Keeping with the same theme of bringing you worldwide game changers to help give your startup the best advice, I recently interviewed Jonathan Barouch from a company called Local Measure. With clients like Starbucks, McDonalds, Newscorp, Sydney Opera House, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Qantas and one of Disney ABC’s subsidiaries in the USA, they are now getting ready to expand into Europe. These organisations use Local measures platform to see engagement, manage customer service and help with publishing, and tracking of operational issues.
Local Measure is a local content platform that aggregates location-based content from social media, for brands and businesses to leverage. If you’re Newscorp and you want to have local content to support your editorial, then local measure is really good at grabbing local photos and videos from breaking news or a concert. You might be wondering if many people actually tag their location.
On a platform like Instagram, most people share their location or tag the event that they are at. Facebook has a much smaller number of users that tag their location and geotagging on Twitter is growing more and more.
If you were at the Sydney Cricket Ground for a cricket game, Local Measure could track where in the stadium a tweet came from and aggregate all the tweets around the stadium. This information could then be used by the stadium, team, sponsor or media to get a 360 view of all the content that was shared from that game. The only tweets that are visible in this example, are ones where the user has checked in or geotagged their location, which means it’s in the public domain. Local Measure’s technology then allows a brand to converse with the fans, engage with the influencers and grab all the content from the game to use on their website.
Local Measure’s technology then allows a brand to converse with the fans, engage with the influencers and grab all the content from the game to use on their website.
Being a tech startup, Local Measure didn’t take the usual route of raising money via venture capital and raised money through cash flow, a few different funds, high net worth individuals and a company listed on the Australian stock exchange.
1. Using cash flow to pay for growth
It’s often seen as very cool for tech startups to funds via Venture Capital and before they actually need to. However, the normal way that businesses raised capital for 100’s of years was to plow their profits back into the business, rather than taking money out or paying dividends.
If you had a cash flow positive business (where you are paid before you have to expend money on goods or services) there would be a cash float to fund the growth. A great example of this was Jonathan’s previous e-commerce business, which was one of the first flower and gift sites in Asia. Often customers paid up front for their order before special occasions like Valentines Day, but they didn’t actually need to deliver the goods until 4 weeks later.
This created a healthy cash balance which they could invest a portion of, for growth, on things like marketing. Even though this business didn’t create any profit in its first year, the following years were profitable and they invested this money back into their business. This simple strategy is often overlooked by entrepreneurs, but it’s a great way to raise capital.
If you’re not getting money in advance then this strategy can still work but it depends on how profitable your startup is. The choice you have to make is do you want to fund for growth, pay dividends or pay the founders a higher wage? The answer should be pretty simple; short-term pain for long-term gain.
Tips for improving cashflow
- Invoicing on the first day of the month can be really helpful especially if you have corporate clients who might pay in 60-90 days. The quicker you get your invoice out the quicker you get paid.
- Consider your payment terms and try and invoice a month in advance so that you have been paid before you have actually had to provide the service.
- Negotiate with your existing debtors to see if you can change the payment terms more towards your favor (this is quite hard with corporates).Don’t get lazy with your receivables and make sure that you only have very minimal amounts of money owed to you at any one time. A great way to help with overdue invoices is to send out reminders to your debtors on one week and the on the alternate week, follow this up with a call to the payables officer within the debtors company.
- Don’t get lazy with your receivables and make sure that you only have very minimal amounts of money owed to you at any one time. A great way to help with overdue invoices is to send out reminders to your debtors on one week and the on the alternate week, follow this up with a call to the payables officer within the debtors company.
All of this helps fund your growth!
2. Private Equity
The simplest way to start is by looking to your family and friends to raise capital from. If this is not an option then you might go the next step, which is private equity.
Traditional private equity is middle age men in dark suits, sitting in big city offices, who run big funds or private equity firms. Private equity is now a lot broader and can really be anyone who has money to place in return for equity.
