How Active Are Angel Investors Outside of Silicon Valley?

It all started last July. We decided we were going to raise a round of financing for our startup, TapHunter (rebranding to Bevato). We kept driving our key metrics (revenue) and in October I hit the road. I want to share a few insights I learned along the way. This post is for all of the founders and entrepreneurs who have thought or said things like:

  • There’s no money or investors in our city
  • We didn’t get accepted to TechStars, so we’ll never raise money
  • We don’t know any rich business people
  • Now’s not a good time of year
  • We’re not 2 hackers from Stanford, nobody will ever fund us
  • Nobody invests in female founders
  • And my all time favorite, people don’t like to fund married founders

There is NO easy path to raising money for your company. It’s hard work and as the CEO you better know your market size, LTV, CAC, growth, burn, how long the money will last, have a proven operating plan and be prepared to show it all. If you don’t know the answers it’s your job to find the answers, raise your hand and ask for help. It’s YOUR job and nobody else’s.

Once you’ve prepared your financials and spent countless hours on making 50 different versions of your investor deck it’s time to build your investor list. There are investors in your city and don’t let anyone tell you differently. There might not be 10+ VC firms chasing your company down with millions, but there’s money in your city and it’s your job to go find it.  It’s time to pound the pavement.

Tip 1: Be prepared for rejection. Keep track of the no’s. Don’t stop until you get 50 no’s. Learn to identify actionable changes within the No’s.

Tip 2: Hope like hell you actually have traction or product market fit. It’s pretty hard to fake it.  What amount of traction is sufficient? Month over month revenue growth is one great sign!

Tip 3: Network like your life depends on it. Here’s a breakdown of how we got connected to some of our investors.

Investor #1 – is a seed stage firm in SF and I got an intro from a trusted portfolio company. We got a yes in 7 days and this helped set the momentum in our hometown, San Diego.

Investor #2 – met him for the first time at an Xconomy event in September 2013. I gave him a 3 minute pitch and we met 3 weeks later for lunch.

Investor #3 – met him because of my participation in Startup SD mentor hours. Investor #2 does deals with investor #3 and that helped solidify confidence.

Investor #4 – he’s the CTO of a local company and I met him a year and a half ago. We kept one another updated on our companies and when it came time I pitched him.

Investor #5 – the president of investor #4′s company. Investor #4 passed him the deal. I had no idea he was making investments.

Investor #6 – met him at Poker 2.0. I checked his Linkedin and saw he was an angel investor and we met for lunch the next week.

Investor #7 – is the CEO of a local company and I met him 4 years ago. This is a personal relationship I’ve groomed over that time. Not only did he invest, but he also introduced me to one of his investors.

I could go on, but the point is these relationships ranged anywhere from a couple of weeks to 4 years. Can you see the themes here? The best way to get a meeting with an investor is to get an introduction from an entrepreneur they trust. I can’t stress this enough. If you’re in a budding startup city where VC’s aren’t standing in line at Starbucks, ask yourself what you can do to bring them to you. I helped organize Startup Mentor hours and share office space with the team who hosts Poker 2.0. I’ll be posting more about other insights I learned along the way. Now get out there and hustle.

5 Christmases

On our 9-hour drive home from Sparks, Nevada we counted up all of the people and cities we saw over the last 10 days. We are so lucky that each of our parents and hometowns are just 4 hours apart. Or are we? Just kidding moms. Don’t worry; we’ll be home again next year to do it all over again. We just request that you nobody asks Mel to make Forgotten Cookies!

The families have grown and will continue to. Some homes are starting to reach capacity and it’s so fun to see how the hosts get creative in packing all of their wonderful family and friends into their homes each year. For example, Papa Smith’s home rose 12 degrees as each little new face ran through the front door on Christmas Eve.

So without further ado, here’s a recap of what our Christmas looks like and has for the past 8 years.

