Tips for Funding a Creative Start-up

Tips for Funding a Creative Start-up

Tips for Funding a Creative Start-up

I was very close to sign a million-dollar private funding deal to run a kids app based on Mundane Matters.

Words like these don’t seem to belong here, but it was real. It was also real that I didn’t go ahead proceeding the funding. I was just very close to experience the excitement from creating a product of my own, the anxiety of possible failure and all the complex feelings that a tech start-up founder would possibly feel. The cancellation of the funding came naturally, as if this journey was meant to be a lesson for me, rather than a disappointment from the million-dollar expectation.

I would like to share some insights of this lesson with you. Hope you find it useful if you are also trying to fund your project. If not, I hope it inspires you to create something of your own one day too.

First of all, why kids app?

How I came up with the idea was spontaneous like everything else I do. One night I came out of the shower and told Anett about my thoughts. She agreed it was a great idea. So I started planning and reaching out to people for help.

Along the funding journey, Anett had been constantly questioning me why did I want to make a kids app? She loves to dig that ‘why’ deep to your soul. I’d start it with a rationale that I wanted to challenge myself doing something new, that the food sculptures I have been making can educate and entertain kids from a fresh perspective. Bla bla bla. I knew deep down it wasn’t my passion. I just wanted to do it. I went ahead. Some may think I am stubborn. I am really just curious.

Why private funding?

Firstly I don’t have funds to develop a kids app. Moreover, I have always been fascinated by the idea of making something happen with a set of diverse resources (skills & finance). A few people form in a team, take different risks but work together towards the same goal. So it was natural for me to seek funding from private investors. Again I was curious to see if I can make this happen. If I told you then that I was going to raise 150K to develop a kids app, you would probably look at my resume and laugh at my naivety.

How did I get to the million-dollar deal?

But I tell you, many things people have achieved are mostly just luck. Hard work is essential, but luck makes things happen. In fact my original plan was to raise a little money to kick start the project, so how it became a three-year million-dollar funding was a miracle. I guess it is very rare that things like this happen and I am still very thankful that my investor believed in me so much. I think if you do these three things right, with a bit of luck, miracle can happen to you too:

1. A convincing pitch deck with in-depth research and long-term plan. 

To convince an investor, everything has to be highly logical. I first downloaded some templates from and put up a pitch deck together by myself, detailing the problem-solution, business model, market potential etc., things that are normally presented on a pitch deck. Everything seemed to make sense to me. It was when I sought advice from a business advisor, who didn’t know anything at all about myself and Mundane Matters, did I realise how weak my pitch deck was.

Think the pitching as storytelling. The investor needs to make sense of your story without any struggle. Why are they investing in you is a key question. Your ‘why’ has to be strongly supported, highly logical and at last, inspirational. Present your pitch deck to people who you trust before pitching. You might find their feedback (even facial expression) useful.

2. Pitch to the right person/people.

People who will use your product are likely to invest in you. Firstly, they have empathy for the problem you are trying to solve. Secondly, you want to work with people who are also passionate about your product. I suggest not to waste time on pitching to people who are irrelevant to your product. Save time on focusing on the many other things you need to work on.

3. Be confident, relax and enjoy the process. 

It is a long process and it is very easy to feel deflated after a few attempts. Always believe that if it is meant to be, and you’ve tried, it will happen. I failed a few times with other investors when I started, but I was relaxed and optimistic, which must have helped to bring some luck to me at the end.

If you do these three things right and still fail many times, it probably means you might need to rethink about your idea and plan.

What did the funding mean for me?

I kept postponing the review of investor contract till I came back from Europe. What it lied ahead was three years of hard work, possibly a lot of overtime, with very little pay. On top of that, I will probably be non-stop chasing targets, meeting investor’s expectations, handling constant stress and very possibly, killing my creativity. Was it worth to take the risk of losing my creativity, passion and freedom to make something happen, just because I wanted to make it happen? Perhaps not, and that came to the conclusion that, private funding was not suitable for me and this project; or vice versa.

Other tips for funding a creative start-up:

1. Always listen to your heart and go with the flow.

Although I didn’t really know the reasons why I wanted to develop a kids app instead of something else, it was what my gut feelings told me. Even the project is now paused (or likely to be cancelled), I’ve learnt a lot from the process. Most importantly, I’ve realised that I would be much happier just doing things my own way rather than following other people’s paths. This is also what I’ve learnt from my coffee cup reading last weekend. Everything is an experiment that will teach you something.

2. Be observant.

Be observant of your inner feelings and other people’s reactions. Your inner feelings will influence how well your project goes. They will also tell you how you feel about the people you are dealing with. In business, people have different interests thus they take different actions, which could sometimes be harmful to you. Be observant and make sure yourself is protected.

3. Hands on everything yourself.

Be hands-on and smart. If you have any business-related questions, seek professional advice from lawyer, accountant or other business owner. Normally they are happy to help and give out free advice to a degree.

One very important lesson I learnt: NEVER sign any contract if you don’t fully understand it.

5. Don’t be afraid to lose.

What holds us back is the fear for failure and how other people think of us. If we take a leap to do something, there is only gain within ourselves.

6. Just relax and read my blog.

I am not kidding. I’ve decided to pause this project as I feel it is no longer what my heart tells me to do. Writing has always been my passion and for now, I am going to stick with it till the next ‘big idea’ comes out in my shower time. I have a feeling that it will be something to do with writing. Till then, I will continue to delight, help and inspire you.

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Posted on at 10:15 am by Danling Xiao.