About 1,500 new companies are founded every day.
However, only a fraction of these entrepreneurial pursuits will eventually operate on a grand scale. With many of these companies propelled by venture capital funding, how do investors provide the cash—and get a piece of the startup pie?
Pie in the Sky
Today’s creative infographic from Fundera uses pie to visualize each stage of startup funding, from pre-seed funding to initial public offering.
It’s worth noting that numbers presented here are hypothetical in nature, and that startups can have all kinds of paths to success (or failure).
In the pre-seed funding round, the founder(s) pitch their business idea to potential investors. These are typically friends, family, angel investors, or pre-seed venture capital firms.
Since there is likely no performance data or positive financials to show yet, potential investors must focus on two primary features: the strength of the idea and the team.
The biggest factor in our decision-making is always the founding team […] that’s what success lives or dies on in this industry: the ability for founders to make really quick, good decisions.
–First Round Capital
At this stage, both the level of risk and potential payoff are at their highest.
After the initial stages, seed funding—the first official funding round for many companies—takes place. Entrepreneurs use the funds for market testing, product development, and bringing operations up to speed.
By this point, investors are generally looking for the company’s ability to solve a need for customers in a way that will achieve product-market fit. At this stage, ideally there is also some level of traction or consumer adoption, such as user or revenue growth. The level of risk is still quite high here, so investors tend to be angel investors or venture capitalists.
In each series funding, the startup generally raises more money and increases their valuation. Here’s what investors tend to expect in each round:
- Series A: Companies that not only have a great idea, but a strategy for creating long-term profit.
- Series B: Companies generating consistent revenue that must scale to meet growing demand.
- Series C (and beyond): Companies with strong financial performance that are looking to expand to new markets, develop new products, buy out businesses, or prepare for an Initial Public Offering (IPO).
Private equity firms and investment bankers are attracted to series C funding as it tends to be much less risky. In recent years, startups have been staying private longer. For example, Uber obtained Series G funding and debt financing before going public.
Initial Public Offering
Once a company is large and stable enough, it may choose to go public. An investment bank will commit to selling a certain amount of shares for a certain amount of money.
If the IPO goes well, investors will profit and the company’s reputation gets a boost—but if it doesn’t, investors lose money and the company’s reputation takes a hit.
Here’s how the example investment amounts break down at each stage:
|Average Equity Stake
An investor’s equity is diluted as other investors come on board, but their “piece of the pie” usually becomes more valuable.
The Venture Capital Funnel
How likely is it that a startup makes its way through the entire process? In a study of over 1,110 U.S. seed tech companies, only 30% exited through an IPO, merger, or acquisition (M&A).
Companies that reach a private valuation of $1B or more, known as unicorns, are even more rare at just 1%.
At each stage, natural selection takes hold with fewer companies advancing. Here’s a look at the entire funnel, with the “second round” generally corresponding to a series A stage, a “third round” generally corresponding to a series B stage, and so on.
Notably, 67% of the companies stalled out at some point in the funding process, becoming either dead or self-sustaining. While startups carry a high degree of risk, they also present opportunities for substantial rewards.