When you’re raising a seed round you’ll want to optimize your process by focusing on the right investors at the right time. Here’s the key differences between the three groups you’ll encounter: Large VCs, Seed Funds and Angel Investors.
The size of investment you can expect from each investor in your seed round.
Angel Investors — $10k — $250k. Angel investors usually can’t follow on in later rounds. Plus, if you’re raising $1M+, don’t try to raise it all from angels, as investor management can become a problem with large groups.
Seed Funds — $50k — $1.5M. Larger seed funds can follow on but smaller funds will behave like angel investors. Larger seed funds may want to lead a round and some have minimum ownership requirements for an investment. Good seed funds can often bring coinvestors to finish a round.
Larger VCs — $3M — $15M. VCs with an active fund $200M+ are expected to follow on, it can be a negative signal if they don’t. Due to ownership requirements and their fund size, large VCs investing at the seed stage will want the entirety of a round and won’t usually be interested in rounds less than $3M. VCs often walk away if they can’t get the ownership they want.
The steps an investor will want to complete before making an investment.
Angel Investors — The process from introduction to money-in-the-bank should take 2 weeks or less. Most will want to meet twice, at least once in person, with any other questions being answered over email. Approach angel investors early in your fundraising as it’s often helpful to get momentum in the round with smaller checks on a convertible or SAFE note.
Seed Funds — A seed fund process is usually 1–4 weeks, although demand in the round can speed things up. You can expect to meet one partner first and then the rest if they’re interested. Most seed funds have a lightweight diligence process across product, projections and references. Seed funds are usually comfortable with notes but be prepared for a potential lead to want a priced round.
Larger VCs — Budget 1–3 months to go through a VC process. VCs usually invest in someone they know but shorter timelines are possible if the round is competitive. Most VCs have a 3-stage meeting process: Step 1) You meet one partner alone. Step 2) You meet several team members to socialize the deal. Step 3) You have a full partner meeting presenting to everyone on the investment team. VC diligence processes are in-depth and often involve numerous checks on the financials, projections, founders, customers and technology. In addition, you should expect legal costs above $10k, as a large VC will want to price the round.
The time commitment and accountability expectations each investor will have, once the money is in the bank.
Angel Investors — The time they spend depends entirely on the investor and isn’t necessarily correlated to check size. Be sure to ask an angel, during the process, how they help their companies post-investment. Angel investors almost never take board seats and rarely have any control over the company. You can ask your angels for introductions when the next round comes but don’t expect much more than that.
Seed Funds — If the check size is above $500k, you can expect a formal time commitment, usually a board will be formed but some may only want regular meetings. The partners of these firms are supposed to help their companies, so put them to work. Seed funds are often measured by their success rate in getting companies to the next round; they should be very helpful when the time comes.
Larger VCs — Will usually want to form a board and meet at least once monthly. You should make sure the board is 3 people, 2 cofounders at the seed stage. When you form a board with a VC be aware, they may remove you if the company underperforms. If your VC doesn’t lead the next round themselves, they should be heavily involved in finding a good alternative.
Finding the right investor is hard enough, so make sure you’re presenting your startup appropriately to each type of investor. If you understand the difference between seed investors, it will be much easier to get them all interested.
This article is part of a series on Seed Fundraising.
1. When to Raise Money
2. How to Build a Deck
3. VCs vs. Seed Funds vs. Angels
4. How to Get a Meeting
5. How to Request an Introduction
6. How to Get Early Momentum
7. How to make a Good Pitch Great
8. The 5 Most Common Pitch Mistakes
9. Meeting Requirements
10. The Basics of Meetings
11. How to Handle an Angel Investor Meeting
12. Know these Numbers for your VC Meeting
13. 4 Investor Gotcha Questions
14. How to Follow-Up After an Investor Meeting
15. How to Close the Lead Investor
16. The 4 Stages of a VC Process
17. How to Raise a $2 Million Seed Round
18. Go from Investor YES to Cash in Hand
19. When Investors Say Yes but Mean No
20. When and When Not to Use an Investors Name
21. Stop Making These Common Fundraising Mistakes
22. How to Avoid Bad Terms that Kill Startups
23. What to do After Receiving a Term Sheet
24. Term Sheet Problems Part 1 — Money Talks
25. Term Sheet Problems Part 2 — Boardroom Blues
26. Term Sheet Problems Part 3 — Side Letters
27. 10 Traits of Successful Founders
Sterling Road invests in pre-seed B2B startups based in North America. Full process here: sterlingroad.com/process.
You can reach me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Kaego Rust, Sean Byrnes and David Smooke for reading drafts of this.