You Can’t Raise Capital Like a Unicorn If You Aren’t Building a Unicorn

I chatted with a founder who’s building an interesting company. He’s crystal clear about what he wants. He realizes the market he’s going after is small and doesn’t aspire to building a $1 billion company. He’s looking to build one that does $10 million in recurring revenue.

Not all founders want to build a unicorn, and not all companies are solving problems big enough that they could become unicorns. This founder is realistic; he doesn’t have unicorn ambitions.

He raised a few million dollars from investors and accelerated hiring significantly in anticipation of revenue growth. Things haven’t gone according to plan, and they’ve missed revenue targets. Given the revenue and growth rate, the team is now too big. Translation: the company is burning cash too fast.

The founder said he plans to raise more capital if revenue growth doesn’t accelerate. I was surprised. He wants to build a $10 million company but is thinking about raising capital as if he were building a unicorn. Let’s assume he tries to raise another $2 million. A total of $5 million raised to build a $10 million business isn’t appealing to most investors, and his capital raise would likely be difficult. Especially in the macro environment we have now.

I hope this founder can figure out how to grow his revenue. If he can, his company will grow into his current team size. Otherwise, he likely won’t be able to raise capital and may have to reconsider what size team is appropriate for the stage and growth rate of his company.