To many, “How To Get Funded” is a mysterious subject. And I do not claim to be an expert either. However, based on my past fundraising experience and observations from friends and fellow founders who got funded, I’d roughly categorize two routes to institutional funding: one is to leverage your personal credit; the other is to show market traction.
The first route is typically only accessible to an exclusive club of series entrepreneurs with past successful exits. They are typically well-known names within an investor circle. Their names are their credit cards, and investors are card issuers who want to cash in on their personal credits.
For the vast majority of founders who do not have a personal “track record,” you will need to show “market traction” to prove that your product is credible. There are many quantitative (and qualitative) “attributes” to serve as indicators of market traction, from the customer list, customer feedback, customer growth, to sales pipeline, sales amount, and sales growth. You will often be asked to show churn rate/retention rate, customer acquisition cost, customer lifetime value, and unit economics to prove that your marginal cost will eventually be lower than your marginal gain. Hence, this is not a dog and pony show or a leaky bucket but rather a sustainable flywheel as a business.
Join me to explore the nuts and bolts of this topic in the coming days. On September 30th, I’ll be talking with pairs of founders and funders to get a “behind the curtain” view of how an investment deal is made. And for those interested in getting help to prove “market traction,” sign up HERE to talk to us, and we can help define, track, and showcase your “metrics” of market traction.
Last but not least, Katie, the founder of Aila, has an incredible story of building an active nutrition brand. Check out her founding journey below!
September Event - How I Got Funded
🌟 I am honored to be the moderator for the below “How I Got Funded” event on Sept 30th. I will be talking to a panelist of founders/funders who recently completed an institutional deal. From both the founder and the investor perspectives, we will be exploring how an early-stage VC deal is made.
REGISTER HERE to join this interesting discussion!
Featured business: Aila
Company URL: meetaila.com
Location: New York
Founder(s): Katie Webb
Founded year: 2019
Business is about: Plant-based energy mixes to fuel your workout or your work day.
🧃 Tell us about yourself, your company, and how you got started.
I'm Katie - founder & CEO of Aila. We're an active nutrition brand - with a unique line of plant-based energy supplements formulated to support your active routine and made entirely from superfoods, essential vitamins, and 90mg of organic caffeine.
Before starting Aila, I spent 10 years in advertising sales and media - mostly at sports and lifestyle digital media brands. I'm also a certified group fitness instructor.
I've always been a fitness fanatic - I grew up playing many sports and loving to stay active. While working full time, you could usually find me at a boutique fitness class in NYC pre-workday. Finding that I was spending too much money at Starbucks for a morning energy boost, I started looking at pre-workout supplements. That was short-lived! I realized quickly I wasn't comfortable with the high caffeine, artificial ingredients and flavors, and potential long-term effects on my health. That's when I began researching and testing out different superfoods and plant-based ingredients to energize my workout. After mixing many Amazon ingredients in my kitchen (don't worry, it's not actually made that way!) I stumbled upon a formula I loved that gave me just the right amount of energy without the jitters or caffeine crash and sustained my focus throughout the day. So I began to build Aila.
🧃 How did you acquire your first batch of customers?
We did a lot of pop-ups at fitness studios in New York pre-COVID, as well as got a number of our first customers organically through word of mouth and via our Instagram.
🧃 Did your business pivot in the pandemic?
We definitely had to pivot away from gyms in NYC, who was our initial adopters. During COVID, I focused solely on DTC, organic content, and many podcasts to help get my story out and provide an inside look at our business.
🧃 What is your plan for the future? What trends do you foresee for your industry?
Over half of consumers are reporting low energy levels in a post-COVID world. Over a third are taking supplements to address it. When it comes to energizing, consumers are looking for more natural solutions to help them stay productive and active throughout the day. There's been a major shift in active nutrition - away from focusing on athletes to focusing on everybody - and we're excited to have seen it coming :)
🧃 Any requests/special offers for the community?
I would love it if you checked out our products on Amazon and left us a review! We'd be happy to refund you the amount back :) reviews are key to growth on Amazon, and every bit helps!
🧃 Any other lessons/advice you’d like to share?
Try to focus on 1-2 channels at a time, especially if you're a solo founder. It can be really tempting to try all the shiny new marketing channels out there, but trying to do it all at once will yield little impact and likely burn you out. If you decide TikTok's going to be your thing, go all-in for a month or two to really test it out! Don't try to do it all :)