How to Raise Venture Capital
Eric Remer is the founder and CEO of PaySimple, a leading provider of small business merchant accounts, mobile and electronic payments, and ACH processing services. He also founded Conclave Group, a direct marketing services company, and co-founded I-Behavior, a leading behavioral targeting and database marketing organization. He began his career in the investment banking field with Kidder, Peabody & Co.
In this video segment, Remer recalls the early days of PaySimple -- what led him to create it, his views and approach to venture capital, and what an exit might look like. He also explains how this, his third start-up, reflects his own core values in a way that the first two did not.
A full transcript follows the video.
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Tom Gardner: Let's talk about starting the business. You mentioned that you raised venture capital. When did PaySimple start? When was it founded? Where are you? How much money did you raise and why?
Eric Remer: We started, again, in early 2007. You asked me for why we started. A big portion was we thought we were filling a real need in the small business ecosystem. Selfishly, completely separate of that, I had started two businesses prior and I had never created a platform that was truly congruent with my core belief system.
It was really important to me, from day one, to create an environment that allowed people, human beings -- and I'll relate it to our investors why I brought the investors in -- to come into work every day and truly be allowed to be who they are and be who they are at the highest level.
When you walk in our door, there's actually a huge wall and there's big, huge letters that say, "Bring your passion. Bring your love. Bring me energy that makes you, you." If we can create the environment that allows people to be who they are, that ultimately provides...
Gardner: What caused you to embrace that sort of approach, whereas you say you weren't doing that in the previous two businesses? Why the change in thinking?
Remer: I think it was always within me. I don't think I had the wherewithal or the belief or the confidence in myself that it was OK to actually do. I used to joke that, "It's great that a cute little company in Vermont that serves ice cream can talk about love and all that stuff, but can a financial service company in the middle of Denver, Colo., talk about love and empowerment and validation and truly go all the way with what that means to us on a daily basis?"
This has been a little bit of a petri dish, an experiment to say, "Can I actually do it?" What I realized was, yes, it works. We're at a really nice scale right now. We're growing fast. But even if it was net-net, it's where I want to work every day; selfishly, I wanted to create the environment.
Getting actually to your question, you asked about the capital. We've raised $28 million to date and my lead investor, who came in about two years ago, put a big chunk of that $28 million in. I'd known him for two or three years.
I say to a lot of my friends who raise capital: "The VCs, they don't care about your partners. They don't care about your customers. They don't care about your employees." At the deepest level, they don't, and I do believe that. They can say what they want. They just don't.
But fundamentally, do they share similar values of how they want to treat human beings? Fundamentally, are they good people? They're going to be with you with good times and bad times, so I can care about my customers, care about my employees, and care about my partners?
Gardner: You just openly acknowledge the truth that they're there for returns, but screen them for people you want to hang out with while they're on that journey with you.
Remer: That's what I believe.
Gardner: So, if they invested two years ago, you're now in a cycle -- we have a lot of business owners and founders at The Motley Fool -- so you're on a cycle of let's say somewhere between five, seven, 10 years where there's an exit that comes into the picture. How do you think about that now from where you are?
Remer: We were around five years prior to them coming in, so we had some time with that. To me, an exit ... If I can partner with an organization that gives my vision and the platform and the value we're providing to our small business, greater scale and more ability to touch more people, that's a very positive thing.
Ultimately, when you raise outside capital an exit is reality. It's either going to be whether you go public or we find another partner. Eyes are wide open in terms of expectations all around the table, but I actually think that at a certain point of time in the relative, not-so-distant future, we can utilize the scale of a larger organization to bring some of our core values from a cultural standpoint and some of the core product and value we're providing to the ecosystem, at a much greater scale.
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