Episode 211 | When to Consider Outside Investment for Your Startup

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00] Mike: In this episode for Start Ups for the Rest of Us, Rob and I are going to talk about when to look for investment money for your startup. This is Start Ups for The Rest of Us, Episode 211.

[00:06]Music

[00:14]Welcome to Starts Ups for The Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers, entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products, whether you built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.

[00:22] Rob: And I’m Rob.

[00:23] Mike: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the good word this week, Rob?

[00:27] Rob: I am putting the real finishing touches on an audio documentary about the 9-month process of kind of getting Drip off the ground. So I mentioned this in a previous episode, but then I left because I had, you know, 11-hour flights between each of them. I spent a lot of time editing, and I took 9 hours of audio down to about 2, and I added music. Then we added – we just added an epilogue this week, kind of a summary discussion recorded a year after the final recording for that. The audio documentary itself will go live on my blog. How about you? What’s going on?

[01:01] Mike: Audit Shark Version 2.2 is officially released. And I got a few comments on Twitter. Somebody said, “If you’re not embarrassed by it, you know, then obviously you launched too late.” And my reply was, “I’ve been extremely embarrassed till now. My level of embarrassment at this point has dropped from 8 to about a 6.” I’m really excited about it. It’s, you know, there’s a lot of new enhancements. Not even really new features, just, like, stability enhancements, and adding an installer, like a lot of the cleanup stuff that just never got done earlier. And then there was some, you know, some things that people have been asking for that just haven’t been there, like reporting, and the scheduler. People were kind of pointing to is objections before, and they’re just like, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that.” But I’ve got most of those major things addressed.  So at this point that becomes a much easier conversation to have because I could say, “Oh, well, it’s right here. And maybe it’s not exactly what you want, but, you know, it is there.”

[01:52] Rob: Yeah, it’s tough trying to sell your product when you’re having a conversation about it and everything they ask, you’re like, “Yeah, we’re going to build that soon.  Yeah, we’re going to build that next.” It’s not mature enough to support the customers you’re talking to.

[02:05] Mike: Yeah, and that’s kind of what was happening in several cases. It’s a nice feeling to be at that point now.

[02:10] Rob: Yeah, and what we’ve noticed with Drip is that we hit that point, maybe, it was somewhere in the last six months, where I stopped saying, “Yes, we’re about to build that,” and I started saying, “Oh yeah, you can do that,” and then it was like, “Oh, you can do that in two different ways depending on your preference.” And now what we’ve noticed is that – Derek was just telling me this the other day, that we get these big groups of feature requests that are kind of all very similar. And so, people come in to the app and start using it, and then everybody realizes, wow, you know, this is working. But you need reporting. Like your reports aren’t there. And so we probably within a week, we got 4-5 people requesting the same thing, and so then the next week we built reports. And then after that, it was something else. But it’s crazy how the same people kind of progress through the app and as we launch the new feature, then they all realize that this next thing is not there yet, and we have to build it. So I definitely feel like Drip has matured to a place where it has fit with a certain market, but there’s always kind of that next thing.

[03:11] Mike: Well, I think it’s good that, you know, you get that group of people that are all asking for the same thing. And then when you implement it, they ask for, they all ask for like the next thing, which is kind of identical. I mean, maybe they ask in different ways, but it means that you’ve got that, you know, that product market fit, where you’re attracting the right people of a specific type, and they all have a similar problem. So when they come in, they use it, they all need that similar feature set, which makes those future conversations with people from that particular market much, much easier to have.

[03:40] Rob: And the other part that’s nice is you start to learn who your good customers are, your helpful customers are, who request the good features and request them well, meaning they give you an idea of what they need and they ask for it respectively, and they’re willing to wait for you to build it right. They don’t need everything today, you know. And they’re not threatening to quit, or they’re not kind of being jerks about it. Like the vast minority do that. Right, every once in a while, you get a customer like that. And it is nice because when you have this group of customers who’s requesting it, it makes it a little easier to figure out what you should build next. Right, because you have a pipeline and you have basically a weighting of how important each feature is, and it does, but it makes it easier to figure what to build next, rather than when you have no customers, as we know, it’s a big challenge to figure out what feature to focus on.

