Funding Tips from Renata Akhunova of FormulaVC

November 25, 2013

11:00 am

As an entrepreneur pitching to angel investors, you have a lot on your mind. You have to nail your pitch and anticipate their questions, all while staying cool and charismatic. Plus, you need to do your research on the angel investor – which is where we come in.

Today we get to know Renata Akhunova, a managing partner of FormulaVC. Akhunova is also an advisory board member at 500 Startups and made our list of 105 women venture capitalists you should know. In her entrepreneurial career in Russia, she founded a successful publishing house and was an advisor to the Russian Innovations and Development Agency.

As a firm, FormulaVC mostly funds Series A rounds for B2B startups in IT and communications. They invest internationally, although Akhunova herself focuses on the US market (and later-stage deals). Learn some more about her – and the top mistakes entrepreneurs make when pitching her – below.

Investing philosophy

Renata Akhunova: We invest in teams that clearly realize where we can add value beyond money. It is very important for us to become a part of a team with a specific role in it along with founders, employees, and other investors. Each team member should be responsible for something he is best at and stay out of the way if someone else performs better.

Common advice that you disagree with

Akhunova: “Don’t do a business plan.” That’s terrible, misleading advice! I have favorite specific questions, which an entrepreneur should always be ready to answer, if he wants to work with me: “Why that should/should not happen?,” “What is next?,” and “What if ..?”

Venture doesn’t mean nonchalance. Even if the answer to the “What if…?” question is: “We will go bankrupt then…,” you should admit it. I prefer to use the term “scenario” instead of “business plan.” So, uncertainty is to have several scenarios, rather than to have no scenarios at all.

Top mistake entrepreneurs make when pitching to you

Akhunova: 1. Too long, too boring. I am used to saying that Twitter helps people to frame thoughts in general. For mastering your pitch, Twitter is a great tool. Another great tool is the Business Model Canvas: it is done perfect when you can make a story out of it that will be your investor pitch.

2. Telling me about several ideas or projects a team is working on to draw my attention to at least one of them. In the age of attention deficit disorder, the limits on our capacity for processing information are reducing from 7±2 to 5±2 or even less. No focus – no lean.

3. Don’t say: “We are different.” You are not different if you have to say that. Don’t kill me with: “We have no traction.” If you are in the B2C sector, have raised an angel round, and still have nothing to test on fans, you wasted time and money. Don’t disillusion me, saying that Google/Facebook/whoever will buy your startup. Guess why?

Most cherished accomplishment (as an angel or otherwise)

Akhunova: Trust.

In your free time you can be found

Akhunova: …with a mobile device in my hands. There are so many breathtaking things happening around me, some of which I want to learn of and others I want to tell people about.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact

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