How to make the most out of startup investment by Nordic Angel Program?
September 23, 2019
What's the path to success after gaining an investment? Screenful participated the Nordic Angel Program (NAP) by FiBAN and got an investment in spring 2018. Thereafter, growth has been fast and the company's CEO Sami Linnanvuo has become an angel investor himself. Read what Sami has to say about NAP, and how the angel investment helped Screenful succeed. Be sure to check Sami's tips for startups applying funding!
1. Why did your company apply for the Nordic Angel Program?
I really liked the idea of a funding program without pitching. We were a team of product designers and developers. We’re good at that. We can build great products. We are not interested in spending a lot of time practising pitching skills. Why would we? After all, it has very little to do with our core skills, or what our customers value. When I heard about the NAP funding program, I thought it’s a great idea.
2. What has been the biggest upside of the investment you got?
The biggest benefit of the investment was that finally we were able to grow the team, and that I don’t have to be worrying all the time about financials. Things are progressing at a much faster pace now as we get to focus on creating value for our customers. It also sent a positive signal to potential partners and employees – people started to take us more seriously. The number and the quality of job applications we receive went up.
Perhaps the most significant upside has been the influx of innovation that has taken place since. Now that we’re no longer cash starved, we seem to have more room for new ideas. For example, we have launched several free tools during the last 12 months which are now becoming quite popular. You don’t have the freedom to do that kind of experiments if your focus is on finding the money to pay the bills for the next month.
3. Did you learn something new from angel investors?
I’ve learned many things from several of them. Most importantly, we now have an access to their knowledge and can ask advice whenever we run into a situation that we can’t figure out ourselves. It’s a safety net of a kind.
4. What are your major milestones since the investment?
At the time of the investment, we were a team of three. Since then we’ve hired four new team members and are constantly looking for more talent. Our MRR has doubled since the investment. Before the investment we were able to release new major features to our product every 2-3 months. Now we have big news to tell our customers every month.
5. What would you do differently if you’d apply now?
Well, I guess I wouldn’t change much since we were the winners after all 🙂 Perhaps I’d focus more on communicating the big picture. Although it’s obvious for us that we’re really ambitious and want to become a global market leader in our domain, it may not be obvious for an investor who’s evaluating us. Your numbers are small since you’re still at very early stage in your journey but you need to convince the investors that you have a valid plan to grow those numbers in the future.
6. What is your future forecast for 2020 onwards?
We’re shifting gears in a sense that we’re getting deeper in our analytics capabilities and start focusing more on the needs of bigger enterprises. That’s something we could not have done earlier since you need certain processes and resources in place before you are ready to serve bigger companies. We’ve become more disciplined and mature in how we do things. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not becoming one of those bureaucratic corporations any time soon but we are a bit more organised now than before.
We have some really interesting product announcements coming in 2020. We’ve been working on it for a while already and the whole team is excited to see what we can do together. I can’t share much details yet but I feel we are entering into a whole new phase and I’m really eager to see how things unfold in the coming months and years.
7. How is it being on the investor side of the program?
It’s certainly fun to be on other side of the table this time. When you attend as a startup, you don’t really see what other startups have and how strong they are. You just focus on your own pitch deck and spreadsheets and try to make it look like viable investment for the investors. As an investor, you get to see all of them. And even more importantly, you get to see other investors reactions and comments. There’s always someone who knows more than you about the specific domain in which a startup operates, and who can share that knowledge with others. It’s a wisdom of crowds kind of thing. You can be pretty sure that such a group can come up to a better conclusion than you alone.
Yeah, it’s more fun to be on the investor side. Is that a surprise to anyone 🙂
8. Any tips for startups applying funding?
- Investors are generally not interested in the details of your product. Try to frame your story so that it resonates with non-technical audience. How does your company make the customer more successful?
- Don’t be shy about sharing information about your team. Investors want to invest in great teams, not individual “rock stars”.
- How do you acquire customers? What are your delivery channels? How do you go international? How much is it going to cost? I hope you have figured these out at least on some level. Tip: the answer is not Google Ads.
- Know your numbers. What is your MRR, LTV, CAC? If hardware is part of your solution, how much does it cost to produce a unit? What is your margin? How do you scale the production?
- Don’t try to fake it. You’ll get caught in the due diligence phase if not before that 🙂
- Know your valuation. If you are unsure, consult someone who knows about startup valuation. Don’t ruin your chances just because your valuation is off.
Sami Linnanvuo is the CEO of Screenful that participated the Nordic Angel Program by FiBAN in spring 2018.
The Nordic Angel Program is cofinanced by the European Commission’s Startup Europe initiative under the Horizon 2020 programme