Venture capital is a powerful tool for entrepreneurship—one that can help overcome some of the numerous challenges of starting and scaling a new business. But the path of deciding if, when, and how to raise early-stage venture capital is navigated most easily by those with past experience, insider knowledge, and the right connections. It's notoriously easy for founders to take wrong turns in their path to successfully finance a company.
The lead author of this Guide, Andy Sparks, raised $17M for his last startup—having failed to secure any funding for his first company. He’d moved to Silicon Valley without a network, and spent the next four years piecing together how fundraising works, from hundreds of conversations, countless hours of internet searches, and multiple $900 sessions with lawyers.
Learning how to fundraise doesn’t have to be so painful—or so costly. Anyone aspiring to build a company should have access to the experiences and knowledge of those who have gone before. We’ve pulled together 40 experts—lawyers, founders, and investors—to build a practical Guide that helps founders approach the process with confidence.
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Read a sample section on product-market fit.
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Definition Product-market fit (product/market fit or PMF) refers to the notion that there is a point at which a given market responds so positively to a company’s product that the product “fits” the market’s needs. A precise point at which “fit” has been achieved does not exist. Instead, product-market fit represents a continuum of traction that ranges from absolute clarity that a company does not have product-market fit to maybe they have product-market fit to experts disagree whether they have product-market fit all the way to it’s beyond all doubt they have product-market fit.
danger️️ Even if you’ve negotiated a cap on the portion of your investors’ legal fees you’re responsible for covering, your counsel’s fees can get out of control if you aren’t careful. If your lawyers are arguing about anything meaningful, you should tell them to bring it to you before it goes back and forth between different legal teams more than once.
controversy A warm intro from a close friend or colleague never hurts. But not everyone agrees you need to be close with the person making the intro. So long as the introduction is credible, it can be a good start, even if it’s not necessarily an endorsement.
confusion Not everyone has embraced the pre-seed term, which some consider overly specific and constraining. Until recently, a company’s earliest institutional investors were simply called seed stage firms. Some firms that consider themselves seed-stage will invest pre-product, all the way up to the last check before a Series A round.
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