Once you are over the "I've finally closed my round" hangover and sufficiently rehydrated, you will be pleased to know there is yet more admin to come. Lucky you, right?
Being a founder means being scrappy and getting help when needed - we'll help signpost the things to do (and the MVP of each of course) and what you should outsource.
Having been there and done that, we know all too well that dedicating time upfront to 'housekeeping' straight after the round ensures you can maximise your time on other priorities and avoid having to fight unnecessary fires.
Every company will have its own additional requirements too (ours is reporting to our regulators), but here's our general checklist
Now that you have investors you'll want to share progress with them in a digestible way. Schedule time towards the end of each month to write this. Include financial metrics (cash spent, cash remaining, revenue, etc) and non-financial (key milestones and achievements, asks for support/intros).
Keep this update high-level and make sure it represents what's really going on. Investors know that the early days are tough, don't feel the need to hide this from them. Being open builds credibility.
🌟 Top Tip - Add asks each month based on the problems that are just too big to solve alone and assign them to investors. A good investor will work hard to support you.
It may seem like overkill to create a spreadsheet for you, your co-founder, and one or two investors but it's best to do while you have all the numbers to hand. You will need to refer to this a lot, so this will save you having to dig through emails and PDFs later. It will also help when you issue share options to employees: just add the total option pool and grant details as you go . Yes, jazzy tools exist here but do you need the expense right now?
Whilst we are on the topic, word of caution; you need a valuation for any options that you issue. These need to be approved by your tax authority. In the UK you could attempt this yourself (or ask your accountant to do it cheaply), but in the US you definitely cannot.
🌟 Top tip - you can wait on issuing options. If staff are newly hired, you can agree the number of shares (avoid using percentages) and the vesting schedule, but there's not much hurry if you are still pre-revenue and a year away from anyone vesting.
You need to get a valuation for any options that you issue. These need to be approved by your tax authority.
You now have money and the investors who gave it to you will want to know what you are doing with it and how it's being spent. You also have reporting needs to the tax authorities so you'll have to pick an accounting tool if you don't already have one. Xero and Quickbooks are the popular options amongst startups. If you're not an accountant, expect it to be the most confusing tool you have to use!
In an ideal world, you will update your books each month but in reality it'll get updated late or not until year-end. Aim to dedicate at least half a day to this every month. Keeping a close eye on your bank statements is a good substitute here.
If you want to understand your spend in non-accountant language, categorise it! This can help you easily spot trends in your spending making it easier to discuss what's really going on with your accountant and investor. Do this either in your accounting software, banking software or at least a spreadsheet. We solve this problem (link)
🌟 Top tip - If you start categorising, keep grouping simple - revenue, cost of sales, salaries, legal, software, etc. No more than eight as a first pass.
More money = more spend.
Now you can afford to pay for things, you need to be selective on how you go about that. Almost certainly you will have some international payments, be they single currency but international (maybe you pay USD to your team member who is currently remote) or you need a different currency (GBP, EUR, etc.). Our advice - avoid your bank for all but the most basic of money transfers, they'll be the worst option.
Take a moment to think about the amounts you need to send, where to, and how frequently and see if 2-4% of that as a fee will hurt you. If it will, look for a cost-effective solution. You can send funds for 0.35% or less if you do your homework. If it's infrequent and low volume, move on and don't waste time reviewing this.
🌟 Top tip - You almost certainly have a bank account (to accept that fundraising round), but now is a good time to check it still meets your needs. We wrote this article on selecting bank accounts so check it out if you want some tips.
Raising from US investors is common. This rule applies to you if your company has two or more entities and you need to move money between them. An example of this is having a holding company to accept investment, and then needing to move that to an overseas company to pay your staff. We wrote about it in-depth in our blog post here.
Whatever you're working on you can't afford not to take free money. Some governments offer cash under schemes like R & D tax credits in the UK. They give you back a cash sum (or deduction from your tax bill) based on the money you spend on innovation.
There are other schemes, grants, and programs in each market. They can take a little time to apply for but more worth going for. You can apply yourself, but you probably want to get your accountant to do it the first time at least, so you can see what is required. Push for a fixed fee, but most will tell you they want a percentage.
Things like reporting deadlines, tax dates, and even payroll; schedule them in your calendar. Time will fly and missed payments can cause fines to roll in. With your raise complete you will spend a lot of your time growing your company and with that comes added excitement and admin distractions like these can easily be forgotten.
Depending on which market and industry you are operating in, you will need a different level of coverage. Remember if you don't already employ staff, but plan to soon (with the help of your newly boosted bank balance) you will need to get cover in that case, so tell your insurance broker about it now. Be honest with your insurance provider and tell them exactly what you are planning to do. This way, if the worst happens, you have full coverage. That's not to say you shouldn't shop around for the best price too.
Bootstrapping is all about getting as far as you can to prepare for your first fundraise. Once that's done you enter a new phase that includes more corporate admin. Keep the mindset of dedicating one or two days each month to it and postpone what can be postponed. With each new hire, revisit those priorities.
Finally - context switching is a killer. Pick a period of the month to do your admin and get into a routine. I've highlighted some obvious tasks here but look out for more.
Important things to think about when making your revenue forecasts.
A five-step plan for startups looking to make their mark in the USA.