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Luca Newsletter #5
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast
Amazingly, it’s been 7 months since our last newsletter and there are now just 5 months left of 2023 👀
We’re sorry for the radio silence. It’s been a busy, frustrating and exciting time, which we’ll try to distil in this piece.
Fundraising’s a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it 🎢
It’s all too easy to be sunshine and roses in the content you put out. Put your best foot forward, project an image of strength, people are attracted to winners - all that jazz. But that’s not us. As founders, and as a company, we place huge importance on authenticity and transparency. Plus, Luca exists to improve athletes’ mental wellbeing and we can only help those that want to be helped. We need athletes to be brave, vulnerable and be open to talking about the hard stuff. If we can’t do that ourselves….
TL;DR (means too long; didn’t read @Mum)
Coming out of a VC accelerator we probably underestimated how long it would take to raise. We also didn’t realise quite how much the investment landscape has changed as a result of the economic climate. A startup that might have raised VC funding quite easily two years ago is now not being touched. We changed tack, focussed on angels, and are delighted to have some really passionate people onboard!
We’ve learnt some valuable lessons about fundraising in the past few months. We were definitely overly optimistic about our ability to raise in a matter of months. We thought that running some successful pilots and generating real life impact would be enough to prove traction and demand. We hadn’t realised the true impact of the wider economic situation. As you’re all feeling the pinch of sky high interest rates and unwelcome inflation, funds are also feeling it in the form of write offs, down rounds and difficulty in raising their own funds. It’s a tough time to be in tech and their reaction to this has been to become more risk averse. They're demanding more and more in the way of paid traction from potential new investments and they’re also being aggressive on valuation. The funds certainly hold the cards at the moment.
Couple of other things to say on our fundraising experience. Wow, is it time consuming! As someone put it to me the other day,
you have to kiss a lot of frogs in this game
Everyone said that when we were thinking about the round but I assumed they were exaggerating. They weren’t. It’s hard and it’s distracting. It’s really tough to keep the business moving forward when you’re constantly having to warm up investors. But we’re pretty much through it now and we’re definitely better for it. Plus, being backed by angels is a really cool feeling. Having people buy into your vision is so energising and it’s nice knowing you have a few more people in your corner.
In other news
We’ve grown the team in the last few months. We added Bill Ribbans as Medical Advisor and Tom Mitchell as an Athlete Advisor in April. Bill is a world renowned Orthopaedic Surgeon, who’s operated on the good and the great of the sports world, including Michael Schumacher after he broke his leg in a crash at Silverstone in 1999. Bill’s heavily involved in athlete welfare and is proving a very helpful sounding board on product ideas.
Tom spent 10 years at the top of the Rugby 7s world, Captaining England and leading Team GB at Rio in 2016, where they won silver, and at Tokyo in 2020. Tom hung up his boots after a stint in the US with LA Giltinis and is currently making his transition into civilian life. He’s more of a part-time employee than an advisor tbh, as he’s actively helping us with our business development efforts.
We’re also going to be adding a couple more people to the wider team in the coming weeks, so watch this space.
We’ve also spent a significant number of hours over the last few months applying for grants. The most meaningful one being the Innovate UK Smart Grant, which we’ll hear about in the next couple of weeks 🤞. Grant applications, like fundraising, can sometimes feel like a waste of time, especially when unsuccessful, but there’s usually something that comes out of them in the form of a learning or a new relationship. This is especially true with Innovate UK. It’s highly competitive with a success rate of 5-10%, so we’re not pinning our hat on it. It’d just be a really nice bonus - in the case of grants, there is such a thing as a free lunch! We must have committed at least 30 hours to it and it really made us think very deeply about the next phase of our product roadmap and how we’re going to build it, to exact man hours. It was a level of planning and thinking that we hadn’t done up until that point. Startups are go, go, go, and Innovate UK made us stop, reflect, think and plan. Regardless of the outcome, it was a very good use of our time.
Investors all love asking the same questions and a favourite seems to be why now? What makes now the exact time for the market to adopt your product? Why not two years ago or in two years’ time?
We’ve never been more sure that the time for Luca is right now. It seems impossible to go a couple of weeks without hearing about another case of a high profile sports person speaking publicly about a mental health struggle or an athlete talking about the lack of provision in this area.
Dele Alli’s recent interview with Gary Neville is incredibly powerful and I’d encourage you all to listen to it. Dele’s experienced some horrific things in his life and to have achieved what he has in spite of this as well as to open up about his deeply personal trauma in order to help others is absolutely testament to his strength and generosity of character. I can’t wait to watch Dele play next season. He’s gained a fan in me.
Almost 25% of UK footballers responding to a poll in 2022 reported signs of severe anxiety. A 2021 study showed 1 in 6 international track and field competitors experienced suicidal ideation.
Stats from John Nasoori’s article.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast
The last few months have been busy and we’ve made steady, if not, stellar progress. We’re happy with where we are and what we’ve learnt. We’re in a good place from a capital standpoint, our vision for the product is much clearer (we’re also exploring a complimentary tangent to the core proposition) and we’re well positioned to start onboarding new clients.
You’ll hear more from us re new clients next time but I think that’s more than enough for now.
Try to enjoy what’s left of the summer, just remember to pack the cagoule! ✌️