Bioself Technology, the makers of Sensate and our cohort company, have successfully closed their pre-seed round, above the target of $1m.
Sensate is a first-to market, palm-sized, pebble-like device that can be used by anyone to improve mental wellbeing and build stress resilience with a 10-minute daily session.
We talked to Bioself Technology’s phenomenal CEO, Anna Gudmundson to hear what her experience was like, what are the lessons she leaned and any helpful tips she can share with founders who are currently raising funds as well.
How would you summarize this funding experience?
Raising seed money for a business that doesn’t fall into standard categories is more challenging. We’re in a pioneering category of wellbeing and stress management and as much as there’s a lot of interest, however, not everyone has the guts to go outside known methods and similar products. I believe during the first few months of the pandemic, seed/pre-seed funding fell some 80-90%. We had good traction with passionate angels and had recently started the round, but when the pandemic hit most of our open conversations closed. I had to adjust our funding strategy responsively and learn to connect with new funds over zoom. And many zoom meetings have there been…
What tips can you give founders raising money during a global pandemic?
Firstly, assess what impact this has had both on your business, particularly its positioning and strategy, as well as the funding landscape. A lot has shifted which has been devastating in some areas but opened new opportunities in others. Expect a longer time to close, manage cash very closely and all that… Secondly, meeting on zoom is different. I had to change how I pitch and be a lot more deliberate about how to connect with people, something that was more natural to me when meeting in person. Building relationships remotely requires extra communication and clarity. Better to over-communicate, the extra effort shows and makes a difference.
What are some of the lessons you have learned while raising this round?
I have mainly gained a lot more experience due to the sheer number of investors I have pitched to in this round. A lot. To take this to a personal level, when I raised money some years ago I knew I didn’t have the same background as the silicon valley community I was pitching to and I tried to ‘fit in’ to their culture, it was more of a performance. This time I am more comfortable and want investors to understand who I am, as well as my co-founder and the business; if it’s not a match, it’s of mutual benefit that we don’t partner. So I have enjoyed the fundraise a lot more and it has been an absolute pleasure meeting all the investors, whether they invested or not.
How will that money serve Sensate’s growth?
We exceeded our funding target and it is great to have some extra cash during these uncertain times, but equally important, gaining traction early on is critical. The funds will allow us to scale up production and invest more in our marketing. Those are the two main things. We’ll add a few resources to our lean team and there’s a bit going into product development as well.
Who are the people that helped in this round?
Expert Dojo has been incredibly supportive and the very early funding, as well as the accelerator, was a game-changer for the business. Minnie Ingersol from TenOneTen Ventures, who was introduced by Expert Dojo, has been relentless in her support and the team there has been great to interact with. They also introduced Unlock Venture Partners, who closed the round. We feel incredibly fortunate with our investors! Both the angels and funds are passionate and helpful.
And our team of course, everything is teamwork!
What are the challenges you faced closing this round?
Angel, pre-seed and seed investments dropping dramatically; prior to getting Expert Dojo in we relied on our own investor networks and it was harder to get a meeting with many funds; shifting everything to digital platforms presented its own challenges; and the general uncertainty made planning harder. I think we dealt with the challenges pretty well. There was never a moment I considered stopping, but many where we had to change to do things differently. And we’re a close team that I absolutely love working with. I always felt rooted for and supported in any possible way.
What is the mindset that keeps you positive in your journey?
I’m very grateful for the various practices and techniques I have to motivate myself. Sometimes digging deep. But the pandemic has made me a lot more grateful and conscious about what really matters. The world needs our product and in the scheme of things, I have nothing to complain about. I’m feeling very fortunate.
What would you want people to consider when it comes to coping with stress and anxiety in the current climate?
As a silver lining, the conversation about mental health is no longer taboo. The pandemic has increased global awareness, understanding, and experiences of stress and anxiety. The majority of people suffer with some level of anxiety. This has a known effect on individual wellbeing, immune system and even mental capabilities, never mind the direct discomfort that comes with severe stress and anxiety. I believe that Sensate has the ability to have a global impact by allowing the majority of people who don’t have personal alternative practices to reduce stress, such as breathwork or meditation, to find some calm, reduce the negative impacts of stress, and get a better night’s sleep. We have a lot of issues to deal with on the planet right now, and we need people to be able to cope with their day-to-day in order to have the capacity to create positive change.