Wine and Fundraising + Fundraising Fieldnotes - 5.28.21

Hey - it’s Jason Yeh 🕺🏻

This is my Friday recap of notes I jotted down while helping founders solve their fundraising challenges this past week (5.28.21)

If you have any questions, please reply! I try to get to every comment/question I get :)

Wine and Fundraising

Last week, my parents visited California so my sister and I took some time off to take them to Sonoma for a few days of wine tasting. That said, time off doesn’t change the way I think or keep me from being fascinated by different businesses like the wine industry. 3 days in Napa and Sonoma packed my head with thoughts I wanted to share.

Anyone in a marketing or sales role or who has to engage in storytelling (hint: nearly everyone in business) needs to spend time in wine country regardless of their affinity for wine. Beyond just being a gorgeous place, Napa and Sonoma are cities built around an industry driven by marketing and its main tourist attraction, wine tasting, gives you a front-row seat to some of the best storytellers in the game.

Wine is essentially grape juice. Grape juice costs about $5 for the equivalent of about 4 bottles of wine on Instacart:

When you wrap grape juice in incredible layers of marketing and storytelling (aka provenance) get wine that can sell for thousands of dollars. Fun fact, the most expensive bottle of wine ever sold for $304k.

While sitting through wine tastings and listening to all the elements of particular varietals, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between the wine introductions I was hearing and effective fundraising narratives.

During a wine tasting, all the elements that went into developing a wine are described very intentionally and with glowing enthusiasm. I might think that the wine sitting in front of me is way too tart, perhaps a result of being grown in a harsh and chilly environment. Instead, I’m told it is

An eye-opening wine with fresh citrus notes that is given its complex flavor from the high-mineral soil in a special area of the Napa Valley that just barely touches the fogline and has consistent 64-degree temperatures.

Every element from the flavor to the inputs into the process is carefully mentioned with an intentional and positive bend.

In a workshop I teach on communicating change while fundraising, I encourage founders to do something similar. Every element of a startup, even during seemingly negative times, can be described through a positive lens. A company could be pivoting away from a failed strategy or it could be taking their learnings from their first iteration to launch an updated approach. It could be shutting down an underperforming product or tightening their focus on their best products. They could have failed to raise the full $2MM or actively closed a round early at $1.5MM to avoid wasting time and get back to growing the company…

In both wine tasting and startup fundraising, the story that gets told greatly affects the consumption experience. On one side, the story is the difference between grape juice and a wonderful wine whose narrative captivates you and convinces you it’s worthy of buying a few bottles to take back. On the other, the story can be the difference between a polite pass and a million-dollar term sheet.

Note: apologies to my wine aficionado friends who may have bristled at my ‘wine is grape juice’ statement. Hyperbole.

An excellent take on the value of angel investors

I usually tell founders the real reason is they just couldn’t get excited. PG is more candid.

Till next week. Stay adamant and be chased.


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p.s. Have you seen this meme? Apparently it’s old but it gets me every time.

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