In the past six months since my last post a lot has happened. First is that things have been quite dynamic at LAFORGE. The number of times my bank account has had five figures in it has been almost equal to the number on times my account has had no funds in it.
We are currently in the midst of a raise of $1.25MM and we currently have about $950K of it “soft-circled”. This is pretty good but it took us 3 to 4 moths longer to get here than what I had anticipated. This is mostly because were we led on by two different group of investors who had played a bait and switch on us.
The first one was from a group of burned out and washed up entertainment execs and their associates. The long and the short of it was that “they tried it” and we weren’t having it. They thought we were the fool of the deal and we outsmarted them. We also discovered that these guys had a lot less money than they said and were actually middlemen. The biggest lesson I learned from these investors was that there is no such thing as a sure thing and that people will say anything to keep you around.
The second waste of time occurred immediately after we had written off the first group. This time, I made sure to cast as many broad nets as possible to keep the opportunities flowing (and we are in a much better place now because of it). This group was a group of three ophthalmic and eye wear companies. They were interested in investing after seeing me speak at Vision Monday in NYC. Not wanting to drag out these conversations too long I put in a series of filters. I figured I would try to get them to say “no” as soon as possible and if they didn’t say “no” to the filter then they would be truly interested. One filter was to give the company a five figure sum of cash to talk to me, the other was verbal promise from them that they would not try to re-engineer our product as a term for future discussion or investment, and the final would be that they would act fast.
They accepted all these terms and things were off to a good start (though as I later found out the only term they were good for was the money). About a month later, we met in Atlanta for what I thought would be a 3 hour meeting which later turned out to be a 9 hour meeting. Though the meeting wasn’t bad, something was a bit of a miss to me.
It was mostly the fact that it was clear that these guys who had just seen our IP somehow though they could come up with a better idea in less than an hour (note it had taken me nearly 14 months to refine the idea and write patents). The even more peculiar part was that my team and I allowed the possibility of them being right to enter their minds (even though we knew what they were proposing would break laws of physics and be expensive to build).
In hindsight, I lost control of this investor meeting and let it devolve into a design critique of the concept. This was the biggest mistake I made. From there on out this group was constantly trying discredit our experts, and question our costs. BTW its not like these guys were trying to shit on us. We basically let them sit on our laps and gave them the option relieve themselves. The guys we met with were at the top of three companies worth nearly 3 billion dollars; two were CEO’s and the other was a product guy.
After the meeting, Evan and I flew back to LA to regroup. This group of investors wanted us to quickly make our product to their specifications and cut our budget. After our first pass, I was only able to cut $50K from the budget, because I ended up cutting $275K out of software dev and adding about $250K to lens and frame development (I know the difference does not add up to $50K; there were cuts in other places).
Then I slept on it and became angry. The next morning I woke up and started to vent to Evan. I said “What the fuck are we doing?!”. “They want us to waste 6 months to make our proof of concept look better!” The purpose of a proof of concept is to prove a concept and we did that. I said, “Evan, write a one page letter telling them that were aren’t changing a damn thing and in fact we increasing the amount of the raise. I will make a presentation showing them why their ideas are horrible, why its a waste of time, how there is nothing to gain from this”. An hour and half later we sent a one page letter and a 26-page keynote laying into them for even suggesting this”.
From there on out we made a vow to never let a potential investor tell us what to do. (BTW, the immediate result of the email was that they backed off immediately and agreed with us). But trying to work with these large parties proved a fool’s errand. These guys moved so slow that we ended up writing them off. They ended up telling us “no” a month later for reasons that went against me taking the meeting with them in the first place.
I put my hands back on the company steering wheel and told Evan full speed ahead. Within 2 weeks we were fielding offers from 7 different investing parties at a higher valuation from people who respected our vision.
This was a long post. But It’s been a while. There will be more stories soon, a lot is about to change for us.