It depends. Are you pursuing a massive market opportunity? Do you want to accelerate quickly? Are you ready for an exit in a few years? Because, after all, when VCs invests in your company, they want to see a return after some period of time.
Is venture capital right for you? Well, it depends. Are you pursuing a massive market opportunity? Do you want to pursue it in a very fast fashion with technology at the core? And are you ready for an exit after a few years of success? Because after all, when a venture capitalist invests in your company, they want to see a return after some period of time.
So how do you know if you’re ready for venture capital? Well, the truth is it’s never too early to talk to a VC. Many VCs will invest right at inception. I mean, I’ve invested in companies that were only Power Points. You can really start at any stage. The most important thing is to have a clear view of what you’re going to do with that money if you do get it. That is, what are the milestones that you’re going to achieve, and what’s the next valuation and flexion point that you will reach after you’ve spent that capital? One important thing you have to think about if you take on venture capital is that you’re taking on a business partner, in some ways a boss that you can’t fire. And for some people, that’s a proposition that just doesn’t work. A colleague of mine in Harvard Business School, Professor Noam Wasserman, has a terrific paradigm he calls “Rich versus King.” There’s a choice that entrepreneurs need to make. If they want to be rich, then they don’t mind giving up some control in pursuit of the big market opportunity. And that often means taking on VC capital to accelerate their progress. If they want to be king, if they want to preserve control and be masters of their domain, then they probably don’t want to take on venture capital. The choice is yours. Just understand the tradeoffs when you make that choice.
So when we started Upromise in my partner’s house, of course we knew we wanted to raise venture capital. The reason? We wanted to go fast, and we wanted to go big, and we knew to make a dent in the college savings crisis, we needed the help of the world’s best venture capitalists, and we needed all the resources we could get to pursue that big vision. The truth is, the venture capitalists have seen the movie many, many times before. We know the formula, the playbook for how to build great companies and how to scale them and how to create value. And if you want the access to that playbook, you want a venture capitalist by your side. You want their network, you want their guidance, you want their advice. Venture capitalists can be amazing partners to help create these great companies, and we’ve seen it time and time again, whether it’s Google or Facebook or Apple, where the venture capital firm and the venture capital partners had a huge impact on the success of those companies.
So with all that in mind, you’ve got to figure out whether venture capital is right for you. The implications are profound, and the opportunity is tremendous.