Startup doesn’t always mean venture capital

2 minute read

A couple of people emailed me completely surprised after I mentioned in this post that Telligent didn't have any venture captial companies funding us.

I've worked with a lot of venture captialists over the years and still keep in contact with a few of them – and we've had several VCs contact us about funding 'interest'. VCs are a mixed blessing, you get money to spend on making your idea real but you give up a lot of control.

When I was at Microsoft working as a Technical Evangelist in the Developer Relations Group in the late 90s I spent a lot of time with start-ups. My job, back then, was to convince these start-ups that they should use the Microsoft platform; which was not an easy task when all we had to offer was ASP, COM, MTS, etc. the platform just wasn't there. It was a huge uphill battle, but that's what made if fun. A lot of these companies we talked to were funded by VCs and while a handful succeeded, the great majority were quickly run into the ground.

Why were they run into the ground? My personal opinion, and from talking with the people that worked at those companies, is that the VCs were shooting for a 'pop'. In other words, fund 15-25 ideas and hope for one home run. When you run the numbers on this it statistically makes sense. The home runs were awesome to watch, these companies would go public, people became silly rich (on paper), and then of course the bubble burst and we all know what happened. On the other hand the other companies that didn't make it would disapper, along with their ideas. The burn rates were insane though as money was pumped into these ideas, some good / some just plain dumb (I won't name names!).

A lot of this has certainly changed in recent years as VCs now look more towards long-term value vs. immediate return on investment. However, we decided early on at Telligent that we would focus on building a sustainable, slow-growth, organic business. In other words, instead of trying to hit home runs on every swing we're happy with slowly hitting consistent single base runs. So in many ways you could also say Telligent is the exact opposite kind of investment that a VC typically looks for.

Will Telligent ever take VC money? Who knows. 37Signals did, and they said they never would. It really just depends on the opportunity.

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