Wisr, before it was acquired by EAB in March, raised a few rounds of capital over the past few years. It’s an experience the companies co-founder John Knific says can be very painful.
“You start a business to develop a technology, to meet a demand, to do something really exciting in the market,” Knific says. “As a CEO, or in my case a COO, you don't want to spend most of your time fundraising.”
Wisr, however, was fortunate because between the three co-founders, and especially Kate Volzer, had a network of meaningful relationships. So when they initially raised, it had more of a friends and family element where the company leaders tapped into that network and put together a very quick, small round of capital. Then, as they started to gain traction, they took a convertible note that was that round and converted it into equity and then expanded, doing something like a pre-Series A expansion, to test go-to-market more.
“We were fully geared up to do a Series A,” he says. “We actually had some remarkable term sheets.”
The company had almost quadrupled the size of the company in 2020, growing so fast it was cash-flowing that growth from revenue. There wasn't time, he says, in the wake of all of that business coming in to stop and raise a Series A.
“So we were sitting there at this interesting point, basically at break even,” Knific says. “We knew we were now the front runner in this new space of digital yield and melt technology, and so we had to do something.”
Volzer set out to drum up interest for the company’s Series A, while Knific built the business case for how a partnership could look, how it would look doing it themselves — building a multitude of different angles. By networking with education investors, they were given a handful of introductions to different companies.
“As a tiny startup company, leverage can be hard to come by,” Knific says. “But because we were true in our conviction that we were going to raise this capital, we were going to commit to growth, for those sniffing around who indicated some interest in an acquisition, we decided not to use a banker and we put real deadlines in place that we were going to commit to. We had told our Series A potential funders where we had term sheets that we're going to entertain an acquisition but we're committing to you that we'll make a decision by this date.”
That approach, he says, quickly sorted out who was serious, and who wasn’t.
Knific spoke at the recent Cleveland Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about fundraising and the deal with EAB. Hit play on the video above to catch the full conversation.