Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Silence before dawn

It is 5am. I am sitting in the kitchen in that calm silence before dawn. Birds still deep in slumber. Roads outside are quiet. No planes overhead descending on the flightpath to Heathrow. The house is silent. No-one's up except me. The silence before dawn. It's a quiet, restful time. The chance to prepare for a big day ahead.

I got up because I woke at about 3am and couldn't get back to sleep. I am alert, awake and very, very focused. Today I go into a series of meetings to sort out the next round of venture funding for Garlik and by the end of the day I will know what the future holds.

Being an early stage entrepreneur means that you are constantly raising money. Find some "seed" capital to get started (a few tens of thousands typically). Raise a "Series A" round from your first set of VCs (half a £million, a million perhaps?). When you've got momentum, pull in the "Series B" money (now you're in to the £millions). Then on to Series C.

Each time you go through the same lengthy process, uncertain what the result is going to be. There are so many variables. How is the business doing? Has it got "traction" (the dreaded T word) ? Did it meet its last milestones? Have the VCs actually got any money to invest? What's the overall market doing? What's the right company valuation?

A lot of entrepreneurial effort goes in to this continuous cycle of fund raising for your early stage company. For example, over the past nine months this effort has dominated my mind and focus. I have probably spoken to about 30 investors across three continents, had well over a hundred meetings and calls, been close to a deal several times, seen it vanish, then reappear and now it all comes down to a couple of hours of meetings today that will decide it.

I was sitting next to a high profile start up guy at a dinner last week in London. Very nice networking dinner at a private house for about 14 entrepreneurs and investors, a range of fine wines, none less than £100 a bottle and beautiful food. Wasted on me of course (I took the precaution of consuming a McD fillet o' fish with large fries beforehand just in case the food was too posh). When I arrived a chap in a suit opened the door. I beamed and shook his hand warmly. He looked a bit embarrased "Errr, I'm the house Butler, Sir, may I take your coat". Whoops! Anyway I was sitting next to this high profile start up guy and we were swapping stories on the sheer effort that goes into fund raising and the games people play, at crucial times for your company. Imagine if I had had 100 meetings and conversations with partners and customers over the past few months! Somethings not quite right in the current venture model, if you look at it from the entrepreneurs perspective.

So, today, we sit down, negotiate and get to where we get to. Check back here and I'll tell you how it went.

The silence before dawn. It's a quiet, restful time. The chance to prepare for a big day ahead.


Paul Miller said...

Good luck today, Tom.

Pat Phelan said...

Great post Tom
long time lurker here
felt I had to comment, best of luck today.