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.

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!!

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.

 

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!

 

One Foot In Front of the Other

MIND: Most days as an entrepreneur are exhilarating and exciting. Sometimes I catch myself grinning and get a feeling of being overjoyed. By what? The fact that I chose this path and that I am truly in control of my own destiny. However a few weeks back (I had to go back to Facebook to remember) the last week of June to be exact, I let the pains of entrepreneurship get the best of me. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to blog or at least keep it updated. I want and need to journal through these moments, learn from them and become stronger rather than just forgetting what happened or ignoring the pain. I finally remembered what threw me of course that week. I was down on myself for not hitting sales numbers and what started in a calm conversation with my business partner ended in a stream of tears. Feeling sorry for myself, maybe? But there’s just not time for that. Yes, we all need to give ourselves those days, but I need to be able to bounce back from adversity – quicker. I told myself that I would figure out ways to endure the crazy days better, and that’s exactly what I sought out to do.

BODY: July 13th marked a big day. I began crossfit training. I downloaded the Nike training app and soon became addicted. Why? Because I’m competitive and the app allows me to earn badges and unlock bonus workouts. The best part was showing my husband the bonus Hope Solo workout I unlocked. Double bonus. I know that I’m a person who needs fitness or sports in their life. Nearly 2 months later I’ve lost 10 pounds. I feel great and am on my way to feeling amazing. I’ve been running. Oh wait, let me back up. My husband has been training me to run. I hated running, I never ran in high school and couldn’t even fathom finishing a 1 mile run without stopping. But I love sports and working out, so I knew that I just needed to give it a try. Now I can run a 10 min mile and run 3 miles in a row without stopping. I think the all consuming 2012 Summer Olympics viewing obsession helped kicked me into gear. Thanks Hope Solo. I think I need to reward myself so when I’ve been on this fitness path for 4-6 straight months I can really celebrate.

SOUL: We always kid and joke about playing hooky during a work week. I always say to my husband, “let’s wake up tomorrow and spontaneously decide we’re going to the beach all day.” Well, we’re going to Disneyland. I can’t remember a time we played hooky mid week and I’m just so damn excited.