Startups ask me “How much money should I ask for?” The simple answer is the absolute minimum amount you need to make your plan work. Some entrepreneurs try to start with a huge number, hoping they can negotiate and close on a smaller one, while others understate their requirements, in hopes of getting their foot in the door with an investor.
Neither of these strategies is a good one, as both are likely to damage your credibility with potential investors, even before they look hard at your plan. Here are the parameters you should use in sizing your request, and be able to explain in justifying your request to investors:
1. Consider implied ownership cost
If your company is early stage and has a valuation under $1M, don’t ask for a $5M investment. The investor would be buying your company five times over, and he doesn’t want it. If your valuation is around $1M, you can validly ask for $200K-$300K, and offer 20%-30% of your company in exchange.
2. Type of investor
Angel investment groups usually won’t consider a request over $1M, while venture capitalists won’t look at anything under $2M. Amounts of $100K or less, are usually relegated to “friends and family.” Approaching any one of these groups with a funding request outside their range is a waste of your time and theirs.
3. Company stage.
If your company is still in the “idea” stage, you have no valuation, so size your investment request on the basis of “goodwill” that you have with your rich uncle, and your business track record. Angels might be interested during “early stage” if you have a prototype, but VCs won’t bite until you have a product, customers, and revenue.
4. Calculate what you need, and add a buffer.
Do your financial model first with the volume, cost, and pricing parameters you want. See where your cashflow bottoms out. If it bottoms out at minus $400K, add a 25% buffer, and ask for $500K funding. The request size must tie into your financials to be credible.
5. Investment terms
The most common case is an equity investment, but there are many terms that can impact what request size is credible. I’m talking about things like anti-dilution clauses, preferred versus common stock, valuation tied to later round, warrants, and bridge loan options. More restrictive terms reduce the credible investment amount.