To follow the money or not to follow the money…?

I found that as this project has progressed the most pressing questions that has emerged is money. Currently we don’t have much and obviously at some point we are going to need some. We have three options here. 1) Start selling our product, get customers and make money.  2) Apply for grant funding. 3) Graft, borrow and steal and raise the money ourselves to fund the first part of the project. Then when we have some evidence of success we can go to funders and get money faster and easier.

The first one of these options has to be ruled out because right now it’s too early for us to sell anything. Our product isn’t ready to sell.

So this leaves option 2 and 3.

Regarding option 2 there are plenty of sources of money around and perhaps KenyaWorks could apply to some of these pots and get a little contribution to set us on our way. However, there are a number of big problems.

1) The world of charity fundraising is hugely specialist and exclusionary. There are professional funraisers who know where to turn and who to talk to and what applications to submit and when. They have contacts and can “go for coffee” and charm their way… and then there are the rest of us who struggle through.

2) Is it even possible to get money at such an early stage. All we would be doing is pitching our idea. And however good the idea is, it’s the people that deliver it that turn it into something real. I’m not sure funders will sponsor an idea when there is no proof that it will work. I’m sure this is a problem for every first time entrepreneur. Without a track reccord that you can deliver your plan, why would anyone give you money.

3) The length of time from submitting an application and getting a response is pretty ridiculous. If you submit something expect to hear 2 months later whether you have been selected for the second round, and then 2 months after that you’ll hear whether you are being considered still and perhaps 4 months after that you’ll eventually get an answer. Now I have no idea whether KenyaWorks will be going in 8 months time so I’m not going to spend huge amounts of time applying for these kind of grants

4) And this leads on to the last point. Getting funding requires huge amounts of energy and time expended. The forms are often long and arduous and it can be a very demoralising process if you spend a week writing a proposal only to hear back 2 months later that you haven’t been selected for the next round.

Here I think is where the key point lies. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend all this time applying for money because clearly “cash is king” and all that. We all need money. But you have to realise how long this process will take and how distracting it will be and balance whether at the current time it’s worthwhile for your venture. I weighed this up and decided that at this time, money wasn’t the key concern. I concluded, rightly or wrongly, that we need to graft for the next few months, get just enough money to travel to Kenya  and pilot the course and then if everything goes well and get significant funding.

There are obvious risks. We could go to Kenya, pilot the programme and have great success, only to return and find money just as hard to come by. But for the moment we’re not following the money. Is this the right approach, only time will tell…