Rebecca Kersch, founder of fintech startup Tang App, shares her experiences navigating early fundraising rounds

Rebecca Kersch knows a thing or two about raising money as an early-stage entrepreneur. The fintech founder recently raised $1.2million in an oversubscribed angel investor round, with another round in August 2021 taking her total funding to US$1.5 million. 

Kersch’s startup, Tang App, is an international peer-to-peer mobile payment app. Her mission for the company is focused on financial inclusion: using technology to make it simpler, safer and cheaper for overseas workers to send money back home without the need for a bank account.

Kersch’s drive to solve the problem comes from her own personal experiences. “My Filipina auntie, or my tita, helped raise me and my brother and sister. She has lived and worked outside of the Philippines most of her adult life and sends home almost everything she earns and has done so for decades. Unfortunately, she was only able to use traditional cash remittance companies, which charge exorbitant fees. Then, her loved ones at home receiving the money are still unbanked.

“It helped me understand at a young age that the financial system for Filipinos abroad and at home is broken. My driving force, inspired by my tita’s unconditional love and sacrifice for her loved ones, is to help improve the lives of Filipinos. That’s why I started Tang App.”

Here, she shares her recent experiences navigating early-stage fundraising rounds, sharing compelling advice for all entrepreneurs looking to raise capital—starting with a term unknown to most: investor FOMO.

What is investor FOMO?
In the startup ecosystem, investor FOMO refers to a potential investor’s fear of missing out (FOMO) on the next big startup opportunity. Basically, it’s an investor’s worry or fear that by not investing in this startup opportunity they are missing out on the next Amazon, and will have missed the chance to make it big on an investment.

How did you come across the term?
I learned about this from my Harvard Business School entrepreneurship class. We had a guest lecturer who is a successful finance and tech entrepreneur and angel investor. He also helped me as a mentor in the early days of Tang App, giving us an early-stage startup 101 lecture. When it came to fundraising, he explained very clearly what options you have as an early-stage founder to create this feeling of investor FOMO. I was very lucky to have gotten this advice early on.

What are some other lessons you’ve learned during the fundraising process? 
Both your story and the perception investors have of you matter a lot. I mention both, because you absolutely do need a compelling pitch and you need to have done your homework. You have to be ready to answer any and all questions that interested investors may ask you. If you don’t have an exact answer, it’s okay as long as you have a clear plan or compelling reason why it’s something you have not explored or thought about. 

The perception that investors have of you relates a bit more to your sales skills. The best metaphor to explain this is a house for sale. It can be a fantastic house in a booming market, but if you visit it as a potential buyer and the realtor tells you it’s been on the market for three months and has had zero offers, your perception of the house changes. Nothing physically changed about the house, but you wonder, “Something must be off, why has no one else put in a bid yet?”

If you were to walk into that same house but the realtor tells you it’s been for sale for two days and already has five offers, your perception of the house also changes and is likely to make you want the house badly.

What are your top tips for a successful fundraising round?

  1. Set start and end dates for fundraises and create deadlines. If an investor asks when you need the signed note or term sheet and you reply with “Oh, no rush”, chances are they may not get it back to you for a while—and they may even delay their decision on whether or not to invest due to the lack of urgency.
  2. Do a socialisation phase before the actual raise. Get to know many different investors before you actually open your fundraising round, and get an indication of the cheque sizes they normally invest. At this stage, you’re focusing on getting to know them and getting any feedback or questions they may have regarding your startup.
  3. Once you’re ready to open your round, schedule a week or two filled with investor meetings, of people who were keen to hear back from you when you first met them, or were already willing to invest.
  4. You know their approximate cheque sizes, so schedule more meetings than you have space to raise, and certainly mention this to the investors. Once you open the round, it can be powerful to mention that you have more meetings lined up than you have space in this round.
  5. Phrasing matters. If you’re raising US$1 million, you opened the round on Monday and on Tuesday you have signed notes adding to US$100k, don’t tell people you’ve only raised $100k. Tell people the round has barely been open more than a day and you already have US$100k signed and committed.

With Tang App, this advice helped us raise US$1.5 million in pre-seed funding from angel investors. Of course it matters that you have a strong pitch, traction, a good team and a compelling grand vision, but perception matters.

Final thought for early-stage entrepreneurs about to start fundraising? 
Firstly, don’t over-focus on fundraising if you are just starting out; focus on the problem and try to do as much as you can without outside money. Being obsessed and passionate about a problem is key, as you will be working on it for likely 10-plus years, depending on the venture you are building. Don’t jump into a solution without understanding the problem properly. Find cheap, creative ways to test any solution ideas you have. 

Once you are ready to raise funds, and you know how much you need and why, make sure to do your research on the different investors out there and their different investment ethos. There are angel investors, venture capital (VC) firms, corporate investors, family offices, impact funds, non-dilutive grants and more, but make sure you know who you want to raise from and why. Lastly, understand what vehicle of investment you want: non-dilutive, debt, SAFE or convertible notes, or equity taking. 

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