I sat down (virtually) with Min Kyu Jung, founder of Accord, to talk about his recent — and unexpected — fundraising journey.
Min Kyu is one of those founders you just know will be successful. He’s humble, hard-working, and his fundraising journey is one most founders only dream of.
Based in New Zealand, he single-handedly just raised Accord’s first round of capital from a US investor three months after starting the company, for almost NZ$600,000 — and he did it through a Twitter DM.
Tell us about your journey to Accord.
I was a corporate lawyer at a big law firm in New Zealand, doing mainly capital markets and M&A work. I had an idea for a product that would make the process of building contracts easier. One day I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore, and that this idea sounded much more fun, so I left my job.
My technical background was limited to knowing a little bit of web dev, but I had no idea how to build an entire sophisticated web app capable of being used by actual people. So I spent a few months learning how to build web-apps full time, and then I started working on Accord. I underestimated how much there was to learn — in retrospect I might not have started in the first place if I had realised how much ground there was to cover. So I was probably lucky to be naive.
Wow, that’s impressive. Was it a tough decision to leave the safety of your corporate law job to start Accord?
The actual act of pulling the trigger and resigning was really hard, because for a long time my identity was wrapped up in either being a corporate lawyer, or training to be a corporate lawyer, and it was hard to let go of that. It almost felt like it would be an admission of failure to close the book on the possibility of a long and successful corporate law career.
But making the decision to leave was easy, because I realised I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as a lawyer and I was just delaying the inevitable by sticking around. So it was a big decision but it was definitely the right one — and Accord has been so much fun to work on.
So, how on earth did you raise almost $600k on Twitter?!
I should add a disclaimer here — I got extremely lucky, and I don’t think my process is very reproducible. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and I follow someone called Daniel Gross, who’s a well-known entrepreneur and angel investor in the US. He tweeted something one day asking where he could find legal templates, and I sent him a cold DM saying something like “my website is a place you can find legal templates!”
He seemed interested in what I was building, so we set up a call to talk about Accord. I went away after the first meeting, built out some features and showed him a demo to see if he would be interested in being a customer — and then after a second meeting, he sent me an email saying that he was excited about my idea, and offered to be an investor in Accord. I didn’t have to think twice. It took us maybe two emails to finalise terms after that. It was a very non-adversarial discussion.
How did you build the relationship with Daniel, given you couldn’t meet in person with current Covid travel restrictions?
We had a couple of calls and talked over email, but these were mainly product-centric conversations. They weren’t conversations about fundraising — Daniel never asked me for a pitch deck or anything like that. So it was really organic.
I don’t want to extrapolate too widely from my single experience, but I also wonder if something like this would have been possible a few years ago. I’m not sure it would have been, at least not as easily. When most investors are meeting founders in person in the Bay Area, it becomes a competitive disadvantage if you’re based remotely. Whereas if nobody is doing in-person meetings, that levels the playing field. At least, that’s what I suspect. It doesn’t hurt that macroeconomic conditions for fundraising are very good for startups at the moment.
What would be your biggest piece of advice for founders now that you’ve gone through the process?
I don’t know how applicable my situation is to other founders, but based on my personal experience, I’d avoid seeing early-stage fundraising as an adversarial process. Maybe this is different in later funding rounds, but generally, I’d try to avoid coming off as a salesman-type person and instead focus on working together in a high-trust way.
Also, I’d try to spend as little time as possible thinking about fundraising — sorry Elizabeth!
Well, Diligr is aiming to help founders spend less time fundraising so that works well!
Yeah, exactly! Fundraising feels really good when people are giving you attention, but I’m glad I was able to get it out of the way really quickly and painlessly with minimal distraction.
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– Elizabeth van Rooyen