Hypothetical Non-Problems

problemzIn each of my last three gigs, I’ve spent a lot of time working on product development and UX — which means I’ve spent a lot of time working with others on the future.

Almost by definition, then, we were very much working with hypotheticals vs known and measurable problems.

Which can be frustrating… Especially in a company that is risk-adverse and opinion-heavy.

I recall many hours spent arguing about which way to do a particular feature, which words to use in the interface, etc — the conversation usually centered around how confused or frustrated imaginary customers would be if we did it one way vs another.

That’s annoying, but when you’re working on real problems with big potential impact on customers, it can be a useful step in the process. Analyzing things carefully to create the best possible UX is a good thing. (Whenever possible, of course, bring some damn data to the conversation rather than just f’n opinions.)

Here’s where it gets silly

Not all of these hours were spent discussing pressing issues… at least not in the minds of our customers. Let me give you a real-world example that actually happened.

We were in the process of moving the company to a new office a block away. The new building — and I do mean new; we were one of the first tenants — was on the corner of let’s say Main Street and Second Ave.

There was literally a two-week effort made to change the address of the building (not a building that we owned, mind you) from 123 Second Ave to 789 Main Street, because someone in our company with strong opinions was sure that customers would get confused by the address being on the other street and would not be able to find our offices.

Yes, really.

That is the kind of conversation I see all the time when designing software. People are just SO SURE that a particular thing will confuse users… or that people will love another feature — but they don’t actually bother checking with customers to bolster that opinion.

BTW in the several years that our offices have been at 123 Second Avenue, I’m not aware of a single person struggling to find the place.

A whole lot of wasted effort (and some bad blood created) over a Hypothetical. Before you spend a bunch of time on anything, make sure customers will actually care in the end.

If it doesn’t improve the quality of the product or the experience of the customer, it’s probably a waste of time (thanks Scott Adams).

Here’s where it gets really really silly

Even worse than a Hypothetical Problem is what I have come to call a Hypothetical Non-Problem.

That is, some problem (UX or otherwise) that — even if we’re right — doesn’t really make two squirts of difference.

In the case of the building, we could quite easily have put out a nice sign on Main Street directing people to the front door on Second Ave. Problem solved so easily that you can’t really call it a Problem.

In the case of UX decisions, it is often easier and faster to create it (mock it up or these days of agile just build the f’n thing) and try it out — internally at least, but ideally with a few actual Customers (remember them?) — and see what happens. Sometimes you’ll uncover something even better than expected.

Time spent arguing over a Hypothetical Non-Problem is the most frustrating and soul-withering part of a designer’s job.

Connection to Startups

It occurred to me recently that this same framework has some application to the type of problems that startups try to tackle.

Thinking back I recall hearing several entrepreneurs pitch an idea that struck me as trying to solve a Hypothetical Non-Problem. I didn’t articulate it that way at the time, but it definitely fits.

One was a social-enabled news feed to get you news articles curated by folks with similar interests and likes. An echo-chamber newsroom if you will. At the time my reaction was just: “who cares?” I didn’t see anyone clamoring for such a thing (Hypothetical) and it seemed that if one really did want to hear what your friends found interesting vis-a-vis news, you’d go to Twitter or Facebook or (gosh) talk to your friends. Easy fix; non-Problem.

Another was an app that recommended new iPhone games. Now maybe it’s just me, but I have never once said “damn I just have so much free time… I would love to find a game to play on my phone, but it’s hard to find them”.

Both of those companies failed to secure funding and folded; I think because they were setting out to solve Hypothetical Non-Problems.

Work on Problems Worth Solving

That’s the point, in the end. Sorry about all the rambling to get here… but when it comes down to it, it is always better to work on things with the potential for huge benefits — solving a problem or delivering joy.

It’s more fun, less frustrating, and as a bonus customers will give you money.

Must. Ship.

hamster-wheelI spent about 2 hours today rearranging virtual post-it notes on a virtual wall. Trello. It was about as unsatisfying as it sounds.

Planning is worth it when it pays off at least 5:1. That is, an hour of planning magnifies the results by 5x, saves 5 hours of implementation time, or a combination thereof.

It’s easy, though, to slip into over-planning… feeling the need to map out product features months in advance (even though they will change long before then), or spending time tweaking the wording of specifications when the intent is already crystal-clear.

