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From Idea to Investment: A Roadmap for Pre-Seed and Seed Funding for New Founders

Starting a business is often a thrilling journey and sometimes unpredictable. You might begin with a spark, a concept, and a world of potential. However, transitioning from an initial idea to startup success is filled with decisions that will define the trajectory of your venture. Picking the right early-stage investors emerges as one of the most critical.

From Idea to Investment: A Roadmap for Pre-Seed and Seed Funding for New Founders


It’s about strategy. It’s about understanding the intricacies of timing, pinpointing the reasons behind your capital needs, and, most importantly, selecting partners who share your vision. Because once you invite external investors into your fold, it’s not just your company anymore; it becomes a shared dream.

In this guide, we’ll unravel the complexity of pre-seed and seed funding, focusing on the roles of Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists (VCs).  I aim to help you build the roadmap to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape confidently.

A few realities before we start:

  • Investment Implications: Understanding that investment fundamentally alters your control over the company is vital. If retaining autonomy is a priority, consider bootstrapping, a path taken by about 80% of startups valued over $100 million. In the early stages of your company, you owe it to yourself to build a position of strength before adding outside investors.  You’ll be able to retain more of your equity and receive better terms.
  • Investor Priorities: Investors are interested in your team’s ability and your business’s growth potential rather than just the novelty of your idea – pick your team wisely. Treat investors as partners in your company’s future rather than mere financiers.
  • Investment Rejections: Rejections are a normal part of the investment process. Build a compelling value proposition and present a clear market opportunity to stand out.
  • Angel Investor Success Rates: Angel Investors typically invest in only 10% of the opportunities they seriously contemplate.
  • Venture Capital Accessibility: Only 1% of startups secure VC funding. This can reflect your opportunity isn’t attractive, but it’s more likely you don’t align with the VC’s investment criteria. If you don’t fit the thesis they’ve sold to their investors, no matter how attractive your business might be, they won’t invest in your company.
  • Investment is Not Validation: True validation comes from customers, not investors. As the founder, you’re the ultimate investor in your startup – you owe it to yourself and those you bring in to honestly validate your market before moving further. Experienced investors will know, in your first interaction with them, if you haven’t.
  • Investment Doesn’t Ensure Success: Remember that 75% of VC-backed startups fail or underperform. Capital can help grow your business, assuming you have something the market wants – no amount of cash can do that in a non-existent market.
  • Alternative Funding Options: If bootstrapping isn’t an option, Angel Investors or Seed Stage VCs might be suitable.

Pre-Seed characteristics:

  • Early Product/Concept: The startup might only have a concept.
  • Team Formation: The founding team might still be forming. While the primary founders are likely in place, additional critical team members remain undefined.
  • Minimal Traction: The company likely will have little revenue.
  • Market Research: Founders are in the process of Market Validation. Research might include user interviews, surveys, and other primary and secondary research forms to understand the problem space and potential customer needs.
  • Funding Use: Funds raised during the pre-seed round are used for early product development, initial market validation, and building a position of strength to raise a seed round. To this point, you’ve likely spent at least $10,000 just getting started.
  • Capital Ask: The amount of capital sought in a pre-seed round is generally less than in a seed round, often ranging from tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand dollars.
  • Equity Instruments: Pre-seed investments might not always be straightforward equity deals. Convertible notes, SAFEs (Simple Agreements for Future Equity), and other equity-like instruments are typical at this stage.
  • Investor Profile: Pre-seed investors are often angel investors, early-stage venture capitalists, friends, and family.
  • Expected Outcomes: Given the early and risky nature of pre-seed investments, investors expect a significant portion of these investments to fail. However, they also hope for higher returns from the few who succeed.

Seed characteristics:

  • Product Development: The startup often has a minimum viable product (MVP) or beta version. The product might be in the hands of actual users, but it might not be the final version.
  • Traction: While a startup at this stage might not be profitable, there should be some early signs of traction.
  • Team: The core founding team is typically in place, including not only the visionaries but also those responsible for executing the vision, such as developers, marketers, or sales personnel.
  • Market Validation: There’s a clearer understanding of the target market. The startup has identified its ideal customer profile and received feedback from early users.
  • Business Plan: The company has developed its first-generation Business Plan tying together Market Validation, its Business Model, Growth strategy, and Financial expectations.
  • Funding Use: Funds raised in the seed round refine the product based on user feedback, expand the user base, hire key team members, initiate go-to-market strategies, and achieve other milestones to make the startup attractive for a Series A round.
  • Capital Ask: Seed rounds can range significantly from hundreds of thousands to a few million dollars, depending on the startup, market, and geography.
  • Equity Instruments: While seed investments can be equity deals, convertible notes and SAFEs (Simple Agreements for Future Equity) remain common. These instruments might convert into equity in a subsequent funding round, often at a discount to the price in that round.
  • Investor Profile: Seed investors include angel investors and seed-stage venture capitalists (VCs).
  • Expected Outcomes: Seed investments are still considered high-risk, but a more evident product-market fit is expected and more substantial traction by the end of the seed phase. Investors anticipate further rounds of financing, usually a Series A, following the successful use of seed capital.

