This is the 5th and final installment in my 5-part series on the five elements of Elements of Scaling a hypergrowth enterprise. I was the co-founder and CEO of CyberRep, a hypergrowth CRM and call center enterprise which grew annual revenues from $500,000 to over $1.6 billion over a 17 year period. That’s revenue growth of 320,000% (3200x).
So what are the 5 elements of scaling a hypergrowth company? Part 1 of this series talks about People, Part 2 discusses Culture, Part 3 examines Scalable Customers, and Part 4 delves into Process. The 5th element is Capital, which is the necessary fuel that every hypergrowth company must have.
While many startups can be bootstrapped with limited capital, the Hypergrowth Enterprise absolutely needs capital. In order to put in place the foundation for hypergrowth, you need the money to build and perfect your product or service, to hire your awesome talent, and for working capital as you book revenue.
Two Essentials for Raising money are to 1. Raise money from a Partner, not just an investor and 2. Raise more than you need, but not too much.
THE INVESTOR PARTNER
To fuel our growth, we raised $20 million in mezzanine capital (subordinated debt with warrants) and $1 million in equity from one partner, Allied Capital, a Washington, DC-based, publicly traded business developement company (BDC). We did 3 separate rounds over a 4 year period for expansion of facilities, working capital, and the acquisition of 2 complementary targets. We had multiple term sheets from VCs, mezz investors, and private equity firms. We chose Allied because, in our opinion, they were more than a capital source, they were a Partner.
A Partner has Deep Pockets – Our partner had a $5 billion portfolio with an average deal size north of $20 million. While we only raised $4 million in our initial round, we knew we would need to go back to the investor for more money as we grew. Therefore, we needed a partner who woud readily put more capital into our business. Raising money is VERY time consuming and disruptive to your business, so by having a deep-pocketed Partner who could fund additional rounds quickly, we avoided having to spend tons of time shopping for new investors for our 2nd and 3rd rounds of funding.
A Partner Understands Your Space – Having made numerous investments in the business services and information services space, including a company directly in our space, our partner brought to us expertise and experience which, inside and outside of the boardroom, proved to be very valuable. If your investor knows your space deeply, they won’t waste your time with stupid questions and uninformed opinions. Instead, they can focus on the nuances of your industry and add true value.
A Partner Has Operational Experience – Our partner owned outright many of the companies in their investment portfolio. As the owner of these businesses, they had an operational focus on all of their portfolio companies including ours. This was invaluable to us, as we were quite inexperienced and needed all the help and guidance we could get. Too many professional investors have no operating experience, and have never had to hire people, fire people, make a payroll, or close a sale. Lack of practical experence puts these investors at a disadvantage and, worse, the advice they give you could put you out of business! Conversely, professional investors who have started and built companies are the best kinds of partners to have because they can share their knowledge and experience with you. They know firsthand how super hard it is to build a business from zero, and they can relate better to you.
HOW MUCH MONEY SHOULD YOU RAISE?
Raise more than you need, but not too much. What do I mean by this? Whatever amount you think you need to raise, raise a little more. I know I am generalizing, but in the VAST majority of requests I see, the entrepreneur does not ask for enough money. Who knows why. Maybe she’s trying to minimize dilution, or maybe she thinks this current round gets her to a milestone where she can get a higher valuation with the next round.
Regardless, the key thing to keep in mind is that capital is the FUEL for your growth. If you’re driving from New York City to DC, do you fuel up your car every 50 miles, or do you put enough fuel in your tank to make the entire trip? Same thing with raising money for your growth. Be less concerned about dilution and equity give-up and more concerned about having the fuel to reach your destination. Raising money is a big distraction from company operations, and it’s a real time killer. Founders need to be focused on wowing their customers and building an amazing team, NOT being in constant fundraising mode.
So how much do you really need? Think through your scenarios, be conservative on your projections (sales always take longer than you think), and get advice from seasoned pros and advisers as to the appropriate amount.
As for raising TOO MUCH money, this is also a problem. Why? Because having the security of a fat bank account can make a startup SOFT and too comfortable. They lose their edge, the bootstrap mentality which is necessary for creativity, scrappiness, and resourcefulness. Look at all the Dot Com failures that raised too much money, and then wasted it on pricey office space, expensive furniture, ridiculous marketing, etc. because they couldn’t find a better use for that precious resource. They got soft, then couldn’t be self sufficient when the VC market dried up.
So….raise more money than you need, but not too much.
Thanks very much for reading. I hope this 5-part series was informative. What do you think? I’d love your feedback and thoughts, so please Comment below…and please sign up for my Blog too! (See the Signup box on the sidebar of my Home Page)
Featured image courtesy of Asthma Helper licensed via creative commons.