One Founder’s Follow-Up to Airbnb’s 7 Rejections: 8 Rejections

The “7 Rejections” post by Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky is probably the single most inspirational and motivational thing I’ve read in the three years since I’ve served as the co-founder and CEO of Localeur.

It’s one of those rare posts that has helped me push through the plethora of rejection I’ve received from investors and eventually create our own unique story of growth and tenacity, which I’ve chronicled here and here.

Fred Wilson recently wrote about tenacity, one of his best blog posts of late, and I found a ton of value in reading it. However, the main comment I have is that stories like Airbnb’s prove that you don’t have to be a founder in year 5 or later, having reached product-market fit long ago, having raised tens of millions of dollars and having generated millions in revenue in order to demonstrate the kind of tenacity that makes these founders winners in the end. My bet is that you start to see that tenacity as early as the first year.

It’s actually the early-stage stories of founders who struggle to find growth and willing investors like those from Airbnb and Pandora that truly inspire me as a founder. I have a strong feeling other early-stage founders agree.

And, on that note, can I be super honest with you?

I am not very motivated or inspired by startup stories that entail one of the following: 1) upper-class white male engineer drops out of Harvard/Stanford to launch startup, 2) serial entrepreneur (already a millionaire) in Bay Area raises $10mm-$100mm for his startup pre-launch, or 3) former VC associate raises $2mm seed round pre-launch from the same VC he used to work for.

The reason I don’t look to these stories for motivation is because I’m not going to be the founder who fits the description of any of those people so the investors who pattern match for those personas simply won’t place much value in my journey as an entrepreneur or my startup. Sucks, but true.

And given Localeur’s focus on Millennials and travel, Airbnb’s story has been of particular interest even before I left my job shaping travel strategy at Bazaarvoice in 2012 to pursue Localeur. Everything from Airbnb’s rejections from Union Square Ventures which both Fred Wilson and Paul Graham did us the favor of detailing on their popular blogs to lesser-known stories like Paige Craig at Arena Ventures has been of value to me as a founding CEO with a lot of fundraising, learning and operational growth in front of me.

Plus, everyday I dedicate one full hour to writing (outside of responding to emails) and one full hour to reading things like the super accurate and timely TechCrunch article on fundraising and burn rates by Eric Paley of Founder Collective. I’ve never been one to need 8 hours of sleep a night, so that certainly helps me find the time to do this everyday as a founder.

Today, I’m going to use my hour to share 8 rejections we’ve received so far.

We haven’t served millions of users (we just hit 1 million users late last year), raised millions from VCs or reached profitability so maybe the VC associates who spend hours reading this stuff and pouring through Mattermark stats won’t find a ton of value in this, but you know who definitely will? Other early-stage founders.

It’s probably worth noting that I’ve raised roughly $1.6 million for Localeur from around 40 angel investors including executives/CEOs/founders from Facebook, Bazaarvoice, Spredfast, Silicon Labs and other companies primarily here in Austin, and that Austin VC firms have done fewer than a dozen total seed rounds a year for consumer startups for the last several years. I share that to say that, with one potential exception, these emails are from investors in Silicon Valley where the most consumer tech money resides and where I continue to focus the majority of fundraising efforts.

I did have a chance to check with my partners yesterday and I’m sorry to tell you that we will have to pass on investing now. Ultimately, I feel like you are a very investable guy. I hope you would consider us as an option to invest in any of your future endeavors.

Great to hear from you and congratulations on your progress. I really appreciate the update but I still don’t think that I see a fit for us as an investment partner. If there’s anything else that I can do to help over email, please let me know.

I thought about this over the weekend and I think I’m going to have to sit this one out. As I mentioned on the phone, I’m pretty bearish on the things-to-do space, although I do like you and your team as well as the product you’ve built. Nonetheless, I still see the category as very risky and somewhat outside my comfort zone. Add in the fact that I don’t have any personal experience with your team and that you aren’t located in the SF area, it’s just too much of a stretch for my risk appetite. I do wish you continued success and hope someday I end up kicking myself for not jumping in while I had the chance. Best of luck.

Took a look at the deck and also played w. the app. We don’t believe a product like this solves a real, meaningful problem and also, it’s far removed from revenue — which we’re not keen on pursuing. It’s impressive to see the traction on monthly users — good work! Always rooting for folks in the local space, so good luck on the round and progress.

Great chatting and thanks for sending this. Unfortunately, I think we are a pass at this time. Although I appreciate the approach, I think local consumer is super hard (given my experience in the space). Let’s keep in touch and perhaps I can get over my issues by the next round? Reach out the next time you are in the Bay Area.

I think we are better suited to be helpful to you a bit down the line. Please continue to keep me posted and would love to help out where we can.

We’ve recently looked at a company that is similar to Localeur in that it is a local discovery and recommendation app. Our reason for passing was that we feel that it is hard to differentiate from the Foursquares, Yelps, FBs of this world, and therefore, we’re still not sure just about how green field this opportunity in discovery truly is. Your app does look beautiful though and I wish you the best in building your company.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we are a good candidate for leading your seed round, just given timing and distance. We would love to stay in touch, and are happy to be first in line for your Series A at a much higher price! — Please keep us in mind for future financings and I will look you up on my next Austin trek.

OK, my hour is up. Good luck, fellow founders!

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