Mar 27, 2020

[Podcast] Common mistakes in early-stage fundraising

Brook Perry By Brook Perry
Director of Marketing at 'nuffsaid
Raising-seed-funding

The first mistake founders often make when fundraising is starting too late: they begin talking to investors when they need cash. 

It seems logical—start raising capital when you need it now, or know you’ll need it soon. But by that time, you’ve missed out on the opportunity to build relationships with the investors you want to work with. 

 

Nuffsaid’s CEO Chris Hicken recently joined the How I Raised It podcast to discuss this mistake and many others that founders commonly make in early-stage fundraising. He shares advice on building strong investor relationships, choosing the right partners, how COVID19 may alter the funding landscape, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode on Spotify, Soundcloud, or Apple Podcasts, or read the full transcript below.  

 

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Nathan: Hi, welcome to another episode of How I Raised It produced by foundersuite.com. Today, I have Chris Hicken of Nuffsaid coming to us from Salt Lake City in week two or three of Shelter in Place. How's it going there?

 

Chris: Well, because we're a software company, it's pretty much business as usual for us. We've started the company with employees in Canada, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and India. So, frankly, it hasn't impacted us that much yet. And because we're early stage, we're not spending a lot of our time selling. We were lucky. I guess we're lucky in that sense. But we're not seeing much of an impact on our business.

 

Nathan: It's interesting. Yeah. For us, we've been virtual pretty much from day one. We've got people in Norway, and Poland, and Ukraine, and San Francisco Bay Area, but the business is getting impacted because our customers are startups. And that's a lot of them are really scared right now, and freaking out, and cutting every cost they can. So, that's a little bit of a factor for us or headwind, but yeah.

 

Chris: Well, I think it's going to be pretty ugly, well, look, this is just one person's opinion, but I think it'll be probably pretty ugly for the next four to five months. But I also very much believe that the current leaders in the office of the president, and the leaders of the senate will do whatever they can to preserve their running office.

 

Which means passing all kinds of stimulus bill, loan forgiveness, mortgage postponement, all the things they can do to kickstart consumer spending and hiring, they're going to take advantage of those things. So, I maybe am overly optimistic, but I'm definitely optimistic that the economy will come online more quickly than it did in '08.

 

Nathan: I actually share that sentiment too, and I hope we're both right. I feel like yeah, people are freaking out and despondent. But there's still this larger momentum wave that even if you put up a barrier, it's still going to carry forward. So, I hope so. Well, let's not harp on that too much. What is Nuffsaid? What do you guys do?

 

Chris: So, maybe I'll start by describing the problem that we want to solve, and I noticed this problem when I was at UserTesting for about eight years. And over that time period, people were becoming increasingly overloaded with information and communication at work, and while people were spending more time in the office than ever. Sometimes we're working 10, 12, sometimes 14 hours a day. Certainly, by the end, it felt like people were spending less time doing their actual job than they ever had before.

 

And the problem, I think, will continue to get worse, as investors pump more and more money into software companies, you have really cool technologies coming out in augmented reality for the office, digital assistance voice, digital assistance for the office. So, given in a world where we're already overwhelmed, and it's going to continue to get worse, how do you solve that problem?

 

And our vision for solving that problem means building an AI brain that sits on your shoulder beside you at work. And it does two things. One, it filters out all the noise from your workspace, but more importantly, it helps to focus you on work that matters, work and tasks that matter. And so, that's what we're doing. We're building a brain for knowledge workers that helps you focus on work that will move the needle for your job.

 

Nathan: And give us just a simple scenario of a startup founder using this, how's it helped them prioritize, maybe a little use case?

 

Chris: Sure. So, we don't actually think about it quite like that. The way that we're thinking about this is, in order for an AI brain to be effective, it needs to understand who you are at work. And so, in order to understand who you are at work, we're tackling this problem on a department-by-department basis. So, we're saying okay, customer success, sales, marketing, engineering, what does it look like to be successful in that job?

 

What are the tasks that help you be successful? And what are the types of distractions that you're likely going to get in your day? And so, what we're doing is, and again, we're early stage so we can only tackle one of these at a time. So, we're starting with the customer success group, or the revenue retention group within a company, and we're building an AI that understands that you are someone who's responsible for maintaining revenue for your company.

