How a16z ended up investing in us: story of a kid who had no idea what the hell he was doing

by farza — aug 28, 2023

A lot of ppl ask me about how a16z ended up investing in us…

So I wanna share it for the first time.

I hope it helps at least one person out there.

Few things:

1) I'm a solo founder.
2) I had never raised money before.
3) I had been building companies since 13 and built a bunch of stuff to 1M+ users -- but, never a startup.

I was kinda dumb in 2019.

I didn't know how to pitch and didn't wanna learn because pitching was cringe to me.

My philosophy was if I built something really cool and talked about it online -- people would reach out + just invest in me.

So, I did just that.

I was building ZipHomeschool at the time by myself at my Mom's house.

It was a piece of software to help parents create a legal homeschool for their child (kinda like Stripe Atlas, but for homeschools lol).

I built the MVP + got my first customer in the first week.

4-mo later, Zip was doing well.

I built the product, I had my first 50 customers, I had some solid momentum.

Being dumb was working out.

The more I talked about my progress online, the more I had amazing people reach out to help out.

Side note.

This was a brutal period of my life.

I was insanely hard on myself.

Friends are important.

I had my buddy Furqan to lean on. Talking to him even once a week about my co's problems gave me a lot of strength. He was always there for me, still is.

Ty Furqan.

In May 2020...

I got a cold email.

a16z hits me up.

Mom get the camera.

The call ends up going well.

I just talked about stuff like our customers, growth, and my vision for a whole operating system for the next 10M homeschoolers.

After the call -- they ask details around how much I am raising.

I wanna make it clear.

I had no idea what I was doing.

If you know me in person, you know I am honest to a fault -- I will say exactly what I am thinking.

So when a16z asked me how much I was raising, I literally said that I was a noob.

Screenshot of email I sent after call.

Surprisingly -- Anne + Connie didn't leave me on read after this one lol.

We end up arriving at a next step.

For the next 2-mo, I would talk to a16z once per week for 30m and give them a progress update + brainstorm new ideas.

I was told by many to not do this.

To instead run a "competitive" process but I just felt that was dumb game.

These weekly calls ended up being great.

It was perfect for them -- they could get more data on me.

And, it was perfect for me -- I could just keep building and if my co blew up up either:

a) they'd probably invest:
b) i just end up profitable lol.

In those 2-mo, I end up doing a big pivot.

I pivot from legal software to building Twitch for teachers where teachers streamed classes live to thousands of kids.

We go viral -- getting 100,000 class joins a week + millions of mins streamed a week.

The company is still just me.

After those 2-mo, a16z decides to invest $2M.

I got the valuation I wanted.

Here's the actual entry from my journal on that day I got the call lol.

1-mo later papers signed + money wired.

I tell this story because I see a lot of people wasting so much time playing the game of finding investors or using that as an excuse for their lack of progress.

In reality, you simply need to put out really good work to an audience that grows over a long horizon.

That is it.

2-years later we pivot away from K-5.

Same team, same company, same cap table.

We started working on this curious new idea called buildspace

It ends up getting pretty big and raises $10M -- half that coming from a16z who ended up doubling down on us.

Life is weird.

Keep your head up.

Stay shipping.

- Farza (founder @ buildspace)

P.S: if you got a friend who might like, text them this :) — click for imessage or whatsapp.