06/02/23 | Founders

Fundraising is tough. Very tough. It took us 70 no’s before we got a yes.

Now that I’m through it, I wanted to share some tips I wish I knew before I started:

1. Pitch vision or traction, but never both

A few months into our raise, we were stuck. We’d gotten over 40 no’s and my morale was at an all-time low. I got connected to Christina Cacioppo, and we exchanged a few emails. Christina hit me with a gem that totally changed the way that I approached raising: pitch traction or vision, but never both.

At the pre-seed stage, since you probably won’t have much traction, sell your vision to investors. Talk about what the world looks like if you’re successful and your game plan to get there. When I started doing this, I could literally see the expressions on investors’ faces change; they became much more interested.

2. You won’t change an investor’s mind

Investors tend to have a clear idea of whether they want to invest in your company within the first five minutes of the pitch. If they are not interested, move on and don’t try to convince them otherwise. There is little chance that you’ll be able to change their mind, and you’ll waste valuable time that you could be using to find other investors.

3. Get the first check asap

One of the first questions that investors will ask is “who else is in?” If you can get some commitment before fundraising more broadly, it will give you an edge. Try to fundraise privately and get some sort of commitment. Even if you’re only able to get 10% of the round committed, when you start formally raising, if you can tell investors that you have only been fundraising for a week and 10% of the round is full, they’ll be more interested.

4. The door is never truly closed

For the investors we spoke to that passed and asked to be kept int he loop, I added every one of them to our monthly updates so they can track our progress. If/when the time comes for our seed, they’ll have 12+ months worth of updates to refer to.

5. When investors show you they aren’t interested, believe them

If you find yourself following up with an investor two, three, or four times, they are probably not interested. We got commitments from our investors within 3 weeks. If you find yourself following up multiple times, they probably aren’t interested, and you’re better off finding investors that are.

6. The best way to get a meeting is still through a warm intro

Although cold emails and filling out Airtable forms can work, the best way to get a meeting with an investor remains a warm introduction. It’s an antiquated, inequitable, and lowkey racist practice, but it’s an unfortunate reality. If you know someone who can introduce you, use it to your advantage.

The entire fundraising process needs to be redesigned, but until then, this is what helped me. Hopefully, this helps another Black or underrepresented founder who’s going through the process.

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn and was published here with permission.

Toby Egbuna

Toby Egbuna

Toby Egbuna is the Co-Founder and CEO of Chezie. Toby’s background is in management consulting and DEI strategy, and he leverages both of these experiences to help companies build impactful employee resource groups. When he’s not working on Chezie, you can find Toby playing or watching basketball, critiquing movies, or trying out a new recipe.

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