At Wakefit.co, one of my responsibilities is fund raising. We have done just one equity financing round (Series A) till now and have tried to build the business prudently, the old-fashioned way. In the course of the fund raise that closed in December 2018, and post that too, we have been fortunate enough to meet great investors with amazing track records, good ideas and vast experience in the Indian consumer sector. It was a 12-month period that was filled with “no”s but as they say, all it takes is a single “yes”. It was a period filled with focus, analysis, preparation, research, and then walking out of meetings fully deflated. Then head back to office, all the time wondering on the drive back as to what else I could have done differently or prepared differently. Source: Dilbert comics by Scott Adams
Being a habitual note-taker, I usually keep observations from meetings and also the list of people I met during and after this process. On a lighter note, here are some patterns that came up from the 35 investors that have met us till now.
The Goldfish – After weeks of trying to find a convenient meeting slot with the Partner, the meeting would finally be fixed. We’d be fully focused and intense on our thought process, clarity on Wakefit.co’s vision, and why we would need funding as we walk into the room and countless other thoughts running through our minds. And then, you are dismayed to find that the partner is super distracted, scrolling through messages or emails or social feed and in general be completely (mentally) outside the meeting room for the whole duration. Pro tip – if you would like to avoid losing your train of thought, be sure to focus intensely on the analyst / associate who is also in the room. He/she is not yet senior enough to be distracted, and hence, will give you attention and eye contact.
The Alarm Clock – You don’t even need to check your calendar. These funds contact you once in 3 months without fail, like clockwork. If they’ve gotten in touch with you, you can be 100% certain that it is about 3 months since your last interaction. They serve as an invaluable reminder alarm that 3 more months have passed, and you’ve still not successfully raised. These calls usually go the same way – Hey, we couldn’t build conviction the last time, so we thought of checking in now to see how you have made progress and what we can do this time around. Pro tip – you may want to screen what you share every 3 months, until there is much more serious display of intent. Source: Dilbert comics by Scott Adams
The Illusionist – These funds send a humongous data requirement sheet. The kind of data sheet with columns that would make a consumer startup founder think of SaaS metrics for his/her business. The kind of data sheet that has 10 tabs with 15 columns in each, going back all the way to your day of incorporation. The kind of data sheet that would require a non-existent CFO about 3 weeks to complete with non-existent data. And once you submit the data, they well and truly disappear off the face of the earth. No response to emails and messages. No response to calls. Truly astonishing disappearance. Pro tip – again, ensure there is serious intent and more importantly, use the relevant parts of these data sheets to build your internal MIS templates!
The Despicable Me – Just like Gru (sometimes along with minions), crabby, rude, curt, these lovely individuals are well-equipped to convince you that a fund raise is actually not needed if you need to deal with them on your cap table. One interaction with them, and you’d feel that dealing with irate customers is a cakewalk. There’s no offer of water or coffee, let alone free internet. By the end of the meeting, you are yearning to get back to office and regain the one hour of your life that you spent in that room. Pro tip – hold your tongue, ignore the hurt, and be polite and courteous, because that is the best way to represent being a founder. That is the right thing to do.
The Dementor – Just like in Harry Potter, they specialize in sucking away the joy around you, and identify all the things that can go wrong with your business. Every. Single. Thing. You end up walking out of the meeting wondering why you had to be stupid enough to start up the third time around after two unsuccessful attempts and that you could have just sat at home reading Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Pro tip – you need to detox from the meeting, and might require 24-48 hours to remember that the joy of being a founder comes from a different place within you. Source: Dilbert comics by Scott Adams
The Tourist – These international funds are usually trying to form an opinion about the “depth” of the Indian consumer market and are dipping their toes. They may make multiple trips, and ask a ton of questions, but usually it ends with a polite, this was exciting, we will come back to you. Pro tip – they may be good co-investors or they may invest after months of understanding the market. Don’t expect anything in the near term unless this tourist’s name starts with a “Soft” or a “Tiger”.
The Mission Impossible – Relatively new funds that are trying to get their foot in and build their reputation. They do get back with their interest but with an offer so out of touch with reality that it is impossible to do a deal with them. Their ask for such a high stake, for such a low investment makes one wonder if they were at some part of their childhood, denied a happiness, the trauma of which is manifesting itself in this unrealistic offer. Pro tip – finding the right investor is a lot more important than just the valuation and volume of capital.
The 300 – These funds employ an army of analysts whose targets are to reach out to as many startups in as many cities and towns by visiting as many conferences and having access to as many databases as possible. Don’t be surprised to receive calls from 2-3 different analysts from the same VC firm. Pro tip – Sure, start your conversation with the analyst, but try and get a follow on meeting with a Principal / Partner to check if it is of genuine interest or part of meeting some internal target.
The important thing to note is that while these are just traits you may come across in some interactions, you need to find an investor who has deep conviction in the business, and who can be your thought partner for the rest of the journey with your startup.
Finally, I am happy to report that there were a handful of empathetic investors too. They care about your time, try to ensure that business operations are not impacted because of the meetings, speak to you with respect and in general value that you have made great sacrifices to build what you have built. They are few, but they are there.
Any crazy instances such as these? Please share, but WITHOUT taking names 🙂