Raising $90 million without VCs

Bambi Francisco Roizen · February 8, 2009 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/6a8

Ensequence CEO Dalen Harrison on going it alone

(Updated to reflect additional info from Harrison)

I've been around the startup fundraising process long enough to know that raising $90 million requires either a big strategic investor or venture capitalists.

Surprisingly, there are startups out there that can do without Sand Hill Road, or other hot spots across the world of startup financing.

Ensequence, which started in 2000, is one of those rare companies. Ensequence raised $90 million in total without attracting big institutional investors providing large chunks of capital. 

The only institution that Ensequence won over was Westbury Partners, which put in $7.5 million. But Westbury is not a traditional venture firm. Westbury is a "Small Business Investment Company" or SBIC, licensed by the Small Business Administration.

In this segment of "Lessons learned," Ensequence CEO Dalen Harrison shares his fundraising experience.

"People told us it couldn't be done," he said, referring to the fact that he raised nearly $100 million without the help of traditional venture capitalist. "They told us, in fact, that you had to have a VC," he added. "The truth of the matter is, you can roll up your sleeves and do it yourself."

Indeed, rolling up his sleeves is what Harrison did. It took a lot of "worn-out" shoes and networking, he said. In fact, it took meeting upon meeting to win the hearts of few, who would eventually be his biggest supporters to help him find new capital.

The trick is to have the bandwidth and patience to work with hundreds of investors, he said. When I asked Harrison whether the company had over 50 but under 499 investors, he said over 50 but closer to 499.

Harrison said he spoke with at least 100 VCs, and was shot down - an experience many entrepreneurs can sympathize with, I'm sure. But through those conversations, some individual venture capitalists at those VC firms did invest, he said. 

Throughout the years, he's communicated with his investors on a quarterly basis, enabling him to ensure that each investor remained confident in him and the company. This communication has helped as on average, his investors have invested three times.

As Harrison put it: "If you keep investors informed, they continue to remain excited about the company because you stayed in touch." 

Watch the interview for more about raising funds, without VCs.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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Ensequence, the interactive television company, is making TV new again. Ensequence delivers the reach and branding power of television with the engagement and measurability of the Internet. The company partners with the world’s leading programmers, advertisers and distributors to create interactive television experiences that can be delivered across a wide range of platforms – including cable and satellite television, broadband, mobile devices and Blu-ray Discs. The company’s award-winning software and professional services enable its clients to quickly build and deploy a high volume of sophisticated and robust interactive television experiences. Ensequence software and services also enable its clients maximize return on investment by measuring viewer behavior and engagement.