[04:31] Mike: So what else is going on for you?

[04:32] Rob: Well, I listened to the book “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. I’ve now listened to it twice and the reason I did that is because it just contains a lot of pretty deep and insightful conversations and essays. And Peter Thiel, if you don’t know, he’s one of the PayPal mafia. He’s one of the founders of PayPal and then he went on to start – so that was a business that sold for $1.5 billion to eBay. Then he went on to found another business that is also worth more than a billion dollars. But Peter Thiel is so amazingly smart that I find that I just re-listen to these chapters that he wrote and he makes comments about, you know, where the world is headed, where he thinks technology is going, how to start a company that revolutionizes stuff. And I find that even though he’s not speaking to me because I am not starting a billion dollar company. I’m not starting a groundbreaking, you know, paradigm shifting, just completely world rocking company, and I never will. I have no plans to do that.

[05:30]Even though I’m not, I still find that a lot of the stuff he says has some application to me and my business and the way that I like to think about things. The book Zero to One is about building these massive ideas and trying to revolutionize. You know, it’s like trying to fix a massive technology problem of say, not having water, not having enough food, or something like PayPal, where they’re trying to replace a currency. It didn’t actually succeed, but that was their goal. It’s having a big view and being able to live up to it. Even though that’s the focus, I still think there’s some good nuggets.

[06:04] Mike: Very cool. I think last thing for me is LinkedIn has been irritating the living hell out of me because every time I get a new connection, it asks me to go through this ridiculous process of confirming all the possible ways that I might have an email account, like Gmail and Outlook.com and Yahoo, and asking if it’s okay to like for me to log into those things so that it can reach in and suck out as much data as it possibly can. I made the mistake of letting them do it with my Gmail account. They’re like, “Oh, we don’t do anything,” and it’s just like, ugh, it’s awful.

[06:32] Rob: Well it’s weird because it’s not doing that to me, so I wonder why it’s – why it would be doing that to you.

[06:38] Mike: I don’t know. I have a paid subscription, so I don’t know if that’s it.

[06:42] Rob: Ah, yeah, I do not.

[06:43] Mike: But yeah, maybe I should cancel it. Maybe it’ll stop.

[06:46] Rob: Exactly.

[06:48] Mike: So real quick before we get started, we got a email from Niles from MicroConf Europe, and he said, “Hey Rob and Mike, thanks again for all the information and inspiration at MicroConf. It was amazing and I really enjoyed and learned from the crowd. Also, you might enjoy knowing this: the money I spent on the conference is already back in my pocket with an ROI of greater than 100% because one of my customers heard about me attending MicroConf and is paying me for a workshop to summarize everything I learned. Thanks again, and keep up the great work.”

[07:13] Rob: That’s awesome. I love to hear stuff like that.

[07:16] Mike: Well thanks, Niles. Glad to hear that that’s working out for you.

[07:19]Today we’re going to be talking about kind of a topic that came up at an ask me anything session that Rob and I tried out at MicroConf Europe. One of the questions that was asked of us was essentially along the lines of, “Have you ever thought of going after angel or VC funding, and would you ever do it?” And I thought it was an interesting question, not just because Rob and I kind of have very similar views on it, but also because I think people do have kind of a mistaken impression that, you know, Rob and I are completely against angel or VC funding in any way, shape, or form, because there are definitely cases where it makes a lot of sense to do, but, you know, obviously that’s not really our platform. It’s not what we do. It’s not our background or anything. But I wanted to do was talk a little bit about the times where we think it would be warranted to go after funding and what sorts of things that we would look for.