The whole point of artifacts like these is communication. As long as the people who are actually out there making things happen know exactly what the goal is, the job is done. Time spent making wording more uniform, categorizing and tagging backlog items, or splitting hairs over whether two different backlog items should be combined into one bigger project or kept separate falls *way* on the wrong side of the 80/20 rule.

None of these activities truly move the ball forward. The customer doesn’t see this activity; they don’t even see the direct result of much of this…

Gotta keep in mind that if it is not visible to anyone “outside the building”, the needle has not moved.

Make sure everyone is clear on top priorities. Make sure everyone is clear on next actions.

But then, for fu$k’s sake, stop grooming and start making things actually happen.

Progress comes from making, shipping, sharing, and listening.

Days like that are the days worth the price of admission.

(To put it another way: Do, or do not. There is no tryplan.)

The Day My Company Died

As I outlined last post, the company I founded in Colorado on 11/11/11 no longer exists.

And while it wasn’t really a surprise, that final email still hit me kind of hard.

If startup success could be predicted by raw effort, we would most certainly have knocked this one out of the park. Everyone on the team put heart and soul into making something out of nothing. There were multiple occasions when I was amazed at each one of my co-founders, and even when the death spiral was in full force, the guys did not stop putting their shoulders into making something happen.

But that’s not how they keep score, is it?

This is off the top of my head, so I will miss stuff… but here are some of the more important things we did right and wrong.

What We Did Right

We chose an industry ripe for disruption, with customers desperate for us to solve their pain

The world of small-business financing is still operating primarily under rules drafted in the 1920s. Literally. There are major inefficiencies, and the industry as a whole has not yet figured out the Internet — both of these often set the stage for great disruptions.

Further, the potential customers that we talked to were hungry for what we were promising… capital is the lifeblood of business, and due to the incentives of banks and venture capital, there are vast swaths of quality companies starved for cash. This was way more “pain killer” than “vitamin”.


We shared significant stakes in the company for the extended founding team

At our peak we had 6 people involved with the company. The people working with us were fully aware of the risks, so one approach would have been to share as little of the company as we could “get away with” while keeping great people on board. I believe that is the wrong approach.

The root of that path is a mentality of scarcity. “I only have 10,000,000 shares of this company… must keep it all to myself if I want that big exit some day”. But keeping it all to yourself makes it infinitely harder to build that hundred million dollar company you are envisioning… wouldn’t you rather have 12% of a wildly successful company than 90% of a clunker?

So the hoarder keeps their chips close, and ends up creating a split company from the beginning — us (founders) vs them (very very early folks; don’t want to call them founders but can’t pay them and don’t want to give them too big a slice).

And let’s consider the rosy scenario for a moment. Suppose the company is indeed a huge success. After 10 years let’s say there is a $50 million buyout offer that also makes great strategic success. Or an IPO; whatever.

You and your two co-founders just put in 10 hard years to make this happen, and you absolutely deserve your success. But what about “employee” #1, who has now been there for 9+ years, and frankly was integral in making this happen (and for the first couple of years probably took a sub-market salary)? Does that person truly deserve only 1/60 of what you as a founder should take? 1/20? 1/10? When they came on almost from the beginning where it was, frankly, just as risky to them as it was to you?

I’ve seen it happen that a company has a nice liquidity event, the founders take home seven figures, and the other folks who were there almost from day 1 essentially got “back pay” for the years they worked sub-market. Ridiculous.

Look, as the original founders your name is on the door and you undoubtedly invested more intellectually and emotionally in birthing this company; so you should get more… but things work best when incentives are aligned. It never pays off in the long run to short-change the people who are helping you make your dream a reality.

If you couldn’t post the cap table publicly and discuss it with anyone in the company with a clear conscience, you’re doing something wrong.


We set up for distributed work from the beginning

This was born out of necessity — two of us were in Boulder, and two were in Denver, but it did prove advantageous on many occasions.

It is not hard these days to keep all shared working materials online and universally accessible. But that’s the easy part…

What people worry about with remote work is missing out on spontaneous communication and collaboration opportunities that happen when everyone is in the same building. And there is something to that; but when you break it down, there are ways to overcome these problems and end up with an even better overall level of productivity and happiness.

First of all, some face-time is very helpful. Especially at the beginning. But it doesn’t take long to develop an sense of how to use various channels to stay in sync, once you work with a given person for a few weeks. Public chat room or emails for asynchronous stuff, video chat when richer communication is needed, etc.

