The Differences Between Silent Partners and Investors

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

How is a silent partner different from an investor and when should you consider one vs. an investor?


1. An Investor Helps Directly With Operations 

Angela McCroryAn investor is someone who not only invests in a company but also plays a role in the daily operations and management decisions. A silent partner usually invests a large sum of money but prefers not to be involved in the daily operations. If you are looking for advice and help, you want an investor. If you need a cash infusion to grow, but already have a plan outlined, go for a silent partner.

– Angela McCroryRukkus 


2. A Silent Partner Adds Funding While Minimizing Feedback 

Hongwei LiuActive investors want (and expect) to be helpful. Silent partners want to invest in your company but trust in existing management and active investors to make the decisions. A company should take silent partners if the goal is to add funding while minimizing feedback. Active investors should be sought after to lead funding as they provide valuable insight to help you get to the next milestone.
– Hongwei Liumappedin 


3. The “Silent” Partner Comes With Ups and Downs 

Kenneth CucchiaMy initial investor was silent (usually pre-seed/seed). As a 22-year-old kid with a fat check, I was happy as could be. I would have done some things differently knowing what I know today, but that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. It’s the game that never ends and there’s no rule book. My advice now would be to get an initial investor who can guide you instead of letting you think you know it all.

– Kenneth 


4. The Difference Is Trust 

Tyler HanwayA silent partner trusts you because of past experiences together and provides money to grow the business. He or she is not involved in the day-to-day operations and the relationship is less formal compared to investors. Although it may be easier to find investors, if you are able to find a silent partner in the early stages of your business, you’ll be able to spend more time building the company.

– Tyler HanwayConsumer Brands, LLC 


5. Truly Silent Partners Are Basically Investors 

Brennan WhiteSilent partners are basically investors with founder-level upside. Even investors are expected to help with advice, introductions, hiring, etc. If your partner is truly silent, the financial contribution has to be massive to make sense. Especially in today’s investing climate, it’s easy to find more traditional investors.

– Brennan WhiteCortex 


6. Silent Partners Have Limited Liability 

Nicolas GremionSilent partners may have a say in the overall operations of the business, but generally stay out of the daily affairs. One benefit is potentially being less liable in the event of legal actions. Silent partners can take a limited-liability partnership in the company. As such, they may have more influence on the overall business than an investor, while still being protected in case of a lawsuit.

– Nicolas


7. A Silent Partner Is Less Involved 

john ramptonA silent partner really isn’t a partner at all except to provide some money to fuel the startup’s growth. The silence can be nice to a certain degree, but I’ve always found it more helpful to have an investor that provides advice, counsel, contacts and more — or even, in some situations, rolls up their sleeves and pitches in. Going it alone can be scary and take even longer.

– John RamptonDuecom 


8. Their Role Depends Entirely on Your Agreements 

David MainieroThe distinction between taking on “outside” investors and starting with or bringing on “inside” (silent) partners entirely depends on how you’ve constructed your operating agreements or equity structure. You need to consider the role of your capital providers and what role you want them to play. Do you need their networks? Just their money? Their advice?

– David MainieroInGenius Prep 


9. Silent Partners Don’t Have as Much Control as Investors Do 

Vishal ShahSilent partners hold an equity position (just like angel investors) but do not have substantial control over the business any more than the founders do, as they hold the same class of common shares. It makes the most sense to have silent partners if you are only looking for capital infusion in exchange for equity, but do not wish to give up control of your business.

– Vishal ShahNoPaperForms 


10. The Difference Is in the Return 

Nicole MunozA silent partner is taking a risk investing with you, and they’ll usually expect a bigger return on their investment. On the flip side, an investor is someone who gives you money and relies completely on you to generate the return. There are key differences in the way the SEC classifies silent partners and investors, so do your research before you decide which route to take.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now 


11. Silent Partners Don’t Exist Unless They Are Family 

Andre ChandraSilent partners are never silent, and rightfully so — it’s their money! The closest to a silent partner are family members, who may still love you no matter what happens to the money, but even this can vary from family to family. Rather than becoming a silent partner, I would much prefer a loan.

