One of the most painful things that ever happened to me was shutting down @elementaledge in 2017 after spending 12 years trying to build an international-level multimedia studio.
At the core of my failure were two things:
Marketing, sales or business development were not within my skillset. I hated it. I was exceptionally good on the creative side, but awkward and introverted on the client side. I couldn't close deals to save my life.
a) Founders have to do the tough things, and the toughest of things is selling the vision to the team and to the clients. For introverted tech-focused founders like myself, this is where a business-savvy co-founder would have brought much-needed balance to the force.
There's no lesson here; I still refuse to bow to corruption.
But as a leader, you take full responsibility, and I know a lot of the other challenges would have been resolved (or reduced) if there was consistent cash-flow in the business.
After almost three years of struggling with the same issue at @FundiBots, I decided to do something about it. Our fundraising wasn't working. I still was more interested in the technology, and kept looking for a fundraising lead.
Quite simply, it involved three things:
As an introvert, I decided to invest more time in meaningful conversations with partners around shared purpose & goals. I love stories and deep conversations, so this was something I could leverage very, very well.
It opened my world-view and gave me incredible perspective.
Especially not when we had no proof of impact or effectiveness.
It was more rewarding to sift through hundreds of prospects, do inquiries and get advice in order to zero in on one potential funder before our first meeting or call.
This meant better conversations and stronger partnership pipelines.
When your background is in normal business (service or product in exchange for money), then fundraising is weird. You're basically asking someone to give you their money - for "free" - for an idea you think may work.
It was very uncomfortable for me.
One morning, during a call a few years ago with one of my advisors (shout-out Eve K.), I realized I could gamify fundraising.
I could leverage what I had learnt about gamification to reduce my frustration with fundraising.
[This is also me advocating for my personal philosophy that widespread learning + experimentation leads to razor-sharp intuition and faster problem solving.]
Focusing on developing partnership relationships leads to excellent partners.
There are conversations I had early on where I realized we would have no control over how we did our work. Or that the pressure to grow fast would be too risky.
Having a values-filter helps us focus better.
And sometimes it means staying small, or waiting a little longer (while panicking in the middle of the night).
But having funders, or investors who reach out to check in with you and ask how they can support during times of crisis significantly relieves pressure.
So, major shout-out to the entire Fundi Bots family.
Onwards & upwards!