Adam Robinson knows that practice makes perfect. By his own count, he has delivered 170 presentations to investors pitching his company, Hireology. The tally spans individual investors to major players, and each meeting was an opportunity to learn and fine tune his pitch. The determination has paid off; those 170 presentations have led Adam and his partners to $13 million in funding to date.
Hireology is a technology company that helps business owners streamline and improve their employee hiring process, resulting in better teams and stronger company performance. Adam, co-founder and CEO, and his team have built a comprehensive platform for defining jobs, sourcing applicants, interviewing candidates, and verifying employee information through reference checks, skills testing, and background checks. To understand how Hireology progressed to where it is today, it’s important to understand Adam’s process for pitching investors and sourcing capital for the business.
Hireology began in 2010 with Adam and his partner conducting field interviews with sales and service employees at hundreds of businesses to research how different companies hire employees and the business results of those hires. Based on these learnings, Adam and his team created a series of interview guides and candidate evaluation scorecards that represent a structured process for hiring based on quantifiable results. Once the Hireology team had developed and proven out the baseline process and underlying algorithms, it was time to scale the business.
Enter the 170 presentations to investors. Adam's fundraising strategy was unique because he had a plan from the beginning. When Dignitas asked Adam about the process and what he shared with investors he said, "The most important thing my founders and I did was decide upfront what we wanted in the end for Hireology. We came up with positions on every scenario that could happen in terms of funding and exit," he told us. "This allowed us to articulate our funding needs, agree in advance on our criteria for selecting investors, and define in writing how we would handle various outcomes. From there it was a matter of connecting with investors who were the right fit."
In advance of pitching, Adam and his partners compiled a prioritized list of prospective investors by gathering input from entrepreneurs who had raised capital and their contacts. The Hireology team also made a deal matrix to model out their deal criteria and if an investor did not work in that matrix, they knew that investor wasn’t a good fit for Hireology.
During the process Adam also learned a lot about deal timing. "People make a decision about investing in your company within the first five minutes of meeting you." Yet many capital raise efforts drag on and on. Many fundraising entrepreneurs get caught up in what Adam calls "death by meeting." This phrase refers to the act of investors passing you off from person to person and asking you to come back after you fix what they didn't find intriguing. Adam’s solution for driving focus and urgency in the process? Give them a deadline. "By saying to an investor, 'Our expectation is to have initial interest confirmed by the end of next week; does that fit into your timing?” you can capture the attention of the investor and give them a timeframe that you need to get the work done. If the investor cannot work within that timeframe, the deal doesn't work." Adam said during initial seed round, this “in or out” delay was the most challenging factor of the capital raise process. "Trying to find the next person is always the hardest. We wanted to get to a 'no' quickly so that we can get to others and keep the process moving."
The process paid off. In 2012, Adam met with Lightbank Managing Partner, Brad Keywell. During their meeting, Brad focused on advising Adam on improvements that could be made to the pitch deck and message. Four meetings with Brad and innumerable Powerpoint edits later, Adam had the 12 slide deck he needed to put Hireology’s best foot forward to prospective investors. Ultimately, Lightbank invested in Hireology. It was this partnership that enabled the early growth that led Adam to Bain Capital Ventures just six months later.
Dignitas asked Adam what made the Bain meeting different and why he chose to work with the company. "From the beginning, the meeting was different. They didn't say 'tell me about Hireology' and instead, said to put our deck away and listen to what Bain could do for our company," Adam said. In August of 2014, Bain Capital Ventures offered led a $10 million funding round for Hireology. The process of a capital raise from initial pitch to check-in-hand took about 4-6 months for Adam and the Hireology team.
At Dignitas, our basic capital raise process takes about the same amount of time. It varies for each entrepreneur, but here is an easy timeline to give you an idea of what you should be doing and accomplishing throughout the process.
"The best price is not the best deal. We were looking for the best investor for our culture and our company. We passed on deals that didn't work for us," said Adam. It can be hard to pass on money that is right in front of you, but Adam's next point is important to remember when thinking about the capital raise process. "If you have a good business, you are the scarce asset. There will always be more money than there are quality deals," he said.
Can you relate to Adam's story or want more information about the capital raise process? We would love to hear from you!