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Spare a thought for founders fundraising over the holidays

For startup founders in the throes of raising investor funds, holidays like Christmas and Ramadan can be a difficult time

Holidays startups Unsplash
The holiday season can be a stressful time for some business owners

Ahead of the Christmas and new year season, schools will soon start to wrap up for the holidays, out-of-office notifications will be set, and fundraising founders around the world will take a deep breath and brace themselves for a month of stasis. 

For founders with children, the holidays are particularly tough. Whatever routine you’ve established for yourself during term time tends to melt away during the holidays.

There is an expectation that you should be able to take yourself offline for two weeks, like any other employee. That you should want to participate, with reckless abandon, in a fortnight of intense merry-making, as though the world of “work” does not exist. 

Of course, that’s not the reality. 

And when you don’t take yourself offline, you’re met with stony stares and accusations of having become a workaholic by your well-meaning but utterly uncomprehending family.

Last summer, I called a friend who runs one of the world’s largest biotechnology and testing companies and asked him whether he’s been able to take a holiday in the 30 years since he founded it.

“You mean a holiday where I don’t check my phone and emails every day? No.”

Truth is, it’s even harder if you’re a female founder. Anyone who has ever raised a company and a family in parallel knows that the struggle to establish boundaries between personal and professional lives, and to agree a co-parenting structure that works for both parents, is very real, and it’s not a one-time thing – it is a daily, continuous, and, at times, soul-destroying struggle.

Now throw fundraising into the mix.

If you are a Western nonprofit, the end of the year is what you live for. According to a 2022 M+R Benchmark Study, US-based nonprofits raise anywhere from 17 percent to 31 percent of their online revenue in December every year – a time of the year that has traditionally been associated with giving.

In Middle Eastern countries, Ramadan marks the period of greatest collective generosity.

However, if you’re not a nonprofit, and you’re a female founder, and you happen to be fundraising over Christmas, the festive season can stretch long and bleak in front of you.

It’s different if you’re in the final throes of the raise. Statistically, December does well in terms of the number and size of deals closed.

In Europe in 2021, startups raised more during December than in any other month that year – approximately $30 billion.

But if you’re still in the early stages of a raise; if you’re trying to get in front of investors for the first time, or going through the process of due diligence with a fund, the end of the year can be a frustrating time.

So, dear readers, I’d like you to think about the founders you know who are fundraising at the moment. Remind yourself that startups are the lifeblood of every economy; that a successful startup will boost GDP, generate hundreds if not thousands of jobs, and create products and services that can be exported to other markets.

We need startups to flourish, and, for startups to flourish, we need their founders to stay strong and sane.

Think about the founders you know, and ask yourself if there’s an obstacle you can help them clear, an introduction you can make, a decision you’ve been putting off, that could help them get one step closer to the merry-making they definitely need, but almost certainly won’t get.

After all, on this rollercoaster that is startup life, it’s the little things – the casual check-ins, the open doors, the moments of lift – that make all the difference.

Sophie Smith is the founder and CEO of Nabta, a UAE-based female health platform