Let me ask you a question. Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear, or do you want me to tell you reality? I am sure hoping you want to hear reality, especially when it comes to pitching investors.
The reality is, unless you have some really special things going for you (I’ll get back to this later), you’re going to need a working product to pitch investors. In fact, depending upon how much money you’re trying to raise, you’re likely going to need customer traction too.
I know. You need money to grow your startup. I’ve got some tough love coming at you; that’s your problem.
You need to find a way to survive until you have achieved enough progress to raise money.
Every CEO I’ve worked with, except for one, couldn’t raise money without a product. There’s nothing magical about this. It’s just the way the market works now.
Years ago, you used to be able to raise money with a pitch deck and a team. However, those days are long gone.
A simple way to think about this is the market for capital is like any other market. There are buyers of the capital (investors) and sellers of the capital (entrepreneurs).
Investors are competing with each other to get the best deals. At the same time, Investors are managing their risk. Investors have realized they can deploy capital later, reduce their risk, and have tremendous upside.
You’re not going to change the system.
It used to be that Series A was the first round of investment a startup would receive. Now, there’s an angel round, then a seed round, and then you get to Series A.
This is the reality you live in today, and you’re not going to change it.
Before any outside funding, every startup survives on friends and family funding.
My first round of funding was a $12 million Series A round. I did it based solely on having a pitch deck, my previous track record of success, and a great team. That’s what you’ll need to be able to raise money without a product.
However, I used my own funds to finance the company for the two years it took us to raise our initial funding. That’s what you’re going to need to do too.
So, figure out how much money you’re going to need to get to your first major milestone. Then figure out how much money you’re going to need to survive.
Do you have enough money saved up, so your family can survive for the next couple of years?
Even if you do raise some angel funding, you’re not going to be able to pay yourself anywhere near a full startup CEO salary for a long period of time. Now, there are things you can do to augment your income.
You could continue working at your day job (but look at your employment agreement to see whether your employer has the rights to what your new company produces), or you could do consulting work. It might not be ideal, but you’ve got to do what you need to do to survive.
That’s what every early stage startup CEO has to do. Now it’s your turn.