Commit 914d8398 authored by Jaisen Mathai's avatar Jaisen Mathai
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Finishing and editing fundraising article

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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.
*Runway* is what start-up founders call the amount of time until there's no money left to feed their kids. 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.
## When a start-up meets life
## When my start-up met reality
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.
I remember telling Rachel when I left my job in May that I'd go no longer than 6 months without funding. Founders tend to underestimate the time required to raise funding. I tried to keep that in mind and felt 6 months was both aggressive and realistic.
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](../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.
It was time to turn that into a successful angel round.
## October through December
## The first wave
Between October and December we talked with numerous angel investors and pitched to Kapoor Ventures and Khosla Ventures. I knew the pitches weren't going well. If an investor is interested, you'll know. I knew anything else meant there wasn't chemistry.
Between October and March we talked with numerous angel investors while also pitching Kapoor Ventures and Khosla Ventures amoung others. I knew the pitches weren't going well. If an investor is interested, you'll know. I knew anything else meant there wasn't chemistry.
When fundraising it's vital that you don't take rejection personally or as a sign that you won't get funding elsewhere. This is one of the most difficult parts of fundraising. I had prepared for maximum rejection and it was paying off; the rejection didn't phase me.
In December we finally launched the hosted version of OpenPhoto. Prior to the hosted version we were only releasing new versions of the open source software. The hosted service was the crux of our business model and we were excited to roll it out.
## 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.
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
The thing about start-ups is you only dwell on failure long enough to learn something and then you move on. There's always too much to do in too little time. We continued looking at funding opportunities which led us to the Knight News Challenge.
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 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. Nonetheless we wound up not receiving any funding from the Knight Foundation. As with previous dissapointments we didn't let this stop us.
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.
### A most memorable pitch
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.
Oh, this is good. My most memorable pitch by far was 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 received an email from Nicola in March letting me know we weren't selected to pitch to an even larger group of investors.
I arrived to pitch and was asked to wait in the lobby because a few of the angel investors were running late. My point of contact, 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 fielding questions about how our Dropbox integration worked and what our projected revenue was. I knew all of this but the shock precluded me from articulating it.
> We know that this process can be somewhat intimidating.
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 absolutely blew it.
No shit.
Unsurprisingly, I received an email from Nicola in March letting me know we weren't selected to pitch to an even larger group of investors.
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.
> We know that this process can be somewhat intimidating.
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.
No shit.
## 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.
This was a tough time as Patrick and I both faced the possibility of shutting OpenPhoto down. 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 was the nature of our business and we were faced with it's frailty.
We didn't decide anything.
We never decide anything that day.
## 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.
At any given point we were in discussions with 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](https://www.shuttleworthfoundation.org/).
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.
The Shuttleworth Foundation invests in people working in the areas of open data, open science, open government and other open 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 figuring out who I might know working there.
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.
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 and introduced me to Karien Bezuidenhout, COO at the Shuttleworth Foundation.
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.
I'd go on to 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. That's more than twice my promise of 6 months to Rachel; only days before our 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.
Had Patrick and I been on the same continent we would have popped open a bottle of champagne.
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