Millen Wolde-Selassie’s 10 top tips for raising investment as a B2C.
What do b2c investors look for when reviewing pitch decks? Should you optimise for revenue or growth? What do investable founders have in common when it comes to their decks? What’s the best way to reach out to investors cold?
These questions (and more!) were answered in our first expert session as part of Week2Work, our one week, hyper focused Seed Sprint with SeedLegals.
We were joined by Millen Wolde-Selassie, former founder and Early Stage Consumer Investor at Octopus Ventures who shared her top tips.
Want to know what VCs are looking for? Self-awareness is key. A VC backable startup is a totally different type of company to the majority of startups, and roughly 5% of startups are VC backable. There are lots of ways of funding your startup, and VCs want to ensure you have the self-awareness to understand if you fit what they’re looking for. VCs look for market size, team, and outcomes, and a good starting point is explaining why VC money is the right route for you, and for them.
Think VC is the right route but wondering if you’re ‘too early’ for an investor? As a B2C business, you’re likely facing the classic chicken and egg problem - you need money to build traction, but need traction to close investment. VCs will want to know how much you have managed to achieve with very little. Rather than coming to the VC with hurdles you need money to overcome, demonstrate what you’ve built, how you’ve creatively won over customers, and how you’re edging towards product-market fit (PMF) with the resources you have available to you now.
So how do you prove PMF? What metrics do VCs want to see at the earliest stages? Quantitative metrics aren’t universal as different business models need different proof points, so there is no one size fits all approach to traction. One thing investors will do is look to comparables / your competition to see how much traction they had when they raised / they have now, so keep on top of what comparable businesses are doing to benchmark.
Can you create a compelling narrative with beta users, or early user engagement? Having some beta or free users providing feedback is great to show investors, but have a think about what they might ask next. They’ll want to know how those users will become more active, will stay engaged, or will become paying customers (if that’s part of your business model). To prove this, consider running experiments, offering paid trials, or premium / paid tiers and monitor interest / conversion to demonstrate that your current user base can become future customers.
You’ve got metrics and you’re ready to raise. How do you make your deck stand out? VCs look at hundreds of decks each week, and Millen’s top tip is to keep it simple. Simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. The more words you need to explain what you do, the more likely it is that you haven’t quite worked out what you’re doing. Spend time finessing your problem / solution / business model. Get feedback from friends and family, and cut out any unnecessary words. Branding is also very important, especially for B2C companies. Investors want to see that you have a sense of what it takes to build a great brand, and your deck is an opportunity to show that.
Good branding and simplicity is great, but is the market size slide important? The short answer is yes. There’s mixed reviews from investors about how realistic the numbers on these slides can be, but the important thing here is that there is a market, and it’s not you that’s responsible for building and growing it, as that’s a risk for a VC.
You’re talking about your future plans. Do you prioritise growth or revenue? Revenue is less important than people think when it comes to VC funded businesses. If you need revenue to grow, it’s useful, but when you go for VC funding, you’re promising an investor you’ll reach a multi-billion pound outcome, and in order to do this, you’ll most likely hit growth before you hit profitability. Saying that, the times where VCs are laser focused on pure growth is changing, so it’s worth thinking about unit economics, and the levers you can pull to make your business profitable if needs be. Can you demonstrate to VCs how expensive is it to acquire a customer, how easy it is to get repeat customers, and your churn?
How else can you stand out to B2C investors outside of your deck? As a B2C startup, your best marketing and growth engine is your customers, so make sure they’re happy, and try and get evidence that they’re happy. Investors will look at Trustpilot reviews, NPS reviews and talk to your customers.
Is it worth it to also focus on marketing / hype? Yes, alongside having inbound decks and intros, VCs are reaching out themselves to potential investment opportunities all the time. They will talk to startups they’re a customer of, that they see being hyped on social media, or they see neighbours / friends and family interacting with, so have marketing as part of your fundraising strategy, and make sure any hype has some substance behind it.
Ready to talk to Millen and wondering the best approach to cold outreach? Keep it short and personalised. Tell her why you’re pitching her over another investor at Octopus, or elsewhere. Your email should be readable in under 2 minutes. Make the process as seamless as possible. Add the deck as a link and don’t ask for an NDA. The extra back and forth risks killing interest.
Find out more about Millen via LinkedIn and Octopus VC here.