What do I look for in a startup before investing

I recently came across an article by Sajith Pai where he talked about three types of investors

(i) one who primarily focuses on the team

(ii) one who feels that product is the most important element for an investment

(iii) one believes that the market supersedes both the product and team

Sajith goes onto say that while one approach is not mutually exclusive to the other, it is just a matter of weightages between the three different factors. His post has encouraged me to write this article and I hope it helps some of the prospective founders to improve their decision making process before / while embarking on one of most adventurous journeys of their lives.


Early in 2019 when Tonmoy and I started investing in early stage startups, we also created a similar weightage sheet across team, market and product. While we started with first principles (and followed the 5 husbands and 1 wife framework – who, why, where, what, when and how), it eventually came to these very same factors, plus one X factor which happens to be our gut feel. Most of the observations and inferences here are empirical and based on our experience – perhaps somebody can do a deeper analysis with the right data to prove / disprove it. Also, it is just a starting point for us and we will keep modifying this model as we learn more from our successes and failures.

“Who and Why” 

Before an investment, the most important question that I ask is “Who and Why” – this essentially boils down to the person or persons (team) executing on the ground. Lets analyse the four main components of this question

Credibility and past record of the team

“Is the future in the past?”

Over the years I have seen that its very difficult to change the basic ways in which somebody works. While there are exceptions to this (6 sigma events in one’s life, a strong motivational moment, etc), ‘regression to the mean’ is generally a fact of life especially when it has been moulded over years of habits and way of working. 


For example, if one has strongly demonstrated hardwork and persistence, traits that I value more than anything else, chances that it will be demonstrated in future increase significantly. While one can be lucky here and there, what is important is a strong foundational sincerity towards any task that you do. Hence even before the idea and the market, I tend to look for spikes in the team or results that would have needed significant inputs in terms of hardwork and commitment. 


I also feel that the biggest risk that the knowledge works have in their careers is that of reputation risk. For example, if I see somebody job hopping more than 3-4 times in a short period of time suddenly raises a flag in my head which I need to clarify with the person – why did it happen, was it because of poor decision making, bad luck, boredom or something else. 

Complimentary Skills and Backgrounds / Ability to rough it out together

“Does one plus one equal eleven?”

Sticking on teams, this is another factor that doesn’t get its due attention in the euphoria of investment rush. For a startup to be successful, among other things it has to cross jungles and rivers, jump over deep cliffs and survive in hard cold tempestuous winds. While there can be periods of calm, it is mostly a journey where blind trust between the founders and their respective abilities helps in survival. Each set of challenges that one faces in a young setup requires a unique set of tools and one’s ability to improvise and use them is significantly enhanced if there are people with complimentary background and skills. 


While there is no cookie cutter answer, I generally prefer 2 or 3 people founding teams and the primary reason is that each person brings her own perspective and collectively the team is much better placed to solve the problems of the day. 

Key motivational reason / Current life stage / Family’s economic condition

“Why?”

I have bunched a few related questions that I have in one bucket here to make it manageable. The key discovery here is to find the “why” of it all – why are you doing what you are doing. 

I feel that one gets 2-3 chances in their lives to really give their best shot at starting a company. The first is when you are graduating from college – here you have the best network and can select the best co-founder, nothing to lose in terms of opportunity cost and very low expectations from people around you. The next good time is when you are 4-5 years in the job, some savings and support from your spouse (hopefully). What I feel is that founders that are in the same life stage can perhaps manage and help each other better than when they are in different life stages. A similar financial background might also help solve some of the future inconveniences that might arise when one founder needs more financial support than the other, especially when the company is not doing very well at that point of time. Very different life stages brings about very different priorities among the founders and that’s a risk that is best avoided.


Another factor that I check is the economic condition of the family. Generally speaking, the founders that I come across are fairly smart and they can easily get a cushy job with a good salary. What I have seen is sometimes, inspite of everything else being right – right team, right market and right product, some external factors related to family expectations can derail the whole train. Hence a sufficient enough runway is a must before anyone starts along this journey – I recommend a runway of 24 months at least before you can see any sort of incoming salaries as a reasonable expectation; If one doesn’t have that, one should reconsider.

