In a recent episode of the Courier Weekly podcast, editorial director Daniel Giacopelli caught up with Courtney Boyd Myers, the founder of AKUA, whose kelp jerky product has surged in popularity since launching in 2019.
‘You know, when I was spending a lot of my personal money putting this business together, a lot of people around me had been raising money for their tech companies for years, so I knew about venture capital. I love doing decks. I don't do business models necessarily, but I love doing decks – like here's the story, here's one slide on the business model, how we're going to sell it, etc. And so I built that and just started asking for introductions.
‘And in about a year – it took a long time and, granted, I wasn't full time on the business – we raised about $500k in what you would call a "friends-and-founders" round – lots of food company founders put in $20k to $30k cheques and they've been the most valuable investors ever. That was 2018 and we closed that round.
‘Actually we went out to raise a larger round in 2020 in February, and when the pandemic hit it just made fundraising so hard – it was just a miserable experience asking people for money when everyone's in crisis mode and so unsure of the future. I think investors are trained to always keep their options open. So everyone took the call and it ended up just being this very emotionally draining experience because they weren't like, "Oh, no, we're not interested," but a lot of them just weren't writing cheques because they were just like, "I don't know what the world's going to be like in six months, this is unprecedented."
‘And so, by August, we hadn't raised any money. We'd raised $50k in February and then none until August. And then I was in Ibiza at a party and someone was like, "I'll put in $15k," and I was like, "Yes, we've just broken the seal, let's go!" And so then we continued on to raise about $250k in the months that followed through Zoom calls – much more professional.
‘On that note, too, it was also just hard when you're building relationships with investors. It's so hard to do that over a Zoom. You really want to be having a glass of wine with someone in person and talking about your business and your vision and who you are.
‘So we raised from some great people and [last] summer Republic, which is the equity crowdfunding campaign we're raising on right now, approached us. And they’re like, "Look, we know it's brutal out there with VCs and no one's really writing cheques like they were last year, but everybody for some reason is putting money into our campaigns and we've grown exponentially this year, so you should consider it." And I love crowdfunding. I love it, love it, love it. I love community-driven anything.’