– Andre ChandraI Print N Mail 


12. A Silent Partner Is a Passive Participant 

Alfredo AtanacioA silent partner is an appropriate alternative when you’re not looking for someone to actively contribute to your business, share responsibilities or share in the company’s profits. You may want to seek out an investor if you are looking for more involvement in your company. Legally, bringing in an investor is complicated, so you need to be clear that it’s the right source of financing for you.

– Alfredo AtanacioUassist.ME 


13. Consider a Loan Before a Silent Partner 

Justin BlanchardInvestors typically bring value in addition to cash. Silent partners don’t contribute more than money — or they don’t unless they think you’re not maximizing the value of their investment. Silent partners may not stay silent. A loan gives you the cash infusion without risk of interference unless you default. Which you choose depends on your business’ needs, but talk to a lawyer regardless.

– Justin BlanchardServerMania Inc. 

How to Decide Between Venture Capital or a Small Business Loan

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

In what situations should I pursue either a small business loan or venture capital?


1. You Need Help Through Rough Times

Adam SteeleI look at VC funding if I have solid plans for development and growth and I have projections available already that suggest that’s a profitable option. Generally, I don’t go for business loans unless the opposite is true. Business loans for me are about riding through the rough spots. For that reason, I tend to borrow much less money in loans than I might try to raise as capital.

– Adam SteeleThe Magistrate


2. You Aren’t in a Hurry to Grow

Aaron SchwartzTaking venture capital is a slippery slope. You get cash quickly, but then your interests in possibly selling the company for a nice “personal win” need to disappear. If you want to retain ownership and grow slowly, take out a loan. If your goal is to build something huge, bring on the capital, expertise and network of a VC firm.

– Aaron SchwartzModify


3. You’re Expanding Rapidly

Manick BhanVenture capital is extremely helpful if you need to move fast, whether you’re developing a new product, scaling your company, or increasing the size of your staff. Venture capital can be a great for an influx of cash, but it often comes with clear expectations of where the company will go with the money. However, if you’re looking to bridge a small gap, loans can be a great way to stabilize cash flow.

– Manick BhanRukkus


4. You Already Have Steady Revenue

Brandon StapperProfits don’t come from growth; they come from efficiency. With that in mind, if you already have a revenue stream, why would you sell equity to a venture capitalist? You’re just giving away a share of your success. Venture capitalists are designed to help companies with major research and development needs — taking a gamble before revenues are in place. If revenues are solid, go for a loan.

– Brandon Stapper858 Graphics


5. You’ve Weighed Risk and Reward

Corey NorthcuttAs a three-time bootstrapped founder, I hate unnecessary risk. But I respect that some businesses can’t be profitable enough at every stage. There’s always a weighing of risk/reward with financing. Does the loan require a personal guarantee? How much equity and “breathing room” do the VC’s terms leave you? The answer falls entirely on the specifics, so read the fine print.

– Corey NorthcuttNorthcutt Inbound Marketing


6. You Aren’t Planning to Grow Very Big

Cynthia JohnsonSmall business loans are designed for those small business owners and freelancers who are not planning on growing very large but could use the capital to set up an office and cover expenses until they get some clients and revenue coming in. VC is really for those startups that are looking at a much bigger scale.

– Cynthia JohnsonAmerican Addiction Centers


7. You Need $1 Million or More

Daniele GallardoIf you have committed customers but you require cash to purchase materials to fulfill the orders, then go for a business loan. You know you are going to get your money back, and you know when. I see the loan as an instrument to give you some elasticity in short terms. For anything else, especially if the sum is the scale of $1 million and higher or longer time scale, I would look into VC firms.

– Daniele GallardoActasys


8. You Want Someone to Guide You

Jayna CookeThis decision ultimately depends on if you want additional resources or not, and if you do need additional resources, make sure you are connecting with a venture capitalist that is able to provide this. You have the opportunity to get investors that have invested in similar industries, they know the struggles and can from there connect and help guide you. Business loans are more hands off.

– Jayna CookeEVENTup


9. You Expect to See a Large Return

Chris BrissonIt’s all the rage to get a VC firm to back you, when in most cases you just need capital to grow your business. Keep in mind that most VCs will want to see a 10 times return on their investment. So unless you have a business or startup that will see large returns, don’t even waste your time. We got a loan from American Express and a line of credit from the SBA to grow our business.

– Chris BrissonKickaConference


10. You’re in a Hurry

Anthony PezzottiRaising money from VCs can take months, sometimes years with strenuous efforts. Small business owners with poor or non-existent credit can have a very difficult time obtaining a loan from a bank, and may even have to give collateral in order to secure the business loan. With Kabbage, you’ll find out instantly if you’re approved. They offer flexible funding, and have fewer requirements than a bank.

– Anthony


11. You Want the Less Expensive Option

Mark CenicolaWhen cash flow is sufficient to cover loan payments and repayment in full is likely, a loan is going to be a much less expensive option. If you borrow $1 million, you may pay 10 percent per annum. With venture capital, you’re going to give up a minimum of 10 percent equity in your business. If you increase the value of your business tenfold, you’ve effectively given up $10 million in value to a VC.

– Mark


12. You Want Full Control

Andrew SchrageThe biggest factor would be the amount of control you want regarding how the money is used. A bank will let you spend the money basically as you wish, whereas a venture capitalist may have certain conditions. Plus, a VC will probably want or have a say in the growth and direction of your operation. If you want to be the sole influencer, choose a small business loan.

– Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance

12 Things You Should Do After a Promising Meeting With a Potential Investor

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What’s one thing I should do AFTER a promising meeting with a potential investor?

1. Check In

Alec BowersShow initiative after the meeting and proactively address your follow-up points (at the end of the meeting you should have set some items to follow up with). Don’t wait longer than 8 to 12 hours. Investors want to see your initiative, your attention to detail and how good you are at executing follow up. Many a startup has lost investors due to poor/incomplete follow up.

– Alec BowersAbraxas Biosystems

2. Act on Their Feedback

Jason LaIt’s essential to be a prudent entrepreneur and address potential investors’ feedback before scheduling another meeting with them. Investors believe in the adage “actions speak louder than words,” so demonstrate that you have taken action to address their concerns. Some entrepreneurs are so enthusiastic about their venture that they ignore valuable feedback and continue to solicit financing.

– Jason Thanh La, Merchant Service Group, LLC & K5 Ventures

3. Ask Questions

Bhavin ParikhA common mistake that founders make is coming across as too desperate. You want to show investors that they need to prove themselves to you as well — you are a scarce resource. In your follow up, you‘ll want to thank them for their time, but you also want to ask them to sell themselves to you with questions like, “Can you give me an intro to a founder you‘ve invested in?” You need to play the game!

– Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Inc

4. Keep Them Updated

Sohin ShahEven if a meeting goes well, it doesn’t guarantee closing. The best way to work towards converting interest into commitment is by keeping the investor in the loop on progress and new initiatives. This helps build their confidence in you, in your product/company and allows them to feel like a part of the team.

– Sohin ShahIFunding

5. Improve Your Fundraising Deck

Aaron SchwartzAfter you thank the investor, suggest next steps and take three minutes to celebrate, you must re-focus on your fundraise. Take all of the feedback from the meeting and use it to improve your deck. First, reflect on which insights impressed the investor, and emphasize them in the future. And just as importantly, take the questions they had and make sure you‘re better prepared for the next meeting.

– Aaron SchwartzModify Watches

6. Re-engage With Them

Blair ThomasIt’s important to keep your deck up to date and find constructive and effective ways to re-engage with your potential investor. Keep communication high by providing news of new milestones, new opportunities and goals won, and by creating a general feedback loop. This can go a longway in keeping your investor interested. Show them you‘re a highly proactive owner.

– Blair ThomasEMerchantBroker

7. Track Everything

john ramptonRight after a promising meeting (or sometimes before) you‘re going to be sending them a pitch deck. Make sure you‘re tracking everything. I personally use PandaDoc for this. It will show you what pages they are looking at, not looking at and how long they are looking at each page. Next, follow up with them accordingly.