 

We understand what your customers look like. We understand what types of activities you need to get done in your day. And we've built a whole model around detecting risk in your portfolio so that when we find that you have a customer that's potentially at risk of churning, or not renewing their subscription with you, we're able to identify that risk really early for you. Sometimes within a couple of weeks of the customer onboarding.

 

So that you every single day when you're sitting down in front of your portfolio, you're taking small actions every single day to reduce risk in the portfolio, and help your customers get to a place where they're realizing the value from the product.

 

Nathan: Okay, interesting. And the product is live, or it's in beta, or what's the status?

 

Chris: Yeah. The product is live right now, although it's very early days. We just launched the product three or four weeks ago. We're slowly onboarding new users onto the platform. The first version of the product centralizes all of your communication apps, your calendar, and your tasks into a single view. Obviously, we're going to add many more integrations in the future. But early days, it's going to be Gmail, Slack, Google Calendar, Google Chat, Zoom, all of those platforms will be pulled together into a single view.

 

Future versions of the product in order for this to be fully featured, it needs to be able to integrate data from your salesforce, and from your customer success manager, from your gain site, from your Zendesk, wherever you're doing your customer support, and customer success. And then from your product management tool, your JIRA, your Trello, et cetera. So, that's how we're thinking about the product.

 

Nathan: Cool. Sounds interesting sounds. Sounds cool. I'll check it out. Let's talk about raising money. How much have you guys raised, and over how many rooms?

 

Chris: Yeah. Enough about Nuffsaid. Let's get to the good stuff. So, we just raised, and we just announced about four weeks ago that we raised $4.3 million led by General Catalyst, and Google's AI focused fund called Gradient Ventures. We were fortunate to get a bunch of participation from other people who have been great partners for us already. We have Global Founders Capital, which is one of the biggest venture funds in Europe.

 

We have Chris Yeh from Wasabi Ventures. And then we also got Brianne Kimmel from Work Life Ventures, and Beth Turner from SV Angel. So, it was actually pretty amazing round with some truly, I think, truly exceptional people backing the company. And well, I'll pause there because I think you probably have a follow-up question to that.

 

Nathan: Yeah. Well, maybe talking about putting that round together. And I mean, you do have a blog post that describes the process. But take us through the process. I mean, you guys are so early and young. Talk about raising money from such a nascent business.

 

Chris: Sure. The seed round is an unusual round. So, I want to talk a little bit about this. When I was at UserTesting, our CEO, Darrell Benatar and I raised four rounds together, and my expectation of what it would be like to raise a seed round was similar to that, and that that process looks something like this. Do we have less than a year of cash left in the bank? Okay, time to start fundraising.

 

Then we start the process of reaching out to VCs. And then three or four months later, we get a term sheet. And I just thought maybe that's how seed round fundraising must go. But then, I actually spent a year at a firm called Inspiration Ventures, so I was a partner in Inspiration VC. They do exclusively early-stage pre-seed and seed stage deals are oftentimes the first professional money into the company.

 

And I got a real insider look at how investors make decisions in early-stage companies. And what I realized is that at the early stage, at the pre-seed or the seed round, there's so little evidence that your idea is going to work that VCs discount your product idea. 

 

So, most founders go and spend a lot of time talking about how amazing their product is, and they have these screenshots. But VCs don't give a shit about their product because they know their product is probably going to iterate at least a couple of times before they get a good product market fit. So, they're looking for other factors and primarily, those two factors are number one, is can you convince me that a problem exists? It's severe enough that people will pay money for it, and that there's enough of these problems to justify a huge market.

 

So, and by the way, I think we can have an interesting conversation about both of these two factors. That's factor number one. Factor number two is the quality of the entrepreneur, and venture capitalists, like any human being, they have limited information. And so, they're trying to pattern match, they're looking for symbols of demonstrated success in the past.

