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Financing March 19, 2021

Due diligence turned around: 70 questions to ask a potential investor

Google, and you will find an amazing amount of information on what questions a VC will ask to evaluate you. But let’s turn it around! Here are questions your investor should be ready to answer well to be a great fit for you.

Some business angels and most venture capital firms take an active role in the running of a startup they invest in. So, it’s important to make sure you are a great fit for each other and agree on the strategic way forward.

Sometimes, the best option is to just take the money while it’s on the table, but if you have the luxury of choosing what investor/s to align yourself with, here are some great questions to ask the investors to learn who is the best fit for you and your company.

1. What experiences from your previous investments are most relevant for your engagement in our company?

This question should give you information about the investor’s track record and if they have done investments in areas of relevance for you.

2. How do you help companies you invest in?

It’s important to look beyond the money and learn about what added value the investor will contribute with. Ask for specific examples that involves startups that the investor has previously backed.

3. How much do you set aside for follow-on investments? For how many financing rounds do you typically follow-on?

This question should give you insights on the depth of the investor’s pockets and how they can support you in terms of funding over time.

4. When this company is worth $B and we look back, what path do think the company has taken to get there?

This question will give you a sense of whether the investor fits in and shares the same vision for the company as you do. The same way a team shares the dreams of the founder/s, investors should, too. 

5. What’s your view of the industry sector we’re in?

The answer to this question will help you to better understand how the investor sees the competition in your field, how to navigate the sector, and how to think about its future. If the investor shows remarkable knowledge of your market, he or she could potentially be a great resource for your startup.

6. Who are some of the founders you have backed that I could talk to?

You don’t need to connect with the references, but it could be a good idea to ask and see what the answer is. Great investors will have great reviews, and not so great investors will be reluctant to supply you with names.

7. Are you interested in potentially investing in my company, and if so, what are the next steps?

Before the end of the meeting, make sure you ask this question. It will help you understand where you stand with the investor. There are so called “soft no’s” when the investor is vague. For example, if you get “keep me posted”, then you can assume he or she is not interested at this time. But, if the investor wants to set up a follow-up meeting or a call, this means there is interest.

Do you want more questions?

Download an additional “60 questions to ask VCs during the first meeting to assess fit”.

While they are aimed at VCs, many can easily be adjusted for business angels as well.



Financing March 11, 2021

6 ways to fund your startup – and when to pick which option

Financing is one of the most important – and most time-consuming – elements of building a company. Most startups begin with early seed funding from friends and family, but then what? Below, Sting’s coaches explain some of the good and the bad with six different types of funding.

Before you start your financing journey, it is important to critically think about what your goals are with your company. What kind of pace is needed for your company to succeed? What are the value-increasing milestones over the coming years? How important is it for you to keep control of your company? Answering these questions will help you find the right financing option below.

1. Grants

Grants are funds provided by organizations, such as Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency and the EU, for a one-off project. They are primarily for early-stage, high-risk companies with an academic origin, based on science or research and often with a strong IPR.

Benefits

  • You don’t have to give away shares of your company, so it doesn’t dilute your shares.
  • It is essentially “free money”, as you don’t have to repay a grant.
  • It can fund important early milestones.
  • It can help you better structure your product development.

Potential drawbacks

  • The application process can be extremely time-consuming.
  • Grants often require some level of compliance and reporting, which can be quite tedious.
  • The hit rate varies between 5%-20% – most applications fail.

2. Loans

Loans to startups are often provided by for example Almi Företagspartner, especially their “Innovation loan” in early stages. Sometimes, there’s also a possibility to receive loans from banks.

Benefits

  • Helps to finance product development in early stages.
  • No dilution of shares.

Potential drawbacks

  • You must pay interest and have a possibility to pay back the loan.
  • Will affect the balance sheet as a debt and create a risk for control balance sheet.
  • Sometimes you need provide personal bail.

3. Customer financing

Another way to finance your company is through customer financing. This is a great way to let a potential customer pay for early test/pilot to develop the product further until final product is ready for launch.

Benefits

  • Creates a strong relationship with customers in an early phase.
  • Cost efficient
  • Non-dilutive
  • Can finance the product development.
  • Market credibility, as the startup gets to “borrow” some of the goodwill that the customer potentially has built up.

