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Sarah Kunst on Funding

Is seeking venture capital the right path for your business? How much money do you need to raise and when? What are the key terms to ensure an equitable contract with your funders? Answering these questions can be major hurdles in getting your project off the ground. 

Sarah Kunst, Managing Director of Cleo Capital, has helped many startups find their footing in the VC landscape throughout her career. Watch the video above, part of the CCNYC’s 2020 Creative Curriculum, launched in partnership with Squarespace, for Sarah’s advice on how to calculate your funding needs and key terms for an equitable contract with investors. Sarah also recently spoke with us about her own career, why she loves working with startups, and a few tips for your pitch deck.

SQUARESPACE: You pivoted into venture capital after starting your career in marketing. What prompted the change? 

Sarah Kunst: I wouldn’t call it a pivot. I started my career with marketing as a job title but as I moved into startups, I was wearing so many hats and learning so much, and over time it became clear that my passion went far beyond just one vertical. I still market my fund and help startups with marketing, but I love being able to help startups with far more. Limiting yourself to one narrow vertical when you’ve built expertise in many things and can be helpful more broadly isn’t always the best idea. For me, marketing is something I do inside of a larger suite of services and talents at my job. 

SQSP: Empowering others on their entrepreneurial journey has been a key element of your recent work with Cleo Capital. Why is this important to you? 

SK: If you succeed and that’s it, you succeed but no one else does, you’ve failed. True success is empowering others and sharing your success and insights with those who come behind you. Giving back is a core part of my work, I need the founders I invest in to be successful on their entrepreneurial journey, but it’s also the right and joyful thing to do. If you’re not stopping to ask yourself on a regular basis “how am I empowering and helping others?” and finding an answer you’re proud of, you’re not doing it right. 

SQSP: Beyond a solid business plan, what does an entrepreneur need to catch an investor’s interest? 

SK: To get an investor interested, they have to know you exist. You need to reach out to them and share your pitch deck. Anyone can pitch me via cleocap.com, and most investors are pretty available via their websites, social media, or talks and office hours they give. 

SQSP: Are there any common missteps that founders should be conscious of in their search for funding? 

SK: Bad pitch decks are a common misstep. A pitch deck for a very early stage startup should be incredibly concise and visually appealing. No more than 10 slides, a few sentences at most per slide and modern design are key. I see so many decks that are just walls of poorly designed texts and those are the easiest to say ‘no’ to. 

SQSP: Cleo Capital ran a 6-week virtual fellowship for aspiring founders who experienced job cuts due to coronavirus. Do you think there are unexpected benefits in participating in an online fellowship versus an in-person experience? 

SK: I think the biggest benefit is that people were able to connect from all over the world. Instead of being limited to people in the same room, the entire internet was our room. We were able to cross pollinate relationships that otherwise may never have happened and that’s a really powerful benefit to distance and virtual. We all miss seeing others in person, but there are some silver linings to virtual. 

Discover more expert advice and inspiration from Black entrepreneurs and creatives.

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