(IMO, if communication is a problem when you’re not in the same room, there are problems with your communication. Most people don’t communicate clearly and proactively; working remote forces you to do that. Deal.)

But the other thing is developing a company “circadian rhythm”. Just like an organism, startups work best when there is a weekly (and quarterly) pattern to life. And let’s be honest — it takes more than sitting around talking to build a company, it also requires lots of heads-down work and plenty of getting out of the building… neither of which require having everyone sitting around the same big table in a hip renovated warehouse.

For Funding Launchpad, a weekly flow quickly emerged. Once a week the whole company would get together, take stock of where we were, make decisions, and tie up any loose ends best handled in person. While we didn’t always achieve it, the idea was to emerge each week with a clear path for the next two weeks — and then spend the next week executing before pausing again to regroup.

“But only once a week? Things change so fast in a startup!”

(a) I never said we only talked once a week; just that we didn’t all meet in person for an extended period of time more often than that.

(b) If the plan really changes more often than once a week, you have major problems.

(c) During unusual times, we worked in person more often.

Looking back, I think it would be very possible to extend this to a completely distributed team working remotely 95% of the time. Others seem to agree.


We avoided reliance on forthcoming legislation

This is fairly specific to us; but in early 2012 hundreds of folks posited crowdfunding startups based on legislation that was working its way through congress. How long could it possibly take, right?

First of all, it can take forever. And in fact people are still waiting. We’ll get back to that.

The other thing about the new law was that every startup was at the same disadvantage; yes it was a new legal opening, but it was a very public one that every player in the industry (existing companies and would-be startups) was watching closely. So just jumping on something like that with a “first to market” mindset was a guaranteed loser of a strategy.

In our case, we were either going to do it differently or not do it at all. We had zero interest in being one of hundreds of me-too startups competing on speed  in a race to the pricing bottom.

After much research we put together a strategy for 2012 that, if a few aspects of our chosen legal vehicle had proved more tenable, would have given us approximately 18 months to build a brand and find our footing ahead of most of the wanna-bes. The crucial bit was that it was based entirely on existing law, no changes needed.

What We Did Wrong

Well, a lot. But startups are filled with mis-steps and path corrections. Here are a few that might just help you avoid the same result.


We didn’t pick an industry that was right for us

While the industry we picked was large and ready for disruption, ultimately there was no reason our particular team belonged in this space. No deep history in the industry, few long-time connections to leverage, and no personal deep abiding love for the space.

We had tons to learn, and set about it with vigor. Over the first 12 months we became very fluent in the nuances of the securities industry… but frankly we were still at a disadvantage to those that had been living and breathing finance for a decade.

Ours was a problem we wanted to see solved; but there were other teams better suited to provide the solution. As a result, we set ourselves up to be a potential player only in Colorado, and merely because we were one of the few providers in that area.


We tried to build momentum via “dominios” rather than a flywheel

Visualize a giant flywheel. I mean a really big one… like one of those old stone wheels they used to use to grind corn… and it’s spinning fast on well-greased bearings. Really picture it for a minute humming along.

It’s hard to imagine stopping that flywheel, isn’t it? This is what momentum should feel like at a functioning company. One little bump isn’t going to stop that flywheel; it’ll just keep turning until the next positive input comes along and speeds it up again.

Now granted it takes an almost superhuman amount of pushing to get that flywheel up to speed (while you are building it, no less) — but that’s part of the challenge of building a business.

Now in contrast, picture a long row of large dominos, each one bigger than the last. If all goes well, each falling domino will topple the next, and continue the chain reaction… but if something were to interrupt one of them, or if were to fall the wrong way, the whole thing would just cease. No real momentum.

That is the customer pipeline we built in 2012.

Our strategy was dependent on getting one successful customer funded, then turning that success into a few more clients, then turning those few successful clients into more clients.

On paper that seems to make sense — hey, it’s how nuclear fusion works, after all — but in the early stages that kind of strategy is very brittle, and in our case it was also far too slow. Since it would take months to get the first client all the way through to success, the other clients we were nurturing started to drift away… we essentially built our own chicken-and-egg situation, unintentionally.

Our more successful competitors took a different approach by using creative tactics like business plan competitions to engage with hundreds of startups and investors all at once, and then building out deal-flow channels and investor acquisition engines which became their flywheel.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking “well we need one before we can get to ten… so let’s just focus on one for now” especially if your business has a long inherent cycle.


