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#19) Bold Moves 2022 in Review
the ups and downs of business and life
Audio clip if you prefer to listen.
We do not practice what we preach. We do not have a business plan or clear goals, frankly. Bold Moves just sprang out of the couch on a Sunday evening early in 2022 and evolved spontaneously, organically, haphazardly, fortuitously. This is Year One.
Bold Moves in a sentence?
Bold Moves supports entrepreneurs with creative and marketing that lead to new customers and new investors.
I’ve teamed up with another cranky American, Mike Pekula, who in many ways is the polar opposite of me from a personality perspective. Bit of a hermit who sits in his man cave office. Capable of long stretches of focused thought and creativity which makes me, frankly, jealous. I work in one and at most two hour sprints myself. He’s an introvert. I’m an extrovert. He’s from Philly. I’m from Pensacola. Both of us expats who still sometimes wonder out loud, how exactly did I end up in Bergen of all places?
Together we have worked with a number of clients this year:
I’ve known the Founder and CEO of Evoy, Leif Stavøstrand, for years now, since first pitch deck at Katapult Ocean. He asked us to help give marketing and financing a boost over a year ago, and we are happy to say we collaborated to land not only €7.2m euros in financing, we also had fun working with the team on modernising and streamlining the brand and website. Evoy is a wildly promising electric boat motor company yet nonetheless hard to classify to VCs “is it hardware, is it software, WHAT IS IT?” (etc.). But we did it.
We helped sculpt the identity, branding and digital presence for the world's fastest, collaborative, cloud-native video editing and publishing tool.
When some friends, Glenn Pedersen and Helge Høibraaten, the founders of Vimond (a premier streaming platform provider), broke off to create a new company, Bold Moves was brought on to help develop the launch. We worked closely with the team to develop the product name and identity while deploying a digital presence that effectively (we hope) communicates the key product benefits.
Best part of this express process was the one day “we are not leaving this room until we have a new name” brainstorm we held at our offices. From 10 - 4 we did our best to structure a by the book creative brainstorming session. Yellow notes. White paper with name ideas stuck up all over the brick walls. Pencils and pads.
But I also had a back up plan - beer. So at 4, still floundering somewhat, I went into the fridge and gave the team a beer each. By 4:45 bob’s your uncle. Cutting Room was born.
Jon Berg, Partner, Sarsia Seed, and I have a relationship going back 10+ years now. He has always been super generous in coaching me in my various “time to raise a fund!” attempts, written about previously.
I was thus deeply flattered when he turned to us to advise on financing and marketing for one of his star investments, Green Power Hub, a platform for trading green energy instruments. B2B subscription model. Strong traction with next to no marketing.
I wish I could share more good data on this case but confidentiality needs to be respected for now.
This is a fantastic team, spearheaded by the unstoppable firebrand, Wei Cai.
Mike and I are all in on this one. We crafted an investment primer with the team and have been underground doing research on potential investors for months now. It is absolutely no problem to land meetings with top tier VC to hear the story (you might take that for granted, but half the battle often is simply landing the meeting).
We have great momentum going into the new year and intend to close before Easter.
This is another founder I have known and collaborated with (gratis) for many years now. To learn more about blockchain. To build a relationship with no end game in mind. I just like hanging our with smart, driven people.
And Jacobo Toll Messia definitely qualifies as one of those. He is as bright and crazy determined (´round the clock) as they come + has recruited a stellar team, including Mark Briscombe, inventor of the patent pending state pool tech that is a main pillar of Nahmii's competitive advantage.
Nahmii is a Web3 commercial platform built on Ethereum to usher bluechip companies and mainstream consumers into the world of DeFi. From the start they have avoided the hype, the bullshit and the quick wins to build a proper platform that brings institutional credibility to the Web3 market.
Absolute bluechip partners, including
Norges Bank (Norway's central bank) - building a sandbox to test digital currency applications
one more central bank just just closed, soon to be announced
Fireblocks ($100m ARR)
Launched in 2018, Nahmii 1.0 was the very first layer 2 scaling and payment solution deployed on Ethereum. Tested for over 30 months with PoCs and feedback from over 100 companies and partners, Nahmii 2.0 was then deployed to the mainnet on 21st Sep 2021. Nahmii 1.0 held up to $350M in tokens and processed over $250M in payments.
We are in the market seeking growth equity - what amounts to their first outside check. But Jacobo has years of runway, so this is more about finding the right match rather than a must have.
This one is near and dear to our hearts.
The data clearly shows the business of entrepreneurship is fucked.
Entreprenerdy’s aim is to be the world’s leading platform for recruiting and developing entrepreneurs, from all walks of life. From the shanty towns of South Africa to the halls of the welfare office in Norway (NAV) to blockchain entrepreneurs funded by Cardano grants to one of the world’s most advanced carbon capture programs at Sintef, Entreprenerdy is creating 100s of entrepreneurs every single month.
Entrepreneurs are not necessarily born as such. It’s not a genetic gift from the gods.
It’s a discipline. And like any discipline, it can be taught. It can be learned.
And here I am very biased, as I sit on the Board. But I am proud of Entreprenerdy and their work. Kudos to Yngve Dahle and Erlend Bang Abelsen, cofounders.
40 programs over 6 countries. More than 200 cohorts in 2022 alone.
Comprehensive software platform + academically researched teaching method. Yngve literally wrote the book.
And yes, we are in the market to raise growth equity what amounts to their first outside professional check after building this company over 10+ years in the trenches, belief never wavering.
So that is some of the glossy high level Disney version stuff. Here’s the ugly.
Entrepreneurs are incredibly stubborn creatures. They can say they are coachable.
But. And But. And But.
Thus I’ve been forced into doing a lot of work on myself this year - listening skills. Back away from making forceful points. Let entrepreneurs, like children, make their own mistakes and learn. Coach more gently. Like a grandfather (God did I just say that outloud). Let some comments flow over me without reacting emotionally.
There has been one entrepreneur I had dialogue with where I realised I do not trust what this person is saying anymore and I had to quietly back away from any engagement.
There have been two entrepreneurs who have been shocked at what we have proposed, a starter package to get going on marketing, and we basically never heard back from them again. Really rude unprofessional shit after you spend so much time trying to craft something meaningful.
There has been one entrepreneur where I simply could not believe the acid and emotion and the convenient reinvention of history coming out of his / her mouth (not directed towards me, but somebody else).
You are not rock stars, entrepreneurs, you are more like parents creating an environment where people need to feel safe and respected. You are providing a home, not a backstage scene! Just because it is your original idea does not mean it is yours and yours alone anymore! It does not justify the outburst of emotion! Harm is being done!
There was one entrepreneur where we had a culture clash to start with and I was worried it would all go to bits but now we get along like brothers and sisters (brother and sisters on a good day, that is).
Oh, and the VC universe. Where I spend a good deal of my time. Sigh. There are exceptions to what I am about to say, but I will confirm that, by and large, the more established firms with track record are 10x more professional than first time funds with no track record and heaps of attitude.
There is a partner at Sequoia Capital in London whom I have never met in person. Never had a Zoom call yet, actually. Yet he is is more responsive, polite and thorough with his feedback than many first time fund managers who I do know personally, hell maybe even have had a beer with her or him before. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between professionalism and success? And by professionalism I mean here making time for timely quality responses to legitimate dealflow (since that is your job!), even if it’s a pass, rather than being
arrogant enough to never ever respond (justifying it with I’m just too busy. I could never be expected to respond to every email!)
or giving a “not a fit for us” onliner. Useless.
I made a big mistake this year: I allowed myself to accept one mandate under too tight timelines just to get a relationship started where I should have had the discipline to say, “I can only accept this mandate unless we commit to 6 months, minimum.” Fundraising just takes time, period. There is no magic wand.
