I lived one of my favorite metaphors last week as we announced the closing of Bolster’s Series B financing and had our first post-round Board meeting, and I realized I’ve never blogged about it before: that raising rounds of financing is like having a good night at the blackjack table.
When I go to Vegas or AC — and admittedly I haven’t done that in several years — I usually start playing Blackjack at the $5 table. It’s lightweight entertainment, low stakes, good way to warm up and remind myself how to play. If I start winning and accumulating a bigger pile of chips, I move to the $10 table. Rinse and repeat, to the $25 table and the $50 table. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a $100 table, and I assume there’s a somewhat tense and scary back room somewhere with higher stakes tables. As I progress through an evening, it’s more fun, but it’s also more stressful.
Raising successive rounds of financing has the same feel to it.
You’re playing the same game as you progress from Series A to Series B to Series C. You’re still CEO of your company. You may be playing with different strategies, more or less aggressive. But it feels different. It’s a little more stressful. Every bet is a higher percentage of your net worth, upside as well as downside. Expectations are higher, and external expectations are more noticeable.
What if blackjack isn’t going so well? If I am doing so-so, I just stay at the $2 table, and ultimately get bored with treading water. That’s probably the equivalent of running a company that’s just going sideways. I won’t go deep on extending the metaphor to a bad night of blackjack, but I’m sure it has a lot in common with down rounds and ultimately things like Chapter 11. Those loom large in lots of situations, too, but they’re not where my head is today!