We spent too much time on improbable partnerships

As we contemplated our “cold start” problem, we came up with a few potential partners who would provide a nice work-around. Essentially, we would piggyback on their existing marketplace.

We spent a good amount of time wooing said partners, and in the end none of them came to fruition.

Two things.

1. When you are time limited, as startup founders are, you have to 80/20 the shi* out of your activities. While this sounded like a good use of time, in retrospect it truly wasn’t; because:

2. We didn’t bring enough to the  table. These partnerships were just daydreams, due to the imbalance in what each player would have brought to the table. They simply didn’t need what we had at that point nearly as much as we needed their networks and deep industry experience.

We should have built more of a track record (and probably a more complete product) first.

Partnerships can be crucial in building a business; but don’t spend all your time trying to date the prom queen. Especially before you’re ready.


We ran out of money

In the end, most startups fail because they run out of money before they find product-market fit.

You will make mistakes; but if you adapt fast enough those become merely bumps along the road to success.

In the end, we were in a situation where bootstrapping was not possible, and we failed to generate enough early traction to justify another round of funding.

Although I was not with the company for the last six months or so of the death spiral, it was still a striking moment when it finally ended.

This company was a life-changing experience, and I am grateful to everyone who helped out along the way — the team, my family, the Boulder entrepreneurial community, and the investors who backed my first run at building a “rocketship”.

 

What About Those Investors?

If I found another scalable company in the future, I have this idea of granting my prior investors founders shares in NewCo, gratis — it just seems like the right thing to do since they backed me this time. Any thoughts on that plan? Has it worked for others in the past?

If it works, let’s make it part of the entrepreneurial ethos. Pay it forward, pay it back. Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

Pre-Post — Quick Catch-Up

So something happened last week I need to write about; the next post here will be called “The Day My Company Died”. In the meantime, I wanted to just run down a few quick catch-up items, as I’ve been completely neglecting this blog lately.

——————————————————————–

My last post about Funding Launchpad was back in August of 2012.

Holy crap.

Rereading that post now, it’s clear that Aug 2012 was the peak for Funding Launchpad. The company did not fold until November 2013; but last Fall was clearly when we started to lose momentum.

Tons happened since Aug 2012, of course… here are a couple of highlights, to catch folks up with the general situation I’m now in the process of emerging from.

  • Funding Launchpad did finish up a respectable fundraising round, and launched three customers using our 2012 strategy.
  • Failed to drive significant investment dollars to those early clients; the “personal crowdfunding portal” strategy we used in 2012 thus did not help us achieve the overall traction we had hoped for… and in addition the federal rules we were waiting for continued to see delays.
  • In September we decided to pursue a strategy that was not reliant on the upcoming federal rule making. Over the course of the month, we sketched out a two-stage plan, whereby we’d start with a slightly unique flavor of rewards-based crowdfunding, build traction, and then proceed with accredited crowdfunding when the rules became workable.
  • Got our founding technical genius re-engaged to help us build out functionality for that platform, and started wooing one lead client and a couple of additional prospects.
  • October now; I started scaling back the frequency of my Colorado trips a bit. While I still loved syncing with the team and connecting with the Colorado ecosystem, there just didn’t seem to be enough reason to be there in person — we’d already met with everyone we needed to meet with… being there in person just didn’t feel valuable enough.
  • December rolls around… by now the team has lost interest in step 1 of our 2-step re-boot strategy. Argh. By now my daughter’s medical issues have seriously impacted my ability to Get Shit Done as well… Have not been holding up my end of things from NC, even while the team was moving the ball forward in CO. So I made the difficult decision to hand off CEO to Dave (one of my co-founders(. On a mid-Dec trip, I got the other two on board and made it official.
  • Jan-Mar saw the team rebrand the company as Grofolio and focus on the accredited crowdfunding platform that was originally step 2 of our 2013 strategy. I tried to help with the product side of things from NC, but frankly was unable to put in enough time to move the needle. We decided to cut back my official commitment with the company to ~20 hours/week.
  • May 2013. Had not been able to keep up with my part-time commitment. Hard to believe, I know; it really was that intense dealing with Maddie’s needs. Dave pulled the plug on my involvement with the company. Rightly, I suppose.
  • From May through September my only job was taking care of the little one. And really that’s most all I did from Jan-May as well… Stepping way back, I’m glad that I was able to do this — it’s only when everything hits the fan that you find out what truly matters, and what you’re capable of.
  • Actually now that I think about it I did have one other thing going on; spent a few hours here and there bringing investment-based crowdfunding to NC under state law. We got a bill passed in the House, but ran out of time in the Senate — it should happen as soon as they get back in session in the Spring.
  • Since October I’ve been committing what time I can to Coursefork, a Raleigh-based startup co-founded by WebAssign co-founder Brian Marks. Trying to pitch in and help find product-market fit — very challenging!

