There are typically at least five stages of any venture-backed startup, but there can be as many as 10 or more depending on the startup. Stripe, for example, closed their Series I raise in March of 2023, meaning the company has had at least 11 rounds of funding thus far.
Venture funding is the lifeblood of innovation, transforming ideas into thriving businesses. This comprehensive guide details the five primary stages of venture funding, providing insights for entrepreneurs, investors, and industry enthusiasts.
Five Venture Capital (VC) Funding Stages
There are five primary venture capital funding stages. Those stages are:
Pre-Seed / Friends & Family Round
Series A Round
Late Stage Funding & IPO
As previously noted, this list is not all-inclusive as every startup's funding needs are different. Some startups may never need to raise any funds from venture capital, may take alternative funding routes or may need no funding at all. Many startups aim to "bootstrap" their startup, meaning they use the early profits from the company to fund their startup's growth.
1. Pre-Seed / Friends & Family Round
The pre-seed or "friends and family round" is always the first round of funding. This might not involve any funds from venture capital because VCs tend to invest at the later stages. The initial stage involves funding from friends, family, or personal savings. It helps entrepreneurs move from concept to initial development, enabling market research and early planning. There are angel investors and VCs that invest at this stage, but many will wait till the later stages of the company to help curb risk.
Characteristics: Often idea-based, no revenue, focused on concept and planning.
Average Amount Raised: Typically under $500,000.
Source & Description: Investment usually comes from friends and family, angel investors, or micro VCs. The funding helps build a prototype, conduct market research, and put a business plan in motion.
2. Seed Round
The Seed Round is where ideas begin to materialize. Startups at this stage may have a working prototype or a minimum viable product (MVP). The focus is on refining the product, gauging customer feedback, defining target audiences, and building initial market traction. Funding often comes from angel investors, accelerators, incubators, or equity crowdfunding platforms like StartEngine and Wefunder. Venture funds might be involved, but typically invest a bit later.
Characteristics: Minimal revenue, working prototype, early customer feedback.
Average Amount Raised: Between $500,000 to $2 million.
Source & Descriptoin: Seed funding assists in refining the product and market fit prior to scale. Angel investors, incubators, and crowdfunding platforms like StartEngine and Wefunder are the most common sources of funding.
3. Series A
Series A is the stage where startups begin to execute on their long-term vision. They've likely found a product-market fit, and now the focus shifts to optimizing the product, building out the team, and scaling customer acquisition strategies. Investments from venture capital firms are common, as the startup needs to show promising growth and a clear pathway to scalability. This is typically the first stage in which startups begin receiving capital from venture funds.
Series A Profile
Startup Characteristics: Growing revenue, established product-market fit, increased operational demands, preparation for scaling.
Average Amount Raised: Between $2 million to $15 million.
Source & Description: Series A is the first significant institutional funding round. It helps in optimizing products/services, provides funding to scale and helps execute go-to-market strategies. Venture capital firms often play a significant role here, but ultra-high net worth individuals and community rounds on StartEngine and Wefunder have also played a role here.
4. Series B+
Series B+ encapsulates several funding rounds that help companies scale operations, expand market reach, and grow the customer base. These stages are critical for large-scale growth and market penetration. There is no defined number of rounds in the Series B+ because companies either continue to raise funds until an acquisition or IPO, or fail to raise funds and go bankrupt.
Series B+ Profile
Startup Characteristics: Consistent revenue growth, expansion into new markets, scaling team and operations.
Average Amount Raised: Ranges from $5 million to $1 billion+.
Source & Description: Series B+ includes several rounds that facilitate business scaling, enhancing market reach, strategic growth, and overcoming operational challenges.
5. Late Stage Funding & IPO
This final stage represents a startup's transition from a private to a public entity. Late-stage funding is used for aggressive scaling, globalization, acquisitions, and preparation for an Initial Public Offering (IPO). It's the culmination of a successful growth journey, where startups look to exit and provide returns to shareholders, either through an IPO or acquisition by a larger corporation.
Late Stage Funding & IPO Profile
Characteristics: Strong revenue streams, established market presence, eyeing public markets.
Average Amount Raised: $50 million to $100 million or more.
Source & Description: Late-stage funding aids in scaling at a grand level, preparing for IPO or acquisition. It represents the transition from a private company to a public entity.
The journey through venture funding is a complex and nuanced process. Startups evolve from mere ideas with no revenue in the Pre-Seed stage to robust, revenue-generating entities eyeing public markets in the Late Stage & IPO phase. Understanding these stages, recognizing what a startup might look like at each step, and knowing the financial aspects can lead to informed decision-making for entrepreneurs and investors alike.