Why I started Startup Fountain
Hi, my name is Friso Schmid and before launching Startup Fountain I was the co-founder of a startup called Keezel. We launched a portable device on Indiegogo to protect yourself on public WiFi when you were on the go (hotels, airports, co-working spaces etc.). The launch went really, really well and we managed to raise $1 million dollar in our Indiegogo campaign which kickstarted our company.
We then went to China to manufacture the hardware and managed to sell it in places like Mediamarkt, Best Buy Canada, Walmart, Fry's Electronics, Brookstone and many other places (obviously also on our Shopify webshop).
We were always low on cash as we had to develop the hardware (which is expensive), pay our team while we were experiencing plenty of manufacturing delays while not having any revenue, as well as pre-pay components that had to be ordered by our supply chain partners (a combination of 6/7 factories in Shenzhen area). After manufacturing, shipping and putting the product in the stores we often were facing 60/90 day payment terms after the sale to the end customers had happened. (or if we were lucky to the store or distributor, which happened sooner)
This meant that for the largest part of our 6 year existence we were fundraising. Over the years we've reached out to about 300 investors, talked with probably 150 of them, raised money from a handful of amazing angel investors in the Netherlands and US, did an equity crowdfunding campaign in the US as well as closed inventory financing with a major Dutch bank. However we never managed to get a VC on board, which meant that we never had the money in the bank to really build a strong sales team. Our core team was never larger than 6 people in house (including myself and my co-founder). Eventually we had to close our business due to pressure from a creditor who we weren't able to pay on time. We did manage to sell 10,000 devices in 125 countries to consumers, businesses and government related parties.
In hindsight we had really underestimated the fundraising part of running a startup. Getting meetings was key to getting the funding to grow our company. But how do you get meetings? We went to events (CES, Slush, IFA, MWC), had to build our excel long list, combined all sorts of lists that were floating around online, work with 3rd party service providers who would give paid access to their investor contacts. It was a lot of work and hustling while you wanted to focus on the business at the same time.
I came up with the idea of Startup Fountain during the final days of Keezel and decided to build it as a therapeutic exercise while recovering from our Keezel bankruptcy. It has become a no code platform (webflow + airtable + zapier + memberstack + some other things) which means I can build it myself without needing to spend money on development. It has been growing rapidly, providing free introductions to Dutch startups and investors. The goal is to allow any startup with a good proposition to get all the introductions to investors they need to complete their early stage funding round. I'm not there yet, but building it one step at a time.
P.s. if you have any feedback, comments, requests or ideas to share, please let me know at friso (@) startupfountain.com
Why is there no success fee?
Making an introduction in itself is not a lot of work. When I worked with success fee and / or retainer based introduction parties in the past I didn't really like the experience that much. It always felt like I was paying to get access to your contact list. When I set forth to build Startup Fountain I wanted to try to see if I could keep it running on a freemium model, with the core (startups and investors discovering each other) free to use.
I'm currently experimenting with paid services so you might see the occasional offer (which is always optional) come by in your inbox :)