Put the kittens in the box: The essential guide to raising and closing a funding round
Have you every tried to keep a kitten in a box? Not easy, is it.
Many startups and investors have heard me use the expression “Put the kittens in the box” when referring to fundraising. If you have ever raised capital, or have tried to put an actual kitten in a box, then you know my analogy works, and how difficult both can be.
Let’s get started. Just replace the word “Kitten” with “Investor” and the word ”Box” with “Funding round”.
1. Preparing your Box
Before you do doing anything, start by figuring out the size of your box. Make sure you have answered these questions. Is this the right size of box that I need? How many kittens do I want in my box? And more importantly, is my box attractive enough for kittens? Make sure you have settled on your decisions before you have started looking for kittens. I would also ask others who collected kittens how they did it — Caution: everyone’s box and kittens will be different. A small box is good for xyz, while a big box has abc benefits. Many kittens increase cuteness, less kittens means more focus.
2. Getting the first Kitten
Your first kitten is the most important one. Let’s call them the “lead” kitten. Make sure you choose the right one. As you search, ask yourself: Will this kitten help me get more kittens? Do they like my box? And are they the right kitten for my box — this is important, especially if this is your first box. Is this a kitten I want to spend time with?
That first kitten will want you to make some changes to your box to make it more attractive for them, this is as expected. Getting that first kitten may even take a long time (up to 6 months). You will get a lot of interest from kittens and you will get a lot of rejections (kittens are like that). The first kitten is the one that really looks at you in detail and will even ask detailed questions about the how and why of your box. If they don’t engage with you, more than likely they are not interested. So, move on to the next kitten. Lead kittens are tricky, it’s an empty box, it looks risky.
3. Getting more Kittens
Now that you have that first kitten, it is time to fill in your box. Make sure that you are in sync with your lead kitten and use their connections to get the rest. Ask that lead kitten: what did you like about my box? What made it attractive? Are there other kittens you want to socialize with? Leverage these answers to attract more kittens that agree with the first kitten. This process is time consuming, and time is of the essence so make sure you don’t start the process of choosing kittens over and over again. As you collect more kittens leverage them to gather more. Make sure you have researched kittens to find ones that will play well together. If your lead kitten is an alpha, they may not like other alpha kittens in the same box.
In an ideal world, look for kittens that will part of your next box. More than likely you will end up doing this again, so the more kittens that you can bring along the better, saving you more time in the long term.
4. Keeping the Kittens in the box
The hardest part of this process is keeping the kittens in the box. Other boxes and other kittens easily distract kittens you have in your box. Laser pointers and other technologies distract kittens, they are very curious. Kittens have a tendency of wandering and getting away from you — don’t let that happen! Your hardest challenge will be getting more kittens while trying to keep the ones you already have in the box. Again, time is of the essence, the longer you wait, the more likely you will loose some or all of the kittens in the box.
Collecting kittens in a box is a process; make sure you have a clear beginning and a projected end. If it’s not going well, it’s time to start thinking about taking a pause and stopping the process entirely. It’s also time to see if your box is not attractive enough, or if you have the wrong kittens in your box.
Adrian Mendoza is a managing partner at Mendoza Ventures. His focus is on advising and investing in AI, Fintech, and Cybersecurity startups. He has filled several boxes with kittens and is familiar with the process of wrangling them.