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Career tips

From Pre-Seed to Series D: Startup Funding Rounds Explained

From Pre-Seed to Series D: Startup Funding Rounds Explained

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Start-ups Funding Rounds

It is often said that “There’s not a lot of ‘fun’ in funding.”

Raising equity funding for your startup is a long, difficult, and often demoralizing process. However, if you are successful, you walk away with money that will help your startup grow and become everything you hope it could become.

Startups don’t just raise a lump sum of cash or get a startup business loan and then be set up for life. In fact, the number of times startups are going back to the market to raise more capital has been growing. Each of these raises is known as a ‘funding round’. So, when you hear discussion of Series A, Series B, Series C or D funding rounds, these terms are referring to the processes of growing a business through outside investment.

How Funding Works: Before exploring how a round of funding works, it’s necessary to identify the different participants. First, there are the individuals hoping to gain funding for their company. On the other side are potential investors. While investors wish for businesses to succeed because they support entrepreneurship and believe in the aims and causes of those businesses, they also hope to gain something back from their investment. For this reason, nearly all investments made during one or another stage of developmental funding is arranged such that the investor or investing company retains partial ownership of the company; if the company grows and earns a profit, the investor will be rewarded commensurate with the investment made.

Pre-Seed Funding: The earliest stage of funding a new company comes so early in the process that it is not generally included among rounds of funding at all. Known as “pre-seed” funding, this stage typically refers to the period in which a company’s founders are first getting their operations off the ground. The most common “pre-seed” funders are the founders themselves, as well as close friends, supporters, and family.

[Read Also: 5 subject areas to develop Nigerian youths]

Seed Funding: The very first money that many enterprises raise, whether they go on to raise a Series A or not, is seed funding. You can think of the “seed” funding as part of an analogy for planting a tree. This early financial support is ideally the “seed” which will help to grow the business. Given enough revenue and a successful business strategy, as well as the perseverance and dedication of investors, the company will hopefully eventually grow into a “tree.”

Seed funding is used to take a startup from idea to the first steps, such as product development or market research. Seed funding may be raised from family and friends, angel investors, incubators, and venture capital firms that focus on early-stage startups. Angel investors are perhaps the most common type of investors at this stage.

This is also the end point for many startups. If they cannot gain traction before the money runs out (also known as running out of runway), then they’ll fold. On the other hand, some startups decide that they are not interested in raising more money – that the level they reach with seed money is good enough or that they’re able to grow more without more investment and choose to stop raising funding rounds at this point.

Series A Funding: Once a business has developed a track record (an established user base, consistent revenue figures, or some other key performance indicator), that company may opt for Series A funding in order to further optimize its user base and product offerings. In this round, it is important to have a plan for developing a product that will generate long-term profit.

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[Read Also: Become a “rich salary” earner today by following these simple steps]

In Series A funding, investors are not just looking for great ideas. Rather, they are looking for companies with great ideas as well as a strong strategy for turning that idea into a successful, money-making business. For this reason, it’s common for firms going through Series A funding rounds to be valued at up to $15 million.

By this stage, it’s also common for investors to take part in a somewhat more political process. It’s common for a few venture capital firms to lead the pack. In fact, a single investor may serve as an “anchor.” Once a company has secured a first investor, it may find that it’s easier to attract additional investors as well. Angel investors also invest at this stage, but they tend to have much less influence in this funding round than they did in the seed funding stage.

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It is worth noting that you may also hear about “Series AA”. This comes from a 2008 Y Combinator simplified set of Series AA Preferred Stock financing documents, which helped streamline early stage equity investments from angel investors. So, while sounding like a Series A, Series AA refers to a seed round from angel investors or a VC seed fund.

Every investor looks for something different, but there are several universal metrics potential investors use to measure a startup, including:

  • Product/Service Evaluation. Can the team satisfy market needs? Does the venture have users/consumers, and is it receiving positive feedback from them?
  • Market Awareness. What is the target market demographic of the company? What is the ideal customer? How do they behave? Is the market large enough to support the company, or is there an exit strategy in place?
  • Competitor Assessment. Who are the direct competitors of the company? Indirect? What differentiates your company from theirs?

[Read Also: Strategies to Reduce Expenses and Save Money]

A company going into Series A funding needs to be prepared to answer these questions and more about their own strengths and weaknesses. Every case is different.

