12 min learn

On this ongoing series, we’re sharing recommendation, suggestions and insights from real entrepreneurs who’re on the market doing business battle every day. (Solutions have been edited and condensed for readability.) 

Who’re you and what’s your corporation?

Andrew Reiner, co-founder of Grapevine AI. My infatuation with entrepreneurship began after I was 15 — constructing an organization that I grew to over 250 shoppers and offered earlier than even enrolling in school. After graduating from Babson Faculty, I labored at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital in capital markets. Then I advanced right into a quant jock at Zweig-Dimenna Hedge fund and in 2012 left to turn into the COO for SeatServe, an in-seat supply platform for stadiums, venues, and ran all issues gross sales, hiring, GTM, and was the fundraising “ninja,” elevating two rounds of capital.  As a result of paying it ahead has all the time been a giant a part of who I’m, I counsel a number of startups and mentored for Halcyon Accelerator.

What’s Grapevine AI?

We’re constructing the primary voice-driven, real-language relationships insights platform. Basically, we allow you to simply ramble about who you met, what’s vital to them, and what it’s good to do subsequent and we maintain the remainder. It’s as simple as having a dialog with your self. Simply click on a button and begin capturing intel in your contacts: Bob loves the Mets, Jane’s quota is due on the finish of April, or Elizabeth has two children named Peter and Lucy. No matter is vital to you is vital to us. However even higher, we are able to recall this info, simply by asking actual questions on anecdotal particulars. Grapevine AI will assist you to genuinely join along with your prospects or associates as a result of we gained’t allow you to overlook the small print which will imply the world to your contacts. Consider it as your private handler!

What impressed you to create Grapevine.ai?

I used to be at a marriage up in Cape Cod and I noticed a 65-year-old man sporting a Knicks hat. I instantly thought 2 issues: 1) I’ve by no means seen somebody put on a baseball hat to a marriage and a pair of)  I’ve by no means seen somebody with the stones to put on a Knicks hat this near Boston. I like assembly new individuals, so I made a decision to go speak to him. Over the subsequent 30 to 45 minutes we talked, we laughed, and I realized a bunch of issues about him. He is a physician from the Higher West Facet of Manhattan, he is ingesting Macallan 12, he is clearly a Knicks fan, and I believed to myself: I want to introduce him to my dad. They’re about the identical age, docs, each of them love the Knicks and an excellent glass of whiskey, however most significantly they’re each horrendous however entertaining dancers. The issue got here the subsequent morning after I forgot his identify! It actually pissed me off that I could not bear in mind one individual’s identify from the night time earlier than and it made me pause — what else am I forgetting? How am I supposed to construct relationships with individuals over six months, 2 years, the remainder of my life? There wanted to be a greater technique to give attention to constructing the precise connection and there wanted to be a approach to make use of synthetic intelligence and voice expertise to take action. For this reason we developed Grapevine AI.

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We created Grapevine AI as a result of scribbled notes on cocktail napkins, Submit-Its or no matter cockamamie system you utilize simply isn’t slicing it anymore. Why not whip out your telephone and rapidly speak to Grapevine? You’ll by no means scramble earlier than a gross sales name or assembly as a result of reminders about key particulars (private {and professional}) will likely be curated and delivered to you in Grapevine AI’s Each day Intelligence Briefings.

What has been your largest problem in the course of the pandemic, and the way did you pivot to beat it?

Group-building, fundraising, and determining how we are able to modify our product to the brand new regular of back-to-back Zoom calls. A lot of what I worth in main a workforce is constructing a powerful, cohesive group of people who can work arduous and play arduous — collectively! After all, with Covid, gone went Friday beers and Ps tournaments. So we began Thursday zoom recreation days–everything from Mario Kart to trivia games–to maintain us all related on the enjoyable entrance. It was mandatory, essential even, to speak with one another. We provided $10/day to our workers for lunch and a clean test for everybody to order a stunning meal (for them and their partner) for the vacations in order that we might have our “vacation zoom” collectively as effectively.

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From the fundraising perspective, I’m a lot better in individual as a result of half of what I attempt to do is learn physique language, which is clearly extra difficult to do over Zoom. The flip-side to that is we had been capable of meet with notable buyers from all around the world and now have a world community of wonderful buyers. Individuals are extra receptive now greater than ever to satisfy with people from exterior their community/area. We had been actually lucky to have a incredible workforce and an important product that fundraising over zoom was manageable -– we discovered individuals actually resonated with the issue we try to resolve, and it didn’t matter that our pitch wasn’t in individual.

From the product facet, it was important for us to evolve our platform to make use of it each on the go and at your desk. It’s why we created a web-based dashboard that makes use of our cutting-edge AI and have plans to combine into Zoom this yr.

What recommendation would you give entrepreneurs on the lookout for funding?

First, let me simply spotlight the totally different investor channels you have to be conscious of:

  • Family and friends → best capital to realize in case you have the community, hardest cash to ask for. In case you are unwilling to ask these closest to you, you ship a “lack of conviction” sign to buyers. 

  • LinkedIn → chilly outreach right here is not the worst thought.

  • Angel.co → get a really feel of what sort of investor invests in your house.

  • Crunchbase → get a really feel for what your opponents have raised and from whom.

