To Raise or Not to Raise? Dialing into the world of VR/AR capital
A few months ago, I came to the conclusion that we need to start thinking about raising capital to take our enterprise VR/AR business to the next level. I’ve generally resisted the idea, not because I don’t want to grow the company, but I’ve operated on an underlying belief that if a product can’t generate enough revenue from early customers to support organic growth over time, then it isn’t worth building.
Lately I’ve been reconsidering that philosophy. Our Immerse platform has come a long ways, and it’s pretty powerful stuff enabling Arch Virtual to rapidly deploy VR/AR enterprise products across architecture, training, medical simulation and marketing applications. Immerse Creator is in Early Access, with lots of long term potential. We’ve been profitable since day one, and managed to fund development of Immerse from profit margins and some angel investment, but if we continue on this path, I’m afraid it will take too long.
Ours isn’t a terribly unique story — perhaps typical. We first built a platform of tools to solve our own pain points, and we now recognize it’s potential to scale, and offer real value to the industry. Our roadmap is ambitious, and early interest is very promising. I think we could be onto something big, and I want to take it to the next level.
It’s still early. We have to dial in on specifics, and the hardware market is still emerging, but it feels like the time might be coming soon.. We need to consider scaling faster than we can grow organically, and to do that, we’ll need to consider raising capital.
So, I built a preliminary pitch deck and started gathering input in Wisconsin. We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback, and the raise is within reach, but it’s become evident to me that the capital itself feels tertiary to connection and timing. The right capital from the wrong person is a lot worse than no capital. Capital without business expertise is premature and risky. Capital bent on specificity will make us rigid.
There’s so much at stake — it’s vitally important to find the perfect fit. There’s certainly a lot to consider, and it can be pretty overwhelming at times, given how far outside of my comfort zone this has led me, but I’ve found it to be a fascinating process as I find my footing.
Out of the gates, I’ve been completely floored by the range of advice I’ve heard so far — as many different strategic directions as people I’ve talked to. Here are just a few:
- You’re late for seed funding and need to go straight to a Series A.
- Your valuation is way too high
- Your valuation is way too low.
- Valuation means nothing.
- You’re not asking for enough.
- You’re asking for too much.
- We want to tranch our investment.
- Whatever you do, don’t let investors talk you into tranching.
- You don’t need venture capital, you need a strategic investor.
- You should start a Kickstarter.
- Talk to your larger enterprise clients, since many of them have venture funds?
- You’re totally unprepared — you need extensive financials.
- Don’t waste time on financials this early. It’ll all be bullshit anyway, since nobody really knows what the market size will be.
- Don’t raise money! Bootstrap or die trying.
- Investors will be a nightmare.
- Open source the platform and capitalize on services.
- You need patents. Nobody will invest in you if you don’t have patents.
- Don’t get patents. They’re too expensive and essentially worthless at this stage when everything is in flux.
- You should be on Shark Tank (if I had a dollar for every time I heard this one, I wouldn’t need to raise.)
I actually enjoy the lack of consensus. Maybe there’s wisdom in all of this virtual insecurity. This is life on the virtual frontier, and nobody knows what’s going to happen next. That’s why it’s so exciting! But at the end of the day, I keep coming back to the need to prioritize connection and timing.
I recently wrote about my mission to reach out and connect to kick of 2018. A big part of it will be about continuing to gather input on investment opportunities and partners.
I’ll share the lessons I learn as I go, and look forward to hearing more about your experiences and any advice you might have for me as I continue climbing this epic learning curve.
In the meantime, I’ll see you on the virtual frontier!