Mastering Fundraising as a System, Mistakes vs. Wins, Philosophy vs. Tactics vs. Trust-Building - E278

· Blog,VC and Angels,sustainability,Podcast Episodes English


"The teaser deck should have a money slide that would immediately compel investors to take the meeting. Many people overlook this aspect and end up with lengthy blurbs that leave investors questioning why they should meet. Spend time crafting a concise and captivating blurb and teaser deck that will grab attention and secure the meeting. Save the detailed explanations for the actual meeting itself. Remember, to get the meeting, you need a strong hook from the start." - Shiyan Koh


"Chemistry matters in fundraising. While it's important to focus on raising money for your business, it's equally crucial to understand the person you're partnering with on this journey. Take the time to assess their compatibility by reaching out to other founders they've backed, both successful and unsuccessful ones. Gain insights into what it's like to work with that person. Ultimately, you don't want to find yourself three years into the journey, despising the investor on your board. Building a positive and productive relationship is beneficial for everyone involved." - Shiyan Koh


"Don't be overly sales-oriented, especially if you come from a professional services background like consulting. I've personally experienced this transition from being a consultant to a founder, and I was too quick to provide easy answers. It's important to acknowledge the reality of what's truly challenging in the startup journey. Not everything can be easy; otherwise, it wouldn't be a startup. Be candid and sincere about the genuine difficulties and don't hesitate to admit that you haven't solved them yet." - Jeremy Au


Jeremy Au and Shiyan Koh engage in a valuable discussion on the fundraising process for startups, offering key insights to navigate this crucial aspect of the business. They stress the significance of creating an attention-grabbing blurb and teaser deck that entice potential investors, advising founders to invest time in drafting these materials to secure meetings. The duo suggests focusing on a concise set of 10 slides that cover essential elements such as revenue, traction, team, market problem, solution, and fundraising goals. They caution against going overboard with slide numbers and instead encourage founders to make these slides clear and crisp, rather than perfecting design aesthetics.

The importance of honesty and transparency in fundraising emerges as a recurring theme. Jeremy and Shiyan emphasize the need for founders to refrain from lying or exaggerating, as trust is crucial in building investor relationships. They suggest that founders should be prepared to say "I don't know" when faced with questions, but should also articulate their plan to find answers. Setting milestones is deemed crucial, allowing investors to gauge progress and the startup's ability to deliver on promises. The chemistry between founders and investors is highlighted as a key consideration, prompting founders to investigate potential investors' track records and seek input from other founders they have supported. By internalizing these insights, startups can navigate the fundraising landscape more effectively, fostering trust and increasing their chances of securing funding.


Supported by NodeFlair

NodeFlair is a trusted recruiting partner for startups looking to scale their technology teams. They have a curated pipeline of talent from data scientists to full-stack engineers. Learn about the latest salary trends and benchmark compensation across the region. NodeFlair offers more than 10,000 verified salaried data points completely free to employers. Check out today.


Jeremy Au: (01:08)

Hey, morning Shiyan, or good evening for you since you're in the US. Thanks for taking the time to do this call.


Shiyan Koh: (01:15)

Let's do it. I'm ready.


Jeremy Au: (01:17)

So, Jeff Lonsdale did a shout-out. He said he enjoys our conversations, so shout out to you back there. I think he's not going to tune in for this conversation though because we're going to be talking about fundraising, everyone's favourite topic and since he's a VC, he's probably you're like, oh, I don't need this one. But I think a lot of folks have asked, two separate founders have asked like, hey, I'm trying to get answers to fundraising because I'm struggling, and I thought it was interesting because compared to when I was fundraising 10 years ago, there's so much information now, There are books, there are playbooks, There are audiobooks, right?

Every VC is pumping out articles about what they're looking for or how to do the process better. So I thought it was a kind of an interesting question where I was like scratching my head a little bit, which is like we are going to discuss what value are you going to add to the ecosystem of thought leadership and how to fundraise, but I think it's a super fair question because they asked the question from us, so we should answer it the best we can and with the knowledge that there's Google and there's ChatGPT out there. So, yeah. The first question I have for you and both of us, the person is asking what would you advise founders to do to fundraise?


Shiyan Koh: (02:40)

I mean, we could talk about this for hours, right?


Jeremy Au: (02:43)

It's like we have a 10-hour podcast.