[08:03] Rob: Yeah, you know, and the first couple paragraphs of my book, and I said, I don’t want you to think that I’m anti-funding, I’m just anti-everyone thinking that the only way to start a successful software company is to raise a bunch of funding and to get big. And that’s really the approach we’ve tried to take, right, is that you don’t have to go that route, that it’s one possible path. And it doesn’t even need to be the path up front. Like, some people have the connections to do it from day one, to raise a big chunk of funding, and other people bootstrap until they have traction, product market fit, and they start growing, and then they raise some funding. There’s a lot of different ways to go about it. And I guess to give one disclaimer: Mike and I have never raised funding, so there’s a lot of ins and outs to it that we’re not going to dive into. There’s actually a good book by Brad Feld called “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.” And if you really want to know the ins and outs of venture funding, then that’s the book you’re going to want to read about nuts and bolts. What we’re going to talk about today are kind of the considerations, the things you need to think through if you’re considering not raising, raising at a later stage, or, you know, maybe raising just an angel round or a VC round.

[09:11] Mike: So I’d like to start off with, what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about some of the situations where we think that going after funding of some kind is warranted. And when we talk about going after funding, there’s a couple of different primary levels of funding. You’ve got angels, that are kind of at the lower end, and then you’ve got VCs at the higher end. And I’ll say that the estimates range. It’s hard to give it an exact number of what exactly constitutes of somebody doing an angel investment versus what dollar amount is qualified for VCs. You know, the ranges are anywhere between like half a million dollars up to, some people say 2 million, some people say 5 million for angels, you know, and some people will say, well VCs will go down to 2 million or down to a million. It kind of depends on who it is that you’re talking to. You know, you essentially do a progression from angels at the lower end to VCs at the higher end. And then you can also have people like family members or friends do lower end investments as well. There’s different rules for those kinds of things, so we’re not really going to talk about any of the specific rules because, you know, we don’t necessarily know what those are.

[10:09] Rob: And specifically we don’t know what those are for every country in the world. And since our listenership is worldwide it would just be too hard to even try to address them even if we could comment on the ones here in the states. I think of like friends and family as kind of being the lowest round because typically if someone has no funding and they want to raise something from friends and family, it’s typically a very small amount. It might be 50 grand or 100 grand. And then angels, I consider like a professional angel someone who is investing their own money. It’s not institutional funds, but it is someone who has had a large exit or who has just a lot of cash in the bank, and they are then divvying out their angel funds, their own funds, in typically in amounts of between 10 and 50 thousand dollars per investment. And you get a group of angels all to invest at once. And these investors tend to be what you might call smart money, right. You try to seek them out in an area of expertise where you’re entering so they can actually give you advice, whereas friends and family, if you’re going to do that, frankly, it’s not something I’ve ever done, nor would I recommend doing it, but you’re not going to get much good advice from your family. And then venture capitalists of course are folks who are investing institutional money. They’ve raised money from a bunch of limited partners, they’re called, and they’re trying to put a lot of money to work at one time. And so, you know, like you said, some VCs will come down into the million dollar, you know, two million dollar range. They typically have so much money in their fund, that that isn’t even worth doing for them. And that they want to do a series A, in the let’s say, 2 to 5 million dollar range, and a series B in the 10 to 20, and then, you know. When I’m saying A and B, these are the rounds, right. Series A is your first round of funding. Series B would be your second round after angel.

[11:51] Mike: So let’s talk about some of the different situations where we think it’s warranted for people to go after funding. And I think the first one that came to mind for me was essentially a land grab of some kind is necessary. So, you know, companies like PayPal or AirBnB come to mind just because if you’re their first, then it makes it a lot of easier to stifle all sorts of competition, you know, in that particular space. It’d be very difficult to compete with the likes of PayPal or Amazon or AirBnB at this point, just because they’ve dumped so much money and investment into that that they essentially crowd out all other contenders and are able to shove them out of the market, or just outright acquire them. And it’s not to say that being acquired by them is necessarily a bad thing, but you’re not going to have this massive, out-of-the-park success that you might’ve been shooting for initially. The reason you would go after funding in the case of a land grab is because you want to grab as much of the market as you possibly can before anybody else gets there.