I have a few thoughts on the demise of Funding Launchpad that I’ll try to share very soon. I’m proud of what we accomplished, even as I look back and realize how much we failed to achieve… I feel an ongoing debt to the investors who decided that we were an experiment worth funding. Hope to find a way to validate their faith in me someday.

In any case, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Any questions about the rise and fall of Funding Launchpad? Drop me a line!

Advice to “I don’t know you; want to invest in me?” Emailers

As I have an account on Angel List with a few investments listed, I get contacts about once a month from folks I don’t know wanting to pitch their company.

Usually the email comes through About.me since they can’t contact me through AngelList since they don’t know me. Angel List is designed that way on purpose. If you’re for real, you can figure out how to get someone to make an introduction.

Anyway. In my limited experience the chance of a cold email like this turning into an investment is literally zero. Not. Going. To. Happen. In fact, unless you are set up to do a 506(c) raise, reaching out like this is technically a violation of federal securities law.

Contacts like this just prove that you have no idea what you are doing, and worse — that you haven’t taken an hour to Google for “how to raise money for my startup”. There is some truly awesome material out there! Find it and immerse yourself in it for a weekend, so that you don’t look like a complete tool by reaching out to strangers.

Specifically, read what other experienced entrepreneurs and VCs have blogged on the subject. No need to read anything from companies that want to help you raise money.

I just had another of these emails come in today, and fired off the following response. It’s generic, but just maybe it’s helpful. First the inbound email:

I just saw your profile on the Angel List website where you are listed as an investor who invests in companies seeking to make a social impact. Due to that fact today I am asking you if you would have any interest in seeing more information on a Start-Up venture based in [City] which is seeking to raise $1,000,000.00 in equity capital at this time in order to develop a prototype of the product it believes will help solve our planets problems with hunger.

The one and only thing this person did right was note that I have an interest in impact companies. Everything else was a “fail”.

My response:

Thanks for the note, but despite my interest in social impact I’ll pass. I don’t consider investments that come in randomly like this; you’ll find that virtually no investor will. In fact *technically* unless you’re doing a 506(c) raise you just violated securities law by generally soliciting a private offering. But anyway.

You didn’t ask, but here’s my 2 cents:
* $1m is very high for a seed/prototype round. (of course I don’t know what your plan looks like)
* Consider raising some cash from friends and family to prove the viability of your idea and get some evidence that you can share with investors to show that you are a risk worth funding. Even $50k can get you some good stuff to show; but if possible aim a bit higher.
* Meet investors in your area, get their advice on your plans (don’t ask for money), and keep them informed as you make progress for the next few months.
* Next round after F&F is usually more like $300-500k. If you can’t do some amazing stuff with $400k there is little reason for investors to think you can do amazing stuff with $1m. Now that you’ve started to prove that you can make things happen, the investor relationships you developed during your F&F “proof phase” become your targets to start raising. Get them on board and get them making intros to others.
* It’s great that you’re on Angel List. Build your profile, connect with a few people, and get them to comment on what you’re doing. Update your AL profile with traction as you progress over the next few months. Get your seed round investors to comment on AL once you do that raise, and to socialize your deal with their AL contacts.
* After you have serious evidence of product-market fit, then go for a $1-3m round with investors you have developed rapport with (asking for advice, sharing your progress with, etc) during your Seed round phase.
Hope this helps in some small way. Didn’t intend it to sound cocky or anything.
—-
The guy emailed back a thanks, so hopefully it helped in some way. Sharing it here because it seems that there are many folks in that guy’s shoes…

North Carolina may get Investment Crowdfunding Soon

As a side-effect of working in a crowdfunding startup, I get to connect with cool folks doing cool stuff.

Right now we have a small team working to bring Investment Crowdfunding to North Carolina — well ahead of the JOBS Act (Title III) and to be frank, more effectively in several ways than the Federal JOBS Act.

