Any entrepreneur seeking investment hopes it’ll be a smooth process, but it’s not always that simple.
The journey finding, pitching and securing investment doesn’t always go to plan, which can leave you feeling deflated and question what went wrong. In focusing on the what, founders forget the when. Finding a successful match with an investor can be made somewhat easier if they’re actively in the market for a deal – so founders need to shift the dial in strategy and focus on timing.
So, what is the best time of the year to fundraise and how can you optimise your chances of closing a deal first?
Just like sales and sports, fundraising is seasonal
Keep in mind that investor interest piques at key moments in the calendar. At SeedLegals, we’ve seen the same pattern emerging year after year so you should pitch to make the most of the peak times of the year.
Our data suggests Q1 is the most successful quarter for opening and closing a round. We’ve seen 31 per cent more rounds closing from Q4 to Q1 this year. The month with consistently the highest volume of rounds closed is March.
Why March? In the weeks up to the end of the tax year, there’s always a huge spike in closed rounds. There’s also an eagerness to tie up loose ends – closing in March is a neat end to the quarter and a fresh start to Q2. Investors like to keep deals within quarters, so starting the year with a deal sets a positive precedent for the year.
Close your deal before popular holiday times
Other standout periods of peak investment happen around ordinary annual milestones: Christmas and summer holidays.
We see a spike in deals closed around Christmas and the end of December because founders are often keen to close before the end of the year or before they take some much-needed time off with their family and friends. For investors, closing at the end of the calendar year allows them to wrap up their deals for the year before the next year starts. Knowing this, you can make sure you have your plans in place well before Christmas.
We see another clear peak in deals closed from the end of May to early June. We believe this is due to companies pushing to close before summer when many people in the investing world take several weeks off as they down tools for a summer break. If you close before July, you’ll save yourself the stress of trying to chase up off-radar investors and having a funding round that stretches on for months. You also minimise the risk that investors might lose interest and back out.
The key thing to remember is that summer is not the time to raise. At SeedLegals, we do see a spike in deals closes in September but don’t be fooled by this – we believe this is due to stagnant rounds being picked up again after summer. To secure a firm commitment from investors, you’ll need to catch them when they’re well-rested or more active at other points in the calendar.
Find out if your investors favour the financial year
While you can rely on the fixed calendar hotspots to increase likelihood of investment, it’s not always that straightforward. Each founder, business and plan is different and requires a different type of investment. Similarly, investors are different and their preferences for when they invest differ. It’s logical: angels and VCs have different priorities so of course when they choose to invest is different.
For some investors, the financial year-end is a vital time to make investments because they want to make the most of the Enterprise Investment Schemes (SEIS and EIS). Both schemes are designed to encourage investment in small or medium sized companies.
Under the SEIS and EIS, investors can claim income tax relief related to the amount they invest in that tax year. Angel investors usually choose to align with these schemes because, in addition to the income tax relief on their initial investment, the schemes minimise the risk they’re taking with their money by giving tax relief if they end up having to sell their S/EIS shares at a loss. Both schemes increase an investor’s return on investment by reducing their net funding commitment.
For other investors, the calendar year forms a central part of their planning and reporting. Venture capital firms operate with an annual plan – aligning with the financial year is a more traditional and somewhat straightforward way to organise investments.
You’ll need to do your research. What type of investment or investor are you dealing with? And when will they be most active? Finding the right time to capture investors’ interest could make the difference between closing in just two months (for example in Q1) and closing in the average of five months.
Use agile funding to raise before and after rounds
When planning a funding round, it’s easy to get caught up in closing a traditional round. However, recently we’ve seen the growing popularity of agile fundraising, a method of taking investments continually without the confines of a funding round. Early-stage companies are moving from traditional funding rounds every 12 to 18 months to agile funding where they raise small amounts frequently, taking investment when the opportunity arises.
The typical slow, expensive and bureaucratic legal processes of traditional funding rounds means they can take up to six months to organise, negotiate and complete. SeedLegals uses automation to reduce the time and cost of doing a funding round by 80 per cent. This significant saving opens new possibilities for founders. Our data shows that founders are now using the SeedLegals platform to do lots of smaller raises, both instead of and in addition to traditional fundraising rounds.
Is there a pattern in traditional rounds versus agile funding? Yes. In Q1 we see agile funding slow down as companies open rounds and negotiate with investors. In March, there’s a huge step up in active rounds on SeedLegals – almost 50 per cent – as companies aim to complete before the end of the tax year. From Q1 to Q2, we see a 25 per cent increase in agile funding because there’s less investor pressure to close. Because agile funding is flexible, the pattern we see is that as traditional round closing goes up, agile funding dips, and vice versa.
The best time to raise depends on the opportunity and the investor
The good news is that there isn’t just one best time to open and close a round – there are multiple opportunities throughout the year to raise funds. With key milestones in the calendar and financial year, plus the flexibility of agile funding, companies now always have opportunities to top up their funds. To stand out when pitching, you must be clear on why you’re fundraising now, and what timing will best suit the investors you’re hoping to onboard.