I met with an idea-stage founder who asked me about fundraising—specifically, when’s the best time, very early on, to start fundraising? He still has a full-time job, and he has a nontechnical cofounder (and he’s nontechnical himself).
The answer is, it depends. Every founder’s situation is different. If you have the right relationships with venture investors, you may be able to raise with just an idea and PowerPoint. If not, think in terms of risk. Idea-stage investors are comfortable with risk, but not unnecessary risk. For example, execution risk is a big one. Ideas are great, but execution separates founders from everyone else. Can the team build the solution? Teams that don’t include a technical leader are viewed as having high execution risk and are less likely to get funded. The next thing investors consider is the market. Is this a painful problem? Is the pool of people experiencing this pain big enough to build a large company around? Painful problems in markets that have the potential to be large are desirable (to investors) because the market demand for a solution can catapult a company to success.
The founder who asked me about this has a great idea and a way to mitigate the market risk. He’s got large potential customers lined up who are willing to sign letters of intent because this problem is so painful. He’s working on the execution risk now by trying to find a technical cofounder.
It’s never too early to raise capital for an idea, but the right time depends on your situation.