Life is not about being up the whole time. As the great philosopher and current Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper once said “we never get too high, we never get too low, we remain consistent, we work hard, we follow the plan and we move forward” and I wholeheartedly agree.
This post is the Yin to my previously released Yang post.
As a co-founding startup studio we invest in external to MOHARA founders who understand their why for building a business. We bring the how and the what. These founders need seed capital to be able to start their businesses – even to work with us and our at cost business model. 2023 has been a really tough year for founders and subsequently we haven’t invested in as many startups in 2023 as we would have liked. When venturing and product building is your soul food this can get you down.
We took six businesses through our Investment Committee in 2023, two have been successfully funded and are now beginning to grow their businesses. The remaining four have truly struggled to raise meaningful seed capital without getting their eyes clawed out on the terms. We see hundreds of startups a year and these startups have traction and solid founding teams yet no cigar. If you are reading this and this has happened to you, take some comfort in that you are not the only one, it’s been tough out there.
Co-Lab reduced spend
MOHARA also supports later stage businesses through our Co-Lab (Collaborate). This is our non venture product development arm. Commercial spend in this area dropped off a cliff in Q1/2 of 2023. Thankfully we had a change in strategy (we kind of saw this coming) and had chance to add new GTM strategies to ensure we still saw opportunities to build great product but it was a little intimidating.
Why is this in the ‘lows’ list? At the beginning of 2023 it felt like 2020 with the lack of certainty, lots of concern in the meetings, lots of yes we would like to do this but we have just had our budget cut. It was a real challenge and a real grind to pivot and move forward by launching our Augmentation and Venture Studio Partner offerings. It was definitely a time to listen and adapt.
We lost a portfolio company
As an early stage investor we do not expect returns on every investment. We had a portfolio company fail in 2023, 5 years after we invested. The product was great, the market was there, but we failed to get traction. This was a a missed opportunity as this startup had competitors that have gone on to fly. We conducted retrospectives to really look at what we could have done differently. It is never nice to have something you have invested time and money into fail.
I was thinking what the purpose of this article truly was. Should I provide any advice? Am I just very publicly venting? I think this particularly post is very much the latter but I do intend to write a post about the former. I will be writing about how to listen to the market, how to recognise that you need to make a change no matter how small and how you bounce back stronger when things fail.
As I write this in December ’23 things are beginning to turn around in the market and we have incredibly exciting plans a foot. We currently have two ventures in IC and we are excited to be working with them into 2024 alongside our current portfolio.
It’s ok to feel overwhelmed and sometimes even a little defeated. Remember it is not just only about the destination it is also about the journey. Embrace and learn from the journey and you’ll reach the destination.
And as Stevie boy would say “We never get too high, we never get too low, we remain consistent, we work hard, we follow the plan and we move forward”.