 

They're looking for things like fancy badges, maybe a fancy title, or a big company logo on your resume, or a nice university badge on your LinkedIn. Some way to demonstrate a track record of success in previous work experiences. And so, what I realized raising the seed round was I couldn't just go in. And well, let me take a step back, I was confident that I could do number one, which was make a compelling case for the market size of this idea.

 

But I couldn't do a good job of... obviously, I think I have a decent track record in terms of success. But if I'm asking you to invest millions of dollars into me, I can't just introduce myself, and expect to get a term sheet from you within a couple of months. That's just not enough time. And so, what I realized is that the philosophy for early stage investing needs to be ABR, always be raising.

 

Which means that a constant part of your job as an early-stage founder is, of course, you have to build the product. Of course, you have to hire the team. But every single week, you have to be spending time on fundraising. It's just a part of the job. And you have to accept that it is a regular and ongoing part of building your company.

 

Nathan: Let's touch on that a little bit. I mean, so what were you doing specifically? And this is always like, where the more granular the better, right? I mean, some people on the show talk about their whole process for finding investors on LinkedIn, and their messaging to reach out to them, and get a coffee, or how are you raising before raising or?

 

Chris: So, this is the process that I ran. I started by building my list of dream team investors. So, this is my ideal list of people that I would... not firms, individuals that I wanted to invest in Nuffsaid. In a moment, I'm happy to talk about what that looks like for us because we have a very discreet way of defining what an ideal investor looks like. Then, again, we'll always be raising, so this is part of our process.

 

I started my fundraising process in January of 2019. So, what I did was I started by going to my dream team, and giving them a list of company ideas that I was thinking about starting. And I asked for their feedback about which one they would be most excited about investing in. And through that process, I got a good sense of what factors an investor would look for when making this investment decision.

 

But I also got an early feedback and advice about how to go about making my decision. And then what I was able to do is every month after meeting with them, I was able to give them meaningful progress that we had made in the company since our last meeting. Some of these updates were done in person, some of them were done over email, but for example, I first let them know, "Hey, after our discussion I've decided on this business, and here's why."

 

In the next meeting, I was able to show them early product mock-ups that I did on my own. And then the next meeting, I was able to tell them about that I just brought on two amazing cofounders. And then after that, we're able to show some technical validation that we had done on proving that the product could actually be built the way that we expected to build it. In the next meeting, we're able to show them early product designs, early product mock-ups.

 

And so, this whole time we were bringing investors along into our journey, so that when it was time to raise money, there was a track record of information coming their way. They could see that we were very good at executing on our plan, and that we had done a good job of building a compelling case for the business. And then when it was time to actually raise the money, we actually had our dream team, but we also have the B team as well, which is our second favorite list of investors. So, we lined up pitches with all of our B team investors first. And we just practice giving the company pitch. And we made all of our mistakes with those investors. And every time we made a lot of mistakes, we screwed up a lot, it didn't have as much of an impact on us because we were maybe less interested in raising money from those investors.

 

But we learned a lot. I mean, every no that we got, every piece of feedback helped us improve our pitch, helped us dial in our messaging. And so finally, when we were really excited, we went to our dream team, which was a very small list of investors, maybe four investors in total. And that's when we ended up getting our offer from Niko Bonatsos at General Catalyst was actually our number one person on the dream team.

 

So, we got an offer from him. And once we had our offer from him, all of the investors who we thought would also be great to add, came in with offer. So, I think we ended up getting 12 firms to make offers to join. The round unfortunately wasn't big enough to include everyone. But we had quite a bit of interest, because so many companies knew about us, and had seen our track record over time.

 

Nathan: Several follow up questions. There's a lot to that. It's pretty interesting. Obviously, I guess the B team, it must be frustrating to be the B team, right? Maybe you don't know you're the B team investor, but getting pitched and then losing-

 

Chris: You know. You know when you're the B team, but here's the thing. The B team, the way the B Team players get deals is by saying yes early, and giving you a really good valuation, and they know that. So, if there's something that really catches their eye and their attention, they can still get into those deals. It's just they know they have to act quickly, and they have to act before the A team gets involved.

 

Nathan: That's good. I guess one question I did have, I love this, bringing the investors along in that journey, and they can see your execution, all this good stuff. How do you tip that into getting them to put down a term sheet or something?

