Stayin' Alive🎶

By Jason Yeh
August 10, 2021
Listen on Apple Podcasts

Stayin' Alive🎶

Matt Pohlson, co-founder and CEO of Omaze, has had one of the most death defying startup journeys ever. Time and time again, his company has been on the brink of death, only to be saved by Matt’s persistence and never-quit attitude. While most involved nearly running out of funds, one experience involved his own near death experience as he flatlined on an ER bed with his family surrounding him. Persistence brought him back from the brink and eventually back to Omaze where he used an even stronger belief in their mission to lead a Series B fundraise in March of 2020 just as COVID began impacting the world.

Episode Summary

Matt Pohlson, co-founder and CEO of Omaze, has had one of the most death defying startup journeys ever. Time and time again, his company has been on the brink of death, only to be saved by Matt’s persistence and never-quit attitude. While most involved nearly running out of funds, one experience involved his own near death experience as he flatlined on an ER bed with his family surrounding him. Persistence brought him back from the brink and eventually back to Omaze where he used an even stronger belief in their mission to lead a Series B fundraise in March of 2020 just as COVID began impacting the world.


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Topics Discussed

  • Brian talks about convincing Brian Cranston to work with them [1:59]
  • The importance of storytelling [4:06]
  • Raising from Firstmark Capital [6:05]
  • Almost dying in the ER [9:14]
  • Raising the Series B for Omaze [20:38]
  • COVID hits during the raise [22:36]
  • Advice from Matt [28:38]
  • Debrief with Producer Olivia about persistence

Resources Mentioned

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Jason Yeh (host)
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Episode Transcript


[00:00:00] Matt Pohlson: My mom is grabbing the doctorsby the cheeks, and she was looking into their eyes and she was saying, this ismy son. And his company is trying to do good in the world and you need to helphim.

[00:00:18] Jason: This is Funded a show where founderswho raised millions in venture capital share the gritty side of what itactually took to get that money in the bank. I'm Jason Yeh, not too long ago. Iwas trying to get my ideas funded. And back in the day, I was a VC listening tofounders, pitch me for money. Things you can count on in fundraising isrejection.

[00:00:43] Jason: VCs will tell you in so many words,your idea isn't worth investing in. There's a meetings that go badly and theinvestors who pull out last. But there's also the personal struggles, thestrained relationships, personal debt, and [00:01:00]sometimes health problems for Matthew Pohlson co-founder of Omaze. It was a fewof those all at once on top of normal fundraising challenges, he almost diedduring a hospital stay that required months of recovery.

[00:01:14] Jason: It was a time that threatened his lifeand his journey to continue growing Omaze. Now, Omaze has raised over $42million for an online fundraising platform that supports charities by givingpeople the chance to win crazy prizes like exotic cars and houses, a trip toouter space or my personal favorite, the dinner with the Jonas.

[00:01:38] Jason: But back in 2015, Omaze was running outof cash fast. They'd raised a million dollars, but a new competitor was in townthat seemed poised to take their share of the market. And Matt says thatstandoff all came down to a certain breaking bad actor.

[00:01:59] Matt Pohlson: There was [00:02:00] another company that came along. It wasdoing the same thing as us. And the most that we had raised at that time forany campaign was $18,000. And we had heard that they had raised $180,000 andsomething. So literally it felt like they'd raised a billion dollars. Like wecouldn't even, like, we couldn't even understand the math about how they hadaccomplished that.

[00:02:16] Matt Pohlson: And so then we had talked toBryan Cranston from breaking bad was like towards the end, at that time. And sowe talked to him about doing an experience, we thought, okay, this is going tobe like our case study that we're gonna be able to use to go. And then we got acall that Brian. Had talked to that other company and he was going to work withthem instead.

[00:02:33] Matt Pohlson: And I called them and I calledthe woman who ran it for clarity was a friend. I was like, wait, we, we, wegoing to do that. She's like, look, it's nothing personal. But that companyraises like 10 X, what you do. And I was like, well, where is he right now? Shesaid, what do you mean? I'm like, well, where's, he literally like at thismoment, like our whole company is depended on this.

[00:02:51] Matt Pohlson: Like I want to talk to him.She's like, he's at a charity event. And so we like drove to the charity event.We snuck in the charity event and we found Brian at the charity. We [00:03:00] walked up to him and I was like, Hey,we're the guys from amaze. And we talked once on the phone, we heard that youwere going to work on this, you know, with this other company, you know, likewe were going to work together.

[00:03:11] Matt Pohlson: He's like, it's nothingpersonal. But those guys told me that they could raise $180,000. And I waslike, well, we can raise $200,000. I was like, what's the most you've everraised. I said, $18,000. He's like, how are you going to do it? And we said, becauseour whole company realized. Like, do you know what it's like to have been anactor where literally you would do anything to get your dream over the top?

[00:03:33] Matt Pohlson: Like, no matter how muchobstacles you would just fight through, like, that's where we are, like youdoing, this is the only thing that can save us. We will put everything we haveinto this. We promise you that. Wow. He's like, all right, all right, I'll doit together. And then ended up raising 300,000. And then this is the AaronPaul, and we did the finale of breaking bad and that raises 1.7 million.

[00:03:54] Matt Pohlson: And then we had a bunch of cashand we also. Were able to take that to them, go [00:04:00]fundraise and raise a $4 million

[00:04:01] Jason: round. Did that story come off in yourfundraise by the way of how you got it done? Yeah,

[00:04:05] Matt Pohlson: it did. I think storytelling isan underrated part of fundraising. I think human beings, like they only knowhow to encode the world through narratives, right?