[12:48] Rob: Right, and these land grab businesses are the ones that are super, super risky, and maybe 1 in 1,000 works, or 1 in several thousand works, so it’s not super repeatable. It’s not reliable. There’s not a high rate of success. But if you do succeed, then obviously you can be worth 100 million dollars or several hundred million. So not particularly the approach that I espouse, and it feels to me, I’ve always thought this was much more of a lottery ticket. And frankly, if you go and try to do a land grab business and you’re going to raise funding, you need some type of team that is really good. No one’s going to fund just some Joe Schmo nobody’s ever heard of to go and do a land grab business anymore. Like, the late 90s maybe, but these days you need to have either some kind of tractions, or some kind of team or both if you’re going to go after this kind of market, and then you’re going to have to commit to moving to wherever the venture capitalist is, and that’s maybe one of maybe 5 cities in the world, where you’re going to find somebody to give you this much money. And you’re going to have to work incredible hours. You’re going to have to grow a big team. You know, you’re not going to do it with 10 employees. This is the kind of business that goes to 100 employees in a year or two, if it succeeds, and then it goes to several hundred after that. So this is the one I agree this is where you need to raise it if you’re going to do it. But if you’re going to do that, then this is not the podcast that you’re looking for.

[14:09] Mike: The next time we think it’s warranted to go after funding is that you have problem solution fit and product market fit. I think the best thing to do here is to kind of step back a little bit and describe what both of these things are for all the listeners. So why don’t you talk a little bit about problem solution fit?

[14:24] Rob: As concepts, they are very powerful. And there’s something that I use in everyday conversation as I’m talking to other founders, as well as in my own business to try to gauge where I am.

[14:35] Mike: Because in my mind, the problem solution fit is like you’ve found something that people are experiencing as a problem that needs to be solved and they’re willing to pay for it, which is slightly different than the product market fit, which is you found an audience that is willing to pay for it. Because there’s a difference between finding a couple of people who want the solution, versus a lot of people, I think.

[14:56] Rob: Right. Right. And finding a lot of people, that group of people, and being able to reach them inexpensively enough that you can actually make a profit at, is part of profit market fit.

[15:05] Mike: Yes. Yeah. Because the first part is really about the customer discovery phase. And the next piece, which is the product market fit, which is more about like validation and somewhat scaling, I think, but, you know, making sure that you got the price points and everything else.

[15:18] Rob: Right, and I think the key part with that, that you just pointed out, is problem solution fit comes before product market fit, but first you have to solve a problem, and then you have to turn it into a product, and then you have to find the market for that.

[15:31] Mike: Next, I think, if you’re going after funding, you need to know all the important metrics that people who are going to invest are going to be interested in. And you need to know them cold for your business. So you’re going to need to know like your cost of acquisition. And you’re going to need to know the lifetime value of your customers. You need to know what your turn rate is. You’re going to need to know what your profit margins are. And you can use those calculations to figure out whether or not you’re going to be able to expand the business. I mean, has it become a machine where you can put a dollar into it and you get two dollars out, because that’s what the investors are looking for. They’re looking for a way to accelerate the value of their money, and your business is the mechanism for doing that. And they want to know if they throw money into it, are they going to get more money out on the other side. And I think that that’s probably the best position to be in. I don’t necessarily know that you need to be in that position always in order to get funding. But I think that if you are in that position, you can solidly demonstrate those metrics and those numbers to them, then you’re in much better negotiating position to be able to get the most value for, you know, the equity that you’re essentially giving them in exchange for the money.

[16:32] Rob: Yeah, that’s the key part of what you said there is that you don’t always need that. You don’t always need the traction, but that’s where you’re going to be able to give away the least amount of your company for the funding that you’re raising. You know, I don’t know of any venture capitalist that’s going to write a multi-million dollar check to someone who doesn’t have product market fit. I think it’s going to be a very rare instance. It’s going to be a repeat founder who’s already had a success. It’s going to be someone with an exquisite pedigree and a great team, or it’s going to be someone who has a real in, in a market or a patent or something like that. But if you’re just coming on the scene and you’re trying to solve a problem for a group of people, you’re going to need traction if you want to be taken seriously. If you don’t want to do 50 pitch meetings in order to find your one investor. You know, if you actually want to use your time well, you’re going to need to know these numbers cold and you’re going to need, basically, to be ready to scale.

