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3 Quick Tips for Pitching Your Startup Over a Video Call

In a post covid-19 environment, startup founders and investors are adapting rapidly to contactless funding. Pitching over Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime or any video chat platform is becoming commonplace. Quite a few investors I’ve spoken to have gone from first contact to funding a startup all over video calls. Sure, video calls are convenient but they aren’t always the easiest way to pitch your startup. A lot is lost in the virtual world, e.g. the personal connections, the reading of body language, the ability to easily demo your product, etc.

However, it is possible to have a great first pitch meeting. In this episode of Invest Stream, I share three tips that will help you get through your video pitch more effectively.

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How are Pre-Seed and Seed Changing in 2020?

A lot is changing in the startup world. Even before getting hit with COVID-19, the definitions of pre-seed, seed, post-seed/pre-series A were changing at a fast clip. Many early-stage VCs were moving downstream, writing larger checks and investing in later rounds. At the same time, larger, late-stage VCs were either ramping up their scout programs and investing earlier than every before, other VCs were directly investing earlier and earlier. From Silicon Valley to New York City, this has created new opportunities for some, while creating additional competition for other investors.

Join us on the next InvestStream Live on June 9th, 2020 to hear two well known early-stage VCs discuss how they see the landscape changing over the next six to twelve months. What will this mean for the number of deals getting down, the size of the deals, the check sizes and more.

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Shruti Gandhi is the Founder of Array.VC, a Silicon Valley based venture firm investing in category-leading startups that take advantage of data, analytics, workflows, and new platforms to change the way an industry works.

Paul Sethi is the Co-Founder of 2048.VC, a New York City based venture firm investing in founders who are creating companies that have differentiation and defensibility through technology. They are geographically agnostic but invest in enterprise SaaS, AI/ML, FinTech, HealthTech, Cybersecurity, Dev tools, Hardware, Genomics, Marketplaces, and B2C/D2C in cities like NYC, Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Toronto/Waterloo, Nashville, Pittsburgh and more.

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Watch the equity dilution in your startup!

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Raising money for a startup has become a default option for most founders. Very few even consider bootstrapping anymore. That’s neither a good or bad thing and not the point of this post.

Unfortunately, not as many founders or investors discuss equity dilution as much as they should. Too many startups give up too much equity in their startup before their series A and I often see good companies struggling to raise a series A because of too much dilution early on.

What do you think is a reasonable amount of dilution going into a Series A and after closing a Series A?

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A New Livestream Series – The Raise

As founders, a VC, angel and, now, through our advisory business at Founder Craft, we get asked for advice or “feedback” a lot. The questions range across a wide spectrum. However, they have one thing in common – they as for our opinions.

My Partner at Founder Craft, Gregarious and I have been doing some live streams over the last few months in addition to my InvestStream videos on YouTube and Instagram.

A little over a month ago, I was in Oman for an Investment Committee meeting and Greg messaged me. He said he was thinking about raising money for his new startup, Fanabulous! and what did I think about streaming the process.

I thought it was a great idea. Doing each episode, completely unscripted, focusing on him as a founder preparing to raise money for his new startup, should resonate with founders and even with some investors.

After some fine tuning, we launched ‘The Raise‘, an interactive, live-stream where Gregarious (the Founder) and I (the Investor) dive into the process of his fundraise.

You can subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive notifications of every episode. If you have questions, feel free to throw them up in the comments or drop us an email at raise@foundercraft.com

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Twelve Years of Indian Startups – Part II

After landing in India, I realized the bureaucracy was going to make it really difficult to get started. I won’t bore you with the details but it took me eight months from the day I landed in India to having all of the required papers in place in order to setup a Private Limited company (or corporation). I’m sure the process is much easier today to set up a company but it is definitely not easy to shutdown a company in India.

The view from my balcony

Once I got the company registered, I started looking to hire a few people. I used headhunters, job boards, and, of course, asking people I had been meeting in Delhi. I tried pretty much everything under the sun that I could think of. I hired two interns, one of which was the younger brother of another founder I had met. A few weeks went by and I hired my first full-time hire.