Series B Funding: Series B funding is like Series A in some ways. The differences between the two rounds of funding are the scope of the venture and the amount of capital raised, as well as the solidification of serious expectations set forth by investors.

A startup that reaches the point where they are ready to raise a Series B round has already found their product/market fit and needs help expanding. The big question here is: Can you make this company that you’ve created work at scale? Can you go from 100 users to a 1,000? How about 1 million? The expansion that occurs after a Series B round is raised includes not only gaining more customers but also growing the team so that the company can serve that growing customer base. At this stage, it is no longer possible for the founder to “wear all the hats,” so raising enough money for competitive salaries is essential.

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Series C Funding: Businesses that make it to Series C funding sessions are already quite successful. These companies look for additional funding in order to help them develop new products, expand into new markets, or even to acquire other companies. In Series C rounds, investors inject capital into the meat of successful businesses, in an effort to receive more than double that amount back. Series C funding is focused on scaling the company, capturing significant market share, acquisitions and growing as quickly and as successfully as possible.

Companies that make it to the Series C stage of funding are doing very well and are ready to expand to new markets, acquire other businesses, or develop new products. Commonly, Series C companies are looking to take their product out of their home country and reach an international market. Series C is often the last round that a company raises, although some do go on to raise Series D and even Series E round — or beyond.

[Read Also: A look at some financing options for small business owners]

When companies make it to this stage, their valuation is typically around $100 million.

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Series D Funding: A series D round of funding is a little more complicated than the previous rounds. As mentioned, many companies finish raising money with their Series C. However, there are a few reasons a company may choose to raise a Series D.

  1. They have discovered a new opportunity for expansion before going for an IPO, but just need another boost to get there. More companies are raising Series D rounds (or even beyond) to increase their value before going public.
  2. The company hasn’t hit the expectations laid out after raising their Series C round. This is called a “down round,” and it is when a company raises money a lower valuation than they raised in their previous round.

A down round may help a company push through a tricky time, but it also devalues the stock of the company. After raising a down round, many startups find it difficult to raise again, as trust in their ability to deliver on their promises has eroded. Down rounds also dilute founder stock and can demoralize employees, making it difficult to get back ahead.

Conclusion

Understanding the distinction between these rounds of raising capital will help you decipher startup news and evaluate entrepreneurial prospects. The rounds of funding work in essentially the same basic manner; investors offer cash in return for a stake in the business. Between the rounds, investors make slightly different demands on the startup.

Company profiles differ with each case study but generally possess different risk profiles and maturity levels at each funding stage. Nevertheless, seed investors and Series A, B, C and D investors all help to nurture ideas to come to fruition. Series funding enables investors to support entrepreneurs with the proper funds to carry out their dreams, perhaps cashing out together down the line in an IPO.

Beyond the basics of having a great idea with great potential, impressive traction to date and all, keep in mind that nothing will take the place of a compelling business opportunity, the proven ability to execute and the right team. That all said, you need to also position yourself to be noticed and then believed in by the right people. Who you know and what experiences you’ve had along the way will be key in establishing this positioning. Ask for introductions, attend conferences, build your circle of people that can help you directly or indirectly.

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    Career tips

    7 key ways women can effectively build a professional career while running a family

    Juggling between work and family life has been one challenge faced by many women.

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    7 key ways women can effectively build a professional career while running a family

    According to the World Bank collection of development indicators, compiled from officially recognized sources, women make up 44.94% of labour force in Nigeria as at 2019. It can be estimated that more than half of this number of working women are wives and mothers. This is quite impressive and shows an appreciable increase in the number of working women and working mothers to compared to what was seen two decades ago.  However. The rise in the number of working women and mothers also increased some of the problems working wives/mothers faced both at home and at work. In fact, some of these problems remain largely unattended to in the Nigerian society.

    In our world today, especially in the corporate world, where competitive nature is prevalent, a lot of women have risen career-wise and have carved a niche for themselves. Some of the career choices they made has put so many of them in a state of dilemma. i.e. juggling between their work as well as their family life, thereby making it difficult for them to strike a balance.

    READ: 10 side businesses to sustain your professional career

    In addition, many husbands, especially in Nigeria where patriarchy is strong do not support the idea of their wives working. A few who buy the idea, do so grudgingly, thereby, not offering their full support and cooperation to their wives.  This, however, has made a lot of relationships suffer.

    Contrary to the above, many men give their wives full consent to work, pursue their dreams and professions. In Nigeria, there is an indication that most working mothers/wives are working not just for self-fulfilment but also to supplement their husband’s income in the face of persistent inflation and to assist their spouse financially.

