Venture Connects received Brand Amper co-founders Lisa Cervenka and Jason Seiden's application to join the VCVetted program on March 18th, 2015. It was clear very early on this team exudes passion, but most impactful to our team was their clear explanation of the problem their company aimed to solve and the means in which to get there.
Employer Branding was one of the recruiting industry’s top priorities (based on a global LinkedIn survey of 4,100+ talent acquisition leaders) in 2015, while “culture & engagement” was revealed as Deloitte’s top HR priority for 2015. Brand Amper's platform improves recruiting and retention metrics by giving companies a way to manage their employer brands in a way—and at a speed—that works for a social-driven world. Brand Amper gets each employee to adapt the employer brand for his or her own network; ensures that brand messaging is presented in the right way at the right time to the right people; and gives the company the ability to harness trends to make more responsive, segmented employer brand decisions that improve employee engagement.
Brand Amper's timing was impeccable; hear from Jason in this interview about all the factors leading to their successful acquisition.
RJ: What are 5 words you would use to describe being a startup? Jason: Entrepreneurship is a crucible. It squeezes you until all that’s left is your character, your resilience, and your commitment. RJ: When you went for your first fundraise, what were some of the most impactful or needed things? Any advice you would give in hindsight?Jason: Every meeting is important, but practice on investors with a low likelihood of success before you burn your best connections. Be honest about who you are, what you want, and where you don’t have a clue. Your prospective investors already know you (or know someone just like you) before you walk in the room, so the only one you’re bulls***ting is yourself. Literally anything that’s not a fast “yes” is a fast “no”. Because even the fast “yes’s” take a million years to close and will probably fall apart, so if it doesn’t start fast, get out. If a financier thinks they know your business better than you do, that’s a problem. If they really do know it better than you, that’s a bigger problem. (In the first case, your domain expertise is not being respected. In the latter, you lack the expertise you need to be successful). Prepare. Know their investment thesis, view on the market, and whether you fit their model. Don’t take it personally…but take it personally. Get help. Ask for help. Don’t ask for money. There is no shortcut. If you can get customers and vendors to fund you, do that. Large enterprises deal with small companies all the time and won’t be offended if you tell them you need help getting paid upfront, or offer to give them exclusivity for a period in exchange for them funding development of a new feature. Bonus #1 of this approach: even if they say no, you’re networking with your buyers, which you can leverage to get more sales. Bonus #2: 6- or 12-month exclusivity on a new feature is far, far, FAR cheaper than what a VC or angel will charge you for the same investment. RJ: What were the most influential things that helped you continue on? Jason: Believing deeply in what we were doing. Knowing that we had gotten paid customers before we ever had a product. Having a great partner and a small, mighty network of advisors, mentors, and trusted friends who I could call at weird hours. An acute fear of failure. RJ: You were recently acquired. Was the process of selling a company easy? Jason: Definitely not. In an acquisition, it’s what happens in the 11th hour – which typically is 50% of the deal time – that gets tricky and needs to be managed. This happens after the buyer has committed to the deal and has received board approval; this is after promises have been made. So now the details of the deal need to get checked against those promises, and inevitably there are things that don’t line up, and of course now you not only have to make them line up, but you have to do it under the watchful eye of people you’ve made promises to, and while keeping teams of executives, operators, and attorneys on both sides in the loop. That takes finesse and an ability to handle massive amounts of stress. RJ: Hindsight is 20/20. What would you describe as some “feelings” post sale? Jason: Brand Amper was built to solve a real problem, so the fact that the idea now lives beyond my ownership of it is incredibly validating. That’s a legacy, and that feels amazing. RJ: What’s next? Jason: I’d love to take the transferable skills of entrepreneurship – analysis, storytelling, relationship building, experimentation, and execution – and apply them at a much bigger scale. Think transformation or product evangelism. We’ll see!