A Great Simian or just a Monkey

Startups

The Startup Struggle

I am currently reading Ben Horowitz book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. I have not come even half yet, but is sincere and it tells the truth about how it is to run a startup. So many books tend to give advice and tell you how you should or shouldn’t do. Ben only tell you how things are…and that is a very good thing. Like when he writes about The Struggle, I found it so good and true that I just had to republish it.

“Life is struggle.” – Karl Marx

The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.
The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right.
The Struggle is when food loses its taste.
The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company.
The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced.
The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you.
The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.
The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle.
The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop.
The Struggle is unhappiness.
The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.
The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone.
The Struggle has no mercy.
The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams.
The Struggle is a cold sweat.
The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.
The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak.

Most people are not strong enough. Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through the Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is the Struggle.

The Struggle is where greatness comes from.

FundedByMe raises round through equity-crowdfunding

FundedByMe is an equity-crowdfunding platform. To really show that the believe in changing the financial system they eat their own dogfood and just launched an equity-crowdfunding campaign on their own.

UPDATE 2 24/3: FundedByMe reached the stretched goal of 6MSEK and have now opened an oversubscrription list.
UPDATE 1 21/3: Now it is 4.5MSEK raised and a new stretch goal is set to 6MSEK!

3 233 420 SEK in 32h (USD 540 000)

…and 6 000 000 in just 6 days.

The goal was a round of 3.000.000 SEK (app US$500000) and in 32h from launch they raised 100%. That is impressive

Invest in FundedByMe you too! I did!

The capmaign: FundedByMe equity-crowdfunding campaign
e27: Shares of equity crowdfunding platform FundedByMe up for grabs!
Techcrunch: Equity Crowdfunding Platform FundedByMe To Raise ~€315K, Adds Crowd-Lending Option

Fun Fact: The person on the startscreen of the video (the last few seconds of the actual video) is a Singaporean intern at the FundedByMe office in Stockholm. KTH and NUS (National University of Singapore) has a great exchange program.

Personally I have both invested as an angel previously, but have also reserved shares in this round. I am a strong believer in this kind of financial eco-system that changes the rules and make them more entrepreneur-friendly. It also makes the money go back into the hands of the crowd and not to disapear in the financial cloud.

Lessons from angel investment

Do a due diligence on the CEO and also do not invest in companies were decisions are made at the Sunday dinner table.

I have just come out of my very first investment as a business angel. It was by no mean a great exit. I have learned a lot and got a few key-learnings, that I will bring with me forever.

Background

I love to see ideas become reality, I love to see things grow and mature. When I realized I didn’t actually do that much about it except running my own businesses I decided to do some angel investments. I have not done many, but a handful.
From today I am no longer involved in the first investment I made as an business angel, and here are my experiences and learnings.

Gut feeling

I usually go on my gut feeling when it comes to business. I usually have a strong sense if a business arrangement is good or bad. With this company I had a really good feeling about the business. It was pure innovation, by an experienced team and on top of that doing good things for the world and the environment. What could go wrong?

Is the CEO really a good CEO?

As this was my first investment I relied completely on my gut-feeling about the product. What I completely missed was to take the pulse on the CEO and majority share-holder. Was he a good leader, did he communicate, did he have a sense for business, did he know how to raise money (the right money) etc etc.

I didn’t do this. Naturally not many CEOs are perfect, but as the journey started I realized that almost none of the usual pre-requisites was in order. Great visionary CEO with huge product knowledge, confirmed, but what about all the other skills? This was the perfect case when I would really would have loved to see the mail with the subject:

Looking for a new CEO to successful and innovative startup

…with content that elaborates and describes that ‘as the founder and current CEO I know my strengths and weaknesses and at the stage the company is in, we need a new kind of leadership as I love to work with the product and I will continue to lead product instead, so therefore I am now looking for my replacement as the CEO’

During the time of my participation in this startup I have actually got several of those e-mails and above is actually copied from one of them. This CEO is a fantastic product guy and visionary thinker in the space of the company, but he is not a leader nor a businessman….and maybe most important, he does not take advise or listen to those who have been around the block a couple of times when it comes to these topics. He is the typical ‘I am an engineer and I know everything’.
I completely missed this when I invested. That is a real key learning for me.

Family companies

Do not invest in companies where decisions are made around the Sunday dinner-table.
The second thing I completely missed was that approximately 80% of the company is controlled by father and son. I did not miss the fact naturally, but I missed the implications it had.
I would not advice anyone to invest in a company with that structure in a family and friends / seed level.

In this case it is not that much the individuals, but the fact that it is father and son who controls the company. It is just not an entirely good thing for an external investor.
At a later stage I imagine that this problem might be of less impact, but in the early stages it is definitely not ideal in any way.

To be very clear. This section is not in anyway personal related to this company, but solely a conclusion. It is only a result of the situation, no matter which family it would have been. All involved here did the best they could about this situation, but with 80% of the company gathered at the Sunday dinner table, well it becomes quite natural.

Conclusion

I am both happy and saddened about this investment. I am happy to have learned so much from this. Things I will take with me forever. My due diligence in all my future investment will be much more thorough when it comes to the people involved. Everyone have said it, but I ignored, now I learnt this the hard way.

In the terms of the company I reference to I hope they will make it, it is still a great product and their vision is fantastic. It could still be a great journey, but a new CEO could help accelerate that journey.

I am sincerely humble when it comes to my own wrong doings so this post is mainly to highlight what I did wrong, not how others behaved. These are my key learnings from my very first angel investment. I will bring this with me forever, in some ways a thank you might even be in place.

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