[17:20]So you know, when I was getting started, like around ’99, 2000, I thought the only way to launch software products and startups was to raise funding, and I went down that road for years. And I’ve talked about that in the past. And around 2007 is when I really kind of switched and realized that I could do it with smaller products. And at that point, I really became kind of anti-funding, and I just thought it was all a big game. And then some time in 2008-2009, I was at Businesses Software and I was talking to Dharmesh Shah, who previously before HubSpot, I’m pretty sure he had bootstrapped his first company. And so, he was talking about raising funding. Or he’d either just raised it or was talking about it, and I asked him, “Why did you do that?” And it felt like kind of a betrayal of his bootstrapper ethic. And he said, “You know, we hit a point where we saw that you can put 1 dollar in and you can get 4 or 5 out, and it was a repeatable, scalable process, and so at that point, you want to put in as much money as you can in order to get 4 or 5 times that much, much larger amount on the other end.” And for the first time, it really clicked with me, that there, especially within our B2B space, once you’ve solved the problem and you’re able to scale, there is a really good time to raise funding. It doesn’t mean you have to, and doesn’t mean you always should, but if you are going to, that is the optimal time, once you’ve hit that place where you know how to scale a business up and all you need are the funds to put it in basically just grow faster than your competition because especially with SaaS businesses, if you can climb that long, slow SaaS ramp of death, and you can build up that large customer base by having a big influx of cash, it will just throw off cash for years and years after that. And whether you raise investment or not, whoever owns part of that company is going to be doing well.

[19:04] Mike: And I think that’s a very different story from a lot of the people who are kind of coming out of college, or going through Y Combinator, where, you know, people are investing in the people and an idea, but they have absolutely no product. They don’t even have a product yet, let alone product market fit or product solution fit.

[19:20] Rob: That’s a really good point. Like, we are talking about – we’re not talking about B to C stuff, like I don’t even think that’s on our radar, right. I’m not talking about the guy who’s going to start the next Uber or the gal who wants to start the next Twitter. That’s just a totally different ballgame. We’re really talking about repeatable businesses that solve problems for other businesses, and therefore are much easier to build and more predictable.

[19:41] Mike: Right. So I think if you’re trying to find that engine that’s turning that dollar into more than a dollar, then, you know, going after funding is probably not wise at that point.

[19:49] Rob: One other thing I wanted to add here is that typically if you take angel investing, you are implying that you are going to take a Series A, round of Series A from venture capitalists, then a Series B, and enough funding needed to get to a hundred million dollar or more valuation. That’s typically implied. It’s not always. But if you plan on raising angel funding, and you do not want to grow to that size company, that is something that you would need to be very specific about with your investors up front. And some investors will want no part of that. They only want to go after the big homeruns. And others are okay to invest in companies that may get to a 7 figure or a low 8 figure valuation. And, in fact, it’s becoming more common, to be honest. I heard the term fund strapping, and I really liked it. It was from Collin at Customer.I0, and they essentially raised, I think it was around, $250,000 of angel funding with the intention of making it to profitability and not raising a Series A, B, and C. And they did it. They succeeded. Raise some money in order to get your company to the point of profitability. And so that’s not everyone’s path, but I do think that’s a viable path. And I’ve talked to a couple entrepreneurs in the past six months, actually several people who are trying to do that, and they don’t want to go down the old rabbit hole of trying to grow into a bazillion dollar company. But they just want to, they’ve found that growth engine, they’ve hit the point of product market fit, and they just need some almost growth capital to get to that next level. So keep that in mind if you are at that point because I think it’s becoming a more viable option.

[21:21] Mike: So now that we’ve talked about the times that we think it’s warranted to go after funding, what are some of the things that we would look for when we were going after funding?

[21:29] Rob: There’s kind of two terms for investors, right. There’s smart money and dumb money. And typically, smart money is from an investor who is going to bring a lot of value to you, and a lot of advice and some guidance, and maybe some connections and some introductions. And then, the pejorative term is dumb money, and that’s typically when you go to the local doctor or dentist and they have some money in the bank, and they give it to you, and they’re not actually going to help your business at all. It’s just money that you’re going to use to grow. So my hope would be, you typically want to take smart money because that’s the one where their specific experience or network of connections are going to be able to be leveraged by you and hopefully, you know, there could potentially be introductions to acquires down the line. There’s just a lot more that they can bring to the table to help your business grow faster, rather than just writing that check.

