How to Extend Your Startup Runway (Without Giving Up Control)

If your company is under pressure from investors to cut your burn and increase cash flow so you can ultimately extend your startup runway, you’re probably struggling with:

  • Cutting your burn rate without making mistakes or completely sacrificing business growth.
  • Increasing your cash balance without handing over shares of your business, raising a down round or risking the loss of personal assets.
  • Getting cash quickly without increasing the same costs you should be cutting.
  • Finding a business model to help you increase your runway.

We interviewed Matt Hafemeister, Head of Jeeves Growth and former partner at Andreessen Horowitz, to provide you with an in-depth look at how to extend your runway as a startup founder. Matt previously worked at a16z and has extensive experience advising and building startups.

In this post, we’ll cover:

Note: Extend your startup runway in days instead of months with Jeeves’ financing. Get started now and apply to Jeeves today

How to extend your runway as a startup: 4 ways

As founders ourselves, we know what it’s like to have to take stock of your runway, analyse your capital and look for ways to extend your runway.

We’ll look at four fundamental ways to help your cash go further and review the pros and cons of each. 

1. Cut costs

Cutting costs involves lowering your burn rate to increase the total amount of cash. The most common ways you can cut costs are through:

  • Headcount. See which departments cost you the most and measure your spending against each division’s ROI. Re-evaluate if you really need the number of staff in each department. Could a division operate just as efficiently with fewer people?
  • Employee and company expenses. Create employee expense policies, improve your travel expense management, and track all your company costs with expense management software like Jeeves. You’ll get a global overview of your expenses to identify and curb overspending and maverick spending (buying outside procurement policies).
  • Marketing spending. You may be outsourcing your marketing efforts to 3 different agencies. Consider cutting back to one or creating an in-house team.  
  • Customer acquisition costs (CAC). If you’re providing large sign-up bonuses for clients or spending lots of money on advertisements, consider scaling this back.
Dashbord of Jeeves expense management software
Jeeves expense management dashboard

Pros of cutting costs: 

You’ll have greater flexibility because you’re completely in charge of how you spend your cash. Cost cutting is the easiest way to extend your runway because you're not accountable to anyone else

Cons:

Headcount is the most common way to cut costs, but also the most difficult and not necessarily the best. You’re dealing with people’s lives and impacting their families, so cutting heads is much more personal. That’s why it might be easier to cut SaaS tools, marketing, expense budgets and CAC first before letting go of people.

Another drawback is miscalculations. If you don’t calculate your burn rate correctly, you may wind up cutting aspects that hinder business growth. Slashing your customer acquisition costs (CAC) may seem like a good idea until you realise you’ve compromised all new customer leads. 

You can only identify what to eliminate to get your burn rate down when you use the right metrics (spoiler alert: we’ll show you how below).

2. Bring in higher quality revenue

Out of the 4 ways to extend your startup runway, generating quality revenue is the most difficult to achieve. 

Until now, you may have relied on just getting customers in your door. Now, you want to avoid worthless deals and turn a profit instead. For example, if you offer a new product or launch a service in a new market, you can’t afford to give away business cheaply.

“If you want to bring in quality revenue, double down on your most profitable channels and most profitable customers. Focus on those deals and nothing else.”  – Matt Hafemeister, Head of Jeeves Growth

One way to avoid this is to focus on lowering your CAC while creating high-margin revenue.

Here’s an example. If you're a SaaS company, you may decide to no longer give away free tier subscriptions alongside paid higher tiers. Instead, you could try free trials that turn into paid subscriptions for all your tiers and dedicate your CAC to getting higher-tiered clients in the door. 

Pros of bringing in quality revenue:

You don’t have to rely on external funding, which means you can keep control of your company and no longer risk losing personal assets.

Cons:

You risk churn if you’re not prepared for it. To avoid this, you could provide incentives for customers to switch from monthly to yearly contracts & shift go-to-market resources from marketing and sales to your account management team.

Results may be slow, which is also risky. When you want to generate higher quality revenue, make sure you have enough runway and a sound plan to profitability. Months could pass before you identify the right channels, market them effectively, and see any results. 

If you don’t already have a profitable channel, it may also take time to develop one or tweak your existing product or service. 

3. Raise more capital

You can raise capital and extend your runway through internal or external investors. 

Raising funds externally is possible in a good economy, but may be hard to do during a downturn because you risk compromising your valuation.