    A lot of people find it difficult balancing the strike i.e. their career and family, leading to some having to quit their jobs. Nevertheless, there are some women who, over the years were able to balance their professional careers with that of their family, and these women have become source of inspiration to so many women finding it difficult to strike the balance. And they are the likes of Oby Ezekwesili, Folorunso Alakija, Aisha Ahmed, Ibukun Awosika, Toyin Sanni, Ebelechukwu Nwachukwu and so many other women striving in their area of specialization.

    READ: President Buhari approves N13.3 billion for Community Policing in Nigeria

    According to Mrs. Ebelechukwu Nwachukwu (MD/CEO, NSIA Insurance Company Limited) in an exclusive interview with the Amazons Watch Magazine editorial team, she said that “balancing work with family life is quiet challenging to achieve but is very achievable. I think women more than men need to realize that it is essential to start early to focus on a desired career and we need to stay the course when marriage and children come. We do not have time to play around or to waste, and we must stay motivated and not burn out. Women, by starting early would already have set a pace, before family life comes in. Even when you don’t start early; women must realize that many times, we need to do more. We must stay the course”

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    According to Ibukun Awosika (Chairman Firstbank Nigeria) “In life, you decide on those things that are important to you, because as a woman I have all my visions and dreams and I want to achieve them. I want to also be a successful mother to my children and I want to be a successful wife to my husband; once I am able to balance it up, it will make a successful home. All we need is understanding. And we need a balanced home to have the right atmosphere. I also apply wisdom most of the time because the day my children matter most to me, I create time for them. The day it is my husband that matters, I create the time. The same goes for my work. If not, everything will crumble and that is why I need to measure the percentage of attention I give to them and that is why I can’t advise another woman on how to run her family because it is your circumstances that determine your kind of action; my home is different from any other home. I am happy to be married to the best man.”

    READ: Women and unemployment in Nigeria: How government and stakeholders can bridge the gap

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    Here are the 7 ways to help make sure both your career and your family flourish:

    Having a supportive spouse is key to balance

    Having a supportive spouse is key to balancing your career and family because he will assist in the responsibilities of taking care of the family. Having a supportive spouse will enable you reach your career height. They go as far as being supportive of their pursuits to seek higher education thereby supporting them financially, morally, emotionally and otherwise.

    Though at times some when overwhelmed might grumble about a woman’s dedication to her job, however, as a woman the best way to resolve this concern is by being diplomatic. Nevertheless, when your spouse is being supportive, it is still imperative to give them top priority and also tend to their needs.

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    Planning and time management is crucial

    Good planning and time management are crucial to balancing career and family. A lot of people are faced with the challenges of taking care of their young children/ pursuing their careers. Some will plan it in a way that they will pursue postgraduate degrees or career advancement when their children are older.

    Also, when planning and managing time, figure out your family’s priorities. Have a calendar that includes dates when bills are due, a list of school and family events, extracurricular activities, birthdays, and more. It is always recommended to use a Google calendar, which can be easily shared and synced on smartphones. Set aside 15 minutes each Sunday to review and prepare for the upcoming week’s schedule. This helps eliminate surprises during the week. Also, have a time put in place to take care of yourself by going to a spa and exercising (like a yoga class). Remember to eat well and get enough rest. These are simple things a lot of working mothers/wives’ neglect.

    Be focus and work hard

    This is specifically true for women who want to compete for leadership positions and elevate higher in their careers. For you to get to that position you have to be focused and work so hard to avoid your gender being a hindrance to your success. There is often pressure from employers on women to convince them that their loyalties lie at work and not at home, since working mothers might not be able to afford to spend extra hours doing overtime or other work-related activities which can jeopardize their family. The best way to meet up with all the expectations is to be focused and work super hard. Multitasking will aid you to achieve your goals. Avoid time-wasting, casual internet browsing, gossiping, and long lunches. All these things cause distractions and make you less productive.

    Hire a good house help/nanny  

    When trying to balance a professional career with family, it is advisable to hire someone that will take care of your children. You may decide to employ a house help/nanny or even invite a family member, like your mother/mother-in-law to come around and take care of your kid(s).

    When hiring a help/nanny it is always imperative to do a background check of the person you are bringing inside your home so you wouldn’t end up creating a problem for yourself and for your family. Go for someone that has excellent experience and is adaptable to kids of various age range; caring for newborns and older children who need homework help.