The best part? You can make a difference. State legislation moves more quickly than Federal; we have approximately 30 days to rally support for this new mechanism for small business and startup funding… tell everyone you know about this, and let’s flood the legislature’s office with calls and emails of support.

We want Investment Crowdfunding here in North Carolina — and you can help make it so. Here’s a handy page to find your legislator’s email address.

More info at the JOBS-NC blog now and to come: jobsnc.blogspot.com

#jobsNC

Memo from my teammate Mark Easley below.


 

New North Carolina Crowdfunding Legislation

A bill has just been introduced into the North Carolina state house legislature which will enable a new way to finance small business using investment crowdfunding. Start-up companies and small businesses play a critical role in creating new jobs and growing the economy. Crowdfunding, or raising money through small contributions from a large number of investors, allows smaller enterprises in North Carolina to have access to the capital they need to initiate new business ventures as well as to expand operations and hire additional staff.

Details about the North Carolina Jump-Start Our Business Start-ups Act (JOBS Act) can be found on theNorth Carolina JOBS Act of 2013 Blog. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Tom Murry, Tim D. Moffit, Phil Shepard, and Kelley E. Hastings. We will be providing news and updates via the blog, so we encourage everyone who is interested to sign up for email updates there.

Our first expert review is in, and the North Carolina approach to investment crowdfunding has been called “Brilliant!” and “worthy of support” by prominent national crowdfunding and legal expert William Carleton. His post about the bill is called “5 Ways a North Carolina Bill puts the Crowd back in Crowdfunding

We would greatly appreciate your support for this bill. It would be very helpful if you could publish the link to the blog, send it out by email and tweets (#jobsnc), or create blog posts about it. We want to get the word out to the entire start-up and small business community in North Carolina as soon as possible as this legislation moves forward. Please send me any links to your posts about it.

If you have any questions or comments, you can email me at jobsnc@nc.rr.com , or contact Representative Murry’s office at murryla@ncleg.net. Thank you for your consideration and support.

Best regards,

Mark Easley Sr.
Morrisville NC

Boulder Trip #3

What a difference a week makes…On the bus right now riding to Denver airport after another exhausting and exhilarating Boulder trip.

I’m getting better at the travel itself — finding little tricks and habits to reduce stress and increase productivity on the road. I recently added tethering to my phone plan, so I be fully online anytime anyplace. It’s a beautiful thing when it works — but apparently this week AT&T’s data network crapped it’s shorts; I’ve basically been offline when outside of my little “offices”. Frustrating to have to lose productive time like that, especially when the whole purpose of these Boulder trips is to Get Shi% Done.

16 hour days every day this week — the team is getting it done! Had some great conversations with amazing investors and potential partners; putting the pieces into place to take our company to the next level. I love interacting with all these smart, experienced, and forward-thinking pros. They’re all building something, and going out of their way to help other entrepreneurs, the ecosystem, and Boulder/Colorado. Almost everyone I’m talking to thinks 5-10 years out and inspires me to try to do great things.

And things are definitely rolling along now with Funding Launchpad… first customer is live! More in the pipeline. Our 2012 strategy is working, our 2013-14 strategy is rock solid, and on the plane out here I came up with a great way to get tens of thousands more investors to engage with our platform. We’re also surrounding ourselves with a great network of vendor partners and potential Board members — already they’ve provided fantastic guidance on our strategies and tactics.

It’s been an uphill battle to get here… but I can’t imagine ever returning to cubicle life! The wife will want me to take the whole weekend off, of corse; how do I explain that relaxing doesn’t relax me? (At some point I’ll get the company to the stage where I’m not feeling constant existential dread, right?)

We helped put on a great crowdfunding conference in Boulder this week. I gave a 25 minute talk on platforms; was fairly well received even though I started working on it at 6am the day of the conference… never enough hours in the day. Was awesome to see my team kicking ass this week. Everyone is focused on driving forward every day, and there were several times where most would have said “eh, this can wait until tomorrow” but every time the team stepped up and said “let’s get this updated and sent out before we go” — only makes me more committed than ever to up my own game in some way every week.

I’ve gotten to enjoy doing talks and especially panels and Q&A sessions. Investor conversations too — now very comfortable, especially when I can turn it into a conversation instead of a “pitch”. Fundraising certainly is time consuming, though; will be a welcome day when I can put fundraising on hold and get back to growing the business.