Potential drawbacks

  • Customers see potential disadvantages early before the product is ready
  • It can come with a “lock-in” during the pilot, preventing discussions with other interested customers
  • There is also a risk of lock-in on foreground IP in joint development projects if you lack experience in negotiating IPR clauses in the development contract.

– These three types of funding; grants, innovation loans and customer financing, are what’s often called “soft financing”. This means money with low or non-existent risk for the entrepreneur and without major requirements for return or ownership. You should use soft financing in the early stage to build value in the company before attracting private investors, says Olof Berglund, business coach at Sting.

Want to know how to raise funds for your startup?

Register for a free 121 session with our startup coaches. Tell us about your business and we will point you in the right direction.

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4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows many small investors to pitch in and support your startup, either just for the good cause or rewards and perks.

Benefits

  • All communications on one platform – no need to update potential investors through emails, meetings and phone calls.
  • Non-dilutive. Your investors are being rewarded with perks not equity.
  • Great way to test the market and validate your offer.
  • Your investors finance your product.
  • Can create momentum and build your market.

Possible drawbacks

  • Scammers have reduced the trust between entrepreneurs and early adopters.
  • A lot of work – to be successful you likely need a full-on launch campaign.
  • Negative feedback can be damaging.
  • The transparency and visibility of failure. Crowdfunding puts your company’s performance in full public view.

– The startups best suited for crowdfunding are in general those with tech gadgets or products with wide appeal that already have a large following of fans. It’s more difficult to explain and understand a complex medical device, for example. You also need to be a really good storyteller to break through, says Karin Ruiz, business coach at Sting.

5. Business angel financing

Business angels are private individuals who invest their own money. They are often established entrepreneurs who understand the degree of risk involved with establishing a small business. Usually, the first ticket is in the range of 250 000 SEK – 1 MSEK.

Benefits

  • Business angels invest in the early stages of company development.
  • In addition to capital, business angels can provide sector experience, knowledge and network.
  • They can also be hands-on engaged in the companies they invest in.
  • Business angels can both make investment decisions and act quickly.
  • They usually have an investor network and can get multiple people to invest.
  • Well-connected business angels can open doors to later stage financiers, e.g., VCs

Potential drawbacks

  • You give up a share of your business.
  • If you give up too large a stake in your company to business angels early on, you may run into troubles securing later-stage financing
  • Business angels invest with the expectation of a return on investment. This may create extra pressure to deliver results quickly.
  • Business angels are individuals who invest their own money, pay attention to personal chemistry and reputation.

– Startups often bring on business angels early, when institutional investors feel that the risk is too high or the tickets too small, says Krim Talia, active angel investor and business coach at Sting.

6. Venture capital

Venture capitalists (VCs) are investment companies that takes a percentage of your company in exchange for capital. VCs invest other investors money with an objective to deliver a significant return on investment. VCs therefore have a limited time horizon for their investments. There are different categories of VCs, investing in different industries and stages of company development, ranging from very early stage (alongside angels) to growth stage.

Benefits

  • VCs can give you “muscles” and help your company grow fast, as speed and timing are often very important.
  • VCs can also provide international networks, knowledge and professional guidance.
  • This will allow you to take on multiple markets faster than the competition.
  • Well-connected VCs will support you in the next funding round, potentially opening doors to new investors.

Potential drawbacks

  • You lose a (big) stake in your company and thereby control.
  • VCs may want to be involved in your company’s operations and decision-making. You may have to compromise on your goals.
  • VCs often have a long and drawn-out investment process. It is not unusual that it takes at least 6 months from the first contact to closing.
  • The legal agreement is typically quite complex with tougher terms than business angels.

– Venture capital is a good alternative for companies with a great growth potential in need of financial muscles to speed up the development. However, the entrepreneurs who bring on VCs on their journey need to be open to dilution and loss of control. Many well-established VCs have extensive networks and can be of great help for a startup that is embarking on its internationalisation journey, says Maria Ljungberg, Director of Investor Relations at Sting and CEO of Propel Capital.

Want to know how to raise funds for your startup?

Join our coaches for a free coaching session on March 18th. Tell us about your business and we will point you in the right direction.

