Wow. We just raised a $1.7M seed round. I gotta say, it feels pretty damn good. Not because “raising money is cool”, but because for the first time I can actually focus on building this business.
As a first time CEO, I’d describe our pre-seed existence as pure chaos.
Taking a look back, my time was spent doing some combination of the following:
- Cobbling angel money together to keep the dream alive. At any given point over the last two years, we had no more than three months of runway.
- Haphazard customer development.
- Trying to give my product team guidance every now and then.
A $1.7M raise means we have time. Time can be a great thing, or a terrible thing. The beauty of the pre-seed chaos, is that its a race against time. Progress on a weekly basis matters. A lot.
We need to bring this same mentality and sense of urgency to our post seed phase. Otherwise, time will fly, and we’ll be in the deadpool before you can refresh this page.
For what it’s worth, here are a few lessons learned, with associated anecdotes:
- Have an incredible team - like it or not, fundraising is a full time gig. I barely had any time to do anything other than meet with investors. Without an incredible team supporting you and pushing forward on product and customer development, you will not be able to de-risk anything during your fundraising discussions. Remember that investors like to track progress, so if there is no progress while you’re taking meetings, it will be that much harder to get anyone to believe in you.
- "No" doesn’t mean "no". One of the first VC’s I pitched was Atlas Venture. I’ll never forget sitting across the table from Dolginow and hearing him say "I like you, but this is not something we’d invest in". From there I’d send him brief update emails with progress. we would meet every 3 months or so over the course of that first year. 12 months later, he invited us in to pitch the partnership and gave us his commitment in the round. This process looked similar for almost every other investor in our round. "No" never means "no", it might just mean "not right now".
- Find balance in your life. Startups, especially the pre-seed phase, are a complete roller coaster. Somedays you’ll be on top of the world, other days you’ll feel like you’re banging your head against a wall. If you subject yourself to these emotions you will lose. Stay level headed at all times, no matter what is happening. There will be hard conversations with your team, and you’ll walk away feeling like there’s no point in what you’re doing, but you’ll need to shake that off, quickly.
I’m probably forgetting a ton here, but for those just getting started, I’m hoping the above will be somewhat helpful.
PS if you have any questions feel free to ask me here: http://benjabbawy.com/ask