Shiyan Koh: (02:46)

No, but I think there are sort of two lines of inquiry we can go down. So what is tactical, like what should you do tactically to run a good fundraiser? And I think the second one is more philosophical. How do you get your head and the right mindset to do the fundraiser. So I think there's sort of two separate things to do there and so maybe if we start high level and then go down to brass tacks.

I think at the high level, it's a sales process. So you know, what are you selling? Are you communicating that clearly and is it believable? Is it a story that kind of makes sense to people and this doesn't come naturally to most people, it's not like you kind of wake up one morning and you're like, Hey, this is why my thing is the greatest thing since sliced bread and people are just like, oh my God, take my money and they just start throwing money at you. That's just not what happens. It takes work and so you have to think about who's on the other side of the table. What's going on in their head? What are their incentives? What are their priorities? And how does the story that you're telling fit or not fit with kind of what they're looking for? So I think that's really important.

The second thing is, it's a relative game. It's not an absolute game. So you could think that you're the greatest thing since slicing bread, but you need to be the best thing that person has seen, relative to all their other opportunities. So you could have a great opportunity, but if it isn't better than the other things that they're looking at, they're still not going to give you money and I think that's like a hard thing to comprehend at the beginning because obviously, the reason you're working on your business is cause you think it's the greatest thing and you're not spending a lot of time thinking about other people's things, but if you're an investor and you know you have 10 million or a hundred million dollars you still need to allocate to, what you think is the rank order best things that you're seeing and across your portfolio and in that space. So if you've seen 10 social commerce things, is this the best social commerce thing? And even if it is the best social commerce thing, is it better than the logistics thing? So I think you kind of have to frame it in that you need to think in that way, and I would say that a lot of people write decks that are not compelling. They don't make someone say "I need to take this meeting".

That's what you're competing against. You're competing against everyone else who's trying to convince someone to take a meeting, and so I think that's something to just sort of philosophically like why should someone spend time learning more about your business? What is compelling about it is that makes someone go, oh wow, that's interesting. I didn't know that, or I didn't think about it that way. That's a trend that I've never seen play out in this specific thing, or this person has a unique insight on this particular industry and I would say that a lot of people don't do a great job of articulating that or giving people a so what? Why should I care? And that is just like a meta-problem that cannot be fixed by good process, you can run the best process, but if you do a terrible job articulating your story and giving people like a so what, you're not going to get meetings.


Jeremy Au: (06:17)

Yeah. I think what you said resonated with me, the fact that it's a relative dynamic, and I think the objective reality is that at the end of the day, building a startup is hard and failure is the most common state that's going to end up for more startups no matter how good you are. I think the statistic they often use is that in the US, if you receive a seed investment, only one out of 40 seed investments will ever make it become a unicorn, and that's even after the successful fundraiser after they've matched. So it is just a really hard thing to build and so investors are not just judging, which they are relative, but also they are also judging the knowledge that they are going to be wrong, that they are most likely going to be wrong and most of the companies that they eventually pick are going to be failures eventually as well. So there's an interesting gatekeeper and judgment angle that I think honestly makes it something that I didn't appreciate when I was a founder, but now that I'm a VC, I kind of see the other side of the table.

There's a very strong gatekeeping or filtration or judging process. That's not an easy dynamic. Right, and I think, as I said, I think it's a relative dynamic as a result at the end of the day. Right? Like, If you see 40 companies, you're looking for the best, one of the 40. Right, and if you look out of a thousand, you're looking for the best, the number one or number two of the 1000. Right, but from the other side, from a founder's perspective, it's like nobody wants to be one out of 1000. Right. Or the 39 or 40. Right. It just sucks. Right. So I kind of get the frustration, but I don't know, is this, I don't know the duality of what you said, right, the relative competition versus the how hot the business is, and I don't know.


Shiyan Koh: (08:08)

Well, also just like not every business needs to raise money. Yeah, that's just because you're not raising money doesn't mean you're a bad business. It might not be a venture backable business and then also, people don't like this, so people don't like to be told this, but I think the great clarifying thing is what does it take to get to a hundred million a year revenue business in seven years? So if you think the average life of a fund is 10 years, okay, can you imagine what it takes to go from zero today? Let's say it's early stage or maybe like a million dollar stage to a hundred million in revenue and what would you have to believe for that to be true? Yeah, and I think if you just sort of think about that, there's a reason why only one in 40 make it to unicorn status cause it's pretty hard. Yeah. It's not an easy endeavour that people have signed up for and if you don't think there's a credible explanation for how you're going to get there, like if you can't come up with it yourself, it's pretty hard to expect a VC to come up with it.


