Sramana Mitra: How much money were you able to raise and what happened after?
Cooper Harris: Using that as a springboard, we parlayed that into a seed that was in the low millions. After raising a few millions, we were able to staff up. We were able to have a lot more resources. I should clarify that before this seed round, we had taken on a very small amount of about a couple hundred thousand dollars to make the tech more robust.
Sramana Mitra: Where was that from?
Cooper Harris: Angels. I can’t stress this enough for young companies. If you have a good idea, don’t disregard that early angel funding. We didn’t do a family and friends, because it’s emotionally expensive money. I felt like that would potentially be more stressful. I went out to accredited angels who were sophisticated. I did not go to VCs in that very early round where we had just a prototype.
Sramana Mitra: What did you go to angels with?
Cooper Harris: I had a very specific checklist of four things. The first was a lot of market research. I was able to leverage data firms and put together a strong case for why there was an opportunity here. I feel that people skip that stage. Then I put together a list of potential customers that I thought would be really good.
Some of them actually became clients, but some didn’t. For those guys who were too big to start using a 3-month product, I got them to do LOIs. It’s the easiest way to show potential demand. By getting some of the largest and most flashy entities, that backs up the product. Then I convinced some of my engineer friends, that I mentioned to you, to let me hire them for absurdly cheap amounts to build a prototype. It was not even an MVP.
Sramana Mitra: How many of these were in the pool?
Cooper Harris: Only three.
Sramana Mitra: That’s great. Three plus you?
Cooper Harris: Exactly. The first person I asked was my brother. I knew he has been coding since he was 12. You don’t want ever want to ask people to do things for you for free because you don’t necessarily own the IP. If you have friends who are generous enough to build something for you for free, tell them, “No, build it for $10.” Sign a contract that says you will pay them $10. That means you actually own the IP. Otherwise, it can get very messy down the road if you are successful.
Sramana Mitra: Good. What was item number four?
Cooper Harris: I made a list on a spreadsheet. I started asking folks who were experts in this space. Once I had them interested, I kept track of everyone pretty rigorously.
Sramana Mitra: You directly contacted these angels?
Cooper Harris: The process of getting to them happened a little bit earlier. I had a huge number of contacts in the studio system and the entertainment space, but not necessarily deep connections in technology. I completely acknowledged that. When I was moving to the tech space and doing the hackathons, I would try to meet two to three experts.
I just wanted to learn. I would meet two to three every single day, buy them coffee, and ask them if they would answer questions. I have a really specific list. I put in a good six months of meeting hundreds of people who are experts. It was important that I did that because otherwise, I would have been cold approaching people with no sense of how to go about it.
Sramana Mitra: How long from this point to getting to a couple of hundred thousand in pre-seed money?
Cooper Harris: The initial $200,000 that we did?
Sramana Mitra: Yes.
Cooper Harris: That was five to six months. It was fairly quick. We had a clear idea of what we wanted to build. We barely took money but it enabled us to build a product that we could then work with.
Sramana Mitra: $200,000 is very normal pre-seed money amount. At that stage, that is the right kind of money. Where are we in the chronology now?
Cooper Harris: Probably 2014. It was six months in.