Elpha Founders in the USA: Would you fill this survey about your fundraising experience?https://forms.gle/i1FGKHZDcp7ti7Uo9

Dear Elpha,

If you identify as the founder of a startup, between pre-seed and series A, and have attempted to raise money from investors in the US, in the past, would you PLEASE complete this survey? (shouldn't take you more than 10 minutes)

For context, I am working on a research project at my fund to understand how the economic downturn has affected women founders (if at all) in their fundraising and overall business strategy. I have my own assumptions but I'd love to (in)validate them!

Feel free to share with any women founders you know!

THANK YOU!

I'm only comfortable answering these questions anonymously, and the form would force me to include contact info. See my replies below in case helpful or if you'd like to add it to your research.What stage is your company?Based on your definitions, I would say Seed. But I find the definitions provided limiting, especially since I haven't personally raised any institutional capital. I do have a product built and paying customers, but I can't hire the people I'd like to hire because the business has never had a cash balance higher than $300k and most experienced hires want competitive salaries. I've hired entry level employees (software engineers out of bootcamps) in the past, but I am at the point where I can't justify hiring someone in the U.S. unless they have a really tangible skillset or variable compensation tied to revenue. Basically I'll pay cash to offshore engineers, and the sales team is compensated in equity tied to closing sales deals. Everything else (design, branding, UX, etc.) is done by contractors.Have you ever raised before, and if so how much did you raise?I put in the first $50k myself during Year 1, then did a Friends & Family Raise of $325k the following year. (I was shooting for $500k, this was just as much as I could come up with from bothering people I know.) Received $50k+ in PPP loans during COVID (all forgiven). I continue to encounter new friends and family coming out of the woodwork who are upset they didn't get a chance to invest. Ended up raising a subsequent $200k when I had a clear use of proceeds. Largest investor is happy to continue putting in $50k at a time on an as-needed basis. Someone else came out of the woodwork wanting to put in $200k. Note that this is all in uncapped SAFEs with a discount, so there is still no valuation. I also get interest from angels who want to put in amounts under $50k with aggressively low valuation caps, and I ignore those people. So I'm getting to the stage where I will have raised $800k. I also have offers from family offices to write seven-figure checks; however, those are contingent on there being a brand-name venture capital firm leading a round, so the offers are effectively meaningless.Note that at various points during this timeline, I reached out to venture capital firms, primarily through warm intros because I've never had a reply from a cold email. I can usually get 5-6 meetings at a time (usually do this once a year). A lot of firms will not even take a meeting. I've occasionally had inbound interest from some marquee names. If someone takes/requests a meeting, they rarely give an outright "no," but they often request to be added to my email update list. I find this request obnoxious and do not send investor updates to people who haven't invested, because our business wouldn't benefit from telling our competitors who have more funding/resources than we do exactly where we are at.Are you actively fundraising?No, but I take inbound meeting requests.If you are actively fundraising, what have been your biggest pain points? (Feel free to be as specific as you'd like)See above.If you are not actively fundraising, why is that?We don't need to raise (we have enough runway and/or are stable). It's a mix of this and that VCs in the past have mainly wasted my time. We have also started to receive offers to be acquired, so it's not clear that it would be smart to raise a bunch of institutional capital.How have the current market dynamics impacted 1) your fundraising strategy and 2) day-to-day operations?They haven't at all. I could never rely on venture capital markets before when those markets were "good," so I figured out how to exist without them. The only impact is in how the markets are impacting our paying customers, and our user behavior.How are you balancing your personal priorities and running your company? (Feel free to be as specific as you'd like)I find this question a bit insulting and something that wouldn't be asked of a man. But if you want an actual answer, I'd say the biggest challenge is loneliness. Being a founder is already lonely, and then COVID compounded that. Because I don't have a spouse/partner, I've spent a fair amount of time traveling around the world working remotely to spend 2-4 weeks at a time with friends or family.How can VCs or angels be more helpful to you?Genuinely have no clue. I feel like I'm going to get to the stage where I'm actually profitable before a VC ever shows meaningful interest.
iynna's profile thumbnail
THANK YOU! Name + Email are actually all optional (I will edit the body of the text to mention this, great call!) To clarify, I 1000% ask men entrepreneurs how they balance running their companies and living their lives outside of their companies.Lastly, so great to see you're in a position where you can continue to run the business without relying on external capital! keep at it and good luck with everything you've got going on!
Ah, got it. I see that it does look like the link works under incognito mode, so that’s great. In terms of the “managing personal life” question, glad to hear you ask everyone. I still think it would be odd to be posed that question in a professional setting like a board room no matter the gender — seems more fitting over drinks, but if that works well for you building relationships with founders, I suppose I can’t really criticize it.I used to work with late stage / public CEOs before I did this, and I think the most comparable question I’d see asked was “What keeps you up at night?” I’m told the best answer is “My neighbor’s dog” and that the question is intentionally used to disorient the CEO and to trick them into sharing something negative about the business.Btw, I do appreciate you are answering all of this under your real name! I’m only comfortable with these things under a cloak of anonymity.