A field organizer by trade, launching a company wasn’t initially the end goal for Ari Trujillo-Wesler. But when the original prototype for OpenField turned into an early waitlist of some 50 progressive organizations with an interest in using the eventual product, a political tech startup it became.
“It very much ended up being the right solution to a lot of problems that I was having as an organizer, but also that I found a lot of other folks on the ground were running into,” Trujillo-Wesler told C&E.
One thing OpenField’s co-founders learned quickly: Turning a platform or a piece of tech into a business requires an expanded skillset.
“I think especially for those of us who are coming from organizing space, we have to learn how to business,” Trujillo-Wesler said. “It’s not hard to learn. I want to be very clear, it is not harder than learning how the caucuses work, but it is it’s own witchcraft and it is it’s own learning curve.”
The most important pieces to get right: What’s the parlance? What’s most important to investors and stakeholders? And what’s the best way to continually communicate those things?
“Figuring out how to organize your audience will take its own amount of time, and it’s very helpful to have a friendly audience that is already invested in your success to give you advice and coaching as you’re [figuring out] what is the authentic way for you to show up in these spaces.”
Another key to the funding process for founders: Getting comfortable with the different types of conversations you’ll need to have with different investors, whether it’s an angel investor, a pitch to an accelerator, or to a more traditional VC funder.
“I have a potential angel investor who’s an engineer and I talk to him about scaling and about his suggestions and his advice and his experience. I have another funder that has invested in us previously [and] we had a whole conversation about our product development timeline and actual targets for 2022,” Trujillo-Wesler said. “And then another conversation I had with a traditional VC where really the question and conversation is more about … what are the other verticals and markets where this is applicable?”
And while raising money before you launch is “particularly scary,” Trujillo-Wesler said that once you’re able to speak the language of a potential investor, the path to getting them to connect with your vision for the tech is a much smoother one.