How Fellow App Prepared for its $24 Million Series A Fundraise
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Canadian companies are raising growth rounds left and right, and it’s so exciting to see Fellow’s $24 million Series A round added to that list. While COVID-19 tailwinds helped the company close a round in just two weeks, Aydin, CEO and co-founder (and 6x SAAS NORTH emcee) credits the company’s intense 30-day preparation process as a huge factor in their success. Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Aydin shared a look inside how Fellow prepared for its Series A fundraise.
- Your company story needs to be specific to your fundraising round. What’s changed, what’s staying the same, and what next steps are you trying to take?
- Gather multiple levels of feedback: employees, advisors, and any current investors you have.
- Focus on alignment between the market opportunity, the money story, and how your team will execute once more capital comes in the door.
Fellow raised a $24 million Series A in just two weeks. While that pace was partially influenced by a COVID-19 fueled fundraising climate, Aydin Mirzaee, the CEO and co-founder of Fellow, credits the 30 days of preparation before going to raise as key to helping speed up the process. Speaking with SAAS NORTH, Aydin explained how he got his ducks in a row and prepared for the company’s 8-figure fundraise.
"After interviewing a number of M&A advisory firms across North America, we chose to partner with Tequity. Their SaaS expertise and wisdom were invaluable to us."
… on making the decision to raise
Knowing when to raise is a unique decision for every startup. In Fellow’s case, Aydin said the trigger points were focused on finding clarity in their opportunity. Fellow had raised a $6.5 million USD Seed round, which enabled them to test out their approach to making meetings productive and happy for all participants.
After a couple years of iterating, a moment of clarity happened for Aydin and the other executives.
“We knew the next milestone, which made it easier to see how we’d spend capital once we got it,” said Aydin. “It felt like we had both product-market fit and a plan, so if we had capital we could scale.”
That clarity came in the form of three elements:
- Product: Fellow’s product was clearly showing signs of adoption and stickiness.
- Mission: Fellow’s mission to make meetings productive and delightful was countercultural to the negative emotions usually present about meetings.
- Market: The vast majority of working people in the world attend meetings, so raising money to scale made sense in the context of market opportunity.
Fellow is the meeting productivity software that helps teams collaborate on agendas, track action items, and turn chaotic meetings into productive work sessions.
… on STARTING STORY FIRST
Despite having a strong story from the company’s 2019 Seed round, Aydin still focused on the company’s story first for the Series A raise. He said a lot of things change in between rounds, so it wasn’t just a matter of slapping the old story onto the new raise. They had to assess what remained the same but also what needed to be different this time.
“One of the most important things you’re doing in a fundraising process is telling a story,” said Aydin. “It’s important to get the right narrative that speaks clearly about what your company is going to do.”
During the Seed round, the story focused on the opportunity and getting room to experiment. Distilling those learnings over time, Aydin focused on developing a new story that explained how the company had evolved, what needed to continue, and what needed to change.
This process also had a great side effect: redeveloping the Fellow story also gave a new story to tell employees, ensuring everyone was on the same track going forward.
… on the power of multiple levels of feedback
After crafting the renewed Fellow story, Aydin got feedback from current investors, advisors, and employees. He said this was invaluable to the process.
“It gave me the chance to build a cohesive story for all stakeholders,” said Aydin.
He also got the chance to road-test the story in different contexts:
- Investors: Does the money side of the story make sense? Are they thinking big enough? Will the market support this vision?
- Advisors: Is there a way for them to assist? Do they see things in their view that might be blindsports for the company?
- Employees: Does executing this story feel feasible? Do we have the necessary talent to make this happen? Can we fill talent gaps with more capital?
Having all three levels of feedback gave Fellow and Aydin the insight he needed to ensure his story was cohesive and comprehensive.
...ON ENSURING A UNIFIED FRONT
In getting feedback from employees, Aydin did not just seek a feasibility gut check. He also wanted to ensure every leader was aligned on the new direction the company would have to follow if the fundraise was successful.
For example, Aydin said Fellow’s CFO helped a lot with the financial modelling for the Series A raise, which “ensured the money story was getting across well.”
He also reached out to the company’s design team to help build out the pitch deck, ensuring that the design was cohesive and connected to how much Fellow cares about design in its product. It wasn’t just about making things visually appealing, but communicating the right type of information with design.
“It’s about making sure we have a unified front, not just for the fundraising process but after as well,” said Aydin.
A Fellow to end meeting woes
Meetings bring about emotional reactions from people, most of the time dread or dissatisfaction. Fellow wants to change that, but it’s a tough story to sell to people - very few people put the words “delightful” and “meeting” in the same sentence. However, nearly everyone in the world attends work meetings at some point in their career.
Given the sheer size of the opportunity, it made sense for Fellow to raise. But the market size wasn’t enough to close the deal: Aydin and the Fellow leadership team had to craft a unique story about why their counter-cultural belief will not only prevail, but actually deliver on its promise.