How can startup founders improve their chances of raising capital?

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CEO & Founder in Software, 11 - 50 employees
Even though it seems very simplistic, a lot of founders make the mistake of saying, "My idea is the best idea. Why wouldn’t you invest in my company? I'm looking for $3M pre-seed funding." I have learned from talking to VCs, PE people and other executives, that they invest in you and your product is secondary. That's why the founders, advisors and the team are so important.

Making sure they clearly understand why they should invest in you, not your product, is number one. Number two is validating your idea. Even if you only did a cursory proof of concept where you had five customers use your product for free to get feedback, that's huge. Validation improves your chances of raising capital. An unvalidated idea might look good on paper, but unless you have wealthy family and friends, that's very hard to raise capital against. And savvy investors see through fluff like unrealistic growth projections and market sizes. Do not use cliches, do not chase unrealistic targets and don't propose unrealistic projections. Think about realistic gains. Show them that the market is there and while it will take a Herculean effort to reach it, here's why you can make it to that line. 
CEO in Software, 11 - 50 employees
When raising capital for your startup, there are three problems you want to solve: a problem-solution fit, a product-market fit, and an entrepreneur-investor fit. You need to know why you want to raise the money. A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in the hype of raising funds, but I am not a big fan of raising funds before you achieve an acceptable level of product-market fit. Traction is the new IP; if you focus on that part, it creates an amazing moat around your startup. And as for the entrepreneur-investor fit, you have to be just as picky when choosing your investor as when you hire your most important team member, or when you go on a date.

And the secret sauce for all of this is not technical — it's empathy. Having a high level of emotional intelligence and empathy will allow you to not only understand your customers and how to solve their problems, you’ll also understand that your investors are people with dreams, aspirations and fears, not just bank accounts that will give you money. Understand whether there is an actual fit and don't be afraid to say no, because timing is crucial. When you raise money is just as important as how much you raise. 
Managing Director in Software, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
The key thing is, why would anyone want to buy it? And whatever you come up with, the numbers have to make sense and be calculable. There has to be some proof that somebody perceives value in what you're doing and is willing to pay for it. If you can show whether that will happen on a consistent basis, the more investment you will get. 

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