I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what we’ll do if this meeting doesn’t go well?”
We were in the lobby of “Donald Ventures” on Sand Hill Road. We were going to meet with “Raul”, the partner leading the deal, and Donald.
This was our “Go or No Go” meeting. It was clear that Raul wanted to go forward with the deal, but he needed Donald’s approval because, after all, it was Donald’s fund.
“We’re going to find out if Raul is window dressing or not,” I whispered to my cofounders. They nodded their heads in agreement.
Raul was 77 years old, and he had just joined to fund a few months earlier. He was a legend in the Silicon Valley, but still I wondered if he could get a deal done.
We had a “half-filled” term sheet from another Sand Hill Road fund, so we needed one more investor to close the round. Hopefully that would be Donald Ventures.
63 other funds had already turned us down. There were only a few more on our list to contact, so it was reasonable to wonder what would we do if this meeting doesn’t go well.
Despite all that I wasn’t nervous. In fact I was calm bordered on being overconfident.
The reality was I should have scared. After all the odds were that Donald would pass.
He’d already passed on us once before when my friend Dave introduced the company to Donald. He wrote Dave back tersely saying, “There’s nothing here.”
But I was calm.
You combat neediness by being in the moment.
Raul’s assistant escorted us to the main conference room. Raul, always prompt and on time, walks in.
Everyone shakes hands. But there’s no Donald.
“Should I wait for Donald?”
“No. I’d like to hear the pitch again. He’ll get here soon enough.”
I start going through our pitch. I’m still very calm.
When you’re in the moment, the rest of the world, and your worries, fade away.
I’m about five minutes into my pitch when Donald walks in. He takes a seat directly across from me.
We shake hands.
“Maybe I should start from the beginning,” I say, looking at Raul.
Raul shakes his head, signaling I should just keep going. Not missing a cue, I keep going on with the presentation. I’m still very calm.
I get to our slide on the market dynamics. I explain, “The great thing about the Analog IC market is it’s very fragmented, with lots of niche markets. That means you can build a very profitable, high margin business…”
Donald cuts me off mid sentence. “I hate high margin businesses!”
Huh? A million thoughts go through my head at once.
“Should I tell him why he’s wrong?”
“Should I start arguing with him?”
“Should I explain more about the beauty of our business model to Donald?”
“Should I just ignore him and move on?”
My final thought is, “There’s no way he’s giving us money. But we’re going to find out if Raul can really get a deal done.”
Without missing a beat, I continue on with our pitch. I was still very calm.
You’re incredibly focused when you’re in the moment.
I continue on with our pitch. I start talking about our go to market strategy.
“Our business model is focused on the tier 2 and tier 3 customer that make up 90% of the market,” I said.
“Why aren’t you focused on Apple and Samsung?” Donald asked.
Before I could answer, Raul said, “It’s a catalog play, Donald.” Raul sounded pissed.
More thoughts went instantaneously through my head at once. The one I remember is thinking, “This is interesting. They seem to be fighting.”
But I was still calm.
We complete our presentation. Donald stands up and shakes my hand, then he walks out.
Raul escorts us out of the building. He says to me, “You did well. I’ll be in touch shortly.”
You need to find a technique that works for you that allows you to be in the moment.
A few years after this meeting, I read a book called, “The Rise of Superman,” by Steven Kotler. The book dives deep into how extreme sports athletes get into a flow state.
A flow state is where you are extremely focused on the task at hand. And that kind of important if you’re, for example, free solo climbing El Capitan (watch the trailer to the movie here:
. One mistake and you’re dead.
Well when you’re pitching to VCs it’s kind of the same thing: One mistake and you’re dead.
It was clear to me after reading, “The Rise of Superman,” that I was in flow state during my meeting with Raul and Donald. It was also clear to me that getting into that flow state on a regular basis could be kind of handy.
So I started reading more about the subject. I reread a great book on meditation called, “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind,” by Shenryu Suzuki. Then I came across Cal Newport’s excellent book, “Deep Work, Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World.”
I felt like I was reading the third book in a trilogy. Combining the ideas of how you get into a flow state for better productivity, with mindfulness which helps you get into a flow state, with Newport’s practical ideas for improving you focus, I felt like I had a complete picture.
This is what works for me. You have to find what works for you.
The stakes are incredibly high when you’re raising money. And the odds are stacked against you. Learning mindfulness and getting into a flow state is a great resource to have.
Oh, the next day, Raul called to tell me that Donald Ventures would invest our company.