"Pearls don’t lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it." ~ Chinese proverb
JOIN US...WE WON'T ABANDON YOU LIKE YOUR HIGH SCHOOL GIRLFRIEND DID...
It all started with an email. My brother who lives in Chicago and owns "Rising Medical Solutions" sent me an innocent enough email from ”UberVENTURES” saying they were going to give select companies an opportunity to present in front of 7 Venture Capital firms. The event was for Chicago companies, so being based in Orlando, Florida I, of course, applied.
Let me back up…there is a saying that has led me to a lot of good places and a ton of failure. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky said that...he missed a LOT of shots, and made a LOT too. This resonated with me as a challenge from the time I heard it. In this case, I knew exactly what would happen if I didn’t fill out that application…I would stay in Orlando and work. If I took the ten minutes to fill it out? Who knows?
So I filled it out.
A few days later we were accepted...Friday the 19th of June to be exact. TechWeek was in Chicago, I would think a lot of tech companies were reviewed and the screeners neglected to look at where we were from. It seems they must have assumed we were a Chicago based company… or they simply missed the “FL.” The instructions were vague and mysterious. “Texting Base, Inc. has been selected to participate in UberVENTURE. Mark your calendar, sharpen your pitch and get ready to meet the venture capital investors.”
The instructions continued:
HOW IT WORKS
-Open your app Tuesday June, 23 and request VENTURE from 11AM-2PM in the available area. -Gather your portfolio, proposal and any other pitch materials. -If connected, you’ll have 15 minutes to pitch a potential investor.
That’s it. That and a list of the 7 investor groups.
Am I meeting all 7 groups? Am I guaranteed a spot? Will they kick me out when they see we are based in Orlando? Where would I be presenting? How does UBER work?
Worst thought of all was "if I fly to Chicago, is it possible I don't get to present to anyone?"
That's a risk of time and money...but hey…when UBER invites you somewhere, you show up! I booked a flight and went to Chicago…and that’s when things got UBER weird in an UBER cool way.
My brother’s office building is in downtown Chicago, so being in the “service area” was logistically easy. It doesn't hurt it's on the architectural tour on the river.
At 9AM I was greeted by the most adorable sight…my brother’s 2 and 5 year old daughters preparing to go to day camp to hike and paint. The two year old (who often gets compared to me) had her sunglasses on upside down and they were in a great mood. Today was going to be a good day…I was sure of it.
My mom who happened to be visiting was fascinated by this process. She asked if I was nervous...the answer was no. As so often happens when there is work to be done, I forgot to sleep until 4AM. Time flies when you're preparing for every possible scenario.
A quick trip to Starbucks and breakfast at one of many amazing Chicago eateries and I was ready. We pulled up to my brother's building and I strolled into his office by myself...I forgot how beautiful this city is. If I have to spend a lot more time here, I'm not going to be complaining. If I don't get to talk to anyone, at least I got a beautiful Chicago day and some great food.
At 11AM I logged into the app and looked for “VENTURE” and opened it. It said no investors were available. I stared at the app for about 5 minutes watching bubbles move around before wondering if it was tied to a certain email address for permissions and confirming their invitation email was the same as my account setup email. I went back to staring. At 11 minutes past 11AM I finally figured out how to push a “VENTURE” button and summon my ride. After 3 rejections, I was connected…my ride was on the way…I had 8 minutes. Again…I was watching the bubbles. Uber is cool - no wonder they are slowly taking over the world.
A black SUV pulled up (Chevy Suburban to be exact) with heavily tinted windows. “I thought that was a Florida thing,” I thought as I opened the doors, no clue what to expect. Two men greeted me, one man from the back row and one in the chair next to me. Pleasantries were exchanged and I handed out my cards. “So, you’re in Orlando?”
Damnit! Busted already…these guys missed nothing! It was already nice to be around smart people (no offense, Florida). Not to go all "hippie" on everyone, but I liked their collective vibe. They seemed like good guys, which is just as important as the money when choosing a capital partner. This is a relationship, not a one night stand and if something happens, I'm in the "windy city" a lot more.
I explained my team and cost structure would be impossible to duplicate in Chicago, and that I have family in the city so they would be seeing more of me than they even want to see. I neglected to mention the tax benefits I have…Chicago taxes should send them to Florida, but I digress. I smoothly segmented into the presentation (at least, that’s how I remember it).
In hindsight, I should have reminded them that they could come see me during the winter…I think I could have closed them right away.
The 15 minutes started. I opened my laptop and went through our pitch deck moving rapidly-knowing they were smart enough to follow. If they ask how I came up with ”our valuation of our software company” I was in trouble...that's a long conversation and I could go down a 10 minute rabbit hole babbling about things they already know. Thank goodness they didn't ask. The next 15 minutes went by in what seemed like a blink of an eye and it was time to drop me back off.
Someone told me the following before my trip to Chicago: “They will not show interest overtly. You can tell if they are interested if they ask questions and if they give you a card and tell you to keep in touch…that means they really want you to stay in touch”
From the limited read I had, they seemed interested…they should be! What we have is amazing and like I pointed out, they seemed very smart. I got a card. It was the founder of the VC group and it was a familiar name. More pleasantries were exchanged and I was out on the Chicago streets...temporarily disoriented. My first thought after "where in the hell am I?" was ”why didn’t they ask harder questions?” I was over prepared…I wanted to field the hard questions and show the depth of my knowledge. Yes, I wanted to show off...badly. Maybe I’ll get a shot next time? If only they had thrown me out blindfolded the experience would have been complete.
I forgot to pay and tip the driver! UBER...that's why UBER is awesome.
So how was my first VC experience? It was part CIA and part sales presentation, something I have done more times than I can remember. That was quite a first Uber experience. I’ll keep you all posted as we go through the process of raising capital. If you see me on the street with a cardboard sign saying “Will Work 4 Investment,” please don’t judge me…after all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Beans is CEO of Texting Base, Inc., out of Orlando, Florida. Texting Base is a cloud-based ”SMS Marketing Automation Platform” which allows entities to personalize group text messages.
Prior to Texting Base, Eric was the first US employee of TechSpan which became Headstrong. Headstrong sold for $550M to GenPact.
With a group of partners in 2005, Eric started Premier Mortgage Capital, Inc., a nationwide state charted Mortgage Company that grew to over 2B/Year in originations.
Eric is the author of "Changing The World Through Texting Software" and writes the entrepreneur section of "LA Style Magazine." Eric is an inventor, investor, and longtime entrepreneur.
Texting Base does not offer legal advice-please consult an attorney before starting to text for business purposes.