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How to tell a story worth $140 million dollars

Jason Yeh
December 8, 2020
53
 MIN
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New
December 8, 2020
53
 MIN

How to tell a story worth $140 million dollars

Anthemos Georgiades, founder of Zumper, perfected his pitch the way most founders do: through trial and error. This show is about storytelling and all the elements that go into telling the perfect fundraising story. Anthemos deals with a difficult start to his tale having to manage “signaling risk” as well missteps with his deck and an overall lack of focus on the way to raising over $140 million dollars.

Episode Summary

Anthemos Georgiades, founder of Zumper, perfected his pitch the way most founders do: through trial and error. This show is about storytelling and all the elements that go into telling the perfect fundraising story. Anthemos deals with a difficult start to his tale having to manage “signaling risk” as well missteps with his deck and an overall lack of focus on the way to raising over $140 million dollars.

Topics Discussed

  • Anthemos describes his ambitions growing up [1:43]
  • Describing the elements that made his series A more difficult [4:36]
  • What was the catalyst to have them go out ot raise [6:15]
  • Anthemos describes how little confidence he had around the fundraising process before he went out for his A round [8:37]
  • Where did Anth get support during these times? [10:37]
  • Anth makes a big mistake with his deck early on and gets away with it [14:22]
  • A tough investor meeting he remembers [17:22]
  • How he managed feedback and advice from prospective investors [19:56]
  • Anth talks about how many no’s he’s gotten [23:49]
  • Chatting about the stress leading up to his fundraise and describing the signaling risk he had to manage [24:50]
  • Anth describes when he got the call telling him that Kleiner Perkins was going to invest [29:38]
  • Anth tells us what some lessons he shares with founders are [33:20]
  • Debrief with my producer Olivia talking about some of the terms used and describing in greater detail why “signaling risk” was such a big deal [38:04]

Resources Mentioned

If you’re in the market for housing, you should check out Zumper:

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Zumper
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Episode Transcript

Anth: [00:00:00] [coin spinning] Some of these investors are famous, that everyone knows them. It's is really hard to come out of the room and say, I'm going to ignore Sequoia. For example, I'm going to ignore their advice. And sometimes that's the wrong thing to do, but you know what? It's sometimes the right thing to do. 

Jason: [00:00:19] This is Funded a show where entrepreneurs who raised millions in venture capital share the gritty side of what it actually took to get that money in the bank.

I'm Jason Yeh, your host. Not too long ago. I was trying to get my ideas funded. And once upon a time, I was a VC listening to founders pitch me for money. But today we're talking about how Anthemos Georgiades the founder of Zumper went through that process. If you're not familiar with Zumper, they're the largest privately held apartment search platform.

Now with over 200 employees. Between Zumper and their popular tool Padmapper, the company attracts 15 million visitors per month. He'll talk about how, as a business school student, he somehow landed marquee firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock, and Kleiner Perkins as seed investors all at once. But we're also going to hear that that type of look can actually be kind of tricky.

It can trigger something called signaling risk. More about that later. One of the stories we tell about entrepreneurs is that this game is so hard that only the ultra confident and ultra brash succeed. Turns out for Anthemos, that's not true. You'll hear he's super down to earth and personable. In fact, he himself never saw it coming that one day he'd have raised over $140 million.

Anth: [00:01:42] Uh, I, uh, I had no ambition to be an entrepreneur or a CEO. I, uh, I just had a problem I was trying to solve because it has such a crappy experience in my twenties kind of renting apartments. So then they like, you know, two kinds of CEOs. They're the CEOs who just want to be the CEO who raises like $150 million.

I guess on the front pages of things. And then I think there are CEOs or entrepreneurs who stumbled into entrepreneurship and uh, never thought they'd ever get there. And I was very much the second kind or though once you're once you're that is that there's no way back. 

Jason: [00:02:16] Well, and that's, that's interesting that you talk about not really knowing if you wanted to be a CEO.

Well, what about how outgoing you were? Were you an introvert or an extrovert? Where were you? The type of person that was constantly trying to sell people on things? 

Anth: [00:02:31] Yeah, so I was an introverted kid, only child, like two kind of introverted parents in London. So I grew up in Europe where, you know, in British society, no, one's really an aggressive sales person.

You'll kind of, ah, you apologize every time he tries to make a sale and you always preface everything with sorry, but, and so no, I was like, you know, popular kid at school, but I was like a nerdy kid and I was the kid who got the good grades and was the first to like go home from a party cause I had to study the next day.

And uh, so no, like being a CEO, being on stage, raising a ton of cash, like it was not inherent to my personality at all. Like I enjoyed partying and going out, but like in the day-to-day I, it just isn't part of my innate personality to be selling like 24 7, which when you're fundraising or hiring or selling, you're, you're doing all the time.

Jason: [00:03:22] I'm super interested in how founders who have been so successful, raising money actually evolved all those skills. It's always interesting to hear, you know, was there something as a kid that gave them some, some sort of that sort of the innate ability to talk to people, to sell companies, to raise money?

Um, but you seem to be one that sorta gotten, got dropped into the deep end, if you will, when it came time to raise money. But I think what we'd like to talk about is, um, what you shared was maybe one of the most exciting fundraisers out of call it seven, seven-ish rounds of funding that you raised in over $140 million.

Anth: [00:03:56] Yeah. I think that the Series A was like the most pivotal where I think after that it got easier. Uh, Series A was tough. Uh, so yeah, I think that was at the most pivotal in our company history. So happy to go. 

Yeah. No, you, you call it tough. I mean, there, I could just read it on your face. We're on Zoom right now.

