How we won our bet and raised $3M
As you probably already know, we at Forest, recently raised $3 million in our seed round. Connect Ventures and Xavier Niel co-led this round, with participation from Taavet Hinrikus. Great mentors like Pietro Bezza, Jean de La Rochebrochard, and Thibaud Elziere are joining the board.
This is obviously a big milestone for our team, but it’s a far greater win considering the important risk we took last year. I wanted to take a moment to share with you this part of the Forest backstory.
A counterintuitive decision
In late 2016, we spent 2 months in San Francisco and got a real taste for the tech ecosystem there. We collected interesting feedback (which, by the way, allowed us to create Lumber) and started to build strong relationships with VCs.
When we got back to Paris in January, everything was looking great. After working like lumberjacks for months, the MRR was finally growing and all other important KPIs were significantly improving. All these positive metrics were supporting our vision, the product, and the team.
At the time, we had the opportunity to raise our seed round but we decided not to. Despite the fact that we had almost no money left in the bank, we were convinced it was not the right time to raise money. I have to admit, although it seemed totally counterintuitive, I had a feeling it was the right decision to make.
Not just a feeling
At this time, we were mainly dealing with early stage and small startups, where the decision-maker and the buyer were more often than not the same person: the developer.
But we knew that the Forest’s true value was in our ability to handle high-growth companies with more complex processes and operations. When startups reach a certain size and level of maturity, the developer is still the decision-maker, but is no longer the buyer. Typically, the person in charge of operations plays this role.
Forest had to be rethought to get better developer adoption but also to be a better fit with operational teams. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much cash left to execute our strategy and vision.
The plan of action
The first stage of the idea was to switch to a freemium model (read our “No Pricing Manifesto” article below) and cancel our MRR, in order to focus all our energy on improving developer adoption.
Then we would boost the business adoption by releasing those premium features required by fast-growing companies that need to handle complex processes and workflows.
Learning with you, not at your expense!medium.com
Thanks to the relationships we had built with VCs over the past few months, we were able to have a transparent discussion with them. After explaining the whole situation, our vision, and our strategy, they gave us their full trust and support.
Within a single week, we had raised a 300k€ SAFE to execute our plan.
From a developer adoption focus to a more business-oriented solution
We kept our noses to the grindstone for the first six months of 2017. We were coding fast and focusing all our efforts on getting the perfect fit for developers’ needs. It paid off, and we were able to officially launch Forest before the summer (take a look at our techcrunch article below).
What an intense period!
If you work for a startup, chances are that you use four different software-as-a-service platforms to manage your…techcrunch.com
But there was no time to rest.
We spent the next three months developing features needed to deliver value to large teams and operations-intensive businesses, and finally launching our Pro & Custom plans in September. Forest wasn’t dedicated purely to the tech community or small startups anymore.
For those of you who want to know more, read our blog post Beyond the No Pricing Manifesto.
Time for a seed round…
Once we successfully completed the plan we made in January, we decided it was time to let the VCs know we were ready to start seed round discussions. We reached an agreement and closed the deal at the end of 2017.
During these last months of the year, we onboarded new customers every week, got our MRR back on track, and saw fast-growing metrics. That was when we realized we had won our bet. The risk we had taken a year prior had paid off.
We are grateful to our customers who made it possible. Your feedback and trust are invaluable!
I’m deeply thankful for all the sacrifices the team made during these past months and for their total engagement with the project. Thanks a lot, Arnaud Besnier (Lead tech.), lucas (Tech.), Arnaud Valensi (Tech.), Orry Barbosa(Product design), Louis Steenbrink (Success), Tancrede Le Merrer (Sales), and Thomas DIDIER (Marketing).
The Next Chapter
Obviously, this seed round was just a step in the Forest adventure but we’re happy to have reached it in such a short period of time. We’re also impressed by the warm welcome we got from our community and the press 🙌 😊
Riding on this great momentum and new funding, we’re excited to continue bringing a better admin experience and more productivity to small projects and very fast-growing companies.
It will enable us to continue improving on the work we’ve done, and help us achieve our goals for the Series A: building an even better product, structuring the team by hiring more brilliant lumberjacks, scaling our global operations, and accelerating our business growth (stage and industry agnostic).
We know the road ahead is a bumpy one but we are confident we have the right team to confront any challenges!
See you soon … into the Forest 🌲
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