Not everyone wants funding
Investors look at businesses and think about scale. Sometimes when you spend all your time looking at things one way it is unexpected when you come across someone who has no interest in taking capital from investors. It is almost refreshing. This experience goes under the heading “you can’t be what you can’t see” and that is fine.
An investor who I just got to know in LA told me about a company she was watching. The eyeballs were as impressive as the revenue. This founder had built it by herself and people were starting to take notice. She asked me if I wanted to come along to a meeting with the founder….and so I did.
It was a really interesting meeting. The founder listened, she smiled, she asked a few questions but we basically talked to her about how we could be of help. She definitely was interested in building a huge business and was quite happy with the trajectory she had with no help from anyone. After we left the meeting the investor suggested ways that we could help her raise some substantial capital and really put the foot on the gas. I wasn’t sold. I thought that this founder would be overwhelmed with that much capital and all of these investors with their fingers in her business. She needed to start out with a small amount of capital and investors who could be really helpful and above all understood her business. I also thought she needed to talk to some people who had success in her vertical and could give her some advice. To hear info from her peers.
I circled back with the founder a few weeks later to see where she was at. She had zero idea what a cap table was, she had never heard of Y Combinator or an accelerator program, she didn’t even get that people would put money in and what they really entailed. She seemed so naive on one side but on the other side she had built a real business. My advice to her was to read Brad Feld’s book to understand the nuances of raising capital and growing a company with investors behind you.
I texted with her a few times afterward. She read Brads book and was incredibly grateful for the advice. I also spoke to someone who had been behind the scenes helping for awhile although with zero cash in. I realized quickly that she had zero interest in taking money from others. She was going to build something big her own way. She had her life and her people and she was going to stay put. In many ways it was refreshing. She has a true entrepreneurial spirit and has no interest to be part of the game that I play in. The game of investing in companies that want to scale with investors who can be part of it.
I keep thinking about those meetings and the conversations around them. I do hope that she is able to reach her goals which are quite big without any funding although people are banging at her door from many places. My fear is she gets lost in the weeds of all the white noise around her. She could use a seasoned investor to keep her out of those wasteful conversations but I give her all the credit in the world for essentially saying I am going to do this my way.
She wants to retain control and governance. It’s been successfully done by others before her, so it’s not like there are no precedent. However, she may come around and decide to take in capital later on when she sees more clearly how it’ll add fuel to her fire.
Which one of Brad’s books?
She has her head on straight – and your openness to helping her rather than convincing her she needed investment is why you’re the kind of angel that brings value, not just money. Investment is not success – it is a tool that allows for certain types of growth but comes with its own set of complications. When it is the right tool – and when the investors are a good match – it can mean the difference of scale or missing the market opportunity. But when it isn’t a good match, it can do more harm than good.
maybe there is a place for a perennial investor who does NOT have a time barrier to a return that could help her business – not because she needs money but maybe because of the advice, the access and the joy of having a sounding board.Money is one time.Network and Insights are lifetime.p.s. This is also one of the hooks Corp VCs use on founders “perennial fund” “family office” “single LP” “no exit horizon” etc.
This is really great. Thanks so much, Joanne.
Awesome story. My gut says she will take money from investors someday, but when she is totally comfortable and secure in receiving it. Bootstrapped businesses are fun to watch, and really inspiring to learn about.
What’s scary is that by the way Joanne tells it, its quite possible that she will get a bad deal in the process.  Because she doesn’t understand and know the game. And I don’t think you will learn that by reading a few books or blog posts. And certainly not by talking to your local accountant or lawyer (of all things, god). So I wouldn’t assume that someone won’t come along and get her to sign up for below market terms. There was actually an example of this on CNBC’s “The Profit” with Marcus Lemonis. Someone tied up a business that he wanted to invest in for some ridiculous low amount of money and Marcus had to buy him out (and it’s not like Marcus is cutting great deals himself either, I’ve dealt with him a few times).
You could be right. Hopefully she knows that there are people she could reach out to
This is excellent advice and a great perspective.