Meaningful Business (MB:) What has been your experience in trying to raise capital during the pandemic?
Lubomila Jordanova (LJ:) The pandemic is definitely an exceptional situation which complicated the usual way of fundraising. The meetings turned into calls, the networking was solely done through intros and the fundraising was fully online. Yet COVID brought a shift in priorities among investors, with the issue of sustainability becoming noticeably more important. In January 2021, Plan A had the great honour to onboard Softbank, Demeter and coparion as investors, which was more complex due to COVID but highly rewarding at the end.
MB: How have you seen investor sentiment change over the last year?
LJ: Word on the street has it that sustainability is the cool thing to put money behind. We see it with the 129% increase in funding in the impact space. Another novelty has been the increased discussion about ESG and general impact as part of the due diligence process. I salute these shifts as they allow for a more equitable, sustainable and inclusive investment environment going forward. The speed of these shifts is slow.
MB: What were the challenges and benefits of fundraising in a remote environment?
LJ: In fundraising, it is crucial that all parties involved first and foremost establish a good relationship of trust with each other. Obviously, personal contact and exchange are best suited for this, so this has its limits with the currently required distances.
I had calls with over 200 investors within the months prior to the closing of the round. Some days I felt like I was a record singing the same song. I always made sure my love for what I do was in my words and in my presentation. On the positive side, the communication was a lot more effective as you could jump between London, Paris and New York in minutes.
MB: What were you looking for in an investor, beyond purely capital?
LJ: I was told once that getting investors onboard is like getting married without the possibility for a divorce. Picking who you want to work with over many years matters and you should select carefully. We looked for investors with proven expertise in our business areas, such as sustainability, SaaS, carbon accounting, and the geographic markets we are targeting.
We also looked for the personal connection and alignment – if these people would be defining the future of your company, you need to make sure you like each other and are following the same vision. We are lucky to have incredible investors onboard, the mix of which covers our European and US ambitions.
MB: What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking to raise funds over the next year?
LJ: Use the pandemic to your advantage. We will be living in a reality where travelling is difficult, where connections are created online, so find your way around this. Use LinkedIn, ask your connections to introductions. Follow your favourite investors on Twitter, respond to their tweets, get in the conversation.
People often feel like they can be invisible amongst the millions online, but the truth is that too many people think like this, which opens the door for you to claim the winning visible spot.
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