– John RamptonDue

8. Send a Memorable Gift

Drew GurleyYou have a small time frame to make a big impression. A great way to follow up is to use a memorable and unique gift. I actually learned this in a boot camp a couple years ago from a corporate gifting guru. A thoughtful gift doesn’t need to be expensive; it needs to show you paid attention and care about the relationship. Send it quickly and stay top of mind.

– Drew GurleyRedbird Advisors

9. Do What You Say You Are Going to Do

Shawn SchulzeSo many investor meetings are full of discussion, ideas and intentions. If you propose all of the things you are working on and thatyou intend to do, then show the investor that you are doing them. Talk is just talk. Follow up with the investor to give them a concise list of progress being made. Show them you are progressing and committed to doing what you say you are going to do.

– Shawn

10. Say Thank You

Nicole MunozThanking someone for their time and consideration shows that you are thoughtful and appreciative. Be sure to mention that you truly appreciate their attention. Try to slip in any loose ends you feel weren’t addressed. Let them know you‘ll follow up in a few days/weeks to touch base again in case they have any more questions. Lay the groundwork to ask for referrals at the next meeting.

– Nicole MunozStart Ranking Now

11. Send Favorable Market Research

David CiccarelliInvestors want to know that others have quantified the size of the market opportunity. It’s one thing for you to give your assessment, but it’s much stronger for the investor to learn about the industry and current trends in a third-party report. If you don’t have access to the full PDF report, consider linking to an article on eMarketer, Forrester, or Gartner in your follow up note.

– David

12. Call Another Potential Investor

Justin BoggsDon’t stop until that money hits the bank account. So, calling the next investor increases your odds of getting a check, plus you will carry that positive energy into the call. Additionally, telling the next investor how good the previous investor meeting went puts the pressure on them to get in the game.

– Justin

Learn more about Monthly Investor Updates:

Watch the interview with Justin Miller and learn how his monthly updates helped land his startup with $10 million in funding:

What You Need to Know About the New SEC Crowdfunding Rules

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”  — Dr. Laurence J. Peter

When Congress passed the JOBS Act it mandated that the Securities and Exchange Commission finalize new crowdfunding rules within nine months. Well, the SEC missed the deadline by nearly three years, but on October 30, 2015, it finally approved the new rules. They “go live” April 2016 and there are some details you really ought to know…

What You Need to Know about SEC Crowdfunding Rules

Verge regulars know that last year Indiana passed its own, intra-state crowdfunding law (see my prior Verge article). While the Indiana-specific rules are now likely to gather dust because they limit your pool of potential investors to only Hoosiers, the federal rules may prove to be a robust marketplace for small-scale capital raises. Here’s a quick snapshot of the SEC’s final rules.

But First, Why New Rules?

As most know, selling securities is a highly regulated activity. Securities must be sold on public exchanges, unless there’s an exception.

The exception most familiar to entrepreneurs is the 506(b) safe harbor, which allows companies to sell securities to accredited investors in a private placement. Accredited investors include, among others, banks, high net worth individuals and trusts, and the issuer’s officers and directors; that is, those with sufficient knowledge and resources to “know better” and to absorb any losses from risky investments. Sites like CircleUp and AngelList have used crowdfunding for a few years, but they limit access to accredited investors.

verge startup pitches at the hi-fiOf course, there’s potential upside to investing in startups, and the “99%” who lack the income to qualify as accredited investors are presently shut out from investing in early and mid-stage companies.

Crowdfunding solves that problem by creating a new safe harbor where start-ups can raise money off of the public exchanges.

5 New SEC Crowdfunding Rules for Companies

Here are a few key rules for companies crowdfunding under the new SEC guidelines:

  1. Max Raise. A company may raise up to $1 million in a 12-month period from the crowd. (Note: under Indiana’s law, a company that provides Hoosiers with audited financials may raise up to $2 million).
  2. Portal. The company must conduct the raise through a registered third party “funding portal.”
  3. Target/Deadline. Through the portal, the company must set a target offering amount and a deadline to reach that amount, and it must allow investors to back out of any commitment up to forty-eight hours before the deadline.
  4. Investor Disclosures. The company must disclose certain company information to investors. The amount of disclosure required is similar to what start-ups are accustomed to disclosing to accredited investors: risk factors, business plans, financial statements (balance sheets, income statements, and cash flows), governance, and the like. You’ll want an experienced lawyer’s assistance.
  5. Annual Reporting. The company must file annual reports with the SEC, but with nowhere near the depth required of publicly-traded companies. Failure to comply with this or other SEC rules could strip you of your exemption. Not good.