  • Sign.nfx.com → see energetic buyers in your house; discover frequent acquaintances to ask for introductions.

  • Syndicate Teams → Sometimes spend money on later stage “down the pipe” investments, however a good way so as to add strategic LPs to your cap desk.

  • Enterprise funds → Relying in your stage, traction, this may very well be a superb sign on your startup. It additionally typically comes with different strings connected (learn: board seats, pro-rata rights, and so on.).

  • Excessive sign buyers → who’s the very best investor for you? Who can assist you go from 0→ 1 or 2→ 4 by means of their very own community or expertise?

Subsequent, let’s speak about the best way to method buyers and who to method first.

For my part, begin with family and friends. Take small checks. Give them good phrases. Reward them for supporting you early. Then transfer on to angel buyers and enterprise funds should you determine that’s the proper route. These are typically more difficult to be launched to & it’s normally one of many founder’s jobs to discover a mutual/heat connection to an investor. The most effective factor is that should you go away an excellent impression with one investor, they’re normally keen to make an introduction even when they cross on the spherical. Every time somebody handed on us, I all the time requested for value-add introductions. This creates a spider internet of connections making a community impact virtually instantly.

One of the simplest ways to ask for an introduction is to ascertain credibility with whomever you’re speaking to and ship them an e mail they’ll ahead. I take advantage of the same template that Alex Iskold (of TechStars & 2048.vc) popularized that you could find here.

It is important to establish who you suppose provides worth to your cap desk and who can assist you develop rapidly. I consider that there are 3 ways for buyers so as to add worth. One is so that you can scale by means of their portfolio firms, which is an apparent value-add. The second approach is to be a model ambassador that can assist you go viral. The final approach is to extend your data by means of dialog and whiteboarding–helping you establish future channels for fundraising and normal advising. It is even higher in the event that they can assist store your enterprise to different buyers. I’d relatively have a cap desk that crunched my valuation stuffed with strategic buyers than a lofty valuation from individuals who add no worth. Most cap tables I do know of have a mix of each forms of buyers.

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I’ve used sign.nfx.com just a few instances for locating direct connections to buyers by means of my community, however I do not consider I’ve ever acquired a test from this route. Most syndicate teams handed on us as a result of we had been pre-revenue and pre-launch, however one of many world’s largest teams believed in our imaginative and prescient and got here in with a considerable test. Syndicates, for my part, are nice, you get a great deal of LPs who’re model ambassadors and potential pilots or income channels, however you solely take care of one supervisor and one entry in your cap desk.

How greatest to arrange for a pitch assembly?

I like to think about making ready for a pitch as 60% know your shit, 30% present your ardour, and 10% perceive who your viewers is. By no means ever learn a pitch. It’s apparent. You would possibly suppose it’s not since you’ve enlarged your font so your eyes don’t transfer or another trick, however it’s virtually not possible to pretend enthusiasm and keenness whereas studying a teleprompter.

The bottom line is to know your stuff. Know the large speaking factors per slide—apply, apply, apply. Document your self. Take heed to your self — even should you discover it cringe-worthy (I do know I do). Determine how one can enhance. Observe some extra. Analysis your business, know your opponents. Know your key differentiator, the place the market is and the way it’s yours for the taking. Then apply some extra.

Then, whenever you’re able to pitch people, pitch individuals who you suppose are least more likely to spend money on your startup. Whether or not you’re too early for them, otherwise you don’t match their precise thesis, or should you doubt they’ve the money to speculate. Observe pitching on them. They are going to ask you questions you might be unprepared for, however it’s okay as a result of the chances of you closing them are small to start with. After you get extra comfy answering the identical questions most individuals will ask, transfer on to people you suppose there’s a slight likelihood of closing and pitch some extra. They are going to ask totally different questions. You’ll begin to turn into higher at answering them on the fly. Then, lastly, go after people who you suppose you’ve gotten the very best shot at closing. By now, you’ve gotten pitched just a few dozen instances (hopefully) and have labored the kinks out of your system. You’ll appear SO far more ready in the course of the Q&A bit of the pitch since you’ve already heard and responded to many of the questions they are going to ask. You’ll shine. The investor will suppose you’re a rockstar – and you’re a rockstar – however not since you simply know every thing. You’re a rockstar since you saved the very best for final, and now you might be a lot extra ready than you had been whenever you pitched the primary investor just a few weeks prior.

What does the phrase “entrepreneur” imply to you?

An entrepreneur is somebody who’s all the time looking for a greater technique to remedy outdated issues. Somebody who will get informed no, and as an alternative of being dejected, tries to study why they heard no. Somebody who’s keen to danger all of it – betting on themselves and their potential to execute. Somebody who can’t have a boss and needs to alter the world, one small section at a time. An entrepreneur craves the push and loves feeling like they beat the system. In the end, it’s somebody who loves successful and all the time thinks, “I can do it higher.”

Is there a selected quote or saying that you simply use as private motivation? 

After I was youthful, like 12, my dad and I used to long-distance run collectively. He was a constant marathoner. Every time I used to be drained or wanted a break, my dad would have a look at me and make me scream, in Central Park or wherever we had been, “I’m a fucking animal!” and maintain going. Single-handedly essentially the most motivating factor anybody has ever mentioned to me.