Editor’s note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing series by Crunchbase News examining diversity and access to capital in the venture-backed startup ecosystem. As part of this project, we’re following seven seed-stage entrepreneurs over the course of several months as they build their businesses. Read all our profiles of Josh Fabian and his unconventional path to founding Metafy here, here, and here, and access the full project here.
Life moves pretty fast sometimes— that’s especially true if you are trying to raise venture capital in this day and age.
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Instead, Fabian was able to pretty much wrap up fundraising in a week—before November even started.
“We got our lead (investor) in about five days,” said Fabian, who said he couldn’t reveal the name of the firm although it was a well-known firm.
Metafy got a better valuation than Fabian was expecting—in September he said he was eyeing a $100 million valuation—and raised more money than anticipated, but that does not mean everything associated with the process was easy.
Interest in the company from investors meant Fabian had to talk to some early investors and ask them to cut the pro-rata investment they were entitled to in this round in an effort to avoid too much dilution.
“I’m asking people to wave that as a favor,” he said. “It’s a hard conversation to have, but it’s something inevitable when you have a hot round.”
Fabian said the interest the company saw from investors is a testament to his team’s hard work, as well as the company’s evolution from scrappy startup to a rapidly growing company forging ahead in a fast-emerging market.
“We are entering a place where I have to not be a founder. Now I have to be a CEO,” said Fabian, talking about how needs to change his leadership mindset.
He is now taking “executive” classes on how to be a CEO, and doubling his reading of books by successful executives about what it takes to lead a large company.
Fabian remains resolute in his desire to remain as Metafy’s CEO for the long run; not a founder who eventually gets moved to another role and replaced by another exec who knows how to get a company to that next level of growth.
“I fear (being asked to step down) more than I fear my own mortality,” he said with a laugh. “I think about that a lot. You know that quote, ‘What happens when you stare into the abyss?’ That’s how I feel.”
Fabian said he follows the philosophy of other founders who say being a founder is like being a dictator: You are everywhere all the time and all things to the company.
Being a CEO means having to step away from something.
“You can’t be in the room all the time, but you have to build the company culture instead,” he said. “You also have to be more open to being wrong.”
Despite the transition from founder to CEO, Fabian said he’s confident. He uses his past experience as a gamer to illustrate what he’s capable of doing.
“In over 15 games I’ve been in the top 50,” he said of his rankings.
“It’s not because I’m brilliant, I assure you I’m not. I’m a moron,” he said with a laugh. “But I do believe success creeps out of the pores of sacrifice.”
Those sacrifices now include living away from his four kids. Two months ago, Fabian made the decision to live in New York three weeks a month—with one week at home in Pittsburgh—to concentrate on the business.
The disconnect allows him to fully concentrate on the growing startup and allows him better interaction with his team—something he would miss out on staying in Western Pennsylvania.
“I think I really prefer to be a small fish in a big pond,” he said. “I also just feel there’s a hunger, desperation in New York I like.”
That sense of being alive also comes with its own consequences, Fabian freely admits.
“It sucks,” he said of being away from his kids. “It is extremely difficult.”
What is not difficult to see is why investors had interest in Metafy.
While October numbers are not finalized, Metafy saw strong growth in September. The company’s gross merchandise volume grew 52 percent in September—after a strong 48 percent showing in August. The company closed September with about $195,000 in lessons and bookings combined, compared to approximately $124,000 in August.
That September growth surprised even Fabian, who said he does not see October’s numbers beating those of the previous month—especially since many gamers buy two months worth of courses, leading to up-and-down month-to-month numbers.
“If we can beat August’s numbers, we will be happy,” he said.
Aside from the numbers, Fabian also said news of the recent leak of social gaming platform Twitch’s user earnings also caught the attention of some of Metafy’s current and potential investors — as many coaches on Metafy already earn more than most Twitch streamers despite the platform’s relative newness.
Now with the round behind him, Fabian said the company can shift from rushing to make numbers through mainly organic growth to focusing on the long term.
“Organic growth has a natural ceiling,” he said. “But the beauty of this runway allows us to focus on product and team.”
Photo illustration: Dom Guzman
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