Education Growth Stages Strategy Success Stories

Raising capital? What you need to know, from an award-winning consultant who has been there, done that.

When it comes to raising capital, Florida SBDC at FIU consultant Ricardo Weisz has experience in the trenches on both sides of this entrepreneurial challenge.

While an executive at The Walt Disney Company, he launched operations in multiple countries, and over the years he has headed and or invested in various ventures with successful exits. He currently owns and runs Interim HealthCare, a healthcare franchised company that provides services for those aging in place. He was also an active early stage investor who has held a number of board positions and has served as an adviser and judge in many business competitions.

“I think I am unique among the [SBDC at FIU] consultants in that I run a small business myself, and so it gives me insight from both sides, being the consultant but also empathizing with the pains of running a business and understanding what the clients go through in their processes. It’s the same as I do with founders who are working on startups because I was also involved with so many startups myself throughout my career,” explains Weisz.

“If I have any success in terms of my relationship with clients, it’s that I can empathize because I’ve been in their shoes. When I talk to them, it’s from the heart, and they know that I’ve been there and done that, and that I speak from personal experience. It’s a different type of consulting relationship.”

All this experience and expertise has served well the clients of Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center with FIU’s College of Business that provides no-cost consulting to small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Weisz was one of the center’s first consultants, starting in 2014. Since then — and particularly since 2020 — Miami has seen many more VC and tech companies relocate here, and the center experienced an increase in entrepreneurs seeking assistance in his area. Indeed, since 2014, Weisz has helped entrepreneurs secure $25.88 million in capital. Of that, 38.1% or $9.87 million in capital came in during the last three years.

Award winner

It’s also why Florida SBDC at FIU named Weisz, an expert in raising equity capital, finance, marketing, startups, turnaround management, content, brand development, licensing and marketing, as its Consultant of the Year for 2023.

In addition to Weisz ramping up his capital assistance in the last three years, he has also built upon his strong foundation of VC/tech experience to also gain expertise in SBIR/STTR, including helping SBDC at FIU’s client, Aerosens, secure SBIR Phase I and Phase II grants from the Department of Defense in 2021 and 2022, in addition to investor funding.

“I think I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades. My focus has been on technology startups or startups that have that additional component that require equity investments from investors. It’s an area that I like and know,” explains Weisz. “But I also spend time with growth and marketing sometimes as the clients come to me, and I do co-consulting with other consultants, and that’s always a lot of fun.”

Raising capital is a challenge

To be sure, it’s a challenging time for companies raising capital. “We came out from the pandemic with euphoric perspectives on things, but things are not as bright as they were a few months ago. There are so many things going on in the world right now that are affecting and will continue to affect the economic perspective over the short few months moving forward.”

And it is important to understand how entrepreneurship and venture capital are tied to the economy. When there’s a lot of unemployment, there’s a lot of entrepreneurship going on because people see it as an alternative to getting another job, and the risk associated with being an employee. But, when the economy shifts, and the returns on the capital market and real estate market are high, investors focus on those areas rather than high-risk venture capital. Now that interest rates have risen, the interest in investing in startups is also declining because similar returns can be achieved with lesser risks,” Weisz says.

“Understanding this is important because the amount of money available for investing is a moving target, influenced by various factors and other elements of the investment portfolio. There’s a myth associated with equity investing that it’s just someone with a big checkbook writing checks for fun. Investors are professionals who work within a sector of the economy.”

Advice to founders

What’s more, in any economic environment, raising funds is always a challenge. So what does Weisz advise founders seeking funding?

“A lot of founders come into it thinking that just by having a great idea, they’re going to get immediately funded, but that’s not the case. It takes a major effort in trying to get funding, it means being ready to pitch your idea maybe 60, 70, 100 times before you get any traction,” he says.

It’s also important for founders to listen to the feedback that you get after each of those meetings and then adjust and make changes so the next pitch goes better. “People who are not willing to listen or read the writing on the wall are not as successful in getting funded.”

We asked Weisz what are the biggest issues he sees as an investor that may be hampering the startup’s fund-raising success.

Your team and go-to-market strategy are key

First off, he says, he sees too many founding teams that are so enamored with and focused on their idea that they’re not paying attention to anything else. “To the investor, the team is as important as the idea itself,” he says.

That means having members in your team with a proven track record and deep expertise in the subject matter, Weisz says. “This not only brings credibility but also validation. If you’re able to recruit someone with industry expertise, it will validate that you have something worth investing in.”

Next is a lack of a go-to-market strategy. “Just having a great idea is not sufficient. People have to be able to discover your idea, know where to find it. Unless you spend as much time developing your go-to-market strategy as you are developing your product, that is also a recipe for failure.”

Also, it’s not only about the now, but also the future, Weisz says. You have to know where you’re going, and understanding where you need to go will help you get there. This includes having a road to an exit. “If you don’t take the exit into consideration, you’re not going to get the funding because the investor ultimately wants to get their money back at some point, and that can only happen with a successful exit.”

To entrepreneurs, he says having a fundable concept and the team to execute, as well as knowing where you’re going and how you will get there is the recipe for success in fund-raising. “I know all the pains that you go through when you’re trying to raise funds and start up a company, and I understand the perspective of investors because I have been in those shoes as well.”


Florida SBDC at FIU


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