Raising capital is a complex journey. Founders need to find right-fit investors, track them, and maintain a tempo, all while running a company. Nathan Beckord hopes to make that process a little less intimidating and a whole lot faster with the Foundersuite platform.
Even as a child, Nathan dreamed of entrepreneurship. After finishing school in the heart of Silicon Valley, he felt that the corporate world stifled his creativity. He loved the “addicting” thrill of the startup scene but was unsure how to realize his own ideas.
While consulting for startups like Appbackr, Chasm.io, Cosemble, Sequorum, SocialRewards, and Zerply, he spotted a major weakness in their fundraising process. Many of them tracked funding rounds with basic spreadsheets.
“Fundraising is so much about getting momentum going for your deal. If things are slipping through the cracks, and you’re running a sloppy process, it becomes a problem,” Nathan says.
That “sloppiness” was the genesis for a purpose-built solution: Foundersuite. What started as an investor CRM is now a full suite of tools for startups raising capital, including an investor database, a data room, pitch deck hosting, and more.
On an episode of Startup Renegades, Nathan talks to host Shauna Armitage about how FounderSuite became what it is today — and shares insights on tapping into your intuition to succeed.
Pushing start: The first $50,000
Once Nathan settled on the problem to solve, he tackled the next big to-do: developing proof of concept. Using $50,000 he’d saved up in his time as a consultant, Nathan turned to a group of Polish developers to build his minimum viable product (MVP).
The MVP, aka the first iteration of Foundersuite, had its share of weaknesses and reflected a relatively low budget. Despite its shortcomings, it was enough to demonstrate Nathan’s vision — and create the holy grail for any early-stage startup: traction.
Although he admits the product was… well, “crap,” he found investors who could overlook the clunky design and buy into that vision.
Is there a magic number for traction? It depends. In those days, Foundersuite got around 100 sign-ups per day, but very little churn or retention.
Nathan learned it’s OK for an MVP to be truly minimal, as long as it shows that people are interested in such a product. If users sign up but don’t engage with the product, that’s an incentive to pursue a capital raise and bolster its features.
If a $50,000 MVP is out of reach, today’s entrepreneurs have another way to gauge interest, Nathan sees plenty of founders put up a simple landing page and run Google ads to attract traffic.
”They’re just proving interest in the overall concept, even though that page doesn’t deliver the goods,” he explains.
The accidental seed round
Nathan intended to start fundraising with a $500,000 convertible note from a pair of angel investors. But the more he spread the word about Foundersuite, the more interest he got from venture capitalists.
The VCs were more interested in doing a $1 million round, which Nathan supplemented with angel funding.
“We used the vision and our crappy product to raise basically about a million bucks. We used that for the next year to rebuild the platform. We threw away all the old code and started from scratch. We launched our investors CRM, so we had a proper working CRM to replace the spreadsheet,” he says.
Since developing that CRM, Foundersuite has added a product or two each year to beef up its offerings.
Market, convert… rinse, repeat
It’s one thing to have a great product, but getting it out into the world is another thing entirely.. Here is a short list of the marketing tactics he’s employed since Foundersuite launched in 2015.
- Social media: Foundersuite has advertised on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google. The latter proved to be the most successful. Nathan’s personal LinkedIn is a way to push out relevant content for startups and build his brand even though ads on the platform weren’t fruitful.
- Events: With no shortage of startup events each year, Nathan suggests targeting the watering holes at conferences and expos relevant to your industry. For Foundersuite, those are TechCrunch Disrupt and Web Summit.
- Startup accelerators: Nathan hits accelerators from two ends: top-down and bottom-up. Leaders at accelerators and startup participants in accelerator programs can both benefit from Foundersuite’s products. He does this outreach the good old-fashioned way: with cold email.
- Podcast: Nathan hosts the How I Raised It podcast, which features interviews with founders who successfully raised funds. It’s a way to work smarter, not harder: he uses those interviews to create content for Foundersuite’s blog and guest posts on TechCrunch.
Following your gut
There will always be naysayers in the startup world, but Nathan says optimism is essential.
“In our early days, I heard a lot of arguments why Foundersuite could not be a success. I just sort of knew in my gut that while this market might not be there quite yet, it’s going to happen,” he says.
He believes that when gauging potential, founders know best and should trust their instincts.
“It’s an irrational belief in what you’re doing, even if you can easily make an argument that what you’re doing is foolish,” says Nathan “Trust your gut — and follow your gut.”
Nathan Beckord is the CEO of Foundersuite.com which makes software for raising capital. Foundersuite has helped entrepreneurs raise over $3 billion in seed and venture capital since 2016.