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Financing January 20, 2021

Investor predictions at Sting Demo Day – optimistic about 2021

On Thursday, during Sting Demo Day, participating investors answer a survey with questions about their plans and predictions for 2021. What will be the biggest surprise we’ll see on the startup scene in 2021? Here are their answers.

More than 200 investors were registered for Sting Demo Day on Tuesday. Invited to share their expectations for 2021, their answers provided positive news for startups. 39 percent of the respondents plan to invest more than in 2020, and almost half of the respondents said they the same amount as in 2020 (49 percent). Only 12 percent of the investors said they predict to invest less.

Saas continues to be an interesting for investors. Industries such as Cleantech, Energy, Sustainability, Medtech and Health followed.

Here are all the questions and answers in full:

I am a…

  • Private Investor (59%)
  • VC Investor (24%)
  • Family Office Representative (15%)
  • Corporate Investor (2%)

During 2021, which industries/sectors will you be especially interested to invest in?

  • SaaS (10%)
  • Cleantech, Energy & Sustainability (9%)
  • Medtech & Health (9%)
  • AI, Machine Learning & Robotics (7%)
  • E-commerce & Online Marketplaces (7%)
  • Analysis & Big Data (6%)
  • Cyber Security (5%)
  • Deeptech (4%)
  • Edtech (7%)
  • Enterprise Software (6%)
  • Fintech (6%)
  • Foodtech (6%)
  • Music, Gaming & Entertainment (5%)
  • Augmented & Virtual Reality (3%)
  • Communications & Media (3%)
  • Proptech (3%)
  • Transport &Automotive (3%)
  • Space tech (2%)

Compared to 2020, how much do you predict to invest, compared to 2020?

  • Less than in 2020 (12%)
  • The same as in 2020 (49%)
  • More than in 2020 (39%)

What will be the biggest surprise we’ll see on the startup scene in 2021?

  • A record-numbers of international investors who will outcompete Swedish investors in the most sought-after deals.
  • More big investments. More diversity in founders. (Might be wishful thinking.)
  • How fast we rebound after the pandemic – with small but significant differences
  • New ideas as a consequence of covid-19
  • Homedelivery services
  • Very active M&A market
  • How fast greentech is growing
  • Higher demand on profitability and commercial focus (not online innovation and tech focus)
  • Faster profitability due to more digitization on most tech markets
  • Scale up will be quicker as more consumers are digital post the covid era
  • Growing number of companies on track to enter the scene! A lot of startups have been generated outside of incubators during Covid times!!
  • Green deals accelerate the sustainable transition, which currently is lagging enormously. Rapidly scalable solutions will win.
  • Still good access to funding, but fierce competition of capital with many other startup companies!
  • That many will look at physical experiences at the same time as digital
  • Number of small companies going public
  • How fast things will go back to normal

Read more about Sting Demo Day

Watch the recording of Sting Demo Day

Financing November 13, 2020

Propel Capital raises its investment in Sting companies to SEK 500 000

Propel Capital, the investment company linked to Sting, increases the sum of its investments in the Sting companies from SEK 400,000 to SEK 500,000 to give the startups more leeway to grow before the next round of financing.

Propel Capital is backed by a group of experienced business angels and invests in a selection of companies that are accepted to Sting. In addition to the investment itself, the companies also get access to the business angels’ networks and knowledge.

We are in a challenging time, with a lot of uncertainty about how the opportunities for raising capital in the earliest stages will develop. Against this background, we are pleased to be able to increase the investment amount from Propel Capital to give our companies more time to build their companies before they bring in additional private capital.

Maria Ljungberg, CEO of Propel Capital

Propel Capital V is backed by business angels who have invested SEK 13.8 million and state-owned Saminvest who have invested SEK 11.2 million. Saminvest has also set aside SEK 48 million to match selected business angels’ direct investments in the portfolio companies.

With 20-25 investments per year and a total portfolio of almost 140 companies, Propel Capital is Sweden’s most active private investor in the early stages. Many of the business angels in Propel Capital have also invested directly in the portfolio companies.

Companies that are or have been included in the Propel Capital portfolio include Karma, Sellpy, All Ears, Airmee, Bluecall and Klimato.