My young startup, AMPLL, has embarked on a lofty vision to end workplace burnout. We aim to make technology that inspires people and teams to get conscientious about one another’s energy levels and overall work health.
For us, this purpose-driven effort is rooted in our own significant personal experiences. We are not ready to raise outside capital yet, but if and when we are, the investor we partner with will have a significant impact on our journey. That is why I am taking a moment now, to write down the criteria I plan to use.
I have been fortunate to have some incredibly talented, smart, and caring investors fund my companies. Another reason I am writing this is, upon reflection, I have realized I would have been a better, and likely more successful, operating founder for those investors had I established this kind of guidance up front.
So, I am mostly memorializing this for my own use. I am publishing to Medium so I can easily link to it. However, I also encourage other founders to be intentional about their investor criteria early on.
Any investor I will agree to bring on to join our journey must agree and adhere to the following…
- Pledge to uphold and support our values, purpose, vision, and mission in all things we do together.
- Establish no less than a 24-month growth capital runway using conservative (not best case) revenue growth models.
- Accept a hard-and-fast 6-months remaining runway deadline that, if crossed, operating consequences (burn reduction including any necessary layoffs) will be enacted. I’ve been the founder of a VC-backed startup facing mere weeks of remaining runway. That environment is both counter to AMPLL’s work-health mission and not suited to creating success.
- Understand that both our mission and this venture are deeply personal to the founding team. For us, failure is not an option. Any investor in AMPLL needs to be ready to leave their “portfolio perspective” at the door when they engage with and counsel us. Operating founders get to try a small number of things in our careers, and we put a lot of ourselves into them. VCs get to “bet” on a large number of things. I expect the founder’s life reality to be respected and celebrated by our investors.
- Bring more than money. Our team does not think we have all of the answers, and we are eager to learn and grow. There is an enormous amount of venture capital money in the market. In other words, money is cheap. A potential investor’s relevant experience, enthusiasm for our mission, willingness to actively engage and help, ability to help us make meaningful connections will all be more important criteria than the amount of money or terms. Beyond the individual investment Partner, we’ll be looking for a firm that has cultivated a tangible sense of community and mutual support among their portfolio companies and their founders. Nod to Andreessen Horowitz’s style here.
- Be in it together, and for the long-haul. We can make great plans and strategies, but we cannot predict the number of turns and bumps on the road to success. The decisions we make to drive our mission and build a successful company should not be influenced by a fund’s “horizon” timetable. There should be some downside protection on money invested, but not additional participating preference on positive financial outcomes. We will accept no redemption rights.