Monday, March 24, 2008

Leaving FundingUniverse

Today is my last day at FundingUniverse.

It makes me think of my first day at FundingUniverse -- in my bedroom office talking on the phone with some character named Trent Miskin, trying to figure out how in the world we were going to make money off a website with 30,000 pageviews/month and a not-so-well-thought-out "We'll just sell ads off of the hordes of traffic we'll get!" business model.

I loved those times. Anna and I were living in a home with a disabled man whose parents paid us to care for him. It was the ideal setup for an entrepreneur who wasn't going to get paid for the next six months.

Two years and as many business models later, FundingUniverse is much more than the naive dreams of a few rookie entrepreneurs. While we still have a lot to learn, Brock, Trent and I have watched a great team build our company into a growing, viable business that is providing real value to the world.

The future at FundingUniverse is bright. We just tripled our sales force and our subscription is converting at an average of about 3.5% with an average purchase price of about $200. The foundation for a great future has been laid.

I'm sure you're wondering why I am leaving if everything is going so well.

First, I'll say that it has nothing to do with the people I work with, or the strategic direction of the company. Brock, Trent, Josh, Michael, Matt, Lindsey and the rest of the crew are like family to me. They're smart, fun and the right people to take the company to the next level. There hasn't been a "falling out" a "philosophical difference" or any of those ridiculous phrases that mean, "We hate each other's guts."

My reasons for leaving have more to do with my desire, and doing what I love most.

After serving in many roles at FundingUniverse, I now spend most of my time managing the consulting arm of the company. The good news is that this part of our business is our biggest revenue generator right now, and it's growing every month. The bad news (for me, at least) is that consulting isn't very fun for me.

I've hired a few people who love consulting. They'll do a much better job than I could ever do because they're smarter than me and they love what they do. In the end, that's better for FundingUniverse, those who will take my place, and me.

What does get me excited is technology, and I was recently offered a product manager position with the baddest, illest, nastiest technology company in Utah. I've admired this company for a while now, and I feel like the timing is right to make a move.

The decision was a tough one for me to make. But, after soliciting advice from a few smart people, researching the careers of a few great entrepreneurs and some good ol' fashioned talking to God, I believe I've made the right choice.

Moving forward, I will remain an active and passionate evangelist of the FundingUniverse cause as an advisory board member. I'm looking forward to watching from the sidelines as FundingUniverse fulfills its potential as the place to find startup capital.

In the meantime, I'm pumped to tackle a new challenge and (hopefully) wreck shop in a new environment! I attended the Omniture Summit a few weeks ago and got a first-hand look at why nearly all of the Fortune 100 companies use Omniture software to optimize their web offerings.

Omniture is deeply, passionately focused on pleasing its customers and overwhelming its competition. It's the only "large" company in Utah where I could go and not miss out on the intense, yet fun environment that one feels when he is part of a smaller, more nimble company. Not to mention the fact that there is a gang of very smart people working there, many of whom will be collaborating with me on a daily basis. Working in that kind of environment will make me a better businessman and, more specifically, a better entrepreneur.

So here's to a great three years at FundingUniverse and a bright future at Omniture! This is going to be fun ...

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Digital Footprint

It feels like ages since my personal blog has been part of my routine, but I'm still leaving my footprint on the web.

Here are a few ways you can follow what I'm up to:

My Twitter Account -- I tweet a few times each day. If you have a Twitter account and I'm not following you, let me know.
My Facebook -- Shoot me a friend request and I'll respond asap.
FundingUniverse Blog -- I usually blog here at least once a week on entrepreneurship and/or tech
My LinkedIn Profile -- Info on where I work and what I do there

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

FundingUniverse Speedpitching Video

If you haven't been to a FundingUniverse Speedpitching luncheon, Joe Grover and the crew at Digital Mind Studios put together a killer video clip that is as much an advertisement for Digital Mind as it is a great depiction of the event. Great work, Joe!

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Feeling the Crunch

I've spent the past two months watching the FundingUniverse AngelReady programs ramp up extremely quickly. While the process has been nothing short of exhilarating, I find myself faced with a growing challenge -- a pressing, urgent, gut-wrenching responsibility to serve the explosively increasing number of entrepreneurs who are paying us to help them raise money.