So I'm obviously not in the same room, but, um, it sounds like there's a lot baked into that. There's certainly emotions behind that. What, what made it tough? What made you think it would be tough? Um, before you actually embarked on the Series A fundraise. 

Yeah. So we, we did our Series A from, in the end from Kleiner Perkins, uh, in 2014.

And I think, um, it was tough because I think in the Series A, for many entrepreneurs is that first light institutional recognition that you're onto something is not say seed rounds or angel rounds that easy. Like they are not for many entrepreneurs. But I think the Series A, when you get the headline VC, um, I think that was just like the first real stamp that we were onto something.

It was also kind of uniquely tough for us as at Zumper, because we'd done a really weird seed round. So, um, while I was at grad school, in my final six months, I raised a million dollars, uh, during our MBA and we raised it from kind of four or five kind of brand name VCs who checked in like a hundred to 200 K.

So like for these VCs, it was change. For us, it was life-changing. But we had like Kleiner, Andreessen, Greylock, NEA, Crunchfund all chipped in like a hundred to 200 grand. So the press release looks amazing. And you know, you have all these amazing investors, but then you have the real, uh, fear of a signal risk that if one of those four or five funds doesn't lead your Series A.

You're kind of in trouble because the Sequoias of the world, they're going to look at your round and say, well, cool, I'll talk to you, but why aren't Kleiner or Andreessen leading it. So I think from those two reasons that the fact that the series a is a big deal. And then the fact for us that we kind of created a bit of risk by raising from all these brand names at the seed stage, it was kind of a little nerve wracking.

Jason: [00:05:57] As you started preparing as you were going and leading up this time where you'd be raising a Series A, do you remember, do you remember preparing and knowing when you were going to raise? Was it like a feeling like, okay, we're ready to go? Or was it more a line drawn in the sand around having to go out of necessity?

Anth: [00:06:15] Yeah, the dirty secret, and I think this is true of 99% of entrepreneurs, is so many times you go out is, cause you kind of have to, like, when we tell the story, we can paint it perfectly that we've raised, you know, every 18 to 24 months predictably. But, uh, the reality was in our, in our Series A yeah, we had six to nine months of cash left and

yeah like we had to, we didn't know how long it would take, so we kinda had to go. 

Jason: [00:06:40] So necessity was more of the trigger. Did you feel like you had a good story or, or a number that you could point to when you were raising? 

Anth: [00:06:48] Um, I think that the biggest thing we felt at the series a was there was no as a two-sided marketplace business, as many of your listeners may maybe building like there's no, there's no natural number.

There's no MAU number. You have to hit. There's no necessary like MRR you have to hit, you raise our momentum. Not on absolutes. There was no absolute number on the Y axis we had to hit. We grew for six months in a row, both our MAUs and our like listings. Zumper is a rental platforms. So they're kind of the supply and demand side of the things we cater to the most.

And, um, I think we had curves that looked to exponential that made investors think shit, if we can kind of continue uh, this is a sure fire bet. And so even though the numbers in absolute terms were actually pretty small in the grand scheme of things, um, the momentum of the curves for six months look pretty good.

And I think that was the biggest, uh, tipping point for us because we could have waited another two or three months without running out of money, but we have so much momentum. That it was the right time to go before we lost that. So every single fundraising since actually has been the same story, there's never an absolute number.

It's always like putting two amazing courses together and then going for it because you can reasonably paint the line that this will continue. 

Jason: [00:07:59] And like, if you wait any longer, you're really going to be running after that money with a gun to your head. And no one wants that. 

Anth: [00:08:04] Correct. 

Jason: [00:08:05] That makes sense. So it sounds like you had money in the bank from your seed and knowing the timeline of when you would be cash out when you really need the money.

And plus the momentum you're able to go out. With that initial fundraise under your belt, getting ready to plan for this fundraise. Did you feel like, you know, you were a stone-cold fundraising killer or were you still like, you know, I'm not really sure what I'm doing here as you were going into the aid.

Do you remember that back in 2014? 

Anth: [00:08:37] Yeah, we, it was, we had no full confidence at all of what we're doing. Um, We, you know, had, had so much love in the tech press cause we'd launched at Tech Crunch Disrupt. We had all these brand named VCs that had helped us hire like our team. I mean our team of seven but still.

And we felt like frauds, like major frauds because people were like, wow, how did you get Andreessen? And you're like, guys, they give us a hundred thousand dollars. You have no idea. And they gave it to us on a 30 minute phone call. And that is true. We raised a hundred grand from Andreessen on an amazing phone call with Jeff Jordan was like, we felt like we fluked the first time for sure.

And because we hadn't had anyone lean in the first time with like a huge check, the biggest check in our seed round had been like $200K uh, from Kleiner. And so we felt like frauds, uh, like I think a lot of entrepreneurs do. And so by the time of the Series A no, we thought we had this lucky round where a bunch of people had done chip shots and suddenly now we're like, well, we need five or six million now, which means someone's got to write us a $4 or $5 million check.

And that's a very different proposition from saying, Hey, I'm calling from grad school. Like write me a 100K and I'll update you every month. And so, um, our Series A, we went into with no confidence of, uh, how to fundraise. We, we felt very confident in the business, but we felt we were kind of rookies at fundraising and to be candid, we were, uh, so we were eyes wide open.

Jason: [00:10:04] Well, I mean, that's another thing that we should talk about because it's funny. There are some things that people talk about when you raise what industry insiders call a party round, especially at the seed round where there's no one investor that has like a huge chunk of that round who feels like they are the lead or the person that needs to shepherd you along.

