How to raise Series A being a foreigner in Singapore: $4m Aptoide's story Google+

Hi there, I am Tiago, VP of Aptoide, the independent android app store for app developers.
Earlier 2016, our company, Aptoide raised US$4 million Series A round of financing from VCs in Germany, China, Singapore, and Portugal. Here I would like to share some pointers for founders seeking to raise some serious money.

Don’t be selective of who you pitch to

At a scrumptious lunch event in Lisbon (and we are from Portugal), I decided to casually strike up a conversation with this young chap beside me, asking what is the start-up he is working on. Turns out, this young man was a partner in e.ventures who at the age of 27 was featured by Forbes’ 30 under 30.
In the following few months, e.ventures became our lead investor and the rest is history.

Don’t look desperate

Finding a VC is no different from finding a date. When you have no courters, no VC is interested in you. When you have started getting some interest, the fear of missing out will make VCs pay more attention to you. The FOMO effect is very much real.
Plan your fundraising early, the process is long and tedious.

VC invests in lines, not dots

Your plans are dots on the growth chart. You need to show that you can execute fast and connect the dots. Take every conversation with the VC as a chance to showcase how you can make good on your promises and deliver results. Don’t allow your development to stall just because you are fundraising.
For Aptoide, while we are raising Series A, we continued with our expansion plans to open offices in Singapore and Shenzhen by taking a bridge loan from our seed investors. I think we showcased a good track record of delivering action, with or without prospective VCs’ participation.

Use LinkedIn

Connect, connect and connect. LinkedIn Premium did wonders for me with the “See all employees” function. Don’t be overly selective on who you connect to, you never know who knows who.
The best time to ping a VC is counterintuitively, on Saturday and Sunday when they are having their morning coffee. Being on a weekend means your pitch is competing with fewer work emails. I would then use my InMail credits to send introductory messages to prospective VCs.

3 is the magic number

At Mckinsey, there is a saying, 2 is too little, 4 is too much. Understand VCs are short on time. Pick up the three most important points and go.

For us, it was simply

  • (i) Top 3 App stores (Who we are)
  • (ii) 51m users as of 2014 (Our traction)
  • (iii) US$4m (How much are we raising)

Do your homework

Going to the VC’s website and understanding their investment thesis and portfolio is the expected bare minimum. Crunchbase is also another good source to find out a VC’s past investment and how you might be a good fit for them.

More importantly, gather informal information by talking to more people. Sometimes, a VC fund might have just run out and they simply cannot invest in your start-up. Sometimes, they might have moved from seed round to Series A. Save yourself the time and pain by asking tough questions early.

The takeaway

Fund raising is a drawn out and time-consuming process. It is wise to have someone dedicated to the task, not necessary a founder to be focusing on the fundraising process. Business has to continue and the start-up must continue to grow.

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