Chesley M. ChenI help CEOs launch start-ups and keep their Zen.

I have over 30 years experience building start-ups and new ventures in digital health, life sciences, financial services, and a wide array of other industries. I provide concrete advice and hands-on support for smart, busy start-up CEOs. My sweet spot is helping pre-Series A CEOs build financial models, strategize on fundraising, shape their strategy and go-to-market plans, and build their teams...all this while keeping their Zen.

Recent Answers

I'm an experienced CEO, entrepreneur, strategist, and operator having grown and turned around businesses in a range of industries (digital health, financial services, telecom, aerospace) and in companies of all sizes from brand new start-ups to much larger firms like Goldman Sachs.

SWOT Analysis works for some people. Never for me. I find it to be a bit too academic and less action-oriented for my tastes, especially in start-ups where you have to think and move fast.

I've used other frameworks but more importantly, ways to think about thorny business problems that makes sense. I'd love to learn more about what you are facing, and I can give you some pointers. Please set-up a call if you'd like.

I think I can help you. I'm am an experienced CEO, entrepreneur, strategist, and business developer. I've done many pitches for my own start-ups and helped other entrepreneurs create their own. I've pitched in numerous business plan contests (and won a few!), pitched multimillion dollar projects, and everything in between.

I think I can help you over 2 quick calls. During the 1st call, I can listen to what you have and give you some pointers. That'll give you enough to work on your pitch for a day or two. Then we can have a 2nd call for you to rehearse your pitch and I'll give you some more pointers for fine tuning.

This approach has worked for others. If you like it, just set-up a call and we'll take it from there.

A very good and age-old question. The others have provided good benchmarks that I've seen recently. I'm working with a few start-ups right now that are Pre-Series A.

From a number crunching perspective, you should build a financial model with discounted cashflows to arrive at a valuation. A good model will let you fiddle with your key strategic assumptions to give you a range. Potential investors will run the numbers so you're better off having your own as their starting point.

Have you considered using a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE)? It's an instrument born out of Y Combinator for early stage companies. Like it says, it simplifies the process and doesn't force you to go through valuation negotiations and gyrations just yet even if there is an implied valuation.

Another thing to consider is limiting the investment that any single investor can put in. I am assuming that the last thing you want right now is to yield control to others.

I am happy to talk you this if you set-up a call. I can help you with all of the above and more.

Good question. I agree with several others that you should not use an investment banker to raise seed money.

Have you done any market/customer validation of your software. This is really important before you start raising money from outside investors. Investors will ask.

I am working with other start-ups (including my own) on how to raise money without bringing in outside investors. The best case scenario is talk potential customers to do a proof-of-concept, feasibility project.

I am happy to talk through the various options with you if you set-up a call.

Looks like the other experts have links to SaaS financial templates. Once you have a chance to look these over and find one that you like, I can talk you through how to tailor it to your own business model - or how to use a financial model to inform your strategy.

Happy to talk you through this so set-up a quick call if you'd like.

Good question. My advice is to talk to several potential advisors, glean learnings from each conversation, see if you can build rapport, and then decide on who you think you can work with. Having said that, I'd be happy to chat with you about my approach.

As a CEO Business Partner, I've helped many start-up CEOs build their financial models as a way to inform their strategies and to value their companies. I come from an experienced start-up, hands-on CEO perspective. When I engage in this type of project I make sure that there are concrete deliverables. Mentoring inevitably becomes a by-product.

Please set-up a quick call if you'd like to learn more.

Hi - Just checking to see if you got what you needed.

I'm an experienced CEO. I build financial models for all sorts of businesses, including recurring revenue and/or project based businesses like SaaS. Your three points above hit some but not all parts of a solid financial model. Other parts would include cost of delivery, support, general admin, etc. And don't forget to tie all that together with cashflow analysis and valuation. Since you're pre-seed stage, your Seed investors will want to run the numbers. Best to start with what you think not what they can make up for you.

If you still need help, set-up a call and I'll be able to give you more specifics based on our discussion.

If I can improvise, I'd like to suggest 4 categories within which you can nest KPIs depending on your business model and strategy objectives. These are basic balance scorecard dimensions.

1. Customer (revenue, retention, satisfaction)
2. Service Delivery (quality, timeliness, cost/efficiency)
3. People and Innovation (employee engagement and satisfaction, turnover, innovation)
4. Financials (P&L, cashflow, valuation or balance sheet strength)

I've implemented KPIs and balanced scorecards in very large companies (e.g., Goldman Sachs), very small start-ups and everything in between. At Goldman, my reports ended up on Co-CEOs Paulson's and Corzine's desks every month. They went on to become the US Secretary of Treasury and the US Senator from NJ. I'm sure my reports has a lot to do with it! :-)

I'd love to share with you what I've learned. Set-up a call and I can give some more specific ideas based on our discussion.

Good question, maybe the most important one. Some quick advice...
No matter what skills/roles you want a co-founder to fill, don't commit to anyone until you've had a chance to work together. if you have a former colleague in mind, that's a leg up but still proceed carefully. Working together on a start-up is like nothing else.
Look for someone who can get the passion you have, maybe even more.
Look for someone who can afford to get paid very little for awhile. You don't want a co-founder who has one eye on the door if day-to-day survival cash is an issue. Nothing wrong with that but that's just a fact of life.

Set-up a call and we can dig a little deeper.

I am assuming that you are in the corporate retreat management business?

If yes, I would start within your own geography since you'll probably have to do face-to-face selling and onsite delivery. I would target companies with 500+ employees. Within those companies, try to get to HR and any internal event planners. Companies with a large, active sales force is also a good target. Even is business is down, sales meetings are the last thing to go.

Set-up a call and I can get into more specifics once I learn more about what your company offers.

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