This week, three companies that I met super early and passed on raised significant rounds of funding. Actually, I wouldn't even really call them passes, because in a couple instances, they were just conversations--"Pre Deck" if you will.
Devrim Yasar just raised an additional $7.25 million for Koding.com. I met him in April of 2010--almost two years before he got a venture round. He wasn't even working on this fulltime. He was actually contracting for SinglePlatform. He's a terrifically smart guy and built something really interesting. I asked a few developers I knew about it and the feedback was "Not ready yet, but has conceptual promise and it doesn't suck." One did note that "this kind of platform is going to change the way we educate people in application development".
It took almost two years for the company to raise their first outside capital from RTP and Greycroft--and honestly, my bad for not staying close to the company. Good for him--I'm happy to see him get resourced to built out his vision.
It was even earlier when I talked to Jason at Shopkeep--December of 2009 by my records. It would be over two years until he took his first round of capital earlier in 2012. Just a few days ago, he added a monster $10mm raise. It's an ambitious plan with an uphill climb to go up against the likes of Square and existing POS companies, but Jason is tenacious. I'm impressed.
In March of 2011, I asked Pat from GroupMe to introduce me to Linden Tibbets of IFTTT. Linden actually coded the First Round Capital lobby wall that you see when you come to the offices. He just raised $7mm from Andreessen Horowitz, to tack onto their January 2012 party round of everyone and their mother. Linden's a cool dude and being the interchange between the internet of things, our social services, etc. is a long bet--I'm glad he'll have the time to do something interesting here.
Three companies most definitely makes a pattern. You're going to miss some stuff, and just because others invested doesn't make any of these companies winners quite yet, but I'm all about continuous improvement. I've asked myself what can I glean from this pattern and is there anything I need to do to get better?
I've always been someone who jumps in early and if I'm a no, I move on. I try to involve lots of people in my circle to be accessable, but I can honestly say that I don't do as good of a job with that when it comes to entrepreneurs I've passed on. How can I continue to add value and maintain connection even if I've decided that something isn't for me--to make that entrepreneur circle back one last time to see if I want in? I might say no, but it's good to keep abreast of what's going on post pass. In 2013, I'll be looking for ways to stay in touch better with entrepreneurs whose first rounds may be slow to develop.
On the other side, I'd remind entrepreneurs that if you meet someone along the way who tells you no, that doesn't mean they won't come around as you develop the business. Stay in touch with the people you meet early. They were interested enough to engage with you--a little more progress might put them over the top.
So, congrats to all of these companies--I wish them the best. What's amazing to me and what's a terrific lesson for everyone else is how long they kept up their passion projects before others recognized them as businesses. Persistance paid off.
I'll try not to beat myself up too much when they sell for huge wads of cash--at least it shows I'm fishing in the right holes. :)