Gagan Biyani’s 9 Step Plan to Fund Your Startup
What’s the hardest part of getting funded these days?
Who do you talk to? How can you create buzz? Where do you even begin?
You’ve got to be methodical and have a plan to make it happen.
One person who’s walked the walk and talks the talk is Udemy founder Gagan Biyani.
In less than six months, Biyani was able to sign up 1000 instructors, create 2000 courses and enroll nearly 10,000 registered users.
…and raise $1M dollars in funding.
Today, that number is closer to $50M and the project shows no signs of slowing down.
Biyani joined Andrew Warner for his Mixergy interview series to share his story. During the show, Biyani described his incredible 9-step method to fund any startup. Here are the most important 5 steps:
- Finding Great Advisors
- Joining Powerful Networks
- Leveraging Conferences and the Press
- Watching and Learning From the Best
- Being Prepared for Any Question
Gagan goes over every step in amazing detail offering specific examples of each from his Udemy experience. By following the framework he’s created, anyone (even non-techies) can land the capital they need to take their business to the next level.
Gagan Biyani’s 9 Step Plan to Fund Your Startup
1. Get Great Advisors
It all starts with surrounding yourself with the right people. Gagan’s story is no different.
Three of his most trusted advisors brought something different to the table.
- Adeo Ressi – creator of the Founder Institute- has started eight different companies and, according to Biyani, is one of the best general business advice guys around.
- Bubba Murarka – business development director at Facebook. Gagan calls him the “connector” – the people person. Bubba always knows someone who knows someone who can get the team the introduction they need.
- Darian Shirazi – a friend and entrepreneur, Darian became the go-to guy for those random day-to-day questions that always seem to pop-up.
Biyani advises finding people who’ve already done what you’re doing and utilize their knowledge. Leverage their experiences to avoid the pitfalls they encountered along the way.
So how do you find great advisors?
According to Gagan, it’s simple.
“Give them equity. Advisor equity.” –Gagan Biyani
More equity for the early advisors – who believe in you before anyone else will – and less for those who join later on.
Sell advisors on the vision of the company and get them excited about the possibility of what’s to come.
2. Join Powerful Networks
Gagan extends the conversation by talking about both formal and informal networking.
The advantages of being part of a startup incubator – like the Founder Institute or Y Combinator – seem fairly obvious. Gagan calls this “formal networking” because of the structure and credibility it brings.
But there is much to be gained from informal networking as well.
Keep on the lookout for events to attend with fellow entrepreneurs who are at (or just slightly above) your same level of growth. According to Biyani, you don’t always have to swing for the fences.
“One of the worst things you can do is only focus on networks that are reliant upon people who are famous, because those people are also going to be less available and they’re harder to convince to help you.
Why not get a couple people who are in the same group that you are?”
Gagan also mentioned how he missed out on some funding opportunities because of his lack of name recognition in the VC community.
“We’d show up at the pitch meeting, as some random guys who came in through an introduction. It was really hard to convince them that we were worth their time.”
Get to know people in your “space” ahead of time before you get called up on the carpet. You want to stay on their radar as much as you can.
3. Leverage Conferences and The Press
Always use the media to your advantage.
Biyani advocates attending any conference, event or competition you can to build your brand awareness. For example, he attended Vator Splash, a unique startup event and competition for aspiring entrepreneurs.
“You go and you meet everybody there and you say hey and you give them your business card and you get a ton of pick up and it creates buzz around your company.”
Gagan was a winner at the 2010 event and used the victory to his advantage.
“I won the top prize at a conference and so that added to my social proof, which I thought was super valuable.”
Worried about someone stealing your idea?
If 1,000 more people know about your project then it just generates more buzz. And stop worrying about it – nobody is really going to steal your baby.
“The value that I got out of that [experience] was when I went out to pitch, all these investors had known that I had won an event at a conference.”
“And also now a member of the press really likes me. So she [the reporter] has now written about us four or five times and about our fundraising which is really valuable.”
Biyani emphasizes the importance of using these types of small wins to “build momentum” as you move forward in the fundraising process.
4. Watch and Learn From the Best
Biyani is also a proponent of taking time to sharpen your skills.
“A lot of people who are building their businesses think that they should be entirely focused on their customers and on building product.”
But according to him, there’s more to it than that.
You must always be learning. Gagan spends his lunch hour every day watching videos (from sites like Mixergy) while he eats in order to grow his skillset.
“No matter where you go you should watch and learn from other entrepreneurs who’ve done it, because you learn a lot and those are things you can end up using.”
Besides, Biyani says, his keyboard gets all sticky if he tries to work while he’s eating.
5. Be Prepared for Any Question
Point number 5 could arguably be the most important of all.
Gagan says one of the keys to getting funded is in being able to answer every single question that might come up.
“Investors asked, ‘Is this a big enough market?’ We had an answer. If investors asked, ‘How are you going to get early customers?’ we had an answer. If investors asked, ‘What are you going to do with the money?’ we had an answer.”
But how did he know what the questions were going to be?
By watching those videos on his lunch break and learning what other entrepreneurs were being asked. He took notes anytime he couldn’t answer those same questions about his own company.
“And honestly investors will ask you the stupidest questions you’ve ever heard.”
“But eventually I realized they [investors] may be thinking about things in different ways.”
You have to be ready for anything.
Even if you have to say, “I don’t know,” append it with an explanation of how you’re going to find out.
Biyani emphasizes constantly pitching to everyone you meet. Doing so helps to refine your message based on what resonates and what doesn’t.
…and if these tips alone weren’t juicy enough, Gagan goes on to explain 4 more unbelievable strategies for dealing with investors. If you liked the first 5, you’re gonna love the rest!
Get the interview below to hear them all…