STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

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STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

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STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

STARTUP PICNIC GEW 2014 - 22 November, at CSIR Sports & Recreation Club

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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Do People Treat Me Differently Since I Talk Openly About Depression?

As Amy and I get ready to return to Boulder today and physically re-enter the human race, I woke up this morning thinking about how I’m feeling emotionally. We’ve had an excellent three weeks up at our house in Homer, Alaska, far away from the people we know. Our only friends up here are our neighbors (whom we adore) so other than one visitor (Matt Shobe – who we also adore) it’s been a very solitary and physically introverted time.

I’ve been working a lot – typically on video conferences and phone calls for four to eight hours a day. Toss in email, some projects, and my daily writing and you’ve got a full schedule. But it’s been alone, with just Amy, in our house, far away from other people. The days have been long, with lots of light, late dinners, and even later nights since the sun doesn’t go down until after midnight. And that’s been good for my soul.

Several months ago I received the following question in email. It’s similar to a number of emails I’ve received and I thought of it this morning as I was pondering my mental health so I figured I’d riff on it a little.

“I have been struggling with depression for a while. I want to write about it, but I’m afraid that it will really negatively impact me professionally. Some investor might not write me a check, because he/she will think that I’m not a good bet, or maybe someone will think twice about hiring me down the line. Have you found people treat you differently after you’ve written about your depression? Have you had opportunities close up? Would you recommend writing about it for someone who is not as established as you are?”

Following is a rambling rant on each question.

Would you recommend writing about it for someone who is not as established as you are?”: I have no idea. In my case, I started writing about it without considering the implications. The transparency movement was one of the motivations that resulted in me starting to blog in 2004 as I played some follow the leader with my friends Fred Wilson and Jerry Colonna, who each discovered the joy of blogging shortly before I did. A decade later, I continued to believe deeply in the value of transparency as well as authenticity, which has been reinforced through my work with Rand Fishkin, Sarah Bird, Moz, and Moz’s TAGFEE code. I try to be myself, be direct, be open, and own my thoughts and ideas all the time. So it would have been opaque and inauthentic not to talk openly about depression and, given that transparency and authenticity are a key part of my value system, I never gave it a second thought beyond realizing that if I didn’t talk openly about depression, I was bullshitting myself and violating some of my core values. That said, I have no idea if it’s a good idea for someone else to write about their depression – it’s going to depend on their value system, circumstance, and mental/emotional state. However, I do know that talking about it, even privately, has helped me address my depression, so I encourage anyone who is struggling with depression to make sure they at least have a few people in their lives who they can talk to openly about what is going on with them.

Have you found people treat you differently after you’ve written about your depression? Have you had opportunities close up?  I’ve had three experiences: a few mildly negative, a few irrelevant, and many overwhelmingly positive. I’ll start with the negative. Several people who I previously was close to withdrew from interacting with me. I have no idea why – I can only speculate that they were uncomfortable, afraid, or ashamed of something, or for me. I’ve proactively reached out to several of them now that I’m not depressed and re-established close relationships, so the dynamics here are a mystery to me. A few people, instead of being passive, were openly hostile to me. I ignored them as I realized their hostility was likely more about them than about me. Many, many people reached out, provided support, opened up about their own depression, thanked me for providing leadership on this issue, or words for them, or just an example of a successful person who struggled with depression. This was the overwhelming feedback and resulted in a number of new, interesting, and powerful relationships for me. Many of the conversations I had with this set of people helped me work through my depression and better understand myself, and many of them told me that I had a similar impact on them.

Reflecting on this rant, I think people do interact with me differently in a way that is very positive and powerful. There is a lot more connection and empathy in my relationships. I’ve always had a lot of this since it’s the way I’m wired, but now it extends to many of the relationships I have from a distance, online, or are business interactions with relatively little physical or social interaction. It’s easier to get real about what is going on when things are difficult or when I see someone else struggling. And, when I need a break from humans, I just take it without worrying about it or wondering what people are thinking. At some level, I’ve let go of another layer of external judgment and validation, which already was largely absent from my psychological construct since I’m so deeply intrinsically motivated. But by helping people understand me better, they can related to me better and I can relate to them better.

So – overall – being open about and writing about my struggles with depression has been a huge plus for me.

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons, and read a lot.

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado.
I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons, and read a lot.

Raising Funding Almost Destroyed My Startup

In early 2014 (about 15 months into my business) I had the opportunity to raise a small round of seed funding for my subscription sock company, The figure was about $25 000 and I was raising it from a single angel investor.