When you look for private equity you might find that your startup could be too small for some and too large for others. It’s a matter of having the meetings to work this out as you go. Don’t despair, if the private equity fund says you are not right for them, individuals within the fund could invest in you personally – this actually happened to Jonathan.
“Pounding the pavement is the best friend of an entrepreneur”
A warm intro from family, friends, people you went to school with, people you went to university with, or even people you work with, are the best avenues to find someone to invest in you privately. There are quite
a lot of high net worth individuals and angel investors who will happily write cheques in the thousands to help you. These people are located in the USA, Australia, Asia and even starting in Europe now. This route is great for a Seed Round or even a Series A Round. If you’re a tech startup, once your past these rounds then Venture Capital is the next place to start looking unless you have assets which you can get debt over.
In Jonathan’s Local Measure business, he visited around 15-25 different sources of funding before he found the right one. Raising this money happened within about 48 hours because they had some large corporates already using their service. Having corporate clients can really help to give belief in your startup and raise money quickly.
“The better you’re doing, the easier it is to raise money”
Before approaching a bank, remember that most of them won’t lend money to early-stage entrepreneurs unsecured. A bank is a good when you want them to finance over a fixed asset like some computer equipment or stock, and they can use that asset as collateral (security). If you’re building a tech startup a banks probably going to be less interested in providing debt because it’s higher risk, even though it has a higher return. Funding growth, expansion or research and development, is just not what banks do.
If you don’t want to give away equity you can also look to raise money privately via some sort of debt facility where you pay a higher amount of interest (10%-15%). The downside of this is that you’re stripping out cash flow every month to pay back the interest.
Every country has a different landscape with crowdfunding. Places like the USA have lots of money available on these platforms, but obviously that comes with a lot more competition for that money at the same time. When looking at crowdfunding you need to choose the platform that best suits your product or service. A cool success story that Jonathan invested in and used crowdfunding, was Life X who had the lightbulb that you could control with your smartphone.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo
Both of these platforms are great when there is a physical product or service, and you’re raising money on the promise of delivering that product or service at some point. In this case, the crowdfunding is not really funding but more pre-purchasing. These platforms can also be a quick way to generate marketing or interest for your startup so that you can generate the cash to go and execute it.
People put up their profile and their bio and keep it up to date. It’s like a mini LinkedIn for tech companies. As a tech startup, you can put out a call for funding and then angels can band together to fill up a round.
Our Crowd (John Medved)
They have their own fund and invest off their own balance sheet. They then split the rest of the equity across high net worth and angels. By packaging up the two methods, it makes it easy for startups to raise capital. On this site you upload all your financials, the story, the model and a video, and then investors login to the site to see if they like your business. Even if you don’t raise money from the platform it’s a good marketing exercise because some relatively influential people are getting to hear your story.
If you’re into social enterprise or not for profits then you should look at Chuffed. There are lots of great causes although the sums raised are usually below $100k.
Knowing how much equity to give away is always challenging and you have to do what you need to in the moment. If you need other people’s money to grow then giving away equity is the price you have to pay. With the benefit of hindsight, every entrepreneur is always a genius.
“Every entrepreneur always wishes that they owned more of their own company”
As entrepreneurs, you often try and raise money too early because you are naturally bullish and want to grow. Sometimes it’s better to hold off on raising more capital and demonstrate traction first. When you can demonstrate more traction you can have more of a premium in your valuation and then you don’t have to give away as much equity – don’t go broke in the meantime though. In a B2B business, like Jonathans, the types, quantum, and quality of the customer base demonstrate traction. It’s also demonstrated by the recurring revenue, having low churn, a high renewal rate and a revenue stream that’s constantly growing.
When you can demonstrate more traction you can have more of a premium in your valuation and then you don’t have to give away as much equity – don’t go broke in the meantime though. In a B2B business, like Jonathans, the types, quantum, and quality of the customer base demonstrate traction. It’s also demonstrated by the recurring revenue, having low churn, a high renewal rate and a revenue stream that’s constantly growing.