5 Cities

  1. Walnut Creek
  2. San Jose
  3. Redwood City
  4. Santa Clara
  5. Sparks

5 Christmases

  1. Gordon Christmas – 17 adults, 1 toddler, 1 bun in the oven
  2. Progressive – 18 adults 3 kids, 1 bun in the oven, 3 dogs, 1 cat
  3. Christmas Eve -  24 adults, 7 kids, 1 bun in the oven
  4. Christmas Day – 9 adults, 3 dogs
  5. Broman Christmas – 12 adults, 1 toddler, 1 dog, 1 cat

So as you can see we are very blessed to be surrounded by many loved ones. This time of year is difficult for a lot of people, regardless if they’re surrounded by a lot of loved ones or not. Reach out to someone in your family or a long lost friend. Give them a call the ol’ fashion way and wish them a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

The Long Way Home

Very big day. Payroll is ran every other week for our growing team. Early on this was the day I learned to dread. The actual morning when I emailed our paycheck details into our payroll company. It’s exciting that we even have a payroll company, but shitty because month after month I didn’t get to run payroll for myself. Some months I did, but it was so low that it was embarassing to talk about with other business friends and something you’d never want to post on Facebook. You know, the shit startup founders never talk about. The shit that if you told your friends, they’d look you straight in the eyes and ask, “so how in the hell have you been living these past few months.” Months, I thought to myself, try years. That’s for a different story.

My co-founder reminded me that I was also included in last weeks payroll. I shrugged my shoulders. He reminded me that the company had paid me the last 3 continuous payroll cycles. I paused, blank stare, and thought to myself, really? I thought back over the last 6 weeks and he was right. I just paid myself the most I’d seen in 2 years. FUCK, break out the champagne. Wait, why was nobody spraying champagne all over like they do MLB locker room style? I continued my work day as usual, hustling and moving the needle.

Later that day we needed dinner and I voted for Neighborhood Bar, my favorite place. The place that in a previous life I visited 2-3 times per week, the place I met friends, the place I celebrated life. The place I didn’t visit for 9 months because dammit, I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to buy a beer. As I walked down G Street tonight, getting closer and closer to my favorite watering hole, a tear squeaked out, and then another tear rolled down my cheek. This is the place that is located between my office and home, the place I purposefully didn’t walk by for weeks and months. Why? Because I’d be tempted to walk in and buy a beer I didn’t have money for or run into someone I knew and feel obligated to spend money I didn’t have.

Tonight I bought my favorite $8 goblet of beer. I bought my favorite $10 burger.

Building a business is rough and next month I might have to walk around my favorite bar, but tonight I didn’t.

 

His Wardrobe Is Better Than Mine

I am fed up. I have had just about enough. Every morning I reach into my closet and utter the words that most girls do every morning, “I have nothing to wear.” But what most of us don’t say to ourselves, or in my case out loud to my husband, “you have a better wardrobe than me.” So I set out on a mission to fix this. And did I mention, I hate shopping.

First we answer the question of how he got a better wardrobe than me. Last summer my husband found a service called Bombfell, a man’s personal stylist clothing subscription. Yes, a complete genius entrepreneur thought up this concept. Now months later I can’t tell who’s more excited about the amazing new articles of clothing that show up. They appear in an adorable package, a modern day cracker jack toy and a stunning, fitted, designer shirt or pants. My husband looks hot 99% of the time, 7 days a week. His clothes fit, he wears them proud, and did I say he looks hot.

One late night I Googled “bombfell for girls” and found this article on Brit+Co.  I read on in disbelief, there were 2 women’s personal stylist clothing subscription services. I clicked around like a mad women and chose Tog+Porter mainly due in part to being able to schedule a personal 1-to-1 Skype with a professional fashion stylist. At this point, I was thinking it was too good to be true. So you’re telling me I get to talk to a live person, explain my lifestyle to her, tell her what I like and don’t like and a few weeks later a box will show up on my door step with a cute outfit inside. Right, there’s no way. I HATE SHOPPING.

So it went like this:

  • Feb 28th Skype fashion consult with Emily, at which point she communicated what happens next and how long it would take.
  • By this point I was so excited, and this type A personality wants everything now, so I emailed Emily asking for an update a week later. She quickly responded, “your box is being put together now and will ship soon! :)
  • My impatiences grew (sorry Emily), then I started doubting that I’d actually like anything in the box, that it would be a miracle if any pants that were sent would be long enough, would it get here in time for my DC trip etc…..
  • 2 days ago I received an email from Ashley the founder of Tog+Porter. Ah, the power of listening to your customers and taking action. The email went something like this, “……Emily then mentioned your company and I put two and two together. Anyway, from one entrepreneur to another, congratulations on what I hope has been a wildly successful venture!” We geeked out a bit further. More on that later
  • Ta-da – 15 business days later the box arrived.

I couldn’t get the box open quick enough. I realize the cute blazer has an elbow patch. Wait, I just pinned something like that days again. Coincidence, I think not.

