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#AdviceColumn: Should Founders Be Fundraising During This Pandemic?

5 Min Read
Business


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Q1: Is it even feasible for startups to think about fundraising during this time?

It's feasible, but it will be challenging, and it really depends on the kind of business you want to start. Long before this crisis, I always advised entrepreneurs to pursue organic funding: start out small with low overhead, grow your client base, focus on the work, and put everything back into the business so that you can grow it healthily and sustainably. It demands a lot of work, but it also frees you from having to rely on outside funding. If your circumstances allow it, this is, in my opinion, the best way to start a business (it's how I started mine).

That said, for many startups, other funding options will be necessary. For reasons having nothing to do with the pandemic, venture capital was already far more suspicious of startups that don't have a clear path to profitability in their prospectus, and the current crisis American capitalism is experiencing has only reinforced that newfound conservatism.

I always advised entrepreneurs to pursue organic funding: start out small with low overhead, grow your client base, focus on the work, and put everything back into the business so that you can grow it healthily and sustainably.

The last few years and the felling of companies like WeWork and Theranos have made it much more difficult to get funding for a big ambitious moonshot with only a lofty dream and a model, but no viable business plan or sound financials (something that was already less likely for women founders). The question is no longer, "What's your exit strategy?" but rather, "How will investing in your startup strengthen my long-term?"

Now, all of that out of the way, the fact that this is a risk-averse market doesn't eradicate the ambition that many venture capitalists harbor for the big payout; it just makes it harder to justify. But the upside is that it demands you to be better. To think through your business plan ahead of time. Now is a very good time to perfect your plan and your pitch and be ready to hit the ground running.

I won't throw numbers at you, but when it comes to securing VC dollars, women-led startups have always had a tougher fight, which is why considering other funding avenues is a good idea. Some businesses, for example, may have more funding success through equity crowdfunding.

Now is a very good time to perfect your plan and your pitch and be ready to hit the ground running.

This will be a bit different for businesses that emerge to fill the glaring gaps that the pandemic has opened up. I would anticipate funding to be more available, for example, for startups that cover critical healthcare or service gaps that have emerged since lockdown started. I keep thinking of the need to bring medical equipment manufacturing back to the United States, how overwhelmed grocery delivery services have become, the lines stretching outside the retail operations that are still open, the shortages and supply-chain disruptions we're facing, and even the future of film distribution; all of these are potential profit opportunities because these are problems we didn't know to expect, which means service is still catching up. There are countless more, and an enterprising mind that finds a way to alleviate these pain points is going to find eager money.

Q2: How should VC-backed startups start preparing for the post-coronavirus era?

I expect that the post-coronavirus world of venture capital is going to double down on its present investment conservatism, including for existing startups. I am especially worried about startups promising things that they can no longer guarantee. What's a dating app, for example, in a world where we're reluctant to meet? So, I expect that keeping funding incoming is going to have two primary requirements:

  1. A clear path to profitability, not just a sale.
  2. An understanding of how your market and audience have changed during the lockdown.

As I mentioned in the today's first question, nobody wants to be caught on the hook for another WeWork or Theranos, companies utterly dependent on continual investment to maintain cashflow while failing to deliver or turn meaningful profits because the risk of collapse – especially with "visionary" founders – is too great. So being able to show that your company is a strong investment for the long haul is going to be more critical than ever.

We have no idea how long this will last, so we can't necessarily anticipate how far away we are from a post-pandemic economy, and even then, the psychological effects of this experience will continue well into the future in one form or another.

But the second requirement is even more critical: Does your product still make sense in the post-pandemic economy, and if not, how can you make it make sense? I mentioned dating apps above because no comprehensive pandemic dating solution has emerged and finding a way to ensure people can meet and couple safely is likely going to remain a demand for some time.

We have no idea how long this will last, so we can't necessarily anticipate how far away we are from a post-pandemic economy, and even then, the psychological effects of this experience will continue well into the future in one form or another. I think about how people who lived through the Depression retained, for decades afterward, Depression-related habits from mistrust of banks to saving every ounce of grease and oil they can.