So, as you're thinking about all this external perception of Zumper and what you need to do in order to raise $5 to $6 million, how did you even think about what you would actually I meant was there somebody holding your hand, did you lean on blog posts or were you just like, well figure it out? Like, let's start doing it.

Anth: [00:10:46] Yeah. I talked to, I think the best support network I built in the early years was like other CEOs who are like two or three years further along than me. And at the time it felt like begging for their time. And I wish I'd had another network, but I was new to Silicon Valley. I didn't know that many people at the time.

And I felt it was kind of lonely. I mean, like the maximum of like, it's kind of lonely as, as a founder is so true. And so emotionally I relied on my co-founders. They had no more experience with fundraising than I did, but they were a phenomenal crutch. I leaned on CEOs who'd like raise more money than me, but we're also building like two-sided marketplaces.

And I think I learned two things from them. One is it's so hard, especially building a marketplace where like you just, you need to solve chicken and egg for years before you can really get the flywheel of revenue going. And the actually that's the story you need to tell investors that was really helpful.

And then the second one was a piece of advice. There's a guy called Jason Freeman, who was the CEO of 42 floors, which is a commercial real estate startup. There was a few years ahead of us when we launched. And he was the one who actually told me the momentum point that he was always, he'd raised a lot of money very quickly for his company.

And he was one who actually said, Hey, you know, remember there's no number they're trying to get you to hit it. Just show the curve and he was right. And so I relied on CEO's and I relied on, um, just being brutally honest with them about like my fears and concerns. And I find that the more transparent and like, uh, humbled you are and your conversations with, with other people, like they'll open up and say, Hey, from the outside, it looks like we're crushing it.

It's a shit show. So hard. And I find that just being like non showy about it and just revealing your like deepest, darkest concerns. Will, will show you people that went through the same stuff like two years before. So we used that other CEO's um, um, and then we focused on like the business metrics that we thought would move the needle.

But, um, no, we're, we're uh, we're rookies on the way into our Series A.

Jason: [00:12:44] Let's take a quick break here. When we get back the deck, that's what the VC world calls your presentation that can make or break you in fundraising. What not to do and tells us from his own painful experience.

I spend most of my days, one-on-one with founders, helping them understand strategies that make a difference in fundraising when super important tip, I always stress with founders is to make sure they send their decks and materials using a document sharing tool. And for that, I always recommend DocSend. DocSend lets you know, what's happening with your deck after you send it along with real-time analytics and notifications. Did the VCs actually open it?

What slides did they spend the most time on? And if you think it got shared with the wrong people or maybe you made a mistake and sent it to quickly, DocSend lets you control access and make updates to content even after sending. Sign up for a free two week trial at docsend.com/funded. That's D O C S E N D.com/funded.

If your elevator pitch is like a one-liner a deck is like your HBO special is your chance to shine and tell the full arc of your company's story or practically speaking, it's a PowerPoint, but one of the most important ones of your startup life, it can be the difference between whether or not an investor will hand over a check or stop returning your call.

Anth: [00:14:22] Um, sure. First of all, our deck, so I'm, I'm ex BCG the consulting firms. So in my twenties, I was used to writing like 50 slide decks, no 300 slide decks. So our Series A deck embarrassingly was 55 slides long. We were raising $6 million, six and a half million dollars. And I wrote a 55 slide deck, but we've since raised like $140 million.

And my last fundraise, he did our Series D. Our deck was 11 slides long, and we raised like, you know, 50, $60 million. And so I've kind of learned by distance that less is more and fundraising is very 80 20. So our deck was 55 slides long. I legitimately went through every slide in the partner meeting with Kleiner who ended up leading the round and the story we, we told is completely accurate. It just took far, far longer than we thought to get there. So I think there's the joke in fundraising that it would take you twice as long to go half as far, twice as long to go half as far. So if you look at pro formas in like Series A decks, apparently even very successful companies that took those companies twice as long to go half as far as they thought.

And I think that's broadly true of what we told Kleiner, where we said to Kleiner, um, And a bunch of other VCs, uh, during the rounds, but we went with Kleiner and, uh, I think our story was, Hey, we spent 18 months of our seed round betting on supply. So we solve the chicken and egg by betting. And we can go into this on bringing landlords on to our platform by building them a bunch of tools that didn't rely on us having any users.

Because on the renter side, we had like no users at all. And so our bet to Kleiner, well our pitch to Kleiner was, Hey, we've done the hard thing, which is to aggregate supply. In our marketplace. Now we're going to build demand on top of it. And that's where revenue is going to come. A lot of VCs wouldn't make that bet, uh, Kleiner did, and it proved to pay off. And it was exactly the right sequence. So hard to explain that because it looks like you're going into these meetings apologizing for your lack of demand. And we're saying, no, no, no. It was conscious. You know, we only have, I think when we raised our Series A, we only had like 30,000 visits a month and we now have 15 million, but we, so we basically had nothing.

So I felt in a lot of VC meetings, our tone may have come across as apologetic to say hey, because we don't have demand, we're going to show you supply where we're doing better. But it was actually authentically the strategy, which is build supply first, then build demand on top of it. It was just a lot of VCs, uh, weren't prepared to make that bet. 

Jason: [00:16:47] So it sounds like eventually Kleiner decided to get in, you know, get in the car with you and make that bet and believe that you took the right path by going supply first. Um, but along the way, I'm sure there were a ton of VCs that were like, This is a terrible idea for you to go after supply.

You don't have any demand side interest. Do you remember any of the, the, the strongest reactions, if you will, or do you remember any of the experiences that were, um, yeah, most uncomfortable as you started selling your baby and like presenting your baby as the most amazing thing. 

