six years and a new website
When we started doing this six years ago there was a (semi) vision of getting involved in exciting multi-tenanted SaaS start-ups and helping them navigate the challenges of dealing with the whims and foibles of the investment community. It was born out of eight years in Private Equity and understanding that it wasn’t only how good the business was that got it funded, but also how well all parties navigated the funding process that determined success. I had seen many shit businesses that were great at fundraising get funded, whilst many great companies that were shit at fundraising were left behind – same parallel with marketing/comms/sales – VHS vs BETAMAX if you like.
Roll forward to today and there’s now a rough term been created for what we do – Venture Building – and I quite like it. It is definitive yet also flexible enough to accommodate everything.
Helping entrepreneurs build great companies is (obviously with hindsight) more than just adding one element into the mix. Now we……
- fully align ourselves with the management team in all respects
- join, or support, the team at board level
- support the team as they scope the technology they are building
- support the team as they build the teams that help them build their companies
- provide an office environment conducive to building a start-up
- help with long-term strategic planning and the balance of short-term vs long-term imperatives
- and we still help navigate funding with the use of milestone planning and investor engagement support
….yet there still isn’t a one size fits all approach that works. Some teams need all of these, some only a select few.
What hasn’t changed is that we always start with great entrepreneurs who understand the problem they are resolving (normally they have ‘lived’ the problem), have vision, are operating in markets with long-term growth potential and who have high energy and tenacity. I wrote a blog three years ago when we were three years in which flagged these headlines (TODAYS COMMENTS IN CAPS):
1) Wow does everything really take longer than you think. Passion drives you but the rest of the World goes sssllllooowww. YEP STILL TRUE
2) When you say you’re involved in start-ups you really do have to be involved, and to care, and to step outside your comfort zone, and to be enthusiastic, and to go above and beyond, and to keep going when you’re frazzled… and… and… and….. It’s bloody hard work and I take my hat off to all you entrepreneurs out there. My vision of a broad portfolio has been tempered by the reality of what proactive involvement means. It means do a small number of things, give it your all and do them well. YEP STILL TRUE – ONLY SEVEN COMPANIES SO FAR
3) Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. Not only are you pushing yourself hard on all fronts but it doubles down because society doesn’t like risk. A very real recent experience is that when you’re an entrepreneur ‘Computer says No’ and keeps saying ‘No’. Despite the fact that you’re probably doing something that you care more deeply about than any previous vocation you might have had. My first piece of advice to wannabe entrepreneurs now is ‘sort your shit before you become an entrepreneur’ – look forward 3-5 years predict change and maybe fast track some personal decisions (e.g. mortgage). Where you need to deal with the real world as the real world won’t like you. YEP STILL TRUE, GOOD LUCK IF YOU WANT THE REAL WORLD TO ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR DOING A ‘PROPER JOB’
4) It sucks you in. I recently noted that I have tweeted on behalf of SynchTank (see @SynchTank) over 100 times in the time I have tweeted 2-3 times for Preparation Capital. Why? Because I care (shucks). Seriously though the success of other peoples businesses matters to me as much as that of my own. A LITTLE BIT PREACHY BUT TRUE, THOUGH SYNCHTANK IS NOW BIG ENOUGH TO HAVE ITS OWN MARKETIGN TEAM
5) It really IS rewarding. The cynic in me describes performance so far as ‘nothing has gone bust yet’. The truth, all the companies have done multiple fundraises, are growing and developing well but damn it hasn’t been easy. A LITTLE BIT PREACHY BUT TRUE
6) Involvement doesn’t just mean being an investor. It means pain, caring, lost sleep, arguments, passion, excitement, frustration, frustration, frustration and then reward and fun. A LITTLE BIT PREACHY BUT TRUE
So six years on I now expect that this will be roughly the same when it is nine years on! But hey we have a new website that better tries to explain what we do – though I am not sure we entirely understand it all ourselves yet.