Equitable distribution of equity among founders

Lose the small battles to win the war”


In any startup, the most fundamental decision is that of choosing your co-founder; what I have seen is that its one less battle to fight and sort if things are equally distributed – be it equity, salary, perks etc. among the founders. While you can be very creative with respect to differential equity and can reason out the justification for the differential, it has a potential to become a huge issue even if there is a small nagging doubt in anybody’s mind over the inequitable distribution. Also, anything other than equal has a huge issue of “what’s the right level” because it falls in the realm of subjectivity in terms of what one brings to the table. 

“Where and What”


Now that we have covered the team aspects, lets focus on the other two. “Where” refers to the market where the startup is working in while “What” refers to what they are building and what problem are they solving with that product. 

Market Size / Growth rate of the market

“Is the market big enough”

I think this is self evident; the problem that you are solving should either have a large market today or should be growing so rapidly that it will become a big market in the near future. Here again, triangulation with bottoms-up and top down analysis and questioning even the most basic assumptions should throw sufficient light on the actual and addressable market size. 

Product USP / How good is the technology / How good can it become

“What are you doing to solve the problem”


Clearly, this is the product zone – what is the problem, what is one doing to solve the problem, why is their solution the best solution – is it because of a technology innovation, process innovation, business model innovation or something else. A good lens to look at it is to ask “how good can it become in future” and do you see people / companies using their product as a default in future. 

View of current customers – why are they loving it

Where were you till now!!!”

One phrase that I always used to look out was our customers saying “where were you till now”! They have a genuine problem and there was no solution infront of them until I showed up with the Mettl platform 🙂. So its always a great step to check with the first set of customers on their view of the product  and to get a first hand experience of it if possible. 

X-Factor / Possibility of a home run / Gut call

Do check with the gut – our second brain”

In the end, while one can do the analysis, there are a few questions that I ask myself – is there a X-factor in the team, is it possible to score a home run here and what’s my gut call. I used to have this criteria whenever I was recruiting people as well and I think I have been right more times than wrong here. 

Summing it up…

Each of the above criteria can be given weights and as a starting point, the following is my template today:

I intend to use this as a living document and incorporate any learnings that I have along the way. 

Five Things I Wish Would Get Automated Through Personal Bots

While this can be an ever increasing list, here is a short list of things or “Personal Bots” that I feel will help save a lot of time, hassle and effort if they can get automated.

Things that I would like to see automated

  1. Bill payments – This one is easy and while things are much better than they were earlier, a service that can just check the amounts (compared to historical spends, Phone activity during that day of transaction etc.), confirm that things are ok and then go right ahead and pay the bills perhaps 2 days before the due date. This category can include
    • Credit cards bills
    • Paying utility bills
    • Paying insurance etc.
  2. Automatically (re)ordering – Upon thinking one level deeper, I think there is a use case for a home inventory app that can aggregate various online sellers and give you notifications based on your usage or past history. Things that you can reorder using this
    • Groceries / staples
      • Based on your past history
      • Based on how you define it 
      • Based on the slots available
      • Automatically create a list of alternatives
      • Finding coupons at checkout
    • Food
      • Order biryani from your favourite place through Zomato / Swiggy  / cheapest place
    • Ecommerce
      • Order XYZ from a set of your favourite sites
  3. Information aggregation– This can take the shape of event + pre-decided action so that you dont miss them if you dont go to facebook on a particular day. Again a meta-search format taking data from multiple apps can help achieve this.
    • Reminders
      • Birthdays and Anniversaries
        • Sending them automated albums
    • Top 10 news items customized to you
    • Free stuff available in your neighbourhood
      • that might be useful for you
      • that you might have expressed a desire to buy / rent
    • Location based information
      • Automatically msg your friends if you near a grocery store
  4. Earning more money through meta searches – Show that you are available and the app helps you earn money near instantaneously through the use of business opportunities across multiple apps that you might be registered with. I think this can be very useful at a micro / local level.
    • Courier / Delivery service from A to B
    • Selling stuff in your network
    • Temp work opportunities in your neighbourhood
  5. Bonus Wishlist – this is more a wishlist that I would have tried to do without much success. Perhaps someone out there can build onto these usecases and let me know once they are available.
    • Automatic limit screen time
      • Would love to see if I can somehow magically limit the screen time of the kids to less than an hour across iPad, tv and phones. 
    • Automatic phone dialer
      • An app that plays the same tricks that the banks play with us – it should automatically dial a bank, understand its options and ping you know only when a CSR picks up on the other side. As a cherry on the cake, the CSR can hear “My call must be important to you, so please hold for some more time” for a few seconds before you come on the call.
    • Phone charging
      • Before we reach the stage where each device has battery life that lasts a lifetime, we can use a always on charging mechanism. Whenever the phone charge falls below 50%, it should just start charging on its own !!!!

