The Million Dollar Memo

It was March, 2000, and the market was crashing. The Internet world as we knew it would never be the same. Startup CEOs who were gazillionaires on paper one day were broke the next. And I was trying to close my first round of financing. After rounds of meetings, conversations and emails, I thought I was pretty close to closing a deal for $750,000. But the investors weren’t convinced. They had sent me one last round of questions. Here’s how I replied. I like to call this my million dollar memo:

Dear David and Bill,

I really appreciate the time and thought you’ve put into this process thus far, and I know you still have some concerns that are preventing you from taking the plunge with me. But, please hear me out before making a final decision.

1) This is a “real” business.
a) There is a huge market for mediabistro’s services.
Companies spend over $2 billion dollars a year trying to hire the people in our target verticals. Without even trying, we’ve captured a portion of that in the NY region in one vertical. And, we’re already getting many job listings from other parts of the country and in other verticals.

With your money, we can get our name out there more quickly and effectively and capitalize on a very clear market need that we’ve identified in the media industry.

b) inc. has a solid and growing customer base.
Over 300 customers (from Fairchild Publications to ZDNet to The Wall Street Journal) are currently posting jobs on the web site, coming back to the site and reposting more jobs (see attached list). These customers do NOT have a personal relationship with me. They hear about the site through word of mouth.

With your money, we can reach them more directly.

c) has loyal site users.
Over 80,000 journalists/media people come to the web site a month, far beyond the number who know Laurel Touby. Furthermore, news of the web site has spread virally, nationwide and even world-wide. Yes, we have loyalists, but I think you have mistaken the people who come to my parties and who know me personally for my customer base. Please allow me to disabuse you of this notion. I could not possibly be fulfilling the needs of 100 to 150 employers a month with my relatively tiny (4,000 names) database of loyal Laurel followers. They’d be doing a lot of job-hunting, if that were the case!

e) mediabistro has a brilliant marketing plan
We have clever (inexpensive) ways of reaching our target market and letting them know about our web site — through their friends, through our parties and co-sponsored events such as the one you attended May 3rd. Like and and other similar business models, ours is a viral community, and a little bit of marketing goes a long way.

f) mediabistro can attract a management team.
I have absolutely no doubt that if I have some backing, I can attract excellent candidates in our verticals, who have the right experience, contacts and attitude to make our plan work.

2) I have been running a “real” business, with all the verve, chutzpah and ingenuity of any entrepreneur.
I saw a market need, put my own money into developing the web site, convinced clients to use a new type of service that was NOT the norm, delivered a superior product and serviced their accounts with speed and care.

3) I can inspire highly qualified people to join the mediabistro team.
Ask the guys at Kenyon & Kenyon, the biggest intellectual property law firm in America. They took my case PRO-BONO because they like me. Ask my business advisors, Glenn Boyd, co-founder/CEO of WebTrends (a multi-billion software company); Joseph Atick, the CEO of Visionics; Charlie Crystle, founder of Chili Soft (multi-million dollar company); David Gumpert, co-founder of NetMarquee and an author of well-respected business books; Nan Talese (who runs a successful book imprint at Random House);

Ask my 20 volunteers.
Ask my designers and programmers, who donated their time or worked for cut rates because they believed in what I was doing.

If I can get all this wisdom, expertise and man-power with NO MONEY, just imagine what kind of talent I can bring on board if I have backing.

4) This is NOT a cult of personality.
While it has elements of that, this business has its own legs, possibilities and momentum. It will succeed; someone will make it succeed. I want to be that someone.

5) You’re betting on a winner.
I’m hungry, I’m smart, I’m aggressive, I’m a leader, a natural at marketing. I am humble enough to bring expertise in (when this becomes necessary, I’ll be the first to find someone to put in place above me) and listen to it. I can delegate.

6) Remember, I came from nowhere and built a name for myself in New York city, in a cutthroat industry.
If I have to kill myself to make this business work as I envision it can, I will not let you be sorry for getting involved with me.

I do not want your time.

I want your money to leverage my ideas, to grow what is already a vibrant, burgeoning business.

7) Finally, I want you to close your eyes and imagine me with a sex change.

I mean this seriously. Picture me as a young guy: the Jeff Taylor of Media, let’s say — who has achieved as much in as short a time, with as few resources. A small Internet company in a booming market, with strong REVENUES, customers, loyal site visitors, personal charisma, a team of willing and able business advisors, etc. Would you hesitate an instant to back such a fellow?

I can’t help feeling that my chutzpah (like that of so many other female entrepreneurs who have trouble getting funding) is no match for a lack of testosterone…I am Woman. Help me roar.

Guys, I want you to know that I really treasure my correspondence with you thus far. Rarely have I come upon two people with whom I’ve felt such an instant affinity. There are lots of places I could be going to get money (we both know this). I want you.

Let’s not break the chain. Let’s make the fun happen.

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