7.14pm. We have pushed back our deadline day to salvage something to next Thursday. In my mind we are in the zone whereby if anything happens… it’s a total miracle. I am facing the reality for what the situation is more and more; I have to with the clock ticking down at the rate it is.
Really something biblical needs to happen.
Speaking of which I was just in the gym and I had a phone call. Nobody phones me in the gym… nobody phones me much in general actually. I picked up…
“Hello John, its Bob Blank (made up name). How are you?”
“Good Bob. Just in the gym. Actually on a treadmill…killing myself.”
No idea who he is.
“Look, remember we spoke a couple of weeks ago. Well one of our investors wants to talk to you. We’re closing our fund this week.”
“Yeah sure. That sounds great.”
Completely lost. Not the foggiest.
“Great. Ok, he’ll probably call you this evening.”
“Thats great Bob!!!”
Anyway, there you have it. Do you believe in miracles?
Wishful thinking. But I’ll take a call from anyone just now.
5.51pm. So my suspicions came through. Only one of our existing investors was willing to support a bridge round of investment.
Looking at Monday/ Tuesday to call a halt to this, barring a minor miracle.
I’m not writing it off. But the curtains are closing.
8.26pm. In office space alone. It’s a little chilly.
You know things are desperate when you have taken to sending the most random people emails trying to nudge their interest.
I’ve been on Crunchbase for the last few hours. Seeing who’s invested in who… and then randomly emailing them. Of coarse it’s hard to find the emails of the multi millionaire types, but LinkedIn is proving surprisingly useful today. You can find a lot of people, and see when they’ve looked at your page. I didn’t know people actually used LinkedIn. But they do!
I managed to get the attention of a fairly high up CEO who I hope to get on the phone in the next couple of days. Touch wood.
This has become a fight for survival. Forget Series A. Forget acquisitions. It’s clear these things are not on the cards now. So my mind has been trying to work out how we might buy ourselves 6 months.
Last night I made a great offer to a CEO. I said we need 350K, and by the end of that we’ll be in proper business, having hired the exact right personal. It was a great offer… I got a little excited by it… but this morning I got the rejection response.
Yep. Things are not looking good.
I wish I didn’t believe in this fucker so much. I know we have something special.
But the market dictates… the market dictates. All the rejections can’t be coincidence. Maybe I have bad breath?
Terrible closing line.
3.39pm. I just had a huge rejection. But I actually feel shit cool about this one.
Why? Because I literally emailed a goliath and asked him could he take a call.
He responded. “I’m in an airport. Phone me now. My number is xxx xxx xxxx.”
Suddenly I’m on the phone to one of the worlds biggest CEOs. Within 5 minutes I had made my pitch, offering the company at a price and asking for him to commit to investing over 2/3 years.
As we go to the wire on this, we have nothing to lose. It felt like a pretty ballsy thing to do, and now I know I can cross them off the list.
His reason why he couldn’t do it was because his own company (who are MASSIVE) was in itself a state of flux. He was candid and explained fully the position he was in.
In the space of 20 minutes I got an answer that took me 2 weeks to get from my previous offer.
I appreciated his honesty. For some reason I always find the people at the very very top of the trees easiest to deal with. I guess its because they are in a relatively similar situation to me… trying to keep a ship afloat…. even if they are dealing with billion of dollars.
Thats two big NOs.
Ehhh…. anyone else around?
– John Startup
11.42pm. Today was the day of my big meeting with an industry legend from one of the most well recognized companies in the world. In my field this is a man to meet. This is a man I would welcome as an investor.
Ok, let me back track a bit and put this into honest context. The company in question has been a juggernaut over the last 30/40 years. In more recent times it has lost quite a bit of its relevance and luster as it has pursued more lucrative paths. Despite that, it is probably more successful now that it ever was before. It’s a bit paradoxical.
There might have been plenty of times in the past few years when the idea of selling out to this company would have been seen as very uncool; a bit like selling your soul to the devil. This un-named company has gone from being important, to being the epitome of commercialistic greed.
But as my time is running out, and I look around, there are not many other companies that represent such a good fit. I think we could give them a good amount of credibility. And through them, our profile and opportunities would be lifted immeasurably. Most pressing, we need their capital to survive.
Prior to the meeting today, I had a call with some other advisors on how best to conduct it. There is talk that we could be a good low cost acquisition for this goliath. I would not be against that right now, but what was I supposed to say? “Here’s my company. It’s cool. Do you want to buy it?”. That’s not standard operating procedure. You can’t look needy. You can’t look desperate. You need to be like Frost, coaxing an apology out of Nixon. (I don’t know where these analogies come from). But we have the pressure of a ticking watch here…. we are getting desperate!
Anyway, meeting time came about. We checked in at the front desk. We showed our IDs, got a sticker and up we went to the 35th floor. The space was open, and shiny, and bright, and colorful.
We were asked to wait in reception. As my colleague sat down, I walked back and forth surveying the pictures on the wall. I tried to take them in, but lets face it… I was nervy.
Finally we were invited into the main mans office. What a view!