Top 10 Complaints Against Sales Guys

Sales is a function that can be continuously optimised. Over the years, I have heard a barrage of complaints amongst sales guys – some rightfully so and some applicable only to a portion of the sales team. I believe that each of these 10 points are huge opportunity areas and there are multiple fairly large companies working in these narrow spaces.

Chilling | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD


Top 10 complaints against sales guys

  1. Why do sales guys never meet their numbers (and why is their forecast totally off all the time)
  2. Sales guys don’t know about our product (and why do sales guys don’t know how to give demos)
  3. Sales guys never fill the CRM
  4. Sales guys never attack the leads on time
  5. Sales guys go and sell anything that they want (which is far removed from what they have to sell)
  6. Sales guys go and commit a random price (without proper approvals)
  7. Sales people are living off repeat purchases rather than bringing new accounts (In other words, sales guys are not generating enough new leads from their own efforts)
  8. Sales guys don’t do cross-selling within existing accounts at all
  9. Sales guys waste the time of product and tech teams (in demos of technical aspects instead of doing it themselves)
  10. Sales guys are always late for meetings (and they never make notes)

My parting email at Mettl

Last minute at the Denali glacier in Alaska

I spent good time reflecting about what should I write in this email. Thought it might be useful for others too – so sharing it.

Dear Mettlites,

Today is one of the toughest days in my life. It is my last day to be with you all at Mettl. You all have been incredibly important for me in helping me realise my dream of being an entrepreneur and in making me a better person. This is my last opportunity to express how grateful I am to have shared this amazing journey with you all. Words are not enough to convey the deep sense of gratitude I feel. 

Last 9 eventful years here have exposed me to numerous situations at work. These moments required me to take calls/ decisions often based on gut. Over time, I had the luxury to see the outcome of these decisions in success and failures. To be more efficient and right in my decisions, I have used this unique experience to make my own guiding principles to manoeuvre personal and professional situations. In this last email, I thought I should share some of these principles uncovering some of my life’s dark events known to very few. You may find some of these principles useful as you navigate your life.

1. Failures are opportunities (How I became an entrepreneur): 

I was on a high when I graduated from IIMB (a top Indian B-school). I landed with one of the top jobs from campus at BCG* in Brussels. I believed that I was a prized catch for any organisation. I had great friends, my marriage got fixed, my health was in good shape – I couldn’t have asked for more. Then within 4 months of joining, I was asked to leave BCG. I was told that my performance was so bad that they are fast tracking my exit from 18 months to 4 months. I came back to India looking for another job. The job market here was very tough in 2009. Even after months of trying, I couldn’t get even one interview call. My friends started avoiding me. My planned marriage got annulled. I broke my ankle that took ~12 months to recover. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. I felt that BCG management was unfair to me, friends betrayed me, my fiancee was super selfish etc. etc. I was really depressed, as nothing worked out. I started doing a lot of self reflection. That’s when I realised that I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was passionate about building something of value from scratch. All this while, the razzmatazz of a trophy job, and other things that I was chasing was not what I wanted in life. They were just attractive distractions. Perhaps when you are at the lowest point in your life and nothing seems to be working, is the time to build thought clarity. My biggest failures brought about the biggest success in my life. I therefore believe that failures present great learning opportunities in front of us.

2. Ships are safe in a harbour but that’s not what ships are made for (Listen to your heart): 

Imagine yourself to be 55 years of age, a top celebrated CEO, with amazing 8 figure salary (or more). You are fiddling with your Rolex watch, and brand new Mercedes’ keys. You are waiting for a colleague to send a deck for the board meeting tomorrow. It is 8PM, you are tired, you want to call it a day but you can’t. Suddenly you gaze outside the window, see a nearby park where a bunch of people are playing badminton. They seem to be very engaged and enjoying the game. It reminds you that you were once very fond of playing badminton too. You had a chance of getting into the district team. But you chose to attend competitive exam coaching instead. Although you have done super well for yourself, you will wonder if you have made the right decision. While you are rich and famous but you still eat basic food. While you own a Merc – you couldn’t care less. Your bank balance is sizeable but you can’t pursue your interests. You are wondering if it was all worth it.