On Wednesday night a reporter from Inc. magazine had dinner with me and two co-founders. He’s doing a deep dive into the whole CF industry; but it sounds likely that we’ll be mentioned extensively in a feature article in a few months. Oh, apparently I’m quoted in yesterday’s Denver Post too — Woo hoo!

Yesterday was demo day for TechStars Boulder; very bummed to have missed the event (conflicted with our CF conference) but at least I got to catch up with the two teams I know (MobiPlug and Ubooly) at the after party. Super stoked to see what they do next!

So: all I need to do is finish this fundraising round, assemble a board of directors, build out the team, establish dozens of deep partnerships including one fundamental tie-up, get 1,000,000 investors on the site, and establish Funding Launchpad as a reliable, robust, friendly, trustworthy, and effective platform for raising money and finding good investments.

All right — the first quarter break is over… Game on.

Free tickets: Simply Crowdfunding event in Boulder

Attention all fans of crowdfunding and last-minute making of plans…

 

This Wednesday and Thursday (yes, tomorrow; I need to up my blogging game!) in Boulder, Vim Events will be holding an exciting informational event on Crowdfunding.

Speakers include Sherwood Neiss who helped author the model crowdfunding exemption, Brian Meece the co-founder of RocketHub, and Richard Stewart the Executive VP of Grow America.

This is a paid event but I have some free tickets for friends and friends of friends… contact me if you’re interested in attending! Would love to see you there.

-steve

Funding Launchpad on the big stage at i4c

For all those that missed it, the i4c event in Denver last night was awesome.

The Ellie Caulkins Opera House was  packed with entrepreneurs and others in the startup community… lots of friends and folks I hope to become better friends with.

Very well-organized and dynamic event put on by Galvanize — and apparently they pulled the whole thing together in just 7 weeks. Wow.

Next time Galvanize puts on an event? Seriously, go.

Funding Launchpad was one of the 10 finalists (video), out of a field of 100 or 150… vying for a top prize of $50k, space in the Galvanize co-working incubator, and more.

Dave Milliken, co-founder of Funding Launchpad, took the stage before a thousand people or so and delivered a 5-minute TED-style presentation on what we’re building, and why it will make a difference…

Check out the view from stage — a bit intimidating, no?

And he crushed it. Serious A-level performance.

It’s awesome to work with people like this… building a company from nothing is a pain in the ass; but with the right team it is also a blast.

I feel like we have graduated to the next level recently.

We are going live with our first customers (as soon as they are ready) and are actively taking on more… We’ve built the platform, documentation, educational pieces for customers, presentations for the general public, and of course internal processes… Starting to get more press, both good and bad… and lots more of that to come over the next month as we start raising money for clients. (Wow it takes a lot to build a company from scratch.)

And now we’re one of 10 companies on stage in front of a thousand people — we’re here and we’re showing off our little company with the world. (I feel just like a proud parent — seriously.)

So what’s next? Just gotta keep the momentum up, and parlay our recent progress into a market-leading position.

Everything we’ve done so far, times 100.

We’re looking for the right partners (of all types) to be a part of this journey and help us take things to the next level.

Won’t you join us?

(By the way, if you haven’t done so yet — why not sign up for our beta to be notified when our first clients launch their campaigns!)

Time to Go Big

Aight… we have reached that point.

Lots of things are now in place. We have a kick-ass team, we have actual paying customers in the queue, our platform is nearly ready to launch (as a MVP), and we’re becoming recognized as experts in the space.

We’re also forging relationships with tons of key players in this emerging market. Some of these are competitors, some are potential partners, and some just may become our best friends as we head out to conquer the world. (More on that soon.)

Having reached the exciting but incredibly stressful period of “about-to-launch”, and with our 2012 strategy offering us the opportunity to get out ahead of most of the pack and grab a huge leadership position in this emerging multi-billion-dollar market, the time has come to shift gears.

Specifically it’s time to go from third gear to eleventeenth gear.

We’ve just kicked off a plan that, when completed, will allow us to take things several orders of magnitude faster. I’d be more specific, but that would constitute “general solicitation” so let’s quit while we’re ahead.

I am excited about what we’ve done so far, and unable to sleep (pros and cons) with excitement about where we’re going over the next couple of months.

I’ve had to learn to have entirely different kinds of conversations with people that I would not normally interact with; I’ve somehow become very comfortable putting myself out there and letting the universe bring the right people and opportunities to me.

Also… turns out that everything in life is sales, and when you truly believe in your product you can sell just about anything.

Hoo rah.

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