- 5 steps to a successful coworking funding round, as told by Jamie Hodari at GCUC 2018.
- During an unconference session, Hodari explained how he led Industrious through a series of successful funding rounds to raise over $500million.
- Here, we share 5 key insights from Hodari’s presentation
GCUC 2018 took conferences and topics to the next level, challenging operators to think outside the box and not only imagine a better future, but also take an active role in building it. In Liz Elam’s words, “we (flexible workspace operators) have the opportunity to change the world.”
And to do this, operators need money; they need capital to carry out their plans and vision, and expand their workspace portfolios. This is no easy task, or so Jamie Hodari, CEO and Founder of Industrious, shared during one of GCUC’s unconference sessions.
Though Hodari has led Industrious through 5 successful funding rounds that have historically raised around US$150 million, he admits that the rounds “always take longer than I originally think. But, if we have been able to raise funds, it’s because we have had a very methodical approach to growing our business, and we have been able to clearly communicate our plans to potential investors.”
And although Hodari denies having “the magic touch”, he has enough experience to know the nuts and bolts to successfully navigate the world of pitching to investors and having them bet on him.
During his presentation, Hodari explained that there are 5 key steps to a successful funding round:
- Determine whether you actually need to raise money
- Develop a really strong thesis for what the round will be about (how you will use the money)
- Commit to doing the round yourself
- Go big; maximize the amount of people that you talk to and the time that you take
- Listen to your audience and pay close attention to people’s reaction to your words when you’re pitching your plan
5 Steps To Successfully Raise Funds
Do you really need to raise money?
“I now own less than 20% of my own business.” When you are raising funds, you need to take into consideration how much of your business you will be selling in order to raise the capital you need. You have to sit down and do your numbers: how much will you sell and compare that with how much you will ring in from those rounds if you follow through your growth plan. “The margin will establish whether it was worth raising the funds or not.”
Additional tip: there are other methods to powering growth in this industry besides funding rounds, like joint-venture partnerships.
Develop a strong pitch
When you walk in and pitch to investors, you need be able to clearly tie your plan to a specific opportunity and how the capital will enable said opportunity. “It’s not enough to walk in and say this is what we do and why we are different. You need to clearly convey where the opportunity lies and why you need the money in order to follow through and take the opportunity.
“You need to be honest with the investors. You need to be able to share what your business is going to be worth over time, what your obstacles are, what the big risks are, and how you plan to overcome all of this. You need to have a plan. If you can walk in with a powerful enough headline about what you do and how you will surpass challenges, you are already 90% in.”
Having a plan and sticking to it can help you in future rounds as you will have a concrete track record to share with investors, clearly stating what you promised before and how you delivered on it.
Do the round yourself
“You need to go through the funding round yourself as a CEO or owner. You cannot rely on a financial or legal advisor. If you cannot take the time yourself to go pitch to investors and you need to hire someone else to tell others why you need money, it does not look good; it looks as if you don’t have a strong enough case.”
You are your brand’s best advocate, no one will be able to better elaborate on what your brand does and what your vision is than yourself. Besides, “unless you have some amazing proprietary piece of IT, investors bet on you and your leadership skills, not your brand.”
Raising funds takes time; if you want to have a good chance of raising enough capital, you need to come up with a large list of potential investors to talk to. Also, keep in mind that whom you talk to in round B is likely to invest in round C, and so on. So even if investors seem unlikely to invest at first, don’t cross them out as it will be easier to convince them to invest in you in a future round.”
Listen to your audience
“You need to listen to your market, you need to look at people’s faces when you use a particular argument about your brand and your differentiation. Doing this will allow you to tell whether people believe you or not, whether they are skeptical about what you are saying, or whether they think you are completely out of your mind.
“I have been in situations where I’ve had to pivot based on people’s expressions and responses to what I was saying.” Keep in mind that while you don’t want to let people inside your head, there is a thin line between that and being bullheaded and blind enough to not be able to read the cues.
If you follow through these steps, you will have higher chances of convincing investors to bet on you and your vision.
Additional tips and thoughts from Hodari
- Sometimes, the best thing for one’s business is to strategically merge with someone else. There is a big wave of consolidation coming and this can be a good option for many.
- Don’t try to sell a grander vision from the get-go; it is much more valuable and powerful to have concrete, actionable goals. “You have to be honest; investors are smart and if you are pitching an attenuated connection, investors will not buy it. Start smaller and then sell the icing on the cake: ‘if we accomplish this, then we can go on and do XYZ’.”
- When reaching out to investors, avoid cold calls or emails. Find a mutual connection and have them introduce you to them.
- Find investors that have already invested in similar businesses, this means they already believe in one part of what you have to offer.
- Go to investors and the market with a set of terms. “Don’t let people push you on them, you have to show you are confident in yourself and your numbers.”
- Keep the meetings small. “Don’t try to take too many people with you when you make your pitch. When you do it yourself and one other person, you are more locked in with what’s happening in the meeting, so you can better respond to concerns that indirectly addressed previous points. When you have too many people in there, it becomes harder to control the narrative.”
- Pick a good name for your brand and holding company.
- Take a good look at lease prices, and if they aren’t good, consider moving to management contracts.
Industrious currently operates 27 locations across 25 cities in the US, with several others in the pipeline. According to Hodari, the company plans to have 60 locations by the end of this year. And if their plan to switch to management contracts goes well, that number could potentially go up to 100-140 total workspace locations.