Taylor Nieman, Co-Founder and CEO at Toucan talks about raising money from investors who previously rejected her. We spoke how to maintain good relationship with investors and how that can lead to an investment from someone who previously rejected you.
What's that? Yeah. How do I pronounce? Am I doing your name correctly? Yep Yep. Just like that. Oh, yeah. Oh, it's too easy. Oh, I mean, you can try to pronounce my last name.
If you want some challenge do both.
Yeah, that was actually pretty accurate. You've done pretty good job there. So I'm used I see. I see. I'm not sure we're rushing. Not not polish, but close enough.
Yeah, very cool. Let's get started also. I'm slightly losing my voice again for some reason. So that might be.
Some problems there, but let's get going and today's a guest speaker. We have Taylor Nima Co, founder and CEO at 2 can and base opposite. We'll talk about their most recent close how they probably to raise money easier independently.
How they raise money in the past. How to the 2 processes compare and what's Taylor's advice to the founders who are trying to raise money during this presenting? So, Taylor, let's kick it off by giving us some background on yourself and onto. Can.
Amazing, thank you so much for having me I am the CO founder CEO of to found that joined to com, we are away for you to learn new things as you go about your day. 1st, starting with languages.
So, if you are browsing New York Times in the morning binge, watching Netflix, going down rabbit rabbit hole, we serve you up with micro moments of learning. We raised 3.5M dollars to date and we're really excited to start scaling to camp.
Nice so before we move back to to can, I would love to talk about your previous companies. So you've started 3 companies in the past, and they didn't really work out.
So, why do you think they didn't work out and could you give us just some brief overview of those 3 companies that didn't work out?
Yeah, so I have 3 failures under my belt already, but some of the learnings came from them and 1 of the core learnings really is team is everything, especially that founding team.
So the 1st time I tried to start something. I was not yet technical. I recruited a complete stranger to be my Co founder and I ended miserably. Next time. I started something.
I was a solo founder, but I taught myself how to code to be dangerous enough to build anything, but still, there's so much to do.
And any company, especially as a solo founder didn't work out quite well and then the next time around. I partnered with 1 of my now Co, founders, we went out to pitch.
Maybe 200 doctors are more they all ripped apart the idea. But they loved us as a team. Really? Got to learn more about the fundraising process during that.
Even though we got rejected over and over again and then now this 4th time around 3 of us on the cofounding team my 2 Co,
founders are insanely talented,
but also great human beings and we're going after a mouse and vision and have a really incredible product.
God, it sounds pretty interesting. So, 1st of all actually a list. Hi, Sean quickly on hiring that stranger Co, founder.
That's a bit of a struggle for a lot of early stage founders who don't have years and years of experience working in some particular fields. And they don't have many friends in that field. So, how would you recommend those people proceed with their startups?
And that was my exact situation I did not have a network, I was really,
almost fresh out of college and so I would just recommend talking to as many people that have your opposite skill set.
So, that's what I started doing when I started taking full time jobs. I made friends with all of the engineers, all of the products, people, all the designers, because I knew 1 day I wanted to start something.
And so I needed to begin building those relationships within these high growth tech companies beforehand. So, just talk to as many people that will talk back to, you.
Great, that's great advice. And what about those founders who are still in college? They don't really have a job at this moment and, I mean, there's just no simple way to find a CO founder organically, you know, especially during distant dynamics.
So, how would you recommend them approaching it to see? Have you tried any? I've heard about matching websites for Co, founders and stuff like that. Have you tried something like that?
So, I've never personally tried anything like that. I would recommend,
even friends in classroom,
like people that you're taking classes with message them,
see what they're excited about,
try somehow to network,
maybe in clubs groups on campus that are probably meeting over zoom right?
Or virtually instead just doesn't have to be in that formal work setting, but building those relationships.
And maybe they won't just be cost me, but maybe start looking on LinkedIn for companies that you really look up to.
And who are people that seem high potential that you might want to work with or might want to build those relationships overtime? I'm curious to know if you've heard of any success stories from the CO, founder matching site.
Right same here to be honest here. I would probably recommend where just full people and Twitter if we're interested in the same topics as you are and then people are generally Pre responsive and Twitter. If they see continuous activity on your end.
