I look at raising money as a necessity for most fast-growing tech businesses. The truth is that generally you need to move faster in the world of technology than you do in most other industries and it is normally not possible to do this organically.
Raising money can help a business to accelerate its progress and take advantage of being early into a market. And it shouldn’t just provide an injection of cash, although this is clearly the main benefit – a good investor should also provide additional value to the business in terms of support, guidance and connections.
My advice when raising money is to raise more money than you need and also to raise it from the right people. Raising money is time consuming and financial projections are generally too optimistic and it’s for these reasons I’d try to raise more money than you think you need, assuming it’s available.
At MessageLabs we raised $30M from US based investors but only about half this amount was built into our ambitious expansion plans and associated cash projections – we didn’t know how we were going to use the rest of it but we were certainly pleased we took it when we did. We raised the money for MessageLabs in 2000, after only 18 months, but there was such momentum in the business and the overall market for any Internet-based business that we were able to achieve a great valuation and choose from a long line of VC’s. It then turned out that it took a lot longer and cost more than we had expected to scale the business globally. One of the reasons for this was that we made our share of misteps along the way – one of which was an over-reliance on channel partners to sell the service that didn’t work so well when it comes to selling a SaaS service and another was that we needed to completely rethink the architecture of our service in the face of the huge growth in email volumes we were processing. But, most importantly, it’s just a reality of life that things generally take longer and cost more than you imagine they will.