Jeremy Au: (09:20)

Yeah. There's the big assumption, right? Which is that for fundraising tactics to work, he assumes that there is a credible, logical kind of objective, like you said, right? Set of steps. There's, I don't know, what's it rigorous, I don't know what you would call it, but there is a path for you to get to the hundred million dollar path, right? And I think if you have a product that doesn't work right and you just can't build it at the end of the day, or you're building for a problem that doesn't exist as a problem, then you know, no amount of fundraising tactics can help you get there.


Shiyan Koh: (09:58)

Yeah, but I mean, I think that's the reality, right? And so like, I think we need to try to exist in reality and it's okay if your business doesn't have that characteristic because lots of businesses don't, and they're perfectly fine businesses, but it just means that they need to raise money in a different, Right, and maybe it's angel money. Maybe it's bank financing. There are other ways to do it, but like, I think we can't like to fool ourselves, but yeah, but everyone takes it personally because it's like if you don't want to fund their business as like telling them that their child is not cute, which you know, Is like highly offensive, cause my children are the on earth.


Jeremy Au: (10:54)

So are mine and we can both agree that your child is cutest to you, and my child is the cutest to me. So how do we agree?


Shiyan Koh: (11:00)

Of course. Right. So I think that's like, the sort of meta kind of problem you were like trying to wrap your head around. You're trying to basically like sell the dream. You're saying like, Hey, this is why the future is going to look like this and here's why I'm going to make the future look like this and then there's this sort of tactical stuff, which we can talk about next if you want, Jeremy.


Jeremy Au: (11:19)

Yeah, I guess I still want to double click on that, right? Which is like, how to avoid making it personal. Right. I think the best founders that I've met kind of treat the fundraising conversation, not just a pitch and sale. Also actually a little bit of a brainstorming session, right? Which is like, it's a bit of a two-way learning cycle, right, and so they ask questions like, Hey, what are the patterns that you see in this category? Right? I'm trying to figure out whether I want to go direct sales or, partner with the model. Like how would I think about a problem I don't think it works for every VC, right? Not every VC has, a lot of experience or operating experience, but I think I see like the best founders kind of have that, I don't know, what's the word? It's not just a pitch, right? I don't know what you call it.


Shiyan Koh: (11:59)

That's a conversation.


Jeremy Au: (12:03)

It's a conversation, right? Like how do we build it together to get there?


Shiyan Koh: (12:09)

I think If you can get somebody, you can get someone to dream alongside you, that's usually a great sign, right? Because you're kind of firing up their imagination and they're getting excited about what it could be and that's like, you can kind of imagine all the paths, right? So I guess an example I always give is like, right when I was an associate, my fund invested in Twitter, right, and years later I was asked about this investment when interviewing for a different investment job and they asked me the question, well, how did you value it? And I was like, well, the company didn't have any revenue. Was the period of the failed whale and, to be honest, the valuation is determined by what is the least you can pay and still win the deal. It's a supply and demand problem. Right? And so then the question is like, well, what's the demand for the deal?

What do people believe about it that they would bid on it, and on one hand you can be like, who cares about what you ate for your breakfast? Or who people are tweeting, like random things, whatever it is, but you could imagine like when you saw all that engagement, you could imagine all the different ways they could monetize it. Done anything yet, of course, right? But you could be like, oh, I could imagine a sponsored tweet. I could imagine a subscription. I could imagine like, basically you would imagine like 20 different ways that if you had this much user engagement and this much traffic, you could monetize it, right, and people could imagine and so I think that's a little bit what you need people to do with you is like, it kind of clicks where you're like, oh, wow, if people are already doing this and the product is so janky, remember the failed wheel, and they're creating their things along with it. Like they made up the hashtag, they made up the ad sign, all these sorts of things. You could picture basically how it could grow. So I think firing up people's imagination is always a great part of that conversation.