 

Because it seems like they would default to be like, "Hey, you're doing great, good job. Come back when you've got more product in market, more traction, more traction." I mean, there's always that goalpost that often moves when you're doing this. So, how do you turn it from a couple along on their journey to like, "All right, catalyst time, put down a term sheet?"

 

Chris: Great question. The way that we did it was, there was a point when the company just needed to raise some money. We needed to hire more engineers. We needed more resources. And so, when I went to the dream team, I said, "Look, we need money right now. I'm either going to raise a friends and family round, or I'm going to raise money from you. And my preference is to raise from you because," and by the way for everyone on the dream team, I told them and especially Niko, I told him he was on the dream team.

 

It's like, "Look, are we going to do it? You've seen the company's progress, are we going to do the deal here or not?" And the reality was, and I think most skilled investors know that, when there's a good company with a good product, after the seed round, if there's early traction, a lot of times companies can raise either a very large seed, or a small A.

 

So, getting in early gives you the benefit of really nice pricing so that as a seed investor, you get good ownership for placing that early bet. So, that was it. It's just like, "Look, we're going to raise money. So, are we going to do this together or not?" And of course, Niko and I had been in contact for quite a while, and he was ready at that point to place a bet.

 

Nathan: So, he'd seen what, like six or seven months of progress, I guess?

 

Chris: Yeah. At least six months. It's probably more than that. It was probably seven or eight months of total progress. I mentally had signed up for doing at least nine months of fundraising, if not 12.

 

Nathan: I've met him maybe once. I don't really know him. But he does a great job of marketing himself and his brand, right? He's got a brand on LinkedIn and social media.

 

Chris: And you know what? He's every bit as good as he projects. I mean, he's just a great guy, an entrepreneur at heart, and a wonderful partner. So, he's as good as he sounds to be.

 

Nathan: That's good. That's important. Very good. And then, I guess, so-

 

Chris: Let's talk a little about dream team. What does it mean to be on the dream team? I think every entrepreneur has to actually have this written down somewhere. What does it look like for me to have a good... what does a good partnership look like? And you have to have it written down. I think you have to have agreement with your cofounders of what you're looking for. So, for us, it was five things. Number one was we wanted to find investors who had matching risk profiles to us.

 

Nathan: And what's that mean?

 

Chris: Okay. Let's start with what our risk profiles are. We all have extremely high expectations for ourselves, and the company's performance. We want to build a company that leaves the world in a better place than we found it. We want to build something very big. And so, for us, we wanted to find someone who is trying to make a name for themselves. Someone who is ambitious, not someone who does a little bit of VC in between rounds of golf because everyone knows those investors.

 

So, we're looking for an up and coming, like let's build something together. Let's work hard together, and let's hustle hard together. And so, that's number one. Matching risk profiles. The second one was diversity of opinion. So, we wanted to bring on investors into this round, both men and women into the round. Frankly, we actually struggled with that in the early days, we sent out two dozen probably requests to women partners at different firms.

 

And we only ended up hearing back from one of those in our outreach. It's probably frankly because they're focused on helping enable other women entrepreneurs. So, I understand the situation. Frustrating in the early days for us to get some attention from women investors. Finally, we were lucky, we got Brianne Kimmel and Beth Turner to make investments in Nuffsaid, but certainly, we were not willing to close our round until we had at least two women invest in Nuffsaid.

 

Nathan: Interesting.

 

Chris: The third one was we're looking for people that are just genuinely good human beings. So, part of this is you pick this up from meeting with the investors, whether or not they're willing to spend time with you socially, when you're not just talking business. You can catch up personally before talking about fundraising. So, there's a human connection beyond just like, "You are my next investment, and what's the return?"

 

And so, I think this is probably, everyone has their own criteria of what great human being looks like. So, the fourth item was, we're looking for someone who's an entrepreneur at heart. So, what we mean by that is a partner who had either been an operator at a previous company, had founded their own company, or just in general, had an entrepreneurial spirit. We definitely now want to compare and contrast that.

