I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by robots.
You’d think I was in a nightmare, but it was quite the opposite. I was living my dream.
I was in Central Queensland visiting SwarmFarm Robotics and several of their customers. I catch up weekly with SwarmFarm, one of our portfolio companies, and am fully across their impressive metrics: over one million acres commercially farmed, 55,000+ hours, and nearly 600 tons of reduced pesticide use.
But seeing the tangible impact of their robots blew me away.
The visit could not have come at a better time for me personally. As we kick off fundraising for Fund II, seeing the catalytic impact of our investment helped me reconnect with my “why” for Tenacious Ventures. In doing so, I added to a bank of confidence I will inevitably need to draw on when fundraising gets hard.
There are a lot of well-known things that make fundraising hard.
Feeling out of control and at the mercy of someone else’s priorities and timelines. Signing off at a reasonable time when there’s a never-ending backlog of calls to make and follow-up emails to send. Doing the work to take responsibility for how I contributed to the outcome of each meeting.
One thing that I’ve found hard, and yet not talked about enough, is how important it is to stay confident while fundraising. In talking about a vision for the future that often does not yet fully exist, the strength of your personal conviction is a critical factor in how compelling you are.
But it’s not easy to stay confident when each ‘no’ feels, at best, like a gut punch; or at worst, like an attack on your self-worth and an existential threat to your success.
Reconnecting with my “why” by getting out on-farm and seeing, feeling, and being surrounded by the impact our portfolio companies are creating prompted me to revisit some other confidence-building tactics I’ve collected over the years from my own sales & fundraising journeys, and from supporting dozens of founders to raise.
In the spirit of raising out loud and in hopes they can help others, I’m sharing them here.
This simple concept, popularized by Dr. Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan in their book, has been transformational for me. Rather than looking ahead at all the things I’ve not yet achieved, the idea is to shift my perspective to focus on just how far I’ve come.
Focusing on the gain can be an active process as well as a shift in attention. I love mentoring and supporting other GPs and founders who are fundraising for the first time. Not only is it a chance to share my knowledge and give back, but it also helps me identify and recognize how much I’ve grown, learned, and built.
When I was a teenager playing state- and national-level soccer, my mom would come to games and cheer for me. While it was nice to have her there, getting positive feedback from someone who not only didn’t understand the game (sorry mom) but also whose support was unconditional, didn’t mean nearly as much as positive encouragement from my teammates or coaches.
I’ve found it’s the same in fundraising: positive encouragement from people whose respect and endorsement you’ve earned is invaluable. For us, this includes our existing investors, advisors, co-investors, and most of all our portfolio companies. When they make intros for us to potential Fund II LPs (investors), it’s an incredible confidence booster. Surround yourself with champions who know just how hard it is AND back you fully.
Fundraising inevitably comes with late nights and, if you live in Australia, very early mornings. I prioritize sleep above basically all else in terms of personal wellbeing, but getting in bed in time for a possible 8 hours is not the same as actually sleeping for 8 hours. If you can’t shut off, it’s largely useless. The solution here is not complex: don’t check your email before bed. The bad or good news will still be there in the morning, and you’ll be well-rested and ready to take it on.
Achieving big things is all about consistently doing lots of small things well. But weeks and weeks of activity, without big outcomes, can be hard to get excited about. I’ve found that celebrating small wins along the way helps keep confidence and morale up by showing that what you’re doing is working.
I like to focus on leading indicators of success as much or more than actual outcomes. We have a “ring the bell” channel set up in slack for just this purpose. We of course share investor commitments, but also templates that work, calls that get set up, and achievement of back-office and operational milestones.
At least a few times a week, I have to end one call or close one email with bad news and then immediately compartmentalize it and confidently move on to the next task. I don’t have a magic tactic for how to do this, but I have found that acknowledging it will happen does help. When I played sports, I would sometimes write “what’s important now” on my hand or water bottle as a subtle reminder if I needed it. Now, it’s on a post-it above my desk.
We founded Tenacious Ventures to unlock impact and returns by partnering with early-stage startups in the agrifood system. Although our founders tell us about the impact their companies are having, and I see their growth in our quarterly reports, it’s sometimes hard to feel.
Visiting SwarmFarm earlier this month was a visceral, immersive experience of the impact our investment has catalyzed.
It helped me reconnect with my passion and vision, and this has bubbled over into fundraising calls.
Taking time out to connect with our founders and visit the portfolio companies we partner with is just one of many ways I’ve found to keep my bank of confidence full while fundraising. I’d love to hear what works for you!
To learn more about investing in Fund II and our vision for a digitally-native and climate resilient food system, get in touch here. Early-stage agri-food tech startups looking for funding, reach out here.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is not investment advice or a recommendation to invest. It is general information only and does not take into account your investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making an investment decision you should read the information memorandum and seek financial advice from a professional financial adviser. Whilst we believe Information is correct, no warranty of accuracy, reliability or completeness is given, except for liability under statute which cannot be excluded.