If you are reading this, it is probably because you and we have decided to become partners in building the amazing startup you are working on. Congratulations for taking the step to becoming a founder, and thank you for choosing to work with SuperSeed for the next crucial phase of your company’s journey.
This resource is an overview of some of the support we offer our founders. Here is an overview
Table of contents
- The next phase..
- How we help – SuperSeed Workshops
- Sales and marketing
- Team & Hiring
- Other Resources
The next phase..
We back smart and ambitious founders who are looking to change how business is done.
The journey to building a successful and enduring company is one of the most meaningful and rewarding paths one can take in a lifetime. It is also one of the toughest, with countless pitfalls along the way. As founders, we have been through the startup journey from start to exit. And we aim to use our experience to be as helpful as possible for you and your company in your own journey.
You now have some fresh fuel in the tank (in the form of cash from the most recent funding round), and most founders at this stage have a longer to-do list than they have hours in the day. We have tried to compile a list of things that we hope will be helpful over the coming weeks and months.
There are many ways to think about the journey from Seed to Series A. One way is to think about it in terms of these 3 phases:
|Problem / Solution fit. What is the problem we are trying to solve? Is it relevant to the audience we are targeting, and can we propose a solution that can credibly solve this problem in principle?||Phase 1 is often the thing we are dealing with at the pre-seed stage. This is the stage when we are still discovering user requirements and building our launch product. However, some companies launch a product and start generating revenue without fully solving step 1.|
|Product / Market fit. Can we deliver a user experience that solves our customer’s problem so that they become repeat users and reference customers?||Phase 2 is about building the right product for the problem and user-base we care about, and prove that product/user (and product/market) fit through strong user engagement and repeat sales. This is the mainstay of our work at the Seed stage.|
|Go-to-market fit. Can we build a system that enables us to distribute our solution in a repeatable, profitable, and scalable way?||Phase 3 is about developing a commercial model that allows us to distribute our software in a commercially viable (and attractive) way. This is really the focus of late Seed and early Series A.|
Companies often iterate around these three phases, jumping back and forth as founding teams learn and discover the real requirements. However, firms that start phase 3 prematurely often find that they are investing sales and marketing $ inefficiently. SaaS products without strong user engagement might attract initial customers and generate sales, but the whole SaaS model is predicated on delighting customers and renewing accounts. If customers churn after 12 months, the firm will never develop a sustainable business. Then it is back to phase 2 (or even 1).
How we help – SuperSeed Workshops
One way we try to help our startups is in terms of crystallising their strategic thinking. This often starts with some foundational definitions around who they are and what they are trying to build. We have a set of structured workshops that explore the following:
- Identity & positioning. Who we are, what we are trying to do and for whom, and what are we looking to become in the future: Purpose, Mission, Vision and value proposition.
- Strategy and Milestones: objectives, challenges and strategic principles to overcome them. Read more on our proposed framework for startup strategy.
- Sales playbook: Ideal customer profile and GTM funnel
In our upcoming sessions, we’ll talk about the specific challenges you face and explore how we can best help.
We typically have a minimum of 10 annual board meetings, with a duration typically of 90-120 minutes. Initially, we suggest starting with 90 minutes, and then expanding if we consistently need more time.
Board meetings done right can be an incredible resource for you as a founder. It is your chance to pick the most important topic to you right now and then pick the brains of some (hopefully) smart and experienced people to help you solve the issue. This is not to say that your investors and your board have all the answers. But if they are good, they can sometimes help you ask questions and consider options you may not have thought about in your team. That’s powerful. Use it wisely.
The best board meetings take a bit of prep. The board pack should be circulated 2-3 days before the meeting (so everyone can read it in advance). It should contain monthly management accounts, minutes from the last meeting, the KPIs you use to run the business (sales, pipeline, org chart etc.) and a summary of progress against the plan/target milestones since the last meeting. Most importantly, it should contain a synopsis of the biggest challenge you face in getting to your next milestone and some questions for discussion with the board. That’s it. Please don’t prepare the deck as a presentation where you plan to step through each slide. The data in the pack should be for reference. Most of the meeting should be spent discussing and exploring options for solving the most significant challenges you and the company face.
What you can expect from us and what we expect from you
We are here to help you succeed. Your success is our success. We aim to do whatever we can to help you overcome your challenges and shine. We don’t always get it right, but we do try hard, and we know you do the same.
In the first few months after taking seed financing, there are hundreds of things to get right. The business develops very quickly. It is a time of significant change and high velocity. Some people have likened it to building the plane whilst flying it. That certainly is what it feels like sometimes. Because so much is happening, we usually try to stay close to our founders during the phase right after closing the round. This is typically in the form of a weekly call between the founder/CEO and someone from the SuperSeed team. This call allows us to talk about all the things that need consideration.
During this phase, you can expect us to generally try to help you with the most pressing problems (what’s keeping you up at night?) but also to gently suggest things we’ve seen work well for other companies at your stage. All businesses are different, but there is a well-rehearsed playbook on how to get from Seed to Series A. We want to make sure we make you aware of best practice so you can maximise your velocity and impact.
As we move beyond the three months, we often switch to bi-weekly calls and then fall back to a combination of board meetings and ad-hoc calls. But our focus remains the same – how can we help you and the business become as successful as possible.
What do we expect from you? Please bring us your biggest problems. We can sometimes guess, but it’s much easier if you just tell us what’s keeping you up at night. The more transparency we have in the relationship, the better we can help. All the glory belongs to you, so whatever we propose is just our attempt to try to help you get there faster. We try to be collaborative, open-minded and transparent, and we expect you to be the same.
