If you were to ask a bunch of startup-folk to list the qualities strong founders have in common, I’m sure most would agree that agility and persistence are up there – startups need to adapt quickly, and founders need to have the grit to push through tough obstacles. At this point, everyone knows that. But here’s where it gets interesting – at particular times in a startup’s life, especially when things aren’t going well, persistence and agility are actually opposing forces. Do you keep pushing forward with your current strategy hoping your circumstance improves, or do you quickly adjust your strategy to something you believe would work better?
Since May, Ephemeral has been in the market raising its seed round. We set out with the goal of raising enough capital to get through clinical studies and launch our first shop in NYC. This is the second round we’ve raised, and even though the first was rough (we’re a non-software tattoo company in NYC!) we thought this would be different: we just graduated Techstars, achieved a major R&D milestone, and had $500k soft circled within a few weeks of opening the round. We were f*&#king crushing it.
But then, the numbers came in. Even though we knew we had to move quickly and make a decision, we were stuck.
We decided to set a deadline. If on June 1st we had less than 5 strong potential leads in the pipeline, we would pivot. No exceptions. And so we did. We didn’t hit our benchmark and decided to downsize our round. It’s too early to determine if it worked (we’re still raising), but so far the sentiment has been positive. The market is more excited by the increased scarcity, and we have a bit more leverage in negotiations.
So what did we learn from this, and what can you take away? Yes, it’s important to move quickly and fight through tough times, but it’s even more important to understand that balancing these qualities is crucial. It would have been easy to keep grinding away with our current goal, but what if we blew through all qualified investors and came out dry? Then what? We had to set a hard deadline for ourselves with quantifiable fundraising metrics. We packed our time before the deadline with as many meetings and intros as possible, but when we didn’t hit our target we knew we had to adjust, despite how painful it was. Check out post number two (coming next month) to see how this actually panned out!