#10: Selling Myself to VC’s Like a Hooker

Ryan_NameIt’s 4 AM and I landed in San Francisco about 9 hours ago. I’m in my hotel room semi-conscious due to the fact I’ve been up for 36 hours…and I’m a little drunk.

I can’t stand sitting in a hotel room doing nothing. It’s loud, even at 4 AM and there is the faint odor of vinegar lingering in the air. Who cleans with vinegar anymore?

The glow from my screen is the only thing lighting the room except for the alarm clock next to me blinking the incorrect time. You’d think someone would have just thrown these damn things into a dumpster a few years ago. We do everything on our phones now anyways, including checking the time, no matter what Apple said today.

Speaking of new tech, this is my first post written using a Merge device. So far I’m happy with how it seems to be handling everything. The investors also seem to be rallying around it finally.

After getting out of the airport I ran to two back-to-back meetings today with the last one blending into a night at a club with one of the VCs. He also dragged along a pop star he brought into the meeting without my knowing anything about it. I think they were trying classic shock and awe tactics to throw me off. A celebrity won’t persuade me to do shit. Show me the deal. Show me the connections. Show me some Macallan 25! Then, and only then, you may have a chance at shaking my hand.

The East coast was an utter waste of time. NYC wasn’t bad (there was this piano bar in Hell’s Kitchen one of the receptionists took me to that was pretty sweet, at least from what I can remember of the night), but the meetings in Boston ended with smiles and no information for me to take away. I kept getting the “love what you have here” as they fondled the Merge device, “but we’re going to take time to evaluate what you brought us.” I would then snatch the device out of their hands and walk out of the door. You either love the device and our team or you don’t. We already have 12 strong patents pending for godsake!

I’m not on the road to be brought to my knees as the people with money tell me what to do. I’m the one with something they desire. I bring innovation. I will dictate how this company is treated!

But something changed at the end of last week. Some time between my Miami meetings and landing in Austin the prospective investors completely changed their tunes. They were courting me like I was the first born heir to some kingdom. Suddenly the beer, vodka, and scotch started to flow seamlessly into the tail end of the meetings. The phrase “whatever you want” was being thrown around from time to time.

Chicago was the same. I can barely remember, Vancouver. I vaguely remember trying to ice skate while balancing a vase on my head after a Canucks game. Seattle was the most productive and I can already see the money folk in San Fran were told about Merge prior to my arrival. I see a deal happening soon and it better happen soon. We had to start laying people off.

We cut two people loose for now. One in hardware and one in software. I think one of the design team will likely go next. I was in Seattle when Alison and Jasper called me looking for a status update and we eventually came to the decision to drop the staff members and save the capital we have in the bank. I could hear Jasper’s voice crack a few times during the call and I can’t blame him. Alison was a little more stoic.

After the call ended I put my beta Merge device down and stared at my hands which wouldn’t stop shaking. I sat and stared at them for a full five minutes expecting them to stop. My fingers quivered as I held my hands out in front of me. My chest started to contract ever so quickly as if I need to constantly exhale and cough at the same time. I shook my hands out in front of me, jumped in the air a couple times and headed out to meet up with a couple other local CEOs I know.

Focus on the future. Stay alive.

My job is to come back to Kitchener-Waterloo with offers. Offers that make sense. I’m not taking anything that doesn’t push Merge to the next level and quickly. I don’t want to lose anyone else.

I’ve put more of my own cash into Merge than I had expected to. Between prototypes, wages, and traditional overhead I’ve sunk the lion’s share of my profit from unloading Shippd into Merge. I don’t think I can put in an additional $100K when I get back. Maybe I’ll throw a little cash at the team to keep spirits up.

My hands are shaking again now as I type this out.

I need a drink.


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