How to give your business wings | StartUP ScaleUP MeetUP
Various start-ups, founders and investors gathered thursday evening, 21st of February, in Dotslash Utrecht for the second startUP scaleUP meetUP of this year. Theme of this edition: financing your startup and dealing with investors. The lively discussions and shared experiences proved very valuable and provided many useful learnings.
StartupUtrecht Director Heerd Jan Hoogeveen started the event with introducing keynote speaker Robert Weaver as ‘investor in residence’. Weaver was once entrepreneur and is at this moment investor, so he knows both sides of the startup-investor story. He challenged the audience by asking: “Who knows what an angel investor is?” The right explanation according to Weaver himself: “An angel investor is somebody who is in the circumstances to invest a certain amount of money, - for example by having sold an own business - to invest in startups. An angel investor gets involved after the initiation phase of a startup. Being a former entrepreneur himself, an angel brings along experience and emotion. Those things are almost just as important as money is.”
Weaver warmed the stage for Irma Borst, founder of MatchingWINGS. Her company provides support to ventures and investors in the early stage investment phase, even before revenue is visible. “We are aiming on professionalising angel investors,” Borst explained. “So that the angel makes better decisions. Of course, the startup takes advantage of this.” Her pitch seemed to affect people in the audience, for several questions followed. “From my experience, most angel investors do want to see revenue before investing. Is it realistic to expect something different?” Borst reacts: “This is exactly where we come across. MatchingWINGS tries to push investors into the right direction. Dutch entrepreneurs are good at starting a business but get stuck when they have to approach the market. Early investments from angels are highly necessary for the Dutch startup climate.” Borst ended with a clear advice: “Too often I see an entrepreneur trying to raise funds using a bad pitch. Unacceptable! If you can’t sell your product to an investor, how are you ever going to sell it to your customer?”
Anouk Binkhuysen from Faqta and Luuk Koedam from City Challenge formed the panel of this event – unfortunately missing the third participant due to the traffic. Both young founding fathers shared their pitches. Binkhuysen: “We developed a learning method which teaches primary school kids to develop their talents and creativity skills. With this method we prepare them for jobs of the future. At this moment 20,000 kids use our method. Our goal? To have every child in Holland using Faqta.” Koedam: “Our City Challenge is a city game which combines reality and virtuality on hotspots in a city. We made a prototype for Amsterdam and are aiming to make this game in a few days instead of months so that upscaling becomes possible.” Both Koedam and Binkhuysen experienced the bumpy road of getting enough money to realize their dreams. Investor readiness, revenues and convertible loans came across in the experiences they shared with the audience. “How did you learn about all these things?” someone asked Koedam. “Google! And of course by talking to a lot of investors.”
Follow instead of find
A final suggestion from one of the guests shined a different light on the theme of raising funds: “Let’s start following the money instead of only finding the money. Which events are happening where you can find your customer? You will see: if you join big events, suddenly things are possible.”
So, to summarize, a couple of the learnings:
- a valuable investor brings more to the table than just money, but also experience, network etc.;
- talk to many investors to learn how they view the strenghts and weaknesses of your startup, but also to VC's because it prepares you for the next phase;
- be realistic about your valuation and ask advice on it;
- use convertible loans to avoid discussions about valuation, and:
- deliver on your promises.
Want to join the next meetUP?
The next edition will take place on 20 March (election day!), we will then discuss the pros and cons of subsidies for startups and of course the most interesting calls and subsidies will be presented to you.