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From new venture to real business: Actionable finance advice from UK startups

Secondly, we spoke to Oliver Mochizuki to find out how he converted his startup company into a real business. He is the CEO and co-founder of Fundsurfer, a crowdfunding and commercial funding platform and community, and gave us a real insight as to how he made his success.

What made you decide to start the business

After working in the music and festival industry I had experienced first-hand the difficulty in raising finance. We created Fundsurfer to help amazing projects and companies get funding and provide an alternative to the banking sector. I also had experience running a charity for ten years and saw an opportunity to utilise that knowledge.

We wanted to innovate and change the funding industry as we saw that crowdfunding had created a funding escalator reaching the ground floor and achieving something that all previous governments had failed to do.

Anyone, anywhere with an idea could raise funds with no upfront cost. With alternative and collaborative finance changing the whole landscape it looked to be an exciting time to be in fintech.

How did you finance the business

We funded the initial minimum viable product and launched with $30,000 cash from two co-founders plus sweat equity and sweat marketing for the first 18 months of trading, gaining our first 200 customers and building a pipeline of users, clients and partners.

Within a month of launching the company we were covering basic overheads and some marketing, events and conferences. This enabled us to focus on platform development, partner acquisition to build our team and to then start raising seed investment after 12 months.

We also began delivering funding workshops to different organisations and charging a fee. We have since secured our first round of seed finance which took six months.

Read more on cost control:

Did you face any financial difficulties and how did you overcome them

Both co-founders worked for free for 18 months and subsequently had to work freelance on other projects to cover outgoings, this of course took away from the ongoing growth of Fundsurfer. We had to focus closely on the main areas that needed work where we could achieve a high reward for little work.

Growth hacking became our favourite word as we learned new and innovative ways to market Fundsurfer without spending a fortune on PPC competing with the larger platforms. Growing gradually would enable us to build more value into the company, ready for investment.

What financial advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start a new venture

Try and lay down a strong deck and investment proposal as soon as possible, once you launch your business it will be much harder to take the time required to create the docs you need. Give yourself the time to raise the funds you need, it can take six-12 months on average.

If you want to raise money from US VCs be prepared to open an office in the States as investors arent going to jump on a plane to attend a board meeting. And be wary of giving away too much equity in your first seed round for too small an investment it will hamstring you for future rounds.

Make sure your numbers are solid and not hockey sticks on graphs. We know the numbers won’t be necessarily pan out exactly as outlined, but if you get the valuation wrong as a result you will continually underachieve and disappoint due to the bar being set too high.

Get the right investors, usually not the first investors. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins along the way and have fun!

On the next page, find out what the MD of a cost-effective marketing agency and how she got started without any investment.

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