To be honest, though my long-term vision for a reverse auction platform serving the labor force in India was something clear, I had no idea what the magnitude of the problem was and the kind of people I needed to hire. I thought I needed developers so that’s what I tried to hire before anything else.

I interviewed anyone that was desperate enough to to work at a startup (in 2007 working at a startup was definitely not where the cool kids were). Finally, I found another developer who was a Microsoft dev and didn’t quite have the technical background in LAMP technologies. I made a bunch of mistakes in the interview. I should have asked more in-depth technical questions but, instead, I was satisfied with theoretical answers to my questions. I wound up letting this developer go on their first day, partly because of my own mistakes in interviewing and hiring and, in part, because the developer only had theoretical knowledge and wouldn’t be able to contribute to building the product for a long time.

A few months later (probably around April 2008), I was out of town for a funeral. The two interns were working on an important piece of the project. Unexpectedly, I got an email that they were both quitting. Together. Effective immediately.

Most interns didn’t get paid in India back then. I was paying them from day one and relative to what other recent college graduates were getting paid, these college students were getting paid very well. Needless to say, I was furious and shocked at the lack of professionalism by these two interns. They quit right in the middle of an important deadline with an email while I was out of town. I have the email they sent me and my response. Perhaps I will redact some of the emails and share them.

At this stage, I was completely and utterly dejected. I had no idea what I was doing. I was beaten down and there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t want to throw in the towel and head back home, to New York City.

I Kinda felt like this truck…or what was left of it.

I still had enough money left to continue bootstrapping this small company, so I continued to push ahead (completely uncertain in which direction I was actually going). The same acquaintance whose younger brother bailed on me was working out of small incubator in Okhla, Delhi. I went to check it out and see if I can get some space. I moved in with my sole developer. I was more confused than ever about how to build out a team that could build the product I needed. I dusted off the cobwebs and started teaching myself PHP while looking for a designer to join us. Eventually, I found a designer and hired him. He wasn’t too thrilled about using Gimp instead of Photoshop but I wanted to see what he could do before spending the money for a product no one else knew how to use. I never really got the chance to find out. After multiple absences during his first week of work (on one instance, his mother called to tell me he wasn’t feeling well), I had to fire him as well.

I’m a little hazy on the time lines now but somewhere around the middle of 2008, I got involved with organizing BarCamp Delhi and that eventually led me to co-founding the HeadStart Network and launching Startup Saturday Delhi. My initial reason for getting involved was to broaden my network and find good people to hire. Also, around this time, I met two people from IAN (Indian Angel Network). They both wanted me to come and pitch IAN but I wasn’t ready to raise money. I viewed raising money from outsiders as something I should do only after I figure out the basics of building this business.

I can’t find any screenshots but we did a soft launch of Semblr in August of 2009. It was a rough and rocky road getting there but we got there. Building a two sided market was much harder than I thought. I quickly found that not having background checks in India was going to be a problem and scaling the process of doing “police verifications” across the city was going to cost a lot of money.

By December, I was almost out of money and I decided to start doing some services to generate a little cash to pay my employees (I had hired a few folks again). That didn’t work out so well. Our first client didn’t pay me for the work we did and instead, hired away my employee that was working with them.

That was pretty much the end of Teknatus Solutions. More or less, that day, I decided to shut it down. I told my last employee (also my first full-time hire) that I would help him find another job but I was done. He was the last person to walk out of the office and turn off the lights. I still try to see him whenever I’m in the same city.

Running a startup in India was an incredibly difficult and it forced me to reexamine a lot of what I had learned about doing business and running operations over the previous 10-15 years. It was more importantly, extremely adventurous, exciting, and educational experience. I wouldn’t trade it in for anything. I learned a lot more about doing business in India than I ever would have in a MBA program or at a job. The experiences gave me a lot to digest and learn about myself which I may not have had the chance to learn had I not taken the leap. The opportunity for introspection that “failing” in a startup gave me has been invaluable but most of all, the people I met and the relationships I built over the last twelve years is something I will always cherish.

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