Funding rounds are integral to the startup lifecycle. Over the past decade, an expanding collective of scaling businesses have tapped into private funding, looking beyond the traditional finance options available through banks. One could argue that the startup movement was instigated by the flexible financing options available to entrepreneurs who were deemed either too risky or too young by mainstream lending institutions.
The UK is a standout performer. It ranks second globally for startup funding in 2022, with UK startups raising more investment than India and China, trailing only behind the US. However, the process of closing successful funding rounds is beginning to change substantially.
In the past, investors were keen to invest in ‘hype’ – those early-stage, high-growth businesses exploring the potential of a new technology. Some of these companies have successfully grown into unicorns and become household names.
However, the same investment which triggered record-high funding rounds is also posing challenges. Sharp valuation downgrades, mass redundancies and annual net losses have impacted a number of recognisable brands. Add to this high inflation, high interest rates and general market volatility, and we can see the reasons why investor sentiment is shifting.
Rather than investing on hype, investment firms and retail investors are now opting to minimise their risk exposure by backing companies that demonstrate sustainable revenue growth and attractive profitability. UK-based VC firms have record levels of capital to deploy. Over the coming months, they will be on the lookout for late-stage startups to add to their portfolio.
For startups seeking to launch or close a new fundraising round, a new communications and brand positioning strategy is warranted. Core to this will be understanding the needs of the end user while also demonstrating the credentials of a company investors are seeking to back. Rather than simply making noise, startups need to think strategically about their approach to PR to make sure they stand out from their competitors and are communicating messages and proof points that will resonate with an investor audience.
As an agency who regularly works with startups launching and closing fundraising rounds, there are two core considerations we advise our clients. The first is making sure the funding round is positioned as part of the company’s growth narrative. Focusing less on the actual amount raised and more on how the funding will be used is important in demonstrating the vision of the company.
The second consideration is linked to the profile of the founder or C-level executive serving as the spokesperson. Understanding who the people are behind the brand can help the startup stand out from the competition and build a unique brand position. From a PR perspective, promoting the profile of the main company spokesperson means regular thought leadership articles, podcast appearances, reactive commentary on trending topics and media briefings with key journalists in the field. In the current market investors are focused on backing companies with high-growth potential but also the teams behind them.
Raising profile and building trust on Social
Of course, the tactics we’ve highlighted here can be translated well on social media. Generating profile on key platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be just as vital as the work that goes into create a presence within traditional media landscapes. More and more decision makers, for example, are taking to social media to develop their networks, identify business opportunities and increase their profile. Sifted recently reported that the most-followed unicorn CEOs on Twitter and LinkedIn raise as much as 20% more cash than their less-followed counterparts.
So, what platform should your C-Suite be present on and how can they build trust and visibility? For many in the corporate world, LinkedIn represents a natural home for senior figures. It is considered the B2B social media platform and is a place where users use social media in a professional mindset, making it a great place to identify potential leads or future partners, grow your business or extend your thought leadership comms programme. What’s more, C-Suite profiling is fast becoming an integral part of a business’ social media strategy; individual profiles often generate better engagement than company profiles on LinkedIn, making it a great base from which to tap into new audiences and extend the reach of content.
Longer-form articles are king on LinkedIn and go a long way to generating trust and credibility with audiences. Developing extended commentary on a pressing industry topic or a trending news story shows that you are on top of the latest developments in your sector and that you’re not afraid to put your head above the parapet and share your views to the majority. Articles can work as an extension of your media outreach, adding a more personal touch to say a company press release or television interview, or they can be a standalone pillar that can reach large audiences organically and bypass the hurdles that could be difficult to overcome when setting up media set-pieces.
That being said, as a founder your profile shouldn’t be constrained to just LinkedIn. If it’s personality as well as thought leadership that you’re looking to convey, then Twitter and Instagram might be more lucrative channels, the former as part of a commentary-based strategy and the latter as a way of showcasing who you are away from the business desk as well as at it.
To find out more about our founder PR and Social Media services get in touch with the team today.