The angel and I had an aligned vision, we spent months discussing where the business going, how we were going to move the company towards our next goal and what we would use the funds for.

Everything was on track. We had a handshake agreement that I thought was as good as gold. It wasn’t and the deal ultimately fell through after months of work.

Here’s the major lesson that I had to re-learn:

A handshake isn’t enough.

I thought it was enough. I wanted it to be enough. I wish that I could tell you that it was like the movies and that I found a business soul mate, we shook hands and then the money was in the bank. Unfortunately that’s bullshit.

Signed contracts, term sheets and real-life agreements matter.

Handshakes are symbolic.

Money in the bank is all that counts.

The Partnership Dance

Ensuring that you have an aligned vision with your potential investor is probably more important than the money you are trying to raise and the valuation you’re looking for. The chances are the investor is going to be with you for a long time and be right there with you making decisions about your companies future.

So I spent a fair amount of time with this particular guy. We met for coffees, lunches and even played social football together (there’s nothing like a team sport to figure out a person’s demeanour) to see if we gelled as a potential working partnership . We did. It was great. So we moved on to the next step.

The Business Vision

Having a vision for your business in your head is one thing. Being able to articulate that vision clearly to an investor verbally and in document format is an entirely different prospect altogether. The latter requires writing documents, sitting down for hours and trying to predict where you think the company will be in 12 months, 2 years, 5 years and onwards. This requires documentation, planning, strategy and an idea of how you’re going to execute.

I was pushed to identify new revenue models, marketing prospects, sales channels and a variety of ways that I thought I could use the investors money, time and personal connections to grow my business.

Trying to raise funding is an incredible way to gain insight into your business.

I was forced to really analyse what I thought the pros and cons of my business model were. To take a really hard look at my financial projections in relation to my actual financials and see if I was dreaming or really onto something.

In the end, I had nailed down a business vision, a business plan and financial projections as well as a plan to use the funds.

Valuation & Commitment

Once all of the admin and work was out of the way it was time to talk about valuation and commitment in terms of funding amount, involvement and equity I was willing to give up.

I don’t like to mince words so we got down to it pretty early on.

The valuation for my less than one year old company was set at R1m (±$95 000) and I’d be giving up 25% of the company if the investor and I could hit certain milestones along the way that increased the value of the business and our bottom line.

I was happy to go forward with those terms and excited to start spending the money to grow and prove a few things I needed to make the business work efficiently.

Signing & Spending

Here’s where things start to get tricky and I started to make some rookie mistakes.

I began spending money that I didn’t have in my bank account.

I committed to SEO work. I designed and ordered new stock. I started paying my team member a tiny bit of money (‘cause that’s what you’re supposed to; actually pay your staff) and made a few more commitments along the way.

All of these were things that the investor and I had agreed were the way forward for the company. I was doing what we had agreed to do.

A couple of months into spending the investment capital and we still hadn’t signed a final contract. I still hadn’t received any of the funds and I was starting to worry.

I was concerned about over spending and the precarious cashflow situation of the business.

Turns out I was right to worry.

Stand and Deliver

After many weeks of back and forth between myself and the investors lawyer I was at a dead end.

We weren’t moving forward on the contract, I wasn’t getting meetings, no one was answering my calls and things had come to a halt.

The money wasn’t flowing in but it was sure as shit flowing out.

And then, finally, I received a call from the investor on a Friday afternoon at 5pm.

The money wasn’t going to arrive in my bank account. Ever.

The deal wasn’t going to get done.

I had put the cart so far in front of the horse that I could barely even see where it was headed.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

It’s worth stating that the company suffer too much in the medium term from this little blip and I’ve come out of it with some fantastic learnings and a very solid business that’s growing at a steady rate.

The Good

Raising money for your company will force you to get your shit together. You’ll need everything in order from financials to business plans to stock management and everything in between. This can only be good for your business.

It’s also always a good idea to have a vision for where you’d want to go and what you’d want to spend your money on if you had the option. Spending that money before you have it a stupid idea but knowing what you’d do if you did have it is a good plan.

This entire process has opened up new revenue streams for my business and allowed me the clarity to focus on the important parts of the company and ignore the irrelevant bits.

The Bad

Committing to money that you don’t have can be the kiss of death for any business.

It’s simple math:

Money going out > money coming in = bye bye business.

Cash flow is absolutely imperative to a young and growing business. Without money in the bank to pay for your expenses you’re in trouble and I was right there on the edge.