Ding Dong the Wicked Audit is Dead (Sort Of)

New SEC Crowdfunding Rules For financial disclosures, the SEC’s proposed rules had called for audited financial statements for all raises above $500,000. There was tremendous push-back due to costs; for instance, Slava Rubin, Indiegogo co- founder and CEO, called audits, “a massive deal breaker.” Fortunately, the SEC slackened the requirement for first-time crowdfunders. The new rules require:

  1. For offerings of $100,000 or less, financial statements must be certified by the company’s CEO.
  2. For offerings between $100,000 – $500,000, financial statements must be reviewed by an independent auditor.
  3. For offerings greater than $500,000, financial statements must be reviewed by an independent auditor for first time crowdfunders, but for any follow-on crowdfund campaign the financial statements must be audited.

4 Crowdfunding Rules for Investors

Individuals will be allowed to invest based on annual income or net worth. Under the new rules, an individual may:

  1. If annual income or net worth is less than $100,000, invest the greater of $2,000 or 5% of the lesser of annual income or net worth.
  2. If annual income or net worth is $100,000 or more, invest 10% of the lesser of annual income or net worth.
  3. Invest not more than $100,000 per annum aggregate in crowdfunding offerings.
  4. Sell the securities, but only after holding them for one year.

Importantly, funding portals may rely on the investor’s representations concerning annual income, net worth, and the amount of the investor’s other crowdfunding investments, unless the portal has reasonable basis to question the investor’s representations. That is, there’s no affirmative obligation on the company or the portals to prod into investor’s private financial affairs to verify the investor’s representations.

Outlook for Investors and Entrepreneurs with the New SEC Crowdfunding Rules

Crowdfunding Rules for InvestorsVenture capitalists aren’t sweating. At $1 million a crowdfunded project is small even for a seed round, where average deal size hovers around $4 million and which constituted a mere 1% of 2014 VC dollars ($719 million of $48.3 billion).

On the other hand, one commentator noted that if U.S. families invested 1% of their assets in start-ups via crowdfunding, it would unleash $300 billion annually. The success of state-specific crowdfunding rules and of non-equity platforms such as KickStarter, Go Fund Me, and Kiva indicate there’s a sizable market for small denomination equity investments. And there’s certainly no dearth of start-ups looking for capital.

Ongoing SEC rules and reporting requirements will always be a deterrent to start-ups and will hamper crowdfunding’s potential, but as quality funding portals develop and the public acclimates to the new investing landscape, crowdfunding may become a useful tool for small-scale capital raises.

How will these rules change how you grow your business? Will you invest using the new Crowdfunding rules? Let us know in the comments below.

© 2015 Faegre Baker Daniels. All rights reserved.

How Monthly Investor Updates Scored $10 Million in Funding for WedPics

Before Justin Miller’s mobile company had 2.5+ million users, he was working out of a basement, searching for an industry where his tech company could thrive.

Miller has since been kicked out of that basement office, threatened by large-scale companies, and faced several funding crunches. But Miller’s startup, WedPics now powers personalized photo-sharing for 10,000 weddings per weekend, with monthly uploads in the millions. Watch Justin Miller’s candid interview from Verge North Carolina and learn the real story behind how he grew WedPics (and exactly WHY monthly investor updates are so important):

WedPics CEO and Co-founder Justin Miller didn’t have prior expertise or experience in launching or growing a tech startup. But the team’s resourcefulness made creative use of the resources available in the growing tech hub of the Triangle area of North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel-Hill).

justin-miller-monthly-investor-updates“This was everybody’s first startup,” says Miller. “But we were just driven and had the determination to figure out how to make things happen.”

Miller believes in his team and the startup community in North Carolina. He is a graduate of North Carolina State (NC State) University and veteran of IBM, where he spent 7 years honing his skills before launching WedPics (then named deja mi, inc) in 2011.

