our company has been working on a semantic technology for the past 15 months. we have achieved amazing results and are a few months away from launching the actual product. we do have access to government grants but for our own contribution and ongoing costs, we require close to $500K capital. at this stage:
- we are past the bootstrapping stage
- do not have any traction (no product has been launched)
need advice on how to deal with this.
Since you mention that you have achieved "amazing results", I am assuming that you have some sort of a prototype to show to an angel/seed investor. Also, the fact that you managed to get a government grant (which I assume you didn't have to give up any equity for) is a good thing and shows creativity on your part.
That along with a well-crafted pitch about your vision for the product and the reality of the specific problem you are trying to solve might be good enough to start having conversations with some angel/seed investors. Assuming you get some initial commitments, you could then open up a public funding solicitation on AngelList. Please do consult your corporate lawyer for specific do's and don'ts of process of public solicitation.
Also, you can try to limit the portion of this $500K going towards founders' salaries by keeping those at a bare minimum.
Finally, you'll also need to think carefully about the amount you want to raise. Will this $500K be enough to take you to your series A?
Happy to brainstorm more or provide feedback on your pitch deck.
You should never optimize for government-funding of any kind. It can be helpful for sure, but if you have truly "amazing results" to share, and you are a few months away from actual product, it's likely that you are better-off waiting to get real product.
Trying to interpret what you wrote, it sounds as though you are operating on a significant burn (for being pre-product). I would look at everything you can to defer or reduce your burn that is non-essential to getting the product ready.
Raising money when you've "almost got product ready" is one of the toughest points to raise money. If you're encouraged by what you see, do anything you can to get to finished product.
I'd also suggest you really prioritize looking for customer validation from the early results that you can produce now. The more external validation you can generate, even if it's based on incomplete product, the better position you are going to be.
Happy to do a call to work through your scenario specifically.
You seem to be in a similar position that a lot of seed stage startups are in. At this stage, angel investors are usually appropriate to talk to about making a seed investment.
Keep in mind that "traction" can mean different things at different stages. At your stage, traction could include early customer interest, pilot program commitments, etc. Of course, it's always better to have customer/revenue traction but use what you have.
We raised several hundred thousand dollars before we ever launched. But we were able to show prototypes, early customer interest, and confirmed lead customers.
I'd begin the rounds with angel investors in your area and in your field for "feedback meetings." Try to find mentors that are willing to advise you, even informally. Remember, ask for money -- receive advice. Ask for advice, receive money.
Best of luck and let me know if I can be of help.