Written by: Janine Kick
I’m rewatching Game of Thrones. Don’t get me started on House of The Dragon…I cannot wait! Jon Snow just died (I knew it was coming and I’m still upset about it) and Khaleesi has been taken hostage by the Dothraki… Khal Drogo would NOT be happy!!
You’re probably wondering, what do my favorite GOT characters have to do with fundraising? More than you might think, let’s get into it.
I’ve been having a lot of conversations around ‘Founder-Market-Fit’ with the VCs in our network. Often, responses tend to focus on the more tangible concept of industry expertise. If I’m being honest and I’m drawing my own conclusion here, based on what I hear from VCs and what I see in Founders that receive funding, there’s a lot more to it but the key element boils down to obsession.
VCs want to see an unrelenting obsession with what a Founder is building. They chose to work on their product in their free time. They work effortlessly on the product and customer issues. They don’t notice the time passing because what they’re building is something they need to see in the world.
Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name did not get to where she is without being obsessed with changing the world, abolishing slavery, and claiming the throne of the Seven Kingdoms.
World-class, iconic companies (or kingdoms!) are almost always founded by Founders with this cerebral level of obsession because it equips them to endure for the long haul. To be clear, I am talking about a healthy level of obsession…I am not suggesting we introduce any King Joffery’s to the startup world!
If you have this level of obsession, you become a Founder because you are compelled by something deep inside. Something creative that resonates in an unexplainable way with the market (ie your customers). So, how do you demonstrate this innate obsession? 3 things:
1. Founder Story. Customers, VCs, and ‘people’ care a lot more about who the company Founder is than most Founders realize. The Founder has to fit the market, and vice versa. You want your customers to identify with your story as a Founder and believe there’s a compelling “why” at the heart of what you’re building. That there’s a human behind the company.
Take Jon Snow, he didn’t become Lord Commander because the Brothers of the Night’s Watch didn’t believe in him. And he certainly didn’t get the Wildlings to join him out of sheer luck…also, White Walkers can be pretty compelling!
2. Knowledge. Studying a market from a distance should not be underestimated. Founders should research and study everything available to them about their competitors, past and present. A lack of attention to detail here typically conveys a Founder isn’t obsessed enough with their market to have real Founder-Market-Fit. Willful naivete gives you courage, which can be good but shouldn’t be an excuse for ignorance.
If you do find yourself in this situation as a Founder, I’d suggest taking some time to put the work in. It’s time to head to the Citadel and become the Maestor of your market and spend time reading and researching like Samwell Tarly. It might just be what makes the difference and could even save the realm.
3. Personality. Markets tend to attract people with similar personalities. Are you the kind of personality that can fit in and make connections with your peers in the market? If so, it’s a positive indicator. Having peers that you can connect with, that can bring positive energy, practical advice, and constructive feedback is essential. Creative genius does not last long in isolation. Most innovation happens as a result of people forming networks with a high density of ambitious, competent people.
You know where I’m going with this one. Build your small council. Look for the Ser Jorah’s, Lord Tyrion’s, Lord Varys’, and how could I forget Missandei’s. You are who you surround yourself with and having a strong network around you will only provide stronger Founder-Market-Fit.
So, what does all of this mean? If you can demonstrate obsession via Founder-Market-Fit during your fundraising process and beyond…dracarys. (For my non-GOT lovers, that means fire.)
Kerosene Ventures – Helping Great Founders Raise Capital.