Jeremy Au: (14:25)

Yeah, and I think the tone then is a little bit different, right? Because I think at the start you say like, it's a sales process, which it is, right? I mean, you're meeting the mechanics of it is like, you got to talk to, look so many VCs, you got to sell them and pictures and so forth but the outcome is not a product, right? Because the, I don't know the end of that thing is this VC joins you and joins your board. Right. Works as a teammate, right? For the next two years, hopefully, a good teammate. Right. And for longer even. Right. So, I don't know. There, there's a, I don't know, what's the word? There's some dissonance.


Shiyan Koh: (15:01)

No, but I think when you say the word sales, I think, you're thinking like, it's not like you're standing at the side of the road and being like, Hey, sunglasses 99 cents. But what is sales? Right? Sales are like, there's a process like, There are leads, yeah there's understanding the customer's potential desires. There's explaining why your product meets their need. There's a close, there's a process that doesn't, it's not like a magical thing like it's well categorized. So that's what I mean by its sales, right? But the best sales, right? Like, think about Apple. The best sales are when you're like, you thought it was your idea that you wanted the new iPhone. They like incepted the thought in your head and so like, I think that's part of this conversation and this sort of making people feel like, yeah, like I'm excited about this. Like I can say why this makes sense. Oh, like this is why customers are using it, or this is the value they're getting out of it. Wow. I had no idea. Or Wow this founder is like incredibly impressive. They talked to a hundred customers. They did X, Y, and Z things. They convinced a senior person from a different, much more established company to come join them. Right? Like, that's all part of the sales process. That's all part of the like what pieces of evidence is this person giving me that they have a higher probability of success than another?


Jeremy Au: (16:42)

Right, and what's interesting is, yeah, you made me reflect that, I was reacting to the word sales in terms of sales, but I think you're describing it more in terms of the process than the mindset, right, of sales. I think I've heard horror stories of founders who mix up those two, right? From my perspective, I think I just heard one recently where a very highly reputable fund and then the founder said, well, I've never heard of your fund and this is the opportunity for you to buy me. Right? And that came across like a pile of bricks, right? Like, it was like neither here nor dare or anywhere. And then, there was a bunch of like, What's the word?


Shiyan Koh: (17:26)

It's like too much bravado, right?


Jeremy Au: (17:29)

Bravado. I think bravado, right? We just, I don't think we're trying to say. Yeah. I think, yeah, I think what, yeah, I think bravado is the word, right? And I think you need to be brave and you need to be courageous, and you need to be factual about business. I don't know. I think people just, people really want to channel their inner Adam Newman, Elizabeth Holmes, I don't know, what's the word?


Shiyan Koh: (17:52)

I don't think those should be, no those people are not in my pantheon of heroes.


Jeremy Au: (18:06)

I don't think it's for most people, but I think there's a real respect that people have and they've told me it's like, how can they raise so much money and why am I not raising so much money? What they must be doing is something magical. What? What about their body language or about is and I don't know, what's the word? There's a bit of a mystique, right? I mean, they watch the shows, right? We crashed, right?


Shiyan Koh: (18:26)

Yeah, but that's like, like 1% of people. That's not what most people do. Right. Like, like, I mean, the reality is like, wait, like when you raise your first round of money, where's it coming from? It's like friends and family. Why? Because they're like, Jeremy, I don't know what you're doing, but you're pretty honest. You're kind of smart. Like, you're going to try hard. Like that's that first rung of belief, right? It's like, I know you, I trust you, like I'm supporting you and then the next rung is like hey, I did something. I made some progress and I need more money to go make more progress you kinda have to go outside your initial circle of people who like, know and trust you and build that same thing, right?

You want to have that feeling, which is like hey, I trust you're going to make reasonable decisions. I trust this is like a good problem for you to solve and some customers want to pay you to solve this for them and that's like, that's what you're trying to convince people of and so like, I don't think it's that like we make it more complicated than it has to be. Right? Which is like, think if your friend came and sold you something what's your decision-making process like? Part of it's like, do I trust this guy? Do they have a track record of delivery? And do I think this is like a good business? That's literally what's happening on the other side, right? It's just that person's job is that they look at like a thousand businesses a year. So they just have a bigger mental catalogue of businesses than, your buddy who is writing your check cause they trust you.


