Entrepreneur May Hibib shares her experience of securing a seed round to access capital for her start-up during the pandemic and outlines the impact of seed capital in developing a new business.
Timing is everything in a seed round. If it comes too early, you may not quite have your vision baked. If your capital comes too late, you may have missed your market window.
Pandemic aside, May Habib, the cofounder and CEO of San-Francisco-based Writer, experienced some Goldilocks-grade “just right” timing with her seed round. Habib closed her funding round on March 3, 2020. Most capital froze up in late March of last year as VCs, PEs, banks, and even your Uncle Charlie decided to sit on their cash until they could assess what was ahead.
Seed entrepreneurs are accustomed to being under the microscope as they refine their financial model, secure early customers, and prove their business case. For Habib, a serial entrepreneur who had raised funding before, the pandemic introduced a new level of uncertainty to navigate with executives trapped in their homes, and more time on their hands to evaluate and over-evaluate their next moves.
With a cadence of investor board meetings every six weeks—more frequently than she had done in her past funding experiences—Habib was able to be direct and adjust her plan in an agile fashion. Part of this was an early shift away from revenue milestones to product engagement milestones, which freed her to focus on the product experience and build to suit the visionary early customers.
Writer, which is an AI-writing assistant, found a perfect pocket in the market. With professionals working in a distributed environment, and nearly everyone on the planet at their keyboard trying to pivot their business model, an AI-writing assistant could be a powerful tool. It could help swaths of people write shorter and better, use active voice, eliminate unhelpful jargon and fill in the gaps in their communication.
However, as many seed funders know, it takes business leadership to recognize the vision and sponsor adoption to actualize an idea fully. For Habib, counting Twitter and Intuit among those first customers was a game-changer.
By finding customers for whom online content and constant digital communication are the essence of their brand, she developed her business case in a mission-critical fashion. For these customers, using the right words in real-time isn’t a “nice to have” feature; it is fundamental to success.
Unlike other utilities where writers develop their work and then consult a tool to assess and improve their writing, Writer uses AI to make real-time recommendations (called snippets or autocompletes) in the browser, in email, or in the communication platform based on preapproved company language. As the knowledge base gets smarter, the tool helps professionals avoid problematic language and communicate quickly and on-brand. Importantly, this extends beyond simply being clear, as Writer can help individuals avoid trigger words, passive-aggressive phraseology, gender-specific bias, and other nuances of language that are often missed in an asynchronous environment when the pressure is high.
For Habib, whose family immigrated to America when she was young, the challenge of finding the right words has been a life-long journey. For knowledge workers in Silicon Valley, many of whom have English as a second language, a tool like Writer gives communicators confidence, speed, and accuracy that is a win-win for the individual and the organization counting on their ability to communicate.
Fast forward a year, and now, for the 150 companies that have implemented Writer, using the tool is a helpful habit that has introduced, as Habib calls it, “intelligence at the cursor level.” She refers to her solution, not as a content management system but a “content system” where words themselves are the strategic content of the business. Everyone from the natively educated English speaker to the billionth knowledge worker can communicate better at work—which is to say, be better at work.
2020 was a unique experience for most in the business world. For those seeking seed funding and scaling, it provided a live-or-die business reality to match what many experienced generally in the world. For May Habib, she is living and thriving in a new reality, with new customers, more funding around the corner, and all the right words.
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