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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Anonymous David / Headwaters Bamboo said...

Any chance we can see more about Chris' business plan? Sounds like a great story.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

60%? Wow.

1:56 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Sixty percent is just a random number to illustrate a point. I doubt that it will be that extreme. Thanks for pointing that out so I could clarify, Nick.

8:39 AM  
Anonymous nick said...

Sorry. It came off a little harsh. I was thinking I would love to be in on that one! :)

11:17 PM  
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9:31 PM  
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5:07 AM  

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