Anth: [00:17:22] Yeah. We have one, I won't name the VC.

They're a well-known VC. Um, we had one epically bad pitch meeting where, um, it was between our seed and our Series A we were probably like four or five months old and we didn't even have 30,000 visits a month. And we pretty had like, 10,000 visits a month, which is like irrelevant in our space. And I remember going to this VC on Sand Hill road and we thought we were just going to like meet one of the partners.

And, uh, so we'd, we'd prepared, but not really. It was just like, this is an informal coffee chat with my co-founders and this one partner. And we walked in and we were led into the main boardroom of this very large VC and very well known VC. And we walked in and the entire partnership was at the meeting.

And what the VC had not told us was that it was a full-on partner meeting, not just a coffee chat. So we'd been completely short-circuited from like, Hey, these guys are a hot seed. They startup so like pitch us your Series A and it was so bad cause we were, we were A under prepared and just not ready for a full partner meeting.

And B we just got destroyed on the metrics of demand where I think we did a good job pitching on the fly, but our pitch just did not resonate at all. You just felt the meeting going away from like minute 10 when you showed the traffic chart was like, it was a pretty brutal experience. And, uh, I'm not sure I could have done it differently in retrospect, but it was, yeah, it sucked.

And, and the, the, the sucky thing about bad fundraising meetings, especially when you go to them with your team is your team digest them and morale suffers, especially with when you haven't done fundraising before, where you get a rejection and your co-founders look at you like, you know, is this all a terrible move?

And are we stupid to quit our jobs at Google and join you on this weird venture? So, um, yeah, it's, it's, it's getting punched in the face and then having to deal with the punch in the face and digest it for your team without spooking them is a rough combo. 

Jason: [00:19:19] Um, I'm glad that you brought this up. This is a really important topic for founders that are fundraising.

Um, I think there's a, well look, I'd like you to explain it. It's so what is the natural instinct after you get punched in the face like this, and especially with your team, you know, do you. Stick to your guns. You've doubled down on what you had bet, bet on. And then go to the next pitch being like, maybe this will be different or, you know, is the instinct and the thing that you do, should we change what we're doing?

Like, should we change our story? They hated our story. Like, do you remember what you thought through and, and how you evolved? 

Anth: [00:19:56] The instinct every time is to take their advice and change your entire business model when you, when you're new to fundraising, because you have these really legit women and men sitting in these boardrooms who know more about venture capital and technology than you do as a first time entrepreneur.

So your instinct, especially that of your team is to, uh, change course. So like for those of them who said, Hey, forget supply, just bet on demand. I mean, it literally makes no sense because if you don't have supply in our marketplace, you can't get eyeballs, but you know, if the team would internalize that and say, well if they, you know, that they're writing big checks, we should do that.

And then we'll raise from them. But you're like, That doesn't work like that, that chicken and egg doesn't work. So I think the instinct is to listen to their advice and go change everything immediately. And that is absolutely the wrong instincts. Like sometimes they are right, but you will often hear the same piece of advice more than once from different VCs.

And then you should really listen. But if you change your, the tack of your ship for every investor who, especially those who don't invest for whatever reason, you will be all over the place. And I think that's where like a company mission, which is your true North, is like the most important cause you keep it in your soul.

Uh, and you have to remind your team that that is why they will joined and that you do know what you're talking about and that you and your team know more about your industry than the VCs probably do. Now, the VCs are fantastic at pattern recognition across industries, but building within our industry, you probably know better.

So I think point 1 is, don't get buffeted, like one piece of feedback here and add, don't go and change your entire business model. The thing that we did change, however, is the way we tell the story. And I think, for example, in our Series A we started telling the story it's just equal. Like we launched the Tech Crunch Disrupt, we built supply, we built demand.

Here's what we've got. And that just didn't resonate, resonates several times. And so the tweak we made to actually just tell it as a narrative. So for us, it was like, We launched at Tech Crunch Disrupt the mission of our company is to make renting an apartment as easy as booking a hotel. We're going to deliver that in two phases, phase one is our seed stage. In our seed stage,

we've been almost entirely focused on supply and how to bring it on. Phase two, we'll be building demand. We will do that after our Series A and Hey, look at this baseline that we're starting from, and it's a really small adjustment to the story. But it had a massive effect on our fundraise because instead of a VC saying, well, they failed at building demand and supply.

They said, okay, cool. They've actually done a really good job in supply. And they're telling me they consciously didn't do demand, but they're going to do it afterwards. So there's a really small adjustment. It's the same slides, but it's a really small tweak in the nuance of the narrative had a massive impact.

And the only reason we changed it is after the first few no's and like kind of obvious, like something's not working. Uh, we tweaked that. 

Jason: [00:22:40] That's amazing. I mean, I think one thing you touched on that I, I love hearing and people are shocked at is that in this game, in venture capital, early stage startups, fundraising, I think you find that on almost any topic worth giving advice around, you can find two equally opposite pieces of advice from equally credible sources and it totally for it.

And for an inexperienced founder, for someone who hasn't done it before, I can spend someone's head around like 360, 720 degrees before they figure out what's up and what's down. 

Anth: [00:23:14] Totally. 

Jason: [00:23:15] Probably took you a little bit of time to figure that out as well. But yeah. 

Anth: [00:23:18] Cause these guys, like some of these investors are famous.

They're, they're everyone knows them, but you're going to meet the who's who cause you're going to meet everyone and a bunch of them are going to reject you. So it's really hard to come out of the room and say, I'm going to ignore Sequoia. For example, I'm going to ignore their advice and sometimes that's the wrong thing to do, but you know what, often you do know more about the nuance of your business.

