Let’s start with a question. Is raising money always necessary? I appreciate that money can allow a startup to achieve a lot of things though when you venture down this path at what cost does it come? For those teams who do raise, I’ve no doubt it comes with an element of validation, anticipation and excitement around the possibilities. But, conversely what extra pressure does that team now face and what long term impacts are encumbered upon the team?
As a pre-release product, it goes without saying we’ve got a mountain of work ahead of us, though as a team we wanted to clear the air and consider a few of the what-ifs so we can start to prepare for future decisions. Especially when it came to when and even if we should attempt to raise money.
After nearly a decade of running a marketing agency, we’ve experienced our share of ups, downs and everything in between. We’ve had a few wins and an extremely long list of learnings in that time. These very learnings have provided our team with a huge amount of domain experience though we’ve never had to raise money. During this time we’ve also got a good look at the kitchen of many a business (blush). We’ve gone on a growth journey with a number of teams and in doing so witnessed the good, bad and ugly of funding. We’ve heard the frustrations with funding options and the time-consuming process involved with raising money.
In an effort to stay aware and informed, I am very grateful to have some amazing people to call on and have their ear when required. Over the last 12 months, I’ve been taking the chance to learn from these very generous, very experienced folk who speak from direct experience when it comes to raising money. This insight has been hugely helpful to help our team to form a clear picture of how we could best approach the question of raising money or not. All said and done, we feel we’ve prepared ourselves for these milestones as they approach and pass us in years to come.
For now, when thinking about raising capital we naturally looked at our forecasted commercials, our current focus (income streams) and listened to the advice from those above mentioned trusted peers. After a few conversations, the revelation or key takeout was that we wanted to try and go for as long as we could using our own capital and only consider outside money if it felt right. Not because we were desperate, stressed or at-need though because it felt like a good deal for our team. To arrive here though we started with simply agreeing on what was important to our team.
This sounded like… 👥
We’re excited to build a smart product, create great content, foster an epic community and support our customers through both hard and positive times.
7 outcomes we want to stay true to 💪🏻
- We want to build a product our customers love
- In doing so, build a product that also sells itself
- Be resourceful (less is more)
- Remain rooted in research
- Stay agile or small in headcount
- Keep our prices affordable
- Maintain speed though be considered
All boiled down, our small team is excited to simply make habit of our seven outcomes over a sustained period of time. In doing so, continue to deliver genuine value to our customers and along with it, growth for Focus and the individuals involved.
We also discussed where we saw the business in 1, 5 & 10yrs and interestingly… we were all really happy with creating a small-medium sized business. In fact, no one spoke of a fancy office, junkets or anything materialistic. Everyone wanted to simply solve a meaningful problem and do great work. As a result, we plan to remain 100% remote for now and the foreseeable future, by proxy, keep overheads low and treat ourselves in other ways, like striking a healthier work/life balance or taking epic annual retreats together. As a startup, we’ll obviously need to use money in a resourceful and meaningful way but we’ll be able to keep our own agenda and avoid any unnecessary noise. We’ll focus investment tightly on improving the core value before adding any new features. We’ll build for end-users and circle back on the big end of town once we’ve genuinely impressed a bunch of users. We’re all excited about sustainability too so where possible be considerate of our footprint. These rituals and beliefs will also inform our approach to new teammates.
No doubt we’d love to hit a homerun and scale-up at some stage. Right now though there’s also something oddly calming about first focusing on building a profitable business and worrying about the big numbers later. In doing so, adding pressure in the right ways, staying present in conversations, maintaining an effective amount of work and living lives that are balanced and productive sans insane amounts of stress.
Without contradicting myself, we still respect teams who raise big money and we’ll no doubt compete against them. Please don’t take offence and target us.. 😌 There’s also no denying that money can make things happen. In our eyes, it’s more important that our team can remain true to our vision, cause and beliefs at Focus. Enjoy the journey and the time it takes to build a remarkable product and hopefully avoid the growth at all cost syndrome or mental distortion often induced by raising money. In doing so, hopefully affording us the ability to remain complete champions to our customer and more broadly the world we share together.
As a result, we’ve decided to not pursue any investment at this point in time. If you have some spare cash send it to these guys – we do!
See you soon and in 10 years.