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Business strategy

A VC offers advice on 8 strategies for founders in challenging times

- May 16, 2023 3 MIN READ
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I recently returned from Silicon Valley where I had insightful conversations with a diverse range of founders and investors.

These discussions shed light on the challenges faced by technology startups in the current funding landscape.

With venture capitalists (VCs) taking longer to respond and valuations subdued, it is crucial for founders to approach these obstacles with resilience and strategic thinking.

In this piece, I aim to provide practical guidance to help technology founders navigate this challenging environment and emerge stronger.

 

Understanding the shifting dynamics

In the ever-evolving startup ecosystem, founders must comprehend the reasons behind the current funding challenges. Economic uncertainty, market saturation and evolving investor preferences play significant roles.

By acknowledging these factors, founders can gain valuable insights and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Recent discussions with founders and investors revealed the downstream impact of large technology companies shedding staff, particularly affecting startups reliant on their sales.

 

Fostering resilience and persistence

Founders must cultivate resilience and persistence as they navigate the funding landscape.

History has shown that successful founders often encounter obstacles along their journey. By maintaining unwavering determination and commitment to their vision, founders enhance their chances of securing the funding they require.

While the current environment may be challenging, it is important to remember that perseverance can lead to extraordinary results.

 

Strategic approach to investor engagement

Founders must adopt a proactive and strategic approach when engaging with potential investors.

Thorough research is key to identifying VCs who align with the industry or stage of growth. Personalising communications and showcasing a deep understanding of the investor’s focus and investment thesis can help founders stand out.

Drawing from my discussions with Silicon Valley founders, anecdotes highlighted the power of personalised communication in capturing investor attention amidst a sea of opportunities.

 

Building strong proof-of-concept & traction

In the current environment where there is greater competition for capital, founders must emphasise building a strong proof-of-concept and demonstrating traction. Recent conversations with founders highlighted the significance of tangible results.

Founders should focus on achieving strong unit economics related to user acquisition, revenue growth and product development, to showcase their potential for future success and mitigate valuation concerns.

 

Diversifying funding sources

To overcome funding challenges, founders should explore alternative funding sources beyond traditional VCs.

Discussions with founders and investors revealed the importance of considering angel investors, crowdfunding platforms and government grants. Diversifying funding sources not only mitigates risk but also expands networks and provides access to new opportunities.

 

Collaborating with strategic partners

Strategic partnerships with industry incumbents or corporate entities can provide startups with valuable resources, networks, and expertise.

Collaborations offer more than just financial support; they accelerate growth and open doors to new markets.

 

Adapting valuation expectations

In the current funding landscape, realistic valuation expectations are vital.

Aligning valuations with market conditions increases the likelihood of attracting investors. Founders should concentrate on building a strong business foundation, delivering value, and demonstrating their ability to provide innovative solutions.

 

Leveraging non-financial support

Founders should recognise the non-financial support provided by VCs beyond capital.

Mentorship, industry connections, and operational guidance are invaluable resources that can contribute to long-term success. Conversations with investors and founders emphasised the importance of leveraging this non-financial support.

By partnering with investors who offer these additional benefits, founders gain a competitive advantage in their journey towards success. This becomes especially crucial in uncertain times as startups can tap into the expertise and guidance of their investors.

 

While the current startup funding landscape may pose challenges, there is reason for optimism. By embracing some of ideas above and maintaining a positive outlook, founders can overcome obstacles, secure their required funding, and realise their vision of building impactful and successful technology startups.

  • Benjamin Chong is a partner at venture capital firm Right Click Capital, investors in bold and visionary tech founders.
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