TechIreland | Blog | NYC Fundraising with Andie Swim
In New York this August I interviewed a number of female founders about their funding journeys and lessons learned.
This first interview is with Melanie Travis of AndieSwim. Andie Swim “is a global ecommerce brand, disrupting the market for women’s swimwear”. The company has won awards for innovation and also has investment from a winning celebrity - Demi Moore.
To date Andie Swim’s funding journey includes $10K crowdfunding, $250K from angels, and a $2.1M VC round in March 2018.
Melanie has great advice to share but I also loved the way she talked about her company, and her attitude to fundraising.
Listen to the podcast here and I’m sure you’ll agree with me (36 mins)
Now for some key takeaways – paraphrased by yours truly:
Start with crowdfunding: Apart from getting the pulse of the market, crowdfunding helps you develop an early community for your product and those people stay with you and become your most loyal and enthusiastic customers and brand ambassadors. “We validate new styles with them and send them google surveys. We use our community for everything”.
What if your idea gets stolen? “That’s not an acceptable fear because at any point along the way someone could do it. If you’re building a new rocket ship don’t share the blueprint maybe. But otherwise it comes down to execution and if you don’t believe in yourself enough then you probably shouldn’t be doing it. If you believe someone can do it better than you, let them do it”.
Bigger money early means bigger mistakes: “You’ll make a lot of mistakes at the start and with money those mistakes are amplified. With my $250K angel round I made so many mistakes but they cost me $5-10K. The stakes were small, the brand was small and no one noticed. But if I had raised VC money at that point those mistakes would have cost me $1M and I wouldn’t be here today building a very valuable company”.
VCs never say no: “If it’s not a yes and a term sheet at the meeting, you’re pretty much getting a no. Investors never say no but entrepreneurs shouldn’t waste their time with VCs who are dragging their feet”.
Experience of pitching: “You can’t go into pitches with confidence and nothing behind it. You have to really know your business and demonstrate that you do, including the margins and unit economics. As a female founder, VCs didn’t have a problem with my very aggressive projections but some didn’t believe that women’s swimwear was a big enough category. It’s a €28 Billion market and growing really fast”.
Less patience and no begging: “With more experience of fundraising I became less patient and just moved on if VCs weren’t interested. I didn’t try to convince anybody anymore. Investors are so used to young entrepreneurs coming in and basically begging and that’s not a good look”.
Agreeing a valuation: “A lot of people think of valuation as a multiple of revenue but that doesn’t work especially when you’re an early stage company. For us there were many factors in the mix and we used all of them - a big category (market), a strategic manufacturing partnership, projections for the year and our background. Anyone who talks to you about valuation as a multiple of revenue at the early stage is not the right investor”.
Don’t go for perfect: Don’t wait to launch until your product is perfect. You’ll learn so much from your customers. We didn’t have the perfect product or website, but we learned and then made it better.
Thanks for reading and listening,
Published: September 13, 2018