What value do angel investors bring to your company?

Angel investors participate in the ‘concept risk’ stage of the venture. i.e. when neither the idea,product/service, business model, operating plans nor the assumptions are proven.

It is also the stage where the startup is most  likely to be resource starved.

Angel investors should assist the founders with everything they can, to help the company go past the concept risk stage. Often, this could also be about providing guidance and perspective to help entrepreneurs take the right decisions. In many cases, introductions to potential customers; partners;employees and mentors etc. at this juncture of the journey is invaluable.

mentor

Often angel investors have to be the adult supervisors, alerting the founders when they seem to go off the mark( read as ‘ strategy’) or when they are trying to do too many things rather than focusing on what is important.

When a startup is not doing well, angel investors have an enormously important role to play in keeping the founders motivated. Failures and challenges in a startup can be demotivating and challenging, making you feel terribly lonely. A good angel investor can make a big difference by  just saying “Its okay.. lets focus on what’s do be done”. Often, testing times are tests of character too.

I often tell entrepreneurs that even when they do not need the money, they should go and raise some funds from good angel investors. Because, it’s not just about the money, it’s about the investor’s involvement in your journey and their support when you need it, that counts and contributes to your success story.

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How much money should you raise for starting up?

Obviously, this depends on the nature of the business, what is required to be done, your and your team’s capabilities, the competition, etc.

There is no one ‘real number’ on the investment required as that number would be different not just for different businesses but also would be different for different execution strategies for the same business plan.

In fact, there are startups in the online space which have done excellent progress with some angel investments, while there are others which are scaling up nicely with crores in funding, largely for marketing investments.

Broadly speaking, concepts that have been proven and just need great execution + marketing to build a scale business will need to raise larger capital. Concepts that have yet to be proven in the market place could do with lower levels of funding in the initial stages. This is because you don’t need senior employees and huge marketing at pilot or proof-of-concept stages.

What is essential therefore is to have a realistic estimation of the costs and investments required to reach the milestones.

Most often entrepreneurs go wrong in estimating funding needs. They are unrealistically conservative on costs, and impractically optimistic about revenues. Underfunding your venture i.e. raising lesser money that is practically required can have serious consequences as you could run out of cash sooner than expected, thus leaving you without capital to continue the venture… or having to rush to raise another round in a distress situation.

One question investors are most likely to ask you is how much money you need in the round that you have approached them for. While most entrepreneurs give a one-figure reply, my preference is for entrepreneurs to provide a perspective of what can be achieved with different levels of funding. E.g. with INR 50 lacs [USD 100,000] you could develop the solution on a SAAS platform, hire a base team, prove the model in one market and prepare the company for scale. However, if you had INR 200 lacs as a commitment, even if the first tranche was the original INR 50 lacs, you could accelerate the hiring and scale up as soon as the key performance indicators were on the right trajectory. On the other hand, if you got just R. 25 lacs [I.e. USD 50,000] you would just develop the product, outsource the online marketing to an aggregator agency, and prove that the concept works.

You need to bear in mind that if you business is successful, you are most likely to need MORE CAPITAL. Most entrepreneurs assume that very quickly their business will be cash positive and that they are not likely to require more capital beyond the first round.

Working on a realistic business plan is therefore critical in determining how much money you are likely to need for your venture.