These Startups Found Unusual Ways to Get Funded
Securing funds is the first problem an entrepreneur encounters. It often requires courting a venture capital firm with the aim of wowing its members into opening the coffers.
Sadly, there can be only so many winners, and a number of entrepreneurs walk away empty-handed. This is when it's time to be resourceful, to get creative and to engage in truly entrepreneurial thinking.
That can mean taking big risks and potentially courting disaster. But when it's your only shot, it's better than spending the rest of your life wondering, "What if?"
Former investment banker Farbod Shoraka is co-founder and CEO of BloomNation, an online flower marketplace. He got the inspiration from seeing bland designs online and deciding that he could do better.
He enlisted two friends, David Daneshgar and Gregg Weisstein, and their attention turned to the inevitable question of money. They realized they had a unique asset in Daneshgar, who had won a number of events at the 2008 World Series of Poker. He had given up the game but returned to it in 2011 in hopes of funding the venture.
Daneshgar was a winner at the tournament, putting his $27,000 purse into the start-up. It was just enough to hire a developer and obtain 50 square feet of office space--barely adequate to accommodate a desk. It got them up and running, though.
The company gained further backing from the venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Spark Capital, and today more than 2,500 florists nationwide sell on the site.
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Ryan Howard is the CEO of Practice Fusion a cloud-based health record system. It boasts more than 100,000 medical professionals and 80 million patient records.
"I founded the company in my San Francisco apartment in 2005," he said. "Our company's first 'office' was a table at the Starbucks on Union and Laguna."
A search for investors uncovered little interest, so Howard sold both his home and car. But that kept the company afloat only for a while.
Then, in 2007, an accident turned into an odd stroke of luck.
"I was broadsided by a car while riding my Ducati through an intersection in San Francisco," Howard said. The resulting settlement money was enough to keep Practice Fusion going.
"Last year we nearly tripled our revenue and doubled our staff to about 350 employees, and we just signed a new lease to more than double our office space," he said.
Practice Fusion is positioning itself for an initial public offering.
City Rewards Network
David Moore is the CEO of City Rewards Network, which combines deals from companies such as Coupons.com, Groupon, Living Social and Yelp. He previously managed a furniture store but decided he couldn't take another day in retail. So he quit his job--with no savings, no severance and no safety net.
Determined to go into business for himself, Moore, like many entrepreneurs, had to resort to some unusual funding methods, such as preselling the service to 60 customers at $1,000 a pop.
"People look at you kind of crazy when you ask them for a check for $1,000 for something that doesn't exist yet," he said.
Moore supplemented that with money from another source.
"I applied for eight credit cards at the same time," he said. "I gathered up every brochure I could find for Visa and MasterCard, and ... called and applied [for all of them] in two hours," he said. "I had to be quicker than the reporting system so the inquiries didn't show on my credit report."
Moore was able to cobble together $25,000 that way, though "it pretty much tanked my credit score the instant the cards were issued and then maxed out," he said. "It took a few years to recover from that."
It was worth it. He described the business today as "very, very profitable," with 4,000-plus recurring customers. His methods were somewhat unorthodox, but Moore said it's all in a day's work for an entrepreneur.
"Entrepreneurs do things most people won't, so they can live like most people can't," Moore said. "Not sure who said that, but that's how I roll."
Daniel Bukszpan is a staff writer for CNBC.com. He writes articles, quizzes and slideshows for syndication, news and prime-time programming. He has been a freelance writer for over 15 years and is the author of "The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal," published in 2003 by Barnes and Noble. He also contributed to "AC/DC: High-Voltage Rock ’N’ Roll, The Ultimate Illustrated History," published in 2010 by Voyageur Press. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Asia, and his son, Roman.