My Startup Story #10: The Off-Shore Solution

If you read my last chapter, you can imagine how cynical Rob and I were feeling about finding an angel investor for Mammalz. Winter was nearly here, 2018 was coming to an end, and we felt like we were back to square one.

That’s when Rob got a new message notification on his LinkedIn.

“Probably another spam message,” we thought. At first, that’s what it seemed like. A cold message from a so-called “accelerator” that wanted early-stage companies. (Note: Accelerators are companies that typically trade business development expertise, connections, and resources in exchange for equity in a startup.) But then, the more Rob read, the more apparent it became that this accelerator was legitimate. The CEO personally reached out with love and understanding of Mammalz, requesting to talk more about providing us with development and investment resources from his company KiwiTech. The only caveat: the majority of the KiwiTech team, including their developers, were near Delhi, India.

Rob and I were warned repeatedly at networking events that most off-shore developers are challenging to work with and rarely meet expectations. In fact, prior to meeting KiwiTech, we had already declined several off-shore teams as soon as we saw red flags for communication, cultural barriers, and/or lack of expertise where Mammalz needed it. We cautiously vetted KiwiTech from every angle. To our surprise, each team member we met with instilled confidence and every portfolio company gave them a high recommendation. We even attended some of their investor pitching events to ask investors what they thought of KiwiTech. No red flags.

The final proposal was this: KiwiTech would hand-pick their best content streaming development team and guarantee they were dedicated to Mammalz for the development of our MVP. We would be invited to participate in pitching events throughout the US during development and in return, we would give KiwiTech half of the cash they needed for the MVP along with a small share of our company. It was not “too good to be true”; exactly what we wanted to hear. Considering the relatively small amount of cash they were looking for and the expertise their developers supposedly had, Rob and I took the deal.

All we needed to do was find our half of the cash in the next month.

For a few weeks, Rob and I pitched our hearts out. We took every opportunity we could to secure our side of the deal with KiwiTech. Only then, could we begin development. The clock was ticking. If we didn’t get the money in time, our hand-picked team would be forced to work on another project.

In our last possible week to secure funds — the last week of the year — we turned to the people who already believed in us most: our friends and families. There is a reason they call the first round of any startup the “friends and family” round. Investors think your idea is great, but it’s too early for them. Friends and family might take the risk (probably just once). This time, we got lucky.

Needless to say, we celebrated more than usual that New Year’s Eve. 2019 would be the year that Mammalz came into existence. We didn’t quite understand the road of challenges ahead of us, but we had a deal. Starting January, the first lines of code for the Mammalz MVP would be written.

Rob, me, and the KiwiTech team.

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Co-founder of Mammalz, underwater cinematographer and Divemaster

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Alexander Finden

Co-founder of Mammalz, underwater cinematographer and Divemaster