04/08/2013 04:52 pm ET Updated Jun 08, 2013

Early Stage Funding? More Like Fun-'dying'

I started my company a few months ago and I have always been on guard for potential funding that would help me grow it faster. At the very early stage, I would pitch my idea to angel investors that were all asking me for a proof of concept and a prototype, while others dictated me what team members I should bring on board (I still remember vividly the guy who insisted I get a tech co-founder even though my venture is a retail company). I was facing the chicken-and-egg problem: I needed capital to move forward but I needed a prototype to get funding. Fortunately, scientists solved the problem (it's the egg that came first), but in the seed funding case I don't think a solution has been found. I have friends who received funding in two weeks by pitching the idea and relying heavily on data that came from market research, while others took very long time to raise a round and their company has already been generating revenue.

The fundraising experience in my case has been a bit strange. I spent hours and money going to events that connected investors and entrepreneurs and facilitated networking. I would always be ready with my elevator pitch, the data dropping lines that all investors want to hear with regards to the market's size, revenue streamline, gross margins, the humble-bragging bio that would signal my expertise and my poker face that made me look confident and serious on the outside despite the feeling of embarrassment for asking for money.

Yet, all the people I've met in these events were weird. They would show interest and ask the appropriate questions, saying that they have been investing in startups for the last x number of years, and then they would ask me for a meeting to follow up on the conversation and learn more about the venture. Sounds normal so far, right? Well, the meetings were not so normal. One of my favorite quotes that I've heard (favorite because I can share it with friends and laugh along) was that "as a woman, you can get married and not work at all" presumably to the guy who said it. Examples from other meetings include "where do you want your children to go to school?", "have you dated an older guy?", "would you like to join me at the president's inaugural ball?", "my first (or the second) marriage didn't work out, but I am now ready to settle," "I have an apartment in Manhattan and a house up-state New York" and so on.

Time is the most valuable resource everyone has, and as Benjamin Franklin said, "Lost time can never be found again." The investors' intention to find their first, second or third wife in these events was rather amusing (they could simply sign up for online dating or go to appropriate social events) but it did cost my time as it was not stated up front and was masked under the "let's talk about your venture and the funding you need"; more like fun-dying...

With these experiences I figured that I may not have excess amount of money, but I do have time and I'd better use it wisely. I stopped going to these events and focused on creating Lady & Lara's prototype by bootstrapping, or better said, by fearlessly using all my savings and my unlimited reserves of creativity and all of my friends' help. Focusing on launching the beta website, building a team and operating normally, gave me some time to breathe and stay away from fundraising. This strategy not only helped me move forward and have a proof-of-concept and data while pitching, but also attracted serious investors. Now it's time to go back to the mattresses.