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‘Build relationships’: Founders share stories, give advice on raising startup funding in Boise


Boise Entrepreneur Week

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Two Boise startup founders spoke to a packed room at Trailhead during Boise Entrepreneur Week Tuesday and offered advice to people looking to start and grow local businesses.

Jonathon Fishman of LeanLaw and Landon Cooley of Pest Share talked about their path – particularly as it comes to raising money. Both startups have seen traction as they work to build out their models and grow.

Cooley, whose software-as-a-service business helps provide pest extermination and protection services for owners of rental properties, said that starting with understanding what they wanted to do was a big early asset.

“We got through the product-market fit stage on our own dime, which was very advantageous when we arrived on the venture capital scene,” Cooley said. “It was a lot of risk and a lot of grind – and now we’re bringing on a lot of clients at a very fast pace.”

He said that for Pest Share, once they started to see traction, they moved to look for venture capital partners. Pest Share saw a funding round from Meridian firm Capital Eleven earlier this year.

“As we started to grow, we looked into venture capital,” Cooley said. “For us, going into it, what we realized was it was the partnership we were after as much as the capital. We had options in terms of capital, but with Capital Eleven, it clicked.”

Travis Hawkes, Capital Eleven principal led the panel. He said the early groundwork Pest Share laid paid dividends.

“It was a huge benefit from our perspective that they had come in with product-market fit and had bootstrapped and were successful,” Hawkes said. “That isn’t possible for every company, but it certainly helped as we were doing our due diligence.”

Relationships matter

Fishman said that relationships are key to finding funding – particularly in the Treasure Valley.

“When you’re in Boise, which is challenging from a capital standpoint compared to Salt Lake City or San Jose – you build relationships where you can,” Fishman said. “I think it’s important to understand stage-appropriate investment and find those investors that fit your company.”

LeanLaw, which provides a software-as-a-service billing support solution to law firms, said that starting not with venture capital but smaller solo investors helped.

“Our journey has been about building relationships with accredited investors,” Fishman said. “We had to grind through with limited resources and get to a threshold where there was a sustainable business worth funding.”

Hawkes said that the bright lights of venture capital don’t work for every startup – but that starting with smaller investors can help if VC does end up being the right path.

“If you’ve raised that money from friends and family, you believe it from your heart, and you have more walk-away risk because you took your grandmother’s money – that’s meaningful for us.”

Failure, joy

Fishman said he had a previous startup that didn’t work. And sometimes knowing when to stop is important, too.

“Coming to the conclusion it was a failed company, and I had to get out was a hard process,” he said. “That is an emotional conversation with yourself about ‘hey, this isn’t working.’ The idea that you’ll be successful all the time is malarkey. You’re going to fail.”

Fishman said it’s important to hold on to the good moments – because the hard times will come.

“When something great happens — when you get those (great) emails, and you get that pure feeling of joy about something that happens in your business – I tell people to write it down,” he said. “Capture the moment. Because there will be ten other moments that dissuade you about the company.”

Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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