For our new blog series, 'How We Met,' we're interviewing our portfolio companies to learn more about their first encounter with the Verizon Ventures team and what went into raising their first round of funding. This week, Swiftmile CEO Colin Roche reflects on how he connected with our investors and why he enjoys the startup fundraising process.
Describe the first time you met investors from Verizon Ventures, were you nervous, excited, something else?
We first met Verizon Ventures through Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award competition. We were chosen as a winner out of 1,500 companies from 78 countries, and there were multiple rounds we had to make it through over six months. It finally came down to a “Shark Tank” style final where we pitched in front of a panel of five experts in transportation and a big crowd of Verizon employees. They announced the winners at a red carpet event 30 days later where we won $250,000. The event was an incredible experience and allowed us to meet many Verizon executives we would never have had the chance to otherwise. Many months later, Verizon Ventures ended up leading our first funding round. We went in with a lot of excitement because at that point we had some proven market traction and product market fit, and had made inroads working with some of Verizon's IoT units.
How did it feel to raise your first round of funding? What did you do to celebrate?
It goes without saying how excited we were. Raising money is much harder than people think. Aside from celebrating that first critical funding, we were most happy with the enormity of our idea being validated by a Fortune 14 company. This opened many doors for us and blew a strong wind into our sails. We celebrated by hopping on our electric Swiftbikes and going for a ride to our favorite pub for a pint or two.
How did you know Verizon Ventures was the investment team for you?
We were fortunate in that our first round was oversubscribed, giving us a large pool of investors to meet with. Verizon Ventures was by far the most aligned for many reasons. As it turned out, our electric bike share solution fit well with Verizon's plans for Smart Cities, Thingspace, and their overall IoT ecosystem.
What was the most difficult part about raising money?
There are so many startups for investors to choose from so you really have to stand out. In other words, no matter how much you plan on raising, it's important to come with your A-game. Believe it or not, we enjoyed the fundraising process and drew strength from all of the investors that are now part of this journey. The process of raising money helps sharpen and crystalize any startup's vision and often produces learnings that can tremendously help business growth.
What did you do the day after you raised your first round?
Ironically, the next day we had an important meeting with one of our biggest customers that had piloted our first generation e-bike share system. The outcome was what we hoped for, and they agreed to a much larger rollout of our system. Since that day, we've been full steam ahead.