As a two-time attendee of SXSW in Austin, I have high expectations for these types of conferences. If you’re not coming back from the entire ordeal feeling more inspired and more excited to do great things in your own business, then it wasn’t effective. Hopefully, if you went, Techweek did just that.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to personally attend much of the conference, but I did go to the very last panel of the conference entitled “When to Raise Capital: Better late than never?” I realize this was more than a month ago, but I still really wanted to write about it.
Now, surprisingly, and maybe this is my personal opinion, panels usually don’t do it for me. Even at SXSW, I found panels are mostly generic and don’t really allow the speakers to dive into a subject and be prepared to come to a concise conclusion. But honestly, this panel was invigorating.
I went in part because the president of my company GoHealth, Brandon Cruz, was speaking on the panel alongside Andrew Sieja, Founder/President/CEO of kCura and Paul Ford, CEO of Total Attorneys. I had the same expectations, generic answers about funding and nothing more. But it turned out to be an incredibly interesting discussion. It seemed like many of the questions were fielded by Cruz, probably because he had just went through the funding ringer for some six months starting in December 2011. (GoHealth announced a minority investment of $50 million from Norwest Equity.)
In the panel he said things like, “You almost need to play hard-to-get with investors,” and “you should only go for funding when you don’t need it.” Cruz made it sound like it was all about positioning and negotiation skills. He also highlighted the fact that potential investors really need to have the same sort of company culture and vision. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to hear how much “feel and instinct” comes into play with investors. I used to think, “Hey someone wants to give me X thousands/millions of dollars. Great, who cares where it comes from?” Actually I do know why I was surprised… naivety.
Sure a lot of this advice is more for the established unfunded company rather than an early startup looking to get some dollars behind an idea. Still, if you want to someday get to where Cruz, Sieja and Ford are, you probably want to pay attention.
Since his panel I’ve also had a couple conversations with him about the funding. (It’s really nice having access to the president of your company to talk about the direction of the company. I’ll tell you it’s actually a very good perk of working for GoHealth.) And he’s very emphatic when talking about the future.
“We’re very excited for what’s to come and we couldn’t be happier to have all of our hard work over the years be recognized and validated. This investment proves the strength of our business model and everything we’ve done as a team in the past 11 years,” he told me.
Too bad the panel wasn’t recorded. I’m sure it had to be among the best.