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The 5 ingredients of a great fundraising announcement
Using Ramp as a case study
One of the top comms questions from VCs and startups is: How should we announce our fundraise?
The recipe for a successful announcement includes (1) objectives, (2) audience, (3) message, (4) execution, and (5) validation.
Ramp recently nailed all 5, so it’s worth taking a moment to study what they did.
Let’s get into the specifics of each ingredient of the announcement...
You need clear goals. Publicity for its own sake is wasted motion; it’s only worthwhile if it helps propel the business forward. A fundraise gives you an opportunity to create an attention spike that you can then use to (a) motivate employees, (b) recruit new talent, (c) build the confidence of customers, and (d) attract new customers. You might have other objectives, but these are the most likely. From what I can see, Ramp’s announcement moved the needle on all of those.
The general public doesn’t matter, so get focused. Your real audience consists of the people who will decide whether you achieve your OBJECTIVES. For Ramp, and for 99% of startups, that means the audience is employees, potential employees, customers, and potential customers. At other times, the audience might include investors or regulators, but not in this instance.
The good stuff! This is what you need to tell the AUDIENCE so they’ll help you meet your OBJECTIVES. The biggest mistake for fundraising announcements is to focus on themselves and the funding: “We are excited to announce that we have more money now, thanks for the money, we like it.” That’s boring and self-centered, and it leads to something between indifference and outright hostility. It’s also a huge missed opportunity to talk about what your employees and customers actually care about.
Eric’s thread focused on Ramp’s accomplishments and plans instead of the funding amount, and on customers and employees instead of himself. You can see it in his thread: he starts with the lede (the raise and marquee names involved), then immediately switches the focus to customers. Next he highlights Ramp’s performance, with concrete metrics, and gives third party validation with Ken Chenault’s quote.
Then - importantly - he describes the terms of the deal and addresses head-on the fact that this is a down round. Now it’ll be tired and petty if other people were to point to this; he’s owned it and disarmed potential critics. He immediately adds context: Ramp is far outperforming most other tech companies! All this shows transparency, builds trust, and demonstrates confidence.
Then, Eric puts the focus back on customers with a shoutout that simultaneously flatters Ramp customers (they get it and they’re valued) and offers social proof to attract new customers (15,000 businesses already trust Ramp!). Before wrapping up, there’s a recap of the most notable accomplishments, a call to action (if you like this, then here’s how to become a customer or apply for a job), and love and gratitude for employees.
Finally, Eric ends the thread how it began: with a focus on customers.
Where most comms fail. After crafting your MESSAGE, you have to actually get it out into the wild so your AUDIENCE can see it and be prompted to do the things to meet the OBJECTIVES.
First of all, the cofounders shared the news in their own voices, and the CEO stepped up as the chief ambassador for the brand. We’ve already covered Eric’s thread, which was clear and well executed. Karim’s thread was also authentic and humble, focusing on gratitude toward customers.
But there’s a lot more to it.
“Going direct” doesn’t just mean tweeting. Eric’s first post linked to Ramp’s own blog where they told the story in full, with their own narrative, before it got filtered through anyone else’s agenda. Eric also went on the record to shape the story in the media.
Now here’s the elephant in the room: there was a leak last week that broke the news of Ramp’s raise, with emphasis on the fact that it was the down round. (Note: leaks are very common during fundraising talks. Shoutout to investors who coordinate with founders before talking to press. Undermining a portco’s comms strategy hurts your investment!) I noticed Ramp handled this intelligently, in two ways:
(a) With timing, Ramp didn’t jump to respond last week when the leak happened or rush something out on Monday. Instead, they had the discipline and savvy to take their time to prepare a thorough and thoughtful announcement.
(b) With the narrative, Ramp reset the story by going proactive instead of reacting to the leak. They reset the narrative on their own terms instead of responding while on the back foot. They waited and then came out with a clean, confident narrative that didn’t get sidetracked by answering the claims in the leak. Notably, they still addressed the down round directly, turning the elephant in the room into part of the decor. “Here’s our elephant...everyone else has one too, and ours is actually nicer.”
Saying nice things about your own company only goes so far, even with concrete metrics. You need other people to back you up. The most impactful validators are customers, employees, and investors. Ramp had all of these. With employees talking about loving their jobs (including new hires!), customers praising the business, and investors vouching for the founders, there is a surround-sound effect that tells the audience the hype is justified.
You can simply ask people to do this, but the best is when their statements reflect trust and respect built over years, not days, and it shows.
It’s also worth noting that Ramp did not ice out the media even after a leak. They worked with Bloomberg on a fresh story that focused on the bigger picture. It did include the down round but also quoted investors like Keith Rabois to put the numbers in context.
HOW TO USE THIS
I’d venture to say 100% of companies announcing a round need the same 5 ingredients: you must have clear goals, know your audience, craft a compelling narrative, execute with excellence, and show third party validation.
That said, you don’t have to do it exactly the way Ramp did. They showed one way - not the only way - to pull off a great fundraising announcement. You may have different objectives and audiences, so do what makes sense for you.
Use the same ingredients, but make it your own flavor.
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