Leveraging your cap table for HELP + Fundraising Fieldnotes 2.21.23

Learn how to pull value from people incentivized to help you win

Before we get to this week's post...

Can’t wait to kick off my new fundraising workshop series on Monday – Are You Venture-Backable (RU VCB)? I'll be giving a rundown of what it takes to raise VC money for different industries in this rocky fundraising environment.

We're starting with a focus on SaaS companies and thrilled to have Mark Mullen of Bonfire Ventures sharing his insights.

On to the fieldnotes...

Leveraging your cap table for HELP

One mark of a venture-backed founder who will likely be successful, is someone that effectively leverages their cap table to supercharge their company. In other words, founders that are able to ask for and receive support from their investors/advisors tend to win. While it seems to be a simple blueprint for success, in my experience it is rarely followed

The main challenge is that founders confuse asking investors for help with asking their buddy to give them a ride. Asking for favors from busy people with competing priorities is different.

Learn from the best

I’ve written about the value of role models in the past. It’s no different here. Once you know what an elite version of something looks like you can begin to adjust your approach to get closer to that level.

One model in operational efficiency I point to often is Sam Corcos, the founder of Levels.

There have been a few essays on Sam Corcos’s beautiful mind. He famously runs his company via a variety of docs which he freely open sources. His investor updates are free to the public on Notion. And he has shared in-depth how he spent all of his time and organized his calendar during the first two years of his company.

Recently, Sam detailed his approach to “Activating Your Investor Network.”

He is a special entrepreneur so reading about how he does things is similar to watching Steph Curry shoot 3-pointers. Sure, you might pick up some tips through observation, but not everything is going to be relevant because Steph and Sam live in a different universe…

Key Takeaway: HOW you ask

The full article from Sam is a worthwhile read. He discusses things like setting expectations with your investors and advisors that you will be asking a lot of them. It’s also crucial, he says, that you yourself should set an abundance mindset expectation that you will be asking for lots of help. These along with a few other details are helpful to think about, but the one takeaway most important to draw from him is learning the best way to ask for help.

When considering how to ask for a favor, Sam says:

“Think about it from the perspective of the person receiving the request. How do you make it easy for them?”

From this perspective, he offers 3 characteristics of a highly effective ask.

  1. Targeted: Only send them to the people who are relevant

  2. Time-bounded: Ideally, executing the request should take less than a minute

  3. Specific: Be specific in your request, and limit the scope of the request

Adding some color

To me, the big unlock is realizing that everyone will want to help if helping is easy. The mistake founders make when asking for help is what I referenced at the top. They don’t recognize what is difficult for a busy person and in turn do not make things easy.

Example 1

You might think the ask of “Intro me to someone who can help with hiring” is just a 30-second email. But that doesn’t count the mental load of thinking through a rolodex, interpreting what type of hiring you need help with, and then actually writing the email. The unknown of all those steps is enough to get someone who actually wants to help to ignore the request.

On the other hand a targeted and specific request like this would be much more effective:

“Jason - we’re building out our performance marketing team and would like to hire someone with facebook ads experience.

Ask: Can you connect me to Alice Gregory [linkedin profile] who you’re connected to?

Her email address is [email protected] and you can use the following blurb on me and my company to help with the intro email…”

Example 2

In a completely different vein, an ask of “Could you leave me a review on my podcast?” again feels like a 30-second task. Just a few taps on your phone and you’re done, right? Well the vague ask doesn’t acknowledge it takes time to find a podcast in an app, if i’ve never done it before it might take some hunting and pecking to figure out how to leave a review, and writing a review itself can take cycles.

Instead something like this would produce way more results:

“Katie - we’re working on building up our podcast audience so could use your help.

Ask: leave a 5 star rating and a short review on Apple podcasts for Funded

And a short review like “love this podcast!” works just fine.

See screenshot below for where to find the rating/review after scrolling down on the app page:”

Next Week… leveraging your cap table through Whatsapp

One other strategy I love for extracting value out of your investors is by standing up a WhatsApp group…

That’s just the teaser. Next week, I’ll walk through what I’ve seen done and what the tricks to pulling this move off well are!

Open Sourced Notion docs

Because I’m a #notionpartner whenever I get a chance to incorporate Notion content organically, I do. Luckily Sam Corcos is a HEAVY Notion user so there is a ton of overlap here and nuggets to share.

If you’re intrigued by Sam, here are some of the Notion docs Sam has shared around how he works:

Don’t forget: readers of Fundraising Fieldnotes can apply to get up to $1000 of credit on Notion using this link -> https://ntn.so/adamant

Smart Twitter Takes

This guy knows a thing or two about finding PMF… and it’s not from just launching the perfect product

What are valuations like??? is one of the most often asked questions I get… here’s some data (although lagging, it’s still helpful)

P.S. Relatable.

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