You, you have to chart the course and that's your job as the CEO is to like, kind of ignore some of that stuff. Sometimes even if it makes you look dumb in front of your team, it's, it's sometimes the right thing to do. 

Jason: [00:23:49] And so. And that was one no, you only had one no, right? 

Anth: [00:23:54] Oh man. Ratios back. I mean, I, if I, the dirty secret on every tech crunch fundraiser you read about is behind every yes.

There are plethora, a bunch of no's and yeah, so we've had more nos on the journey to raising 140 million than yeses by a distance. 

Jason: [00:24:11] And wanted to kind of bring you back to. Yeah. Getting close to actually landing that term sheet from Kleiner Perkins. Um, you know, do you remember the few weeks leading up to that term sheet and how was fundraising going and like.

Did it feel like you were about to get 30 different term sheets? Did it feel like you were threading the needle? Um, do you remember that period of time at all? 

Anth: [00:24:38] So it was, um, it was in like the winter of 2013 kind of approaching kind of Christmas time and we had two things going on. Um, so, the background was, we were running out of money.

We had like nine months left then. Uh, cause we really didn't raise a lot of seed money and a couple of things were happening. Uh, first of all, we warmed up the four VCs that we raised the seed round from because we, every other meeting we'd taken in between time had said, love your pitch, tell us what Kleiner will do tell us what Andreessen will do.

And so the signal risk is as caught in Silicon Valley. The signal risk of not having one of the early guys step up to lead the Series A where that's their classic point of investing. It was a really big deal for us. And so we didn't actually go and pitch anyone else except those four, um, uh, At all, because there was no point if one of those four hadn't invested at least invested like a reasonable amount knew we were going to struggle to explain the story to someone else of why they didn't invest.

And at the same time, uh, we had an acquisition offer, which is kind of mad looking back on how small we were, but we'd bought, we built some really cool technology for small landlords to kind of onboard their listings. We basically built the first ever mobile app for a landlord to like take photos to their listing and like distribute them across the internet.

One of the sites it got distributed to was Zumper, but we used to syndicate these listings to like a bunch of other sites and, um, Actually, we had two companies, one company, one private equity company, try and buy us at the time. And so in Q4 approaching Christmas, we kind of played those processes off against each other, where we were like very clear with the VCs.

We had no interest in selling, but that, you know, with nine months of cash left in the bank, it was an alternative if we weren't able to raise money. And so, approaching Christmas, um, with Kleiner in particular, who ended up leading, we've made a lot of progress and we really, really wanted to get there before the end of December.

And I remember flying back to London where I'm from, where I usually go for the holidays. And getting on the plane in December and we were so close, but we weren't there. And we hadn't had the full partner meeting, which if you haven't raised money before typically you'll have all the right soundings from the investors, but you have to go to this formal kind of final yes

no decision where you'll be presented in front of the full partnership. And it should go, it should be a yes, by that stage, by the time you're in front of every partner, it should be a yes, but you never know. And it was scheduled for like the third or 4th of January. And so I kind of went back to London thinking.

Ah, crap. Like if there's a big macroeconomic dip or like they just lose momentum of excitement for the deal, this doesn't mean anything. The fact that we've made all this progress in like November and December. So yeah, I remember very vividly my flight back to London and then my flight from London to Silicon Valley, where I came back earlier.

And thinking we may have lost everything because we didn't close this at the end of 2013. So I was super anxious and, um, it did not feel good even though on paper, if you read the emails, you would have thought it was a done deal. It felt horrible. And cause Kleiner were one of these three or four investors that kind of had to lead the deal.

Uh, And they were our favorites. We'd spend more time with Kleiner than anyone else we built out of their seed office, that portfolio office in Soma. Um, it was, it felt terrible. And I, it felt really rough.

Jason: [00:27:55] When we come back, what it felt like when Anth got the yes founder's dream of why he didn't necessarily feel happy about it.

Sometimes, well, I'm a huge fan of a product. I go crazy person and it network my brains out to try to chat with the founder. I did that with Mike Adams, the founder of this amazing zoom enhancement tool called Grain to find out who his other users are. And I was a little surprised that one of the really relevant use cases.

Mike Adams (Grain.co): [00:28:27] We polled all of our users. We had, um, three segments that popped to the top where they were like 80% PMS score, meaning like 80% of the people in these buckets were like, I'd be very disappointed if you took Grain away. 

So one of those ways researchers, one of those was marketers, and then one of those was founders. 

Founders were like, I need this because they end up kind of being everything. Founders are like, they're the researcher, they're the marketer, they're the fundraiser. And so in the context of fundraising, I use Grain to like improve my performance. 

It's like game film.

Jason: [00:29:06] If you ever take notes on calls or wish you could save magical Zoom moments, you've got to try out Grain to get started for free.

Go to grain.co/funded that's Grain as in whole grain oats. Okay. Back to the show.

Everyone who's ever gone around asking VCs for money, dreams about getting a yes, but then Anth got one and it didn't really feel like he thought it would. I asked him if he remembered when he got the call. So obviously Kleiner invests. Um, do you remember where you were when, when you got the news and how it, how it was delivered?

Anth: [00:29:47] Oh yeah, it was epic. So I remember, I remember the 24 hours really well. I I'd flown back to San Francisco, I think on the 1st of January, because I think the pitch is on the third or the fourth. Uh, I left my then fiance now, wife in London, kind of, uh, cause I came back early. I remember, I remember living in, I lived in Pacific Heights in San Francisco at the time and the night before the pitch, I was, I w I wasn't nervous.

