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Venture Capital

How Giraffe Played The VC Game (And Won Funding)

Local start-up Giraffe has accomplished what many entrepreneurs would consider impossible: Not only did it win the Seedstars World’s Best Global Startup Award, it has also secured funding from Silicon Valley VC firm Omidyar Network. Here’s how the founders have managed it.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Players: Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha
  • Company: Giraffe
  • Established: 2015
  • Background: Giraffe is a fully-automated mobile recruitment agency service that enables businesses to recruit medium-skilled workers quickly and affordably.
  • Visit: giraffe.co.za

Most start-ups would kill for the sort of trajectory Giraffe has enjoyed over the last 18 months. Since launching early in 2015, the company has enjoyed solid growth and traction, received some great PR, walked away with an international award and managed to secure funding from a Silicon Valley VC firm.

This is all incredibly impressive, and there’s no doubt that most start-ups would love to emulate Giraffe’s success. So how have company founders Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha managed to get the whole world talking about Giraffe? Here’s their advice on attracting VCs to your start-up.

Related: Giraffe Sticks Its Neck Out For Job Seekers

Solve a real problem

“We looked at the South African landscape and identified unemployment as a real problem. Then we asked ourselves how we could use technology to address and remedy the problem in the short term, if not solve it,” says Anish Shivdasani.

“We did this for two reasons: Firstly, we felt that there was a certain obligation to try and solve a real problem that the country was dealing with. Secondly, we realised that by looking at an emerging-market problem, it was not something that Silicon Valley start-ups would be looking at. We wouldn’t be competing with large and well-funded companies.”

So what does Giraffe do? Essentially, it allows jobseekers to upload a CV to the company’s mobi site for free. When employers need to hire, they simply submit a staff request at www.giraffe.co.za and algorithms sort through the thousands of CVs in the database and automatically identify, contact and schedule interviews with relevant candidates.

“We wanted to make the hiring process as easy and hassle-free as possible, both for employers and jobseekers. This meant coming up with an innovative solution. We created a system that allowed a CV to be completed quickly, but that didn’t require a lot of text. The system navigates a jobseeker through various options, ascertaining his or her skills and experience. So you don’t need to deal with hard-to-understand text,” says Shivdasani.

Lesson: Come up with a truly innovative product or service, and you’ll find that funding isn’t nearly as hard to come by as people often say. Build a solid company that addresses a real problem, and funding will find its way to you. 

Bootstrap as much as possible

seedstars-winner-giraffe

Unless you’re a hot Silicon Valley start-up with unicorn potential, you’re unlikely to attract funding until you’ve shown some traction.

Shivdasani and Anwarsha didn’t even think about funding during the early days of Giraffe. “We were focused on getting the platform and the business going,” says Shivdasani. “We had put our own money into the business and managed to give ourselves 12 months of runway. For that period, we didn’t give any thought to VCs and funding.”

“We also found that VCs will usually be reluctant to invest if you haven’t bootstrapped for a while,” adds Anwarsha. “They want to see that your company has some traction, and they want to see that you’re invested — that you’ve put your own money into the business and that you are committed to making it work.”

Lesson: Bootstrapping your business is a good idea. The best way to build a sustainable company is to spend as little money as possible up-front and get cashflow-positive as quickly as possible. Depending on funding for survival is risky. What if the money falls through? Create a business that can sustain itself. Rely on funding only for scaling.

Related: South African Venture Capital Company Launches To Help Local Start-Ups Take Off, Globally

Let the money come to you

“While we bootstrapped early on, we also met with investors. These were mostly people we had been put in contact with via our own personal networks,” says Shivdasani. “Importantly, we never asked for money. In fact, to this day, we haven’t asked for money. We simply introduced ourselves to investors and placed Giraffe on their radar.”

By introducing potential funders to the company, but not asking for money, the founders of Giraffe let the company’s performance speak for itself.

“We simply stated our intentions when we met with investors. When we saw them again six or twelve months later, we could tell them that we had followed through on our plans. We had attained some real traction, which made us worth investing in,” says Anwarsha.

Lesson: It is a stark reality of the start-up scene that the companies without much of a need for funding are usually the companies that attract it. This is hardly surprising. Investors want to fund companies with growth potential, not start-ups struggling for survival. So, focusing too much on attracting investment can be counter-productive. Instead, get the fundamentals right. Build a sustainable business. If you do that, the money will eventually come to you.

Don’t underestimate the value of PR

“While working together in the boardroom, I received an email from SeedStars to take part in the South African leg of its global start-up competition,” recalls Anwarsha.

“Anish told me to forget about the mail and get back to work. We were very careful not to be distracted from our primary goal of building the company, but I was keen to give it a try. Anish said it was okay, but there was one condition: Make sure you win.” Anwarsha did win, and it had a profound and immediate impact on the company.

