Timing the Market and Optimizing Capital with Shawn Bercuson, BullVC

Meet Shawn Bercuson, Founder & General Partner of BullVC, who took center stage as the Featured Founder at May’s RevRoad University. Here are four lessons we learned from Shawn at the event:

1. The Relationship Between Success and Luck

Through Shawn’s entrepreneurial experiences, he has learned that you need to have the right idea at the right time.

“I’ve seen really great ideas and good teams fail because the time was wrong; and I’ve seen really bad teams and bad products succeed because the time was right.”

Shawn claims that he and the founding team at Groupon became the fastest-growing company ever partially because their timing was right. In 2008, there was little focus on small businesses. This allowed them to directly contact the decision-makers of small businesses, a task that would be much more difficult today.

“I don’t think we were any different than any other scrappy startup, aside from the fact that we were just really lucky and had the right idea at the right place and right time.”

On the flip side, when Shawn later launched a video analytics platform, known as Prescreen, he suffered from poor timing. Though a promising idea, the venture failed to build meaningful traction demonstrating that even the most promising startups can fail if the market isn’t ready.

2. Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

Entrepreneurs often overlook the challenges that venture capitalists in raising their own funds. 

“When I was raising, what I quickly realized as an entrepreneur is that I have to put myself in their shoes. What are they looking for? How is their portfolio constructed? What are they missing? What are they focusing on? Even though they invested in a company in a similar space and maybe it’s fintech—well, maybe they don’t want another fintech company. Maybe they have to balance that out with cybersecurity.”

He follows this same principle as a general partner at a venture firm pitching to big family offices, endowments, and institutions. Do your research beforehand to see if there may be a potential fit, or if the conversation would be a waste of time for both parties.

Time is a limited resource. And if I’m talking to them for an hour, I’m not talking to somebody else for an hour.

Understand what the investors seated at the other side of the table are thinking and looking for before requesting a meeting. Be smart about who you are talking to and how you position your company.

Shawn Bercuson of BullVC sits on the stage at RevRoad University.

3. Competing for VC dollars in a Crowded Market

“You’re not competing against all your individual competitors in the space. You’re competing against everybody else who wants to raise capital and is talking to these same [investors].”

Shawn estimates that even small boutique VC firms are meeting with approximately 400 companies a year and only investing in 6-8 per year—that’s just over 1%. He advises entrepreneurs to keep this in mind when building their pitch deck to strategically position their companies to stand out from the crowd. 

4. What Investors Are Looking For 

As in most things—it depends. 

In early-stage companies, investors want to see capital efficiency, profitability, and really big markets. In late-stage companies, the focus is profitability, gross margins, and a proven track record of growth. 

In years past, companies may have spent $0.80 to earn $1, and that was acceptable because they were growing a strong user base. Venture Capital dollars would be spent to subsidize those costs and help scale. Shawn reckons that we won’t be seeing that type of allocation in today’s VC environment.

“The good news is we have a lot more resources at our disposal that reduce costs. There’re all these tools available to us as startups so that we can be more capital efficient. And I think that investors want to see that those companies are utilizing those tools”. 

RevRoad University is a monthly lunch & learn event for entrepreneurs. Enjoy a short training on the best practices for your business. Then, hear from a Featured Founder on the ups, downs, & lessons they have learned throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Join us online at youtube.com/revroad or in person at 412 W River’s Edge Dr., Provo, UT 84604 (RevRoad HQ).

Scrappy Startup Strategies with Chari Pack of Persnickety Prints

Meet Chari Pack, the entrepreneur behind Persnickety Prints, who took center stage as our Featured Founder at April’s RevRoad University

In this interview, Chari divulges her scrappy strategies for scaling her business – and we’re not just referring to her love for scrapbooking! 

Here are five lessons we learned from Chari.

1. Scrappy methods lead to big successes. 

Chari bootstrapped Persnickety Prints from $0 to $1 million in only three years, never spending a dime on advertising. 

The infancy of her business coincided with the rise of the Internet. Chari got creative and found free marketing channels through online forums and blinkies on blogging sites.  

She printed coupons and handed them out anywhere she could find a crowd—parades, rodeos, etc. Chari purchased second-hand equipment for her print shop and used furniture for the lobby. 

“Sometimes we think we need to have a glass house up on the high corridor with our big name out front in order to be a legit business—or think we need to have all this money and funding. But I didn’t believe that. I didn’t want it. For me, it wasn’t really about the name or the status.”

For Chari, true success meant sticking with lean strategies and staying debt-free while growing her business.

2. Patience + passion = perseverance

Chari started her business when she was 35, after years of changing diapers and scrapbooking from her kitchen table.

When she found something she was passionate about—telling stories through printed photos—working through problems was fun and she enjoyed the journey. 

“I think a lot of us see the end result of a business and we don’t realize how hard it is to get to that point. A lot of people start businesses and quit, saying, ‘This is too hard.’ But it’s been hard for everyone.”

Very few businesses go from zero to hero in under five years. There is no get-rich-quick scheme and there is no predictable path to scaling.

In the era of instant gratification with everything at our fingertips, Chari emphasizes that building a business takes time. There will be ups and downs and in-betweens. But those who are willing to hustle and pivot along the way will rise to the top.

Chari Pack, founder of Persnickety Prints, chats with Brittany Ouimette, RevRoad PR specialist, during RevRoad University

3. Experience the world to find problems to solve. 

Everybody has some entrepreneurialism inside them. And people rarely set out to start a business just for the sake of starting a business. 

Most businesses are born from someone who discovered a problem that needed solving.

“I had no business plan, zero education, and had no clue what I was doing. I just tried everything,” Chari recounted.

She taught her children to get out and experience life because that’s how problems are discovered.

“I think one disservice we offer to our kids sometimes is giving them everything.”

Chari believes that great things need to be worked for.  From wishing your ski boot clipped differently to wondering why some photo shops print richer colors than others, thinking outside the box to find solutions will lead you down the path to solving real-world problems. 

4. Success looks different to everyone

It’s easy to compare your business and your success to others. You may read a headline that so-and-so company raised $20 million, or so-and-so landed a deal with Elon Musk. But that doesn’t mean those things are right for your business. 

“Every person, every entrepreneur is different—they have different strengths and weaknesses. And every business model is different,” Chari said.

Chari advocates that success is not one-size-fits-all and counsels that comparison is destructive to growth. 

For some, success is defined by money and raising funds to scale quickly. But for Chari, success meant balance in life and financial freedom.

5. Letting go to grow

For the last decade, Chari aimed for consistent 10% year-over-year growth.

Business was thriving and her team was shipping out thousands of orders per day, but Chari knew there were additional growth opportunities. Expanding into different markets, buying new equipment, building out larger teams—there were so many avenues, but Chari didn’t feel she was capable of doing it herself. 

“You start a business and it becomes your baby. It’s my fourth child. I’m so emotionally invested in it, but I also want it to succeed,” Chari shared.

Despite this deep connection, Chari recognized the need to step aside to facilitate the business’s expansion.

“I felt like I was the one stalling it a little bit because there’s so many opportunities with it,” Chari reflected.

“I have to put it in someone else’s hands—someone that has more people and resources.” 

Last year she found the right buyer and sold her company to enable its continual growth. 

RevRoad University is a monthly lunch & learn event for entrepreneurs. Enjoy a short training on the best practices for your business. Then, hear from a Featured Founder on the ups, downs, & lessons they have learned throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Join us online at youtube.com/revroad or in person at 412 W River’s Edge Dr., Provo, UT 84604 (RevRoad HQ).