WedPics has $9.9 million in 5 rounds of funding, according to CrunchBase. Investors include the likes of well-known thought leader and investor Brad Feld and “Shark Tank” star Barbara Corcoran.

“None of us knew anything about the wedding space,” said Miller. But the team has prevailed through effective user acquisition, tech development, and communication. The co-founder attributes the WedPics investment success to one key CEO habit:

Write Monthly Investor Updates

“I needed to figure out a way to stay at the top of everybody’s radar,” said Miller. “[Doing monthly investor updates] is one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Here’s what Miller did with his WedPics investor and partner updates:

  • Send at the beginning of every month
  • Give overview of how we did the previous month
  • Provide cumulative overview of how we’ve been performing to date

“That is one of the best things we’ve ever done,” says Miller. Several investors and investor groups have explained why monthly investor reports are important and have even provided investor update templates for founders to use. But Miller shares which qualities made the WedPics updates so valuable:

5 Keys to Effective Investor Updates

  1. WedPics-investor-updateStay relevant (share only the information relevant to company’s current direction).
  2. Show traction.
  3. Make it a quick read (Pro Tip: use charts where it’s helpful).
  4. Be transparent.
  5. Don’t expect responses (people are busy, so be consistent even if updates don’t immediately spark a dialogue).

Even if your tech company doesn’t have investors, you can use monthly investor updates to form and direct your thinking, keep your team on the same page, and facilitate partner opportunities. WedPics not only shared with investors and potential investors, but used the monthly investors reports to keep potential partners, acquirers, and acquisition targets updated on their team’s progress.

Side note: social sharing app Buffer does a great job of sharing their monthly investor updates. Read through their past updates here. I also really like the notes on investor updates from Groove CEO Alex Turnbull: read his advice here.

Watch the Full WedPics Interview to Learn More About Investor Updates AND:

  • WedPics User Growth Strategy
  • Why Sharing Personally is Important for Founders
  • Why WedPics is Still Taking Risks
  • How North Carolina is Supporting Startup Growth

Watch the WedPics interview …or…. leave a comment below! Are you currently sending regular investor updates? What benefits (or even negative side effects) have you experienced as a result?

Midwest Vs. Silicon Valley: Tech Talent and Lifestyle

“We’ve got great talent,” says voicemail inventor Scott Jones. “We just need more of it. And frankly,” Scott continued, “I think many would say the same in Silicon Valley.”

Watch the interview here:

“I hear a lot of complaints from people on the coasts,” Jones laments. The cost of living and other inconveniences of cities like San Francisco have left many yearning for more. This makes areas like the Midwest not only more attractive to employees, but to business owners as well.

Scott Jones on Silicon Valley“Once you find people, they stay put longer here,” Jones says. And with growing entrepreneurial ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, there are more and more resources to grow a tech startups beyond San Francisco.

“They can never find enough of the great talent,” says Jones. “And that’s what we want to create here at Eleven Fifty.

Scott Jones is the co-founder of Eleven Fifty coding academy based in Indianapolis, Indiana. We’re excited to announce that Eleven Fifty is now an official sponsor of Verge HQ in Indiana, offering exclusive access and unique opportunities to its members. Use code “VERGEhigh5 at registration to save on your next coding course.

Cost of living San Francisco

6 Tips for Fine Tuning Your Startup Pitch

How to fine tune your startup's investor pitch

Photo Credit: Alex Skopje

Launching a small business isn’t easy. Whether you dream of one local shop or a global corporate empire, you’re going to need help financing your business efforts. Now, this could mean friends and family, and it could mean venture capitalists and angel investors. Regardless, the only way to seal the deal is with a great pitch. Check out these six tips for fine tuning your startup pitch and get your business off the ground.

1. Set Yourself Apart

It’s essential that you set yourself apart from your competition. Investors are going to ask why they should sink money into your operation as opposed to another one that offers a similar product or service. This differentiation has to be an integral part of your pitch. Highlight the characteristics that make your business better than the rest.

2. Include Solutions

In addition to featuring your company’s unique characteristics, you also need to include the solutions it can provide for customers. Identify problems in the marketplace that need to be solved and detail exactly how you are going to solve them.

