community round

CASE STUDY

Raising Bridge Rounds from the Community

How Immersed raised $9M in 2 weeks from supporters—and attracted VC funding as a result

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  • In spring 2020, Renji Bijoy’s capital runway was running short.
  • Despite raising successfully in the past...
  • VCs were dragging their feet so long this time...
  • ...that Immersed was short on money to pay the team.
  • “You guys can go look for jobs,” Renji said in tears to team of seven...
  • But unanimously, his team responded, “We’re not going anywhere.”

RAISING BRIDGE ROUNDS FROM THE COMMUNITY

In the words of Immersed Founder & CEO Renji Bijoy, here's how it all went down →

Renji Bijoy headshot

What is Immersed?

Immersed is a productivity and meeting app based in virtual reality. Connecting your computer with a VR headset, Immersed allows you to generate up to five virtual monitors in a virtual environment, whether a spaceship orbiting the earth, a ski chalet with a snowy mountain out your window, or Immersed’s public coffee shop, where you can work alongside other users.

I wanted to create a way for teams to collaborate as if we were all in the same room. Knowing that virtual reality would allow this vision to come to fruition, and knowing that no other app out there did anything similar, I started Immersed in 2017.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people use Immersed to work and meet in virtual reality, with the average power user spending 38+ hours a week in the app. We also partner with Facebook, Microsoft, and HTC, rolling out Immersed to millions more users in VR and AR.

Ultimately, VC fundraising killed a bunch of my time, and by the time I closed the round, we'd have just enough money in the bank for me to start raising another round. I would never actually get to build my company.

Renji BijoyFounder & CEO at Immersed

Why we decided to raise our 1st Community Round

To be real, I initially raised a Community Round out of desperation, knowing that my only alternative to a Community Round was venture capital.

As a frontier technology startup in its early days, we were completely at odds with VCs. VCs don't invest in frontier technology startups; they invest in companies that have a ton of MRR (if they're a SaaS products), and then they put you in a bucket of SaaS companies out there and talk about how some irrelevant Company A will be getting 100X your revenue in a shorter amount of time, not realizing that the technological advancements that you're making in your company are relevant to the amount of time it took to get to market.

Ultimately, VC fundraising killed a bunch of my time, and by the time I closed the round, we'd have just enough money in the bank for me to start raising another round. I would never actually get to build my company. I thought, “At least crowdfunding can be more efficient. Even if I didn’t raise a ton of capital, the beginning-to-end process could be really quick.”

We went through Wefunder’s XX accelerator in the spring of 2020. Getting mentorship from the awesome YC-exited founders there was super helpful and shaped parts of our business model that still exist today. Coming out of that program, the team at XX asked me if I would consider raising a Community Round on Wefunder.

I had just come out of a VC round, so the timing worked. I thought, “What's the worst that could happen if I were to try to do a crowdfunding campaign?”

I set a $250K minimum for the round to be valid—enough to be meaningful for Immersed. When we actually opened up the round and did some growth hacking, we hit over $2 million in two days.

In the past, I would spend 3 to 6 months on fundraising only to raise a few thousand dollars, so Wefunder was a lot more efficient. I was able to not only get all of my friends and family and users and followers in, but I also got my freedom back—freedom from VCs.

And though it took six freaking months for my team to finally get a paycheck, I could finally back pay them and even grow the team from 8 people, including myself, to 14 people.

In the past, I would spend 3 to 6 months on fundraising only to raise a few thousand dollars, so Wefunder was a lot more efficient.

Renji BijoyFounder & CEO at Immersed

Why we decided to raise our 2nd Community Round

At the end of 2020, by God's grace, I was a part of Forbes 30 Under 30. As a result, a lot of angel investors Googled my background, heard about Immersed, discovered our Wefunder Community Round, and asked me to take their email in case we did another round.

Once that list hit about 300 angel investors, I thought, "That's a pretty good amount of people who potentially want to invest in this next round." On top of that, HTC and Microsoft had just reached out asking if Immersed could launch on their VR app stores as we had done on Facebook’s Oculus store, and many others who’d seen the success of our first Community Round had been asking our team if we’d raise another round.

It made sense for us to channel all the investor interest into another round, and this time, I wanted to leverage the traction from our first Community Round to raise an even bigger second Community Round.

I contacted the 700 people who had invested in the first round and wielded them as my growth squad. Sending a simple pre-drafted email, I asked them to spread the word to their networks.

By the end of day one, we had hit $2.9 million in reservations, which was twice as large as the previous round’s day one. By the end of 14 days, we hit about $8 million from around 3000 investors and ended the round.

Why did people invest?

"Great freaking team, Great mission and Great technology. This company is the prime example of right place right time! DONT MISS OUT! I plan on supporting this company for years to come."

Raymond Brown (Venture Partner GMC) face

Raymond Brown (Venture Partner GMC)

"I believe in the vision of the company and it’s leadership!"

Richard D. Varghese face

Richard D. Varghese

"Renji is amazing"

Bradley Waites face

Bradley Waites

VCs found out about Immersed.

Even though people might have thought historically that VC is opposed to crowdfunding, some of the best VCs I work with today found us through Immersed’s social media campaigns about our Community Round. So I'm super grateful that we did a Community Round—it allows us to partner with people who will take us to the billions of dollars in valuation someday.

Angel investors go to bat for you.

I know a lot of VCs pretend like they have a million connections, but at the end of the day, they're just one human being, versus hundreds or thousands of individuals who invest in your company through a Community Round.

With thousands of people who are financially aligned with our success, we’ve definitely made public asks via email blasts to all of them, explaining exactly how they can help us.

In the process, people have connected us with tons of different companies. Name a company that you've heard of, and they probably have users there using Immersed because of the fact that we went this Community Round approach.

I'm super grateful that we did a Community Round—it allows us to partner with people who will take us to the billions of dollars in valuation someday.

Renji BijoyFounder & CEO at Immersed

Rewarding friends & fans is the right thing to do.

Why not be generous with your friends and family when they're the ones who’ve been loving and supporting you from the beginning? And then why not be more cheap and stingy with the VCs who've been annoying you? It just makes more sense to allow my friends and family and first believers to take part in Immersed’s financial upside.

It feels good.

Prior to raising on Wefunder, I was coming from a world where I was just some kid to every VC I pitched, and I would have to convince them that my business would turn their $100K into millions of dollars one day, most of the time to no avail. I’d always assumed that it would be the same deal when asking everyday people to invest.

I never realized that so many people in my community actually had their eyeballs on me—that they followed my progress with excitement, trusted my word, and invested as soon as they were given the chance.

I can't magically make us have an awesome success, a successful exit—but knowing that this many people trust my execution, I can promise that I'm gonna work my butt off. My hope is to return it to them a hundred or a thousand fold. I'm really excited to build this company, and I'm super thankful that people want to continue to invest in us.

Why not be generous with your friends and family when they're the ones who’ve been loving and supporting you from the beginning? And then why not be more cheap and stingy with the VCs who've been annoying you?

Renji BijoyFounder & CEO at Immersed

Summary

Immersed raised 9,208,231 from 3,318 investors during their first Community Round.

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Snapshot of Immersed's Community Round (source wefunder.com/immersed)

The Raise

  • Raised $2M in 2 days (Round 1)
  • Raised $7M in 14 days (Round 2)
  • $100 most frequent check size
  • 75% of investments were less than $1000

After the raise

  • 100 investors became customers
  • Investors introduced new customers
  • 928 praises from their community

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