Another mistake: We took way too long to get our own website up and going, and it still loads way too slowly.
Stress levels, in general, are high. We deal with people who have months, not years, to move the needle - or the business could go under. People could lose their jobs. People could lose money. You imbibe that pressure and make it your own. Plus we ourselves at Bold Moves are entrepreneurs with this fledgling boutique and no investment capital providing us with a year of runway so we have the double pressure of supporting entrepreneurs while trying to also make our own way in the world.
I cannot get started about work life balance. Save that for another blog post. But I live with the constant feeling that I am not doing enough for my family, for the kids, for the home because I am so focused on my work and my clients. Where’s the manual for parenting please?
I still, somehow, feel like a fish out of water, after living in Norway for 15 years. I was just home in Pensacola for Thanksgiving for a week with my #2, Annabelle. I arranged for some old friends to come and play mini-golf with us out at the beach, everyone ranging from a former mayor to friends working as therapists or a friend running sales and marketing to a friend who has responsibility for the Horizon oil spill $1.5B community redevelopment fund. Friends whom I have known literally since I was 5 years old. Friends who grew up a bike ride away all during my childhood. I do not need to make accommodations or try to fit into a Norwegian way of doing things. I can just be a Pensacolian. When I am home, I have this acute awareness that, ultimately, back across the pond, I’m an American living in Norway. And for the most part, to be clear, Norway has given me a warm place to call home. But there is an aspect to Norway, too, that feels cold to me. I’m on the outside looking in. I do my best to stay the course and be me, for better or worse, be genuine, but at times you feel like you can hear whispers. Maybe you can relate too? Maybe I sound too fragile and nutty? Maybe all of the above? I just saw Maria Mena sing last night at Grieghallen, and she talks very openly about her fragilities so I am inspired.
Finally, I have over committed to projects. I have a major creative commitment with my friend Pernille Sandberg, which I have neglected. We have interviewed several people for a book project, and I have not written a single word this year. I am recommitting here and now to this book in 2023 with this brilliant soul.
I had intended to hop onboard and be an active investor with Novooi, but, by mutual agreement, things have evolved on her side and my side where it makes more sense to be friends and mutual mentors - and, after a delicious meal at Arakataka at Oslo a week ago (all of us together, Pernille and her partner, Ole, Lillian and her husband, Jørn, me and Birte), I can confirm that we are indeed bosom buddies despite the change of plans.
I’ve established a company called Be Better with a good friend who used to be my trainer, Øyvind Bauge. If you judged from volume of Whatsapp traffic alone on a daily basis, he would rank as my bestest of friends. To be fair, we got caught with our pants down pre Corona, for our concept definitely requires in your face human contact for the most part, but now we can make a comeback. Here I need to either make a commitment and stick to it or in fairness let him buy back the shares at cost and wish him the best of luck.
So that’s the less glossy, more real and ugly part.
Going into 2023 I can share we have some promising new relationships soon to be announced, one here in Bergen with well established entrepreneurs, one in France with a VC and one of its investments, one from the US of A looking to now spearhead its business from Norway.
I am also going over from cautious 50/50 to optimistic 70/30 on the current mandates (even the one with the too tight timeline) and hope to close at least one if not two transactions before Easter.
One new exciting partnership we are keen to nurture in the new year: Fundraising Bootcamp. Whenever I turn to somebody for advice on fundraising the first number I dial is Francois Mazoudier, the cofounder. He and I have known each other since early 2000s in London and his advice is, by far, the best no bullshit, practical, effective fundraising advice to be found. He is the one I send my draft decks to for advice. He is the one I turn to when banging my head against the hall with a client and mandate, trying to crack the code and create unstoppable momentum in a deal. He is the one I turn to for warm introductions to investors. And I am proud to say I am the one he has turned to for investment banking support going into 2023. We shall work together on a few select Fundraising Bootcamp graduates next year post Bootcamp graduation to land their Series A.
Watch this space.
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