    The house help could cover the necessary functions, such as cooking, laundry, cleaning, and taking care of the children while both parents are at work. It is imperative to show your house help love so they can reciprocate and take good care of your children when you are at work.

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    Find quality creche for you kids

    Using a Creche (for toddlers) is a good way of balancing your work and family for those that do not want to hire a nanny/house-help. There are some inexpensive schools you can enroll your kids, where they will receive proper care. Having them enroll in Creche will give you ample time to focus on your job and grow your career. You and your spouse can reshuffle on how you both can go for school runs. Choosing a Creche is not something you carelessly pick out and move on, the reason being that leaving your child in the care of others is a major act and needs your utmost attention. Before choosing a Creche it is important to take note of their services and leave room for evaluation to be sure they are in good hands.

    Go for online courses

    Getting an education is very important to a lot of women as it enables them to achieve higher leadership positions. Having a successful career has to do with furthering your education, whether through degrees or certifications.

    For this to be feasible, since you are trying to balance your career and that of your family, it is advisable to venture into online professional courses/online Master/PHD courses. Going into online courses will give you sufficient time to take care of your family and also aid in self-development which is a good ladder to enable you climb faster in your career.

    Create a family time

    Making time for your kids is crucial, both during the week and on the weekends, to nurture your family dynamic and allow everyone to bond. Always create family time, like having a family breakfast and family weekend. The family weekend covers going to the movies/amusement parks.  When you are having family time, avoid talking about work or checking your phone. Instead, focus on your kids’ interests by asking questions about their friends, classes, and hobbies. With older children, ask for their activity suggestions and try to meet their needs.

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    Get relevant economic and financial data on Nairalytics

    In conclusion, being a full-time working mother can lead to feelings of guilt and stress because of divided attention between work and family. The key is to be focus on a plan, get organized, and find the right balance between profession and parenthood.

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    Career tips

    Great tips for landing a job during this lockdown

    The coronavirus pandemic has had its impact on job opportunities, but here are some tips for landing jobs.

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    Some tips for landing a job during this lockdown

    The economic lockdown and movement restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on job opportunities. Some of them could be in the form of job losses, getting new jobs, or even changing the way we work.

    Given the unemployment numbers especially in these challenging times, it might be hard not to be apprehensive.

    According to a report from Bloomberg, Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for personal finance website Bankrate.com, said, “It’s important to remember that there is hiring happening. There’s always attrition and individuals leaving for other jobs.”

    Robin Ryan, a career counsellor, said that just a few unemployed people are job hunting at the moment. Most believe that there are no jobs, they can’t be hired, or that only lower-level jobs are available.

    Here are some tips for landing jobs during this lockdown.

    Beat the system: Make a list of your recent jobs and your top accomplishments at each of them. Those are the items that should be on your résumé. To get past automated applicant vetting systems, enter your work tasks—budgeting, project management, graphic design, team leadership, etc.—in the first bullet point under each job. Don’t include extraneous formatting, such as text boxes, tables, footers, or headers, because application software can’t recognize it.

    (READ MORE:Skills Africa needs for sustainable development)

    Assess your prospects: You have to find out if the opportunities in your industry are shrinking. According to Hamrick, “many people fail to see that their skills might apply to a variety of settings.” Consider some of the sectors that have stayed open in the lockdown—finance, real estate, food and other consumer goods, technology, and retail, plus suppliers and distributors for each. If that exercise doesn’t yield much, think about how your skills might help companies sharpen their online business. “There’s a need for people to help facilitate digital transformation,” Hamrick says.

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    Some tips for landing a job during this lockdown

    Hit up recruiters (Recruiting agency firms): Let them help you with your resume and offer suggestions about things you might do to stand out.

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    Use your resources: Companies are filling positions needed to support virtual workers as part of their pandemic strategies. Many company websites might not yet reflect these changes, so try popular online job search websites, type in a company and your city, and you’ll get a better sense of what kind of hiring is going on.

    Network: That friend-of-a-friend who previously ignored you. He’s home now and might be up for a quick Zoom coffee date. Connect with everyone you know in your field. (LinkedIn is good for this.). Those connections build on each other. You can ask mutual acquaintances to introduce you to people who can help and once that happens, you can fix a virtual coffee date. If that goes well, ask for an introduction to a hiring manager or supervisor. You’ve got nothing to lose.

     

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