Raising capital during the coronavirus pandemic?

We are living in times of great uncertainty. All businesses, big and small, are trying to preserve cash through budget cuts and layoffs. Tech start-ups that are dependent on venture capital (VC) and are running low on cash are stretching their runway while trying to raise additional capital to help […]

We are living in times of great uncertainty. All businesses, big and small, are trying to preserve cash through budget cuts and layoffs. Tech start-ups that are dependent on venture capital (VC) and are running low on cash are stretching their runway while trying to raise additional capital to help pull through the pandemic and maybe allow for some growth. With a third of the major investors in Israeli tech ($2.7 billion in the past year) coming from outside Israel, and with harsh travel restrictions globally and in Israel specifically, raising capital seems like mission impossible.COVID-19 has greatly impacted VC investment activities. In Israel there has been a 50% decline in early-stage VC investments since the pandemic hit. Both serial and first-time entrepreneurs have to understand the recent changes that have taken place within the VC industry globally and in Israel if they are to successfully raise capital. Here are three main VC trends that have grown stronger due to the coronavirus: 1. Proven commercial traction: In a risky early-stage tech environment, VC funds are trying to remove as much risk as they can, and their investment criteria have grown more conservative over time. The pandemic has certainly accelerated this trend. This means that a tech company with no proven commercial traction, meaning recurring revenues, ideally from a non-Israeli customer, will have a difficult time raising capital from VC funds. 2. Positive unit economics: Growth at all costs is not as popular as it used to be. Investors today want to see a sustainable growth trajectory. That has been the trend in the past few years and has grown stronger with COVID-19. Sustainable growth is possible with positive unit economics. This means that investors want to see paying customers using a recurring SaaS (software as a service) model, with a healthy lifetime value (LTV) to customer acquisition cost (CAC) ratio, with low churn rates, high revenue growth and expected profitability within a reasonable time period. Every entrepreneur today should be a unit economics expert, as this will help an exit with a high revenue multiple. High revenue multiples result in a large exit, meaning a desired return on investment for your investors and you, the entrepreneurs. 3. Building trust in a virtual world: Trust is the single most important thing you will need to have with your investors. It is the foundation of any relationship, especially one that involves millions of dollars changing hands. In normal times this trust is built over months and years, building a personal relationship with people domestically and abroad. These personal and professional meetings are crucial to trust-building. As we are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis, these meetings have been reduced to virtual video conferences, even on a domestic level. Despite the hardships of building trust on video conferences, deals are still being made on a daily basis. So how is it possible? In my experience this is possible due to prior relationships with these funds, or a mutual connection who already built trust with these funds.   The writer is a lecturer and strategic adviser to start-ups and investors, and co-founder of VCforU.com, which helps more than 17,000 start-ups with their investor one-pager while hundreds of investors use the platform for deal flow. He is also the Israeli adviser at Allied Advisers, a boutique investment bank from Silicon Valley. Connect with him on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @itaysagie.

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