At MergeLane, we (and most of the startup investors I know) subscribe to the philosophy that startup success is determined by team, team, team, market and idea, in that order. We look for incredibly tenacious founders with a track record of making the seemingly impossible possible, a deep passion bordering on obsession for solving the problem their business is solving, and a huge opportunity cost for pursuing their startup.
I sometimes find that incredibly tenacious founders want to move as quickly as possible to get an investor’s check in their hand. This typically causes frustration on both sides of the table. Before we consider companies for investment, we like to invite them to step back and look at the things that are really going to make or break a company’s ability to raise capital and, more importantly, build a successful company.
Idea: Is your business solving a big enough problem? Does your market actually view this as a problem? Is your market willing to pay to solve this problem? Is the vision of how your company will solve this problem the best way to solve the problem? Can you make your vision bigger?
Market: How big is your market? How much of this market cares enough about this problem to become a user or paying customer? This is a great resource for calculating your total addressable market (TAM).
Team: Are you the right team to execute on your vision? I’d suggest answering these questions specifically:
3) Have your assumptions about your team members changed? Do you need to rethink your roles as team members?
4) What are the critical holes in your team? How will you fill them? Can you leverage mentors, etc. to fill those holes for the next 18 months?
Passion: As you think about these questions, don’t lose sight of the fact that the most successful founders typically build startups to solve problems about which they are deeply and personally passionate.
After you answer these questions, think about whether raising capital from angel investors is actually the right strategy. To answer this question and more, I’d suggest:
1. Reading this post about the types of companies angel and venture investors typically fund
2. Listening to the following in order of priority:
In this Fund81 podcast episode, I invited Brad Feld, founding partner of Foundry Group, to share his thoughts on maintaining mental health in the fast-paced venture capital world and supporting portfolio companies, colleagues, friends and family wrestling with mental health issues.
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I’ve seen thousands of startup investor pitches. Since I find myself offering the same feedback over and over, I thought it might be helpful to share my nine most common points of investor pitch feedback.
In this Fund81 podcast episode, we talk about something that has made our team at MergeLane better investors - the Enneagram Personality Typing System. To talk about how the Enneagram can help other VCs, I invited Kaley Klemp to join the podcast.
As a venture capitalist, I am frequently surrounded by exceptionally high-performing and inspiring people. Until recently, I had never stopped to think about the impact of that.
We are big proponents of using the 15 Commitments in the work we do in Conscious Leadership. However, as an Enneagram Type 1 who is most happy at maximum productivity, I’ve always had a hard time buying into Commitment #9, the commitment to play and rest. Until yesterday….
I am extremely disciplined and focused. However, this can also be a detriment. Anything I perceive as a distraction from my to-do list feels stressful, and I have to constantly tell myself that off-the-to-do-list opportunities are often the best opportunities. I was recently reminded of that.
For the final episode of Fund81's first season, I interviewed Jaclyn Freeman Hester from Foundry Group. As someone relatively new to the industry, she has a fresh perspective on what's compelling to institutional investors and an incredible pulse on the landscape for emerging VC managers. Enjoy!
Could I be more effective if I simply surrendered to a schedule that felt natural to me? After some serious self-reflection and experimentation, I can unequivocally say YES.
I’m trying to focus my time on opportunities to operate in my zone of genius and a few select priority areas in line with my passions and in which I feel I can make the most impact, aka my true north. To help all of us stay the course, I thought it might be helpful to share those priorities.