105M for pre-seed French AI start-up. Can’t say I ...
# 02-general-community-chat
105M for pre-seed French AI start-up. Can’t say I feel sorry for these guys, but also don’t feel at all optimistic about them either. In fact, I think they might be at the peak of their careers, and it is all downhill from here. This team is all Big Heads (researchers) and is heavily unbalanced. One of the things that happens when you leave your prior job as a strong IC, is you realize just how much of your success was helped by being in the right environment, and how little things become a problem. I remember leaving Looker in 2016, before our acquisition by G, in a similar Sr. technical staff member role to become independent. Only to realize how much of everyday client work that I did was preconditioned on the expectations set by the rest of the team. And it was a steep learning curve over the next 3 years to figure out the exact balance of Marketing, Sales, etc. It is easy to write a document, saying “you will start selling on month X”. And I suppose with this amount of investment, it is going to be easy to hire average AEs. But it takes a lot more to hire top AEs. Top AEs will need leadership from other former AEs. And top AE leaders are already employed by heavily funded Data/AI companies and are not moved by $ raised alone. They will need to see sales traction, which means we’re back to square one: can these former PhD sell? And I don’t mean selling to VCs, by showing how smart the team is. Unless you’re selling services, businesses generally don’t buy just how smart you are… Same with marketing. They claim they will build a platform, a community of sort, for developers. But that requires marketing. Who of these PhDs done it? Like, oh, they decide to hire a leader straight off the bat. Maybe a VP level. But a VP level Marketer does not necessarily have experience building a developer community from ground up. They will want to see developer evangelist, brand, and growth marketing there first. As well as some traction. So these guys will go out to hire (their first time in life) a developer evangelist or growth marketer - only to realize they hired the wrong combination of skills. Meanwhile, the word gets around, and no one wants to use this service anymore. Developers have sticky memories. And no amount of $$ subsequent gets them to change their mind. Of course, there are agencies and a lot of this can be outsourced. But we’re talking about building a competitor to existing landscape of heavily-funded companies (OpenAI/Microsoft, Google, etc). This means you have to build a very unique offering, with your own DNA. An agency will help build a marketing team, but that agency-hired marketing team is not going to help create that unique DNA. Agencies are great when you already have done the initial legwork. Anyways, I feel like I know how this whole thing ends. Eventually the team makes a mistake. It could be something that is not even caused by them. Like the supplier of Compute Servers runs away with their $$ after a sudden electricity price spike in Europe. Then it causes doubt and conflict internally. All these big heads start to not believe in a cohesive direction, at which one point some key initial members of the team leave. And it spirals from there. The sad (if one can feel sad for the entitled) part of this is that these guys probably have such high egos, having just raised all this amount on an idea, that they are essentially unemployable by any serious research team. I guess they might end up in Venture Capital, but probably far from what they wanted to do originally. My 2 cents… https://sifted.eu/articles/pitch-deck-mistral