When All Paying Customers are Friendlies

Recently I heard the story of an edge case from an angel investor commenting on the question How Much Traction Does a Startup Need to Raise Angel Money. Here’s the background: an angel investor is pitched by an entrepreneur that has recently cleared the $100,000 in annual recurring revenue mark. The idea sounds plausible but it isn’t completely clear if the product is candy, a pain killer, or a vitamin due to the lack of domain expertise by the angel investor. As the angel investor starts to dig in on due diligence it becomes clear that there’s an anomaly here in which the 10 customers each paying $12,000/year are all friends with the founder of the startup.

All the paying customers were friendlies. That is, all the customers already had a prior relationship with the founder such that there wasn’t a clear picture regarding the true value of the product as well as how difficult it would be to build a repeatable customer acquisition process. Now, the fact that the founder had such strong relationships with a variety of people bodes well for success in general, but as an investor one of the biggest questions is how the sales and marketing process is going to scale.

The next time you’re thinking of working for a company or investing in a company with 10 customers, research how the customers were acquired.

What else? What are your thoughts on the situation when all paying customers are friendlies?

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