 

We definitely were not looking for a partner who is formerly a finance person, a Wall Street banker, someone who runs their life off of spreadsheets and numbers. We want people to understand the process of building a company, hiring people, developing a product. And so, that's what we mean by an entrepreneur at heart. And then the last one is we wanted someone who was extremely direct without judgment.

 

So, we did not like meeting with VCs who beat around the bush, who weren't willing to tell us exactly how they saw it. We also don't want assholes who would belittle the team or the product. But we're looking for that nice in between balance, which is hard to find, who just tell you exactly how you see it without being judgmental, without belittling. And again, we found that I think every single one of our investors, especially Niko fits that criteria.

 

Nathan: How many of the folks that ended up writing checks did you know from before from UserTesting days, or are these all green contacts you've cultivated?

 

Chris: Every single one of them is new.

 

Nathan: Okay.

 

Chris: Yeah. I'm working my UserTesting connections for our Series A and B rounds. But the seed, it's a different profile of investor. So, I didn't have the deep connections from my time at UserTesting in seed.

 

Nathan: Yeah. And you mentioned on your blog post ways you initiated dialogues with them. Any comments there on how you got in touch with some of these folks?

 

Chris: Well, usually, your first introduction to a firm is usually through a more junior, associate or principal level person who's doing prospecting work. It's the equivalent of an SDR for sales. And I think if you rely on the principle to forward you to the right partner, they're unlikely to get it right just because they're not going to be as good as you are at filtering out the criteria that I just listed.

 

You know the profile of person that you're looking for. So, it's better if you go into those conversations knowing exactly which partner you want to meet up with. So, for example, it's very easy. You have a meeting scheduled with General Catalyst. Great, you go onto their website, you see who does early-stage investment deals, there's probably going to be three to four of them.

 

You can go look at their LinkedIn profiles and their backgrounds. You can search for the name on Google to figure out what postings they do on social media. And you can also talk to... you can see what boards they sit on, and just reach out to a couple of entrepreneurs that they've invested in to see what it's like working with them as they recommend it. So, it takes time. It's a pretty easy process to figure out which partner would be the best fit for you.

 

Nathan: So, one of the debates people always have is like, should you even spend time with associates or analysts? And do you take that meeting, or do you skip it? How do you tactfully skip it if you choose to skip it? I don't know. Any thoughts on that?

 

Chris: I mean, I like taking the meetings with the associates because the associates end up eventually being partners. So, I like building the early relationships, especially with the up and comers. He's not an associate level person, but one of the guys, the guy that we ended up raising money from, from Global Founders Capital, Max Mayer, he's not one of the managing partners, but this guy, he's just a total rock star.

 

I mean, he's helpful. He's good to bounce ideas off of, He's well connected. And so, when we raise money from them, we made part of the deal required that Max be our main point of contact for the deal, not one of the managing partners.

 

Nathan: Okay, interesting.

 

Chris: And so that actually probably worked out well for Max, but really great for us too. I mean, Max and I have a really great relationship. And it's a way I think away if Nuffsaid successful away for us to help him develop his career, but also gives us a wonderful daily, weekly point of contact with Global Founders Capital.

 

Nathan: Interesting. I guess there could be that argument that if you find someone who's up and coming, and on the ascent, or trying to make that career, maybe that's someone that's going to hustle harder for you than someone that's already made it, right, perhaps, I don't know.

 

Chris: Totally true. I mean, that's totally true. And that's true of a lot of these associate level people that are doing initial calls. They're hustling hard. They want to get that partner level position, and they're going to work. They're going to go the extra mile for you.

 

Nathan: Interesting. Very good. And so, here's a total tangent, I guess. How much do you think the user testing logo on your team side or your background side helped? If you didn't have that, how much harder? Because there's this perception rightly or wrongly that you get one successful company under the belt, fundraising is just easy, easy sledding, from here on out. If you didn't have that, how much harder do you think it would have been for you?

 

Chris: Oh, that's a tough question.

 

Nathan: I know it is. It's hard to answer, but-

 

Chris: Here's what I would say.

 

Nathan: I bet you that was a calling card, right? Or opening the doors.

