Sarah Jones of Mini Exchange has just raised over $1 mn in seed funding in the UAE for her online clothing business for children and mums. She shares five tips for startups raising money in this region. From a mere 500 items at the start of 2014 to an offering of over 30,000 items from more than 250 international brands, the company has grown rapidly due to effective marketing campaigns and active social media presence. In January 2015, Mini Exchange was selected as the GCC-based start-up for the 10th edition of the US-hosted Google Blackbox Connect programme, which Sarah attended in Silicon Valley.
1. Start fundraising early
Fundraising takes longer than you think and you don’t want to get to a stage where you’re desperate for cash. Prepare early, take your time and do panic if it doesn’t happen in the first two months.
2. Never give up.
Fundraising is not easy. It takes time to prepare for it. It takes time meet potential investors, to build relationships with potential investors. There are lots of ups and downs, lots of positive conversations and also people that turn you down. Don’t be disheartened and keep going. If you have a good product you will find the right people to invest in your business.
3. Have a great pitch deck
The way you present your company is key. Investors want to see that you’ve taken time in your pitch deck. Don’t underestimate the power of first impressions.
For the same reason good design matters for your product, it matters for your presentation. Investors are just as impressionable as your average consumer. Pretty slides send a signal that you know how to build a good product.
4. Find the right investors
There is a lot of money out there but in my opinion it’s key to find the right money. The right people to back your business, to support you. As one of my lead investors said to me once – “It’s lonely at the top, we’re here to help you”. You need people that recognise that it’s not all plain sailing, that there will be ups and downs and bumps in the road. Get the right backers from day one that will support you, add value, and understand that.
5. Be gracious when someone says “no”.
It can be frustrating to hear “no”.
You’ll probably hear “no” more often than you’ll hear “yes” throughout your fundraising process and as tempting as it is to turn your back to an investor that rejects you, you have a lot more to gain by being gracious. Because this is almost certainly not the last round of funding you’re going to raise, or the last startup you’re going to do.
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