Do you need to raise money to start up? More than a few prominent entrepreneurs have argued that “but I need capital first” is just another startup myth, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need some kind of cash to cover your initial expenses, from office space to software, payroll and more. The important thing to remember is that there are a lot of options, and every business is different.
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling — and some words of wisdom from seasoned entrepreneurs who’ve tried them all.
Early stage: strap up those boots
Big ideas don’t pay for themselves. Or do they?
You don’t have to start trading equity on day one. In fact, a pretty good argument can be made for bootstrapping as long as possible to both prove the traction of your idea, test and iterate with early customers as needed, and then, only seek outside funding if or when it’s absolutely necessary to scale.
Bootstrapping simply means that you reinvest the profits back into improving your product and attracting early customers or users. It’s helpful to have a low-overhead business you can fund with your savings upfront so that you’re profitable more quickly, of course!
Still other entrepreneurs fund their businesses by continuing to work day jobs or investing their own personal savings into the biz to get it off the ground. As long as you have a safe runway, self-funding your startup — and reinvesting profits into the business — isn’t the worst way to prove your business is viable.
Creative ideas: crowds, banks, incubators and more
What if you need money — say, to build your first prototype of an expensive or technical product — but you don’t want to go the venture capital or angel route? Despite the hype around venture capitalists and angel investors, there are other ways of going about raising money. Here are a few ideas:
- Allergic to banks and borrowing? Crowdfund your next project instead (but make sure you include these 7 elements in your campaign)
- Raise a seed fund round instead — from angels, incubators or accelerators, and even friends & family (hi Mom!)
- 11 creative ways to finance your business, from business plan competitions to credit cards
How I did it: real funding stories from real entrepreneurs
There’s no better advice than words of wisdom from startup founders who’ve already endured the terror of making that first pitch — and then done all the hard stuff thereafter, from negotiating term sheets to navigating SBA paperwork and even uprooting to the Valley for an accelerator program. A couple highlights:
- What it’s really like to raise money from family and friends
- A firsthand account of the ins and outs of raising a Series A round
- Using your day job as a biz incubator — Eric Bahn’s real-life tale
- 7 lessons from bootstrapping a lifestyle business from 0 to $15M
- Look like a big company — without spending big money!
Is venture capital right for you?
For some startups, venture capital is the best way to grow and scale. The short story is that venture capitalist funds (VCs) invest a large amount of cash to early-stage, high-growth (and often high-risk) startup companies in exchange for equity (i.e., an ownership stake) in the business.
Getting a VC’s attention isn’t easy without proving some traction first, and issues like diluting your own ownership stake in your business are real concerns. So before you put together that pitch deck, check out these helpful beginner’s resources:
- Finding the right venture capitalist for you
- Who knows VCs better than VCs? Check out these top blogs on startup financing
- 12 questions VCs may ask you (and tips for answering them right)
Bottom line? However you end up funding your startup or small business, and however you define success — whether it’s an acquisition, a merger, or just the ability to pay your bills each month — we wish you the best of luck!