Entrepreneur's Journey takes on fundraising

Written by
Mai Kasemsawade, Class of 2026
April 11, 2023

To further help startup founders in the Princeton ecosystem and beyond better understand fundraising, Princeton Entrepreneurship Council (PEC) hosted “The Entrepreneur’s Journey: How to Prepare for Fundraising,” which is the first entry of a new educational series.

PEC invited Mark Esposito *17, founder and vice president of the biotechnological company KayoThera, to join two funders, Michael A. Wiley, the vice president of Foundation Venture Capital Group LLC, and Merika Koday, principal of the biotech-focused VC group Accelerator Life Science Partners, to discuss what founders should do before they start raising funds for their early startups. The talk was moderated by Anne-Marie Maman ‘84, executive director of PEC.

When we think of fundraising, what first comes to mind is “how?” As investors, Wiley reminded the audience that startups must first understand themselves. By identifying their domain and capital needs, founders can pinpoint funding sources that will be their right fit. Besides venture capital, non-profit organization, foundations, and bootstrapping can also be great sources to kickstart a company. Koday also added that if companies want to captivate investors, they should also know their strengths over competitors, or as Koday put it, their “secret sauce.” Having conversations with partners and mentors from various industries will help bring these points to light.

Esposito described his fundraising journey as “another 40-hour full time job” spent on outreaching and networking with as many people as possible. Tracking conversations with potential investors can be tricky as the number of connections expand. There was a lot of practical advice shared on how to manage the process.  And a very strong recommendation to proactively create a data room with all of the required documentation ready for investors, so that they can be pointed to the information in order to keep the discussion moving forward..

To overcome the challenge of continuous networking, the panel highlighted the importance of filling the advisory board with experts who “will add value and advocate for your company.” Referral networks are helpful channels to recruit these experts. Esposito shared that he connected to his advisors and lawyers through the robust Princeton alumni network. “You are usually a degree away from getting the introduction to the person that you want to meet,” he said.

As was discussed in the last event, assembling a pitch deck is “an iterative process” that requires many revisions until the deck is polished. The next event in the Entrepreneur’s Journey series will focus on putting together a great deck, with some practical suggestions for what to include and what not to include. 

“The Entrepreneur’s Journey: Developing a Pitch Deck That Supports Your Fundraising Plan” was held on April 11, 2023 at the Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs. The event was streamed online.

These events are co-sponsored by the Foundation Venture Capital Group and Princeton Innovation Center Biolabs.