A Perfect Proposal: How Rock Paper Coin Raised $1.625M After the Wedding Industry Came to a Halt

The pandemic won’t last forever, and weddings are poised to come roaring back, so we spent extra time on our deck to assure potential investors that the rebound is much sooner and more profitable than they thought.
elizabeth sheils and nora sheils co-founders rock paper coin pre-seed fundraising round

As a former event planning professional, I’ve lived and breathed weddings for over 19 years. My co-founder Elizabeth (who is a long time colleague and now sister-in-law) and I started Rock Paper Coin (RPC) because we were frustrated with the outdated grind of contracts, invoices, and payments. We believe there’s a better way for wedding professionals to collaborate, and we founded RPC to solve it.

We recently closed out our $1.625M pre-seed round, raising money in an industry that came to a screeching halt during the pandemic. Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way.

Using our pitch deck to educate and overcome VC concerns 

We faced many challenges during our pre-seed raise, some of which included being two female founders, a general lack of industry knowledge and education, and raising money in an industry heavily impacted by COVID-19. Most of the VCs and investors we talked to either had a bad experience with a prior wedding company or incorrectly considered us to be a B2C play rather than a B2B offering.

Early on, we learned that the easiest way to avoid confusion was to use the first few slides of our pitch to better educate investors about who we are, what we do, and why we’re vastly different than other platforms currently on the market. Similarly, between educating VCs and providing them with state statistics on wedding expectations for 2021 and 2022, we were able to use our deck to show the enormous opportunity our company has despite current COVID-related mandates.

The pandemic won’t last forever, and weddings are poised to come roaring back, so we spent extra time on our deck to assure potential investors that the rebound is much sooner and more profitable than they thought.

DocSend Startup Index Note:

Rock Paper Coin’s approach hit the sweet spot for 2020 fundraising. According to our Pre-Seed Report, last year investors spent 28% more time on the business model section of pitch decks. VCs want to know why now is the right time to invest. They also want a clear picture of an early-stage company’s plans for monetization, especially as the economy begins rebounding from the pandemic.

Evolving the pitch throughout the fundraising process

Our fundraising process started in September 2020, and we knew the process would take longer than expected, especially in the middle of a pandemic. Fundraising became our number-one priority from September to January, and even though it was all-consuming, we both wanted to be involved, so it was less discouraging when an investor turned us down. We closed our round at the end of February, making the entire process about six months from start to finish.

DocSend Startup Index Note:

This time frame is common. Our recent Pre-Seed Report found that 32% of companies in our survey spent 4-5+ months on their raise.

Our pitch narrative also evolved quite a bit over the course of six months, especially since we had no idea when the end of the pandemic would come. To illustrate RPC’s value, we used third-party metrics and industry studies that showed 2021 as a year of rebuilding and 2022 as a massive comeback year for weddings.

Right now, wedding professionals have time to focus on their businesses, which is a huge opportunity for RPC. As industry professionals spend this downtime improving their business models and operations, adopting a tool like RPC is a huge advantage for when things ramp back up.

The right lead investor is worth the wait

Investor outreach was a significant focus during our pre-seed round. We began with local connections who were already familiar with RPC and then asked for referrals and warm intros before cold-calling different companies on our own.

We also took meetings with just about anyone. Not everyone was an ideal investment partner for us, but we knew they might know someone who could be a good fit. Over the six-month process, we met with upwards of 200 people and presented our pitch deck two to three times a week on average.

DocSend Startup Index Note:

Rock Paper Coin’s experience shows there are no hard-and-fast rules for fundraising. Although pre-seed startups in our latest report contacted on average 58 potential investors, founding teams may need to reach out to many more. Persistence can pay off when fundraising, especially if you get signs of interest early on in the process.

Finding a lead investor who aligned with our goals and vision for RPC took a lot of time and patience from our side. The right person is critical to our company’s health and for us as co-founders and leaders. We need to work closely with this person for years to come, so we took the time we needed to find the right fit. Fortunately, we found the perfect partners and locked in our lead investor in January.

The future of the wedding industry—and RPC—looks bright

We ended up raising $1.625M for our pre-seed round and even turned away quite a bit of money at the end. After weighing different factors on what would make the most sense for our company, we decided to raise funds on a SAFE note—something our lead investor agreed with.

We plan to use the money from this round to quickly grow the company and then raise again in another year or so. For the remainder of the year, RPC will continue to serve the wedding community with a single source of truth for collaboration between planners, vendors, and couples.

As the industry moves forward and the community comes together to support each other, we’ll begin to have a much deeper understanding of what the post-pandemic world means for weddings. For RPC, our business model is developed around uplifting and emboldening the industry, and I believe our mission will only grow stronger in 2021 and beyond.

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