Let’s be clear, my co-founder and me are super ambitious, we left everything and are hundred percent sure we’re onto something huger than huge. But, sometimes, things can go wild. This is our last 6 months — and how we end-up raising money from world-class investors.
I love this. I’m selling that. I’m looking for this. I need you advice on that. This is exactly how people use checkthis, and after seeing every one of the 36,321 pages you’ve created, one thing is very clear, you have turned a toy into something cool, a product that’s filling the gap between the quickness of a status update, and the commitment of a blog.
(We’re in January and this is where I should thanks friends, families, Robin Wauters, François de Halleux and Tim Van Damme for advising us on how to build a product that people could like.)
Building a product is ambitious in term of design, money and marketing, and that’s exactly why we applied to Seedcamp. We wanted to see what this London based early stage mentoring and investment program thought about what we’ve build so far. Here is how it works: You apply. You’re selected. You pitch. You’re finalist. You pitch again and, sometimes, you win. Guess what? We won.
At first it was a surprise, but we quickly understood the big validation. Look, Seedcamp receive hundreds of applications, select 20, and invest in a couple, sometimes none. Checkthis was one of these and, cherry on the cake, they were the first non-friends to put money on the table — not a lot, but we honestly didn’t care. We got an idea. We built a product. We attracted users. And now got access to a network of entrepreneurs and investors who “did it”.
(We’re in February and this is where I should thanks Philipp Moehring, Reshma, Carlos and Kirsten from Seedcamp, you probably didn’t get the whole vision hidden somewhere behind our crappy slides, but you were sure we were crazy enough to be part of your family. Thank you.)
Seedcamp companies not only join a one year-long program focusing on company’s development (which we’ll have to skip, read further), these companies are also invited to join a one month trip to the US where they visit and pitch tons of companies like Twitter, Facebook, USV and Andressen Horowitz. We had two weeks to sign the termsheets, pack our bags, book our flights and enjoy the journey with around 20 founders across 8 cities.
Amazing time. It’s impossible to summarize the human experience so let’s focus on the purpose of this post. We got interests for 32 investors thanks to our growing network and Seedcamp friends that I had to delay 3 times my flight-back. This cute little one month ended-up as a two months marathon full of face-to-face meetings with world-class investors, including VCs who took a private jet for a dinner — while iterating my pitch and the product thanks to Melvyn Hills, my üher talented co-founder who had to stay in Europe. Sleeping was already so February 2012.
Now that I was playing the game of raise money — at then end its the purpose of Seedcamp, I wanted to get back to Belgium not only with termsheets but with a deal done. Watch out! No rush, my advisors constantly advised me to take the money of people I really like. This could be another post but, to make it short, your lead investor is your new girlfriend, no quick fuck. More meetings. More product sessions. More lunchs. March 28th: termsheets! Unfortunately, for non-disclosable reasons, I wasn’t allowed to sign them straight away. Back in Belgium.
(We’re in April and this is where I should thanks Elise, my lovely girlfriend who understood how important it was to stay in the US and spend time with these people. Thanks also to Sal Matteis and Pierre de Schaetzen for your feedback on my pitches and how to handle the whole fund-raising process, at that point I still didn’t knew what equities means. Thanks a million to Jeremy Le Van, Pierre Valade and Ben Broca for your time while in New York, you and your sofas rock!)
The following process is captivating. Now that I had signed the termsheets and investment commitment for a part of what we were raising, together with my lead investor we worked on who else fits our vision and could help where we’ll need help, money is important but experience is critical. It could be Angels who have experience to ship to millions, or VCs with portfolio companies facing similar challenges — Twitter, Bitly or GroupMe to name a few.
First step was to go through the list of people I was talking with, and then to follow up introductions to people my lead investor likes — once you get termsheets from someone super respected, things are much more easier. After thousand of emails and Skypes, back to New York to meet these new friends interested by joining our round. I’m not talking about bankers, all these people love to build products and wanted to talk about these little details of our product. Remove this step. Try this button. Engage with this community.
What a fantastic experience, exactly the opposite of the meetings I had with investors one year ago while pitching checkthis to belgian investors. What’s your business model is probably the worst question an investor can ask to an entrepreneur building a consumer web product, sure we will make money, but I’m confident enough to believe that money follows passion.
(We’re in May and this is where I should thanks Jordan Cooper, Steve Schlafman, Xavier Damman, Antoine Perdaens, Alex Rainert, Saul Klein, Antonia Abraham, Reshma Sohoni and a couple of others for opening me your impressive network of VCs and Angels. Thanks to you, we were quickly oversubscribed and had that luxury problem of choosing our syndicates. Thanks also a million to my good friends Renaud Deru and Caroline Dufrane for your time, your food and your sofa, thanks to you I was hundred percent focused on closing my round. Love you!)
It probably means nothing for you, but it’s was a crazy journey, probably the most exhausting and surely the most exciting thing I ever did in my life. I’m another man, I’m a better entrepreneur, I’m a super happy founder who can now focus all his time building a product that people love, hiring the best talents, and hopefully soon moving to the most inspiring city in the World.