[22:13] Mike: I think there’s also some rather obvious things you should be looking for as well, such as honesty and integrity, you know, kind of a history of not screwing over people that they’ve invested in. Those are things that, you know, I think in some cases may be difficult to find. But, you know, you should be able to find a list of the different companies that somebody has invested in and be able to ask the people who they’ve invested in, you know, what was it like to work with this person? How did they help you out? Are there any places where you ran into problems or disagreements and how were those handled? Because I think you want to know that you can work with the other person. Are they going to just railroad you into decisions that are not good for you or for the business? Because at the end of the day, yes, these investors tend to invest in multiple businesses with the attempt to get money out of at least one of them that’s going to make up for all their investments, but at the same time, you don’t want to get the short end of the stick here. I mean, yes, you’re taking money from them, but at the same time, you don’t want to be in a position where they’re trying to pull money back because they need it for something else that they see is going to be much more profitable for them in the long run.

[23:15] Rob: Yes, some advice that I was given once, was not to take money from a first time angel investor, to look at someone who has some kind of track record, because first time angel investors are going to be really gun shy, and if they only have one company, they’re going to be kind of be all up in your business, right? I mean, you really do – you want advice and you want help. You don’t want someone’s who’s emailing you once a week, asking you about the status, or really trying to offer advice, or going to your website and giving you feedback on the headline or anything. Not unless you ask for it, and you consider them an expert in that area. Typically, if someone is doing a lot of angel investing, then they know the boundaries and they know what’s good for the founder and the company, and they’ll give you the leeway to kind of go out and do it on your own, realizing that you’ll come to them when you need the advice and the help.

[23:56] Mike: The next thing I think you’d look for is somebody who’s got a shared vision for the product, the company itself, and your working arrangements, because if you’re listening to this podcast, chances are really good you’re probably bootstrapping your business. And you’re going to have a certain way that you operate the company, that you work with the employees who are working with you, so maybe you have a distributed team, maybe you guys talk once a week, or once a month, or something like that. Maybe you take long, afternoon breaks, and you work in the evenings or something like that. But, at the end of the day, you want to be able to continue working in whatever way has made you successful. You don’t want to have to conform to, I’ll say, arbitrary rules about how the business should operate just because they think that, you know, you should be doing things differently. But there’s a difference between having them make suggestions to you versus mandating that.

[24:44] Rob: The folks who I’ve seen raise funding well, especially that initial angel round, they basically were very deliberate about who they invited in, and they tried to stack their team with someone who knew a lot about, you know, maybe online marketing. And someone who knew a lot about growing a sales team, and someone who knew a lot about acquisitions and selling, and someone who knew a lot about some other piece. So they actually kind of built this team, a dream team of investors, who not only gave them money, and therefore have some type of, essentially an investment in your company, but they have an expertise that they can lend. And it wasn’t a bunch of overlap. It was complementary skills. And all of these skills are something you’re going to need at one point or another if you do actually make it to profitability and hope to, you know, one day get acquired. So, Mike, you know, the original question at MicroConf Europe was about funding and it was also for us specifically, and the question was, would you ever consider raising angel or VC funding, and I’m curious what your thoughts are on that?

[25:45] Mike: I’m not opposed to it. But I think, for me, I would have to get to that point where I do have, you know, the problem solution fit and the product market fit, and making sure that, you know, as I said, I’ve got all those numbers in place and dialed in, so that I know how much it’s going to cost me to acquire a customer. And not to say that I’m at the very beginning of a growth curve or something like that because I think it’s foolish to get to the very beginning of a growth curve where you know that you’re putting money into it, you’re going to get a lot of money out of it, and maybe trying to get that. You’re not sure whether, how long that growth curve is going to last for that particular channel that you’re trying to leverage. I don’t know what the hard numbers are for me for saying, “Hey, I’m going to go get money.” I’d have to be in that situation to kind of put the parameters around it. I’m not opposed to it. I don’t agree with the stance of going out and raising money to build a company because I think that you can get a lot more leverage out of it if you have something that you’ve built and are pushing forward and you’re being successful already, versus going out and saying, “Hey, I have an idea for this, or I have some small product that I’ve built. You know, can you give me money for it.” I think those are two entirely different scenarios. But I’m not opposed to it. I just haven’t been at the point where I think that it’s warranted it yet.