For most of my life, I have chased societal goals; set by my family, relatives, friends in what they believed successful people should do. I pursued engineering because it seemed like a safe, promising career; did an MBA; chased trophy jobs, top salaries, name, fame etc. I was afraid of being left behind; fear of failure was very high. And I was completely wrong. This quote gave me the courage of chasing my own dreams instead of living someone else’s ambitions. I questioned  what is the use of my education from IIT and IIM, and all my experience and skills. Is it to chase a value function set by my social system. Or is the best use of my capabilities is to help me realise my own dreams. Through this quote I gathered the courage to do what I wanted to do in life – embark my entrepreneurial journey. As I part, I really hope and wish you all to chase and realise your own dreams. It is a short life and before we know it will fly past. 

3. Be fair and genuine with people (manage your personal brand): 

Recently, I met one of our first investors at Mettl. We were discussing rationale of early stage investing. In the conversation he said that while he was contemplating investing in Mettl he was approached by another of our common friends for funding in his venture. He said that to him the other friend’s plan seemed better but he chose to invest in Mettl because he trusted me more than the other guy. 

I think personal brand matters a lot as we progress in our life. People who we are studying/ working with today could be our future investors, colleagues, recruiters, bosses, guides and coaches – you never know. As time passes by the perceived brand becomes even more important. I get referral check calls for several people who I have worked with even 10+ years back and I am sure you get these calls as well. If we are cutting corners at work, doing a shoddy job, not maintaining relationships properly – remember people are watching you.

4. There are no right/ wrong decisions, what you do after taking a decision makes it right or wrong (being decisive in life): 

Life keeps bringing us to critical decision making forks. Often there is not enough data available to understand what decision will lead to what outcome. But the situation still requires us to make a decision and move on into uncertainty.

I have had several such decision forks in my life – Mettl’s business plan, starting new product ideas, shelving others that are not working, hiring for important roles, decision to sell Mettl etc. Early this year, I was again at an important crossroad of my life. Whether to continue at Mettl or to move on. I have reared Mettl like my own child. I have seen it grow from scratch to a 350+ colleagues and growing. I have given it whatever I could and gained so much back – super smart colleagues, close friends, productive work etc. Personally it is the best environment for me to be a part of. But I want to start another startup journey someday. The high seas are calling me again and this time I would like to be more prepared, rested and rejuvenated when I start that journey. It is a tough decision but I believe what I do from now on will determine whether it was the right one or not.

I will miss you all terribly. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Tonmoy

PS: Sorry, I am not listing names of people who have done a lot for me. It is a long list and words don’t do justice

* Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is not to try to prove who is right/ wrong and settle score. It is not to settle scores with BCG etc. I think BCG is an iconic company. Some of the brightest and smartest people work there and build stellar careers. I have extreme high regards for BCG.This post is only to share my learnings and the backdrop of all I experienced was important to make the point.

Creating the B-Plan

Traversing the easy part (from my recent road trip in Alaska)

A B-Plan depicts the founding/management team’s vision about the business. A well written B-plan goes a long way to excite investors/ funds about the space and the company. It could result in better response rates to emails written to investors/ funds and better outcomes to investor presentations. This post assumes that you have thought through your own business (the complex part). This post focuses on structuring your thoughts together to make a B-Plan (the easy part). This post maybe especially useful for the first time and non-MBA founders.

Investors are pretty busy people – attending a 4 hour long board meeting one moment, building their next investment thesis, meeting potential investors for their next fund, sharing their thoughts on how to manage/ run startups in conferences, giving media interviews and many more. Sometimes multiple of them at the same time. Their calendars are choker blocked for weeks if not months. And on top they get thousands of B-Plans from entrepreneurs like you and me. They may have little attention span and at best only few minutes to make sense of your B-Plan. In such a scenario, the possible outcomes of sending a B-Plan to an investor are

