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From founding to funding: mapping 4 key trail markers 

As a private company, much of your financial journey revolves around investors and funding. This world can be difficult to navigate; just because you have a great idea and are an expert in your field doesn’t mean you are prepared for the ins and outs of securing funding. With the right tools, you can see past the haze and set your business up for success. Here are four key trail markers to map so you don’t lose your footing throughout your financial journey. 

Trail marker 1: Don’t make promises you can’t keep

At your first trail marker, you are raising seed funding. You’re generally receiving investments from friends and family or people you know well to make your dream a reality, and it’s easy to lose sight of the details of those investments. Initial investors may make sizeable investments in the company. But what they may not understand at the time of investment is how this percentage will become diluted and change value over time as you raise more money. Keep this in mind so you aren’t making promises you can’t keep down the road.

You don’t want a friend or family member to approach you, asking where their small fortune is after your business is acquired or exits in an IPO. It’s important to track your ownership data from day one so there is a clear record of what shares were purchased or what awards were promised. This is where an equity management platform can help. With an immutable ledger built using private blockchain technology, you and your investors can access a complete history of each share acquired. The platform also lets investors track the history of their own shares. This visibility ensures that there will be no crossed wires or uncomfortable conversations in the future. Thank the people that believe in you by giving them visibility into their investments and keeping your promises realistic from the moment they write the check! 

Trail marker 2: Dig into the data

The next step is to raise your Series A funding. It’s time to get ready to present to venture capitalists and experienced investors by having all your ducks in a row, including your cap table. 

Though some companies will use a spreadsheet to manage their cap table, there are many reasons why this can be dangerous to you as a founder. It can be difficult to know what the true data is when you are working with a spreadsheet, since one false keystroke can introduce false information that can be difficult to pinpoint. It is nearly impossible to track the history of your shares, making it more difficult for investors to get a full understanding of your ownership data. Multiple copies of the spreadsheet may be floating around, making it difficult to know which one is actually correct. On the other hand, a solid cap table stored in a cloud-based equity management system avoids these pitfalls and makes your data look professional to the venture capitalists you’ll be pitching to.

One of the biggest mistakes early-stage companies make in Series A is not having a grasp on how your ownership will be diluted with each new funding deal. Misunderstanding dilution and its impact on your ownership can be a painful and disappointing lesson after all the hard work is done. Equity management platforms give you real-time visibility into how these deals will affect your bottom line, so you can make informed decisions about your company’s future. 

Don’t be caught off guard by not having full insight into your data. In Series A, focus on utilizing equity management software to build a solid cap table, model possible outcomes, and gain proper insight into your ownership information. 

Trail marker 3: Don’t lose sight of your destination

You’re raising Series B; you’re out of development and into expansion. It isn’t about getting your feet under you anymore—it’s time to commit to the path laid out in Series A and bring on new investors to meet demands in labor, growth, or product development.

What does this mean for your equity management system? You need to make sure you have enough funding to meet your hiring needs. This may require going back to the Board of Directors to secure more shares for your stock plan, or it may require being strategic with your hiring, so you don’t overly dilute your equity. 

Throughout this phase of expansion, it is critical to have a n equity management system that can track multiple different grant types and automate parts of the process. Traditionally, writing grant agreements can take days, and agreements are sometimes delivered months after an employee starts. With an equity management platform, these agreements can be automatically generated and sent to the recipient for secure, virtual signing. Once both a company representative and the recipient have signed the grant agreement, both parties can store this documentation in a digital vault to keep this information secure, yet accessible. 

Don’t lose sight of your destination. Track your financial data, keep an eye on the business’s equity dilution, and consistently assess if you’re on the right course to take your exit plan of choice. This will ensure that there are no surprises (like a disappointing dollar amount) when you get there. 

Trail marker 4: Prepare for your exit

Once you make it to Series C and beyond, you’re well on your way. Investors are looking for big returns, and working with you charts the right course to bring the whole team to a successful exit. Your business isn’t bulletproof, but your exit is well within sight. Most investors at this stage are focused on how to scale for a smooth, rapid ascent.

Throughout this phase, you may have employees who become fully vested. If they choose to exercise their shares, they will need an equity management platform that allows them to exercise their shares digitally. They should also have a secure place to save this documentation, and a way to track their investment throughout the company’s life cycle. 

Many businesses make the mistake of not tracking how many of their employees are fully vested. This is a major blunder to avoid. If you have a few key players in your organization who are over 75% vested, they may be likely to exercise their shares and move on another opportunity. If you want to avoid losing key talent, it’s important to have visibility into your employee ownership and know when to provide further incentives to retain talent. Equity management software can provide this visibility at a glance, without conducting a time-consuming analysis. Keep an eye on your employee’s equity so you can prepare for—or prevent—losing key talent. 

Conclusion

It’s a long journey to navigate the path from idea to exit. But, if you have the right tools and trail markers, you can chart your course through the funding journey to ensure your business’s success. Astrella’s equity management platform is your guide throughout the entire life cycle of your business. Manage an accurate cap table, get expert guidance, and gain visibility into your equity data so you can confidently take your team to exit. Ready to learn more? Read our eBook to see how Astrella can help you reach the peak of your goals.