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November 17, 2023
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 min read

How to Raise a Seed Round with Phil Odelfelt

Phil Odelfelt, Founder & CEO of Datavations, recently joined our podcast The Fundraising Debrief following his successful $4.2 million seed raise

How to Raise a Seed Round with Phil Odelfelt

Phil Odelfelt, Founder & CEO of Datavations, recently joined our podcast The Fundraising Debrief following his successful $4.2 million seed raise. Datavations is a market intelligence platform for consumer durables manufacturers. They use prescriptive analytics, driven by proprietary data and AI, to enable smarter business decisions. The following is a summary of the main takeaways from the podcast. Be sure to check out the full episode and follow us on Linkedin for more highlights from every guest.

Throughout this journey, Phil has focused on building genuine relationships and going deep with customers and investors, instead of playing the volume game. Founders should dedicate time to networking and finding like-minded individuals with whom they can have regular, meaningful intellectual exchanges. This is a useful approach when identifying talent to bring into the company, advisors, and even when seeking your earliest customers. And it's certainly no different when it comes to finding your investors.

When we asked Phil how long the seed fundraise took, he said something that resonated with us and reflected what other exceptional founders say: I'm always fundraising. The reality for anyone selling anything is this: the best time to build a relationship is not when you're asking for something. Given Phil's emphasis on building genuine relationships, which we find hard to argue with, this strategy should come as no surprise.

One fundraising trick Phil learned along the way? Instead of asking investors for intros to other investors, ask them for introductions to customers to assess their domain expertise, ability to add value, and interest in doing so.

If you still need introductions to investors you're targeting, Phil recommends leveraging founders in their portfolio. Still, there are no shortcuts. You should focus on developing real relationships with them before asking for an endorsement. Otherwise you may not gain their trust or support, and their word may not be as powerful (investors can sniff out a 'fake' referral e.g. a relationship that was formed over email two days ago).

Interestingly, Phil has also had success approaching LPs (Limited Partners) who have invested in venture funds, asking them to join his cap table directly. This is definitely an underutilized approach, and one that may be especially beneficial to early stage founders who are looking for value-add angel investors who have deep domain expertise and relationships which can benefit the business.

In preparation for his priced round, Phil focused on establishing proper governance, including quarterly advisory board meetings. This is a good practice to get into, even before it's required, as it will better prepare you for the expectations that come with a priced round.

Our favorite phrase from our episode with Phil? If things get tough, as a leader it's your responsibility to "go back to eating beans". It's the responsibility of a founder to make the tough decisions, including cutting costs if need be. Besides, profitability and proven, sustainable business models have rarely been in more vogue than they are now, in late 2023.

Phil is an avid reader, a quality we admire given the time constraints of a founder and that reflects his insatiable appetite for continuous learning (a factor that must be highly represented in top-performing founders). Some of Phil's book recommendations include "Zero to One" by Peter Thiel, "How Google Works," and "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". For a full list, check out the show notes for the episode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

Phil's journey offers a roadmap for early-stage founders navigating the complex startup landscape. As you embark on your own startup journey, remember Phil's advice: focus on genuine connections, meticulously develop your network, never stop learning, and eat your beans.

How to Raise a Seed Round with Phil Odelfelt

Mark is a repeat founder, ex-VC investor, and experienced go-to-market and revenue leader.

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