Episode EXTRAORDINAIRE! The Plunge continues (Part 5)
We are ridiculously excited and honoured to share with you the first golden fruit that Anders Røpke has plucked after taking his Great Plunge at the end of last September. After just over two months of launching his own startup and experiencing the thrills and the inevitable dips that are linked to captaining one’s own ship, now is the time for confirmation and a well-earned reward: Anders and his team at Wind Power LAB have secured approximately USD 500K of investment from the Danish Innovation Fund, delivered by the Danish Government.
As you may remember (all articles can be revisited here) Anders left a well-remunerated job in a large corporation last 30th September, after testing his grit and growing his wings at the Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Driven and propelled by a hunger to come into his own power and expertise, filled to the brim with curiosity, creativity, energy and audacity, Anders took what can only be described as a Great Plunge: he handed in his corporate badge — putting his whole career on the line and daring magnificently. Next, he came face to face with new (and sometimes odd) scenarios, and the ensuing feelings: dizzying moments of vortex as the first month passed and his bank account balance went down instead of up: the family nest egg was being played against time. He tasted the interesting challenge of managing his own schedule with no outer constraints at all, except those self-imposed, including the benefits of intentional digital detox. And possibly the greatest win of all, he rediscovered the uplifting joys of more quality time with his family
We have had the privilege and excitement — but also the underlying apprehension — of working closely with, and capturing, Anders Røpke’s courageous journey into the unknown. So to be quite frank, we now rejoice inversely proportionally to the degree to which we were worried sick for the past week, until just yesterday morning in fact. We must confess (sorry, Anders!) that we were already preparing words of encouragement and comfort for our “fallen warrior” friend. Along the lines of “you can’t hit jackpot at first try”, and “failures and setbacks are part of the journey” and “keep looking forward”. Because one week ago Anders and his Wind Power LAB team walked onto the stage at the Danish Innovation Fund and pitched their project to a group of experts that were appointed to decide whether the Government should back the Wind Power LAB project with soft funding.
Odds for making it this far are low - very low!- as competition for soft money is fierce. And then following that, there was the waiting time afterwards to receive a yes or no. Seven endless days, with miles of land and ocean separating us (Anders in Copenhagen, Sally in Brisbane and Rachel in Rome), where the strong but delicate line of remote connection kept us virtually connected, as usual. During this time none of us dared to share our thoughts or any of the “what ifs” that might have drifted across our minds and shattered the fragile magic: we just crossed all our fingers, and all our toes.
29th November: “As Is” instead of “To Be” — The Present is Now!
I have been thinking about this for a while, and now it makes perfect sense. I spend a lot of time worrying and thinking strategically. What could happen to my team. What could happen if this or that. Instead I should try to refocus. That means to have focus on your resources right now for example. You have not lost a team member until somebody quits. The same goes for potential new hires. Possible resources are good, but it is what you have right now that matters. Learning my lessons around this…
1st December: Preparing for the Pitch
Last week of presentation prep. Getting that tight feeling in my chest. This is the real deal, and this will determine if and when we can expand our team. I can really sense being on the battlefield, in the hot zone of decision making. Only 7 days to go until presentation day. Then we will have 10 minutes to try and land a 500K USD investment. So I am practising a lot, investigating who I will pitch for. Planning for questions. Really trying to be on top of things and knowing my game here.
8th December: Pitch Day
We arrived at the pitch meeting on time, prepared in the best possible way. It came as a surprise to us that 10 people should be present for our pitch. I think we nailed it in our 10 minutes. We did use up all 10 minutes, even though I had planned to finish within 7 minutes to leave more time for questions. Then 15 minutes of questions, being further extended with another 15 minutes extra. A lot of questions about the concept, the data and the team behind. But no financial questions at all — not even with respect to pricing assumptions, beach head marked, etc. So I feel that we delivered. Now the waiting time has started. Within a week we will get the result!
11th December: The Golden Hour
Lunch time in Denmark means late dinner time in Australia and Breakfast in Colorado. My favourite time of day! This is the hour to connect around the globe. What a network and what great support from Mike in Colorado, Rebecca in Melbourne, Paul in London, Sally in Brisbane, Rachel in Singapore/Italy or Luciano in Brazil. In the same news feed, just a click away. I continue to be amazed by the MITx Alumni network and all that knowledge and support available.
14th December: The Wait Continues
To be honest, I hate waiting for others. It is ok if you are certain that you will get a reply at a set date. But that unknown waiting time trailing into days, hours, for that email saying “we will fund you” or “we will not fund you”. It is tough to wait for that. Not that the team and project will not continue, but because we could boost our development so much further with that funding. So I am keeping my fingers crossed, and spending my time thinking back to the 24 steps, the pitch, the application, the pitch day, the questions, the uncertainty, the feedback. How did they look, did they nod? Did they smile? I am officially going crazy.
15th December: Is Today the Day?
Checking my emails every 30 seconds now. They told us “within one week”. That’s today! Spending the day with some more thinking. How would we keep the project alive without funding? Is it a good sign that they did not return to us yet? If they do not give us all the funding we need, how do we then handle the development ahead of us? All these questions. Realised I need to talk to people about this to get it out. Again my MIT network comes in handy here. Thank you all for listening in on me… But this is actually “The Plunge”: being exposed from within, all bared. This is do or die for Wind Power LAB, in the long run.
Update 23:55: No email from the Innovation Fund today. Holy crap — is the server down?!
16th December: The Reply
Did not sleep more than a couple of hours last night. Feeling jetlagged, kids have a cold, I am getting one. Maybe I should stay in today? Got some meetings to kill the waiting time with. So on to it, hopefully the day will clarify the result from the pitch last week. I am desperately looking for my last bid of patience. Should I call them?
11:35 AM update: They have called me up on the phone — WE, Wind Power LAB, ARE NOW FUNDED by the Innovation Fund under the Danish Government. 2017 — here we come! This is just such a relief to me. Now the first domino brick can fall and we can get more people on the team, servers, the API´s set up, and most important: we have proved that this idea we are working on is valid, it has potential. Actually, so much potential that people we don’t even know will back us. And the best thing is, it is soft money — no VC in. Hurray!
I just proved to myself that everything will work out if you dare do something about it. I took the plunge out of corporate exactly 66 days ago, jet-fuelled with disciplined entrepreneurship in the backpack. You can call it brave or bold, but it worked out. Personally and as a team we did throw off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbour. Now it is time to explore, dream and discover.
Never stop dreaming of impossible things.
Our parting words in the last Social Lab “Plunge Project” piece for 2016… ! There will be more updates in this series in 2017! In this series and others, we will continue to cultivate supportive relationships and help others, in our own unique way, to feel the power of collaboration.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Missed previous articles? You can read them here:
The Plunge Project — A Social Experiment in the Making (Part 1)
The Plunge Project — A Social Experiment in the Making Continues (Part 2)
The Plunge Project — Is The Honeymoon Period Over? (Part 3)
The Plunge Project — In Pursuit of Funding (Part 4)
‘The Plunge Project’ was created to capture and share one man’s account of the realities of transitioning from the working in the Corporate world to becoming a full-time Entrepreneur. We invite you to travel alongside us as Anders’ journey unfolds over the next two months. Maybe you are currently in the same position as Anders? Or you have dreams of ‘taking the plunge’ or know someone who does? Follow www.infinityfoundry.com/theplunge