I just needed to Zen out. So I drove across golden gate bridge and like went for a walk in the Headlands, like, so I'm kind of weirdo at like 11 at night. So that really weird decision in retrospect. And I remember sitting out on the Headlands very vividly thinking shit, tomorrow's like existential day, it's a big, it's a big deal.

It wasn't like the company was going to fail if I didn't raise the money, but it was a big option that I really wanted that would have been knocked out. So once the meeting took a couple of my team, it was exceptional. It went perfectly well apart from the fact that we had like 40 slides too many in the deck.

Uh, John Doerr, the, the famous Kleiner partner had just got off for pain from China. I think he half fell asleep in the, in the pitch meeting, but, uh, but it went well and I drove straight from the meeting to SFO to pick up my wife, then fiance, who was just coming back from London. And I was waiting for an, uh, SFO arrivals lounge.

Like she literally just came out and my phone rang from Chi-Hua who ended up leading the round, who was a Kleiner at the time and now a great fund called Goodwater. And I remember just his first words were like, Let's do this man. And it was, it was a while I think it was like the best I really was

like, I think it was like the most successful professional moment of my career because it was like, I really wanted to work with this guy. Everybody wants to work with the firm, uh, the, the terms were good. And, uh, yeah, I remember exactly where I was sitting at SFO and it was, that was six years ago and it was like, it was yesterday.

Jason: [00:31:30] And you got to share it immediately with your fiance. Like that's so fun. 

Anth: [00:31:35] A fiance who I'd like dragged across the Atlantic originally to come live in me when I was starting, Zumper said it was like the wonderful that she was the first person and I remember driving. So I took a home and then drove to Soma to see my team.

And then we were six people at the time, but I remember going for drinks with the team. And it was just like a really special moment where it wasn't like, we were like, you know, I think people think you raise a fundraise and you're like, cracking champagne. And you're doing these things. I think it was like just a massively emotional time and very exhausting for people where people were happy.

But I think when you do fundraises, a lot of the emotions afterwards, isn't joy and elation. It's absolute relief exhaustion because it hits you then. And then kind of it dawns on you that like, okay, crap. Like we've just tripled our valuation. They're going to expect something from that. We've got a, we've got to build and like, we've got to take some time off, but like the pressure's on now we have like, Board meetings, which we never had before our Series A, so it was a weird, like I think with my then fiance, it was a wonderful feeling.

And she supported me for so long with the team, which was the one I was equally excited about. It was, it wasn't even happiness. It was just relief that we were. Yeah. It was just relief, which is such a weird feeling. You think it would be like happiness. It's not it's relief. 

Jason: [00:32:50] Well, look, um, I'll say this for everyone else, listening to, um, you're lucky that you built such great relationships with those seed funds that were already in your company because 50 slides is like a kiss of death.

And I, um, You know, for everyone listening, target 10 slides or less, I mean, you can go above that, especially when you're raising a series D like Anth did, but, uh, 10 slides or less is the gold standard. So I'm not going to let you use that as an answer, but I always love asking, given what you, you know, I'll let you dig into your basket of lessons from all your fundraises, but maybe in particular from that fundraise, um, Now what's the thing, the sort of piece of advice that you took, that you would give to a younger Anth that might've made that fundraise easier, or potentially a piece of advice that you like giving to other founders who are just getting into the fundraising game, um, that could help short circuit, a lot of pain and suffering.

Anth: [00:33:52] Yes. Uh, two, I think to, uh, just, I wish I'd known what the one is like, you're going to get rejected. You just got to get ready for it. And I think resilience is like the key thing in a fundraise. Like, I don't know, a single entrepreneur that didn't get rejected, a bunch in that career fundraising, some fundraises, you just got a bunch of yeses and it's an inside round and you just do it.

But for most fundraises, the truth is if you're pricing yourself well, And you're talking to enough folks to make sure you've got a good fit on your board member. So you want to talk to lots of people. You've mathematically got to get rejections. Like if Zumper tomorrow went and raised money at like, A $10 million valuation that we're going to get straight yeses like, cause cause so you've also got to be pricing yourself kind of well, so you didn't get too diluted, but you're not going to crazy.

So one is if you're meeting enough people and you're pricing yourself well enough, you should get rejected. And like Uber got. Billions of rejections. Airbnb have millions of rejections, like amazing marquee companies have been rejected by every investor at multiple stages. And we've been invested, uh, rejected by investors who then invested one or two rounds later.

And so rejections really are not rejections. They are opportunities to build relationships with VCs who invest. At a stage that benefits them. So first of all, is you're going to get rejected and it's all good. I got rejected a million times. Everyone else has it. It's part of the process. The second one is, especially at the Series A, which is like your first kind of large chunk of like fundraising.

Just pick one number, like pick a side of your marketplace, pick a feature on your product roadmap, pick one thing you want to build. And like hammer that home. The mistake I made at the Series A originally was thinking you needed to sell everything, right? You've got to have revenue. You gotta have margin.

You gotta demand, supply, like EBITDA. Of course you don't. Pick a number, pick one thing that you've uniquely done well in your typically say first couple of years of the company, before you raise a Series A pick one thing, just double down on one thing and tell that story at the series a of like, look how much we crushed this one thing, and that we are better than public companies at this one thing.

Even if it's kind of super niche and then say, by raising the Series A, we will either blow up this one thing or we'll build parallel things, or we'll integrate this one thing into a platform that then the wheel will get going. And that is really important in early stage fundraising, because I think you read all these articles and you think that you need like 50 million in revenue.

You just, you just don't, you need a product that is working and that has some uniqueness to it. So be narrow and be deep and focus on crushing one thing and raise your Series A after that. 

Jason: [00:36:42] That's awesome. That is, that's so much insightful information for everyone. I think, um, you know, you can get, you can see this advice online, everywhere.

You can hear some stories and blog posts around this, but I really think the way people understand best is through modeling and hearing the stories of founders that have been through it that, uh, that don't hide behind the tech crunch, uh, headlines and talk about the nose that they got and the dumb mistakes, like trying to pitch a 50 slide, uh, 

Anth: [00:37:15] haha 

Jason: [00:37:16] fundraising deck to Kleiner Perkins.

Um, But, and this is, this has been, this has been so amazing. Um, we know that there are tons of other stories. We only talked about your first $7 million and they're 130 plus other millions to go. So, uh, I hope we have another opportunity to talk to you in the future. Um, but like I said, thank you for spending an hour with us.

And, um, we look forward to seeing where Zumper goes from here. 

Anth: [00:37:43] Thanks for having me on.

Jason: [00:37:49] Okay. So Zumper, by the way, announced a new fundraise this past spring, when we were all in lockdown, $60 million in the bank, and Anth says he's probably got a few more rounds in him.

Series A. Signaling risk leading around term sheets. If you didn't know what those things were that's okay. Because my producer, Olivia also didn't so I called her up and we talked about what we just heard.

All right. Um, so that was a really awesome conversation with Anth. I was. I was really pleased with it. Um, I know there were a couple of things in there that might've thrown you off a bit, but, uh, what did you think of the conversation? 

Olivia: [00:38:35] I thought it was really. Cool. I guess he kind of reminded me of what I might be like if I were an entrepreneur, which is that, um, he talked a lot about emotion, which is like on the spectrum of like analytical to emotion.

Like I'm much more on the emotion side. 

Jason: [00:38:53] Um, the Anth is incredibly personable. Like he is very sneaky, smart, but he has that. He has that capability of making anyone feel comfortable, which I think certainly, um, served him well as he was trying to raise money and making so many mistakes, but still getting the opportunity to raise millions of dollars from the top

uh, investors in the world. 

Olivia: [00:39:15] Yeah. I can just imagine him doing really well in a pitching scenario because the way he talks is so like on such a personal level.

Jason: [00:39:27] Yeah. And it's funny, like you might not realize this, or most people might not realize that, but the ability to have someone connect with you and like lean into you and want to spend time with you independent of the numbers, independent of how well your company is going is so, so important.

So it's just funny. He talks about doing things that I would just cringe at. Um, when, when advising, um, entrepreneurs like. You know, going through a 50 slide deck, that kind of thing will make investors glaze over. Um, but if you have that special quality that Anth has, that just makes people want to spend time with you, you can kind of smooth out the bumps.

So I'm glad you picked up on it. 

Olivia: [00:40:06] Wait, wait. So how many, just a random question, but how many slides are supposed to be in a deck? Like what is normal? 

Jason: [00:40:13] Yeah, I mean, I think this is a big question that a lot of founders asked, but, um, generally speaking, I try to get early stage founders to try to hone their presentation and their deck to 10 slides or less.

Sometimes they'll go over 10 slides. But, um, you know, what I find is that if you start adding more and more slides, 15, 20, and 20 plus slides. It comes off more like you actually don't know what you're doing and you don't have conviction in the problem that you're trying to solve or your solution. Um, then a lot of founders actually think, they think maybe adding more details, show that they have a full, comprehensive understanding of, of what they're doing, but it's

actually quite the opposite. And so I really encourage people to be 10 slides or less. So, so hearing that he used 50 slides is just like, Oh my gosh, I cannot believe he was able to do that. 

Olivia: [00:41:05] Yeah, it's a lot. No, I hear that. I guess the lesson is, um, Focus really. 

Jason: [00:41:11] Focus. Focus. Yeah. Yeah. And Anth talked about it too.

You, one of his takeaways was he thought he had to cover every single detail of the business that he thought he was going to build. And what he likes to share with entrepreneurs is you'll find that one thing that you can describe in great depth with conviction and make that be the focal point of your story.

And I really loved that as a piece of it. 

Olivia: [00:41:36] Um, he mentioned something that. I wanted to talk about, he talked a lot about signaling risk. What is that? 

Jason: [00:41:46] Um, it's a really, it's a really good question because, you know, we didn't dive into it in a lot of detail in the conversation, but, um, it was really, it's really pivotal and important to understand when it comes to why the round of funding that he described was so intense and why, um, Um, and in some respects would have been incredibly harrowing to execute.

Um, so there there's a lot of things in fundraising that can be referred to as signaling risk, but it's anything that paints the picture that the company might not be fundable, or it might not actually be a great fund, um, investment. And the one that he was talking about, um, was a decision that was based on a decision that he made in his very first round of funding, that million dollar round that he raised while at school.

So there are, there is, um, some great signals, which is like having an amazing investor on your cap table. That's a great signal. So if you have a top investor, people will say, Olivia, Oh, you have Greylock. You must be a good company. The flip side of that though, is that what he did was that he did not get just one great investor.

He got four of the top, like 10 investors to all participate in a small way in his very first round. And those investors all have enough money, um, to invest in a large way in the next round. In fact, they would prefer to raise in the round after that they invested in. And so the signaling risk associated with having multiple funds that look like that in your first round.

