There’s no doubt that fundraising during the pandemic was different. We weren’t able to meet in person and Zoom calls were regularly being disrupted by barking dogs, crying children, poor connectivity issues and spousal walk-throughs. In the end, however, raising money during the pandemic gave us a glimpse into the future of anytime, anywhere fundraising—allowing us to optimize the process, refine our pitch and get to a decision quicker.
And in our case, we capitalized on this opportunity since startups that enable digital business transformation, remote work or business agility are in high demand. Thus, funding and support to meet these demands is readily available. In fact, SaaS companies have raked in more than $20 billion in funding according to Software Suggest.
Opportunity to Rethink the Fundraising Process
Investors will always be looking at innovation in product, market opportunity, and the ability for the team to execute—but there are some best practices that we’ve developed over the past year that we feel confident will carry through with us to the post-pandemic world.
Here are three take-aways that can help expand your fundraising strategy:
1. Be flexible and responsive with your pitch
The pandemic laid bare two critical trends that are going to dominate the business world over the next several decades: the acceleration of digital transformation and a shift to experience-led business models. When we informally started the process in March 2020, we didn’t realize how fast the acceleration would come, but it quickly became apparent as the workforce moved from 10% remote to 100% remote literally overnight and consumers began to demand online experiences on par with in-store experiences. Companies that were able to adapt survived. Those that couldn’t are still hurting.
Shortly after quarantine phased out, it became clear that the fallout from the pandemic gave us an opportunity to highlight with investors the transformative power of our latest product feature that authenticates call center personnel working from home. The pain point was top of mind for many potential customers, and it was easy to draw on these recent use cases in our pitch. We were also able to pull data from other recent pandemics—H1N1, Ebola, and SARS—that showed an increase in call center volume, putting real, hard data behind our updated market projections. This ability of our product quickly meeting the needs of the market allowed us to update our pitch in real time is going to be critical for any fundraising efforts in the future.
2. Expand the pool of funding resources
The pandemic also allowed us to look at other, less traditional funding sources. We were already meeting with potential investors over Zoom, so why not cast a larger net without the cost of flying around the world to meet in person? We ended up connecting with 90 funds; in of itself, that isn’t out of the ordinary, but those firms were scattered around the world in North America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Europe. This flexibility allowed us to think outside the box about how our funding can support the next phase of our company’s global growth, opening up new opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible just a few months before. Moving forward, it’s easy to see how funding sources will continue to expand—especially as the technology sector continues to show outstanding returns.
3. Show the human side of the team
Before the pandemic, the fundraising team would file into a conference room full of suits, give a presentation and leave. Now, pitches are punctuated by the barking dogs, ringing doorbells and kids saying the darndest things. Remember how people used to cringe at a ringing mobile phone in a pitch meeting? Now, no one thinks twice about everyday disruptions—understanding and even laughing about our shared experience. What this does is make people more human in an already tense, business-focused setting. It puts a story behind the face and a personality behind the pitch. Why does this matter? A key factor in a successful fundraise and subsequently a good relationship with your investor is making sure they are a cultural fit for you, your company and your stage of growth. Watching them wrestle a dog off their lap as they’re trying to punch holes in your projections is a great equalizer and tells you a lot about who they are as a person.
Investors are always going to be interested in the product, the market and the team—that’s never going to change. But how you execute your fundraising strategy has forever been transformed. The disruption of the past year has given the tech industry an opportunity to rethink and refine the fundraising process, allowing us to be more flexible and responsive with both our product and our pitch, expand the pool of funding resources and show the human side of the team to make a connection with potential investors. Moving forward, this will be the new normal in a post-pandemic world.