[00:04:15] Matt Pohlson: Like I like stories are to wordslike music is to noise. You know, all music is, is. Instead of noises, but whenit's an arranged in a certain way, it becomes emotionally powerful. You'd like,It goes into your long-term memory. Like it creates a sense of connection.Stories are the same way. Like our brains will just actively filter out, whichis what does not fit into a narrative that they can connect to that somehowconnects to our own survival.

[00:04:41] Matt Pohlson: And so if you, you've got tocreate a narrative for people that they can connect to, because like weactually make decisions, even venture, even people as analysts. Driven as thebest venture investors, they're still making emotional decisions first. Likethat's just how the brain operates and then they, then they rationalize it andthen they may talk themselves out of those decisions.

[00:04:59] Matt Pohlson: [00:05:00]But, but if you don't get that first spark that you're never, you're nevergoing to get to the point where you have a chance on the

[00:05:04] Jason: rigor. Yeah, no, I just love that storyof persistence for you as a, as a CEO. I know as an investor, if I were tohear. You know what you were ready to go through in order to get to the nextlevel.

[00:05:16] Jason: That's kind of the stuff legends aremade of within the startup world. So very cool. Start to get off into theraces. We hinted at the fact that you raised $8 million, not too long afterthat. Probably another couple of years after that. And it sounds like RickHeitzmann from first mark was, was tracking you.

[00:05:35] Jason: Right? So I didn't know that this wasgoing to be part of the story, but I would love to hear what that means. A lotof founders. Don't realize how much relationship building goes into a lot offundraising and what people might have seen, or if they had an off-handconversation with you about that 2015, $8 million round, is that the round justhappened, like Matt closed $8 million in [00:06:00]a few weeks, but I'd venture to guess based on what you were telling me, that,that wasn't all of the story.

[00:06:05] Jason: How did, how did you meet Rick thefirst time around and, and when did he start tracking them?

[00:06:10] Matt Pohlson: We met Rick through a guy namedDave there who was also one of our early investors invested, not in the seedroute, but the fallout in seed. And then he was our executive chairman, butRick had reached out to Dave and said, Hey, I've been following this company.

[00:06:23] Matt Pohlson: We sat down and we did a coffeeand we walked them through. And then Rick like invited us to New York, like aweek later. And then that night we had a term sheet and like nothing else inthe history of amaze has gone easy like that. Wow. And then we had to gothrough diligence again and yeah. You know, and then they put it through ourpaces in terms of like being able to, to express the narrative.

[00:06:43] Matt Pohlson: But, you know, Rick is, that'skind of Rick's, you know, his track record is kind of being able to like seesomething and, and do it. And again, like this is, that has not been ourhistory of fundraising. We've had we've, we've had to work really hard ateveryone, you know? So I like the there's always this [00:07:00]debate, I think, around like fundraising for entrepreneurs.

[00:07:01] Matt Pohlson: It's like, do you spend a lot oftime networking and getting to know VCs. In an ideal world of no opportunitycosts. That's, that's a good thing to do. We, I did not do that. Wow. Becauseit was so hard. Like every minute it was just about building the business, youknow, and making sure businesses working.

[00:07:18] Matt Pohlson: And if your business is notworking, it doesn't matter how many VCs you're friends with. They're not goingto invest in you, but I think then as you mature, when it starts to get to thelater hours, it does, it can make a difference in valuations. It can make adifference in partners and all that kind of stuff.

[00:07:32] Matt Pohlson: It does matter over time, butlike, if you're in your seat or like, you know, again, it just comes down toopportunity cost. Like if you can do it and still grow your business, how doyou want to, then you should,

[00:07:41] Jason: it's a bit of a catch 22. It's a bit ofa double-edged sword of creating relationships, but not building a business.

[00:07:48] Jason: Building a business, but maybe notcreating the relationships. Yeah. I don't think there is a silver bullet, butthat is really interesting to note that. Rick just tracked you down and wasexcited [00:08:00] about what you were doing.It sounds like there was a mutual connection that, that gave you a lot ofcredibility in his eyes, but I love hearing that story.

[00:08:07] Jason: Like as much as people can tweet andsend. He statements about how the world works. And there are always exceptions.There always, there was always a different way to get things done. So we talkeda little bit about what Omaze was and how much you raised up till 2015. WhatI've been really excited to talk about is.

[00:08:27] Jason: Just how much things changed between2015 and 2020. There are a lot of things I'd love to hear from you. I meant wejust talked about being excited about, uh, an $8 million series a in 2020, whenyou raise your round or, or 20 19 20 20, when you're raised around, you know,you're in the middle of one of the craziest bull markets around fundraising,but some other things happened along the way too.

[00:08:50] Jason: And we talked a little bit. Yeah. Howmuch passion and how much persistence matters and fundraising. But I thinksomething happened to you [00:09:00] along theway, that kind of changed your perspective on the whole thing. I'd love to getthis sort of cliff notes on, on maybe what happened and then get yourperspective on how that affected the next stages of your company.

[00:09:11] Jason: And we'll go from there. So maybe youstart with this.

