What made your campaign a success?
I would say that trust was the key element for my campaign’s success. Some people didn’t even ask to see my project page nor my business plan. They bought in the project straight away.<br>Of course my profile and the quality of my work played a key role in reaching my goal. The sound and relevant communication achieved via SparkUp was also a deciding factor in the success of my fundraising.
What would you say to people who are on the fence about using SparkUp?
I would repeat what Pierre told me: whether it is in terms of communication, experience or business opportunities, « you have everything to gain ».
Why did you decide to use crowdfunding and SparkUp?
One of my associate co-founder was a bank managing director and he knew it would be impossible for us to get a loan. It is when I got interested in crowdfunding as well as throughout my research on collaborative intelligence during one of my missions that I discovered funding through SparkUp.
I was moving forward with my project and I didn’t plan on raising funds in 2015, but this fundraising solution propelled by my own network appealed to me. I went through the fundraising potential test on SparkUp and I discovered that I could potentially find between €200k and €500k within my LinkedIn network alone.
I found the test result to be highly motivating and soliciting my network seemed less complicated as I already knew how to successfully approach it. I was way more comfortable with this process as opposed to publicly display my project on a classic crowdfunding platform.
At which stage of development did you decide to raise funds for your business?
I raised funds right after setting up the business, far earlier than I had expected. Pierre, my advisor at SparkUp, was the one who convinced me to go through with it. I didn’t think I was ready as I was still in the early phase of putting up my project, my website wasn’t even finished. Pierre convinced me that waiting longer to be « ready » wasn’t necessarily in my best interest, instead he advised me to take advantage of the moment and launch my campaign within the fertile period of tax deadlines. Sometimes you just have to go for it. If I had let that period slip by, I might have lost 6 months – a year worth of time.
How much did you manage to raise this way? Under what conditions?
I managed to raise €100k with a classic shareholders’ alliance, under the conditions I had established beforehand and that seemed fair according to me. My shareholders were very enabling and trust me so everything went smoothly with no extra negotiating.
What were the per investor amounts and how many investors bought into the company?
There were 5 investors in total: 3 of them were people I knew well and they put 10k each, there was also a business owner that invested 20k and finally my biggest investor was a commercial director from my LinkedIn network who invested 50k.
Who did you contact?
I reached out to both my personal and professional network via importing the contacts out of my CRM (clients and contractors), my LinkedIn and my Gmail account. My Coachline client database allowed me to get a lot of meetings and potential investments or future partnerships. My LinkedIn enabled me to identify my biggest investor.
What were the challenges you faced along the way?
My campaign was greatly slowed down by 3 factors that derive from my lack of experience in fundraising as well as other contextual elements.
At first, my project appealed to many people but I couldn’t convert this interest into an investment. After launching my campaign, I started exchanging with experienced people from the industry and it made me realise that the issue lied within my business plan, which wasn’t attractive enough. Indeed, in an upright fashion, I felt like it would be better not to do any prevision over 5 years, so we put up a business plan over only 3 years instead, which wasn’t giving a lot of profit perspectives. It was only forecasting the tough years.
My campaign was also disrupted by the Paris attacks. The event considerably slowed down the process. The potential investors were petrified and didn’t pay a lot of attention to my message.
At last, the final element of struggle was wasting a lot of time with someone that had agreed to invest and that I mistakenly took for granted before we had even settled on the investment conditions.
Did those investors provide you with more than a financial help?
Yes, they all helped me develop my business. One of my goal was to launch Coachline on foreign markets, and some of my investors have powerful networks in some of these countries, networks which they didn’t hesitate to activate in order to help me attack those new markets.<br />That is what I was looking for when I decided to go with SparkUp: I didn’t solely want to raise funds but find investors capable of being proper partners involved in Coachline’s success.
Would you recommend crowdfunding?
Yes. I think it is a great way of giving any type of company a chance to raise funds as it allows the exploitation of a resource we all possess: our network. Indeed, we all have a network that is more or less dormant. Crowd funding, as viewed by SparkUp, allows one to activate its network and within it generate investment offers thanks to a very human communication that is adapted to this type of fundraising campaign.<br />According to me, the most important thing is how best to use your own network and I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself.