“I just hit a major home run!” exclaimed the entrepreneur.
“Did you ship product? Did you make your first sale? Did you get a large contract?” asked his friend.
“No, no. Something much better: today we closed on a $20 million round of financing.”
Congratulate yourself for raising money, but don’t think it was time well-spent. You need money to stay in business, but raising it destroys value: money changes hands, with a big chunk siphoning off to lawyers, filing fees, travel expenses, and phone calls. You’re left with less than when you started, and that’s before buying your first paper clip! Money may make the business viable, but it doesn’t make it valuable.
Nor does fund-raising use your time wisely. Your investors are betting on what you uniquely bring to the table. Your competitors have all raised money. Most entrepreneurs out there have raised money. fund-raising ability doesn’t distinguish you one whit. Spend your time bringing your vision to life by building your organization.
Actually, your investors would love it if you never raised money again! Every new share of stock issued dilutes current shareholders. With every dollar you raise, your investors wince. In the late 1990s, many companies raised so much capital that they’ll need to be in the Fortune 10 to give investors a decent return. Some may make it. Most won’t.
And beware! Successful fund-raising can snare a CEO. It let’s them avoid their real challenge—building a stellar business—in favor of the “success” of a $20 million closing. You see, fund-raising is easy: the customers are VCs, angel investors, and banks. Their buying criteria is simple and public; most of them will even outline it on their web site. And the product, your business plan and sales pitch, can be created by one or two people.
Running a company is much more challenging. You don’t necessarily know your customers. In fact, you may find they don’t even exist! If you do have customers, you may not know their buying criteria. In fact, they may not know their buying criteria! And delivering your product and services means coordinating dozens of people, each with different priorities and demands on their time. Yet knowing the customer and delivering the product will make or break you. fund-raising is a stressful—but much safer—place for an entrepreneur to spend their time.
So yeah, you have to do it. You have to raise money. Businesses need money to operate. If you aren’t yet profitable, that means pitching investors, haggling over terms, and repricing your round at the 13th hour. Just remember that getting the money merely opens the starting gate. Then it’s time to add value, and you add far more value as a leader and manager than you do as a fund-raiser.
So raise your money, then run your business. Run it well and profitably and you’ll repay your investors a dozen times over.