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How a quick text to a lawyer helped this startup nab $800K

SocialLadder cofounder Raavi Iqbal on the last-mile haggling that led to their record-setting deal at the Lion's Den.

SocialLadder cofounders Alana Bly and Raavi Iqbal in the Lion's Den. (Photo by Scott Nissenbaum)

Here are two quick lessons for your next pitch competition:

  1. Don’t pitch first.
  2. Tell your lawyer to keep their phone charged.

Philly-based startup SocialLadder — makers of an on-demand platform for brand ambassadors — secured $800,000 in seed cash from the Lion’s Den, the main event at PACT’s annual Capital Conference, which you might remember as IMPACT prior to its rebrand.

In its second year, the Lion’s Den brought back the same group of investors for the Shark Tank–style panel: Michael Wells, managing director of Princeton Biopharma Capital Partners; Sashi Reddi, managing partner of SRI Capital; David Adelman of the FS Investment Corporation; Robert Corrato, founder of Devon Hill Capital Partners; and Rudy Karsan, managing director of Karlani Capital.

For SocialLadder, founded by Raavi Iqbal and Alana Bly, going last paid off. They watched medical transportation startup RoundTrip face the investors and get a pass over valuation terms. No deal. Then, the duo witnessed Statum Health, the makers of an on-demand house call service, score $250,000 from three of the Lions after some haggling.

“I knew we’d have to make a deal,” Iqbal said. “So I texted our lawyer and quickly went through some options and it worked out.”

From his desk in Callowhill, trying to close on another deal, attorney Ryan Wertman — from startupy law firm Growth Counsel — coached the company on how to structure the deal so as to entice the lions.

The sweetener — some warrant coverage for extra returns — worked.

After some back and forth with the investors they shook hands on an $800,000 investment. It’s the largest number raised by a startup in the event’s two-year history.

“We’ve been in diligence with angel groups right now,” Iqbal said. “This will help us move the diligence process faster.”

Once it closes the round, the company will focus on ramping up operations to cover the inbound traction it’s been getting after partnering with Eventbrite this summer, in a deal that lets any event organizer deploy ambassador programs through SocialLadder’s platform.

(Of note: all three early-stage startups that pitched before the Lion’s Den, selected from a pool of 40 presenting startups, were the product of incubators or accelerators: RoundTrip was among the spring cohort of Philly Startup Leaders’ accelerator, while both Statum Health and SocialLadder are based out of Philadelphia Media Network’s Project Liberty Incubator.)

PACT CEO Dean Miller told he saw great energy from the companies pitching at the event.

“The Den serves as the culmination of entrepreneur/investor interaction,” Miller said.

The exec also said the winning companies and their diverse founding teams are indicative of a promising, more diverse next generation of entrepreneurs.

Companies: PACT

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