I began to travel the world when I was working on Wall Street. Intoxicated by new countries and different cultures, I traveled every chance I could. This love for travel led me to a simple mission: to get people out of the office and around the world. My company, Elude, is a spontaneous travel search engine that helps people find and book unique travel packages based on their budget. By starting with a budget, instead of a specific destination, we show travelers which cities they can afford to travel to.
We’ve recently closed out our $1.5M pre-seed. Here are some of the lessons I learned throughout our pre-seed raise and guidance for other founders raising funds.
Ready for travel in a post-Covid world
Covid-19 threw a wrench in the fundraising process for a lot of startups. Not to mention that it has completely restructured our lives and what it means to travel. Fortunately, we didn’t launch Elude before the pandemic, so we’ve experienced very little slow down in our business. Instead, we used this time to completely overhaul our brand and user experience.
Once travel comes back in full force, we’ll be positioned as a trustworthy source in the travel and hospitality industry. We’re already seeing an uptick in demand. People have been quarantined indoors for quite some time, and there’s increasing demand to go out and see new places. We expect this to continue through 2021 and beyond, as people are more and more ready to see the world safely again.
Using our pitch deck to position us in a crowded global market
Our pitch deck played a critical role in differentiating Elude from our competitors. Large funded players in the travel industry generally don’t iterate their products—they look to be acquired. Most notable travel companies are also not brand-led nor do they focus on personalized experiences for the end users. They’re focused on the booking transaction itself. We used this to our advantage when we showcased the value that a tool like Elude offers to travelers.
Our value proposition is also strengthened by a look into traveler demographics. Global players like Kayak, Booking.com, and Expedia largely neglect the younger generation and continue to be utilitarian in style in hopes of winning the booking. We made this a focus of our pitch.
Tips for other pre-seed founders
If it was not for DocSend, we wouldn’t have been able to complete our pre-seed raise in such a small time frame. Using specific links to track document analytics helped us focus our energy on reaching back out to the right investors who were actually interested. DocSend also helped us understand which slides different investors spent time on, so we could prep more strategically for every call.
An FAQ can complement your pitch deck. One thing we noticed during the pre-seed raise was that intro calls with respected investors took a long time. To condense the process, we pulled together the top 10-15 questions we got asked in a PDF and sent it to investors as a DocSend link before our initial calls with them. Not only did this streamline the process, increase the amount of investor interest, and focus our calls around detailed answers to more specific questions, but it really made us look well-versed and well-positioned to the investor community.
Update your pitch deck based on who’s reading it. During our pre-seed raise, we actually had three separate decks circulating at the same time. We broke the original deck out into “$250K left,” “$100K left, and “last $50K” versions. Depending on the size of the investment ticket an angel or fund wrote, we’d share the deck most relevant to them. Ninety-five percent of the content was the same information, but we sent them a version of the pitch deck based on their investment amounts.
Keep track of investor engagement. Notifications were one of the best parts of the entire process. It brought joy every time an investor clicked on our link, and then I went and marked it on our investor list. I also used the stats to see where individuals were spending most of their time. What’s interesting is that the average time spent on our pitch slides was between three and six minutes and the discussions we’d have were always based on the one or two slides that the investor looked at the longest. I used this insight to tailor each call around the information I knew the investor wanted to talk about.
We also built different email templates to use after an investor looked through our deck. We used them to reach out afterwards to see if they had any additional questions. I’d also share the terms to give them an extra push to review the details—if they did, I could get a better feel for whether they were really going to commit.