  1. <.0001% probability: Investors understand everything about your business and are ready to just wire you the money/ send term sheet
  2. 20% probability: Investors really like your business but there are some unanswered questions/ concerns. They would like to meet you to know more and get their concerns alleviated
  3. 60% probability: They are confused and unclear about your business. Since they don’t want any credible opportunity to slip away, they have put one of their junior resources to meet you to know more. They may also get unresponsive because of heavy inflow of business plans where they already get enough that are understandably and interesting (falling in the first two categories)
  4. 20% probability: They understand your business but for whatever reasons (don’t like the space, don’t have money, have invested in competition etc.) don’t want to invest in your business. Nicer ones will tell you so upfront, others may become unresponsive

Odds of outcome 1 are lesser than buying a lottery ticket and winning it. Outcome 2 is the only reasonable play for a sensible founder. Fund raising is a super time consuming process, therefore between outcome 3 and 4, I believe 4 is a better state to be in than 3. It will save you a lot of time and emotional trauma of misplaced expectations in the chaos. The primary driver of option 2 is generating interest among investors so that they want to meet you and so that they keep you in an active evaluation set. Given the time investors would have, the B-Plan has to be simple, clear and succinct. These attributes cannot be compromised for completeness, disclaimers and other unwanted details at this stage. The following are important points to ponder upon

  • A B-Plan should cover broad business aspects about your startup. It should make investors understand the business of your company and the broad environment around it. It may not answer all their questions but only the important ones
  • A B-Plan is not an encyclopedia/ technical manual that will answer questions about each and every aspect about the business but should get them interested in it. Getting them interested in it is of paramount important
  • Even before you may get to meet an investor, the B-Plan deck may get emailed and shared. People would skim through it quickly and already start making their opinions. They may start discussing their opinions with their colleagues. And even before you would have a chance to present and defend your business, they may already start making their judgements
  • Keep it simple and as less verbose as possible. Try to restrict one message in one slide. The material on each slide should only augment/ bolster the intended message. Use figures to aid your messages (don’t overdo it). Aesthetics help but don’t try to make a Mona-Lisa. If a B-Plan is easy to understand – doesn’t mean it is not an investable business (in-fact quite the contrary)
  • Keep the deck short; not more than 10-15 slides. Anything more, non critical can move to appendix only if you feel strongly about it

A possible structure of a B-Plan can be

  1. What problem are you planning to solve: I have found this framework useful to structure your slide on the problem statement – What is the problem, what are the symptoms that testify that the problem exists, who is the impacted party and what is the impact. At Mettl, for example our problem statement was – Hiring evaluation criteria for most job roles is haphazard causing a lot of inefficiencies in companies. Even when evaluation criteria is well defined, it is time consuming to measure it manually and that too led to a lot of biases. This led to suboptimal company performance and undesired extra work for HRs and hiring/ line managers. At Milkbasket’s, it could be – A bulk of household grocery needs are items like dairy, breads, vegetables and fruits etc. that needs to be delivered daily and by early AM. Traditional e-commerce companies are not specialised to do that. Traditional mom and pop stores don’t have the scale and logistics to do that. This causes households to fend for themselves – causing unnecessary/extra work. We can do better in the above by making the message more pictorial (and less verbose)
  2. What is your solution: This slide can start like – XYZ is building a system/product/ software/app etc. to do ABC that will solve the problem defined in the previous slide. Drawing parallels can also work here. It helps to convey the message faster and clearer. For example at Mettl, we used to pitch to investors – Mettl is SurveyMonkey(SaaS) for candidate skill assessments. We help companies hire the right talent by providing scientific evaluation criteria across job roles and automated assessments to measure the candidates. Through visual depiction on the above and inserting the right keywords (like psychometrics, data science, technology etc.) helped us depict to our audience the kind of solution we were talking about.
  3. What is the competitive landscape & what is the positioning of the proposed solution: Here you may like use your view of the market meaningfully to dissect it. For example use one or more attributes like premium Vs economical, enterprise Vs SMB, US Vs Other geos, millenials Vs Gen X etc. At Mettl we said that while our competition addressed top 5% of the market by catering to senior level and above job roles, we want to make the power of psychometrics available for junior to mid-senior level job roles at an affordable price by automating the assessments.
  4. What is your market size: In this slide it is important to give a sense of the market size using right business drivers. If we use wrong or naive business drivers we can get market size to be all over the place. For example at Mettl we said that our primary customers were mid and large sized companies in India. There are 10K companies in India with a topline of 100MUS$ +. Mettl should be able to bill them 50K US$ on an average to use unlimited assessments across any job role. That made the market size to be 10,000 x 50,000 = 500MUS$ in India. If we start by with Indian population in working age etc. then the market size would come in tens of billions.
  5. What is the current state of the company:
    1. Team
      1. Profiles of founders & key employees
      2. # Full Time Employees/ Temp staff/ interns
      3. Key advisors/ investors
    1. Product/ solution: State of the product/ solution. Demo/ video at an appropriate stage of discussion is very handy
    2. # Customers/ engagement/ revenue: Now depending on the space of the company, you may like to show the business traction appropriately. For example in B2B SaaS companies it could be # customers, ARR, MoM growth etc. In consumer companies it could be DAU/ MAU, growth etc.
  6. Why do you need funding: You can keep this high level (without disclosing the numbers) saying that you are looking for funds to help the company achieve – X business goal in Y time. You can also indicate the numbers. You need not indicate the valuation because that is always up for negotiations with Seed/ VC funds. The goal is to get them to give a term sheet. Valuation is to be negotiated later.
    1. Who all have already committed to invest? What % of the round is already closed?
  7. Appendix
    1. Future avenues
    2. Assumptions and citations
    3. Any other important information that you deem important

