How Many Investors Should a Startup Have?

Benjamin Debonneville
Founder & CEO
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Starting a startup? Picturing a room full of potential investors, or just a select few?

How many is too many, or too few?

The relationship between startups and their investors isn't just a money game—it's a tightrope walk of risk, rewards, connections, and expertise.

From the size of the purse strings to the vastness of their networks, the right number of investors can propel a startup to meteoric success or, if not chosen wisely, lead it astray.

Before you decide on one, two, or a boardroom full, let's deep-dive into the nitty-gritty of just how many investors your startup really needs.

Get ready, founders, this is gonna be enlightening!

How Many Investors: How Much Funds You Need?

Got dreams as big as skyscrapers but a budget that fits in a piggy bank?

They often say the number of investors a startup should have is directly proportional to the size of funds they need to raise.

Let's talk investors and that ever-daunting question: How many pockets to pick?

Beyond the scope of the necessary funds, here are some pivotal considerations founders should ponder over before finalizing the number of investors.

  • Size of the Investment: If a startup needs extensive capital, it might require multiple investors, as one may not suffice or be willing to bear the associated high risk.
  • Risk Tolerance of the Investors: Investors are not a monolithic group; each comes with their own risk appetite. Some might be willing to go all-in on your ambitious plans, while others prefer a safer, slower growth trajectory.
  • Availability of Investors: Based on the startup's stage, industry, and required funds a limited pool of interested investors may necessitate seeking funds from multiple sources to secure adequate capital.
  • Expertise and Connections of the Investors: Beyond their financial contribution, investors can bring valuable expertise and industry connections to the table. A few well-connected investors might be worth more than a crowd of silent financiers.

In general, the funding needs of a startup will determine the amount of capital it needs to raise, and the number and type of investors it will need to work with to secure that funding.

How Many Investors Should a Startup Have?

Every stage of your startup has a unique beat, and so does the symphony of investors backing it. It's not just about stages but the faces that fund them!

From seed to growth, the right number of investors can make or break your venture.

But what's the magic number at each stage? Let's dissect it!

Seed Stage

Starting fresh? The seed stage is where dreams germinate, but they need the right sprinkle of capital.

At this delicate phase, a small cohort of angel investors or a lone venture capitalist might be your best bet.

Why? It's about agility.

With fewer cooks in the financial kitchen, you can swiftly pivot, whip up that MVP, and dip your toes into the market's waters. Think fewer backers, faster decisions – it’s speed-dating for funding!

Early Stage

MVP on point and revenues trickling in? That's your cue to start eyeing a bigger pot of investor gold.

In the early stage, the series A or B funding rounds, where your baby business is starting to crawl. It's about expanding your financial circle while still keeping things streamlined.

Maybe rope in a few more angels or a small venture capital firm, but remember, it's quality over quantity. Why not seek a lead investor, your financial compass, who can steer additional investors your way and provide sage advice?

It’s like upgrading from speed-dating to a committed relationship - a bigger step, but worth it!

Growth Stage

Bigger dreams demand deeper pockets! By the growth stage—think Series C and beyond—your startup is no longer just walking, it's running.

This stride calls for a beefier injection of funds, maybe from major league venture capital firms or even an ensemble of investors, including the heavy hitters: pension funds or corporate venture bigwigs.

But remember, money isn't everything. What about an investor who offers a golden ticket into fresh markets or unparalleled expertise?

As you scale, seek backers who provide both capital and value.

This stage? It's not just growing; it's evolving.

Best Case Scenarios

So, what's the magic number in the investor's game?

One, two, or a crowd? Each comes with its own flavor of advantages and pitfalls.

Let's dig deep into the best-case scenarios of your investors' count!

Startups with One Investor (Pros & Cons)

Solo investor? There's beauty in simplicity.

Picture this: smooth negotiations, streamlined communication, and decision-making that's as quick as a heartbeat.

But remember, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Hitching your financial wagon to one star could spell disaster if they decide to pull the plug.

Plus, with only one backer, you could miss out on a diverse pool of expertise and networking opportunities.

So, a single investor—quicker decisions, but higher risks. Is your startup ready to gamble?

Startups with Two Investors (Pros & Cons)

Duo of investors? It's like adding another ingredient to your startup cocktail.

Suddenly, you're tapping into a variety of perspectives, a treasure chest of experience. And if one investor hits the brakes, the other might just rev up the engine.

But watch out, this path isn’t all sunshine. Negotiations can resemble a tug-of-war, and disagreements between your financial musketeers might slow down decision-making or even stir up the pot.

So, two investors—more perspectives, but potential discord. Are you up for some diplomatic navigation?

Startup with Three or More Investors (Pros & Cons)

Three or more investors? It's like orchestrating your own symphony, each player adding their unique tune.

Capital flowing in rivers, opening the floodgates to rapid growth. Each backer brings their own expertise and network to the boardroom, enriching your startup ecosystem.

But beware, the conductor's baton isn't light. Juggling relationships, catering to differing opinions and priorities can turn into a high-wire act.

And when it comes to negotiations and decisions, you're running a marathon, not a sprint.

So, multiple investors—bountiful resources, but potential logistical challenges.

Remember, these scenarios aren't one-size-fits-all. Your startup's perfect investor count? It's a magic number that aligns with your funding needs, and goals, and who's ready to jump aboard?

Equity Dilution: The Perils of Having Multiple Investors

Now, let's talk about equity. It's a high-stakes poker game and guess what, founders? You're the dealer. Multiple investors can be the winning hand, but you've got to understand how the chips fall.

So, for example, you've got five VCs, each owning a 5% slice of your startup pie. Sounds great, right? Hold onto your stocks!

This setup could make your startup the equivalent of a "side bet" for them. They might just be looking to play another round if you hit it big.

Or, god forbid, they could be playing for reasons as hollow as building their brand or gaining industry insights.

But what happens when you hit a rough patch?

Trust me, it's as common in the startup world as spilled coffee in an all-night coding session. Your investors are also juggling their portfolio of investments.

In the face of adversity, they'll likely invest their time and energy into ventures where they have more money or ownership.

So, let's flip the coin. What if you're the next big thing?

Well, now you've got multiple investors trying to up their stake. It's a royal rumble. And it's not a pretty sight if you're trying to rope in a new investor for an objective price setting.

But hold on, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Having multiple investors has its charm. You just need to play your cards right.

Seek smaller funds, those not looking to invest much after the first round. And remember, I'm talking about VCs splitting a single round, not multiple rounds over the years. Those are two different ball games.

In short, juggling multiple investors can feel like a circus act. It's all about keeping your eye on the prize - your company's control and equity.

Play smart, and you could be the ringmaster of your destiny. Remember, in the end, it's your show.

Over to You: Conclusion

And there you have it founders!

To sum it up, there isn't a magic number that fits all startups. It's all about understanding your own needs and being strategic.

Seed stage? Maybe just one or two investors. Early or growth stage? More could be merrier. But don't forget, equity is your golden egg. Guard it like a hawk.

Weigh the pros and cons, understand the implications of every scenario, and make smart decisions.

After all, who runs the show? You do.

So, play smart, understand the game, and let the number of investors be a strategic choice, not a haphazard happenstance.

The stage is yours, founders. Break a leg!

Benjamin gave great tips to my start-up Blend for polishing and optimising my pitch deck, refreshing perspective. Recommend!