“Until that moment, we had underestimated the impact that good PR could have,” says Shivdasani. “I was interviewed by John Robbie on 702 for a few minutes. Suddenly our servers were being overrun with new jobseekers and employers. It made us realise that entering things like start-up competitions is a good idea because of the PR it can generate.”

Lesson: Marketing can be useful, but nothing compares to great PR when trying to introduce your start-up to the world. Winning a start-up competition — of which there are no shortage these days — is a good way to do it. Another is to contact media houses and pitch your story. It’s important, though, to focus on the problem you are solving. Journalists are particularly interested in companies that are either innovative, or working at solving social issues.

Don’t just take the money

venture-capital-advice

It’s very hard to say no to VC money, but before you grab anyone’s cash, it’s worth taking a moment to consider the long-term implications.

“It’s important to get on with the people who will be investing in your company. You need to be able to work with them. We were approached by another investor as well, but we ended up going with Omidyar Network — who had approached us after we won the local SeedStars event — because the firm was asking the right questions. They grilled us hard, but we realised that as an impact investor, they could bring value to the business,” says Anwarsha.

Giraffe has also been careful in how much investment it has actually accepted.

“After winning the local SeedStars competition, I travelled to Switzerland to represent Giraffe in the global event,” says Anwarsha. “To my complete surprise, I won. It was a surreal experience.”

The prize came with a maximum investment from SeedStars of $500 000, but Giraffe was reluctant to take it.“We had already closed a round of funding and had enough runway for at least 18 months,” says Shivdasani.

Lesson: Equity in a start-up can be cheap, and many founders have kicked themselves for giving away too much too soon. That’s why it’s important to keep operating with that bootstrapping mentality, even if you’ve received some investment. You want money to last as long as possible. The less money you need, after all, the less of your company you need to give away.

Related: Is Your Business Fundable? Venture Capitalist Clive Butkow’s Shares His Priceless Insights

Take note

If no one is willing to invest in your idea, you should take another careful look at it. Focus on solving a real problem and the money will usually follow.

 

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

Venture Capital

3 Mistakes To Avoid When Running A Crowdfunding Campaign

There are plenty of Cinderella stories but also just as many cautionary tales out there. How to make yours the former, not the latter.

Roy Morejon

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When Retro Computers turned to Indiegogo for crowdfunding, it promised $100-level funders a handheld gaming device called the Vega+. With promises from the company that the device would come equipped with more than 1,000 games, the console quickly gained a following, and more than 3,600 people pledged $100 each to receive one.

The successful campaign gained U.K.-based Retro Computers more than half a million dollars.

But when the time came for those backers to receive the handheld devices, Retro Computers wasn’t able to deliver. Legal battles and production issues caused hiccups. The promised September 2016 delivery came and went. Users began getting upset – more and more publicly.

Finally, after unwanted media attention and, just this month, a lawsuit, Indiegogo intervened. The crowdfunding platform announced on June 6 that it was siccing debt collectors on Retro Computers in an effort to reimburse its donors.

Despite that tale of woe, entrepreneurs can’t ignore the potential of crowdfunding. Kickstarter has hosted nearly 150,000 successful projects, raising $3.7 billion since 2009, and Indiegogo has raised more than $1.5 billion since 2008. Done correctly, crowdfunding could provide the perfect building block for your next venture.

The ups and downs of crowdfunding

Crowdfunding’s popularity is not all hype. It can yield benefits beyond financial backing, helping your company build a loyal customer base and establish credibility before you’ve even launched. But you can’t just set up a Kickstarter page and watch the money roll in. The right strategy is essential to reap the rewards.

Pebble shows how it can and should be done. One of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns of all time, the company raised more than $20 million from 78,000 backers – exceeding its goal by 4,068 percent. Pebble turned that consumer confidence into more than 2 million sales of its smartwatch and was ultimately bought out by Fitbit.

Related: CrowdFunding As E-commerce In South Africa

But when it comes to crowdfunding, there’s more to consider than whether your project will meet its fundraising goals. Even a successful campaign without serious forethought and planning can encounter challenges that will sink a business before it gets off the ground.

Coolest Cooler, on the other hand, might be one of the most disastrous campaigns in Kickstarter history. The company raised $13 million, but it wasn’t prepared to operate in the wake of such success. Coolest Cooler couldn’t fulfill rewards for its 62,642 backers.

Remember: It’s not just about hitting the goal. Even in successfully funded projects, 9 percent fail to deliver on promises to backers. That’s a hard hurdle to overcome in the beginning stages of any new business.

