How managing money can help startups build credibility

Tips from a panel on whether your startup needs a CFO.

The "Startup CFO" panel at IMET. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Making money will keep a business running. It’s also important manage it right. With the latter comes relationships— whether with a CFO or investors.
BioBuzz and IMET gathered a panel at Columbus Center last week to discuss the ins and outs of startup finance. Here are a few tips we gleaned that can help companies raise money and grow:

Have a plan.

  • An overall financial plan that makes reasonable assumptions is key, especially when looking to raise money, panelists said. Building a company quickly means there will be change, so the plan should also include contingencies. “Each time you go raise money, there’s a longer period over which you have to make that money last,” said RedOwl CFO Ryan McQueeney. Investors want to see the ability to manage that money and adjust plans as issues arise.

Pay attention early.

  • Even if you can’t hire a full-time CFO may not be the best way to use resources, but it’s important to have someone who can strike a balance with the vision and passion that propels entrepreneurs, panelists said. Abell Foundation CFO Eileen O’Rourke said that person can also be a “credibility enhancer” for investors. Considerations like the projections and market have to align with the company’s story, she said. Places like business incubators often have resources to help find such a person.

Be realistic. 

  • Projections don’t have to be perfect, panelists said, but they should be in line with what a business can reasonably expect. “You have to be realistic with yourself and realistic with the funding source, or else you’re going to have a problem down the road,” said Steve Dubin, principal of SDA Ventures.

Stay in touch.

  • For O’Rourke, another important indicator of credibility is a company that is willing to pick up the phone, acknowledge issues and explain how they are handling them. While there may be a tendency to “hide your head in the sand,” O’Rourke said, “I would rather have somebody that’s going to be up front about that.” Eventually, investors are going to find out anyway.

About that CFO…

  • When the time to hire a CFO does arise, it’s important to find someone who can keep a CEO on the right path and provide transparency with investors and the board. The trust relationship is also important between the CEO and CFO, panelists said.
Companies: Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) / BioBuzz

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