In February this year, I set out to raise Tessian’s Series C. As many other great founders have written, timing is everything when it comes to fundraising, so we picked our moment carefully. We’d achieved significant growth since our Series B in 2019, we’d just run our first customer NPS (the scores were very good), and we were about to launch our most significant product release to date: Human Layer Risk Hub.
This isn’t our first rodeo. It’s actually my 7th fundraise for Tessian. But there was a key difference this time. The world is working remotely. This meant our entire fundraising process happened over Zoom. So while I was expecting to use a similar version of the process I’d used over the past 7 years, it instead turned out to be something completely different.
Here are four of my key lessons learned from raising our Series C over Zoom.
(1) Get ready to move fast
The biggest change I experienced in raising a remote round is how much faster things move. The convenience of Zoom and the fact that nobody is traveling right now, means that it’s easier to schedule large groups of people to join a first meeting with a company. Almost all of the first meetings we had with funds involved multiple partners (some involved the majority of the fund), and this means you’ve already shortcutted what may have taken weeks in a normal process. We experienced things moving quickly from first meeting to data room (normally the same day), and then super fast again from data room to agreeing the next meetings and customer calls. Speed is a blessing for most processes (selling, hiring), but when it comes to fundraising it’s important that founders are ready to move at pace. This means having your data room prepped in advance, NDAs signed if you’re using them, and customers on standby to act as references. Because if you don’t, you risk being left behind and losing the attention span of the funds who are inundated with opportunities right now.
(2) Get your audience to lean in
You need to bring the energy on every pitch. People are back to back on Zoom all day. And to add to this, they’re sitting in front of a computer being constantly pinged with alerts and have full access to their inbox and messaging apps. The temptation to drift away from what you’re pitching and into the chaos of work has never been higher. You need to make people lean into your presentation. You need to inspire them over Zoom. It means that the standards for your deck, narrative, product demo and delivery all have to be a level up from pitching in person. This is a heavy lift without human connection involved. Be ready for it.
(3) Showcase your company by bringing in your wider team
In normal times, you’d more than likely have funds come and visit your offices. An office environment is such a great way to observe the people, culture, scale and mission of a company. Now that we’re all remote, you can’t showcase your company that way. But you need to. It’s still so important to show the bigger picture of what you’re creating. While remotely raising our Series C we tried hard to have as many people amplify our story as possible. We connected investors with customers, had our executives host sessions with investors and also invited funds we were speaking to join the virtual events and webinars we were running. All of this helps investors feel the scale and impact of your company and its mission in a remote world.
(4) Build rapport into your process
Through our Seed, Series A and Series B fundraises, we got to build great relationships with the people that we ended up partnering with (and also those we didn’t get to partner with). By the time these rounds were closed, I’d shared multiple coffees, lunches and dinners with investors. I knew their hobbies, where they went to school, who their family were. What became immediately apparent when we started raising the remote Series C is that things are almost efficient to a fault. If you let it, the fundraising process can focus fully on the business and erase any chance to build rapport. To combat this, Ed Bishop (my co-founder and Tessian’s CTO) and I would do little things around our pitch and meeting with investors. In our core deck, we had pictures of our first “office” (i.e. the tiny kitchen table in our even tinier apartment where we started the company) and shared personal anecdotes about our journey to-date in building the company. This did two things. It showed investors who we were as founders but also as people, so they knew when they partnered with us what it would look like. It also gave us the opportunity to know them as people based on their reaction (i.e. did they laugh? Say nothing? Admire the hustle?)
So there you have it. While in a non-remote setting people used to advise budgeting 180 days for a fundraise, Tessian’s Series C took just 63 days from first pitch to cash in the bank. The difference was that the intensity was much more concentrated over a short period of time and you have to find new ways to build rapport and your relationship with your potential investors.
As the US is starting to reopen, people are naturally trying to predict whether this is the beginning of the end for remote work, and questioning if we’ll all be back to offices soon. Whatever happens, I think remote work has changed the way companies and founders will raise venture capital for good. Zoom means that the overall process moves so much faster and funds are no longer restricted by the geography of their portfolio companies.
With all of this change though, one thing remains. The human connection is still so important. We ran our entire process virtually and met funds located all throughout the world. However, it just so happens that the lead investor we chose to partner with was located 5 minutes down the road, and we had the opportunity to meet them and their network multiple times in person throughout the process. Even though remote raising may be here to stay, the people you raise the money from is still the most important thing. Make sure you take the time to get to know who they are and build the relationship ahead of time.
If you’re interested in reading more about our recent fundraise and what it means for Tessian, everything you need to know is here.
Have you raised a remote round recently? What’s your experience been? I’d love to hear from you.