Pegafund: Financial Roadmap to Scale and Predictable Growth

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be" ― John Wooden

I am very excited to share with you Pegafund which provides a strategic growth CFO to seed to pre-Series B European B2B software startups varying in size from 20 to 100 FTEs.

Our mission is to help founders enable predictable growth and global go-to market success.

How the journey started

This business has been a long time in the making.

Before moving across the Atlantic, I worked at institutional financial service firms in the US, namely JP Morgan and Ares, where I was fortunate to have advised US pension plans on their investment strategy including allocation to private funds (e.g. VC, growth, and private equity), raised financing (including East and West Coast roadshows) for over 50 public companies that operate in a diverse range of industries, and invested in mature B2B Software businesses such as Keynote Systems.

Six years ago to this month, I left a comfortable life and followed my intuition in pursuit of an European adventure centred around the second wave of emerging technology entrepreneurship.

A thesis back then is a reality today

Global software companies such as Spotify (NYSE: SPOT, valued at $34BN), Adyen (AMS: ADYEN, $36BN), Zendesk (NYSE: ZEN, $10BN), Unity (private $6BN), Elastic (NYSE: ESTC, $7BN), Medallia (NYSE: MDLA, $4BN) were born in Europe during the last recession.

Unlike their predecessors, today’s generation of European startups no longer need to raise venture funding in the Valley and flip to a Delaware Corporation in the process.

Big and successful venture-backed businesses can be homegrown in Europe.

This pattern is validated by leading global VCs such as Sequoia and Lightspeed setting up offices in London and recruiting local investors to better access the next generation of global winners. 

Further, services that support the European venture ecosystem, such as banking (e.g. Silicon Valley Bank) and law (e.g. Wilson Sonsini) have matured significantly in recent years.

European technology is here to stay and a force to be reckoned with on a global scale.

Pattern recognition

While investing in European B2B software startups at Columbia Lake Partners and Dawn Capital, I observed first-hand the rollercoaster journeys of these businesses in scaling to achieve global go-to market success. I experienced how incredibly challenging it is to lead a business to enable predictable growth across a continent that requires localization by region, while at the same time expand into a large, new market across the Atlantic with a fundamentally different culture (yes, even from Canada!) and longer history of buying outsourced software.

Businesses such as Algomi, Amplience, Bitmovin, Brightpearl, Clavis Insights (Ascential), Crate.io, Conversocial, Falcon.io (Cision/Platinum Equity), Global Savings Group, HoxHunt, Sefaira (Trimble), Showpad, Templafy, and Pollen are unique, however they faced recurring challenges that time and again follow a similar pattern. The key ones being:

  • Attracting experienced talent, particularly in Sales and Finance,

  • Launching and expanding across the US, and

  • Managing investors through the ups-and-downs of a fast-scaling business.

Perhaps it is my Canadian immigrant roots or my addiction to constant change, but I was frustrated by the same old ‘song and dance’ playing over and over again.

There are many Dark Horses who are constantly undervalued and never given their ‘wings to fly’.

Do we let the inexperienced fend for their own survival, and celebrate when they luckily thrive? Or do we provide support as their entrepreneurial partner and share in the same bumpy ride?

Modern SaaS CFOs need to enable predictable growth and global go-to market success

As a recent a16z article pointed out, the role of the CFO has evolved to be highly strategic in nature with responsibilities which include:

Resource allocation 

  • How much should be spent on a marketing channel? 

  • What forecast changes need to be made based on the latest sales pipeline?

  • Are we investing the right mix of marketing, sales, and product?

  • What are the economics of a particular product? Geography?

Capital markets 

  • What is the optimal mix of equity and debt to raise, and when? 

  • Is our market consolidating? Would M&A be an attractive opportunity to supplement organic growth?

  • How should we best communicate business value to existing and new investors?

  • Should we ‘raise money’ (sell) to a strategic investor (buyer), or do we fuel organic growth by raising venture and growth funding? When is the optimal time to exit the business, and how?

The challenges hampering today’s CFO in a16z article “The CFO in Crisis Mode” (April 2020)

However due to the amount of work involved in managing cash, tax, risk and control in a fast-growing business, the vast majority of time and resources are spent on daily operational deliverables rather than strategic initiatives that create future value.

As a result, this undermines the value of the Finance function. Too often, Finance is an afterthought for first-time founders, mistakenly viewed as a “back office function” to please investors and something you “just hack together” as you grow.

In fact, as a B2B software startup with ambitious plans to scale quickly, financial design should be the #1 business priority

Finance is one of the key predictors of achieving predictable growth and global go-to market success.

This first begins by creating a financial budget that is supported by an operating model which accounts for (i) the marketing and sales motion of the business with (ii) the product and its buyers as well as (iii) investors and lenders who provide external funding.

The operating model should include 3 realistic scenarios which is updated weekly with real-time business data.

Similar to product, a financial roadmap would account for the needs and incentives of founders, customers, talent, and investors — this is adjusted frequently as the business changes and grows.

In advance of raising any venture or growth funding, a finance leader should intimately understand the business model of investors and lenders in order to best manage expectations and clearly communicate value created.

By prioritizing financial design and being agile in financial strategy & planning, all business stakeholders are better able to focus on smart (and not simply fast) decision-making and execution.

Supporting the European ‘Dark Horses’

If this year has taught us anything, it is that we live in a highly connected and interdependent world where our individual and united efforts can result in both positive and negative change.

You can contribute to solving a key self-perpetuating challenge. And I believe our combined efforts will bring about positive change within the European and global technology ecosystem at large.

Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved.