Lessons Learned with Nan Hao, CEO of Guiker: The unconventional road to fundraising

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Nan Hao, CEO and Founder of Guiker, a property tech platform designed for people to rent properties and process transactions from multiple currencies and platforms.

I reached out to Nan after reading his article on Linkedin about his fundraising journey as CEO of Guiker. I was particularly fascinated by his unique outlook on VC funding and thought it would be a great story to share with our community.

Before founding Guiker, Nan spent just under a year managing finances at Sonder, another company operating in the property tech industry. Sonder is aimed at competing with hotels with their beautifully designed Airbnb-style apartments and top-notch amenities.

It was in this role that Nan experienced first-hand the ups and downs of raising seed money. He left Sonder shortly before their Series A round. 

Through this experience, Nan got an unfiltered view of venture capital and, because of this experience, when Guiker was born in 2016, Nan chose to postpone fundraising.

“I didn’t have a romantic view… contrary to what it looks like from the outside, VCs don’t just find you and just like that, you’re the next Facebook,” it’s so much more complex, “there is a lot more going on behind the scenes than just the usual headline.”

After his co-founder made the decision to return to school, Nan was left as a solo-founder which meant he was faced with balancing the need to fundraise with the company’s day-to-day operations. He decided the best thing for him was to focus all of his energy on building Guiker.

“Instead of raising money right away, I wanted to prove the concept by bootstrapping the business. If it worked, I would get a better terms. If it didn’t, I should not have been raising money anyway. Since money was hard to come by, it forced us to be extremely frugal and resourceful. What I didn’t foresee, is how much longer it took for us to be “ready”.”

… and just like that, fundraising was on the backburner.

After 2 successful years running the business and seeing some great traction, Nan felt confident about the story he was pitching. Through his network of other entrepreneurs, Nan received warm intros to high quality investors. Unfortunately, this influx of promising relationships came to a halt just as quickly as they presented themselves.

“I walked into all the traps and committed all the faux-pas… I didn’t like the deals I was offered. Instead of sticking to the negotiation process, I arrogantly decided to burn the bridge because I had “options” on the table.”

By November 2018, everyone had left the table and the months following were nothing short of difficult. After spending some time reflecting, he decided to go back out and knock on the doors of people who he thought he had burnt bridges with. By navigating the VC landscape with lessons learned, Guiker is now oversubscribed upon closure of its latest round at the end of August. 

When asked what the top lessons he learned through his fundraising experience were, Nan shared: “Be reasonable with evaluation and expectations. Don’t get greedy when there is an “oversubscription” (Don’t change the terms because you feel like you now have more options) A deal is never closed until the money is in the bank account.”

When determining whether fundraising makes sense for your company, ask yourself:

  1. Do I need the money?
  2. What do I do with the money?
  3. What is the opportunity cost of not having money?

Nan’s advice for other founders who are deciding whether the fundraising route is right for them? “If you don’t know what to do with money, don’t raise. If you don’t need money don’t raise. But make sure you can live to see another day without this money. Don’t wait until you are desperate for money to start raising, it takes time, plan ahead.”

I encourage you to read Nan’s fundraising journey in full on his Linkedin profile.  

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