The news is filled with tales of investors throwing money at start-ups — especially AI, the latest horizon line du jour. But as venture capitalism focuses on the Next Huge Thing, what about the rest of us? If you are starting a business and wondering if you should throw up your hands and just max out your Visa card, think again. It’s quite possible key to raising funds has nothing to do with that money man in the suit, says attorney and investment expert Jenny Kassan. But it has everything to do with finding the right investors, who believe in your vision and your values. According to her new book, Raise Capital on Your Own Terms: How to Fund Your Business Without Selling Your Soul (Berrett-Koehler, October, 2017), they’re out there. And, there are more of them than you’d think.
Raise Capital is a helpful, practical how-to. It’s not a book about finding the inner entrepreneur or raising a mint by selling womenswear in your neighborhood. It’s about being a smart, savvy, stick-to-your-mission entrepreneur and use that approach to finding the best sources for funding. That means staying out of your own pockets — and avoiding what Kassan calls “the bootstrap trap.”
This is a great book for those entrepreneurs who have read all the “Space exploration developers receive 7 billion initial…” and shake their heads. That happens to include a whole lot of women entrepreneurs, who too often find themselves left out of the classic investment capital equation. Nearly all of venture capital goes to male-owned businesses, apparently, and that can lead those left out to wonder if they have to make a devil’s bargain. Again: don’t.
Instead, resolve to avoid self-funding at all costs, using this book as a roadmap. First, get to know yourself and your values inside and out. Your values and your agenda are your own North Star, and nothing should shake that. Plan on crafting a funding offering that reflects your aims, goals, vision, mission and message. Think about your non-negotiables. You’re aiming for the investor that agrees with you, not argues against you for the sake of a higher profit. Make sure your business and the investment arrangements are structured right — if you’re not planning on selling the business in five years, don’t offer investors profits of the sale.
If you don’t know the different between equity and debt, Kassan lays it all out. Knowledge, after all, is power. For women entrepreneurs in particular, this new perspective may be the key they need to unlock their own ambition and inner drive. But the book is meant for everyone with a dream who needs more than a dollar, and could use a hefty load of very smart advice. Believing in yourself is important when you’re starting up a whole new ventury. But in this competitive economy, it’s just the beginning.