How To Raise Millions For Your Startup: A Q&A With The Authors Of Get Backed

P&Q: Why should a current MBA student read your book?

Loomis: Let me take an even bigger step backwards. Just about everybody I know has a dream or a big idea. My mom, my dad, my uncle, my little kids. Right now one of my little kids wants to be Captain America, but that’s a different thing. Our book is really aimed at helping people with what do you do with your ideas. We have laid out a very methodical, easy-to-follow, playbook to take the concepts, put it on paper, get feedback, formalize an official pitch deck, and learn how to exercise those relational tools that I think everyone has in them to compel people to see their vision.

I think this book is really for everybody. And especially business school students. And I think one of the reasons why more people don’t do anything with their awesome ideas that they have is because they’re afraid or they just don’t know how. Our book hits fear and ignorance square between the eyes in the way that we’ve laid it out and tried to provide examples of other founders raising money.

In the book, we ask 15 ventures that have collectively raised over $150 million and we show you exactly how they got funded, which is kind of cool. Because most of the time you see a Techcrunch article or an article on Poets&Quants or whatever it is that comes out, and it’s triumphant. Uber raises $2 billion on a $100 million valuation in one month. But how did they do it? And we answer the how, pretty, I think entrepreneur-friendly. We just take it for granted that entrepreneurs have ADD–and this can be true for business students as well–in your attention is valuable and we just broke it up in a digestable way.

Baehr: Just thinking through my experience at HBS, I would say there are three things in our book, which I learned very little about at business school, which are critical to raising capital. Number one is story. Especially for early stage ventures, telling a story that invites an employee, partner and investor into the business is absolutely critical. And story is not a set of Excel worksheets. Story involves a plot, and a narrative, and a protagonist and lays out this hopeful view of the future. That is this elemant that I think is rare in business school.

Number two is design. Communicating through the visual aid of pitch deck requires thoughtful design. Learning about types and colors and layouts to create something that is beautiful and inviting is mission critical and the second thing I learned very little about in business school.

The last thing is the second half of the book is about running the road show. And that is a failed process. The story I was told was that there was no sales club at Harvard for a long time. The students demanded a sales club. The administration said, there will not be a demand. No one here wants to learn sales. They somehow created it anyway and after a year or two it was the largest club on campus.

I think students are starting to understand there is a need for sales. Raising capital is not about creating a beautiful business model and sending it out to the thousands people and knowing that the smartest people will buy it. Venture capital and equity sales have to be sold. And that involves a charismatic person telling a great story, going to the right target or potential buyers or investors and running the process of following up with people and getting the deal closed.

Those three things to me are super important for being good in any job, but certainly in raising venture capital and are being underemphasized in business school.

PQ: Any final thoughts?

Baehr: I’d just add that I found working on startups while in business school was a really great sandbox to experiment and learn. And it also gave me a lens through which to see a lot of my coursework. The stuff I worked on in school was silly and probably wouldn’t become a business. But it was this really helpful little sandbox to develop a little bit of experience and play around and learn some new tools.

The second thing I’ll say is in business school, I think it’s very possible to become the founder or employee that you want to be. Many people are coming into business school out of finance or banking and they want to start a company or join a technology company. And for the most part, people with those resumes, which I see all the time, through applicants at Able are not people who are not a good fit skill-wise for a startup. Or for starting a company. But the good news is, you can actually become that person. And that takes a lot of your own work. For example, as a founder, there are some important skills and design is one of those. You can take a course with and learn how to use Photoshop. You can enroll in a design class at General Assembly. Let’s say you want to found a company and you believe understanding data is really important for marketing analytics. You can buy a book about that. Or you can be an intern at a startup and practice designing funnel metrics.

There are all sorts of things you can do outside of your formal coursework that will actually give you the real skills that you can use as a founder or an employee of a technology company. So if you’re not the employable person yet, design a pathway so that you can become one.

Loomis: The last thing I want to say is, I did not experience this because I did not go to business school, but my friends that did had an amazing halo over them during the whole process. So if they did have an idea, getting a lot of those doors open and having a really rich relational outreach was at their finger tips, which I think is a big benefit to starting a company while you’re in business school.


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.