The meeting went well. He asked lots of questions. We got on fine. I always try be relaxed and humorous… striking a good balance is important, but tough. Sometimes I try to go for the jugular too much. Throwing out different selling points when I feel one is not enough.
He seemed genuinely interested. But he had a demeanor that is hard to read. That probably explains why he’s in his job.
The meeting ended with him stating, “Write me a one pager on what your looking for, and how we could work together.”
And so that was that.
The moment we left, myself and my colleague started dissecting. I felt it went ok. 3 out of 5. My colleague said I should write back to him and offer him the company for a million bucks. I said we’d need 4 million. He said not a chance. We’re not worth it.
When we got back to the office, I called our current investor to tell him how the meeting went and for advice. “I need to know when asked what the valuation on the company is… what’s the exact amount I am asking for?”
“5 to 10 million I think” he responded.
Bloody hell. 30 days to go. It will be some month if that happens.
I need sleep.
6.14pm. Looking at the computer screen. Seeking divine inspiration. It’s not forth-coming today. Have felt slow and lethargic. There’s probably more that I can be doing. But what is it? I feel like going on a beer (and whiskey) bender, and moaning in the ear of some poor friend. But I’ve been good of late… and it would write off the whole of tomorrow.
And I need to be around tomorrow incase divine inspiration should arrive. (Hello… divinity… where are you? )
One of our current investors has asked me and my sidekick to come in later in the week and walk them through our pitch and our deck. We have identified a list of possible VC’s who might fund our Series A, and we are hoping our current investors can give necessary introductions. But the process of going in and giving a run through fills me with insecurity. Particularly with this investor who is old-school. This is not the Kumbaya investor who just wants to create something great. He see’s straight through the B/S.
He is looking for something black and white with a huge scalable vision. He also wants proof in the pudding based on what we have achieved in the last year. Have we done enough to warrant a next round? Certainly not in my opinion. This is where I need to fill the gaps with believable B/S. I need my best acting abilities and charm offensive switched on.
I’m always best when I can give a passion play. But it’s very hard to give a passion play in a rehearsal. I need the cameras rolling.
This investor is only trying to help… but at the same time I’m intimidated. He’s closer to it. He can see through it. He’s tough to impress.
Strikes me that we will need another deck. The deck we currently have is a good deck for someone to flick through alone. I feel we need a better deck presentation that I can talk people through. So I need to cobble that together in short time. Have put off doing that all day. My creative brain is running very low.
On a positive note, I do see a slight opportunity here to go in and bowl our current investor away. Maybe I can give them no choice but to put his hand in his pocket again. Thats undoubtedly the way I should be looking at it. I need more of that vigor. Perhaps I’m just out of gas. Maybe the salesman in me has ran out of juice to keep selling this.
The worse possibility is that I’m just too lazy to get my mind through the obstacle coarse. Mental energy lacking…
Ok, enough of this indulgent internal monologue.
Off to make… another deck.
It’s 10.50am. I’m sitting in my office. I have a large coffee in a polystyrene cup. It’s full of sugar. Too much sugar. My midday crash is not far away.
Looking at my email. Cluttered with spam. Delete, delete, delete. 45 emails remain. My eyes scan them. Looking for that nugget. Looking for the one that stands out from the rest. Not today.
I run a startup. And simply put, I have 45 days to raise a Series A round of investment. A Series A round of investment ‘is the name typically given to a company’s first significant round of venture funding in the Silicon Valley model of startup company formation.’ ‘A typical Series A round is in the range of $2 million to $10 million, purchases 10% to 30% of the company, and is intended to capitalize the company for 6 months to 2 years’ (So says Wikipedia)
So how large is the pressure? Well somehow I oversee 150 people around the world who love what they do working on a novel unique concept that I created in my attic. If the money is not raised, that will be the end of days on a project that has been many years in the making.
I have personally invested the best part of a decade getting it to this point. What I would do with my life afterwards is a mystery. I would be broke and having to start afresh with no discernible skills. The anxiety is high.
I am attempting to put on a brave face everywhere else but in this blog.
So does my startup warrant a Series A? Hmmmm yeaaaaah kinda…. Possibly not. Definitely.
In this business you can have no doubt about things. You must portray a full belief in what you do externally. You probably should possess that belief internally too. That is the mark of a true entrepreneur. But I look at the full picture and can’t help but see things the way they are.
In startup land I sometimes get the feeling that if your not the biggest thing in the world, your nothing. If your not Facebook, Google, YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Twitter your nobody. Being pretty big counts for nothing. Maybe we are nobody?
Investors want to see significant scaling.
We have millions of users. But what you need is millions and millions and millions of users. Fuck that… you need billions.
So with the anxiety sky high, I’ve decided to start this blog to help me keep my sanity. I’ve also taken to going to the gym everyday. I’ve figured the most important thing is to have the clearest head through this process. If all goes belly up, and the worst happens, I want to be in a head space where I’m not slitting my wrists. And trust me, in this process its very easy to see darkness at any given moment.
But some might say thats a defeatist attitude.
(Happy to field questions)