Let me start this by saying: Of course.
Of course I'm incredibly proud of the work the team at Clearco (once Clearbanc) has done over the last six years.
Of course it's extremely gratifying that others believe in our strategy, our abilities, and share in our mission, enough that they would make a substantial investment in our company.
And, of course, I'm delighted to welcome Annie Lamont from Oak to our board of directors.
Of course, but…
In the hundreds — maybe thousands — of hours Michele, my team, and I spent both preparing for and meeting with potential investors for our Series C fundraise, I was reminded of two facts that lie at the core of Clearco’s reason for being.
No founder starts their business to fundraise. It’s like speed dating in a courtroom — meeting after meeting, you make your arguments and present your evidence and hope that the jury finds you “investable”.
It’s an exhausting experience. Having been through many rounds in the past, I was looking forward to the process being 100% virtual. Without having to travel, I thought I could fundraise and run the business without missing a beat.
That wasn’t the case. Days expanded into 14-hour back-to-back Zoom marathons. Diligence calls and reference calls spilled into evenings and weekends. Time zones didn’t exist anymore.
And most importantly, every hour I spent with investors was an hour I didn’t get to spend making our company and products better with our team and customers.
Michele and I are fortunate to have a team of people who share our vision at Clearco. We still launched incredible products and initiatives. Our sales team still shot through their targets. But it felt like we took our eyes off the company for Q1 of this year, and that wasn’t without detriment.
The impact of our absence was found in the little things. Moments where I think Michele or I could’ve provided more clarity or alignment between teams. Timely feedback that would’ve normally surfaced in regular 1:1s. In a world where connections and conversations are already stretched thin, our ability to drive the company culture we’d worked hard to create was very limited.
I kept thinking about the founders of companies that we’d invested in. We’d done this many times before, and it was still extremely difficult. Imagine trying to figure this out for the first time, completely alone, without the network or advice we have at our disposal.
Imagine trying to do all that, and make sure you’re still sleeping, eating, exercising — doing all the things you need to do to keep healthy for yourself and your family.
Now, can you imagine trying to run your business on top of all that?
Venture capital is broken.
You don’t switch off during fundraising. In the few hours where I could realistically shut my eyes and try to decompress, I would ruminate on the mechanics of what we were doing.
Ultimately, you’re asking for someone else to believe in you. It’s your job to convince them. And sometimes, try as you might, their decision will in no way be a reflection of your idea, your business, or even your pitching abilities.
It’s just their decision.
The thing is, there’s more than enough money to fund every great idea and ambitious entrepreneur working on a problem that needs solving. But the broken distribution system of venture capital means a few select companies are overfunded, overvalued, and overstuffed. Meanwhile, the majority of founders around the world are starving for capital and opportunity.
It’s been like this for all of history.
The people with the money decide what gets made and by who. The king decided which castles and bridges got built. Wealthy donors and philanthropists choose which research projects are funded. And VCs decide which companies and ideas come to life and by which founders and teams.
It’s well known that this process is (to put it nicely) far from perfect. Gender inequality, racial bias, geographic discrimination — we’re all aware of the stats and stories. Clearco has allowed me to see past the percentages and headlines. We invest in and mentor brilliant founders from all walks of life, sometimes when no one else will.
So why did we do it?
Trust me; if there were a Clearco for Clearco, we’d be their biggest customer. Choosing to take on venture capital, for us, is a necessity of our mission.
We’re also fortunate enough to have found incredible investors and partners over the years. Annie and the Oak HC/FT team understand what we’re trying to build and are as energized as we are about what lies ahead of us. They immediately lept into action - connecting us with their talent network well before they signed on the dotted line. That’s a good investor.
Michele and I founded this company in 2015 with the mission of decentralizing access to capital. Equity-free funding was unheard of, and in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to secure traditional forms of financing, we needed to change that.
But the times have changed. Six years later, founders need much more than capital. They need all of that extra stuff that we’re fortunate enough to have: a world-class network, data-driven insights, the best technology, and experienced mentors armed with valuable advice.
So that’s what we’re going to build.
We want to be more than just a cheque (or a “banc” for that matter). Our Series C announcement and our rebrand from Clearbanc to Clearco indicate our renewed focus on founders. We want to help them grow their business wherever we can make an impact — not just in their pockets.