Dispatches from the gap

NDRC sees ‘the gap’ as the space between pre-seed and seed, where private investment is absent, but capital is needed.

The gap is that nebulous, limbo stage between launching a promising startup with some early success, and actually becoming ready for private investment. It’s the period where entrepreneurs go from being good amateurs, to true professionals in their businesses.

Some startups and founders hurtle through this stage without even noticing it. They may have the experience or natural ability to see the bigger picture and drag their business into being, without external help, attracting employees and investors alike along the way.

Trapped

Others remain trapped in the gap forever, an endless groundhog day of false hope and self-delusion. ‘If can just land that deal.’

‘I had a term sheet but it fell through at the last minute.’

‘I just need €25,000 to build the next version.’

‘I’ll give it one more, one more month.’

‘I can't stop now, I've travelled so far, to change this lonely life.’

For others still, the gap is a seminal point in their journey, a crucible where they discover their true worth. Where they decide to grasp the opportunity presented to them, to overcome their fear of the unknown, their fear of looking like an idiot, their fear of failure, to break out of the peloton of startups that will never win, but amongst whom it is so easy to hide.

It is these people we aspire to work with at NDRC, people with a huge appetite to succeed and learn, and who need our help.

Hidden from view

But they are not always easy to find in the huge crowd of startups hungry for capital. Every founder claims to be ambitious and hungry, but when pushed on an intense accelerator programme, sadly many are unwilling or unable to make that step out of their comfort zone.

Often within one or two weeks of working with a founder you start to see a pattern of behaviour emerge, typified by a deep fluency in the language of excuses. Every delay, every period of inaction, every missed opportunity was an unavoidable quirk of cruel fate, but for which they would have done what they set out to the previous week.

If there is one predictor of success that I have seen in my time here it is founders with an internal locus of control; who refuse to have their ambitions thwarted by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, who in the face of setbacks seek not excuses but another, better way. While it’s no guarantee of success (nothing is at this stage), that mind-set, when coupled with a small bit of capital and the right guidance, can accomplish amazing things.

Goodbye

At the end of November, after three fantastic years as Venture Investment Leader at NDRC, I left for pastures new. So it’s a good time to call out just a few who have exemplified this mindset and determination during my time at NDRC.

Thomasina in Contomply; Shankar and Jonny in Eirscope; Timothy and James at HousemyDog, Tracy and Wendy at The Beauty Buddy; and Donal at Enterasense. Working with founders like these has made my time here so enjoyable and taught me much to take with me to my next challenge.

Finally looking ahead to 2019, I am predicting big things for Accessible Mojo, Biome and Tribal, you heard it here first.