Raising money from Middle East angel investors

Becoming a WOMENA Portfolio Company–Interview with Wrappup

Wrappup is an award winning, innovative startup that is revolutionizing the way people take notes. The app they developed is a meeting productivity tool that uses smart voice recording to build playable summary notes and make meeting discussion instantly searchable. At the push of a button, users tag and organize the most important points of discussion as contextualized notes. Decisions and action items are captured, annotated, and stored in a collaborative work-space for future review.

The company was founded by techies Rami Salman, Ayush Chordia, and Rishav Jalan at a Hackathon and is growing fast. After winning the grand cash prize at Angelhack’s Demo Day in Silicon Valley, Wrappup has been partnering with some of the most well-known enterprises to deploy the product, including IBM and Microsoft (they even demonstrated their product in a meeting with Satya Nadella!). Wrappup pitched at our March pitch event, and WOMENA angel investors invested in Wrappup alongside Arzan Venture Capital, Beco Capital, Silicon Oasis Founders and Dubai Angels.

At our recent webinar on the topic of ‘How to Pitch to Investors’, we invited Wrappup co-founder Rami Salman to share his experience and insights of raising capital in MENA and how he got funded by WOMENA and answer questions from entrepreneurs. We’ve summarized his interview here. 

womena-wrappup-webinar

Q: How did you get in contact with WOMENA?

WOMENA is a contact we got through one of our lead investors. This concept is really important for entrepreneurs—find that one lead investor and if you get that one champion behind you, you can come in with so much more firepower to any following investment meetings.

 

Q: Was seeking investment from angels and necessity or a strategic decision?

Anyone seeking investment is going to want to talk to angels first and foremost. These are the kinds of people that will tend to go outside the bounds of what might make sense on paper and are willing to take a bet on you as a person and your team. Angels are a good place to test the waters of investment and understand some of the questions that you’ll be receiving the bounds of what you might be able to receive. VCs are going to be a lot more structured and targeted in terms of what they’re looking for in terms of their strategy and what they’re looking for, whereas you can wow angels with some piece of technology or your passion for the product or business.

Angel groups, such as WOMENA, probably sit closer to a VC level, with a range of experience and perspectives. You’re going to probably have to answer a lot of deep questions from a group of intelligent investors like WOMENA. So definitely try both individual angels and angel groups, but keep in mind that angels are savvy investors as well so you have to be prepared when you approach them.

Q: How long does the due diligence and the pre-investment process take?

You have to understand that when you’re raising your round, unless you’re really exploding and gaining a lot of traction, you’re not in the driver’s seat when it comes to timeframe. It’s always going to be to the investor’s advantage to take their time, understand your business and evaluate you throughout the process. So in our case, we got a verbal agreement in November, and we actually closed the round and received the money in the bank on June 2016—a six month span. But WOMENA’s investment process was quick—only two months.

The important thing is to use that time to your advantage. We kept on building and delivering and getting things to update the investors with, whether it was a new functionality or a new contract signed, and that keeps the momentum alive, and that makes you look like a hot deal.

Q: How do you negotiate or discuss your valuation?

In negotiation, it’s all about leverage. So if you don’t have leverage, you have to manufacture it. Our leverage at the time was all about Silicon Valley. We were flying out there, we had offers to stay there, these offers were within a certain range of valuation and the only reason we would come back is if investors here would match that. So that leverage was there and we managed to take advantage of that. But in a case where no one is really fighting for you, you have to make it seem like they are—you want the investor to feel like he or she might be missing out.

As far as choosing the exact number, regionally there are some standard ranges. Companies at the seed are going to be in the $1-3 million dollar valuation range, and Series A can be between $5-10 million. Entrepreneurs can expect to give up 15-30% of the company with every funding round.

But the most important thing when it comes to valuation is for you to accurately evaluate how much you need to survive until the next round. The only thing in your control is how much you’re going to spend to make your business worthwhile. It’s important for you to know what you need, and then negotiate equity and valuation within that range.

Q: What kind of traction did you have before approaching investors and WOMENA in particular?

As we’re a SAAS product, our traction was based on the types of companies we could secure. We focused on companies that would be high-risk, high-reward and big names that would make us look great. So we had agreements with Emirates Airlines to deploy the app in their internal app store. We also struck partnerships with IBM and Microsoft, and we hustled like crazy. Every person that I know that worked in a large enterprise got an email from me asking them to test out Wrappup in a meeting, so we got a lot more traction than if we had just released it on the PlayStore. So it’s really about knowing what metrics matter to your investor and then showing traction in that metric.

Q: How much USP do you disclose to investors without giving away information to a competitor?

In Wrappup’s case, our USP was our technology, so I presented everything that our algorithm does, but that doesn’t necessarily explain how the technology is built, so our case is a bit different. But I would say that if you’re scared of sharing your USP, then stop being scared. Every idea has been had before. It’s not about the idea, it’s about the execution. Your USP should be very public and very clear. You should own it enough that you’re not afraid to talk about it. The real question should be, ‘what barriers to entry exist and what is your competitive advantage’ so that others cannot do it better than you.

Q: How do you know when you’re ready to fundraise?

I think you need to have milestones, accomplishments that you’ve hit, to really get the value you want. You want to get your investor on board right before or after you hit a very important milestone. That’s when you can get the best terms.

Angel investors look for proof of concept, traction and customer validation, because angel investing and venture capital is by nature risky, so they need those metrics. If you don’t have proof of concept, don’t bother. You should ask yourself, how urgent is it to fundraise in terms of holding off your competitors? When you get money from investors, you’re in a much better position in the market. If you’re in a very competitive market, you’re going to want to have as much money in your arsenal as possible.

Also keep in mind that if you’ve never raised funds before, you have no idea how much effort it takes and it will take longer than you expect. Talk to any entrepreneur in the region and they will tell you it’ll take at least six months to fundraise in the Middle East. And because you don’t know how long it’s going to take, you gotta keep your ears to the ground and make sure you start well before you’re in desperate need of the capital. 

Q: What was the best piece of advice you got from any of your investors?

Once I got asked this question from an investor,”What is the one metric that would define your growth?” That question was so hard for me to answer, and to this day it nags at me that I can’t define one metric. So I think the best piece of advice is actually the one question that you don’t know how to answer. Becuase that’s what you’ll learn from your investors. Although the questions that you know how to answer, or the encouragement that they give you makes you feel good, but I personally like to do the things that I suck at, and that’s how I learn.

So I think trying to find out the answer to that question that you don’t know the answer to is what will be the most helpful to you in the end, even though it’s not advice ‘per se’. The best investors ask the hardest questions, because that is really the best way to help a founder. 

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