Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, a Founder’s Life for Me!
Updated: Mar 29
Who wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur? The thousand meetings… the million cups of coffee… the midnight Zooms and the pre-dawn pitches.
It’s all part of the delicate and complex pecuniary mating ritual known as finding an investor. You know: Experienced, credentialed, investible start-up seeks suitably aligned Investor for mutually rewarding long-term partnership. Swipe right...
Yet, after three years of accelerators, incubators, MVPs & MOUs; networking, schmoozing and wooing - so far, we still don't have a Lead Investor. (Plenty have said they’d be happy to follow, but so far, no-one wants to take the lead.)
It’s understandable. Investors want more than just our assurances that PlastX will work in the way that we fervently believe it will – and be profitable. They want EVIDENCE.
We proved all the basic elements of the PlastX model during our pilot program in India, but it's fair to say that some questions remain. Can we scale PlastX sufficiently to make it commercially viable? Can we recruit enough collectors? Can we run the tech under pressure, and deliver quality material - in full and on time...?
With our committed customer (and principal partner) in place, we have been readying ourselves for market entry into Thailand. So why not, we thought, run a pre-commercialisation pilot program in Bangkok, to gather the data that will satisfy a potential lead investor? It’s a brilliant idea. The only thing missing, after 3 years of bootstrapping the business, is the wherewithal to achieve it.
Then someone mentions crowdfunding. Genius!
We decide on an all or nothing campaign, giving ourselves a month to achieve our goal of $10,000 to fund a 3-week intensive pilot project in Bangkok.
Day One: The big launch! As expected, pledges from family and close friends get us off the ground. We email our database – loosely grouped as either fans or simply supporters. The open rates look great! We’ve caught their attention - and there are plenty of click-throughs to the crowdfunding site. But no-one bites. Our social posts go out: we monitor impressions, likes, and shares. We check for pledges too many times. Pretty sure we’ve over-reached.
Day Two: First up, check the pledges. No change. Back to work. Don’t check… don’t check! I check. Nothing. In the afternoon, someone drops a generous $150 on the campaign, and hope re-blossoms.
At 9:30pm (full disclosure - I'm not at work. I'm in my jamies with a whisky in hand) my phone rings. It’s my co-founder (and brother!), Murray. His voice sounds a bit strange, and I’m immediately concerned. “Do you know this bloke Bryan Peating*?” he asks. I do. He’s a mate. Not super close, but certainly a friend. “Yes. Has he done something wrong?” The strangled voice: “He’s just pledged five grand.”
I top up my glass and fervently wish Bryan a long and healthy life.
Days Three to Six: Bryan’s extraordinarily generous pledge has shaken the tree, and other, more expectedly modest pledges continue to boost the total. At the end of day 6, we have achieved more than 90% of our target. It’s an amazing feeling.
Day Seven: A Founder’s life for me!
The phone rings. It’s Daniel* - General Manager of the state-of-the-art recycling facility that is both our customer and principal partner. He too, sounds a little strangulated. Daniel quietly explains that his Head Office (in Europe) has just taken the decision to close – with immediate effect – their Thai operations. Within the space of a minute, we lose our key customer and principal partner.
PlastX Project, Bangkok is dead in the water. Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee.
The Great Pivot: There’s no time to agonize. We have business experience and strong industry relationships in Malaysia - the world’s third-largest contributor of marine plastic waste. Does Malaysia need us? You bet! Do we need Malaysia? Oh yeah.
We reach out to our wonderful crowdfunder pledgers to advise the change and reconfirm their support, then the calls, the emails, the reachouts, the messages, the tags and the Zooms begin in earnest. The Great Pivot is underway...
Want to be part of the journey? Check out our crowdfunder, and join our marvellous supporters here.
Stay tuned for updates on the PlastX Project, Southeast Asia.
* NOT their real names