Jeremy Au: (20:03)

Right. Yeah, I think, I think that's it. I agree. I think it's that ladder of trust, right? It's that one step at a time. Right, and I think, I don't know, what's the word? I think Hollywood makes it look easy.


Shiyan Koh: (20:21)

That's why it's Hollywood. It's fiction.


Jeremy Au: (20:25)

It's highly educational. Shiyan, how could, how dare you?


Shiyan Koh: (20:28)

Yeah, but it's like everything is like, I mean, my kids have this book, it's called Someone Had To Build the Dream. It's a book about how like everything in the world that you see, somebody worked hard to make it, like it didn't, just, nothing happened out of thin air, right? Like, oh, you see that cool fountain? Oh, I mean someone dug the trench that had the pipe that brought the water there. Like all that sort of stuff and this stuff is all hard. Like none of it is easy and I don't think we should expect it to be but some of it is straightforward, right? Which is this sort of like, what do I think is believable? Like we're all humans. We kind of know what's believable, right?

Because if someone pitched us we would also ask questions of them. We wouldn't sort of take everything at face value and be like, oh yeah, of course, sounds great. Here's a check. It all takes work and then I think, part of this notion of sales is like, it's pretty hard to turn nos into yeses. So I wouldn't expect a ton of energy on that. I would just go get more leads and I think the other thing about the early stage is like there's a lot of variance in people's beliefs, and there's a high element of personal taste, and so it's like if you go and look at the last 100 venture-backed IPOs, there's not that much overlap in the pree or angels. Right, like you'll see name brand funds in the B and the C, but not in the pre-seed, in the seed.

Because there's so much variance, so, just because someone says no, doesn't mean that it's a bad idea necessarily. It's just that it didn't fit their thesis. It's not the idea for them. They didn't like you. Like, I mean, there are so many things that can be happening, right? And so I think you have to kind of take that into account.


Jeremy Au: (22:37)

Yeah. I think what's interesting is that you're talking about something which is. Need to take into account. Right. What other facts do you think founders don't take into account?


Shiyan Koh: (22:49)

Teachers are wrong a lot. It's just the math of it, right? They're like doing the best they can with the limited information they have and they're going to be wrong a lot and at the end of the day, like, your business better than anyone and so, you can't take that as an indictment necessarily what you're doing, but you should make a backup plan and maybe it won't grow as fast in the early days because you're still figuring it out. It's like people are like, I've spent two years on this idea. I just need to raise a million bucks and then I can build it and you're like, well, what have you been doing for two years? That can't be the thing because it's like you're in a chicken and an egg. Nobody believes you cause you haven't built anything and you're saying you can't build anything until someone believes you. It's like, well you got to come up with a different plan. Right.

It's not going to happen that way for you. But I think you're right. People see movies or they hear stories of people who are like, oh, they sneezed and suddenly 5 million landed in their lab and that's just not actually what happens to most people. Most people have a really hard time. Yeah it's always hard, it's hard to raise money and like, look like we raised a fund. It's hard to raise a fund. We also have to like pitch lots of people. Because we have to convince them. It's like, Hey, like trust us. We're going to help you make money. Like it's the same kind of ladder of belief thing. Right. Some people are like, who are you? You're a first-time fund manager. Why should I give you money? I don't believe your strategy. And other people are like, oh, this strategy is interesting. Okay, I'll take a bet.


Jeremy Au: (24:32)

I think one interesting aspect about that is the VC can be wrong, but it's so, I don't know what the word is. I think there's also a power hierarchy, right? And so sometimes when the VC says what it is, it comes across as more, I don't know, what's the word? Authoritative. Territorial. what's the word? It's like unwelcome advice, right? I don't know. So I think there's something of a bit I've been navigating as well, which is I think I have to be big, fat caveat sticker, which is like, yeah, I could be wrong. There's my point of view. Feel free to triangulate the advice of other people.


Shiyan Koh: (25:12)

Yeah, for sure. I feel like I say that. I feel, say that a lot to people. I say, Hey we're going to be a pass. Here's why but we're off and wrong, and we know it's early. Best of luck yeah, because I think anybody who's taking the step to start a business, I salute you.