 

Chris: It was not a calling card at all, first of all. I'll start with that. I think the reason why the logo was valuable was I was able to point to it as a demonstrated track record of functional discipline, mastery, and success. So, I was able to point to my time at UserTesting showing how I was able to successfully build a marketing and sales team, customer success team, professional services, and finance, build up those functions.

 

And I was able to speak in detail about how I built those from scratch, basically being the first person myself to do the role to eventually having a whole department and department leader overseeing it. And I think other founders can overcome not having that same level of experience by being able to demonstrate some functional expertise or mastery. So, maybe as a founder, you're an exceptional product manager, or an exceptional engineer, or an exceptional salesperson.

 

But you need to be able to point out, and have evidence of your success in that role. If you're just coming to the table with, "Hey, I was a salesperson X, Y, Z," not going to impress the investor. So, I guess it was helpful that I had success. It was helpful that I have success over a long period of time. I was at UserTesting for almost eight years.

 

Nathan: Just for context, were you one of the first X founders, or what was... yeah?

 

Chris: I was employee number five. And the company was doing about a couple hundred thousand at sales when I joined. And the founders, Darrell Benatar and Dave Garr, very gifted product minds. And kudos to them for building such an incredible product. Of course, I love product too, but I'm really driven by growth. And so, I functionally owned a lot of the go-to-market stuff, while they've spent most of their time thinking about product engineering.

 

Nathan: Interesting. Very good. All right. I won't keep you too much longer. Now, you mentioned that, are you already thinking about Series A? I know the ink is barely dry on the seed round, but talk about how you're preparing. You started off saying always be raising ABR. So, maybe how are you doing that?

 

Chris: I mean, every two weeks, I'm doing meetings with investors. I have a quarterly update email that I send out to people on my Series A target list, both the A team and the B team, letting them know what our progress is on the company. It's ABR, always be raising. It's a part of my weekly routine of thinking about what we need to do next to keep investors coming along in our journey.

 

So, when it comes time to raise the Series A, we're going to have a team of investors who know a lot about the company, and the product, and our traction to date, and what customers have said. So, I think we'll be really well positioned to raise our Series A, even in the current climate.

 

Nathan: Yeah. And any thoughts, just actually, before we get to thoughts on current climate, in this always be raising, is it just again, bringing them along, and talking about your progress, and different milestones that you're hitting or is there more to it?

 

Chris: Yeah. It's really that. It's giving investors confidence that you're thinking holistically about the business. And what I mean is giving them insight into how you're thinking about the competitive landscape, product development, and features on how we're selecting those proof of engineering expertise, and being able to deliver on product milestones. It's early go-to-market motions that you're putting in place, whether it's on the marketing, or the sales side, and I think maybe a combination of both would be good.

 

And then finally, in terms of finance, they're expecting you to have a pretty good sense of how you're budgeting, how you're managing cash runway, how you're thinking about new investments into the company, and what your plan is going to be for any future fundraising, relative to the financial plan that you've put in place.

 

Nathan: And you send this out, is it monthly or quarterly did you say, and about how many people are on your Series A dream team, and the B team list?

 

Chris: Well, okay, so yeah, we sent it out quarterly. The A team is small, it's seven people. The B team is another, I don't know, I'm looking at my list here. I mean, it's a lot. It's probably 25 people. But there are certain people, for example, I'm going to throw out a few names because I think they're just wonderful people, and I hope they hear this podcast.

 

Santi Subotovsky at Emergence Capital, I would actually say everyone at Emergence Capital is amazing. Mackey Craven at OpenView, another... actually, OpenView just in general, they're a Boston-based firm. Really great. And both of them are SaaS focused, especially enterprise SaaS focused. They're some really great people, Alex Bard at Redpoint. Grace and Naomi at Menlo.

 

Nathan: And one last question, because I think this is... I'm always telling founders to do this. So, I'm making you a repeat what I always-

 

Chris: Sure, go ahead.

 

Nathan: Did you or corroborating, I guess is the right word, did you already know these folks, or did you reach out to them through your network and say, "Hey, I'm doing this update. I'm going to be raising Series A in December, something like that, can I add you?" How did you get them on your distribution list?