[00:09:14] Matt Pohlson: I mean, yeah, basically whathappened was three years ago, I clinically died. You know, I, I was born with.My stomach twisted in a knot and I was supposed to die and I was born. And thescar tissue from that surgery broke off all these years later created thisbowel obstruction and it triggered this insane series of events where my lifewas saved by miracles, like several times along the way, but it kind of noteven culminated, but one of the kind of, I guess, most dramatic elements of itwas basically right.

[00:09:47] Matt Pohlson: Rushed down into surgery. Asthings had gotten worse. I came out of surgery and you know, it was just thesurgery on my stomach at this point. And they said to my mom, we figured outwhat it was to bowel obstruction. That's a good [00:10:00]news. The bad news is his heart rate is continuing to plumb it. We don't knowwhy he's in critical condition.

[00:10:06] Matt Pohlson: Instead of my mom goesdownstairs to get my dad, my brother, she comes back upstairs and she hearsover the loudspeaker code blue in room 4 37. And my mom works at a hospital. Soshe knows that means flat line and she knows that's fine. So she rushes up likeruns down the hall, gets to the door and the nurse says, I'm sorry, you can'tcome in.

[00:10:27] Matt Pohlson: And this is really serious. Andshe said, look, I was there when he came in this world, if he's leaving thisworld right now, I'm going to be in that room. So she let her in the room andthey were doing the compressions and they were doing the electric paddles, theshocks and my body was bouncing up and down, but I wasn't.

[00:10:45] Matt Pohlson: And my mom started to crumble.You know, it's one thing to lose a child. It's another thing to be in the roomwhen it's actually happening. And at the same time, my dad was outside with mybrother and this doctor came out and said to another doctor in front of mybrother, not knowing it was my brother.

[00:10:59] Matt Pohlson: [00:11:00]Hey, we've lost this guy. He's gone. So my brother pushed my dad in the roomsaying, you need to be with mom with mom. And my dad kind of came in from theleft. My mom was faced towards the right and my dad was crying so loudly whenhe came in. My mom turned away from me to my dad and said like, yeah, you gottabe fucking quiet.

[00:11:18] Matt Pohlson: They're going to kick us thisroom. And when she did that, she said she saw something she'd never seen beforein a hospital. She said every nurse and every staff member and every doctor inthe ICU had just gravitated outside the window. And there was like 40 of themand look like the silent church choir, just sending in this positive energy.

[00:11:38] Matt Pohlson: And she was so we'll move bythese people that we're sending love to someone that they didn't even know.Just filled her up with strength. And she turned back to me and she startedcoaching me and she just said, Matthew, David Paulson, these people arefighting so hard to bring you back. They're fighting so hard for your life, butyou're not fighting hard enough.

[00:11:59] Matt Pohlson: You [00:12:00]need to show them you're a fighter fight to come back to us. And she, you know,they said it was just really surreal experience because here's the 65 year oldmom who's in this room that no one's ever been except doctors. No, one'sallowed to be. And the flatline went on for four and a half minutes, which is areally long time.

[00:12:18] Matt Pohlson: They don't usually fight thatlong, but because she kept fighting, they kept fighting. Um, but then at onepoint like sh you know, she started to think like this has gone on too long.Like, I cannot believe I'm going to lose my son. And if I lose my son, I'mgonna lose my husband. And so her mind went there and riders, her mind wentthere.

[00:12:36] Matt Pohlson: The main doctor shook his headas if to say this is done. So we started kind of pulling away at my mom,grabbed his arm and said, please, please don't stop fighting. And Roshi saidthat he turned back and said, wait a second. I think we have a pause. Andbasically they're looking for the monitor to go kind of across from just flatuntil all of a sudden, you know, you get a little sore tooth of that and then.

[00:12:59] Matt Pohlson: And then they said [00:13:00] something, they saw something they'd neverseen, no one had ever shoot for hospital, instead of it just like kind ofbouncing back up. That's usually the patient just kind of does that all of asudden, almost as if like my spirited, like reentered my body or something.Like, I just like hopped up and I remember like opening my eyes and like, justseeing this room of people, like, you know, all these doctors and nurses justlike in shock, like looking at me.

[00:13:24] Matt Pohlson: And I remember like looking atmy mom. And then like looking at my dad and then it was like on a boat on myside and kind of like lifted my right arm.

[00:13:33] Jason: Gave them a thumbs up. That is thecraziest story I've ever heard. I mean, and the fact like people won't be ableto see you, but yeah, you look very, very healthy.

[00:13:45] Jason: You look great, man. I'm so glad. Gladyou're here to tell the story. Okay. A I talk about this with founders a lot.And, um, would be curious your perspective on it. You know, you started yourcompany out of [00:14:00] business school. AndI think out of business school, because I, I did something very similar acouple of years after business school, you have so many people around you thatare doing really amazing things, and you can be pushed to do things forexternal reasons, for validation from the crowd, for, for people's approval,especially when you come from that.

[00:14:20] Jason: And I have to imagine that goingthrough something like that really makes you assess, you know, what isimportant to you and the things that you want to work on in this world. And,you know, three years later, you're still working on Omaze. I wonder if youcould say a few words on, you know, the months after that experience, where I'msure you had to go through a bigger recovery process, but you know, when youthought about where you wanted to spend your time, how did, uh, how did you getto the answer of like, I'm going to continue doing what I'm do.

