For every startup, raising a Series A funding round is a major milestone. A seven-figure infusion of cash may not put the entrepreneurial valley of death permanently in the rearview mirror, but it definitely fuels the opportunity to turn a big idea into a company with customers, revenue and growth momentum.
Most startups never make it to a true Series A. That’s probably why you hear more people talking about the pitfalls between idea stage and Series A than you do talking about the issues startups face on the other side of their Series A financing.
But there are plenty of obstacles that can trip up a company after they raise Series A funding. Here are just a few:
Raising more money
In a perfect world, a major influx of cash from Series A investors would give a startup the runway it needs to become profitable and ensure long-term high growth. In the real world, it rarely works out that way. Sales fall short, expenses run high, competitors get aggressive.
Riding the edge of high growth means leaning in aggressively. But if cash flow falls short, raising the next round can be much harder than the first.
For this reason, we encourage the entrepreneurs we work with to base their fundraising goals on conservative revenue targets and their expense estimates on aggressive projections. And if there is more money available at the time of Series A, it’s often a good idea to take it.
Being real about how the job changes
It obviously requires a unique skill set and a particular kind of tenacity to launch a high-growth company. However, as startups begin to scale, the demands of the CEO role change. Funding rounds bring new board members and governance perspectives. Transitioning from a scrappy startup team to an organization that can attract, retain and mobilize top talent brings new challenges.
This is the point where many founders need to face the realization that what made them successful at launching a business may not set them up for success in growing one. Knowing how to delegate and even when to step aside is crucial, and having a strong board of directors can help make role transitions fluid, instead of contentious.
Timing the exit
Even after you’ve built something truly valuable, there’s still the question of when to capitalize on that value. Do you sell your company now? Should you raise another round of funding and reach the next milestone to drive up your acquisition value? Should you be thinking about hiring investment bankers?
These are big questions and the answer is different for every company as market dynamics vary by business sector and change with time. To make matters more complex, there is always more than one viable option.
The adage is that companies are bought, not sold, so it’s typically best to focus on building long-term value and extend the exit-timing window.
This post originally appeared in Smart Business on November 27, 2017