Is that they all because of their investors, they know a ton about the company. They know the founder really well, know the team really well. They've been getting regular updates around the company. And so if none of those investors decide to actually invest in the next round, No one will touch that company because they're like if the best investors in the world who all have an inside look at this company, all pass and they had the opportunity to do it, then we're not going to be the idiots stuck holding the bag here and invest.

So, um, yeah, he set himself up in a like do or die situation where if he wasn't able to either get one of those four investors who invest or somehow play a game that created a situation where an outside investor would jump and try to invest before those other four investors passed, they, his company would be dead in the water and that's what he was referring to as signaling risk.

Olivia: [00:44:26] Whoa. Okay. Okay. Let me see if I can repeat it back to you. This is what I think signaling risk is, um, signaling risk. First of all is a term that really talks about the perspective of, um, prospective investors. So it's about how they might perceive you. And it's about when, like actions you might do or decisions you might have made that make you seem like a dodgy investment.

Jason: [00:44:56] That's a hundred percent correct. And, and what's more to say about that is in early stage investing, it's so much more art and feel than it is science, because you're so early that you don't have enough numbers to be able to say with the fit with like, um, with certainty Anth's company is great because it, it has hit this X milestone, those milestones, those numbers don't exist.

So everything is feel almost everything is signaling everything. Is this. This belief that it's a great investment. And if anything starts signaling otherwise that's signaling risk and things. Um, and things that would make an investor decide not to invest. 

Olivia: [00:45:36] I'm wondering if we could talk a little bit about, like, I think Anth's story in some ways is like, I some, some of his success surely must be attributable to like his understanding of the role that emotion plays and just being a fantastic storyteller.

But I'm wondering as an outsider, like if you could tell me, like, how do you tell, um, entrepreneurs to incorporate emotion? Because I'm like, If I think of a startup like Uber I'm like how is getting in a stranger's car? Emotional. So, yeah. Can you just tell me what sort of advice you'd give an entrepreneur?

Jason: [00:46:18] I love that set up question. Um, because I have a very specific phrase that I always tell people it's like, um, and a lot of times I have to shake founders, uh, of their like, natural predisposition to talk about numbers or be an engineer, and like, you know, just be scientific about things because as Anth talks about that's, that's not really, what's going to win the day at the end of the, uh, you know, in this process.

So what I tell people is that when you describe your company and when you're pitching your company, You should be talking about, like it, it's your, your favorite thing in the world, like, you know, your hobby or the best gift that you got and how would you describe the thing that your boyfriend gave you, um, that really lit you up?

And you'd say like, wow, w you know, He knew that, um, I really, really loved old radios and the history behind audio. And so he went to a thrift shop and got me this amazing speaker set that has this quality and you leaned into it. And you talk about it. Like you were just so excited about it. You went and say like, well, you know, it.

Outputs this many decibels and it was $45, but he sold it for a hundred or whatever. You would just lean into the emotion around it. So, you know, it can be hard to get certain personality types too. Um, You know, show some of the emotion that Anth does so naturally, but, um, yeah, one of the things I do is try to make them describe it.

Like it's their favorite little thing 

Olivia: [00:47:52] I was just wondering what it, what do you think will stick with you after this conversation, in terms of, um, how to approach an investor? 

Jason: [00:48:00] Yeah, I mean, I think one of the last things he talked about that assume important was. His initial approach to talking to investors was trying to list out everything, everything that he thought was important about the company, the very specific things that he thought investors wanted to see, um, every element of the business from the point that he was talking about into the future and his realization was that, you know, he really needed to craft a story around one very specific point that he knew really, really well.

And, um, You know, I think that's really important for founders to understand about fundraising. You know, it's not this checklist that found that investors need to see like, um, who's your competitive slide or what is your competitive slide? And. Um, what's your financial statement look like in three years?

What is your margin going to be? Those are questions that are going to come up, but you're going to really focus your efforts around telling a story and try to focus that story around one thing that you can tell with depth, with heart, with understanding. Um, and there are probably very few people that do it as well as ant.

So, um, it was great to hear that from him. 

Olivia: [00:49:12] Really enjoyed this conversation. Um, I'm not going to lie. I do have some business ideas. Okay. And I think one of them is actually really good, but I think I haven't acted on it because I am partially so intimidated by. The whole, like, what is my business plan and how will I generate revenue and blah, blah, blah.

And not to say that stuff isn't important, but I think it was just cool to get, to see an entrepreneur who like I think is like myself.

Jason: [00:49:51] That was my debrief with my producer, Olivia. About my conversation with Anthemos Georgiades founder of Zumper. You know, I was curious about the name Zumper and it turns out it's a play on a bit of cheeky, British slang. Gazumping is apparently when a seller raises the price of a home after having already agreed to a lower price.

The last thing I'll ask you is. Um, I think you have a fairly new house. Did you gazump somebody? 

Anth: [00:50:17] We did actually get it off the market. So kind of haha.

Jason: [00:50:20] Thanks ton for listening. If you have any questions related to today's show, or maybe you're going through your own fundraise and have questions. If, so, shoot me an email at jason@fundedpod.com.

I'd love to help find us on social, where we showcase other founders who are in the thick of it. Now, the show is @fundedpod and I'm @jayyeh that's J A Y Y E H. DM us. We'd love to feature your story. This episode was produced by Olivia Reingold 

Olivia: [00:50:48] Present! 

Jason: [00:50:49] Thanks also to Jordan Pascasio from Adamant Ventures for his support.

Jordan: [00:50:53] Hey guys.

Jason: [00:50:53] And to Anthemis Georgiades for being an awesome guest and one last thanks to our sponsor. DocSend the most trusted document sharing platter.