Surviving the Shark Tank

When I founded the ArDrive and started exploring the vision of “permanent storage for everyone”, I knew I was going to be faced with many challenges. Some I was confident in solving since I’ve faced them before. Others I knew were going to be difficult because I was a complete “noob” in those areas. One of these challenges was fundraising. Like many of you, I have never pitched a vision and product to investors before, but I was excited to try!

Most of my experience to date was watching the show Shark Tank.

Shark Tank

As you can imagine, in reality, raising capital is nothing like this. There is no single meeting where you are judged by a group of investors and are pressured into taking a deal or ripped apart for the benefit of the audience. Instead, fundraising spans countless meetings across dozens of investors over the span of many weeks. I had always figured in the springtime of 2021 I would look to raise money for the ArDrive Community, but I underestimated the time it would take, and the lessons I would learn along the way.

ArDrive is not your everyday crypto project. We are not a core protocol or blockchain, rather we are a consumer-focused, decentralized application backed by an Arweave Profit Sharing Community.

An eye catching business model

I knew this unique investment opportunity may be a challenge for some crypto funds to fit into their portfolios. I thought that as long as I was honest, stayed positive, networked like crazy and took constructive criticism along the way, things would work out.

Luckily, there was no shortage of venture capital funds, investors and angels to meet. I leveraged my existing connections, and soon enough I was meeting with teams regularly from around the world. Enthusiastically pitching the same deck over and over was something I am not a stranger to. At KPMG, presenting and defending technology solutions, budgets, roadmaps and risks to various technical and non-technical audiences was critical. I had to turn this part of my brain back on for fundraising!

There was so much to learn on the go and the pitch evolved as I got feedback. Rightfully so, investors wanted all the details, whether it was getting the right deal structure, the go-to-market strategy, tokenomics table or the core business model and decentralized community aspects.

After a while, I felt like I was in some kind of VC Speed Fundraising meetup.

Speed Fundraising

Sure, there were some that clearly weren’t a fit and others that I thought made a connection but we never went out on a “second date”. But everyone of them gave me great feedback, more references and pushed my motivation even further. After a few weeks of making really great impressions, I was worrying if I was going fast enough.

Was I saying the wrong things? Was the deal not desirable enough? Is permanent storage just not as powerful as I thought it was? These questions echoed in my brain. It was just my “self defense” system that always seeks out the flaws in order to try to improve. As a founder, it’s important to stay true to your vision, but I think it is also key to question your own narratives and pitch in order to grow beyond any limitations you may have.

April is when things really started to heat up.  I was introduced to SevenX Ventures by our partners at Mask Network. They saw promise in our vision and were immediately committed to our round and helping us succeed. They were able to introduce me to IOSG Ventures and D1 Ventures, who also felt that permanent storage was the underpinning of web3 apps. Their friends over at Digital Renaissance Foundation felt similar. Both groups were actually users of ArDrive and knew how easy it was to get data permanently uploaded! It’s always great to hear from our users, but it was very exciting to hear they wanted to co-lead our seed round!! This was the big commitment we needed to push the round over the edge.

Joining them are Kilowatt Capital, the core Arweave Team and a few well-connected angel investors. Each group brings their own expertise and will help us grow in both eastern and western markets. I am incredibly grateful for them, and a huge thanks to each individual and team who is taking a chance on me and our community.

I will find you and thank you for your help

By the end of April, the round was completed and we actually ended up being oversubscribed at $1.6M!

On the morning of May 19, Coindesk broke the news of our accomplishment in stark contrast to the broader crypto market selloff. However, the price of Bitcoin doesn’t change the value of permanent data storage or our use cases. This is the reason I am still incredibly bullish on ArDrive (and Arweave) and look forward to utilizing these funds as best as we can to create as much value as possible with our products.

Regardless of our bank balance, our mission is still the same – get permanent storage in the hands of anyone with data they want to keep forever. So now it’s back to a product push. The rest of this year we are going to focus on a few things:

  • Make our apps more accessible by providing a fiat on-ramp to easily get AR tokens.
  • Give our products a premium look and feel with an extensive user experience and interface redesign.
  • Expand our reach to the desktop and mobile with native apps.
  • Provide better reliability and performance for your uploads and downloads.
  • Add new features like advanced sharing, image thumbnails, and multi-user drives.

Part of this also involves scaling up our team. We will be onboarding technology, marketing and communications resources over the next few months to build the ArDrive Core Team 2.0. If you are interested in working with us, keep your eyes peeled on our Jobs page for upcoming available roles!

We truly feel that is important to give back to our community, which is why we have been running our Usage Mining program Dust. I also wanted to take this opportunity to announce that we will also be voting to donate 10,000 ARDRIVE tokens to the new decentralized autonomous charity called chARity.

ArDrive + chARity

Not everyone in the world is as lucky as we are, so it only makes sense to me that we have to share our bounty with those in need. I look forward to this partnership and being able to integrate them with our Profit Sharing Community!

While this has been an incredible learning experience, since the round is over, I can take a breath and get back to our products. I suspect this won’t be the last chapter in my fundraising book though. Who knows, maybe we will be on Shark Tank one day, pitching our community to the fiercest investors on television.

Until then, we will be working hard on building our community and crafting the best experience for uploading your most important data forever.

Got any questions, concerns or comments? We would love to hear them! Email me at phil@ardrive.io or join our Telegram.

Phil Mataras

Phil is the Founder of ArDrive and has been involved with the permaweb since the earliest days. He's also renowned for mind-bending, hair-metal guitar riffs.

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