[00:14:53] Matt Pohlson: It wasn't an obvious answer tome. I think back at the time, it was a particularly crazy time. Cause you knowhow it is, you go heads down [00:15:00] to bean entrepreneur, like the work that is required, the focus that is required,like the sacrifice for everything else in your life that is required is just soextraordinary.

[00:15:10] Matt Pohlson: And so, you know, for six years,like I was just maniacally obsessed 24 7, you know, and then that happens. Andit's cold Turkey. Like I'm not even allowed to be on my phone. I have nocontact like immediately from 24, 7 a day for six years to no contact with thecompany. And so when I came back a couple months later, like the idea of likemissing like six hours of work at that time, it was like crazy for me.

[00:15:37] Matt Pohlson: Like the idea of like, justbeing gone for a couple of months with no contact. Like, I couldn't evenimagine I couldn't even contemplate how that was possible. But then when thathappened, Your perspective changes. And I remember coming back and reallystruggling to be back at the beginning because my last day in the hospital, thedoctor sat at the edge of my bed and he was like, [00:16:00]look, when I finished my career 30 years from now, and I'm talking about themost extraordinary case that I've ever seen, this is going to be it where'd youat near a percent chance of survival for two days, faculty, have you gone homewith your full faculties with no medical explanation for that?

[00:16:13] Matt Pohlson: And I just looked at him andsaid like, Do you have a guess for what they said when we were inspired by yourmom? My mom was grabbing the doctors by the cheeks and she was looking intotheir eyes and she was saying, this is my son, but today this is your son andthis is your brother and his company's trying to do good in the world and youneed it.

[00:16:34] Matt Pohlson: He's like, so we motivated bythat. But outside of that, there are much larger forces at play in that said,as a man of science, like how do you find those larger forces instead, it waslove and it was optimism brought you back. And I really believe that I couldfeel it. I had like a full comeback flight experience.

[00:16:46] Matt Pohlson: So when you come back from that,you want to use your time on this planet to create as much to put as much loveand optimism out in the world, as you can. You know, and I think companiesreally have the capacity to do that. And I felt like the way that we areoperating, [00:17:00] doing the talent stuffstrictly, like we were never going to be truly world.

[00:17:03] Matt Pohlson: And we're never going to controlour own destiny. And so when, you know, when you're doing that day in day outand you can live with it, but when you come back, you're like, I can't do this.Like I can't continue to do this. And I was really struggling, you know? And soI was thinking like, do we get another CEO?

[00:17:17] Matt Pohlson: Like, I haven't figured out howto do this. And you just you're like, your, your life is short. So like I'm notgoing to waste any time. And so then six months before I left, we had done thiscampaign with Daniel Craig, where you got to go to New York. You got to go tothe Aston Martin track. You got to ride around in one of, kind of Aston Martin,and you got to keep the Aston Martin.

[00:17:33] Matt Pohlson: It was supposed to raise 300,000because the United nations and raise 2.1 million and halfway through themarketing team was smart. And they said, what if there's no Daniel Craig wouldhave pushes the car? And it performed really well. So I then went to our CFO,Nina, and I said, Hey, I think we should take a bet.

[00:17:48] Matt Pohlson: I think we should buy a$250,000. McLaren. I think we should offer it with just amaze distribution, notalent. And if we could raise. No 500,000 on our own. Now we could [00:18:00] lose a lot of money on our own, but if wecould raise 500,000 of our own, that we'd really have something, you know,cause we get to pick the charity, we control our own destiny and she said,okay.

[00:18:07] Matt Pohlson: And then that car coincidentlylaunched the day before I unexpectedly went in the hospital. So when I cameback. All those months later and I was sitting down Nita and I was telling herlike, I'm not sure I should be the CEO anymore. I just like, I haven't figuredout how to really scale this thing. It might be a short, and then I said toher, by the way, whatever happened with the McLaren did that, did that thingraise the 500,000.

[00:18:30] Matt Pohlson: She said it raised 1.9 million.And I was like, oh, wait a second. That changes every. I w we went to the boardand to the team three weeks later and we said, look, we're going from 300slippery experiences a year down to 50, whether it's merchandise business, wecut that with this brand business. We cut that.

[00:18:46] Matt Pohlson: And we said, we're going all in.And what we call Omaze originals, which is the McLaren or a sprinter van, ornow like penthouse is in London. And it just totally transformed the

[00:18:56] Jason: business.[00:19:00]

[00:19:02] Jason: I always want companies to start theirfundraise with plenty of gas in the tech it's way easier and way less stressfulto ask for money when you don't actually need it, but not everyone has thatluxury. And in 2020 things like COVID, didn't exactly. When we come back, howMatthew handled a difficult fundraising timeline in the face of a globalpandemic.

[00:19:33] Jason: And most of my days, one-on-one withentrepreneurs, helping them understand strategies that make a difference infundraising. Some things vary from founder to founder because not everyone'sstory is the same, one thing I'm super consistent about no matter who thefounder is, making sure they send their decks and materials using a documentsharing tool.

[00:19:53] Jason: I always recommend DocSend DocSend doyou know what's happening with your deck after you send it along with real-time[00:20:00] analytics? Did the VCs actually openit? What slides did they spend the most time on? And if you think it got sharedwith the wrong people, or maybe you made a mistake and sent it to quickly docsand lets you control access and make updates the content even after center.

[00:20:17] Jason: Sign up for a free two week trial That's D O C S E N Okay. Back to the show.