Or you could raise capital within your own portfolio of investors, regardless of the economy. Here’s Matt’s take on raising capital from internal investors:

“If your investors still believe in you, they wouldn’t want you to get a bad deal. They also don’t want to miss out on a deal (which might happen if you get external funding), so they may be willing to give you another round at the same price, at a discounted rate, or at a lower valuation. In the end, they’ll want to preserve their initial investment.” 

To raise capital internally, you can talk to your VCs and angel investors about another round of funding. You could agree to flat rounds or simple agreement for future equity (SAFE) rounds (receive cash now in exchange for stakes in future equity) to raise capital while preserving your valuation and flexibility.

Pros of raising more capital:

Capital will help you stay afloat, give you the possibility to grow your business and is one path to profitability. Investors could also act as mentors because they want to see you win.

Cons:

You give away more dilution and will have less control over your company. You’ll also have less flexibility to use the money as you’d like, and raising funds could take the most time out of the four strategies. It can take months or years

4. Raise debt

“Debt is more interesting than equity in a slower fundraising environment because it leverages your balance sheet to give you additional flexibility” –Matt Hafemeister 

If raising money and getting equity are difficult, debt can help you capitalise your business to extend your runway. 

You can leverage your balance sheet, revenue, and customers to get more capital to invest in growth, without ever touching your core cash revenue or cash runway.

Pros of raising debt:

You can invest in new products, features or services without depleting your cash reserves. Debt means you won’t dilute your business so you’ll have more flexibility than you would with invested capital. 

Cons:

Debt takes time, though not as much as fundraising. For example, bank loans can take several months.

On the other hand, banks and institutions ask for personal guarantees, covenants or warrants, so you risk losing personal assets.

You’ll have additional costs (think interest rates) with most loan providers. If you need money deployed in multiple currencies, expect to pay additional charges, like transaction fees, currency hedging costs, and FX fees.

Extend your runway with Matt’s expert tips 

Matt knows founders have many questions about extending a startup’s runway. Here are his answers to your most common doubts: 

How much runway should a startup have?

In a good market, you’ll want 24 months of runway length (give or take six months) to reach your milestones. Make sure you pace yourself with strict budgets and monitor your cash balance and net burn rate frequently. You don’t want to run down your runway.

When you have 8 to 10 months of runway left, start to raise more money.

If you’re expecting an economic downturn, calculate 24 to 36 months to survive because it will be harder to fundraise and manage a startup during a recession

How to calculate burn rate

Matt recommends looking at your burn rate from both a revenue perspective and a margin perspective to have a more complete and qualitative overview of the amount of time your business has left to remain solvent:

  • General burn rate: Divide your company’s total cash balance by your monthly operating expenses (gross burn rate). If you have $100k in cash and your monthly operating expenses are $10k, your business is burning $10k per month.
  • Burn Multiple: You take the quality of the revenue you're generating based on the money you're burning. Let's say you generate $100k next month, but you burn $100k to get there. Your burn multiple is one, which is good. But if next month you're generating $10k and your burn is $100k, then your burn multiple is 10, which is not good.
  • Rule of 40: The rule of 40 is an investing metric that sums your annual growth rate with your EBITDA margin (operating income losses). Ideally, the result should be above 40. Let’s say you’re growing by 100% one year, but you lose a 50% margin. You would be at 50%, 10 above the rule of 40, which makes fundraising through investors to extend your runway more viable.
  • Default dead vs default alive: Default dead means your business can’t survive without raising external funds. Default alive means you can survive without external fundraising. To get to default alive, you need to have a path to profitability, or you can see yourself generating a positive operating income before you run out of cash. 

Let’s say you have $1,000,000 in cash and a monthly cash burn of $100,000. You’ll be default dead in 10 months. But if you have a path to profitability within 24 months, you’ll want to extend your cash runway to be default alive within that time frame, where each month you're generating more money than you're burning. 

You can get those 24 months of runway when you use Jeeves as your roadmap. You can combine access to credit, expense management, and Jeeves Growth or working capital to cut cash burn and increase your cash balance. 

Avoid these mistakes when extending your cash runway

Matt says the most common mistakes are how you react to extending your runway. 

  • You react too slow. You wait until you only have a few months left of runway before trying to raise money. Raising money takes time, so you may not survive if you’re too slow to act. Monitor your runway frequently and start fundraising when you get to 10 months of cash runway. 
  • You react too fast. You may cut costs when you still have a good number of months of runway left, thinking this will be enough to get you by. But then in six months, you find your business struggling because you fired the wrong people or sacrificed too much growth.

