My co-founder Jonathan Jeffries and I spend almost every day helping founders scale across ecosystems globally through our business Onestack. In working closely with founders and investors, we’ve found there’s often misconceptions from both sides about what startups should focus on and when.
Capital certainly gives early-stage startups a bump, but knowing what to concentrate on once you have this investment is another challenge entirely.
Recently we brought together 25 founders and VCs from Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to discuss this very question. Based on their feedback, these are the five most important things that Australian founders should focus on after a successful series A raise.
1. Don’t change your core value proposition
While a successful raise undoubtedly opens up new possibilities, it should’t change your core value proposition, says Stephane Ibos, co-founder and CEO of open cloud integration platform Maestrano.
For Maestrano, building a great technology product and deliver it to the largest possible client base was “the focus before the series A and after”.
Gabrielle McMillan, CEO of digital property management technology company Equiem, said: “Ideally, your business priorities don’t actually change – your ability to execute is just accelerated with capital that supports your strategy.”
Rather than reinventing the wheel, think about what this raise will allow you to fast track in your strategy and look to move these initial goals forward over creating new ones.
2. Go from ‘incubation’ to ‘expansion’
Take time to think about where this investment can be used to support growth in your business not just immediately but in the long term. Internal structure is crucial for effective growth so spend the time now focusing on how you can scale the channels, teams and processes in your business.
“Having money in the bank allows you to take a slightly more long term approach to planning, recruitment, product and sales opportunities,” said McMillan.
By taking the opportunity to get your internal structure in a great place now, you can set your business up not just for the immediate expansion but for future raises and beyond.
3. Keep the alignment with your board, shareholders and team
A whole new part of your job emerges after a successful raise: managing a board and shareholders.
“No matter what people say, it has an impact on your time,” said Simple co-founder and CEO James Charlesworth.
The additional time spent managing these new relationships is pivotal for keeping everyone aligned and moving towards the same outcomes. This takes effort, headspace and practice — but at the same time, these new partners in your business will also add context and provide invaluable perspective.
“Shareholders and the board provide feedback, pressure and support to get the job done,” said Charlesworth.
4. Find and develop the right people
“One thing I wish founders did more often is to have a greater focus on hiring – and appreciate how difficult it is to do this well,” said AirTree Ventures managing partner Craig Blair.
Instead of doing everything yourself, now is the time to surround yourself with an outstanding group of talented people with experience across each part of your business. You should create a people strategy to attract incredible talent and build a brand in market for your future talent pipeline.
Hire people who are not only better equipped than you to deliver their part of the business, but people that will also be able to adapt and grow as the business expands.
5. Stay focused
“Too many startups want to do everything once they get a large cash injection,” said Albert Bielinko, an investor with Telstra Ventures.
Instead, Bielinko stresses the importance of focus — not shifting your goals, but raising them in accordance with your resources.
It’s a view shared by both investors and founders. At the end of the day, you need a great product that solves a real problem for its customers. While the early stages of a startup may be about getting it right (with continued tweaking and refining along the way), a successful investment round is proof others believe in you, your team, and the product.
So ask yourself this question – how big will you take your startup?
Gavin Appel is the co-founder of Onestack and a former partner at Square Peg Capital.
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