“The only two things a startup should worry about is hiring great people and not running out of cash”
Having what’s called “smart money” is more important than just having money. This is why venture capital is quite attractive to a lot of entrepreneurs because they add prestige, knowledge, street cred and advice that is highly sort after. When you have smart investors on board it’s a good idea to try and have some local ones so that you can be involved with them hands on. When you combine these investors with great advisors you have a really solid group of people around you that can be out talking about your startup.
Local Measure has an advisory board made up of a very senior Vice President of Google in North America, a Senior Product person at Salesforce in San Francisco, a Senior Executive of a tech company in Singapore and a well-known Chief Operating Officer of a large media company in Australia.
Bringing these types of people on to offer advice is really valuable, but try and make sure they have some skin in the game (equity) so that they can be rewarded when you succeed. Jonathan says that how you tell your story and how you demonstrate traction is what will help you to attract talent to your startup. People who are a little bit further on in their career are really keen to give back and might be attracted to help your startup.
I hope you got some ideas on some other ways to raise capital and feel free to head over to Local Measure if you want to know more about what Jonathan Barouch and his team do.
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Entrepreneurs frequently seek startup funding through a variety of channels. Yet, none seem as challenging as successfully pitching to experienced investors. After all, investors are pressed for time and eager for opportunities. These characteristics make it challenging to motivate them, especially if you’re bombarding them with a pitch full of jargon. (more…)
From Idea to Empire: 5 Power Moves for Your Startup to Thrive in Today’s Market
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that understanding market dynamics and choosing the right business model are crucial.
A few months into the startup, I was quick to gauge why it is necessary to go beyond the nuances of operational efficiency and the art of sustaining a business amid growing competition.
Collaboration is key.
The HR and the recruiting teams work with departments to foster a culture of collaboration, but what’s indispensable to business performance is the sync between the marketing and sales teams. What we’d consider as entrepreneurs is the need to ensure seamless collaboration to predict and achieve business goals together. In turn, this will help secure long-term recurring revenue for the business.
Besides, entrepreneurs need to focus on revenue as they gear up to take their startup from $0 to $1 million. The journey is filled with critical decisions, from identifying your target customer base to choosing the right funding strategy.
So, what next?
Read on… because here are five practical, results-driven strategies that you as a founder can implement to make a mark in their industry.
#1. Embrace the Lean Methodology
What is lean methodology?
It is all about pivoting resources to create more value for customers with fewer resources.
This principle encourages you to be more agile and allow rapid iteration based on customer feedback rather than spending years perfecting a product before it hits the market.
Want to implement it?
Here’s what you can do.
Build “Measure-Learn” Loop: What I did was develop a minimum viable product (MVP), a simple version of the product. You can do the same since it allows you to start the learning process as quickly as possible. After launching MVP, measure how customers use it and learn from their behaviors and feedback.
Here’s what I can recommend here:
- Identify the core features that solve your customers’ primary needs and focus solely on those to develop your MVP.
- Know the feedback channels where early users can communicate their experiences, suggestions, and complaints.
- Analyze user behavior and feedback to make informed product development and iteration decisions.
#2. Focus on Customer Development
Let’s talk about taking our startup to the next level.
It’s not just about getting customers – it’s about really getting to know them. We need to dive into their world, understand their struggles, and see how our product or service can make a difference in their lives.
It’s like we’re detectives, piecing together the puzzle of our business hypothesis by actually chatting with our customers
What would you ideally do here?
Understand Customer Segments: I’d say, start dividing your target market into segments and develop a deep understanding of each segment’s demographics, behaviors, needs, and pain points. The idea is to get into their shoes and really feel what they feel.
Ensure your Product Clicks: When starting up, think of what you offer and consider whether it clicks with what our customers need. My thought was “Does my product solve their problems? Does it make their day better?” Put yourself through a tough grilling session to show customers the value proposition and ensure that the product’s promise matches what our customers are looking for.
I’d recommend the following actions here:
- Talk to them – through surveys, interviews, or even casual chats. The goal? To gather real, raw insights about what they need and expect.
