GrabCAD and Hardi Meybaum: lessons to learn about raising money in US

August 01, 2011
Last week 50+ people gathered at Garage48HUB to listen one of the recent Estonian startup success story GrabCAD, led by CEO Hardi Meybaum. GrabCAD raised $1.5 million in seed funding in June this year. Hardi, turning down all the other meeting requests, gave one time lesson about raising money in US.

We are happy to share Hardi’s presentation with you. Unfortunately we can not publish any picture about the scheme he was drawing on the wall. Too much classified information. We do suggest you consult with people who attended the event (see the list on Facebook event page). 

Herby Hannes from Garage48 HUB gives his personal overview about some key elements of Hardi's lesson.

It all began with buying a ticket to US. This was the smartest thing he could do, Hardi said. Not knowing anything about VCs, angels, raising money or any other term widely known in the field,  he wanted to meet 4 top CAD experts in the States. Back home they told him, it’s not possible and you need 6 month at least to get the meetings. He did get a meeting with all of the people within 1st week already. And there is where it all began.

Hardi drew three rows on the wall “This is what it all depends: social traction, product traction and team traction. If you want to raise money in US, you need to develop 3 things: your network, your product and your team.”

Social traction

It’s about network within people you need to impress and are impressed by your product. Hardi talked a lot about relationships between different investors. It is important who is interested in your product. Interest in investors case doesn’t absolutely mean investment. For the beginning, liking your product is more important than anything else. Hardi showed clearly, how one contact or meeting led him to another. How Mr. X was related to Mr. Y. He also explained, how different people help to open different doors and behind every door, there is new possibility. It wasn’t a happy chance that they got into Seedcamp and Techstars or that they ended up with the investors they have got now. It was meant to be so. Hard work and right social track led them there.

Important lessons from social track for me:
  • Map the key people you want to get on board. Hardi did not just wanted investment, he did not just shot in all direction. He did knew, who knows the business he is in (engineering field) and he considered money to be not enough (he wanted expertise and certain names).
  • Just do it!  - Hardi did went to US and did target these people and did met them. He just did it!
  • Hardi showed a successful track to us, but he did admit, there were many other leads which took nowhere. Nowhere means lot of work with an answer “Now I know, how not to do it”.
  • It’s not about building a network in Linkedin, but relationship. Hardi had constant communication with the key people. He kept in touch, shared their progress, asked advise, got feedback.
  • DE-DI-CA-TION! It’s not just happening to some guys. It’s hell of a hard work! Hardi’s 14 to 16 hours work days, 7 days a week, still showing up and giving lessons with such an enthusiasm shows nothing less than strong belief in his startup and dedication.

Product traction

How many people are actually interested in your product? What does your costumer think of your product?

GrabCAD started just a website, where everyone could download CAD drawings for free and now they are aiming to become biggest mechanical engineering team in the world. Some obvious things (like user registration) or less obvious, but still simple (GrabCAD competition) they did not even think about before, but it has helped them to built something extraordinary.

Lessons from product track:
  • Care about your costumers, talk to them and build something they need.
  • Consult with mentors. With participation at Seedcamp and specially at TechStars GrabCAD got access to the top people in their field as their mentors. These people gave them good leads for product development.

Team development

Team has to develop all trough the process. In the sense of skills, learning and doing more, better for your startup as well as involving new key people.

Lessons from the team track:
  • Involve people with connections and experience.
  • Constant development in every field of your work: starting from presentation and pitches ending up with better revenue model.
I think the biggest impression what I got from Hardi's presentation and GrabCAD example was, it's possible for everyone to succeed with your startup. There is no other magic but you. It's not about luck or blind chances. You can make it happen. I can make it happen!

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