DQventures is the only startup builder/venture investor worldwide to support experienced founders who cannot afford to give up full-time employment. Here's why:
Our key beliefs
Experienced founders, who have enjoyed a successful career before launching a startup, are statistically more likely to succeed than those who have not (you can find links to research by Harvard here and MIT here). This is at least in part because they have acquired knowledge, skills, reputation, and contacts that give them an unfair advantage.
The problem is that, for many experienced professionals, financial pressures, families, and other responsibilities make launching a startup practically impossible. Therefore, without help, many of the world's most promising founders will never start a company. Instead they will be left wondering, "what if?"
For those that do start, the pressure is high. First-time founders in their twenties can afford to fail, maybe more than once. More experienced founders, on the other hand, have to get it right first time.
The thing is, having a successful career and launching a startup are two very different things. One doesn't necessarily give you the tools to do the other. For instance, how does a job teach you to start with nothing, build a tech platform, find product-market fit, raise capital, or deliver a positive exit for shareholders?
Fortunately, founders can dramatically improve their chances of success by a) finding the right cofounders, advisors, and investors, and b) following a proven formula.
This is why DQventures exists.
DQventures' purpose is to make a positive impact on the planet, on our investors and employees, and on the founders and companies we help to launch. We believe the best way to do this is to enable exceptional founders who, without us, may never be discovered, and give them the tools they need to succeed.
What makes us different?
DQventures only works with idea-stage founders who are still employed in their day jobs. If you've already incorporated your company or have built an MVP you're probably already too late for us.
Our whole process is focused on de-risking the startup journey, so that we can attract senior professionals to make the transition from employee to founder. Like a venture studio, we know the steps required to launch and fund a software company. Unlike a venture studio, we don't work on our own ideas. We support people who have an intimate understanding of an industry and a problem, but to whom the startup world is a complete unknown.
We work together with our founders for as long as it takes to launch some kind of prototype or minimum viable product (MVP). We talk to the first users and modify until we achieve some proof that it's working. Finally, we use that proof to raise some pre-seed capital - enough to give the founder 18 months of runway, and a modest salary. The MVP, the early traction, and the funding gives the founders the confidence to quit their job, knowing they have a decent chance of success, and have the support of partners who will help them avoid major mistakes.
We provide two things that working professionals can't get anywhere else: the flexibility and horsepower to start a venture without first leaving their job, and the expertise of a cofounding team that has launched and invested in more than 80 startups, with successful exits of up to $100m.
Our business model
We look for aspiring entrepreneurs (we call them "our founders") with decades of experience, who are still employed full time. These founders are typically experts in their chosen sector. They have an implicit knowledge of the problem they wish to tackle, and they know how they want to solve it. It's at this point they've become stuck. They simply don't know how to start or to get funded. Sometimes they will have commissioned a developer to build some software. In all likelihood, however, they will then have stumbled obtaining users or raising capital.
We do things differently.
Instead of encouraging them to leave their well-paid jobs, we ask our founders to remain employed. At their stage of life, an extra six months of work can equate to tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars. For mid-career professionals, this can pay for more than a few mortgage instalments, school fees, and weekly shops.
While our founders continue earning, we step in as cofounders. We estimate it costs around $75,000 to go from idea to pre-seed funding. Of this, we ask each of our founders to contribute $20,000 in cash. The rest comes from DQ, whose team provides the time, tools and assets to go from idea to funding.
From this point on, we and our founders are business partners and cofounders. Together, we typically spend 6 months building out the business proposition, MVP, and preparing to speak to investors. We define the venture's purpose, the problem we're solving, the scope and vision of the solution, and - crucially - who will use it, and why. We don't ask for any further financial contribution. Instead, we take a 20% stake in the business we launch together, with the remaining 80% belonging to the founder.
While our founders continue to work full time, giving up evenings and weekends as and when they can, the DQ team fills in the blanks. Together, we work through our proprietary startup programme. This provides the essential building blocks of the business, the output of which will be everything we need to build a successful business:
- A business plan, explaining what we will do and how.
- An investment deck, with which we can pitch to investors.
- Proof of traction, demonstrating that this is a business that people need. This typically takes the form of a prototype and the results of some test marketing.
As we progress through the steps above, the business will become more tangible, and how we go about testing our hypotheses will grow clearer. The goal will be to create the proof that investors need in order to decide that our venture is worth backing. Who is this for, how do we know they want it, and how much will they pay?
With these questions answered, our founders will be ready to pitch for investment. Not only will they have the option to pitch to DQ's own investment panel, but also we will draw upon our network of investor contacts around the world.
We remain heavily involved throughout the investment process, providing support, process, and paperwork, where needed. After that, as the business becomes funded and self-sufficient, our involvement diminishes. We continue to support our founders indefinitely, but post-funding we play an advisory role, rather than being employees in the business. Nevertheless, having been through multiple sales, acquisitions, and funding rounds, we are always on hand to provide support where it's needed, right through to exit.