The TownhallBusiness

Life is an accelerator

By John C. Baldwin

Over the past ten weeks, you have followed my journey as I navigate the tech ecosystem. It has not been easy. In the past few weeks, headway has been made, so I simply wanted to share a few more thoughts in this last article. 

There’s a duality in being a founder. There’s John, the person. He’s a sounding board for friends, a brother to eight siblings, and a son. Then there’s John, the founder. His goal is to run the daily operations of FENDR, receive funding, ensure the technology is exemplary for customers, gain traction, and hundreds of other duties. The two are sometimes in conflict. 

Right now, I’m in a virtual community with other founders. It’s a great way to build community, receive advice about techniques in raising from investors, and practice your pitch. In other instances, they can share posts that get you a step closer.  

Tech Twitter is a beast on its own. However, it offers direct access to investors, VCs, and founders. A serial founder tweeted about the car crash industry and wondered why many startups aren’t addressing the industry. I’m on Discord and someone messaged me about it. 

The founder asked, “Isn’t someone working on car accidents?” I read the tweet and learned a bit more about the founder/investor. Then, I went directly to the tweet and provided a quick blurb about FENDR. It piqued his interest enough that he sent over his calendar to schedule some time.  

The meeting went well, and the feedback involved tangible and actionable items I could start doing immediately. We discussed challenges and barriers and how to overcome them. I made sure I did my homework on the federal mandates for consumers as well as fintech startups. 

The greatest lesson ever taught during this entire process was that you’re not trying to convince an investor to sign a check at that moment. Instead, you’re trying to prove you have a great product with a bit of traction, and you’re addressing a problem that has the potential to be a $1 billion company. 

The next step is to try to get another meeting when you can talk more about your business model or get a referral. The investor knows people in the fintech space. He offered to facilitate a warm introduction if he knew someone at the firms, I was interested in partnering with. 

There’s been quite a bit of discussion about banning warm introductions in VCs because it limits those without a network. They’re right. However, I encourage founders to play by the rules of the game until you’re able to change them. I lost a dear friend this past week and she shared something with a colleague before passing, “…I was dealt a bad hand. Sometimes that’s just life.”  

Time is not on our side 

For those in Atlanta, you knew her as Jovita Moore. I’m on the west coast and I awakened to a slew of text messages. The first came from my buddy, Asif, and the text read, “Jovitaaaa.” I went to WSB’s website and there it was. She was gone. 

I interned at WSB in 2005. Jovita came back from maternity leave my first day at the internship. After the internship, we stayed in touch. Originally, it was a mentorship, but as time progressed, she became like a sister. 

No matter the occasion, like when she was on campus interviewing someone in the Atlanta University Center, she’d text, “Hey, come see me, I’m on campus!” When I visited Atlanta, I made it a point to see her. If she was in the same city as me, she’d return the favor. 

No matter the circumstance, she ended each interaction the same, “Gotta run…come here, give me a hug.” Every. Single. Time. 

The news was heartbreaking. Fortunately, she and I said what we needed to before she passed. She was happy for the man I had become, and I was grateful for the time we had together, although limited. 

Time is of the essence. If you’re going to build, build. If you have a disagreement with a friend, colleague, or loved one – reach out. Again, we are on borrowed time, and it is not on our side. Act now! 

Prepare to face challenges and overcome them 

First, let me thank ScoonTV for their patience and graciousness. After learning of Jovita’s death, I needed some time. Director of Operations Raul told me to take my time with submitting the article. This week, another friend passed away. He was 47 with a young son. Then, my iMac died on me. I panicked. That was the last thing I needed. 

I’m literally typing these words on my phone and forwarding it over to Raul. But once I took a breather, I realized this was all a test. How fast can you resolve an issue and be cost effective? I mirrored my screen on my television and set up a personal PC on my phone. This would have set a founder back for months 40 years ago. Today, it was 40 minutes. 

I worked on my pitch deck using Canva and that was a challenge, but it wasn’t impossible. Thinking about it all – it never is really. 

You are more than your career 

Since working on FENDR, I’ve met quite a few founders. Many are so obsessed with success and becoming a unicorn that it has defined them. Their business is who they are, instead of what they do. 

Granted, I want FENDR to be successful and, yes, I think it’s a great idea. However, in the event I do not receive funding, am I a failure? No. I am a guy that had an idea that failed to take off. When we spend our energy focused on being defined by possessions and status, we extend our worthiness and value to things.  

Before leaving, I wanted to show appreciation to Mr. Scoon and Raul “Dutch.” I sent ScoonTV my pitch, my LinkedIn, and a premise at 7:55 am PST. By 11 am PST, he forwarded my info to Raul and made it happen. 

There was no “What’s in it for me?” or “Why should I?” Just action and a willingness to give a hopeful entrepreneur a chance. Raul checks in with me and asks me tough questions. This is not meant to be a “gotcha” moment but preparing me for questions that investors will want to know.  

Having these two men assist in my professional development is rewarding. That doesn’t happen too often. When it does, we should be appreciative and I am. 

Like I’ve shared before, I do not know where FENDR will end. The odds are not in any founder’s favor. You have to be ok at taking the shot even if you miss. 

Wherever you are, whatever you are inspired to do – take the shot. 

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John C. Baldwin

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