Startup Investment: What Does VC Mean in Investment?

lit up sign of shaking hands seen on dark background signalling a vc deal has been made

What does VC mean? An excellent question – one of many that you’ll find yourself asking when running your dream startup.

But when it comes to getting investors, let’s face it – startup investment is hard. Before you even start approaching investors, you need to know what sort of investment is right for you.

You’ve probably heard of VCs, but might be at a bit of a loss about what they can do for you. This is why we’ve put together this article!

It’ll tell you everything you need to know about VCs and answer some of your most burning questions. Questions like: What does VC mean? How do I find the right VC for me? When’s the right time for a startup to approach a VC?

Let’s start from the top…

What Is a VC & What Does VC Mean?

A VC is a venture capitalist – so, in simpler terms, they’re investors.

They invest in ventures, i.e startups, and other new businesses. It’s different from angel investing in that this type of funding comes from firms and funds – not a private investor or individual. Because they’re bigger, you can potentially get a much larger investment from a VC firm than from an angel.

Venture capital firms typically invest in upcoming industries, like tech. In return for investing in startups, they get equity or shares in the company.

Investment 101: the ultimate goal for VCs is that a startup will grow to the point that they get a high ROI (return on investment). They’ll help the business scale to a point where it can make a profitable exit. For instance, if the business goes public, the VCs will probably cash out their shares during the IPO (initial public offering). Obviously, in an ideal situation, they’ll end up getting a lot more money back than they originally put in.

Image of a stock market monitor; VCs will typically cash out their shares during an IPO if a startup succeeds.

For startups, VCs are a key source of investment because they won’t have access to capital markets and are often deemed too high risk for traditional business loans.

For VCs, the risk is part and parcel of their business model. They find startup companies to invest in over a 3-5 year period, with the hope that some will have significant returns over 10 years. This means that even if some investments fail, they’ll make substantial returns on other startup investments.

How Do Venture Capital Firms Work?

It might sound strange, but VCs have to fundraise too. The money they invest in startups or other businesses isn’t plucked out of thin air. They raise this money from places like funds and foundations, as well as rich individuals who want their investments handled for them.

The partners (i.e the top dogs at the firm) might also invest a bit of their own money into the fund, but this will be a smaller amount. As well as raising money for startup investing, the partners are also responsible for higher-level decision-making – e.g researching upcoming industries, networking and representing the firm at events, etc. You’re unlikely to be in contact with a partner until the end stages of your deal, where they’ll give the final green light.

board meetings for CEOS

Lower down in the firm there’ll be associates and analysts. Associates are the ones who handle the day-to-day deal-making – e.g finding potential new companies to invest in and meeting promising startups. You’ll have to impress them if you want investment, as partners will rarely get involved in a deal from the get-go.

Who Do VC’s Invest In?

Venture capital firms will generally have an interest in a specific industry, and it will normally be one that’s currently growing. This means you should approach VCs who specialize in the industry your startup works in. This is because they’ll not only provide funding – a good VC will also provide business guidance and expertise to help your startup grow.

Strong teams are essential to raising VC investment. A group of people sat around having a meeting with tea and coffee.

This guidance can become annoying for people who want to maintain full control of their own companies, however, it’s important to remember that VCs will inevitably have some degree of control over your startup.

They’ll have some veto powers in board meetings for instance, and you’ll have to consult them before making major business decisions. They’ll become a partner in the business, so make sure their values and vision are aligned with yours.

Initial investors from venture capitals will also be looking for rapid growth, and evidence of how your startup plans to get this. If you’re interested in slower growth, rather than rapid scaling, a VC might not be the best option in terms of startup investment. As we said earlier, they’re looking for a good ROI after a specific period of time, which is normally around 10 years.

But perhaps the single biggest factor for securing VC investment is a strong management team. The best idea in the world can be destroyed by terrible management, while an average one can succeed with amazing execution. It’s easier to get investment from VCs if you’ve got a history of previous success managing business. Plus you need to show you’ve got a solid team of individuals who will play crucial roles in your startup’s development.

When’s the right time to seek investment from a VC?

VCs aren’t always a good option for early-stage startups and are better suited to later rounds. For your seed round, for instance, you’ll probably be focusing more on attracting angel investors.

However, some firms do specialize in earlier rounds and might provide seed funding or Series A funding. It’s later rounds where they really matter though, as that’s where big VC firms are likely to play a massive part. This is because they’re looking to invest big amounts – think millions, rather than thousands. Early-stage companies just don’t need that much money, and you’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone to give it to you.

Ready to take your first step and start pitching to a VC? Make sure your investment deck is looking its best. 

This article is part of our startup investment series. You can read about the types of investors, where to find them, how to pitch, and an introduction to investment legal. Read more.

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Becca is the Marketing Executive at Twine. She loves literature, music, film and make-up. She spends a lot of time complaining about the mismatched angles of her winged eyeliner and stalking drag queens on Instagram. Otherwise, she’s helping Joe by writing blog posts and keeping Twine’s social media running.