 

Chris: Well, I follow the same process that I've always followed, which is I pick the person that I want to work with. I go through the normal channels, either through referrals or sometimes even through the associates, the junior associates. I get introductions to those people. I do the initial meeting to get them qualified of whether or not they even like the idea. And once they've bought in and they've said yes, then they go on to my ongoing nurture list, nurture campaign of bringing them along in the company's progress.

 

Nathan: Nurture campaign. Yup. I like that. I call it pre-marketing your deal a little bit, but yeah, nurture campaigns.

 

Chris: Same concept.

 

Nathan: Okay. Any thoughts or just advice or thoughts for folks raising in today's market, which as we go to print here, it's the middle of COVID lockdown? What would you do if you were having to raise right now, anything?

 

Chris: Well, I think just the first thing is be realistic with yourself and your team about what's possible right now. I think literally every firm that I've talked to is pausing all deals. In fact, a lot of firms you've seen are getting heat for not following through on deals that were already penciled as done. So, and it's not just venture capital. I've also talked to five or six banks recently, venture debt banks that basically said, they've put in place billions of dollars in debt facilities.

 

And now finally, everyone's starting to call in on those debt facilities. So, I think no one would actually say this, but I think actually, there's probably shortage of cash available for additional venture debt lines, especially for early-stage companies. So, I think we're going to see a shortage of debt, and a total pause on equity for at least a couple of months. And I think there's a lot of fear in the market right now, well, it drives the behavior that you would expect from investors.

 

And I think as a CEO and a founder, if you're trying to raise money today, and you're probably going to listen to this podcast sometime in early to mid-April, you probably got to give at least until the end of May, before you have enough evidence of what's going to happen with the Coronavirus, and when people are going to be allowed to come back into the office, and to see what's happening with the impact to the economy, consumer spending and hiring. So, yeah, I think basically put fundraising on-

 

Nathan: What would you do in the meantime? I mean, would you like-

 

Chris: Oh yeah, do the nurture.

 

Everyone's still doing meetings. So, absolutely, this is a great time to build relationships, bring investors along in your process. Let them know what your hopes are in terms of fundraising timelines. It's not going to be the time to make any closing pitches.

 

Nathan: Time to nurture, not necessarily close, right, maybe?

 

Chris: That's right. Yeah.

 

Nathan: Yeah, that's good. I don't know. I'm talking to a lot of founders. And one thing I try and keep them encouraged about is, there is perhaps an opportunity, you have all these investors. Yeah, I agree. They're freezing up and locking down, but they're also trapped at home, and probably bored. It's a little bit of a captive audience, right? If you can get on their Zoom schedule, you've got all the investors trapped at home. So, what else are they going to do other than listen to pitches, and possibly [inaudible] companies?

 

Chris: Well, here's the other maybe thing, if you are a founder of an early-stage company, you're actually much better positioned than companies that are already focused on growth and revenue. Because all of those companies have hired lots of resources on go-to-market, and sales marketing, et cetera, customer success. And suddenly, you've got this huge investment in go-to-market, and you're not going to be able to close deals for the next four or five months.

 

So, those companies are going to be under massive pressure to do staff reductions, cut costs, et cetera. Whereas, as at an early-stage company, especially if you're not selling very much yet, most of your investment is still in product and engineering. So, this is a great time to double down on your investment in the product. Invest maybe where you think competitors are not likely to invest, and use this opportunity to improve the quality, the experience of your product, to build additional features, et cetera.

 

Nathan: Yeah, yeah, very good. All right. This is really good. Lots of interesting stuff here. I love this process. I've got copious notes, which we'll reference. If people want to learn more though, go visit nuffsaid.com.

 

Chris: Yeah. The shameless plug at the end of the episode here. If you're feeling overwhelmed or overloaded with communication at work, go sign up at Nuffsaid. The product is amazing. It's going to change your life.

 

Nathan: All right, Chris, thank you so much. This is great and we'll catch you after your Series A round. We'll see how things would change.

 

Chris: Yeah. Looking forward to it, and very appreciative for the invite.