- Use the collected data to create detailed profiles for each type of customer. This way, everyone on our team really understood we were serving. I think this should help your startup as well.
- Try out different versions of our product with a few customer groups. It’s all about feedback here – understanding if you’re hitting the mark or if we need to pivot.
#3. Foster a Data-Driven Culture
The digital world is highly data driven since it fuels key decisions in a startup.
I believe it’s essential for us to build a data-driven culture. This means, you’ll move from making decisions based on hunches or assumptions. Instead, the focus should be on data analytics and insights to guide our strategies and improve our outcomes.
What can you do?
Use Data Analytics Tools: You should be using these tools to gather, analyze, and interpret data related to customer behavior, market trends, and our business operations. Here, consider the adoption of pipeline forecasting that leverages AI to find patterns in marketing data.
In turn, you’ll get areas for improvement since it can analyze historical data and predict the outcome for you to plan your.
- Pinpoint key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your business objectives and ensure they are measurable and actionable.
- Next, you can consider training your team to understand and use data analytics tools. This might involve workshops or bringing in experts to build a data-savvy workforce.
- Once everything is in place, regularly review data reports and dashboards. This gives us a clear picture of a startup’s health and helps adjust your strategies and predict future trends.
#4. Strengthen Your Financial Acumen
A good grip on financial skills is important to steer your business towards growth and making sure it stays on track. For this, you’ll have to understand the money side of things, which helps you manage your cash flow. Think of figuring out smart investment moves and sizing up any risks that come your way.
Here’s a tip on how you can get savvy with your finances.
Maintain Rigorous Financial Discipline: I’m really focused on cultivating a strong company culture, one that truly resonates with our mission. So, I’d suggest fostering open communication and encouraging a sense of ownership and collaboration among everyone in the team.
- Get to know your financial statements inside out – I’m talking about the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. These are like the vital signs for your business’s financial health
- Use financial forecasting that helps predict your future money moves. With this, you will have a heads-up on upcoming revenues, expenses, and how much cash you’ll need. Also, research on the available financial forecasting tools that can make predictions spot-on.
- Don’t go at it alone. Regularly touch base with financial advisors or mentors. With them by your side, you’ll have a fresh perspective on your financial strategies to ensure you’re on the right path to hit your business goals.
5. Prioritize Team Building and Leadership Development
It is crucial to focus on building a solid team and developing strong leaders. This means putting our resources into the people who are going to propel our company forward.
What you’ll aim for here?
Creating a culture where everyone collaborates and every team member has the chance to emerge as a leader.
What I would do:
Cultivate a Strong Company Culture: This culture should mirror our mission and foster open communication. It’s important that it encourages everyone to feel a sense of ownership and work together.
Invest in Leadership and Team Development: As founders, we’ll have to make way for opportunities for teams to enhance their skills, face new challenges, and grow in their careers.
Some concrete steps that you should consider taking:
- Begin with clearly communicating your startup’s vision, mission, and values so that every team member is on the same page.
- Conduct regular team-building activities and workshops to boost skills and strengthen a sense of unity and collaboration.
- How about starting a mentorship program within our organization? The more experienced team members could guide and support the growth of newer or less experienced folks.
- Alas… encourage feedback at all levels. We should keep striving to create an environment where open, honest communication is the norm and everyone feels safe to speak up.
I know it’s one thing to get your head around these ideas and quite another to actually make them a part of your everyday business life. But that’s where the real magic happens, right? It’s all in the doing.
As a startup founder, this means more than just being a big dreamer. How about rolling up your sleeves to be the planner who pays attention to the smallest details. Ultimately, these tips and more tactics around it will help carve a leader in you who listens and cares and the learner who’s always ready to adapt
So, as you’re either starting out or moving forward on this entrepreneurial adventure, keep these practical tips right there.
May these be your guiding lights, helping you steer through the wild and exciting world of building a startup that’s not just a dream, but a thriving reality.
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