Strategy — 09.01.2021

What Companies Seeking Series A Investments and Beyond Should Know About Digital Product – Pt. II

Christian Beck, Executive Partner, Growth Strategy & Design

Despite their hefty news coverage, it’s not just startups that are landing major funding in the U.S. According to Fundz, the mean Series A funding round in 2021 so far is around $22.3 million, thanks largely to “mega-rounds” from somewhat established biotech companies. More common numbers are represented in the median early stage financing numbers (Series A and B) at around $8 million. Certainly, there is plenty of money being spent on companies beyond the startup stage, but there’s also no shortage of competition for those dollars.

Landing funding when a product is already developed and being used by customers begs the question: how can digital product improvements be made without slowing down business? At this stage, companies are moving upstream and often across verticals. There is no time to stop and evaluate. There is no time for much of anything but pushing forward. Or so it may seem. In actuality, this is a great time to throw gas on the fire, per se, with product improvements and product marketing that can be a catalyst for landing funding. Making these investments can help attract funding, but it’s also an impactful way to utilize funding once secured.

Allocate Resources for Speed

Once a company has a steady revenue stream of cash (and with few exceptions, Series A will typically demand a minimum of $1M ARR), the company can’t slow down–in fact, it often has to speed up. That means resources need to be allocated to keeping the product working seamlessly for existing customers while improvements and enhancements are simultaneously being made. This often requires a partner to come in from the side and build upon the solution without disrupting the product core. Integrating with what is already in place will offer improvements without detrimental slow-downs that deviate from the growth trajectory. So, look for a partner that can come in and hit the ground running without scrapping what’s already there.

Add Product Knowledge

At this stage, it is nice to bring on more product support. In the digital product space, hiring difficulties can handcuff companies looking to expand or improve. There are two key product challenges that startups will have to overcome at this stage. The first is managing the growing list of feature improvements and requests coming from customers. Communicating with customers and prioritizing with product teams gets monumentally more taxing at this stage.

The second product challenge that often gets overlooked is the need to continue to be innovative. Bugs, features, tech debt–they all conspire to hold products back. Amidst this flurry, the founders’ original vision starts to evolve beyond something the founders can adequately focus on. It becomes even more critical to add product expertise that can continue to pull the vision out of the founders and translate it into a market-ready product.

It might not be possible, based on budget or the talent pool, to bring a product leader in-house at this point. But that doesn’t mean product knowledge can’t be gained. Bringing in an outside partner like Innovatemap can bring stability despite a volatile job market. We step in to act as the product leader on the team, often teaching more junior employees within the client’s company as we go. After some time, the internal team will become better equipped to manage the digital product’s evolution. We’re like an accelerator model for building product leaders, which benefits the client greatly and can be seen as a major plus to investors who understand the lack of product knowledge in the market.

Improve Product Marketing

By working with an outside partner with product knowledge, tech companies can not only identify and resolve issues related to their product — they can better market the product, too. Product marketing is an entirely different beast than marketing as many people know it. I often say product marketing is the architecture that great marketing is built upon. It’s critical that the digital product is branded appropriately—in a memorable and meaningful way—and that its features are accurately described and promoted to the right audiences.

More and more, investors are seeing the value of product marketing based on companies they’ve already invested in that have seen vast growth when it’s done right, and stagnant results when it’s done wrong. Because of this, investors may favor growth stage companies that have already invested in their own product marketing efforts before seeking additional funding.

At Innovatemap, we often work with companies to provide digital product development and product marketing, but there are cases when just one of the two needs is required. For Authenticx, a healthcare platform that analyzes customer interactions, we provided both product marketing and development services that helped to increase her revenue by 350 percent. Since we began working together, Authenticx has secured Series A funding.

Whether a company is seeking Series A funding and beyond, or is looking for ways to spend that funding appropriately, Innovatemap can work to iron out issues that exist in a product, find ways to improve upon it even if it’s working well, and can be an all-inclusive partner for product marketing efforts, as well.