Two Ways To Get Traction Prior To Funding

The plight of pre-seed founders can seem like a Catch-22.  Founders need traction to get funding, and funding to get traction. 

Crossing this chasm is a founder's first and fundamental role. From a funding standpoint, in the earliest stages, personal resources and connections substitute for traction, so founders rely on personal finances and their immediate personal and professional network for "friend and family" stage funding.  Operationally, I have seen founders stretch limited resources to maximize traction in two ways:

1 - Use Equity To Build Out A Team and Move The Venture Forward.  I have seen clients make amazing progress with teams of co-founders, advisors and other contributors compensated mostly or solely in equity.  They have then leveraged product and user traction, and the quality of their team, to attract angel and seed investment.  It works not just because of traction, but because founders have demonstrated the ability to persist, persuade and lead. 

2 - Launch A Streamlined Initial Product and Keep Refining It.  Do what it takes to build a basic version of your product and launch it to a cohort of initial users in your target market.  Leverage the user feedback to test assumptions, refine the product, improve engagement, generate compelling case studies and acquire initial paying customers, all of which go a long way to attracting both talent and investment.  Y Combinator has a terrific article here discussing in more depth the virtues of launching quickly, working closely with users, and doing what's necessary to make it indispensable, even if it means Doing Things That Don't Scale.


Francesco Barbera

Francesco Barbera is a corporate attorney representing emerging growth companies in a wide range of industries, including software, technology, digital, fashion, health care, retail and e-commerce.

He counsels entrepreneurs, investors and established companies on the full range of their business activities, from formation through raising capital, growth and acquisition. He has special expertise in the representation of mission-driven organizations and social enterprises. 

Throughout his career, he has represented the National Broadcasting Corporation, the Grammy Museum, Ares Capital Management, Credit Suisse First Boston, as well as privately held businesses in internet, media and technology, mobile applications, consumer products, professional sports, film and television production, among others over the course of his career. 

Francesco began his legal career at two large, international law firms in Los Angeles, where he represented large and small enterprises in a broad range of transactions, from mergers and acquisitions to public and private securities offerings to the formation of partnerships and joint ventures.

Francesco is also the Co-Chairman of the Los Angeles chapter of Conscious Capitalism, Inc.A lifelong student of psychology and personal development, Francesco holds a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica and has been trained and mentored by numerous leaders in the personal development arena, including Steve Chandler, Byron Katie and George and Linda Pransky. 

Francesco has also founded and represented non-profit initiatives.

He has served as outside counsel to the Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a charter school dedicated to training the next generation of social and political leaders, and he is the founder and former Executive Director of SpiritWalk, a non-profit fundraiser created to benefit the University of Santa Monica.  

Francesco’s writing has appeared in The American LawyerCalifornia LawyerSlate, and others. He served as the Supreme Court columnist and Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Record and was the founder and editor-in-chief of the Penn History Review, the first Ivy League journal in the country dedicated to the publication of undergraduate historical research.

Francesco is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School, cum laude, and the University of Pennsylvania, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.