Campaign mistakes to avoid

It’s easy to think of crowdfunding as easy money, but campaigns should be hard work if you’re doing them correctly. If you want to start your project on the right foot, avoid these common mistakes:

1. Kicking off without leads in place

Crowdfunding campaigns have short time lines. What’s more, campaigns rely on a momentum of interest. You’re going to have difficulty hitting your goal if you don’t have leads in place ready to back your campaign on day one. Not gathering enough leads before launching is the problem partially to blame for nearly every failed project.

Set up a landing page ahead of time describing your product and promoting your upcoming project. Include a contest in which people can enter their email address for a chance to win your product. This will give you a list of already interested folks to reach out to the day you launch your campaign.

2. Ignoring Facebook for potential conversions

Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have large audiences, but if you rely solely on the backers already there, you probably won’t hit your goal.

So, look elsewhere. Facebook advertising is one of the most cost-effective ways to reach a highly targeted group of people that is likely to convert.

Consider the PEEjamas Kickstarter campaign, which my company mounted. That project hit its $14,000 goal early on, but my company wanted to see how far we could go. Funding increased from around $26,000 when we started the ads, to $227,469 by the time the campaign closed. I highly recommend working with a team of Facebook Ads specialists who can make the most of your ad budget.

Related: The Dangers Of Crowdfunding With Coolest Cooler Founder Ryan Grepper

3. Failing to consider scale

You might have a goal in mind, but what happens if you exceed it? Is your business model scalable? Are you going to be able to fulfill rewards? Don’t be Retro Computer or Coolest Cooler.

Make sure the price of each of your rewards is sufficient, whether you hit your goal exactly or raise more than you anticipate. Have a plan in place for shipping and fulfillment. Examine your profit margins closely as you set your funding goal, and determine product pricing. Consider factors such as minimum order quantities, manufacturing costs, marketing costs, platform fees, shipping costs and more.

One last thing to consider: Kickstarter and Indiegogo both have a 5 percent use fee and a 3 percent to 5 percent processing fee. Factor this into the goal you initially set.

Platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have broadened the horizons of start-ups and consumers alike, but getting the most value out of crowdfunding requires forethought and planning. There are plenty of Cinderella stories out there but also just as many cautionary tales. Avoid their mistakes to make the most of your fundraising endeavour.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

How This Alternative Funding Solution Can Solve Your Business Growth Problems

Are you struggling to access finance from traditional loan providers? Swype Financial Services has the ideal solution for you.

SwypeFin

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Did you know that SMEs with access to credit can grow faster and achieve optimal size sooner, while those with limited access to finance potentially remain stagnant and smaller in size? This is according to the Finmark Trust study, released in 2016. 

“Working capital is essential for the day-to-day operations of a business,” explains Shayne Burnstein, director of SwypeFin, an alternative funding solutions provider. “More often than not, business owners lack sufficient working capital to meet their daily cash flow requirements or expand their operations. This can ultimately lead to the failure of the business.

“It’s common for a business to borrow capital and by using the basic principles of leverage, they can invest in assets that generate higher returns.”

Working capital when you need it most

Are you currently experiencing cash flow constraints due to:

  • Unforeseen expenses
  • Purchasing more inventory
  • A need for new equipment
  • Revamps and refurbishments
  • Employing more staff
  • General maintenance
  • Retail seasonality. 

Related: Attention Black Entrepreneurs: Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds

Growth capital can be used in any industry and any-sized business, from a dentist or doctor’s business to a clothing manufacturer. “Advancements in 3D printing technology enable dentists that historically relied on outsourcing a technician to make dental crowns, for example,” says Shayne.

“This process typically takes a few weeks at a considerable cost. By borrowing capital to purchase 3D printing equipment, the dentist can bypass the technician and make the crown in an hour, allowing them to see more patients, which would significantly increase their turnover.

“As a business owner, you need to critically consider what will help you grow your business: Is it new equipment, bigger premises or marketing spend? What can you invest in that will grow your turnover and your profit margins? That’s where financing makes sense.”

Revenue is vanity. Profit is sanity. Cash is reality

As business owners themselves, Swype Financial Services understand how critical cash flow is in the daily operations of your business. They also understand the challenges in trying to access funds to address immediate cash constraints. 

“Currently retailers are trading under very challenging conditions. With VAT and the price of petrol increasing, consumers have tightened their belts,” says Shayne. “Under these conditions suppliers are offering retailers trade discounts for COD payments. It often makes sense for them to borrow the capital to take advantage of the trade discounts, enabling the retailer to increase their margins.”

What services do SwypeFin provide?

  • Quick and simple access to capital without providing collateral security
  • Flexible repayment terms
  • An upfront fixed fee with no penalties for early settlement. 

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

How does the process work?

