"Congratulations! Now let’s deal with the vultures," said this startup's mentor when funding buzz led to some shockingly bad behavior. By Sarah Fazendin (Co-founder & CEO, Globa.li)
"Congratulations! Now let’s deal with the vultures."
These were the sage words from one of our trusted advisors, when my co-founder and I called him to get some advice. We were nearing our big Demo Day event and rapidly moving towards the close of our seed round, riding some wonderful momentum.
Unfortunately a strange thing was happening. People all around us, people we knew and who seemed trustworthy, were turning into vultures.
The congratulations offered by our advisor highlighted the fact that we clearly had something people saw as valuable, and were willing to do shocking things to become a part of it.
No one told me this was going to happen, but industry veterans were not surprised when it did.
Here is how we dealt with the number of people who were forcing themselves on us and rapidly raised our series seed financing.
Focus on Your Co-founder
My co-founder and I put our out of office notices on, cancelled all but the most important meetings, and spent the week before Demo Day focusing on each other. We each made sure the other was focused, emotionally balanced and even tried to have a little fun.
This underscores the well-documented importance of your team and ensuring you select the right co-founder from the start. This is all you have to fall back on when times get tough.
Listen to your Gut
We’ve built an amazing team. But over the past few weeks we have had to separate from a few people who were involved with the business (not core team members, but involved nonetheless) when it became clear to us that their interests and the company's best interests did not seem to be aligned.
What had perhaps been a nagging thought in the backs of our minds, became a full-blown scream as the actions of some of these people threatened to derail our momentum at one of the company’s most important moments.
Listen to your gut from the outset. If you have a question about someone fitting into the corporate culture you wish to build, there is likely a reason for that feeling even if you have no idea what that reason is. Don’t move forward with bringing them onboard. If they are already there, rearrange people quickly to make sure you are surrounded by the best team to make your company a success.
Follow the Six-Month Rule
This is a tough one. At the early stage of a startup when things are moving quickly it’s easy to see some worth in growing the team quickly with people who could add value in terms of name, credibility, introductions and more.
After the past weeks of stress, we’ve implemented a “no equity for at least six months” rule at the company. We must know and work with a person for at least six months before granting equity in the company.
One of our most trusted advisors ends every email with “I hope you’re having fun!” or some variation. We only have one life and one shot at this business, and if it’s not fun it’s quite simply not worth doing.
Interested in generating some positive buzz yourself? if you are a tech startup, with less than $1M in funding, and at least one female founder apply to our startup competition!
Have you encountered any vultures on your startup journey? How did you deal with them?
About the guest blogger: After over 13 years leading international tourism organizations, Sarah founded Globa.li with the simple belief that it should be easier to book the world's best hotels. Today, as CEO of Globa.li, she is leading the industry-wide call for more standardized digital travel inventory, and using better technology to support tourism in Africa, Latin America and Asia.