Last year, Jeff Brenner and Peter Kieltyka were looking for a better way to manage their communication with investors and increase their visibility while trying to raise seed capital for their mobile-media startup, Pressly. So they turned to Gust, an online platform that simplifies investor relations during the early-stage financing process. Startups can get access to potential accredited investors on the Gust network and create a secure company profile, complete with pitch video and slide decks, which they can easily share. Investors, meanwhile, have a secure platform for managing their deals. "The beauty of this is both sides are using the same platform," says Gust founder and CEO David S. Rose.
Gust (originally called Angelsoft) launched in 2004 and is now used by 170,000 companies, 40,000 investors, 800 angel groups and 250 venture funds. The service is free for startups; investment groups and venture capitalists pay a fee. Also using the platform are incubators, accelerators, conferences and business-plan competitions; many of them curate "collections" of startups to watch. "Companies are 37 times more likely to have investors look at them if they're in a collection," Rose says. Although Gust does not bill itself as a matchmaking site, Rose says more than 5,500 startups have received a total of $1.8 billion in funding via Gust.
"Gust does a nice job of breaking down the elements investors want to see," Brenner says. We talked with him about using the platform to raise Pressly's profile.
Why did you start using Gust?
Doing a raise is not a quick thing. Initially I didn't realize how much the pitch would change--the actual pitch deck and the financial modeling and all those assets that support you going out and getting in contact with investors. I had to constantly go back and update my documents and then resend them to people I had already e-mailed them to. It was getting to be a pain to manage it. So we started using Gust a couple of months into the actual fundraising process.
How did it improve the process?
Gust is the central repository for all my pitch docs: deck, business plan, financial model, video and high-level financials. It always has the most up-to-date information--it's almost like Dropbox for your investment raise. I just gave the links for our Pressly account to all the investors we were talking to, and I didn't have to go back and remember, Who did I send that to?
How many investors did you talk to?
Between the angels and VCs, there were a dozen investors during a six-month time period, and our conversations were all at different stages. We've raised $1.5 million as a seed round from two angel investors and two venture capital companies. The people we ended up doing a raise from were not through Gust, but we did have probably a half dozen or a dozen angels reach out to us on the Gust platform.
Did using Gust yield any other benefits?
We were selected to attend two different events we heard about through Gust. It was like, "We're running this campaign, submit your Gust profile, and we'll see whether you qualify to attend for free." We qualified for free attendance at Demo, which normally costs thousands.
We were fortunate that we were featured in a collection of startups on Gust. Driving some of that awareness obviously benefited us.