Jeremy Au: (25:34)

Well, I think at the start, you mentioned also there's also technical tactical, right? To be thinking about. So why don't we do, like, make this a game? Why don't we take turns, and just give technical advice? Short ones, I don't know, what is it? Tweets. I know tweets can go long these days thanks to Elon Musk, the old tweets, like those short ones and then we'll go, right, okay, I'll go first is create a list of, reach VCs, target VCs and safety VCs, the same way you apply to college and make sure you have that whole list lined up before you go talking to everybody because you want to kind of reach out to them with a certain sequence in mind and you don't want to end on a spot where you're like waiting on a term sheet from someone. Like, and know that you don't want to have one, but you are trying desperately to go and get a term sheet from a dream VC, right? I think the sequence and the listing are quite important. Okay. That's one. Okay. How about you, Shiyan?


Shiyan Koh: (26:31)

I would agree with that one and then spend time writing a good blurb that can be forwarded by your investors to other investors or people that are making intros for you. So basically you made your list that Jeremy said, review it with your existing investors or friendlies and they can give you advice like, Hey, this is not a good person to target because this is totally out their stage, or they don't have money left in this fund, or they have a competitive investment, right? Like, so do that but then they're then ask them to tick. Who can they introduce you to? And then give them a blurb that's like, hi, Joe's Fish Shack sells the best fish sandwiches on the coast. They have a core innovation in fish processing, whatever it is, and they don't have to do any work. They just copy and paste that blurb and they can forward it to the people and be like, do you want a meeting? Right?

So make the blurb has to be hot. The blurb has to be like, yes, I want to take this meeting. In the teaser deck that you send in the blurb, there should be a money slide. Like when you hit the slide and you're like, oh yeah, I want to take this meeting and I feel like a lot of people don't spend a lot of time on this either. The blurb is way too long. So it's like you're reading, you're like, why should I take this meeting? Or the slide has nothing compelling in it, and you're like, again, why should I take this meeting? So actually spend some time drafting the blurb and the teaser deck with the goal of I want to get someone to take this meeting. You could go into long explanations once you're in the meeting, but to get the meeting, there needs to be a hook, to begin with.


Jeremy Au: (28:11)

A hundred percent about that good blurb. I think the deck storyline like you have to cover the fundamentals for the deck. You got to prepare that stuff in advance, which is like, what's your revenue and traction, what's your team, what's your market problem, what the solution is, how much are you looking to fundraise? Like all that stuff. I think it's, honestly, I think some people go crazy and they go like to 30 or 50 slides, but I think it's just like, get those 10 slides clear and crisp. He doesn't need to be the wall's best designer or something like that. I think something people really focus on is design, what are those 10 slides? Nail those 10 slides to make it very clear. It has the dream that you mentioned earlier.

Run it by friends, run it by founders, run it by your existing investors, run it by your angels, but get feedback on those 10 slides and get it, because I don't know, you can't, once you go fundraising with those slides, it's, it's a hassle to start editing them and changing them and all this other stuff and once you mess up your first impression or second impression, it's hard to come back with the updated deck. Right. Straight away.


Shiyan Koh: (29:16)

Yeah, so I might push back a little on this, which is like, I agree with you. You need to like put some effort into your slides, but I think editing is okay because, at every meeting that you take, you're going to get some feedback on what wasn't clear, and so you can continue to amend those things as you kind of get into the swing of telling the story because basically, the story is like totally clear in your head, but not to other people, right? And so as you're in the meeting motion, you can be like, oh, I see that our go-to-market slide is not super clear. People keep getting confused here. Okay, well why don't I like clean that up a little bit before I go to the next round of meetings?


Jeremy Au: (29:58)

Right. No, a hundred percent, and I agree with you. I think it's just that I've seen if it's too far out, then you start burning bridges with your safety VC, right? So you actually want to kind of get it to a certain bar, right? Where at least you've done the practice beforehand. Oh, another tip is to make sure you know who's in charge of the CEO, right? I've seen a lot of co-CEOs for some reason, but please don't have a co-CEO. Or like having very fuzzy team roles and responsibilities. I think that's often understandable. Your pre-product market fits early in your teaming, but as much as possible, like if you can't agree on who CEO, maybe just leave it out entirely and acknowledge that but I think you can't be a quieter yellow flag. Right?