Fortunately this experience had opened up a new revenue model for me through the discussions with the investor so I began to hit the sales path and recover the lost investment with actual income.

Real revenue is as good, if not better than a cash injection from an investor.

The Ugly

It’s hard to go through an experience that puts your business at risk. It’s ugly to have to face your business and admit that it needs work. It’s shitty to realise that you put your business at risk by making some simple and avoidable mistakes.

But the truth is, going through this entire process has been a good experience for Nic Harry as well as for me as a founder.

I still have a good relationship with the investor and we still meet occasionally to catch up.

Raising money can be the best and the worst thing for your business so try to focus on revenues and profit.

Here are three quick tips for raising funding for your startup:

1. Get your house in order

You need to have your company workings in order. At the very least have a bank account that you can use to show the investor what you’re spending your money.

It’s a good idea to have a monthly income statement that shows money coming in and going out. This shows the investor that you’re on top of things as an entrepreneur and can be trusted with their money.

Make sure you know how things work, like your ecommerce platform for example and that you can actually explain it. Don’t be left without an answer to a simple question. This is your business, own it and everything in it. Build the investors trust using your knowledge of your own business.

2. Have a product in the market

It’s incredibly tough to raise funding without a tangible product and a working plan. Make sure that you don’t waste your one shot sitting in front of an investor with nothing to show them but your amazing idea.

3. Show some traction

An idea is not a business and a product that no one is buying is not investable.

If you’re looking to raise financing from an anyone then you better make sure you’ve sold some product, made some money and have good growth.

Nic Haralambous is the founder of, a premium Men’s Accessory business. He is also a speaker and writer

Nic Haralambous is the founder of, a premium Men’s Accessory business. He is also a speaker
and writer

The Real Data Bae | The Cheapest Prepaid Mobile Internet Bundles Across South African Networks

South African mobile data internet providers have complex and tricky packages, thus making it difficult to determine which is the cheapest.

So here at Startup Picnic Magazine, we tried to break it down, tricky as it is (:-p), to help you select the cheapest. We know some folks who have SIM cards with all the different networks just to take advantage of any specials that can come up.

The rational is on which option gives you more data and value for money if your budget is limited to either, R50, R100, R150, R200, R250 or R300.

Open letter to minister of Small Business Development: The other things frustrating entrepreneurship growth in South Africa

Good day minister Zulu. First congratulations on your appointment on the new department.

This article has been in the writing even before it became known that the Department of Small Business Development would be. I’ve been chasing perfection with it, but I guess like entrepreneurship is about operating in ever ideal-less situations – it will never be perfect.

Entrepreneur and founder of STARTUP PICNIC. Author of The Anxious Entrepreneur, Forget The business Plan Use This Short Model and Township Biz Fastrack.

A Short Guide To Knowing An Entrepreneur

Over the past decade I’ve had countless conversations about being an entrepreneur, what the definition of an entrepreneur is and why the hell people like us keep doing what we do in the face of insane odds and statistically certain failure.

Below is a list of 15 things that I’d like you to know about entrepreneurs.

1. We are completely broken

Most entrepreneurs wont admit this because a lot of the time we have to believe our own hype. But the truth is, we’re broken. How else do you explain our never ending desire to buck social norms, start companies on a shoestring budget, eat like we’re broke (because a lot of the time we are) and work hour upon hour in the hope that we’ll create something incredible enough to grow our wealth.

Nic Haralambous is the founder of, a premium Men’s Accessory business. He is also a speaker
and writer

Schizopreneur – The Brutal Emotional Battery of Being an Entrepreneur

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and everything feels great? Your first meeting goes brilliantly. Your coffee tastes as good as it smells and your eggs actually arrive as you ordered them (medium and not rock hard).

And then something happens that sends you into the most foul of moods. It’s practically inexplicable. You know it’s happened and you know that you are blowing your mood way out of proportion but you can’t stop.

I have those days.

I have those days every week of every month of every year.

It’s called being an entrepreneur. But recenty I’ve started to feel like the word “entrepreneur” doesn’t express the schizophrenic emotional and mental state that I very often find myself in.

Entrepreneurs need something more vivid, something more brutal and something that effectively explains, in one word, what we experience every day.

The word: Schizopreneur.

A mental condition in which someone cannot think or behave normally and often experiences delusions about their business.

Nic Haralambous is the founder of, a premium Men’s Accessory business. He is also a speaker
and writer