How two college friends got Serena Williams to back their business
Alex Rose was quick to get investment from Serena Williams, Olympic tennis champion Usain Bolton for Let’s Do This.
They did this despite not having a tech background, which is a common trait amongst start-up founders.
Rose said in video that usually the tale goes that technology companies were founded by “two computer scientists who wrote the code and lived off noodles for months.” Rose spoke to CNBC via video.
Rose, aged 31, and Browne (29), founded Let’s Do This on July 2017. The platform boasts 15,000 listed events like marathons or triathlons.
For a company only around four years old, this is quite impressive.
It was after two of its co-founders moved with six others to Palo Alto in California in 2018, to join the prestigious Y Combinator startup accelerator program that the company took off. Y Combinator was the launch pad for many big technology companies, such as AirbnbReddit.
They met Pete Flint while in California. He is general partner at venture capital firm NFX. Perhaps his most famous accomplishment is being co-founder and then bought out by its rival, Trulia online real estate platform. ZillowIn 2015.
NFX led a $5 Million seed financing round in Let’s Do This, Aug. 2018. Bolt and Williams were also part of the seed funding round.
Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, who was married to Williams tennis player, reached out during the Y Combinator program. Rose told Rose that Browne was the “most famous and well-connected alumni” of the program at the time.
Rose and Browne asked Williams for a introduction. Williams had in 2014 launched Serena Ventures her own VC company.
Browne was able to get Bolt aboard by going to London’s Olympic gold medallist’s opening bar and convincing him to have dinner. The entrepreneur then pitched Let’s Do This.
Rose stated, “So yeah, that’s a great example of how to hustle your way into the right investor meetings.”
Let’s Do This has been raising just under $31 million since Rose and Browne founded it.
Rose and Browne had been friends from childhood. Rose and Browne were close friends when they both studied at Cambridge University, one of Britain’s most prestigious colleges. Rose received a degree as a chemical engineer, management and supervisor, while Browne earned a degree that combines philosophy, theology and psychology.
Both of them were active in college sports. Browne co-founded adventure travel company IGO Adventures. He was there when they created Let’s Do This. Rose was an associate with Oliver Wyman, a management consulting firm at that time.
Let’s Do This came out of an informal conversation that the couple had about the difficulty in signing up and finding races. They created their platform as a one-stop solution to this problem.
Rose said that Rose believed they launched the business using a combination of overconfidence and naivety.
In hindsight, he said that “if we knew the things we know now about the obstacles that you have to overcome to start a business, I wonder whether we would have would have quit our jobs to do it.”
He also stated that launching the company came when he realized he hated his job. Therefore, the challenges of starting a business didn’t seem as daunting when I was faced with the option of continuing in a job with which I had fallen out of love.
Prior to taking part in the Y Combinator program, Rose and Browne raised £150,000 ($205,248) from a network of angel investors, who were mostly amateur athletes, that they had come into contact with through friends, in order to cover the initial start-up costs. Angel investors tend to be high-net worth individuals that back start-ups.
However, they soon realized that their money would not be sufficient to pay the salaries of software engineers needed to create the platform. So they raised a further £1 million, mostly from the same group of investors.
Rose explained that it took a lot of people to find investors willing to listen to them before they could get their hands on potential ones.
He added, “But you have to find something that people care about. Then there will be people willing to invest in exciting ideas.”