Shiyan Koh: (30:39)

I would agree with that and okay, don't lie. This may sound obvious. But you'd be shocked at how many people kind of lie. Like there'll be people on a customer slide, okay? Now, if you say you have some big brand name as your customer, I'll be like, wow and then I will text my friend who is a senior person at that company and ask, is it true? Do you have a contract with this startup? And more often than not, they're like, we've talked to them, but we haven't had signed anything. Don't lie, be upfront because you lie. That like breaks trust immediately. Right? And the whole goal of this exercise is to build enough trust with someone. So they're going to write you a check. And so don't shoot yourself in the foot, don't lie. Similarly, don't say stuff like, we have a term sheet from X, Y, Z, VC when you don't because it's a pretty small community. And people will check. So, I know people want to put pressure. They're trying to run a process, but don't lie.


Jeremy Au: (31:51)

Yeah. I'll say another one is yeah, assume every logo that you put up there will be checked or can be checked, right? By, I don't know all the VCs out there, the each VC wouldn't check. All the logos, but in the aggregate, any logo that you put out there is going to get checked by the 20 VCs as a group.


Shiyan Koh: (32:12)

Yeah. Here's one. It's okay to say, I don't know. Let's say someone asked you a question. It's okay to say, I don't know, because you know it's early and you're not going to know all the answers in the business. I would rather someone said, I don't know yet, but here's how I plan to answer that question right, versus kind of, blustering and making up some answer. Because the reality of startups is like you just don't know a lot of stuff right, it's more important that you have a plan to learn how to know than that you pretend that you know everything.


Jeremy Au: (32:49)

Right. That reminds me of like, when you're fundraising the last slide is about asking, right? And a lot of people say like, okay, we're going to spend $2 million on these things, right? And I think the better way to do it is like, Hey, we're going to spend these $2 million to prove these things, right? The experiment, right? This is the hypothesis that we have and this is the ladder that we talked about to get to a hundred million in revenue within seven years and so we need these three things to be true. Right, and I believe it's true today and I'm going to prove that it's true in the next two, two years with this amount of money. So it's less about the number of engineers or the sales, cause I think that's how they think about the use of money, but more like what's the use of the money to prove that trajectory.


Shiyan Koh: (33:32)

The milestones? What are the milestones associated with the race? I ask this question all the time and people are like, well, I'm going to spend X, Y, Z dollars. I was like no. That's great, but what are you going to do with all those people? What are they going to prove to us? What are the milestones? Right, and it's like, okay, well the key thing to prove in our fish processing technology is that we can get it to last 180 days in a warehouse and still taste just as delicious. So we're going to prove that because we're going to export to China, we're going to sign three distribution agreements, whatever it is, that's the key to the distribution, and we're going to start r and d on crab processing, new product line, whatever. It's, but yeah, I agree. Having milestones is super, super useful.


Jeremy Au: (34:20)

I think one would be don't be too salesy, and this may be more like if you come from some professional services like consultants. I went through the experience, right when I was a consultant, becoming a founder, I was too glib, right? Too fast for the answer. See if they make sense, right? It's like as if everything's easy, everything is like going to be like smooth, and you're like, no, like a startup's going to be hard, right? And so, like, let's talk about what the real, acknowledge the reality of what's actually tough, right? If it's easy, you can say it's easy. Like not everything can be easy, otherwise, it's not a startup, right? There's something hard. So be frank and honest about what's hard, actually hard, and then not, don't be afraid to show that, you're not saying that you solve it yet. I think that's what consultants often are, train, right? It's like everything is solved, everything's done. That's not really how founders, that's not the right mindset, I think, for a builder. Yeah.


Shiyan Koh: (35:12)

I'm with you there.


Jeremy Au: (35:16)

Last one from you?


Shiyan Koh: (35:27)

I think chemistry matters in fundraising. So like, you can get focused on raising the money cause that's what you, and your business need, but I would like. As you get further down the process, also spend time to like, understand what this person would be like on the journey with you and so that's like calling other founders that they've backed, not just the ones who went well, but also the ones who went badly and getting a sense of what was like to work with that person. Because I think that's ultimately you don't want to be like three years into the journey and you like to hate the investor on your board, like doesn't do anyone any good.


Jeremy Au: (36:10)

Yeah, that's true. Well, on that note thank you so much for sharing that. Yeah, see you next week.


Shiyan Koh: (36:16)

Go raise all the money, and get your bags.


Jeremy Au: (36:19)

Crush it. Yeah.