Know which stage describes your current status:

Avoiding these common pitfalls is critical:

  • Expectations: Align founder and investor expectations, avoiding misunderstandings.
  • Time Efficiency: Prevents wasted time pitching to inappropriate investors.
  • Valuation: Helps get favorable terms and prevents excessive equity dilution.
  • Strategic Planning: Aligns funding with corresponding business milestones.
  • Credibility: Demonstrates founder’s self-awareness and business savvy.
  • Investor Relationships: Enables productive discussions and future collaborations.
  • Reputation Risk: Avoids overselling and potential damage to the founder’s reputation.
  • Targeted Advice: Allows founders to seek stage-specific mentorship.
  • Mental Preparedness: Prepares founders for investor scrutiny relevant to their stage.
  • Financial Planning: Aids in budgeting and resource allocation based on the company’s stage.

Time to decide: Angel Investor or VC?


I’ll cut to the chase on this one. I’ve never seen a VC participate in a Pre-Seed stage, at least not one you’d want to share your company with.  The few that surface are relative unknowns desperate for deal flow.  You need more than money at this point.  You won’t like the terms even if you have one expressing interest.

Pre-Seed comes down to continued bootstrapping or Angel investors.  Here are some considerations to help make the best choice:

Financial Requirements:

  • Bootstrapping: If initial costs are low, consider personal savings or revenue; these could be your best options.
  • Angel Investors: External funding can accelerate progress if significant upfront costs are involved (e.g., specialized equipment or research).

Control and Equity:

  • Bootstrapping: Founders maintain full control and ownership.
  • Angel Investors: Raising external capital means giving away equity and potentially some level of control.

Speed of Growth:

  • Bootstrapping: Growth may be slower as it relies on reinvesting business profits.
  • Angel Investors: External funding allows faster scaling, hiring, marketing, and product development.

Validation and Credibility:

  • Bootstrapping: The focus is on immediate customer validation.
  • Angel Investors: Having reputable angels on board can provide validation, credibility and attract other investors or partners.

Network and Mentorship:

  • Bootstrapping: Founders rely on existing networks and resources.
  • Angel Investors: Angels often bring valuable industry connections, advice, and mentorship.

Business Model and Revenue:

  • Bootstrapping: There’s a strong emphasis on achieving profitability early.
  • Angel Investors: With external funding, there might be more flexibility to focus on growth first and monetization later.

Pressure and Expectations:

  • Bootstrapping: Founders have the flexibility to pivot and evolve the business model without external pressures.
  • Angel Investors: There can be pressure to meet certain milestones or grow at a particular rate to satisfy investors.

Long-term Vision:

  • Bootstrapping: Founders can pursue a vision without external influence, which might suit niche or passion projects.
  • Angel Investors: Investors often seek scalable businesses with a clear path to significant returns.


Founders should consider several key factors:

Capital Requirement:

  • Angel Investors: Typically provide smaller sums, often adequate for initial operations or achieving early milestones.
  • VCs: Offer larger investments suitable for aggressive scaling or entering capital-intensive markets.

Equity & Terms:

  • Angel Investors: Might offer more flexible, founder-friendly terms.
  • VCs: Tend to demand more significant equity stakes and might have stricter terms, protective provisions, or board seats.

Mentorship & Support:

  • Angel Investors: Individual angels can provide expertise, one-on-one mentorship, and industry insights.
  • VCs: Have a broader network, resources, and team expertise but may spread their attention across multiple portfolio companies.

Networking & Strategic Partnerships:

  • Angel Investors: Can introduce founders to industry insiders or other angel/early-stage investors.
  • VCs: Offer extensive networks, including potential business partners, customers, and future investors.

Decision-making Speed:

  • Angel Investors: Decision-making can be faster as it’s often individual-based.
  • VCs: Typically have a more structured due diligence process, which can take longer.

Long-term Involvement & Follow-on Investment:

  • Angel Investors: Often have limited capacity for follow-on investments in future rounds.
  • VCs: Often invest with a view towards participating in subsequent funding rounds, providing more long-term capital.

External Validation:

  • Angel Investors: Adds credibility, especially if the angel has industry renown.
  • VCs: A reputable VC can be a strong validation, potentially making subsequent fundraising rounds easier.

Alignment with Vision & Goals:

  • Angel Investors: May resonate more with the founder’s vision.
  • VCs: Prioritize scalability and returns, aligning with startups that fit their fund’s thesis.

Next Steps

  • Self-assessment: Understand your risk tolerance, growth ambitions, and comfort with relinquishing some control.
  • Financial Projections: Estimate your startup’s financial needs for the next 12-24 months. Can you cover these costs through bootstrapping?
  • Market Dynamics: Waiting might be detrimental in rapidly growing markets with intense competition. External funding can give you a head start.
  • Seek Advice: Engage with mentors, fellow entrepreneurs, and experienced startup advisors to gain insights from their experiences.
  • Research: Look into the track record, industry focus, and reputation of potential investors.
  • Peer Feedback: Talk to other founders who’ve worked with the investors you’re considering for insights into their experience.
  • Pitch Preparation: Tailor the Pitch to your specific audience. Angels and VCs have different needs.  Avoid a one size fits all approach.

For over 35 years, Werner has founded and managed private and international public companies in various industries, including manufacturing, natural resources, and the tech sectors. During that time, he and his teams have secured over $700 million to execute international growth and diversification programs in Europe, North and South America, The Middle East, and Australia.

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