Good mentors make life as a founder easier. At EWOR, we pride ourselves on our network of experienced entrepreneurs who share start-up advice with our community.

As part of the EWOR Academy, Nicolas De Santis gave our talents advice from his over 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur. He is an award-winning tech entrepreneur who founded Opodo and is the CEO of Corporate Vision.

Learn helpful start-up advice about fundraising and networking from an experienced serial entrepreneur.

Start-Up Advice: Fundraising 101

Over the last few decades, the way we fundraise has evolved into a complex web of impressing investors and venture capital (VC) firms. Based on his experience with all types of investors, Nicolas emphasised his top start-up advice for fundraising rounds.

How to Get Started Financially

Before aiming for VC money, most start-ups conduct a first fundraising round by asking friends and family for support. Focus on small donations of up to €15,000 and work towards getting bigger investments from angel investors.

If you don’t have any generous close friends or family, start networking among your broader social circle. Convince other people to invest in your business, or get your friends to vouch for you and make new connections.

Even on a low-scale level in a small community, you will be able to find your first investors. Meet them in the street, on travels, or at events in your current social network.

If that approach doesn’t look promising in your case, go for angel rounds and convince them to support your idea. Tell them you’ve discovered a scalable opportunity and that you’re the only person who can lead the charge. Be authentic, but confident when talking to angels.

The World of VC Firms

Despite venture capitalists being a great opportunity for young start-ups, be careful about which VC firms to trust.

There are two types of VCs: ethical ones and those who only seek to maximise returns. The latter is more common and it’s difficult to find VCs who approach investing from an ethical perspective. Instead of ruthlessly dropping slow-growth start-ups, those ethical VCs see the bigger picture beyond money.

The “beggars can’t be choosers” mentality is part of early start-up fundraising, but that doesn’t mean you blindly trust the first VC who’s showing interest.

Dilution and Ethics

You need successful fundraising rounds to nurture the venture that you brought to life. Your start-up “baby” is precious, valuable, and you’ll want to have a say in its future.

Don’t make the mistake of giving up stock in your company unless it’s your only choice. Get a bank loan rather than diluting yourself and losing control over your project.

From an ethical perspective, be mindful of investments from Russia or other countries that are causing harm to others. Don’t become complicit and do your own thorough background checks for investors.

Start-Up Advice: Networking Methods

The best way to build your company is by growing and nurturing a large business network. That’s the case not only because big names can help you get better investments, but also because a good network is one of the greatest assets as an entrepreneur.

Creating a good network makes your personal and professional life easier and more productive. If you need a contact for an idea or deal, your network is the first place to go for help. Someone may be friends with an influential person and can connect you.

It’s more effective to meet as many powerful people as possible and nurture a good relationship with them than to stay at your computer all day.

Go out to meet people at events and make sure to be on good terms with them. That means also fulfilling favours for them without expecting anything in return. That mindset will lead to trust and loyalty among your peers, which will help you advance your network.

To link up with the most powerful people like heads of state, you’ll work your way up the hierarchy of entrepreneurs in your network. Even if it takes many steps to talk to a president and seal a deal, it’s a simple and effective way to get what you need for your company.

Be an active member of your own network. Provide for others and they will help you in return.

The Art of Failing

There is no secret formula to make it as an entrepreneur. At EWOR, we give you the tools to succeed, but it’s up to you to turn your education into financial success.

One of the best ways to grow as an entrepreneur is to fail a lot. It’s a natural part of life, especially for entrepreneurs who take risks every day to build the next groundbreaking innovation.

Even the most intelligent and hard-working entrepreneurs fail many times throughout their careers. It’s key to use those failures to your advantage.

Don’t get too obsessed with your product and work on it beyond its reasonable lifespan. Instead, be open to change. Walk away from an idea if you’re starting to waste time on something that won’t be scalable or simply doesn’t sell.

“Carrying it through to the end is not only a sign of resilience but usually also a precurse of bankruptcy.” – Nicolas De Santis

Make sure to have good advisors in your life that will point you in the right direction. If you’re not focused enough or neglect sales and distribution channels, they will tell you to consider killing the product.

If you’re gonna fail, make sure to fail fast and pivot.

Sometimes, the value of a start-up is the team, not the product. Use that to your advantage and pivot with people you can trust and work well with.

Start-Up Advice: Learn From Philosophy 

Overconfidence is a common mistake made by inexperienced entrepreneurs. Instead it’s better to think that you’re smart, but don’t know enough about most things. This “I know that I know nothing” mentality is a lesson in humility that every entrepreneur should learn.

Be proactive and reflect on your knowledge to humble yourself as early as possible. With a humble mindset, you’ll achieve more in less time in the business world.

Sometimes, philosophy helps in business more than economics. Instead of cockiness, be honest and authentic in everything you do. Advisors, investors, and members of your network will remember your character and reliability.

Take it from one of the most famous minds of humankind:

“The more I learn, the less I realise I know.” – Plato (Socrates)

Bottom Line

Founding and scaling a start-up isn’t easy. Learn how to raise money and build a good network from serial entrepreneurs like Nicolas.

A trusted mentor can help you navigate your entrepreneurial journey by giving you valuable start-up advice and pointing you in the right direction.

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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