[00:20:38] Jason: A series B is all about scaling upeverything before then is about proving a track record of product market fit.And the predictable go to market, but your series B is about execution. Mattneeded to prove that when raising a series B for short, but he was under a tonof pressure, Omaze and needed to solve an immediate cashflow [00:21:00] problem in some very uncertain times

[00:21:09] Matt Pohlson: to raise a series B back in, youknow, back in beginning of 2020. We needed money. Like we had, we had evolvedto this new model, um, and we saw great signs that it was really working. Itstarted to take off pretty quickly, but we like, we weren't a great, you know,when I went out, we weren't in a great cash position.

[00:21:29] Matt Pohlson: And then when I was out thatdidn't get any better. And then there was like, Upfront cost, like a lot oflegal stuff, like serious investments we had to make. And we even went throughlike some other kind of outside stuff that like got us pointing where like weabsolutely needed to raise. It was not a luxury for us.

[00:21:46] Matt Pohlson: But we had basically from goingon this new model, we had more than doubled the business from the year before.And you could see why it was going to be so much more scalable. So we felt likewe had a really good narrative, but we were also running out of time. So wewent out to [00:22:00] raise a series B. Wefelt confident about doing it, but there were factors that made it.

[00:22:05] Matt Pohlson: So we couldn't really go out tothe market until January of

[00:22:07] Jason: 2020. How much runway do you rememberhaving? And January three, cutting it close. We're kind of close a little smirkon Matt's face. Like this was not smart, but we were cutting it close.

[00:22:20] Matt Pohlson: Yeah. We didn't know there wasother external factors. I can't really talk about.

[00:22:23] Matt Pohlson: There was things that we had toget through before we could do it. And so we had probably 60. So we, yeah, wewent out to raise in January and like, because of the growth, because of likethe scalability of the new model we had, we had a lot of interest, but we weresupposed to close on March 13th, 2020.

[00:22:39] Matt Pohlson: Great

[00:22:39] Jason: timing. Yeah. In case anyone doesn'tremember March of 2020, that is when the world was coming down in the UnitedStates. At least that

[00:22:48] Matt Pohlson: was what we were. I remember wehad, we did a team offsite. On the Wednesday, March 11th. And we were at dinneras a team we're supposed to close, you know, 36 hours later.

[00:22:58] Matt Pohlson: And on that [00:23:00] Wednesday, first, like the end of the Rudygo bare from the Utah. Jazz gets coronavirus. One of the big investors in theround was an NBA owner. And then you had the, who declared a pandemic and then.Tom Hanks gets Corona virus and Rita Wilson gets coronavirus. And so thenyou're like, like, all this stuff is happening while we're at this team dinner.

[00:23:19] Matt Pohlson: I was like, guys, this is notgood. And then the next day, the stock market drops 35%. And then, you know, abunch of our investors understandably pulled out like, yeah, two hours beforewe were supposed to close the route eight hours

[00:23:34] Jason: before. Yeah, that's wild. And, andwhen COVID was happening, Did you have any sense that it would affect thefundraise or did it just kind of all come down on you all at once at the end it

[00:23:47] Matt Pohlson: came pretty fast.

[00:23:47] Matt Pohlson: I mean, we're like, you know,like leading up to it right. This is some, this is weird. This is not great.And then, you know, if you remember, like everything changed. So like theFriday before when [00:24:00] everyone was likedone and you know, it's usually like a week before you're going to wire, likeeverything is done and everything was like, basically we've done.

[00:24:05] Matt Pohlson: And we were just like finalizingsome docs and everyone was teed up. And like that Friday before, like March,March 7th, people were flying, you know, like that Monday, Tuesday people wereflying. People were like, like I'd gone to a basketball game on that side. Itwas the last game. It was the Lakers Clippers.

[00:24:22] Matt Pohlson: I remember it took my brotherfor his birthday and like, we were at the game and like, we were in a stadiumfull of people on Sunday, March 6th, and then Monday they're like, wow, this iscoming hard. And this is spreading and New York starting to look really badTuesday. Like it was still okay. Like, but people were still going to gamesthat night, like live events like that Tuesday.

[00:24:42] Matt Pohlson: And then Wednesday is like thewhole world's like we have a pin. Like it moved that back. And so we did notsee it coming to the point where it was like, we couldn't believe it. We'relike we've been through so much. We felt like the experience was the thing.There's other stuff through changing the business.

[00:24:59] Matt Pohlson: And then like [00:25:00] the pen, like tried to close in thepandemic was wild. And so we basically had two people pulled out. We then wentback to them on that Friday and we're like, you've got to give us a chance toshow you why, why we're going to make it through this pandemic. Why are wegoing to make it through an economic downturn?

[00:25:16] Matt Pohlson: Like, and so we, and they'relike, well, I'm not sure, like there was a bunch of different people and like,let us, like, we can talk next week. We're like, no, Monday, like they werelike every day is not on our side. And so we spent the weekend putting togethera deck that showed why we would get through the pandemic and why we would getthrough an economic downturn.

[00:25:34] Matt Pohlson: Like that was as robust as thedeck that we'd spent a month putting together for our Astro. I mean, it waslike really, really rigorous. And we like literally stayed up for. There's like20 of us to see that's like 48 hours of Roche is doing the same. And then onthat Monday, we got people back on board and they wired on the Tuesday and Ilike fell to the ground.

