A portfolio company of mine is having trouble. Dabble is in the midst of a soul searching journey. No one knows what will come of it. I have followed them and gotten to know them prior to my making an investment. I asked them if it was okay if I posted honestly about them. They told me to go for it. Here goes.
They are taking 30 days and putting it out there. Click over, read it and interact with them. If you can mentor them, try it. If you have ideas, send them along.
They are likable, and all their references checked out. Teachers loved their business, and so did “students”. I took classes, and full transparency my daughter interned there the summer between her junior and senior year of college. (I didn’t get her the job-Dabble was surprised to learn she was my daughter)
The business is a class in anything you want, but it has to be in person. So much of the stuff on the internet is virtual. It’s not that virtual is bad, it serves its purpose.
I really believe that sometimes you have to be in the physical presence of another person to really get it-or have good interaction. I can learn or experience certain things virtually, and have a good taste of it or the person I am engaging with.
But many things are not like that. I took an improv class with Dabble that would have been impossible to do online.
Dabble was doing pretty well all things considered. Engagement was great. Conversion coming into the website was great. The founders were well liked among other entrepreneurs in the Chicago entrepreneurial community. They were early in their journey.
At the time I invested, one founder was in Denver, and one was in Chicago. The team was in Chicago. Today, one founder is in Denver, and one is in San Francisco. There is a team of one in Chicago, down from 8.
One founder is in San Francisco. Dabble’s thesis is that in person classes are powerful. Well, I believe that founders need to be physically present with their teams. Otherwise, things go awry. “Virtual” doesn’t work with startups. Especially new ones. Founders need to be present and in the trenches with their teams.
Dabble was having trouble raising money in Chicago. But, they made mistakes raising as well. I think the founders were a little greedy with their equity. They turned down a chance to be in TechStars last summer. That would have helped them a lot, and helped them fundraise.
People use Dabble for all kinds of reasons. They have struck veins in two markets. One is the dating market. People will sign up for a Dabble class to meet someone that could potentially become a love interest for them. The other is couples or people simply trying to find a local friend group to connect with that has a similar interest.
I think they should have stayed here and really concentrated on blowing out Chicago. After reading this article on networks, I am more convinced of it.
Instead, they would get dribs and drabs of money. Because money was always tight, it was tough to scale.
I am committed to Dabble. I love the concept. I am really dismayed that they left their Chicago investors in the lurch. When an entrepreneur takes investor money, their first duty is to their company and investors. Not themselves. Sue Khim of Brilliant said as much in her Chicago TechStars keynote the other day.
Dabble really needs a strong lead investor. If they find one, I’d reinvest. Absent that, they will have to figure things out and hope whatever changes they make works. With the right investor, they could easily be a highly engaging international company.
How can you help? Take or teach a class. See if you like it. If so, repeat. Or, introduce them to potential investors. Startups cannot survive without revenue, or funding.