by Jason Njoku
Everyone basically thought (rightly so) I was a failure. But not only that, a whole class of people considered me a scumbag. My failures were widely celebrated during that period. Compared to that. Anything today is nothing.
In all my infinite glory I happened upon the worst Angel Investor in the whole wide world. Ever. In fact the universe.
In mid 2006 I sat in my car and cried. It was the first time in like 5 years I had cried but it was definitely one of the lowest lowest moments in my young life. An investor had brought this proud young man to tears. How? Because I let him. I did a crazy thing. I believed what he told me. I was ultimately to blame for what happened to me.
And no one will ever do that again. Ever.
Anatomy of my most Epic Failure part2 – Funding
Enter 2006, I was reeling in a massive massive cash crunch (which I believed I was solving but in actual fact I was merely prolonging). It started from 3 months after launch and turned into a 3year-long battle. I was desperately doing the rounds attempting to pitch to local businesses to buy advertising space in the magazine. It didn’t work. No one was biting. They just didn’t have the ad budgets or I was just a terrible terrible salesman. Either way things were sh_t. Enter my Angel.
His name was Umar. But everyone just called him Slick. He was young, Asian and for all intents and purposes very very rich. He ran a telecoms outfit between offices in Manchester and Dubai which imported/exported mobile telephony equipment. When I pitched him on advertising he quickly turned the conversation into a potential funding scenario. We met several times before he committed to invest a certain amount of money. At that time it was a lifeline. Manna from the heavens. Here was my saviour. He offered to invest £35,000 ($50,000) for a 30% stake in my little business Brash Magazine. I was elated. Cash crunch was over. I believed. He had a new car whenever we met. Aston Martin, Rolls Royce Phantom and Mercedes CLS. We went to a club once and hew blew like thousands of pounds as if it was nothing. All appears good. I had my millionaire angel. Right? Wrong.
Getting the commitment was easy. Getting the money. Living hell.
(of an action or thing) Done or operating in an impressively smooth, efficient, and apparently effortless way.
An oil slick.
The definitions says it all. Umar aka Slick was an oil slick. It took me a total of 34.4 weeks to get the money promised to me. He promised the world. Then he drip fed me the money. It ended up coming in like 15 little transactions. Alls the while he was giving me the confidence that the money was imminent. He would call me to the office to collect money and then never appear. I would literally sit there for hours waiting. Calling. Waiting. Voicemail.
I called him like hundreds of times to try and get the money. Voicemail. The problem is that I signed. I had signed the share transfer documentation so he had the shares. Even worst, perhaps the deadliest sin of all was I been planning on that money. Building a future media conglomerate on that future money. Revenue wasn’t there yet. Not even close, but with funding I thought I was able to change the world.
During that 32 week period.
* Rent wasn’t paid. So I had to leave my flat. To another flat (which was free) which had no furniture. Which I stayed in for 5weeks before becoming homeless again. I ended up sleeping on peoples couches for 9 months. My old friend Zainfur took me off the proverbial streets.
* My final co-founder of Brash Paul Machnicki left. Rightly so. He tried to guide me. Offer words of wisdom. I passed. Woe unto me.
* Jessica Hope, who is the communications head at iROKO now, left thinking I was the devil incarnate. To get her final pay she force-marched me to the cash machine
* My whole editorial team left. I missed payroll. And the 5-person team upped and left. I don’t blame them. There was a social contract. They worked, I paid them, when I couldn’t, they left. It was just before we were pushing a new issue out and I ended up having to learn photoshop, indesign and editing in about 2 weeks. But I deserved it.
* I was kicked out of my office. There was a bit of a power struggle with an old friend of mine which forced me out of my office space. It was this awesomely large space which could have easily housed 30 employees but had like 8 people there. Stupid but awesome.
* The printing company tried to force me into bankruptcy for winding up orders. After a frantic 400mile round trip I stayed that crisis but they insisted on cash upfront.
* Everyone basically thought (rightly so) I was a failure. But not only that, a whole class of people considered me a scumbag. My failures were widely celebrated during that period. Compared to that. Anything today is nothing.
Angel investing done the wrong way turns a great experience into a living hell. That’s why when founding SPARK we simply downloaded Y Combinators terms sheet and conditions, localised them to suit Nigerian law and used the most founder-friendly terms possible.
Of course the initial valuations were not silicon valley. But in 7 months we have already committed with cash in the bank $1Mn+ to our startups. Several have taken follow-on rounds of $150-250,000. I spend more time now than ever speaking to the institutional investment community to be ready for the breakout companies series A funding.
The final part of the Brash story will follow shortly. The death. The long sordid story. All in its supposed glory. It’s not. After Brash finally died, I didn’t leave the house for like 2 months. Depressed was I.
Article republished with the author’s permission. It can be read HERE
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