It keeps me up at night. I have dreams that resemble a commercial from a few years back that featured a few people standing around a computer looking at an on-screen map as they launched a new product. At first, they celebrated as the first few orders popped up on the map. Then, as the number of orders on the map started popping up at an exponentially increasing rate, their celebration turned into panic as they rushed off to fill the orders. (If you can find the video, let me know so I can post it here.)

Fortunately, I believe we have the bandwidth to support the growth, so we're far from panic mode. However, I don't see an end in sight for this busy season at FundingUniverse. It's going to be a wild ride.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pitching Angels: Sell Your Company, Not Your Product

The next time you're pitching an investor -- whether it's in their office, at an event, on the phone -- repeat the following phrase 7 times before you walk in the door:

"I am selling my company, not my product."

Pitching an investor is not the same as pitching a customer. When you pitch a prospective buyer, you want them to buy your product or service. When you pitch investors, you want them to invest in your company.

As with a good sales pitch, you want to cover the strongest points of the product that you are selling. While pitching your company, the points that are most interesting to the vast majority of investors are the traction you've made (sales, patents, past rounds of capital, sales and sales), your management team, market size/need and your business model. If you can convince them that these four elements of your business are rock-solid, it doesn't matter what your product is. You're likely to find success raising money.

The tendency of most entrepreneurs is to spend the majority of their pitch telling the investor everything about his/her product -- how it works, how they thought of it, why it's better than the competition. Of course it's important to describe your product or service to investors, but it's should take up no more than 2/5 of your presentation.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Trent Miskin v. Jason Calacanis

Just in case you missed it, Trent Miskin called out Jason Calacanis' critique of WeightLossWars and similar sites. His post prompted a defensive comment from the chief bloggerino himself.

Given that Trent and Chad are two of my best friends, I'm a little biased on the matter, so I won't chime in. However, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

D.A.M. Truck Tools Steals the Show!

I get pretty excited about early-stage funding, but it's never moved me to tears until today.

Chris Culp, a Cedar City fix-it man without a high school diploma, won a $100,000 investment from an all-star panel of investors at today's Utah Economic Summit funding competition. Chris' simple concept, D.A.M. Truck Tools, went head to head with companies with millions in revenue, Harvard MBA/PhD leadership and stacks of patents. He won with passion, humility, elegant simplicity and good ol' fashioned Southern Utah charm.

He pitched his idea in a simple suite jacket and a pair of white cowboy boots. When angel investors asked him questions about his pre-money valuation, his go-to-market strategy and other semi-sophisticated terms, he answered with a simple, "I don't know.". He never tried to be anything more that what he was: a simple man with an extremely promising product and the humility to admit his weaknesses and ask for help.

After the event I spoke to a class at the Provo Labs Academy about raising money from angel investors where I relayed the story of what Chis had done. After I outlined the most important things an angel considers when looking into a deal a participant asked me how D.A.M. won despite appearing to be weak in many of the categories that are traditionally important to investors. Tough one to answer. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

I don't have any special insight form the investors, but here's what I think:
  • According to research, the most important element that angels look at in funding a deal is the passion and integrity of the entrepreneur. Chris clearly conveyed he had no hidden agendas. He repeatedly assured the investors that he had no business experience and was looking for a partner to handle all of the business side.
  • Because he has very little traction and showed a willingness to share his company, the investors recognized that they could get a lot of bang for their buck. They could have received 20% of a software company with $40 million exit potential or 60% of a company with $20 million exit potential.
  • His product is a slam dunk and the path to market is very clear cut. I think this was a huge factor. While the other companies were very strong, their path to revenue was less clear and that scares investors.
  • The white cowboy boots. 'Nuff said.
Before the event, I had several occasions to speak at length with Chris about his product and his story. The guy is solid gold and no one deserved it more than him. I look forward to following his progress and watching his American dream unfold.

Update: Here are a few stories from the local media on his success: SL Trib, Deseret News.

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