Back to business… After an awesome Holiday Season with family and friends, 2015 looks to be a game-changing year for my business. After years of ideas, pivots, rejections, failures, legal roadblocks, false starts, limited to no traction, etc. It would seem I’ve finally gotten the proper mix of elements in my venture. It is not uncommon for random investors to reach out to me via AngelList or LinkedIn to learn more about my venture. I’m invited to mansions to network with investors, I have a handful of legitimate mentors that I can email and bounce ideas off of, my AIVP (Alternative Investment Vehicle & Platform) is making its rounds through the executive ranks of potential clients with assets in the billions, I have 3rd party contacts who are interested in licensing the tech I’ve developed for their own start-ups.
All that to say, it seems I’m on the cusp. BUT… I’m conflicted…
Here’s my issue. When I began this journey, I was inspired and motivated by a very specific issue. I believed and continue to believe that people like myself and those I interact with on a regular basis are unable to access low-cost investment opportunities that will help us create wealth.
I have taken specific issue with certain investment opportunities that are restricted to accredited investors. I’ve always said, “I see no regulatory bodies restricting me or my fellow community members from blowing our money at a casino yet we must be aggresively protected from high risk investment opportunities like angel investing”. Long story short, the business and platform I have created provides a solution to this issue. However, as I’ve conversed with several investors and advisors about what I’ve built, there are always some minor tweaks suggested that maximize the total addressable market, enhance the revenue model and expand the go-to-market strategy. By the end of white-boarding out these minor tweaks I seem to be the only one in the room that recognizes, the new and improved game plan no longer impacts those who originally inspired its creation.
Maximizing my total addressable market often involves targeting demographics with greater purchasing power. Enhancing my revenue model involves slightly increasing the cost to the consumer. Expanding the go-to-market strategy involves approaching large institutional potential clients who have their own set of tweaks and preferences. What is it to gain a product/service that is wildly successful when your neighbors, friends and family can’t afford to use it or no longer benefit from it? This is mission drift.
In my case, mission drift can only be avoided one way.
1. I ignore some completely valid, logical and wise advise that I’ve received and instead move forward with a “lesser” product/service because the “lesser” version is valuable to low income communities.
2. I purposefully shun potential partnerships with well-established players because I know that our collaborative strategy would eventually lead me away from my personal target demographic; the poor.
3. I reject investment offers that could potentially take my venture from its’ current home office into a downtown corporate suite because I know my investors may replace me with a MBA who could care less about the people who inspired me to start this venture in the first place.
Honestly, how many of you would scale down a billion dollar business model to just a million dollar business model (or less) for the sake of your personal convictions? It’s a tough situation. I know what I want to do and I also know what I should do. Let’s be real, by choosing the smaller market, and lesser revenue streams and the more niche strategy, my venture may fail all together. The odds against succeeding in entrepreneurship are already slim. At the end of the day, I need to know I’m a man of my word who doesn’t “sellout” the people he hopes to serve for “a dollar and a dream”.
Current readers are seeing why I write these posts in the first place. I can’t relate to many of the other entrepreneur written articles I find. Recently, I’ve found that its trendy for entrepreneurs to write about all the buyout offers they rejected because they believed their company was worth 50x more. I can’t relate to that. I’m over here planning to tell investors to keep their big checks because my venture won’t be worth 50x more. Not because it can’t grow to 50x more but because I’m going to artifically keep it at 3x-5x its current size for the sake of “the little guy and gal”. I’m crazy… Oh well…
Lesson in Retrospect: If your initial determinations to become an entrepreneur are to serve a particular demographic or underserved group, be prepared. After months or years of bootstrapping, you begin to yearn for that big check and a exit. I’m not saying that taking the money and retiring for life is evil but it may haunt you a bit.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED; IF TRAVELLED AT ALL…