A lovely silk blouse w/ adorable sleeve buttons, a shimmery tan cotton blazer w/ elbow patches and jeans that were made for me.

Ten minutes later I hopped on Skype with Emily in complete disbelief. Everything fits, it’s an entire outfit I would have never picked out in a million years, and best of all I LOVE THE ENTIRE OUTFIT. I’m sure that doesn’t happen every time, but come on… you do nothing, the box shows up, you keep what you like and send the rest back.

Do it ladies, I give you permission, you deserve a cute new spring outfit. Sign up and use promo code MGORDON13 for a $25 credit for both of us!!

Does He Have Your Back? You Better Find Out Quick.

What I feel like saying right now is I that must be a crazy person for booking a trip to Boston in January to then experience the windy and chilling 10 degrees weather for 5 days and nights. Crazy town. As I sit here on the last day of my trip sitting on my bed in a 100 year old carriage house in Cambridge (yay for airBnB $85/nt) I feel a since of calm.

It’s been a great 5 business days in Boston. Yes, that’s why I came out here, not for a vacation silly. In fact, it has exceeded expectations.

I was a bit intimidated by going solo, especially when it comes to navigating a big city or a subway system. Uber taxi (download the app, you won’t be sorry) to the rescue and thank goodness for Google Maps. One night I ended up in a taxi that took no credit card, had no GPS and I ended up lost in East Boston. Thank goodness I had a friend to call and pick me up from that shady and dark street corner. Note to self, don’t have friends in a new city, make some before you leave. Thanks Rich and Tim I owe you.

Sunday and Monday I was in conference all day.  Monday I spoke to 50 small business owners, by far one of my favorite things to do. But then life started to happen. My inbox started to fill with customer service requests, no biggie that’s normal. New customers wanting to sign up, even better. My business partner to the rescue, fielding emails and phone requests so that I can stay focused on my trip. Do you have a business partner who can cover your ass when you’re out for a few days? I sure hope so.

Then came a bigger test. A shitty email came in. How shitty you ask? On a scale from 1-10. A 10, ok a 3, but still my business partner knew me enough to know that this email had the potential to affect me. I’m 3 hours ahead and was sleeping by the time it hit my world, but my business partner intercepted it before I could. When I woke up at 5am, 8am his time, I had an email in my in box that said, “don’t bother looking at it. You go have an amazing day and go kill it for our company.”

Does your business partner have your back? You better find out quick. Not sure how. Take a business trip. One day or seven days, 30 miles away or 500 miles away, it doesn’t matter. You will find out quicker than you think if you’re working with and partnered with the right person. If you answer yes to, “when I’m standing out in the freezing ass cold, does my business partner have my back?” then high five to you. If not, head for the hills because it’s going to be a long painful journey.

 

 

2012 Highlights

Belgium trip – 10+ breweries, 2 castles, 2 beer festivals, chocolate galore and too many bars to count.

Jan – Made San Diego Magazines 50 People to Watch in 2012, they also threw a great party!

Feb – Move into EvoNexus incubator and go for the ride of our lives and meet the coolest entrepreneurs to walk the planet.

March – Complete Improv level 3 and perform in a show.

April – Baby Mila Broman is born, first niece and baby on our side of the family. Sweet little angel. Take part in the Great Belgium Beer Tour with 17 others.

May – Meet Baby Mila for the first time, celebrate our 6 year anniversary.

June – Continue Breaking Bad marathons. Best TV series ever.

July – Summer Olympics, glued to iPad for online viewing. Hosted Beer Olympics party.

August – Head to Tahoe for my brothers Wedding.

Sept – Family member gifted us a travel trailer. WHAT? We still can’t believe it.

Oct – RIP Uncle Larry Broman. You’ll always be in our hearts.

Nov – Celebrate key milestone in company history.

Dec – Buy our first “real” Christmas tree in 7 years.

You Get One Shot. Make It Count.

Playing a game of foursquare in our office with my dad, mom and brother.

It’s been one year. It’s been one year since Flash left his high paying corporate job with killer benefits. And the best part is we’re still here. I can still remember the few agonizing months (thanks to Ali and Mindy who answered my texts and met me for tea) leading up to November 1, 2011. That was officially his last day. I got cold fee, I think he must have too, I’d wake up in a panic thinking “what if” this and “what if that.” It had to stop. What kind of way is that to live. I remember back when the real estate market took a dump and a mortgage friend said to us, “what’s the worst that could happen”, about a property we owned. The worst thing we all decided on the phone was foreclosure. Yeah that would suck, but we’d still be here, we’d have each other and we’d eventually bounce back. We never did foreclose, but those words stuck with me forever. WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN.

