If you want to raise money, you need to have small but measurable usage. No one funds ideas anymore.
You don’t need hundreds or thousands of customers (though, that won’t hurt), but showing investors that someone is actively using the product often and/or paying for it shows them that you’re building something that people want.
Traction gives you credibility. Credibility gets you meetings. Meetings are where the magic happens.
Once you get the meetings though, don’t screw it up.
Actually, I’ll spare you the pain: there’s something you should never EVER say:
“We did all this through word of mouth.”
“WE HAVEN’T SPENT A SINGLE CENT ON MARKETING!”
When you say that, the investor is thinking, “Shit. We’re going to bleed money on this next round, aren’t we?”
If you want to raise money, you have to always be proving that your goal is to build a business. A BUSINESS.
In today’s age, that’s easier than ever: exploit the shit out of online distribution channels.
You’ve got access to 1B+ people via Facebook ads. You’ve got even more access to people via Adwords. And don’t forget about LinkedIn ads, Quora, Pinterest, Twitter, Android, iOS and other networks. Show investors that you’re testing distribution models on those channels.
That doesn’t take a lot of money (most ad platforms will let you test with as little as $25) but it does take some effort. SHOW INVESTORS THE EFFORT.
Stop talking about your idea. Stop talking about your product. Stop talking about changing the world. There are too many other startups saying the same thing. Just prove that you’re trying to build a business.
Just talk about your business. And, in order to have a business, you need to stay focused on the traction.