It’s okay to be not liked on demo day.

Y Combinator W16 Demo Day Story

Below is a post I wrote in August 2019 within Y Combinator community (which luckily received 300+ upvotes 🙇‍♂️). Now that I get a pretty steady stream of inquiries about fundraising and accelerator/demo days, I thought it might be helpful to repost here in public format. Hope it brings hope to a few.

Hi S19 founders,

Now that the demo day has officially begun, I just want to share our experience at SendBird (W16), so that perhaps some of you guys can relate.

I’ll admit upfront: We were not the hot company of the demo day. No where near. We didn’t get the overly enthusiastic emails from investors piling up in our inbox.

I thought we were doing okay during the batch, but on the demo day, the ones that got the most amount of ‘likes’ and ‘quickest raises’ were not necessarily the ones we thought did the best during the batch. Some companies raised a lot of money almost on the day of the demo day, while most of us felt like we were punched in our stomach, grasping for air.

At the demo day evening party, I personally felt like I’ve failed my team and was feeling lost. We did a small bit of raise before the demo day, and also closed the remainder after the demo day throughout the next few weeks. But overall, while we learned a ton about building the company during YC program and still continued to grow after YC, we were not the popular guy that day, and it hurt.

And it’s okay.

We found a few investors that believed in what we did. A few small checks here and there that added up. But those investors were extremely generous with their time after investing, gave a lot of advice and intros. We continued to build the company with other YC alums, partners, and investors.. and of course, by winning one customer at a time and shipping one feature at a time.

We almost ran out of money. Twice. But we kept good investor-update hygiene (sent monthly updates til getting close to series B, where we now switched to quarterly). Seed/demo day investors kept us going and helped us extend our runway before we did our A in 2017. It took us 1 year and 9 months from demo day to series A. (We raised $16m then)

Fast forward 3 years, we raised $102m series B with a lot of luck and help from YC alum and investors. We’re still just getting by, solving so many different problems in and out, and of course, trying to win one customer at a time.

It’s okay to not be the popular company on the demo day, so just keep talking to customers and building your product. One day, it might just work out.

Best of luck to all of S19!

John (SendBird, W16)

Author: John

Positive tenacity. CEO at SendBird 💬 The no.1 conversations platform for mobile apps. Investor at Valon Capital. Ex-#1 FPS pro-gamer. ⭐️ Interested in creating scalable impact through technology.

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