"Scottish investors are way too conservative." "It's impossible to raise investment here." "The process takes far too long." Does this sound familiar?
If you've been around founders at events, you'll hear refrains like this often. We would say that though, right? We're on one side of a process, and often when 'having a vision and wanting to execute' meets 'I need money to do it' the result is either a perceived set of unnecessary barriers or slowdown, or inability to grasp one's brilliant idea. Either way it wastes time.
In reality though, and to paraphrase an investor I know and respect, you're actively deciding to give up part of your ownership to someone else and let them into the thing you've built. So the idea that that comes with no strings, or that you wouldn't have to prove why your opportunity makes business sense to them isn't realistic.
We tend to get obsessed with stories from founders who've heard how easy money can be, or how fast a company's narrative will tell you it has grown. That can cloud us when it comes to thinking about our own situation. I don't particularly think I'm great at fundraising. I'm too quick to tell you exactly how this thing can fail. But when I'm unsuccessful with an investor, it might be that they don't understand the opportunity I'm bringing them, but it also might be that they're just not interested, not the right type of investor, or (heaven forbid) I'm not ready.
It's easy to complain about investors, but when you ask folks about their investors - the ones that are already committed - you get a far more nuanced picture than what you hear at loud meetups. Some investors are super helpful and supportive, others aren't but also leave you be to get on with things. Still others are perceived to be actively meddlesome and problematic.
This is all part of the startup journey and not unique to any geography. The uncomfortable truth is, no one owes you anything, and funding, like business, is a challenge that requires both strategy and luck.
So the question then is: Is it specifically harder in Scotland? Is it easier in Scotland? What works well, and what doesn't? When thinking about investors based in Scotland, what if anything could be improved on, and what could the rest of the world learn?
Today we launch the 2023 Founders Survey on the investment landscape in Scotland. If you're a founder based in Scotland who's either pitched for or taken investment, please take 2-5 minutes to share your views about investors inside and outside of Scotland, and what you think works well vs needs improvement.
Have an investor that's been super useful? Go through a DD process that was far too long? Seen terms that weren't very founder friendly? Unsuccessfully pitched but got great feedback? We want to hear your stories!
If you filled it out last year: thank you! It's super important to fill it out again - you'll be pleased to see how much shorter it is this time!
As founders, if we're not willing to share our perspective, we can't expect the wider ecosystem to improve.
Our goal is to get over 200 founders to respond. Make sure your voice is heard: fill it out here.
The Founders Survey is open to any founder based in Scotland who has pitched for or received investment for their business. It's a completely independent project and receives no funding from investors or the government. All answers are anonymised before any summary or report is produced and shared. More information can be found here.
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Campfire is sponsored by Shepherd and Wedderburn's initiative to supercharge start-ups and scale-ups. Be sure to follow the Start to Scale LinkedIn page for useful videos and posts designed to help founders.