Editor’s note: Bill Warner writes “The Angel Connection” which is a regular feature in WRAL Local Tech Wire. LTW asked consultant Bill Warner to share advice for entrepreneurs seeking angel investors and/or venture capital investment. He is chairman of the Triangle Accredited Capital Forum, an angel investor network with over 100 members throughout the Southeast.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Once you have gotten your company through the proof of concept stage and are now at the point that you have a product or service ready for market, you will need to finance this phase of your company’s growth.

Many of the alternatives that were considered for the seed financing of your company can play a role in this stage of financing as well. The additional alternatives to consider for this stage of financing are:

• Bootstrapping
• Strategic Partnerships
• Customer Partnerships
• Angel investors

Let’s take each of these and explain the purpose and implications.


Many businesses are suitable for this form of financing, especially services businesses. This can be accomplished when you have plenty of time to get to market and you don’t have to spend a lot of capital to acquire and service a customer. It is very difficult for product companies to bootstrap themselves when there is a need for funds to pay for capital equipment and inventory.

This means that you do not have to sell any ownership in your company but your growth will be strictly determined by the speed with which you can acquire paying customers and execute the services.

At the end of the day, you will own most of your company and reap most of the rewards upon exit.

Strategic Partnerships

Often your business may have interest from major corporations who have funds available for partnerships with companies who will offer products or services that are a complement to theirs.

Think through how your products or services could be complementary to such companies and contact them to set up a briefing about your business idea. You want this meeting to lead to discussions about how the strategic partner could possibly provide seed funding for consideration of future royalties or other preferred financial returns.

These companies are not banks, so they will want to have a significant return for their time and money, but it will mean that you have a lot of influence with future investors when you have a big partner on your side. You will also have the potential of not having to sell part of your company to the strategic partner.

Customer Partnerships

When you are solving a burning problem that some big companies have, you may find an opportunity for a potential customer to finance the growth of your company for consideration of future preferential pricing and other financial returns.

Just as you would with a potential strategic partner, approach these companies with your business plan with the intent of allowing them to share in your future financial success.

In these relationships, you will have to find your way through exclusivity considerations as well as intellectual property ownership, but sometimes these arrangements can be very successful.

Angel Investors

Angels are not what they used to be. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, sophisticated angel investors will participate in financing a company at this stage, not before.

Get yourself completely ready with your business plan and financing story to approach angel investor organizations in your geographic area. Do the research to understand their interests and find people that can refer you to the executives that run these organizations. A personal introduction will get you a lot further.

Be prepared for a rather formal presentation and due diligence process, along with the resulting formal terms that will describe their investment in your company. This is very expensive money, but may be the only alternative you have for gaining the financing you need.

View the angels more like partners with whom you will have a long term business relationship. They will want to provide you assistance without disrupting your operating of the company. Use the talent and contacts they can provide to help you get successfully launched.

What about VC’s?

Again, there are always exceptions, but institutional investors will not participate in this stage of financing unless they see the opportunity to ultimately place over $5 million in your company and have an incredibly high degree of confidence in your management team and your ability to get some rapid sales traction. So, spending your time approaching VC’s at this stage will probably not be fruitful, but will put you on their radar screen for approaching them in the future, once you are at a level of maturity they are interested in.


This stage of funding could be as small as a few hundred thousand dollars. On the other hand, this stage of funding could be quite large, up to $2-$3 million in some cases. So, it will sometimes take large pockets to come up with the financing you need to launch your business. Whatever the amount being raised, this stage of funding takes even more time to accomplish and the need for a well thought out business plan and financing strategy is essential to your success.

About the author: Bill Warner is the Managing Partner of a business consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park area of central North Carolina, and is the Chairman of the , an angel investor network with over one hundred members throughout the southeast.