Expert Insights on Managing Finances for Startup Success
by SFAN Staff · Business advice
Mon, 01 May 2017 · 3 minute read
One of the biggest challenges startup founders
and small-scale business owners face is maintaining a strong financial
infrastructure for their business. According to forentrepreneurs.com,
one of the most common reasons startups fail is because they mismanaged
the funds they had.
This is why we were super excited to host Toro Orero, Managing Partner of the Silicon Valley-based VC fund, DraperDarkFlow and Rebecca Enonchong, Founder of AppsTech
and Founding Board Member of the African Business Angel Network (ABAN)
and VC4Africa, at April edition of #SFANLiveChat. Our goal was to
explore how startup founders can manage and grow their finances.
Here’re lessons we learned about fundraising, bookkeeping, taxation, and founder’s remuneration.
The best place to raise money from is your customers
"Of those who submit business plans to venture capital investors, less than one percent will get the money they seek. "— HUFFPOST .
At the early stages of your business when you haven’t validated your
concept, it’ll be very difficult to get the attention of lenders or
venture capitalists. The traditional belief is that you ask loved one
for loans to help you prove your idea and develop a route to market
before sending any pitch deck to an investor. “When you have some
traction (users, revenue) and are ready to scale,” Rebecca says, “that’s
the ideal time to look for external funding.”
However, Toro argues that the right time for fundraising is never!
Instead, he says, startup founders should focus on turning their ideas
into a business i.e. doing something somebody will pay for. “It’s a
tripod stand of beliefs starting with you as the startup, then the
market, then the investor — in that order.”
Depending on what your business model is, this can be a great
approach to growing your business. Companies that have utilized this
formula include Airbnb, Banana Republic, Dell, etc.
Hire an accountant from day one or assume that role with discipline
"The first mistake Startups often make when doing their books is not doing any — until it’s too late. "-- Tim Haggard of My Bookkeeping Online.
Majority of startups do not have any form of financial records for their business transactions.
No time — the work piles up until the thought of attending to it is a mental torture in itself.
It’s expensive to hire a professional accountant.
It’s not necessary since they’re not accounting for anyone yet.
“As entrepreneurs, we neglect the back office. We need to get our
finances in order from the beginning,” Rebecca says: “You should be
obsessive about your bottom line. Join a co-working space/incubator that
offers an accountant or you could get together with other entrepreneurs
and share one accountant.”
At the early stages of your startup, Toro says, assume that all your
personal finances now belong to your company, then work for your company
and pay yourself nothing. But, track everything! “Have a financials
analytics tool, just the way you have a back-end dashboard for your
If you can’t afford specialist accounting software, there are free software and apps like WaveApps
that give you great convenience in keeping your books and tracking your
cash flow. At very least, you can use excel as it does the sums for you
and is pretty easy to manipulate.
"As entrepreneurs, we neglect the back office. We need to get our finances in order from the beginning. "
On avoiding over taxation:
Focus on getting positive revenue first
Numerous businesses overpay their taxes every year by overlooking various tax deductions — Michael Raanan
Taxation has become a burden to most businesses. But don’t think
about it. “That’s overthinking and premature. Get revenue positive
first, and then worry about that later. When you get revenue positive,
get advice —you may need to reincorporate offshore into a developed
market or even stay local. Reincorporate offshore and let your local
operational entity be a wholly owned subsidiary of your offshore
entity,” Toro advice.
Stripe Atlas is
a product that promises to help you incorporate your company in the U.S
with a U.S registered bank account, top tax/legal guidance from top
American firms, and a free Stripe account for receiving and making
payments world over. They\'ve partnered with numerous startup
accelerators and hubs around Africa to make ease of their acquisition
efforts and can be an option for you if you’re looking to incorporate
“Keep track of all your expenses even transportation. It all adds up,” Rebecca cautions.
"If your company is not making great profit margins yet, you have no business paying yourself. "
On founder’s remuneration:
Pay yourself last if at all
"When it comes to paying yourself, there needs to be a fluidity to compensation. "— Ryan Holmes, founder, and CEO of Hootsuite Media Inc.
Founder compensation has been a subject of much debate over the
years. “Pay yourself last and pay yourself least. Save salaries for the
most talented folks you can find,” Rebecca says.
To give your baby a chance at life, you have to be willing to live a
few years of your life like most people won’t in order to live the rest
of your life in a manner that most people can’t.
“I’d also add that if your company is not making great profit margins
yet, you have no business paying yourself,” Toro buttresses.
As Jay Samit, author of the book “Disrupt Yourself ”
puts it, "you are getting more than cash compensation from your
startup. You are getting to pursue your dream, test your mettle, have
creative autonomy and retain a sizable portion of equity. Your lifestyle
should be frugal and a bootstrapped as your startup. "
Bonus point: We asked Toro and Rebecca what they look for in companies they invest in.
Rebecca: It’s all about the entrepreneur. I want to see that grit, that fire, that determination to succeed no matter what.
Toro: I look for rocket ships, not parked cars. A
parked car needs me to take off; a rocket ship will take off regardless
of my investment.
In the final analysis, It’s all about the money
The biggest financial mistake startups make is thinking sales are same as cash. “Cash flow is everything,” Rebecca says.
At certain times in the business, you’d be forced to lower your
business costs. To avoid hampering customer experience, Toro recommends
1. You fire those five average staff and keep that one outstanding one
2. You promise your customer just one thing but do it EPICALLY.
Always remember that money is the lifeblood of a company. If you don’t have money, YOU ARE DEAD. So stay alive.
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