Raise and Rise is a book that promises to “change your perspective on venture financing and possibly life,” as Victoria Silchenko promises. For those who don’t have the time to read through this review, and want a TLDR version of this review: Yes, she lives up to the promise. She offers a critical view of the Venture Capital (VC) landscape and offers a deep-dive into alternative ways of funding your startup. This is a no-holds-barred look at the world of what some would call “Vulture Capital,” and at the end of this book, you will know why. It is an easy-to-read book, with funny interludes and personal anecdotes that make the book readable. On the flip side, there are instances where you feel the author is over-simplifying or generalizing a bit too much, but thankfully those are not too many.
Go, get the book.
For those who want to know more, read on.
As someone who loves to read – I regularly sign up to be on the book award committee of a professional association I am – so as to get access to the latest books, I am amazed at the amount of time and effort that goes into writing a book. This book, at 506 pages is truly a labor of love. In 7 chapters, she offers her take on what ails the VC landscape and what modern funding mechanisms offer, to the entrepreneur. There are also practical tips on what she considers are good ways to get funding, towards the end of the book. The book is aimed specifically at entrepreneurs, but is a good read for anyone wanting to get a good understanding of the startup funding environment, that exists in the US (though the lessons are applicable globally too).
In the introduction, Silchenko makes her agenda clear, when she says “I am not interested in helping those desperate souls looking for shortcuts to improve their lifestyle. I am interested in helping people who actually aim to solve crucial problems – and those who frequently bother asking “why” rather than just “how.”(p.15). Her world-view and advise for startup entrepreneurs can be summed up in this sentence “you would be better spending more time on building your business than building and polishing the pitch deck.” (p.15). Further, the focus of her books is on “innovation-driven ventures,” (p.23). She advocates for solving real problems, using innovation.
She further points out that it is important to understand your target audience – focus on your customers, rather than just VCs. If you know what your customers want, then the VCs will want you. This book is a call for integrity in business, through and through. Hard to argue with that!
Instead of a chapter-by-chapter review, I will offer a quick overview of some of the key chapters (in my view). Here goes:
Chapter 1: This chapter offers a breakdown of why fundraising is a crucial skill and perhaps one of the most important skills that an entrepreneur needs to have. Silchenko asks some fundamental questions about the purpose of a business – whether it exists to get funded again and again (think Uber) or whether it exists to solve actual problems. Abnormal exits and easy exits are not the purpose of a startup’s existence, she argues. It is hard to argue with that.
Chapter 4: Deals with crowdfunding – i.e., “the method of raising small financial contributions online from a large pool of friends, fans and followers.” In the age of Kickstarter and Patreon, we are all used to seeing these campaigns. Silchenko offers a deep dive into this world and argues for why this could be a viable option, instead of conventional funding mechanisms. The crowdfunding market is valued at around $10.2 billion; she points out. She offers examples from her own life – and friends circles to showcase the power and perils of crowdfunding.
Chapter 7: Titled “Detour to Modern Money Creation,” the chapter goes into the topic of what exactly is money – given the rise of crypto currencies and digital tokens.This chaptergives you a crash course in how the US is a debt-based economy and what that means, for us as consumers and also producers of goods – aka entrepreneurs. This chapter is a reflection on what exactly is value of currency and how it is created. In the age of digital tokens and crpto assets, this understanding is crucial to develop.
In a conversation with the author a few months ago, she pointed out that this is “three books rolled into one,” and it truly is. There is so much material and so many insights here, that she could have easily printed them into three volumes, but here we have a lengthy treatise not just on the nature of fundraising, but perhaps a philosophical take on how to fund your startup.
Silchenko offers some genuine gems of advice. This one, for instance “Why go begging for their (VCs) approval, when there are plenty of other financing options you can move forward with? How about building brand loyalty via stock ownership, for example? How about learning about crowdfunding? Any why keep ignoring the fact that at the end of the day the number one investor is your paying customer, aka someone who is willing to pay for your products and services?” (p.19). This is a theme that she keeps to turning, again and again – know how to build your business and attract customers, the money will sort itself out. Chasing after money is like chasing after a mirage – this is the message she is sharing with us. As an entrepreneur and as someone who is going through the struggle (and has, in the past), I can relate to this sentiment!
On a side note, as someone who grew up reading a lot of Chekhov and Tolstoy, the nuggets of wisdom from these Russian writers were certainly a welcome reminder. On living with a purpose, Silchenko quotes Tolstoy that “the sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.” For those who believe in the purpose of business/ any human activity is to improve the condition of life, around us, in other words, to live with purpose.
You can buy the book on her website.