We get a lot of questions about access to capital from Founders of early-stage tech startups. It often is one of the first questions we hear when we meet with someone interested in pursuing their idea for a product. There is a lot of work to be done before seeking angel investment or a seed round for your company - like problem/solution fit, minimum viable product development, and even preparing to sell to customers (and we’re happy to support your efforts through the Preflight program.)
In this article Boris Wertz, founding partner of Version One Ventures shares some of the patterns he has observed while sitting on the boards of the companies in their portfolio of investments, from pre-seed to Series B, and beyond. Version One Ventures has ten years of experience and comprehensive portfolio of tech investments including Jobber, Nexopia, TechVibes, IndieGoGo, and Indochino.
What I like about Boris’ advice is it’s incredibly practical, and what I’ve watched happen in our local community when startups successfully secure funding and then use it to prepare themselves for rapid growth. As I go through Boris’ checklist of what to focus on (and not focus on), three, in particular, stand out:
One single priority: Product-Market Fit
This is what investors want from you at the seed round - laser focus on taking your customer validation to the next level with product-market fit. Boris goes as far as saying product-market fit is “the only thing that matters between seed and Series A.” Proof of this fit is traction. You have users, early adopters, and even customers in the product and providing feedback. As a team, you’re focused on how to create even more value, rapidly making the product better for even more users, and have data collection in place to track progress and inform decisions.
If you have company strategy that isn’t related to moving product-market fit forward, it shouldn’t be part of your timeline at this stage of your company growth.
How to hire
First off, don’t expect to add an HR role to your team at the seed round. As the Founder, you’re wearing a lot of hats and HR is one of them, especially as you start to solidify team culture with your first 10 - 20 hires!
With your hands in the product day-in-and-day-out, you might be tempted to hire a specialist to deal with the most aggravating challenges you see. Boris recommends looking for talented generalists: ”What you need now are smart and ambitious people who can figure out whatever needs to be figured out at any given moment. This means you need to design a hiring process to find generalists. Instead of posting ads for a specific position (where you’ll naturally get applications from people that fit the job description), try to identify the smartest people in your network and go after them.”
Be frugal, but not too frugal
There are absolutely founders well beyond the seed stage in our community with a reputation for frugalness! It serves a lot of tech companies well, but only when you know what to pinch on vs. what to invest your dollars in for a maximum return on product-market fit. From Boris’ standpoint, he’s happy to see seed-stage companies spend in accounting and legal at this stage because “not having your house in order can come back to bite you at a later date.”
I highly recommend checking out Boris’ full list of recommendations over on the Version One Ventures blog, https://versionone.vc/so-you-just-raised-your-seed-round-now-what.