At Jeeves, we know first-hand how difficult and slow it is to cut the right costs, raise funds and grow with debt. This is why we made reducing cash burn, raising equity, and financing debt easy and fast with Jeeves Growth and Jeeves working capital.

How to extend your cash runway with Jeeves

Jeeves is a full financial stack for businesses that want to grow. You’ll have the flexibility to finance your startup without losing shares of your company, putting your personal assets at risk, or decimating revenue-generating costs. 

Here’s how Jeeves helps extend your runway:

Access free credit to grow your business with flexibility

One part of Jeeves’ financing is free credit cards. 

You can apply today and receive a reply within 24 to 48 hours. Once approved, you can start immediately via Jeeves’ online platform, where you’ll see and manage your credit limit. You’ll have instant access to physical and virtual business credit cards for your startup that you can order and create at the touch of a button. 

Increase your cash flow with free access to credit to provide the stability you need to grow your business. You can use Jeeves credit to help bring in quality revenue, take advantage of last-minute business opportunities, or buy inventory and supplies. 

You’ll have unlimited physical and virtual cards for free. Issue cards per department, employee and types of expenses to ensure greater spending visibility and better tracking to optimise and control company spending

Jeeves is also a better alternative to an Amex business card because there’s no annual fee or FX cost. 

Discover how virtual business credit cards are especially efficient as an expense control method to help you save. You can use them to manage all your SaaS, remote employee expenses, and advertising spending. 

Jeeves virtual credit cards
Jeeves virtual credit cards

You may also like: How To Make The Most of Your Jeeves Business Credit Card 

Get cashback and rewards to increase your ROI

Your Jeeves cashback will add to your bottom line and cash balance. You can get up to 2% cashback in your first 90 days with Jeeves. Cashback is available on all Jeeves credit card purchases so you can improve your margins on each transaction.

With Jeeves rewards, you can reduce the costs of your SaaS providers and increase your bottom line. Receive discounts on software tools like 25% off Slack subscriptions, 30% off your first year with HubSpot, and $1,000 off any team subscription in Notion. 

Jeeves rewards
Jeeves rewards

Reduce your burn rate by controlling your expenses 

Jeeves spend management tools
Jeeves expense management software

With spend management software, you’ll have greater visibility and control over all your spending so you can identify how to optimise costs and eliminate maverick spending and overspending to cut your cash burn.

Increase your runway by cutting costs with a free spend management solution that integrates with your Jeeves’ credit cards for real-time expense tracking. You can manage all your company’s expenditures via Jeeves spend management software, available via app or desktop. 

Jeeves helps you do away with the complexity of expense reports and expense reimbursements to give your staff and accounting department more time to dedicate to your business. 

Track employee spending in real-time via Jeeves dashboard. Staff can upload and attach receipts with a click and add notes, which your accounting team can see immediately. You’ll have the data you need to educate employees on more efficient spending and see which departments spend the most.

Jeeves expense reimbursement software
Employees can add receipts and notes to each expense easily via Jeeves

Jeeves provides spending limits you can set on each employee's business credit card with a click so each department and employee can stay within budget. You can reduce or increase the limit at any time. Block cards with a click for suspected fraud and delete cards just as easily. 

An example of Jeeves spending limits
Add spending limits to each physical or virtual credit card directly through Jeeves

You can filter your transactions by card and employee to easily understand if departments or staff are overspending. Download transactions to improve reporting and create stricter spending policies. 

Jeeves transactions with filters to find missing receipts
Filter expense transactions by missing receipts

Jeeves integrates with Xero and QuickBooks so you can create more complete reports and identify the best way to cut spending. For example, create procurement policies by identifying the most cost-effective vendors. 

Jeeves integration with QuickBooks and Xero
Jeeves integrates with QuickBooks and Xero

Make better decisions with one global expense management tool

If you operate in different countries and use a separate expense management platform in each country, you might not have great visibility of your spending. 

Maybe you have a monthly burn rate of Mex$25,000 in your Mexican office, £58,000 in the U.K., and $132,000 in the U.S., but you can't see the full picture. 

With Jeeves, you can see all those expenses in one tool and tie them together to get a global picture of your spending. This way you can make better decisions on which costs to cut and reduce and get your burn rate down globally. 

