Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures apart from beautiful wooden tables*, have a peculiar cabinet with even more peculiar board game. Monopoly for fund-raising startups.
It’s a prank and a mindful suggestion at the same time. Raising funds is a game. Game with high bets, lots of stress and important lesson to be learnt every couple of turns. Better learn those lessons. That’s your only certain prize in the game.
I want to think that, all in all, it’s more of a strategic game than a random play where you need to bet on your luck. Can’t be sure though. This game is a living thing, transforming itself all the time.
Is there anything universal that you can learn from others? I sincerely hope that 3 Simple Truths below are universal:
1. You’re learning rules of the game while you play
Rules of the game are case dependent. What works for me could never work for you. There’s not an ideal pitch, investor deck, or a scenario of a meeting with investor. Don’t believe in codes of conduct on Quora. You’ll learn rules while you start playing. Open your mind, eyes, ears and iterate.
2. Master contradiction: being flexible & being consistent
Let me put it straight: you know the most about your business, not investors. If every VC that you encounter knows better what you should or shouldn’t do - you’re doing it all wrong.
The best VCs are amazingly experienced people. They can help you polish your business, get rid of rough edges and move it to the next level. But they won’t do the job for you. Learn from them but let them also learn something from you. Consider their ideas, constantly think about your strategy (try to criticize it on your own!), but don’t nod all the time. I bet it doesn’t improve your chances of getting any money.
3. Never be desperate
Never fund-raise to fund-raise. That’s not the goal of the game. If you think that’s it, you got it all wrong again. You don’t want to be desperate about grabbing couple of checks, you want to be desperate about solving problems of your customers and growing your business till the moment when people will use the name of your company as a freakin’ verb (‘to uxpin’ as a synonym of ‘to design’ that would be a good start).
Fund raising supposed to improve your odds on the way to success. It won’t do the job for you.
* There are just two VCs in the Valley that can compete with TV when it comes to office design. Post your guesses in comments.
ps. additional 4th truth: bad ass hard rock & metal really helps to get through this annoying chapter of your entrepreneurial life.