The Three Ps of Venture Funding

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If you’re a student of marketing then you’ve likely heard of the ‘four Ps’. A lesser known, but I’d say more important set of Ps are the three Ps of funding. Why are they more important? Without them, you won’t have any money to pay for all that marketing.

People

In Jim Collin’s seminal book ‘Good to Great‘, the companies he profiled all started by getting ‘the right people on the bus’. All great companies begin and end with great people. In the context of funding a startup, investors are looking for any of the following:

  • Complete skill sets: design, development and distribution.
  • Prior success: If one or more of you have taken a startup to a positive exit before that’s huge. Even better, if you did it together before and are back again for another go.
  • Industry depth: If your industry requires special knowledge and contacts that you happen to possess that’s great.
  • A founding CEO with the vision and ambition to go BIG!

Product

With the people in place, next it’s product. While sometimes the lesser product wins out to better distribution, you won’t get venture funding unless you’ve built a better mousetrap. This is especially true if you’re going after an established market. In this case you need to come up with a 10x improvement to change market buying behaviour.

Here, investors are looking for:

  • Clear evidence of product/ market fit (or a clearly laid out path to get there if it’s a seed round)
  • Evidence that you took a lean, capital efficient and rapid path to achieve product/ market fit (this is indicative of how you will spend their money in the future)
  • High or steadily increasing user engagement levels
  • Early signs of virality, if applicable.

Progress

Ideally, this last one includes revenue. But sometimes it doesn’t. Especially for B2C startups that require huge scale before implementing monetization. Regardless, what investors are looking for here are clear signs of momentum:

  • Week over week or month over month accelerating growth in users, adoption rates, revenue (if applicable)
  • If you’re in the revenue stage then you need to show scalable unit economics: this means you know how much it costs to acquire a customer and how much they’re worth over their lifetime.
  • Evidence of interest/ validation from key customers or partners.
  • Starting to build out your management team or at least identify target candidates to bring on post funding.

The thing with the 3 Ps is you need them in different quantities over time.

Seed: One of the 3 will be fine. An awesome team with nothing but a powerpoint will get funded. An unknown team that has built a killer product will likely get funded. And that same unknown team will definitely get funded if that product has huge market momentum.

Series A: You need 2 out of 3 Ps. A great team with a great, validated product can raise a Series A even before monetization. Similarly, an unknown team with an awesome product and clear market momentum can easily raise.

Series B and beyond: Here you need all three. You need to have a scalable sausage machine with all the pieces: a great team, killer product and market momentum.

  • Lally Rementilla

    Thanks, Mark. Glad to know that my criteria is not too far off…. though I have one more letter to add – W/F.

  • Jordan Thaeler

    The need all 3 for seed +. Market has changed.

    • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

      I’m close to the market. There’s no question that Series A investors have a lot of seed companies to choose from so can be picky. This is even more true going from Series A to B. But you can still do A with 2 out of 3 unless investors perceive that you lack momentum. Then they dig in and look for more proof. Growth or momentum forgives all sins.

  • http://www.sunstonecommunication.com Kenny Fraser

    Great post Mark. Clear and simple. My experience of startup pitches is that founders struggle most with the last P.

    • http://startupcfo.ca/ Mark MacLeod

      Thanks Kenny. The last one is the one that ultimately creates value. Many companies don’t spend enough time there soon enough. Hence the struggle