But now, let's move on and talk again about to Ken and about your fundraising experience. So you've raised 3.5M dollars up to this point and question is, how did you manage to raised? Very, very 1st
money for 2.
Yes, so our very 1st check in to Ken was 1 of the investors that got to know us when me and Brandon who's leading product.
Ross and 1 of my amazing Co founders went out to pitch for 1 of these other ideas. Dustin Rosen and off from 1 year Ventures.
And what's really interesting about them is they were 1 of the funds that status down told us exactly why that other idea was not going to work because they saw so much potential in us.
And when they knew we were going to be working together on this completely different idea. And with our 3rd Co founder, Sean, they were.
It was a no brainer for them and we really hadn't even finalized so much, but because we had that relationship in place from that previous rejection, it was easier for us to get that. 1st check in.
Nice that's great phrase right there relationship billing from rejection and then once you open up the next company there and that's great. So, question next question is about fundraising during the dynamics.
So, have you raised money after independent officially started or not yet?
Yes, so what's crazy about this is I was I had raised. I've raised money now Pre pandemic and also post and Pre. I always thought we need to meet these investors in person like, building relationships.
I keep saying it was over and over again. So, key on the Colts on our side, but also on the investor side and so I was flying to New York.
I was going to ask that making sure I was taking all these meetings in person face to face but once we really couldn't do that.
We were forced not to be able to do that and so I've been able to do this virtually really trying to bring that same energy that I do in person over Google me or zoom. It's not quite the same.
But I think we've all adjusted now to be able to raise funding and also to be investors are open to and are writing checks during this time.
Nice so comparing to 2 in person, fundraising versus online fundraising which 1 is did you feel that. Online fundraising is much harder, slightly harder or pretty much. The same.
online fundraising is so much more amazing for the founder,
because we don't have to travel and we can both these meetings back to back from investors across the state across the globe to create that momentum to drive the FOMO of the round,
which allows you to get that lead investor that 1st, term sheet faster.
And so it's amazing from that perspective. The downside is, how do you build that relationship virtually without that in person aspect? And also, how do investors get to know you as a human? Because.
Under fundraising, early on, they're really betting on you as a team to execute on what you're saying you're going to.
Right. So, a couple more questions on fundraising and then we'll move on. Actually nevermind, we're done with fundraising now. Let's talk about how you're proceeding to growth billing to can and so, and so forth.
So 1st question is about Co founders again, you have 3 Co founders at to Ken and question. Is, do you think having 3 Co, founders is better than having 2 or 1 Co founders?
So, in my perspective, there is so much to do as a Co, founding team that the more the merrier and not just ensuring they have a diverse skill set that compliments yours.
I'm leading fundraising and distribution, which is growth for 2. can my 2 other Co founders are leading product and engineering and we very much have our skillset that then allows us to work in harmony together.
Absolutely, that sounds like I personally believe that 3 Co founders is literally the ideal number to all agreeing with you here and speaking of growth by the way to kind of has achieved a 100 per month over month growth, which is absolutely insane.
Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Yes, so it's been very exciting growing that fast and completely organically. We've been growing mostly word of mouth the moment people know about 2 can they download it?
They experience that magic moment and then they tell everyone that they know. And so, from our perspective, it's how do we keep briefings?
We'll bring awareness that to can exist in the world because we know if someone then knows it exists the product is there. So, new a novel, they're then going to download it and at least try it out.
And so for us, it's been mostly word of mouth.
We have a great partnership with Google where we're doing a bunch of features on the Chrome Web Store, which is where we're hosted, but we also recently launched this concept called, own the word where we really want to leverage our products. Add the growth channel.
So 1 of the key features of 2, can are these in line translation and if the word coffee shows up, it'll be translated in line and if you hover over it, you'll see that morning brew newsletter owns that word.
And so it's just a very fun, playful way for people to feel ownership over the products, get a piece of the dictionary, but they can also share it out to their networks, which gives to can't even more eyeballs.
Nice the last part sounds a little bit complicated and I didn't understand the whole thing, but this point we're not going to go in depth into that particular marketing strategy and talk a little bit more about the overall strategy.