[00:25:51] Matt Pohlson: Like started

[00:25:52] Jason: crying. If you had to distill it, likewhat, what do you think compelled people to stick with you personally? I loveit. And [00:26:00] that's, that's honestly allI all

[00:26:01] Matt Pohlson: I wanted, you know, this betterthan I do. So I'm curious your perspective, like you've, you've seen it muchmore, but it's like you said, like these are human beings and they're basicallylooking more than anything.

[00:26:13] Matt Pohlson: Like what gets people throughthe opera entrepreneurial journeys? How, like, how hard are they going tofight? You know, they've got it. You've got to have the skills required to doit, but everyone fails along the way. Everyone's going to get obstacles. It'sreally hard. And so it's like, how hard are they going to fight for this?

[00:26:29] Matt Pohlson: Like how much do they reallycare? Like, are you doing this? Like build something and sell in three yearsand then get a lot of money. Then that's one thing. Great. And you obviouslyget a lot of investment that way, but they're like, how much are you willing toput into this? You know? And like, like you said, we've, we've been through alot of fights along the way.

[00:26:46] Matt Pohlson: And there were just so manypoints where we just unwilling to let it die was like, because we feel like wecan make a real mark on the world. Like the greatest fuel for persistence isfeeling like you're serving others, you know, like that you're contributing tothe kind of greater good and. [00:27:00] Wewere so convinced that we were, that we were willing to do all those things ittook to,

[00:27:08] Jason: to get us there.

[00:27:09] Jason: The thing I would say is whatevernumbers you had in 2020, still couldn't be extrapolated to infinity, right?Like everything you're selling at the S at all the way from the back of thenapkin stage to when you're pre IPO, everyone is selling a story of what couldbe. And so the numbers are important.

[00:27:30] Jason: The product is important. What they seeis really important, but this is still a bet on a team, a bet on a leader. Ifthat isn't to say the work that you did to the analysis, you did, that thingsthat you put into that deck that you presented weren't important, but like whatI think probably summed it all up and actually got people over the line andthey might not, they might not say this out loud.

[00:27:52] Jason: They might not articulate it, but whatthey probably felt was like, this guy is going to get it done. Like what wefelt over this [00:28:00] last week ofdifficult times. And what they've shown us is like, Yeah, we, we like theanalysis that they put together. Sure. You know, it's a good story, but thatstory probably changed already since then anyways.

[00:28:13] Jason: And what hasn't changed is who's at thehelm who's pushing this forward and what he's going to do to actually bringthis to the promised land. So I love the theme of persistence throughout thewhole I'm hitting through throughout this whole journey throughout your, yourmedical scare. And so it's just, it's just awesome to hear.

[00:28:30] Jason: I think very inspirational.Entrepreneurs one's going through the fundraise, but also just in the heat ofthe battle of entrepreneurship. So, um, Matt, before we go, I wanted to hear alittle bit about what you might tell a younger Matt Paulson about the journeyof entrepreneurship. Anything you might give to yourself at a younger age orany other founders you meet along the way.

[00:28:52] Jason: I

[00:28:52] Matt Pohlson: think the first thing I wouldsay is that nobody has any idea what they're doing when you're youngerentrepreneur, you look at all these other entrepreneur. [00:29:00] And you see them as like courageous impressions andthat like, they've always made the right moves at the right time and saw thingsfor it. And like, you know, I have friends from business school that have builtsome of the biggest brand names companies, extraordinary, successful, and I'veI saw them at the beginning.

[00:29:16] Matt Pohlson: I knew them. They didn't knowwhat they were doing. I didn't know what I was doing. And so I guess a betterway to say it was like, be a best friend to yourself, like rather than beatyourself up in the early journey for all, you don't know, just keep the growthmindset because like no one knows what they're doing.

[00:29:26] Matt Pohlson: It's really just how quickly youcould learn along the way. And I think that a lot of people put the pressure onthemselves to be perfect from the beginning. And so I did. And so that's,that's one thing I would say. I think the second thing I would say iseverything you want is on the other side of it.

[00:29:40] Matt Pohlson: The great bold people likeBranson or Elon Musk or whatever Mavericks you look at that seem like they'refearless. And like everything they do is just, again, incredibly courageous.Like they also are scared, everybody's scared, but what they've developed as amindset. That where they connect to a purpose and they find joy in the [00:30:00] journey that enables him to get throughthe things that are really terrifying

[00:30:08] Jason: after the break, my producer, Olivia,and I talk about the power of persistence what's worth pushing through andwhat's worth letting go of in the fundraising journey and in life.

[00:30:25] Jason: Early on at my last company, we had thechance to sell into a large public company, but ran into a wall. They wouldn'twork with us unless we were SOC two certified. We really tried for weeks to getsomething done. We were Googling how to get SOC two certified and interviewingexpensive consultants. But in the end we abandoned the deal because it was too.

[00:30:45] Jason: So, when I learned about Vantaaccompany, that was just backed by Sequoia used by hundreds of SAS startups toget SOC two certified. I was so annoyed. I, man, I really wish they had beenaround back then. Vanta makes it super easy to get a variety of certificationslike ISO [00:31:00] 27 0 1, SOC two, thecertification we needed to get and HIPAA, they integrate with your cloudprovider and other tools you already use to automate the super complex andtime-consuming process of preparing for an.

[00:31:14] Jason: Anyway, if you'd like to drop a monthslong process down to weeks, like I would have back then and actually signedthose major contracts you should check out. Vantaa also, I'm really happy toshare that listeners have funded, get hooked up. You all can get $1,000 offyour service by going to

[00:31:32] Jason: That's V a N T Okay. Backto the show.

