Early-Stage Advice for Billionaire Startup Founder

I read an article about Andrew Bialecki, founder of Klaviyo. He started the company in 2012, and it went public this week. As of the writing of this post, the company has a market capitalization of $8.5 billion. Bialecki owns approximately 38% of the company— shares worth over $3 billion.

In the article, Bialecki gives a simple, but important, piece of advice: “My advice to founders: Raise as little as you need and prove some traction with customers. Once you do that, fundraising for the rest of your life gets a lot easier.”

Bialecki and his cofounder didn’t have venture backing when they started the company; they bootstrapped it. They focused on getting to profitability and then went out to raise capital after they had 1,000 customers and $1 million in revenue.

That approach put Bialecki and his cofounder in the driver’s seat with investors and ultimately led to their owning an outsize percentage of the company when it went public.

I like this advice and their approach. It drives founders to focus on building something customers will find value in and pay for—versus building something investors are interested in. If you create value for enough customers and they pay for it, investors will always get on board. But if you’ve had your eye on investors instead of customers, you may be disappointed.