your fundamental business model.
A quality partnership with an established organisation can also show credibility and that someone else has confidence in your business so much so that they are willing to align their brand with you. Bluedot were able to demonstrate this to investors with companies like Braintree, who they had partnered with.
The only caveat around having this conversation with investors is that you must be able to clearly proof to them that they’re beneficial relationships and how the actual revenue streams work.
13. Demonstrate to potential investors the small wins early on
One thing that’s important to grasp when trying to raise capital, is that investors want to see a few wins early on. In the early stages, you need to run fast and try and win the business that is the low hanging fruit. This will allow you to raise the money so that you can chase the large, slow moving companies later on.
The typical sales cycle, to win a large business like a bank, is 1-2 years and so if you only have small amounts of capital, you can’t afford to waste time chasing these prospects early on. Investors will not be impressed if you tell them that you haven’t won any clients and that you are focusing on a few large sales that may or may not happen down the track.
Visit Bluedot’s services for more information about their company or follow them on Twitter @BluedotInnovate.
You Are The Problem With Your Business
A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.
I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.
Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.
Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?
Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.
The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.
Your company is a reflection of you.
It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.
One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.
The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.
In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.
The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.
The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.
Take responsibility and it will change.
When you own the business, everything is your fault.
You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.
The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.
Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.
Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.
Change is a must.
Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.
“Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”
You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.
Not the business.
The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up
You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.
How to Evaluate Success
As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.
But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson
When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?
The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.
So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.
1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems
The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.
This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.
In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.
Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).
In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.
“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins
For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.
The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.
Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.
4. Time for Friends and Family
As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.
Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.
A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.
The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.
I spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.
I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.
People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.
This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.
I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.
I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.
That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.
Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.
I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.
They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.
All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.
Your clients tell you every day that you suck.
I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.
Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.
The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.
That wasn’t it.
You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.
I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.
Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.
The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.
They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.
“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.
I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.
The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.
It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.
The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.
You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.
A good business solves a problem.
That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.
This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.
Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.
Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.
Solving only your problem will make you poor.
The problem still wasn’t their website or product.
Creating more problems.
Everything this business owner sold created more problems.
They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.
They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.
They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.
Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.
If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.
The heart of the problem.
It’s the business owner.
The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.
The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.
You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.
Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.
Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.
Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.
18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups
Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)
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