This blog post is based on the conversation we had with Taylor Nieman for the Fundraising Radio podcast. Taylor Nieman is the CoFounder and CEO of Toucan which is a browser plugin that helps you learn a new language while going about your day. Toucan has currently raised $3.5 million dollars in financing.
Before starting Toucan Taylor started three ill fated companies.
What Taylor learned from her three failed companies:
Taylor explains that one of the main lessons she learned from her three failures is that team means everything. She shared that for her first company she recruited a complete stranger to be her Co-founder and it did not go great. The second time she started something being a solopreneur. Although Taylor had taught herself how to code to the point she could basically build anything she was overwhelmed by all the work she had to do by herself. As a result her foray into being a solopreneur did not end well either. The third time around Taylor partnered with one of her current CoFounders. They pitched about 200 investors. The investors ripped apart their idea and most of them declined to invest. However they liked the core team. This fourth time around Taylor she was lucky enough to partner with great people who all have amazing skills that compliment each other. Additionally, this time they are attempting to implement a massive vision and have an incredible product.
Toucan’s Fundraising Situation:
Toucan has raised money pre and during the pandemic. Building and cultivating relationships is key not only when trying to find a cofounder, but also when raising money from investors. Online fundraising is better for founders because they don’t have to travel and they can book back to back meetings with investors from all around the country and even the globe, which creates momentum to drive the FOMO of the round which allows founders to get that first term sheet faster. However, Taylor thinks the downside of online fundraising is that it is harder to build a relationship with an investor virtually and it is also more difficult for investors to get to know founders as humans and as people.
Growing and Building Toucan:
Toucan has achieved a staggering 100% month over month organic growth. In fact, most of Toucan’s growth has come from word of mouth. They also have a partnership with Google in which they are doing a bunch of featuring in the Chrome Webstore having also launched a concept entitled own the word where they leverage their product as a growth channel. Specifically, Toucan uses inline translations to do this.
Another reason for success is the neverending testing of new things. Indeed, they test new things manually before they leverage engineering resources to scale them up and also do tests within two week sprints. If ideas work they leverage engineering to scale it up, if not then they will try other ideas. Taylor has also found that Twitter is an effective tool for growth, because white collar workers are their target audience and they are just staring at the computer these days.
How to prepare to fundraise:
Taylor prepared for fundraising by getting in touch with founders who have successfully raised money. She pitched to these founders and they helped her improve her pitch. Moreover, she also followed up with these founders and asked for a warm introduction to their investors finding them on Linkedin and also guessing a lot of their email addresses, until one of her guesses prompted an email that had a profile picture. Going back to the usefulness of Twitter Baron Davis the former NBA player found Toucan on twitter, tweeted about it and sent so many people to the website that it crashed. He then reached out to the Toucan team via DM and within two meetings he became an investor in the company.
Taylor’s biggest mistake in Fundraising:
Taylor believes her biggest mistake while fundraising was with her first company when she did not know the ins and outs of fundraising. If she would do it all over again she would have reached out to founders who have successfully fundraised before and she would have practiced her pitch much more. She also advises founders to create their own hypothesis and questions and as you iterate on the product start proving things right or wrong.
Taylor’s Advice for Founders who have little to no network and are looking for CoFounders:
Taylor recommends that founders who have no connections in the industry they are in or who have little to no network and are looking for cofounders to talk to as many people as possible who have your opposite skill sets. For example, at her job Taylor talked to all the product people, all the engineers, because she knew that she wanted to build something in the future and wanted to start cultivating relationships that might lead to someone becoming her cofounder down the line.
In essence, she advises to talk to as many people that will talk back to you.
Taylor’s Advice for Founders who are still in college and are looking for a CoFounder:
She recommends founders who are still in college and are searching for cofounders to network with people in their classes and to attend clubs or social events. Even during this pandemic clubs meetings are still being held on teleconferencing apps. She also suggests that founders in this situation utilize Linkedin and Twitter to reach out to people.
This blog post was written by Luis Bravo.