How Raise a ‘Unicorn’.

It’s considered a milestone for a privately held company to reach a valuation of over $1 billion; in the industry, that’s known as a “unicorn.” And in an episode of Exchanges at Goldman Sachs, two startup founders explain how they engaged with investors to achieve that status. At last week’s Builders + Innovators Summit in Sonoma County, California, the Investment Banking Division’s Kim Posnett sat down with Kabir Shahani, the CEO of Amperity, which makes customer-data applications, and Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of Maven, a virtual health clinic for women and families. Shahani told Posnett that Amperity ditched the traditional pitch deck in favor of a 35-page narrative to explain the company to potential investors. “We literally just documented everything about the company: the good, the bad, the ugly,” Shahani says. “There wasn’t a sales process because we wanted investors that understood the long view that we have on our company and that they’re part of developing that business with us, not trying to sell them on some immediate opportunity.” Ryder adds that Maven was also looking for lasting partners. “We really wanted someone who cared deeply about the longer term in women’s and family health because our market is so underserved,” she says. “We wanted an investor who understood the longer-term vision and wasn’t going to push us into an IPO within the next year or two.”

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