Depending on the funding round (seed to series A) the deck structure would be the same but detailing in each slide could be different. The more advanced the round, the material on each slide is more real and experiential instead of projective.

Please take the above suggested approach with a pinch of salt. This is just my own assimilation of how a B-Plan should be like. There could be many other successful ways used by others. Best luck with building your deck :-).

The Art & Science of fund raising: (Seed to Series A)

L to R: Ketan & I with Karthik and Sanjay of Blume Ventures – Thanks for believing in Mettl

Capital is startup’s fuel. It helps them scale, build markets, build products and beat competition. Fundraising is a bit of art and a bit of science (90% art and 10% science). Some founding teams are able to do it more successfully than most others. It is said that fundraising is one of the two most important jobs of the founders (the other being hiring rockstars and gainfully absorbing them). The most successful startups that we see around are the ones where the founders have become fund-raising machines. Access to deeper capital have become a competitive advantage for companies. Therefore one needs to learn this important skill.

In Mettl’s context, we raised the following rounds of funding (in Nov 2018 INR to US$ terms)

  • Angel Round – 2010: ~70K US$ from angel investors (friends, family and beyond)
  • Seed Round – 2011: ~250K US$ from Blume Ventures and Dr Singh
  • Series A Round – 2012: ~3.2M US$ from Kalaari Capital
  • Bridge Round 2015: ~.5M US$ from M&S Partners (an inbound interest)

finally leading to an acquisition by Mercer in 2018.

We had our own share of hits and misses (more misses than hits). In 2014-15 we were running out of money fast. We really needed capital for our survival but no fund would touch us. We sensitised our team about the shit ahead. In our minds we were expecting many resignations but very few did. As what happens when a portend army faces tough challenges ahead – you are left with the toughest, bravest and most able ones. Which is why I maintain that Mettl had an incredible team and startup culture. But this topic for some other day. From 2015 our entire focus was on how to make our customers win. We turned profitable the subsequent year and from thereon. We started getting inbound funding offers (when we didn’t need any). We finally found our new home at Mercer.

Frankly, I am not the best person to write about how to fund raise. We couldn’t raise money when we needed it the most. Had we not learnt how to build and run a business through our own means we wouldn’t have survived. This article is just an attempt to document what I have learnt about fundraising in my journey which ended at series A level in 2012. Much has changed in terms of the fundraising environment but I believe the fundamentals are time invariant. It may be useful for new and budding entrepreneurs who may experience fundraising frequently in their voyage.

I have structured the process into the following articles that I will publish over time. Please do point out for any suggestions/ new viewpoints/ related topic that I should cover/ errors/ typos/ negative feedbacks (and positive ones too). With a word of caution, these are just my thoughts and there could be other better alternate approaches to fundraising.

  1. Thinking through your own business
  2. Creating the B-Plan
  3. Examples of some great B-Plans leading to successful fund raises
  4. Contacting VCs/ potential investors
  5. Making presentations to VCs/potential investors
  6. When successful: Negotiating terms in a term sheet
  7. Tough Luck: Building a bootstrapped business