So question is how many customer acquisition channels did you try in general? So, was it like, 5 was it 10? Was it more than 10?
So, we're always testing and we're testing manually before then before we leverage engineering or tech resources to scale them out. So always small tests.
There's only 2 of us on the growth team right now and we do test within 2 weeks Sprint.
So, we'll have 2 ideas that we test if it works, we'll then prioritize it with an engineering to scale it with tech versus doing everything manually, but we're always testing new things.
And a lot of things don't work. Honestly, but then sometimes we have big wins. Give us an example of 1 of those big wins.
Yep, so this on the word concept maps of when, and we were just testing it out manually to start, but no engineering resources behind it. And then it completely took off.
other playbooks that we've been trying is like,
Twitter work great for grow,
especially because 1 of our core audiences are white collar workers that are in front of their computers all day and with them doing that foul thing,
too can be a no brainer.
Why wouldn't I install to cancel learn a language while I'm on Twitter already so that's been a very interesting and fun channel to play with.
100%, I'm telling you Twitter is insanely useful in the startup world. I personally don't like it, but.
Thanks to my team were actually able to to get in touch with Taylor. 1 of my insurance actually reached out to her because he saw her tweets on Twitter. So definitely tried to leverage every single possible opportunity that works for.
You remember, I told you that we're pretty much done with talking about fundraising. That was not completely right we're going back to talking about fundraising.
Let's talk about how much time you spent actually preparing so he mentions that's in this dynamic world. You're actually able to leverage this fear of missing out for investors, because you can me back to back from all investors, all across the U. S.
and even outside of the United States. So, how much time we're spending before actually starting to fundraise before opening the round to investors.
So I think this is different from 1st round versus background around 1st round since I didn't have a lot of relationships yet with seed investors.
I took the time 1st to 2 weeks meeting, just with founders founders that have raised venture capital to build relationships with them.
Work on my pitch, they would ask questions in the mindset ambassador and having raised themselves previously, which allowed me to get better and better and see where my holes were and my story overall.
And then I would always follow up and ask for a warm introduction to their investors that they love working with. And by doing that, then I was able to schedule meetings back would push it out.
During that process. I also met with theory, they investors were at apart position to even think, or dream of raising theory day, but I knew I wanted to build those relationships early on so that they can
see not only how big this can be.
But how a year from now, 2 years from, then we would be executing on every single thing that we said we were going to be doing.
Great very, very interesting approach. Actually, I would like to elaborate on that a little bit. How do you manage to get in touch with those founders who raised.
My previously so where where we're finding them, was it where was it? Linkedin was it crunch piece.
So, I just created a list of my favorite companies within tech. Then I knew I wanted to talk to those founders pretty easy to find their names just on LinkedIn. Then.
It's also there's a very familiar pattern with tech company email addresses where you can basically guess. And guest, right there there, right?
It's like, 1st name at for off it's going to figure that out. And if you don't, you can actually test it in Google Gmail, search bar.
And if you try different patterns, it'll pop up the person's profile picture once you've gotten correct that's approach. And then I would just send them an email. And I would I iterated on a few different versions.
And then I found 1 that worked, and that had a very good reply rate. And then we'll schedule the meetings with them.
All right can you tell us about that email? How, what were you saying? Were you how did you. What was the incentive for the founder? Basically, to me, we were telling them.
So, then send the 1st founders even with me now right. Is really to get back. They really don't get anything from it.
And, actually, if anything, like, thunders have to be very ruthless, further with their time, and then doing a very amazing gift for them, giving back to the community.
So, I think having that in mind and asking only for, like, 20 minutes of their time to meet with them initially right?
Because they have so many things going on that this is probably the lowest priority on that huge list. So,
making it as seamless as possible also very simple thing but that does wonders to show how much you care about their time is offering to send the calendar invite also offering a bunch of different times and days.
That could work. So, they don't have to go through trouble or heavy lift to make it happen at all.
100% that's great advice. Perfect. Absolutely. Love that approach and apparently it worked so congratulations. Right there.
Also speaking of fundraising you've brought on our Pre to call you mentioned that you brought a few, very notable investors or big names. How did you manage to do that?