3. Prudently Include Creativity and Humor

You never want your pitch to be dry, just be sure to use your senses of creativity and humor effectively. Don’t cross the line and say something offensive or off the mark, but by all means, make your pitch seem human. Be yourself – you are your company, after all. Tell a humorous or intriguing anecdote about something that occurred while developing your business idea, for example. And, forget about Power Point presentations – they’re generally recognized as death knells for pitches.

4. Be Specific and Open About How Much You Need

If you need $50,000, ask for it. The people you’re pitching to know that you want money, so there’s no point in being bashful. Plus, this way they’re instantly going to know whether or not they can handle such an investment, which can save everyone a lot of time. The key here is not just knowing how much you need, but knowing why you need it and when you should raise it.

5. Be Prepared and Practice

Never deliver a pitch off the cuff – practice and tweak it as much as necessary. Instead of just rehearsing in front of a mirror, though, assemble a group of friends or fellow entrepreneurs and recreate the actual environment you’re going to find yourself in.

6. Keep it Concise

There’s no standard time limit when it comes to delivering your pitch, just make sure it’s as concise as it can be. If you can get your point across fully in three minutes, do so. If you need 10, take it. Just be sure to edit your pitch down so there’s no fluff. As long as it’s packed full of pertinent information, it can take a bit longer.

No matter what you’re talking about, you need to exude passion in every aspect of your pitch. Investors know that if a company is going to be successful, its owner must live and breathe it 24 hours a day. Small businesses are incredibly difficult to get off the ground, and are ultimately successful only if the people at the helm love what they’re doing. Communicate this in your pitch and your chances of success skyrocket.

What was your best investor pitch? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs pitching for the first time? If you’re interested in perfecting your pitch at Verge, let us know!

When to Raise Seed Capital (and how to spend it)

Angel has been a member of the Verge community since I can remember. When he first pitched at Verge back in 2010 with his original idea for Smarter HQ, he was ready to raise seed capital. 

Since then, Angel Morales has grown Smarter HQ beyond  his original prototype and grand ambitions. They’ve grown a huge team of talented technologists, marketers, and operators. They’ve landed huge clients like SkyMall, Wet Seal, and Finish Line.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that they just closed a $7 million dollar investment round led by Battery Ventures.

I recently sat down with Angel Morales and Matt Tyner, Director of Finance, to chat about the their first raise of seed capital that started it all. We talk about when to raise seed capital, how much to raise, and how to spend your seed capital intelligently.

When Raising Seed Capital (and spending it), Remember to:

  1. Build a functional prototype to demonstrate to seed investors
  2. Land at least one early customer
  3. Spend seed money tactically
  4. Invest seed capital in sales leadership

What questions do you have about when to raise a seed round? What have you learned along the way?

When to Raise Seed Capital (Transcript):

We’ve transcribed this interview for your reading pleasure. Let us know what you think!


Angel Morales:

Angel Morales, cofounder of Smarter Remarketer our Chief

Innovation Officer. My job day to day is to keep tabs on where the industry is moving, keep tabs on where our product is at, and make sure the two hopefully intersect (frequently and meaningfully).

Matt Tyner:

Matt Tyner, Director of Finance here at Smarter Remarketer. Day-to-day always changing. Started out in the accounting and finance focus of the business. I assisted and led fundraising here.

Matt Hunckler:

When did you guys decide to raise seed capital and why?

Angel Morales:

To raise seed capital we were a team of four. And it was right around when I started to run out of money (which pretty quick). And we knew that there was a market opportunity. We knew that to capitalize on it you needed to build.

In a previous start up I had tried to raise money on a slide deck and a promise… and a smile (not necessarily an award-winning smile, but a smile none-the-less).

It didn’t fly so we decided that this time around we’re going to go out we’re going to build a rapid prototype. We were going to prove out the validity of that prototype by getting one client.

We achieved that and then we knew that to commercialize we needed to start raising cash.

Matt Hunckler:

In terms of your seed capital when you guys raised it… How did you spend it? And if you could do it again, would you do it differently?