SwypeFin purchase a portion of your future sales and provide you with an upfront cash advance. The amount that they purchase, of your future sales, is collected by taking an agreed fixed percentage of your daily sales (There is no fixed term or fixed instalment).

To apply, your business must be registered and owner-operated for a minimum of 12 months and have a minimum of R50 000 in turnover per month.

How to apply?

Call Swype Financial Services to book an appointment on 087 135 3020 or visit www.swypefin.co.za for more information.

Please note that Swype Financial Services do not finance start-up businesses.

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Venture Capital

Venture Capital 101: The Ultimate Guide To The Term Sheet

Make sure you get guidance from a legal team that is specialised in commercial and start-up law from the start.

Ya-Fan Wong

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The importance of a term sheet in the context of raising funds through venture capital should not be overlooked. If you think of the ongoing relationship between you and the investor as a marriage, then you can think of the term sheet as the antenuptial agreement.

The term sheet is the document that outlines the terms by which an investor (angel or institutional), will make a financial investment in your company. The term sheet is crucial as it usually determines the final deal structure with your investor – it outlines the terms by which your investor will make a financial investment in your company.

Finding an investor can be complex and time consuming. Once you’ve found one with the right strategies and values, you may be tempted to rush through negotiations to access the promised cash injection. There can be serious ramifications if the details of the deal are not negotiated on a level playing field, and this is where the importance of a term sheet comes in.

A term sheet exposes the bare bones of the fundamental commercial terms of the investment. Due to its concise nature, the involved parties are less likely to miss essential details.

The term sheet

The term sheet is intended solely as a summary of terms for discussion and agreement between the parties. Except for the confidentiality provisions, nothing should create any legally binding obligations on the part of the parties until they execute the definitive written agreements, obtain all the corporate and legal approvals, and successfully close the deal by meeting all the conditions precedent.

The advantage of the term sheet in this respect is that it expedites the investment process by outlining the material terms and conditions, and guides legal counsel in the preparation of the proposed final agreements. It also allows you and your investor to get to grips with the terms quickly and provide input from each of your unique perspectives.

Related: The Truth About Venture Capital Funding

What to look out for in a term sheet

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Valuation

Your investor will place a valuation on your start-up company based on, among other things, comparisons to other companies in the marketplace and recent transactions. It is common to set the valuation of the start-up company as a “pre-money” valuation (i.e. the value of the company before the investors in the funding round participate). This is, however, not always the case – so be sure to get clarity on this, as investing pre-money or post-money can make a big difference in the equity stake you are giving away in your company.

If the parties are not in agreement about the valuation of the company, consider making provisions for claw-back provisions in favour of the start-up company or payment by the investor in tranches, which will be determined as and when the company’s audited financial statements indicate its valuation.

Type of shares offered to the investor

You will want to understand the type of shares you are giving away to the investor in return for the investment. Will you be giving the investor ordinary shares or preferred shares? Large investors are often only concerned with two things: Control and economics. As such, investors will often insist on acquiring a separate class of preferred shares which entitles them to fixed returns, the payment of which often takes priority over ordinary share dividends.

Liquidation preference

This is what is used to determine how the money is shared once the liquidity event happens. The preferred shares might have a liquidation preference of 1x the ordinary shares. That means that when the company is sold, the preferred shareholders will be paid first and then the ordinary shareholders.

As a start-up founder, you need to know what you are promising your investor.

Related: Is Venture Capital Right For You?

Employee share ownership

These are shares which are set aside to be issued to employees, advisors and others during the investment round. Having available shares for this purpose is important, as they are needed to bring in new talent. This pool of shares is typically part of the pre-money valuation of the business. You need to understand this concept because these shares can dilute pre-money shareholdings.

Founder vesting

The vesting period for founder shares is ordinarily three to four years. From an investor’s point of view, they want to make sure that you, as the founder and key members of the management team, are locked in and stay invested in the company.

It’s worth noting that many of the vesting provisions are subject to the founder meeting pre-determined performance milestones and continuously adding value to the company. After all, the investor took interest and invested in the venture because they believed in the founder team.

Anti-dilution

This is an important provision to look out for as it protects the investor’s investment if the start-up company raises an additional round of funding at a lower valuation.

Your investor may allude to this in the term sheet and require you to include an anti-dilution clause in the final agreements. Venture capital investors take significant capital risks and they will always seek to minimise their investment risk however they can. It’s important that you understand the effect of anti-dilution clauses on both future capital raisings, as well as your interests generally.

Raising venture capital is a crucial, and often fragile, step in any start-up business’ journey to success. Make sure you get guidance from a legal team that is specialised in commercial and start-up law from the start.

Read next: A Comprehensive List Of Angel Investors That Fund South African Start-Ups

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