[27:00] Rob: I’ve definitely entertained the idea. I think ever since 2009, when I talked to Dharmesh about it, I realized that there’s a smart point at which it is perhaps a good choice to raise some funding. I don’t like saying never, but I don’t ever think that I would raise a venture round because I just don’t want to turn my life upside down. It’s not worth giving up the lifestyle that I’ve built over the past 15 years in order to try and go for some big homerun and go for 100 million dollar exit. Because what I have already is probably what I would do if I had a 100 million dollar exit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my life would change, but it wouldn’t be so dramatic. You know, I wouldn’t go out and buy a yacht or anything. I’m already pretty happy with the choices that I’ve made, and kind of the life that I live. With that said, in recent years especially, you know, as I’ve built apps with larger and larger markets, and especially with Drip now that I feel that it’s hit product market fit or it’s very near that, and it’s starting to scale up,

[28:04]the question became for me, not should I raise funding, but under what circumstances and terms would I raise funding? And as I started talking to some folks I trust, who have gone down this road, they said, “Why wouldn’t you do it right now?” And I said, “Because it would really impact my lifestyle.” And they said, “Well what if you could raise from people who don’t care about that?” And that, you don’t need to move. And they don’t care that you take a month of vacation. You know, there is no board, right, so you don’t lose control of your company. And you don’t give away more than 15% of your company and it allows you to grow faster, and da da da. And suddenly, it was like how interesting that it’s not an either/or question, it’s under what circumstances would you or would you not raise funding, and that’s the question that I’ve mulled over. You know, that’s kind of – it’s been on my mind for, you know, definitely the last several years. Would that be an option? So I don’t know if I ever will. I think that funding allows you to get somewhere faster. So if you want to get to that 7 figure or low 8 figure revenue mark, funding is definitely going to get you there faster,

[29:04]but it’s all a matter of how patient are you, and do you think you could get to that even without the funding. Or are the competitors in your space too far ahead and perhaps better funded, and that’s, I’m asking these theoretically, but I mean, these are the things I’m thinking through with Drip, right, because I’m in market automation now. And there are some big players, and there’s some well funded players, and there are people who are definitely ahead of us. And so I’m trying to figure out, you know, am I able to build a really solid small business without funding and will I succeed in the long term? Or do I need a little bit of help getting to a point where I’m just a bigger player in this space? So I don’t have any decisions, but, for sure, I’m not anti-funding. So it’s an interesting question.

[29:44] Mike: I mean, even at MicroConf Europe, you gave a really great answer to the question, and I was just like, “What he said.” Because I didn’t have anything to add. I mean, it was just- it was dead on.

[29:53] Rob: Right. I would say though for most people that I know, like most founders that we deal with and talk with, I don’t think it’s the right decision. I just don’t think it’s helpful. I think building a bootstrap software company and self-funding it, and all the learning that goes along with that, even if takes a while to do so, I think that’s the right choice. It really is an epic time that we live in, that we are able to do that, because even 20 years ago, it was barely possible to do that. And these days, we know a lot of people who are doing very well just building self-funded little software companies. I think that’s really amazing.

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One Response to “Episode 211 | When to Consider Outside Investment for Your Startup”

  1. I wish people would stop using the term bootstrapped when they mean self funded. There is a distanced difference between the two. The similarity is that you’re taking outside funding and I think that’s where confusion lies.

    This might be a good topic for a show.

    Sometimes I think we’re past the point of actually being able to communicate when we use all the terms so loosely.

    Just to a to add to the confusion I’ve actually created a new category of as well. I call is it “Self Incubation:

    http://inreallife.com/self-incubation/