Yeah, so 1 of our newest investors is Baron Davis to the 2 time MBA all star. He's incredibly talented successful, but also an amazing human, and he found us on Twitter, which is why?
So exciting right? Goes back to Twitter. He just found out about 2 can tweeted about 2 can so many people to our website.
If you reached out via DM, we hopped on a call and within 2 meetings, he became an investor and began.
Nice. That's just great. Again, Twitter, police and gentlemen works it works. All right now that we've talked about that, let's talk a little bit more about mistakes and then we'll wrap it up.
With that no negative note. At the end I love doing that.
So, now looking back at your previous fund reasons and previous companies and your attempts, maybe to fundraise for those, what do you think was your biggest mistake in fund raising.
This is a really interesting question. Biggest mistake.
So, the 1st time around, when we went out with that other ideas, like, I had no idea what was happening or what should I expect.
And I think that I should have done what I did this time around, which was reach out to every founder imaginable, talk to people that have done it before get there and by practice that pitch over and over again.
But also, like, create your own hypotheses.
And question then as you're iterating on the product start, proving these right or wrong and you'll see if the idea gets bigger or there's actually not really a core idea there.
And I think that we didn't necessarily, really, truly do that for the last idea last project.
But with 2, can we did so, even as we're getting rejection from some investors, we knew how massive the potential in this company that it could really be an iconic company.
Right. That's a great advice. And now that we've touched on 2 things, let's talk about maitre achievement. So looking back at your previous fundraising again, what do you think was the best move that you've done there?
So the founder side,
but also stacking up the meetings,
it is really hard to do a investor meetings a day,
especially when 1 meeting the masters could be super excited about what you're building.
And then next meaning they're telling you exactly how your company is going to fail and have no chance whatsoever by doing that you create momentum if you're condensing everything where you can actually close a fundraise
within 2 weeks within 3 weeks.
So almost putting yourself through that mental emotional exhaustion is very valuable in creating momentum to help you close because there are so many people involved,
especially as people start getting interested.
Right very fair and very accurate. So, what's your advice to current founders who are just starting to raise and have? Not not huge networks so not like, they know hundreds and hundreds of who are willing to invest in them.
What's your advice to those people?
So, a few things, 1, reach out to founders, like, start expanding that network to other investors ask further warm intro.
But schedule those meetings to say, just 2 weeks, like, 2 months out for now, like, fundraising and building relationships can be extremely distracting.
So you're either fundraising or you're not and you shouldn't be in between because you really need to focus on building your business.
And that's not going to happen if you're taking 1 meeting every day or 2 meetings a day, because your contacts switching back and forth.
And so just you're either fundraising, you're not and if you are stock those meetings.
Absolutely great advice as many previous founders and investors on fundraising review said fundraising is a full time position that you have to take, like, once a year.
But for a few months, definitely be ready for that and on these positive and very helpful advice. We're moving on to a last question of today's episode, which is a call to action. So Taylor, what's the 1 thing you want to do it? Right? After the episode is over.
I would love for the audience to give to try. I joined to com, it's completely free to download any feedback that you have whatsoever.
You can Tweet me at Taylor, underscore Neiman or now, you know, my email address to tailor joint with love and back.
Right actually my, my call to action is going to be related to what Taylor said earlier, which is finding those emails. There are actually tools now that can do it for, you know, guessing no. Using Google for that. There is a tool called sales.
I believe that's yeah, basically you just browse someone's LinkedIn then you use that plugin, which is a Google plug in and use a bunch of email addresses that most likely belong to the person and selling.
Those are hungry, belong to the person. So, I'll leave a link to sales skill in the description of his episode. Of course, I'll leave a link to to can and the description of this episode as well as.
Either tailors, or to ken's Twitter, but also 100% leave a link to to can there for sure. So, my call to action is going to go to the description of this episode check out all the links that are left.
And if you did not know how to extract emails from definitely check out sales skill and it's usually have a good date.
Learn more about Taylor Nieman from the following:
“Taylor Nieman, Co-Founder & CEO of Toucan, a Tool for Learning a New Language as You Browse the Web, on the Early Stages of Building an Iconic Education Company”
“EdTech Innovations & the Secret to Strategic Partnerships -- Taylor Nieman (Co-Founder & CEO, Toucan)”