Sales and marketing
For B2B companies that sell to small businesses, the website is likely one of the most, if not the most important, sales channel. If you don’t have a sales force, the website is the one place where all your prospective customers get to interact with you. You almost can’t invest enough in making that website user experience slick and powerful.
But even if you sell to mid-sized and larger companies, your website is one of the only direct touchpoints prospective customers may ever have with you. Sure – you’ll talk directly to your customer champion. But you may never manage to get in front of many of the other stakeholders who need to sign off on the purchase – the CMO, the FD, the head of sales.. the CEO (or whoever the other stakeholders are). But if they are considering your solution, they’ll likely visit your website. It may be your only chance to wow them. Make it count.
We find that Seed-stage startups typically underinvest in their website or invest in the wrong areas, which don’t go to accelerating your go-to-market and often face some positioning challenges.
This is difficult but important. There is a penalty for trying to build brands with names that are turn-offs or tricky to say. Hard to get right, but not rocket science. If you are not sure about your name, you are better off changing it early. And don’t worry about “lost brand equity” at the seed stage. This stuff only becomes important once you have invested many $m in brand building. Through focusing on your customer, building your brand reputation can increase trust in the market and position your business ahead of competitors. Getting your brand right will set you apart, with customers showing a willingness to buy.
Team & Hiring
Unless your team already has a natural head of sales (perhaps one of the founders), it will likely be helpful to bring in someone who can be the commercial focal point for the next part of the journey. Yes – the founders (and in particular the CEO) are always salespeople #1, #2 and #3. BUT – if you are a small founding team, you will have a million things to do, and the way to start scaling revenue is to start building a sales team.
The first hire is important. We have hired scores of salespeople and sales leaders over the years, and we can often help in the interview process to give you an “outside perspective”. And if you are looking for help in finding talent, we can help introduce you to high-quality recruiters and search firms who specialise in commercial roles for SaaS companies. There are firms that charge everything from £5k for strong sales reps to £40-£50k for a top-flight Chief Commercial Officer who has experience in taking you from $0 – $10m in revenue (and beyond). And remember, search takes time, so start building the pipeline early.
Financial strategy and planning
Congratulations. You are now a venture-backed founder. Building a business is a great privilege. It is also hard, and there is an endless string of things you need to do. Above all, you must remember the 11th commandment. Thou shalt not run out of cash. As founder/CEO, you are now above all “fundraiser in chief”. You are building a team to build a company. You have to make sure that there is always enough fuel in the tank to pay your team so you can keep building and iterating until you become cash-flow positive (which could be several years down the road, if things go well and you grow fast!)
On the journey from Seed to Series A, most startups find that they need to upgrade their level of financial management and forecasting. Series A investors usually expect more rigour than the founder-made Excel models companies use when raising their seed rounds. Not just because VC’s love spreadsheets, but because a good model is a vital tool in helping to plan the build-out of the business and forecast cash needs (and cash out dates!).
At the seed stage, businesses often don’t need a full-time FD. We work with a number of great part-time CFOs / FD’s who can help upgrade financial models to get the business ready for the next round of financing.
As you now have professional investors, you are expected to deliver monthly management accounts. These must be done timely and accurately – otherwise, they are not helpful to you or the investors. Good bookkeepers are not expensive, and they’ll quickly pay for themselves in terms of time saved for the founders. We know some good bookkeepers we can introduce you to if you need one.
If we have invested, it is most likely because you have built a genuinely differentiated technology and which we think has massive commercial potential. That’s our starting assessment of all the companies we invest in. Even so, we find that many of our great founders haven’t built widely scaling enterprise applications before. As you start thinking about scaling, there is a ton to consider: how to get the architecture right, what testing regime to adopt and how to make sure that the platform is secure. We work with a number of highly experienced CTOs who have ‘been there’ and built SaaS platforms that scaled to a global reach and millions of users (or even hundreds of millions!) They’ve likely made all the mistakes and learnt the lesson and will be happy to share. Let us know if you’d like an intro.
Few things can be as lonely as being a startup founder and, in particular, a founder/CEO. We know how hard it can be, as we’ve been there (stressful to always be three weeks from running out of money!). As investors, we try to be supportive, but some founders feel that it can be helpful to talk to someone who understands the pressures of startups who is not also their investor and on their board. We work with some great founder coaches and can introduce you to one if you like. As founders, it is all about making the most of your precious assets, and you have no asset more valuable than your own time. Sometimes minor tweaks can come out of a coaching relationship that can help unlock massive productivity gains. It is well worth it – we highly recommend it!
Sometimes, you just want to chat with another tech founder facing (or has faced) problems similar to yours. A great network to meet other venture-backed tech founders is ICE. The network features both annual social trips (both skiing and sun) and monthly founder roundtables where founders can meet and discuss what’s most challenging in full confidence. It’s “invite-only”, but let us know if you are interested, and we can make sure that you get an invitation.
Free Cloud Credits – AWS Activate and Microsoft Azure
Recommended Reading List
There are endless amounts of content on how to build startups. We don’t want to add to the excess, so this is just a short list of some of the gems.
The hardest thing in startups is to focus on one problem long enough to win. Nothing is more important than focus, and strategy is the discipline that helps you find it.
If you read just one business book, make it the delightful Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.
There is a delightful wealth of good startup and venture blogs today. Some of the best ones include:
- https://bothsidesofthetable.com/ by two-time entrepreneur turned VC Mark Suster
- https://www.forentrepreneurs.com/ by David Skok. It’s perhaps slightly wonkish, but there are some great models and insights for how to analyse your company
- https://tomtunguz.com/ – Tom Tunguz analysis is razor-sharp and always delightful to read.