Theo Saville has a vision of the world in which one-click manufacturing is the new normal. His startup has already raised tens of millions of dollars to make that happen.
On the Dealmakers Show Saville shared his passion for disrupting the manufacturing process, the only three things you should be focusing on as a founding CEO, and the fundraising journey his company has been on. Including the many sources of capital available for startups, who still writes checks in a crisis, and how long it takes to raise money from different types of investors.
Plus, how his company plans to add 50% more team members, and what he’s looking for if you want to get hired.
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Theo Saville was born in London, England. Then grew up out in the countryside, far from any bus stops. Leaving him little to do but build things. Which took him through studying engineering for university.
His first jobs introduced him to door-to-door and phone sales, which he took to well. Yet, even before that he had begun to flex his knack for entrepreneurship.
One summer, when he was just 15 years old, Theo Saville said he was desperate to get a good computer. He just didn’t have the money. Then he realized that if he purchased all of the components separately he could end up with a much better one, faster.
After he built it he realized it was worth much more than he paid for the parts. So, he sold it so that he could buy a better one.
Then he woke up to the opportunity of being able to presell them, build more, and provide two-day shipping. Which was even faster than Dell was doing. So, he ended up selling custom gaming PCs on eBay as his first business venture.
That provided early lessons in ecommerce, dealing with payments, creating financial forecasts, and using Excel and photoshop.
Since then, starting and operating his own businesses just seemed like the obvious thing to do.
Still at university he was invited to join a startup accelerator program. His initial idea was around 3D printing. Through the process of exploring the manufacturing space, he realized just how manual and archaic things still were. He decided to switch it up and focus on taking the manufacturing process into the future.
He set his mind on automating the process, and creating one-click manufacturing.
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Finding his cofounder Chris, Theo launched his latest venture CloudNC.
He describes the early days as exciting. Full of problems to solve. Each day bringing another 10 or 20 challenges that you’ve never had to tackle before.
Today, CloudNC both sells manufactured metal components, like airplane parts, and licenses its software for others. Helping its customers to reduce costs, improve quality, and speed up delivery.
Theo and his team are still very much focused on making one-click manufacturing a reality. The ability to make just about anything as easy as it is to make a website today.
That vision means being able to use natural language processing to design 3D objects, and have them created with the push of a single button. Eventually enabling products to be instantly drop-shipped to customers anywhere in the world. Though these complete capabilities are still likely a couple decades away.
The Fundraising Journey
Saville says that fundraising is a lot like starting a business. It is a journey, and another problem to solve. Or a series of problems to solve.
With the exception of private equity Theo says that CloudNC has brought in just about every type of capital out there.
- Government grants
- Family and friends
- Angel investors
- Family offices
- Venture capital
- Corporate venture capital
Theo says that angel investors are typically focused on the team more than anything else. At the seed round you might receive term sheets after a few months of fundraising, then hope to close after another couple of months.
CloudNC’s Series A was about funding the growth of its tech team, and going out to nail product market fit. When it comes to VCs he says that they are looking for huge returns. At the level they can return their entire fund in order to make up for all of the other losses. They are looking at your financial model, customer references, and how well oiled your machine is at predictably pumping out money in relation to what you put in.
When it came to their Series B, the world shut down due to COVID right before he was about to jump on a plane to the US to meet investors. VCs stopped writing checks. Though they persevered and discovered family offices were still funding deals.
CloudNC has also raised from corporates like Autodesk and Lockheed Martin. Of these types of investors he says you should be prepared for a two to three-year journey. Which runs from building the relationships to connecting with the right decision makers, and then making it through due diligence and legal.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Theo Saville was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Why stories are better than advice for growing as a leader
- Why to hire specialists instead of generalists
- Theo’s interview process for securing the most effective talent