That's going to have knock-on economic effects, especially in terms of what your customers may want or need from you. Preparing for the future means coming to understand who your customers are rather than who they were, what their new pain points are relative to the service you offer, and solving those. In other words, you will need to be adaptable.

Preparing for the future means coming to understand who your customers are rather than who they were, what their new pain points are relative to the service you offer, and solving those.

That, more than anything, is what VC is going to want to see from their existing investments: a practical demonstration that they will not be throwing their money away by continuing to support you.

Do you have any questions for this business powerhouse? Just email askliz@swaaymedia.com to get your answers!

Creative DIY Tips for Making Your Own Calendar

The current state of the world definitely affected us in many ways, it made us stay locked up in our homes away from all the social events and seemingly fun stuff. But the responsibilities didn't just vanish into thin air, they are still there, waiting to be organized and prepared. Times are super hectic and you are probably not in the mood to think about the foreseeable future, but there are ways to turn in into a fun time. Starting a journal or making a simple calendar can bring you peace, use that creative time to yourself and relax while doing it. Grab your colored pencils, stickers, scraps, and everything in between, your inner DIY queen is about to jump out!

Fill in the blank

So probably the easiest way to start when it comes to making your own calendar is by simply printing a blank template found online. This way you'll have a base, a blank canvas if you will. Take all the materials that you have in your house, like washi tapes, sticky notes, glittery colorful pens and anything you can think of that could work as a decoration on your calendar. And go at it! There are no rules when it comes to decorating, it's super personal and it can differ from person to person.

The only real advice you'll need is to leave some space while decorating, don't overdo it since it will clutter and distract you from the written parts. Finding the perfect template that will suit your aesthetic is extremely easy and fast, a simple google search could get you whatever you want and the best part is, it's free! There are many printable options out there, so don't worry about not finding something you'd like, the possibilities are endless and you'll find just the right calendar you imagined!

Start from scratch

If you don't have a printer at home or you're just determined to make the calendar yourself, there are awesome ways to make the best and most unique personalized calendar there is. This gives you the full freedom to do whatever you can think of, want to make a calendar from old newspapers, do it! Want to cut out a certain shape and disguise the calendar as an art piece in your kitchen, why not?

Nothing is stopping you when it comes to unleashing your creative side, use everything that you can get your hands on, think outside the box, don't be afraid to experiment. Making a calendar from scratch is an amazing opportunity to explore your artistic side, especially if you've been busy with work and responsibilities. This is a great excuse to do something creative, at the end of the day you are making it for the purpose of being more organized and having everything mapped out and planned. So make this time, the best time possible, be free and create!

Mix and match

Since there are absolutely no rules when making any diy project at home, what's stopping you from making the ultimate, super personal calendar! If you have basic knowledge in photoshop, you can even modify the blank calendars you got online, add pictures of your loved ones and family, maybe your pets or anything you like, and then print it out. Or you can print the blank template right away and add pictures or polaroids later on by using some washi tape.

Also, you can even paint over the printed blank calendar, this is a good option for those who aren't as skilled, so you'll have a base to start, just dip in your paintbrush in some acrylic or watercolor paints (or whatever you have around the house) and go for it. This is a great way to start doing artsy projects while still having some form of direction and help.

Have fun

Sure keeping your priorities at bay and making plans and notes for everything is important...but the heart of this project has to be your willingness to turn something as boring and blank as a calendar into something spectacular. This calendar should proudly be up on your kitchen wall, so loud and colorful it just draws your attention to it.

If the calendar is decorated, personalized, and fun to look at, maybe it will inspire you to look forward to some events or responsibilities even if you didn't feel like it in the first place. So be creative and free, there are no rules so just go at it. With everything that happened this year, try to be positive and find little joys in seemingly insignificant things like diy calendars!