Any start-up company will tell you that one of their primary concerns is how to raise capital.
The truth is there is more than one way to pitch to investors and venture capitalists. When I opted to flip tradition on its head, I was able to secure over $500k in capital for my company.
Rewind to 2016 when The Room Xchange was born. Designed as a new solution to housing affordability, The Room Xchange is a platform that unlocks millions of unused spare rooms to create housing stock. It connects Hosts with a spare room with Guests who undertake agreed hours of domestic help each day in Xchange for food and accommodation. No money is exchanged between Host and Guest.
We believed in the concept so strongly that we re-mortgaged our house and used the funds to establish the brand and prove the concept. Following a successful year, we decided to embark on a capital raise to take the company to the next level.
I spent 2017 presenting at small boardroom investor meetings and at Wholesale Investor events across Australia sometimes with as many as 400 investors in a room. The process gave me confidence in my company structure and financial forecast. It allowed me to hone my pitch and make valuable contacts (along the way I collected hundreds of business cards). But it did not secure the investment.
The sharing economy
A problem I faced was that I found many investors favour tangible investments such as property, minerals and technology. Start-up companies operating in the sharing economy can struggle to cut through.
I started to wonder how an entrepreneur could convey the full value of their enterprise in just 10 minutes to investors who may not yet fully appreciate concepts like social impact and the sharing economy.
I began to see that the people who would invest in us might not be traditional investors. The sharing economy remains a relatively new concept and one that doesn’t own any assets; it shares them. Social impact can often be misunderstood for social welfare, although it’s not.
The relationship between a start-up founder and its investors is often compared to a marriage. I realised that I needed to get people in a room whose values and investment goals were aligned with mine. I also wanted an opportunity to illustrate the societal value of The Room Xchange by inviting speakers from government, industry and entrepreneurs.
A new way to find investors
So after months of pitching, many offers but no capital yet secured, I changed tack. I abandoned the notion of pitching exclusively to investor groups, and decided to work with my business advisors and PR team to host a unique launch event.
The event went for three hours. It was thought-provoking, personable, engaging and fun. We streamed it live and had a Twitter feed on two monitors showing the engagement from the audience.
We had a full room with people spilling out into the hall. Attendees included media, influencers, government and investors who had been following me for some time. Drinks were flowing, food was enjoyed and we were in a pub in South Melbourne not a boardroom.
I also had the opportunity to share our vision, mission and mandate for more than 10 minutes.
Overnight I received four initiations from VC funds who attended. Thundering Herd was one of them. Within just a few days after the event, they had offered to raise the capital and we committed. A few months later, the money was banked and now we’re in full swing.
What I learned from this and what I’ll take with me in the future is that there’s more than one way to pitch. If your brand does not fit the traditional mould, then don’t go down that path.
Find the people who will believe in your vision and present it to them in a way they will relate to. It doesn’t have to be a boardroom. Ours was in a pub.
It’s 2018 and we’ve successfully raised our first round. Our primary focus for this year is building. Building the technology, building the user base and building our partnerships. We’re rolling out across Australia and with registrations already in over 35 countries, the international market won’t be that far off.