Commit 4960bfe1 authored by Jaisen Mathai's avatar Jaisen Mathai
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Adding fundraising article

parent f4100087
......@@ -29,7 +29,7 @@ In June of 2010 we had our son, Tavin. Life became infinitely better and busier.
I revisted the question of what to do with all these photos. It was important to us that these photos be around when Tavin was in his 20s and beyond. I realized everything was converging on being able to write software making it easy to organize and share photos without sacrificing data ownership or portability.
## Kickstarting OpenPhoto
## <a name="kickstarter"></a>Kickstarting OpenPhoto
It was 2011 and Kickstarter was only 2 years old. The largest campaign hadn't yet broke the $1M funding level. It was also a time when Kickstarter had to approve which project could launch a crowdfunding campaign on their site. Fortunately they picked an idea I submitted.
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......@@ -12,9 +12,11 @@ comments: true
share: true
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*Runway* is what start-ups call the amount of time remaining until there's no money left to leave the lights on. Prior to funding, a start-up's runway is a function of each founder's ability to survive without collecting a paycheck. Since Rachel was staying at home with Tavin (and later our daughter Elodie) it meant our runway was whatever money we had available in the bank and brokerage accounts.
I remember telling Rachel when I left my job in May that I'd go no longer than 6 months without funding. Determined to close a round of funding by the end of 2012 I warmed up leads and had a spreadsheet of a couple dozen angel investors I knew by 1 or 2 degrees of separation. I probably still have that spreadsheet laying around; it'd be fun to dig up.
The Kickstarter funding wasn't a proper angel or seed round but I knew it would help. The exposure from Kickstarter helped get us accepted by Mozilla into their WebFWD accelerator. WebFWD didn't include any funding but legitimized us a little bit more and we got access to some great mentors and investors.
The [Kickstarter funding](../openphoto/#kickstarter) wasn't a proper angel or seed round but I knew it would help. The exposure from Kickstarter helped get us accepted by Mozilla into their WebFWD accelerator. WebFWD didn't include any funding but legitimized us a little bit more and we got access to some great mentors and investors.
I met Marco Demiroz through WebFWD who acted as an unofficial advisor. Though he played the part, he wasn't able to take an advisor role since he was CEO of PlayFirst. Marco's one of those rare folks who was always available for a quick chat or reviewing a pitch deck over coffee. I owe many of our successes to his guidance during the early stages of our company.
......@@ -28,6 +30,44 @@ In December we finally launched the hosted version of OpenPhoto. Prior to the ho
## March[ing] forward
2012 came to an end and I was faced with a decision and an unfulfilled promise I made to Rachel. I experienced something at that time which would be a recurring theme over the next 3 years; Rachel's unflinching support. Patrick and I were filled with optimism and passion.
2012 came to an end and I was faced with a decision and an unfulfilled promise I made to Rachel. I experienced something at that time which would be a recurring theme over the next 3 years; Rachel's unflinching support.
In February of 2012 we were invited to interview for the IO Ventures accelerator. Over 700 companies apply and they pick a few dozen to interview. I was optimistic about our chances but in March we got the email that we didn't make it in.
### My most terrifying pitch
Meanwhile that same month I had applied to pitch to the Band of Angels. We were one of 3 companies selected to pitch to a group of angel investors. Keep in mind that I'd been practicing my pitch for months. It had evolved but I knew the pitch like the back of my hand.
I arrived to pitch and was asked to wait in the lobby because a few of the angel investors were running late. Nicola kindly showed me to the room in which I'd be pitching. I was expecting the room to be empty and for the investors to arrive shortly after me. Turns out all the investors were packed into this room and I was sat down in a chair. The formalities were skipped and before I knew it I was answering questions about how our Dropbox integration worked and what our projected revenue was.
The entire thing was a blur. Once in the parking lot I called Rachel who was waiting to hear how it went. I was devastated. The next 20 minutes was spent in my car with me wondering what the hell just happened. You just don't get many opportunities like this and I felt I absolutely wasted it.
I received an email from Nicola in March letting me know we weren't selected to pitch to an even larger group of investors.
> We know that this process can be somewhat intimidating.
No shit.
The thing about start-ups is that you can't dwell on any success or failure for too long. There's always too much to do in too little time. We continued looking at funding opportunities and entered into the Knight News Challenge.
I was introduced to someone at the Knight Foundation by someone we pitched to at Kapoor Ventures. I was too naive at the time to know better than to ask for an introduction to an investor from an investor that wasn't intersted in investing. We wound up not receiving any funding from the Knight Foundation.
## Reflecting on failed funding attempts
By now we had spent more than 6 months trying to raise funding. It was starting to seem hopeless. Fundraising is a complicated beast. There are a few ways you can almost certainly secure funding. Traffic and a prior exit; preferably the former. We didn't have either.
This was a tough time as Patrick and I both faced the possibility of shutting down OpenPhoto. We took a long stroll down Castro street in Downtown Mountain View. We reflected on all the amazing accomplishments we made that year. No matter how well the community was going or how much a small group of afficiandos loved what we were building we simply couldn't continue doing it without raising funding. That's the nature of business and we were faced with it's reality.
We didn't decide anything.
## The Shuttleworth Foundation
At any given point we were talking to or waiting to hear back from several potential investors. In February I had come across a foundation I'd never heard of before. The Shuttleworth Foundation invests in people working in the areas of open data, open science, open government and open other things. It was a long shot but that hadn't stopped me in the past so I did the work to find out more about the foundation and figure out who I might know that might know someone.
A friend of an acquaintence, Philipp Schmidt, had previously received a grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation. I talked with him and told him about OpenPhoto. He thought it was a good fit so I got one further introduction from him to Karien Bezuidenhout, COO at the Shuttleworth Foundation.
I'd eventually receive a fellowship grant from the Shuttleworth Foundation. It wasn't until later that I realized how fundamental the foundation's fellowship model would be to the ultimate success of OpenPhoto.
It took roughly 14 months after quitting my job to get funding. 8 months longer than my promise to Rachel; only days before a credit card bill was due that we couldn't pay off.
The waiting was difficult but finding a partner in the Shuttleworth Foundation made the waiting worthwhile.
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