Angel Morales:

That’s good. Honestly, you really don’t have any choice but to spend seed capital pretty tactically.

We primarily spent on building the commercial product that was based on the prototype. Early on, I mean we were fortunate. We had a lot of relationships in our target vertical, which is retail. So, we didn’t have to spend a lot of money on sales and marketing. It was more like, we can pick up the phone and go, “Hey, we finally built it!” And they were in.

So the early, early-stage seed money, it was spent really tactically primarily on R&D and then getting out to a couple of conferences. Airfare to fly out on meet with some prospects.

As you move a little past that early, early seed (funding) … where we were actually sprout … that’s where the challenge that we encountered, and Tyner was with us at this point, but we were raising just enough to act tactically when we should have been able to raise more money in one point so that we could act more strategically.

We can take some of the risks that were required in order to grow a business versus to sustain that really sprout-level company. And frankly, you know back then it was pretty hard to raise money in one fell swoop here in Indy.

Matt Tyner:

To add to that a little bit, we talk about what we would have done differently if you had a chance… The importance of sales leadership I think is something that really stands out to me as a potential growth area.

Your need for funding obviously decreases when you can bring money in the door. So really focusing on sales talent early on in sales spend areas I think here as vital as anything else …. especially as we talk about valuation these days and ultimately what happens when you go raise more money).

Startup Investor Insights: Elevate Ventures’ Ting Gootee

When you score as much as the Seahawks did in the Super Bowl, the way people refer to you starts to change. They call you things like “dominant,” “effective,” and “the best.” 

Elevate Ventures has been called many of those things.

That’s why I was so excited to hear what Elevate Ventures’ Vice President of Investments, Ting Gootee, had to say about what she considers when evaluating deals–and what startup founders should know about how Investors approach deals–on one of our recent Investor Panels.

Startup Investor Insights: Elevate Ventures’ Ting Gootee

Investor Insights Elevate Ventures Ting Gootee

Ting Gootee, VP of Investments at Elevate Ventures

Not All Money Is Created Equal

If Firm A agrees to the same terms as Firm B, why would their investments be any different?

Because, as Gootee pointed out, not all investors bring the same resources, network, and commitment level to the table.

“Look at it as a partnership,” Gootee urged founders. “When you take money from someone, they are in this with you for a reasonably long time.” Startup funding is not marriage, but the investor panel agreed: it’s close.

As with any relationship, Gootee said, you’ll want to look for three Cs when evaluating your potential investors.

The Three Cs of a Healthy Investor-Startup Relationship:

  • Competence. Do your due diligence on your investors. You can bet they’ll be doing theirs on you.

  • Character. You’ll depend on

  • Chemistry. Are your goals aligned well, or is it more of a loose fit? You’ll want your investors to be in lock-step with your goals so you can leverage your relationship with them effectively.

“Know that you are in this for the long term, and know that there will be bumps in the road,” said Gootee. But, as she illustrated, if you have kept the Three Cs in the front of your mind as you secure funding, you’ll encounter those bumps in the road with the confidence that all parties involved want the same result.

What Makes Investors want to Invest?

As Gootee pointed out, you should not ignore the human side of the investor-startup relationship. And her investment team at Elevate certainly doesn’t.

  • Gootee looks for “Someone that is comfortable managing the human side of business. As early stage as they are, there is a lot of subjectivity in finding the right fit.”

  • The second thing Gootee and her team at Elevate Ventures look for in a founder is leadership. But, as Ting so rightly asked, “What does that mean?”

    • When she evaluates a founder, Gootee wants to see servant leadership. “It’s not just about you, as the founder,” Gootee said. “It’s about the resources you can bring to your team.” That, Gootee said, is how companies can really grow and scale.

Gootee’s fellow panelist, Gerry Hayes of Slane Capital, agreed with Gootee and explained that the difference between a founder and a CEO can mean the difference between whether or not an investment will be made.

Both investors concur that the founder may not be the person to scale the startup–which really gets at a key insight I got from this panel:

  • When they’re evaluating founders, investors want to see someone who is willing to acknowledge that, although they built “their baby” until a certain point, in order for it to grow bigger than themselves, they may need to assume new, different roles. Be humble.