[00:31:42] Olivia: Uh, okay. So where I wanted to starttoday is I feel like the big topic is persistence. Matt obviously had toovercome a lot. And some of it, I think is pretty routine. Like at thebeginning, [00:32:00] I remember he was talkingabout a competitor, but obviously he's had some really unique challenges.Especially regarding his health and then also the Corona virus.

[00:32:13] Olivia: But I'm wondering, I wanted to hearfrom you because I know you have raised before. And what were some challengesyou worked through and were there any challenges that you just like. Let go of,because I do wonder if there are, we only talked about like the fights he won,you know, but I do wonder, are there fights that people just like let go of,

[00:32:41] Jason: or they were wrong at, or like theyshould say no, or they should back down?

[00:32:46] Jason: I think that's like a reallyinteresting topic to discuss because I think the prevailing wisdom in what youhear across the board is the only time a startup dies is when they give it. Andso never give up, never give [00:33:00] up, butI think it's worth telling both sides of the story. And I think about this alot, because I do think sometimes you hear advice from people that are likenever give up.

[00:33:11] Jason: And sometimes it comes from investorswho are, you know, not all in all cases, but in a lot of cases are veryincentivized to have founders keep going. Cause they. Money invested. And theywant founders to keep going and try to make money. But I think it's worthsaying that, you know, it's not always that way.

[00:33:30] Jason: You need to have a ton of persistenceand you need to have passion and conviction in what you're doing so that youkeep banging your head against the wall in order to break through. But I thinkit's also worth noting, especially for the founders that need to step aside orneed to say no to something or need to.

[00:33:50] Jason: To take a break that sometimes, youknow, when to hold them and when to fold them in terms of your hand that you'replaying. So I'll just say that [00:34:00]before we get into it, but then, you know, very specifically aroundfundraising, you know, you are going to get a lot of nos. My particular case, Ithink is a very common one.

[00:34:10] Jason: I was successful at raising a greatround of capital, but had to go through tons of nos and. No you asked what sortof persistence we needed. It was, you know, the persistence of just sayinglike, well, the first 5, 10, 15, 20 people that talked to us and didn't like,what? We were pitching, they were just wrong.

[00:34:30] Jason: You know, they just didn't understandwhy we were valuable or what made us special. But given that the episode isabout persistence. I do want to like. Emphasize the fact that look, you know,Matt had a bunch of no's. He had his own personal health that he needed tofight through in order to keep going and continue being CEO.

[00:34:49] Jason: But his is a great example in one ofthose shines. Pieces of inspiration or it's like people say no people back outon you, people don't believe in you. And as long as [00:35:00]like you believe in what you're doing and you know, you're solving a problemand you know, you have, you know, a north star vision you should persist andyou should keep pushing and trying to find the people that believe in you andthat want to back you.

[00:35:12] Olivia: Yeah. And I feel like there's justfrom what I know about the industry, and also just from my involvement, likebooking. People in the industry and like emailing and talking with them, I feellike there's this disconnect where there is so much pressure for efficiency andperformance and perfection. Like I've never received emails.

[00:35:36] Olivia: Like I have from people in thisindustry where they're like to prep for our call. Like here are these things toread and like, in some way, Reminds me of news and journalism a little bit,just because there's this toughness to the news industry where. Traditionallyyou're whoever runs a newspaper, like has [00:36:00]not cared about anything personal.

[00:36:02] Olivia: The attitude is you got to get thenews, like, oh, there's a fire over there. But meanwhile, you have this crisisat home. We'll like the news isn't going to solve for you. You have to get thestory. And for me, that's been hard because, um, I don't know if you know thisIVIS sleep disorder. Yeah. So when I was in grad school, my professors would belike, you can sleep when you're dead.

[00:36:29] Olivia: And I'd be like, uh, I kinda, I'm notinking. Like I sleep a lot and like, I'm not in control of it. Anyway. Now Ithink there is this conversation that's happening, where in journalism? I mean,I think every industry probably has a really long way to go, but we arestarting to make space for. I don't know life and like imperfection.

[00:36:56] Olivia: And I actually did talk to theprofessor, the professor who said this [00:37:00]sleep when you're dead thing, he's actually like my friend and my mentor now.And I said like, Hey, like I have this sleep disorder. Like it made itdefinitely made him think a little bit about the pressure we were under. To getthese like scoops for our fake grad school paper.

[00:37:20] Olivia: Anyway, I'm just wondering if there'sa similar Renaissance going on in tech and in fundraising where, you know, ifyou need to push back a meeting because you have a health crisis or I don'tknow, are people being more flexible? Are they being more understanding thesedays?

[00:37:40] Jason: I think. I think it ends up being sortof self-imposed pressure that founders place on themselves around, you know,it's a, it's a type of person that is a perfectionist and overachiever.

[00:37:53] Jason: So it's really, it's really difficult.I think to a certain extent it's it is the industry, but it is [00:38:00] like society as a whole, trying to makeroom for people to. Yeah, take care of their, their mental health and take careof their bodies and take care of their friends and relationships and realizingthat, you know, the very specific thing that they're working on right now andperfection and, and excellent efficiency is not always the most importantthing.

