What...a...freaking...month. November was huge. I still can’t believe everything that happened, even with a major holiday break for family. It certainly wasn’t all good, but it was all educational. We’ve been at this for over a year. Both of us brought our humility and willingness to learn to Good People. But I’ve been working in entrepreneurship for close to two decades and Ethan has been ringside in his dad’s entrepreneurial venture for 10 years. I thought we knew something. But I think the first rule of entrepreneurship is probably something about embracing your profound ignorance. Even if you’ve done it before, every venture is different. Assuming that any aspect of your startup is the same as anything you have previously experienced is fraught with peril. Here's to embracing the steep part of your learning curve...
Our Friends & Family Round
Let’s start with raising capital. It always takes longer. You always need more. There’s plenty of money out there looking for the right deals. Etc...etc...
That’s all true. Another truth is that your first money should come from friends and family. I fought that hard. Now that we have finally brought in $20K from our friends and are looking for more, I can clearly state why. Taking money from friends and family is far scarier than dealing with any bank or venture capitalist. I’ve been dealing with bankers and VCs for a long time and they have metrics and expertise and diligence designed to filter for risk and protect themselves. Friends and family...not so much.
These people are investing in us, personally, and probably with little regard to the business idea or the numbers or any supposed traction. Yes, there are terms and they should do well if we do, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t why they are doing it. Honestly, it’s taken us a year and a lot of collective soul searching to convince ourselves that we believed in Good People enough to ask our friends and family to join us on this ride. I’m pretty sure that means we shouldn’t have been willing to ask anyone else to invest either, and perhaps that is the lesson. However we got here, we are all in and excited to bring our friends and family on board and see what we build together.
Our Pitch Competitions
The other big story arc in November was pitch competitions. If you’ve been following along, you know we won one and we lost one. I really didn’t set out to do pitch competitions at all. The pitch wasn’t a big factor for me in joining Commercialization Academy, more of a final hurdle that we had to be willing to accept if we wanted to pursue the other milestones and associated money. The FuzeHub application was a bit of a lark, largely driven by our lack of success in fundraising going into the summer. We had done several investor pitches before this, but they feel nothing like a pitch competition with other teams, judges, and a defined prize. I would say we are OK at it. We are passionate about our story and don’t have much trouble with public speaking. Our pitches are far from slick, but they are certainly heartfelt.
The loss hurt, but it was accompanied by good feedback and good contacts that should have an impact on our path ahead. The win was invigorating and I am cautiously optimistic that it may provide some of the validation and credibility we need to get more local stakeholders to engage and maybe pony up as customers, investors, or partners. Certainly, the money will have a significant impact on building our local supply chain and helping to pay for materials and services to support our go-to-market strategy and early customers.
We are better for having pitched and had our Shark Tank moments. But I still wonder whether we could have spent that time and energy one-on-one with customer, investor, or partner leads. In the end, was it a bit of a distraction? We didn’t make a sale in November and that feels like a mistake for a young company with product to sell.
There is a lot more to November 2017, but I can’t say that I have processed it all myself, so I will spare you my mental meanderings.
Good People November 2017
Good People November 2017 Core Metrics
Transparency & Engagement: 143 Contacts, 46 subscribers (still working on website tracking and we will add social media stuff once we have it up and running)
Sales: no new sales, 13 new leads, 2 sales calls, 2 shows
Finance: $0 sales, $10,000 investment received, $8,278 expenses, Net -$8,278
Energy Savings: still a placeholder until we figure out how to track and calculate
Community: 1 community event, 1 blog post
Human Potential: team at 3, partnerships in development
In December we will be pushing sales to try to get more sample units into the wild before the end of the year and find at least one pilot project for early 2018. We will also be pulling the trigger on our B Labs B Corp certification and continuing to look for more friends & family to invest in us. Adith will be focusing on our supply chain, getting things on a schedule, and pushing for Herkimer Industries to be assembling Phoenix fan controllers in early 2018.
And thanks to Jennifer Sumner at Griffiss Institute for the cool photo above.