So when the cold feet days came around, I’d think to myself, what’s the worst that could happen. I’d talk through that exact point with a few close friends and family. We had a plan b and it made all of the difference in the world. Day two came and went, week two came and went, month 2 came and went – we were making it work. We still haven’t had to pull the cord on plan b. This last year may not have been the most comfortable financially or for our marriage, but you only get one shot in this lifetime. And you better believe the crazy type a personality (that’s me) planned like crazy financially to make this happen. It took years of saving and getting comfortable with this decision.

To round out the year we were both reminded on how precious life is. We lost a loved one a few weeks ago that shook the entire family. Every morning for the last 2 weeks I’ve woken up thinking about it and the amazing legacy and family he left behind. But then my two feet touch the ground, my pug follows me to the bathroom, I take a shower, I walk out my front door and I walk hand in hand to my office with my best friend and business partner and I think to myself, how many people get to say that.

You get one shot. Make it count. Do something today that others won’t, I promise it will change your life. Share that first step you’ve taken.

 

Who has the best sister-in-law? I do.

 

I love you Julie Gordon. The first postcard said, “Turning older doesn’t have to be stressful. Over the next couple of weeks, expect some “words of wisdom” from people that love you and want to help you celebrate getting another year wiser!”

The first postcard came one week ago. There have been 6 since then, one postcard everyday. Yes, you guessed it, I have a birthday coming up. I’m an over achiever who’s always judging herself and age is one of those data points. Oh geez, I’m turning X and I’ve only accomplished X. Sound familiar?

But the words of humor and wisdom kept showing up in the form of an adorable post card. It’s really stopped me in my tracks and helped me to appreciate the things I love most in life. Family, friends and humor.  I’d love to share this heart felt series with you while simultaneously giving a huge high five to my amazing sister-in-law who is actually collecting these quotes from people, printing and mailing each individual post card by hand (mmmm, new business idea).

With love on your birthday – Amy (my cousin)

 

With love on your birthday – Cathy Gordon (mother-in-law and funniest inside joke)

 

With love on your birthday – Uncle Larry H.

 

With love on your birthday – Your brother (and a top fave as this was my dad’s quote to us as kids)

With love on your birthday – Heather (cousin)

Oh wait, it just found two more. I’ll post this later with the rest from this week.

It’s your soul speaking and she says, Get UP! I need you.

Last Friday morning I laid awake in bed for 2 hours. It was still dark out, so I think it must have been 4:30 or 5am. Half of the time I just laid there cuddling my pug. And then, I actually considered calling in sick to work. What the “F”? What’s even funnier, I’m the boss.

I managed to walk my pathetic self to the kitchen and make an espresso and then sat on the couch with my iPad. A few clicks later I found myself reading this post - the grand pep talk: decide to rise (refer to this when in doubt, or sick & tired.)

What was my deal? The day before someone looked me in the eyes and said, “take a break, start a different business, maybe this isn’t the one, leave it behind.” Me, blank stare and silence.

Looking back it’s always easier to think of what I would have liked to say. Next time, “well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not giving up.” Thanks mom, you taught me that simple one liner and I swear I’m gonna use it.

 

 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me

That’s me on the right. High school best friend on the left.

Most people know me as the fun loving entrepreneur who loves craft beer and the out doors. Here’s a list that I plan to continuously add to, but hopefully you learn something new about me.
  1. I really enjoy dancing my ass off to hard core dance and techno music.
  2. I worked at UPS loading semi trucks. Great pay and lost a ton of weight.
  3. I’ve lived in Sparks, Reno, South Lake Tahoe, Tempe, San Diego.
  4. I’m known amongst close friends as having the best Axel Rose impersonation. It worked better when I had long hair.
  5. When I was 5 years old I fell off my banana seat bike riding with no hands. I caved my face in and had reconstructive surgery on my nose. I broke my nose 3 more times after that.
  6. I took improv classes and loved it. I secretly wish I were a pro improv person.
  7. I never read fiction. I dislike Harry Potter and similar books.
  8. I don’t follow politics. I do know who the current president is.
  9. I think my husband is a genius. So do others.
  10. My husband and I met when he was 20 and I was 22. I bought him booze!