[00:38:24] Jason: There's a really heartbreaking story. Iwas advising a founder who in the middle of the pandemic. Her father went illand, um, yeah. And, uh, she was supposed to, um, she had a scheduled, uh, likea regularly scheduled call with him, um, while he was in the hospital and a, aninvestor, um, said the only time that I can meet is this one time.

[00:38:56] Jason: And she decided to push off the callwith her father. [00:39:00] And for this, forthis meeting and the investor knows. And oh my God, stop. Her father passedaway and she wasn't able to speak to him like one last time or like missed outon that call and it like, yeah, it was like the most heartbreaking story. I'veI've heard one of the, most of it.

[00:39:21] Jason: Matt also was very, um, it was crazy.

[00:39:24] Olivia: So just makes me so mad at theinvestor for being so inflexible. I mean, I doubt that they know what's on theline, but I think that is a good reminder to anyone like in a position ofpower.

[00:39:39] Jason: Like I don't, I don't know thesituation. I think she probably was like, I can't push back like less.

[00:39:45] Jason: I mean, I'm more upset about him, Noshahe? Or she for sure. Showing. Right. But yeah, like, I mean, that's a, it's ahuge reminder that like one, one small meeting, you know, is that as importantas the other things that are going [00:40:00]on in life? Probably

[00:40:01] Olivia: not. Yeah. I think that is a goodreminder. Like of course everyone should strive to be their fiercest, mosttenacious self, but also I feel like people should be more okay.

[00:40:14] Olivia: Just being like it's one meeting. LikeI don't need to take that meeting.

[00:40:20] Jason: Yeah. I think am a huge supporter of,of excellence and pushing herself and, and getting better. But you know, moreand more, I think, um, I'm learning that everyone needs to. Be, you know,gentle and compassionate with themselves and others and we're bouncing it everso slightly.

[00:40:39] Jason: So yeah,

[00:40:41] Olivia: I mean, it makes sense. Like there'sno way that this interview, which was all about life and death and like, uh,there's no way that it wasn't going to end up where we just did, whichbasically is, was like, life

[00:40:55] Jason: is short. I agree be persistent, butlife is short.[00:41:00]

[00:41:03] Jason: Omaze helps incentivize donations tocharities like Make-A-Wish and glad by giving donors a shot at cars, money, andother goodies in return. But it's not just the charity that changes lives. Mattsays sometimes it's the prize itself that transform people.

[00:41:23] Matt Pohlson: We, when we early in thejourney, there's this girl named Chloe. She was a 15 year old. She was bornwith a club foot. And one day she walked into her cafeteria and a bunch ofmean, girls pinned her down in front. The whole school took off her shoe toshow everyone what her club foot looked like. And it was traumatic.

[00:41:37] Matt Pohlson: And she went home. She wasdepressed. She locked herself in her room. Her dad was worried that she wasgoing to hurt herself. His name is Dane, and he's an amazing guy. Um, and he'dshared with her. He was a huge U2 fan and he shared with her all his songs andshe latched on this song called invisible, which says.

[00:41:52] Matt Pohlson: You can't see me, but I'mhearing, it's like very anthemic song that you've listened to it every singleday on loop. And it helped her get the strength to like to go back to [00:42:00] school. So at the same time, he enters inthis amazing experience to meet Bano backstage and he wins. And so he thenbrings Chloe with him and this is very early.

[00:42:10] Matt Pohlson: So I'm there like chaperoningand it's just me and Chloe and Dane in this little room backstage in Denver,and then bottle walks in, you know, Lights up the room and he says, hello toDane. And then you says, tell me your story. No, this isn't really about mystory. It's about my daughter, Chloe story. And so Bono turns to Chloe andsays, well, what's your story, Chloe?

[00:42:30] Matt Pohlson: And she said, I was assaulted.And your song invisible helped me get through it. She said, it gave me thestrength to stand up. The girls who did this to me, gave me a strength to standup to my school and make sure it doesn't happen again. And he looked at her andhe said, you know why you're able to do that, Chloe, because the arc of theuniverse bends towards justice and love.

[00:42:48] Matt Pohlson: And when you have right on yourside, it's like this big fish. Not to hurt people with, but to fight for what'sright.

[00:42:58] Jason: By the way, after that experience of [00:43:00] meeting Bano, Chloe started speaking outagainst bullying, giving a series of pretty inspiring. Ted talks aboutredefining the parts of a that society looks at and deems. Or weird or abnormalmake us unique. Our differences make us who we are and that person should becelebrated.

[00:43:22] Jason: Thanks a bunch for listening. If you'relooking for more fundraising tips and content, check out my newsletter, you slash newsletter. Also, there are a ton of insightsthat each founder recover on funded has around startups, fundraising, and life,and we don't have time to cover it all.

[00:43:40] Jason: So if you'd like to get a free insightspack based on Matthew Pohlson from Omaze, go to If youhave any questions about today's show, or maybe you're raising money yourselfand want some help, problem solving, find me on social I'm @ JAYYEH. That's J AY Y E H, or shoot me an email at [00:44:00]

[00:44:02] Jason: I'd love to hear from you. This episodewas produced by Olivia Reingold. Hi from Chicago. Thanks also to JordanPascasio and Jonathan Lee from Adamant Ventures. Hey guys. Hello? And ofcourse, thanks to Matthew Pohlson from Omaze for being oh- mazing. Sorry, hadto do it as always one last, thanks to our sponsor, Docsend the most trusteddocument sharing platform.


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