In 2018, Sheri Chaney Jones launched SureImpact, a B2B SaaS platform that helps government, nonprofit and social sector organizations better measure and communicate their impact and value. Jones says when she launched the business, she wasn't going to do it on her own — that it would be something that required more resources.
"I am very familiar with running a bootstrap-type business," she says. "But in order to go fast to market, in order to build out all the features and the capabilities that we wanted our SaaS platform to have, I knew that was going to take, frankly, more capital than I had myself."
So, the first thing they did is went to their customer base and offered them an opportunity to participate in what they called at the time the alpha, asking if they'd be willing to pay for their first year's license up front. It was a way initially to get some capital and traction in the market.
Jones says they secured about 10 of those organizations that were willing to pay and help guide the product. Once that was up and running , she says they knew they had a solid product and wanted to get it into the market as quick as possible. That's when they decided that seeking outside investment was the route to go.
When the company sought that outside investment, it ultimately landed a pre-seed round in December 2020 that was led by Rev1 Ventures and included Queen City Angels and Connetic Ventures. Jones says she was involved with Rev1 early on through their business startup development programming. And once it was decided that SureImpact had strong product market fit validation, they reached back out to the investment team and started to have conversations around whether theirs was an investable business.
"After a lot of working with them, that's when they gave us our term sheet," she says.
But of course, she says, it was necessary to seek other investors.
"I wasn't that connected into the investment world back then," she says. "So, it was a lot of networking, it was a lot of just asking friends and family and others, 'Who do you know? Who should I talk to?' And not being shy. Just being bold and asking people, 'Who do you know?'"
Talking with another entrepreneur and sharing her struggles with getting introduced to investors got her connected to Queen City Angels and Connetic Ventures, who eventually joined the round and pushed it to become oversubscribe.
In the Midwest, she says, raising funds has some perks and some challenges. On the positive side, she says, everyone wants to help.
"I found that the investor community is super friendly, especially the angel investor community, or have a passion for helping entrepreneurs, helping startups," Jones says. "So, being able to connect to potential customers that they know or other vending solutions, giving advice and feedback. That's been a really pleasant surprise."
However, she says, there just aren't many investors. Each one has a different thesis, are looking for different types of companies, and their investment expectations vary.
"Having to understand and figure out what is the investor's motivation and thesis and even though you may have a great product and a great business model and everything, it doesn't mean that it's going to be the right fit for that particular investor," she says.
That meant it took a surprising amount of time to find the right investor fit.
"As an entrepreneur, naturally I want to be out in the market, I want to be selling, I want to be telling the world about SureImpact and how it could change the world," Jones says. "But fundraising takes a lot of time because you have to build those relationships and constantly be sharing your story and your pitch. The amount of time that it takes to fundraise is something I don't think I appreciated."
Jones spoke at the Columbus Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about launching SureImpact and her experience landing investors. Hit play to catch the full conversation.