5 Ways to Fund Your Startup Today

"Dear Professor Investor, how do I find money for my startup?" -- Robert from Glasgow.

Well Robert, first make sure you need it. Many founders today can launch a minimum viable product for hundreds not millions of dollars. Today millions in investment dollars is reserved for ventures that have already established product/market fit.

First, make sure you have skin in the game (i.e. your own money invested). No one wants to put their money at risk if you don't do so first. Make sure you understand your unique value proposition (and make sure you have one nailed that will lead to exponential results). Remember, it is up to you explain, not the investor to understand.

Next make sure you have tapped all non-dilutive sources of capital, which includes government grants and customer pre-sales (e.g. pilots or Crowdfunding). As an entrepreneur one of the best ways to get money is through crowdfunding for a few reasons: 1) it's customer validation because if people are paying for your product then you prove market demand, 2) customers will tell you what's wrong and what they want changed, 3) crowdfunding is being paid for your product before you even produce it, so you get the money in advance of having to make large expenditures and finally 4) in many cases (e.g. Kickstarter) you don't give up equity for the capital.

Once you have done all of the above there are many ways to find money for your venture but it really depends where you are at in your startup. If you are just starting out the best place to go is to your friends and family as they are most likely to just fund an idea. Once your product is more established you have many options such as accelerators, angel investors, seed venture capitalists, etc. All funding options want something in return. Just remember that no matter where you go to get funding everyone is going to want to know what your product is, why it's the next best thing, who is behind it and what kind of plan you have to get it out into the world.

However, once you know who makes an ideal fit, then it is a matter of sourcing. Doing the leg work. Always spend more time researching and less time pitching. You should know more about your audience and assume they know nothing about you (regardless of your sending ahead a power point, an executive summery and an explainer video). To find these professional investors, go where they "live" (e.g Angels use Angellist and Venture Capitalist belong to the National Venture Capital Association).

Wherever possible, no matter the audience, focus on saying less and showing more. Investors today are less about the gut and more about the data.


Questions can be sent to sean.wise@ryerson.ca or to @SeanWise. Please be sure to include "Dear Professor" in the subject line. For more startup wisdom check out Dr. Wise's new book: STARTUP OPPORTUNITIES: know when to quit your day job