Find out which expense management tool is best for you in our comparison post, Payhawk vs Spendesk vs Soldo vs Jeeves.

Get cash in the bank with Jeeves working capital 

Jeeves Working Capital is a line of capital provided in cash, to be paid back in either 30, 60 or 90 days with monthly interest payments plus a bullet payment at the end.

For example, if you have a 90-day loan, you’d have an interest payment on the first 30 days, then interest on 60 days, and then interest and the full principal bullet payment at the end of the 90 days.

With Jeeves’ working capital, you can cover everyday operating costs, like inventory or payroll.

Here’s what you can expect from Jeeves’ working capital:

  • Speed. We can give you an answer in 48 hours and send you the money in a matter of days.
  • Fewer restrictions. Unlike bank loans, there are no covenants, warrants or stressful rules that can jeopardize your personal assets, like losing your house if you default on payments. You're also not giving away percentages of your business as you would with investors. You’ll have greater flexibility without sacrificing control.
  • Multi-currency disbursement. We can send you cash in up to 7 different currencies. Choose from CAD in Canada, USD in the U.S., GBP in the U.K. MXN in Mexico, COP in Colombia, CLP in Chile, and BRL in Brazil. For example, you can do half in U.S. dollars and half in Mexican pesos. 
  • Fee-free global currencies. With Jeeves, you won’t pay currency hedging costs (interest rate + admin fee + transaction costs) or FX costs. You never have to exchange your money because we can send you cash in your local currency and you can pay it back locally.
  • Renewable. Depending on your business performance, our relationship, and your repayment behaviour, we can give you cash again on a rolling basis.

Interested? Reach out to Jeeves to get started.

Raise debt with Jeeves Growth for long-term ROI

Jeeves Growth is a 12-month revenue-based financing loan provided in cash directly to your bank account. You pay a fixed monthly payment of interest, the fee that we charge, and the principal for the entire month, which is a straight-line amortization of the loan. 

You’ll have all the same benefits as Jeeves’ working capital, but instead of being renewable, we can scale your debt

We usually start small so we can get to know each other and decide if we’re a good fit.  As you grow and repay monthly, we’ll have more data to know if and when we can scale up your financing amount to become your long-term capital provider

Jeeves Growth is ideal for longer-term ROI, such as hiring, marketing, or expanding into new markets. Many Jeeves clients use Jeeves Growth together with venture capital to extend their cash runway further.

Want to learn more? Let’s set up a call

Finance your business faster than the banks

For Jeeves Growth, Working Capital, and Credit you’ll have:

  • Quick cash. We can disburse funds within days and do deals quickly within weeks. Unlike a bank or private lender (where it takes time to gather and send your financial information) we get your loan or working capital in your bank account in a few days. For your access to credit, you can manage your cash directly in the Jeeves spend management system, where you can order physical cards or issue virtual cards on the spot.
Jeeves virtual credit card creation
Create an unlimited number of Jeeves virtual credit cards for free

 

  • Instant access. See and manage your credit in the Jeeves app or desktop wherever you are in an instant. 
  • Ease of use. Manage your credit with a click both on the app and desktop versions. Even your employees will have independent access to their Jeeves dashboards, where they can add expense receipts with a click and managers can set spending limits just as easily.

Want answers fast? Apply to Jeeves Growth today and get a response within 48 hours. 

Receive guidance from experts

As your financing partner, we care about giving you the guidance you need to grow your business. Here’s what you’ll receive when you work with us:

  • Personal account manager. You’ll have access to a personal account manager to guide you and help you make the most out of Jeeves to help your business take off.
  • Blog. We provide educational information on how to best run your business on our blog. Receive fresh material with unique insights every month. 
  • Webinars. Enjoy expert discussions on the latest trends and market insights to help grow your business. 
  • Live chat. You can reach us at any time with our live chat available during business hours. You’ll also find video tutorials and answers to frequently asked questions in the chat box.

Extend your startup’s cash runway with Jeeves

We hope this article helps you understand the best way to extend your startup runway and grow your business. 

Jeeves can provide all the resources you need to extend your cash runway, from access to credit and burn-rate management to working capital and business loans. 

With Jeeves, you can take your startup to the next level with greater control, flexibility and peace of mind. 

Note: Extend your runway without giving up control of your business or risking your assets. Apply to Jeeves today. 

Written by Michelle Maiellaro