Talking funding with Pronto Bottle’s founder
In late 2020, Shannon Gilleland led Pronto Bottle – the world’s first self-sterilising baby bottle – through a successful equity crowdfunding raise.
It was an epic effort, a marathon and a sprint, but now that she’s had a chance to recover she’s also spent some time reflecting on her startup funding story so far.
We’ve been with her along the way, and were stoked when she offered to share her funding tips and insights to help other founders. So without further ado, over to Shannon!
Raising funds has been our biggest challenge
“I think it’s one of the portions of work that a lot of entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of time and effort that is required.
Raising through angels and VCs is a full time job in itself, over a six month period, as you spend time researching which investors are aligned to what stage, raise amount and type of startup you are. There’s a fair amount of time spent reaching out to the right investors to get that first meeting, updating and editing your pitch deck, practising it, then actually presenting your pitch to investors. Sometimes this can be very frustrating as along the way you find that the research you’ve gleaned from their website, that had you thinking you were aligned with the types of investments they were looking for, isn’t actually what they’re after.
If you’re savvy, you’ve prepared a B/ C/D plan at the same time as you’re pitching to investors, which typically means you’re either spending time introducing friends and family to the idea of investing or loaning you funds to get you through. Or you’re researching and writing grant applications, preparing for and attending pitch events, meeting with R&D consultants to organise a loan to get you through till tax time or researching, writing and preparing for accelerators.
If giving up too much equity at an early stage is a concern, and you’re not looking for a framework of knowledge, mentorship or network access, crowdsourced funding is an option, but comes with its own pitfalls. Trust me, I know. We’ve run two campaigns, failed one and successfully landed the other.”
I was always looking for the ‘Golden Triangle’
“That is: Funds + Knowledge + Network – which is why I researched and applied for the most appropriate accelerators for what I was looking for. An accelerator that could back me with funding, took a minimal amount of equity, gave me a framework of knowledge and mentorship, and access to a greater network of experts I could tap into when needed. Being accepted into the MedTech Actuator was integral to my personal growth and the companies, and with a VC fund backing the program, we had the opportunity and fortunate access to further funding, if they were pleased with our direction.”
And then COVID happened…
“After finishing the MedTech Actuator program, with COVID and lockdown just hitting Australia, pitching a hardware startup to investors became a seemingly impossible task. It became increasingly clear we would need to take fundraising in another direction, into equity crowdsourced funding, through Birchal. It’s not a decision to be taken likely, as just like running a Kickstarter campaign, you spend a lot of money to run the campaign. And with no guaranteed success at the end of it, plus a product development pipeline that desperately needed the funds to build prototypes instead, it was a very difficult decision to make.”
Kicking off the Birchal raise
“It started with preparing our fundraising timeline, and hiring the people around us we needed to raise the funds. Everyone from legal, PR, marketing, a campaign manager and accounting were brought on board, and personally I set out a timeline four weeks ahead of our launch date to start warming up my social media and activating my personal networks.
I took Birchal’s detailed feedback on the steps required to raise the funds, worked with the campaign manager on setting out the plan over three months, automated as many processes as we could, and developed KPIs to keep track of how the campaign was going so we could make adjustments as needed.
Looking back now, nothing could have prepared me for the added workload that was about to hit my plate! I went from a typical 60 hour week to 100 hours. Technical glitches like swapping over email clients and losing our Instagram account just before we launched added to the intensity. It was a nightmare experience for a solo founder.
Technical issues aside, I think the only thing that could have made the workload easier was if I’d had a co-founder to share it. Failing that, I could have hired more hours from the campaign manager to help, but some of the work need to come from me as the founder. For example: Potential investors receiving a personal call or email to chat about plans for Pronto into the future and why they might like to come on board.”
And… it worked
“With all that said, we raised our minimum target, quite literally with a couple of hours to go, and have successfully welcomed a number of new retail and sophisticated investors into the Pronto family.
Though I’m certainly not in a hurry to go through the process again, I’m extremely grateful to have investors on who are highly aligned to our company values and offer a multitude of skills that we can tap into.”
Recapping your funding sources so far
● Friends and family
● Pitch events
● Grants – applied for, but not successfully landed
● R&D financing
● MedTech Actuator
● Artesian venture capital
● Birchal equity crowdfunding
Want to really understand startup funding?
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Meet John Nixon. Great at using the R&D Tax Incentive, grants and financial planning to help startups and SMEs. Not great at surviving on a desert island.