Diversity Media & entertainment tech Venture

Something Ventured Part 3: Neck Tattoos, Pressures And Eyeing Series A Funding

Josh Fabian of Metafy

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 our previous profile of Josh Fabian and his unconventional path to founding Metafy here and here, and access the full project here.

In the world of startups, it is not uncommon for the founders to eventually step away from their roles running the company and let more seasoned executives take over. Sometimes it’s spurred on by the company’s performance, investor desires or the founders themselves needing a break from the grind of hiring, fundraising and hitting their numbers.

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Recently that question of eventually stepping away was hypothetically posed to Josh Fabian, founder and CEO of Pittsburgh-based Metafy, an online coaching platform for gamers.

“It’s funny, an investor asked me that question the other day,” he said. “I told him, ‘I’m in this for the long haul. I believe in this. I’d go get a tattoo of the company on my neck—that’s how much I believe in it.’”

So later that day, Fabian went out and got that tattoo on his neck.

“Why not, right?” Fabian said with a laugh, adding that he is willing to pay any employee who gets a matching tattoo $200.

The numbers

It’s easy for Fabian to laugh now. After hitting its first down month in May, Metafy’s gross merchandise volume (GMV) grew 16 percent month to month in June, 28 percent in July, and 45 percent in August. The company was set to close August with $122,585 in lessons and bookings combined.

While those numbers make Fabian happy, he also openly talks about the fact those numbers only increase the pressure on him and the company to beat them next month.

“It feels like it never ends,” he said. “It’s a little bit scary because I feel like it’s becoming something. It’s like when you start climbing the tower. It’s fun. Then you eventually start thinking about falling.”

Despite freely admitting he feels the pressure to keep the company rolling—while also running it in the way he wants—Fabian also is readying to double down on Metafy. He made several key hires in the last two months, including bringing on Mallory Contois from Cameo as vice president of operations.

“Every time I bring someone on I think to myself, ‘Am I conning you?’” he said. “Then I’m like, ‘No, no, we are building something special here. We are building something significant.”

The hirings also have helped alleviate some of the pressure Fabian has felt.

“What I find interesting about being at a startup—especially at an early stage—is how rapidly everything changes,” he said. “I was VP of everything just a couple of months ago.”

A new round

Adding people is not the only thing Fabian is looking to do. He also is looking to add cash as the company, which hit 2,000 students in August, continues to grow. Metafy likely will start to raise a Series A in the $20 million range starting later this month or in early October. The round could close by the end of year or early next, he added.

In May, Metafy closed a seed extension of $5.5 million led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Seven Seven Six and DCM Ventures. The company has raised a total of $8.65 million.

Fabian said he is eyeing a $100 million valuation for the new Series A.

“I feel fairly confident we’ll get it,” he said. “We’ve had some preemptive offers already, so we’ll see.”

What Fabian does not know is who he will try to push to raise the money from.

“I’m not sure if some of these big-named VC funds provide that much value for us,” said Fabian, adding that a large portion of the VC world may not “get” a coaching platform for gamers. “You have these sexy names that say we will help you with hiring, we will help you with fundraising. I don’t know. We don’t need help hiring. We don’t need help fundraising.”

Fabian said just as he did with the seed and the extension, he will find investors that understand the company and/or what the company is trying to build.

“You have to find the right people,” he said.

Trying to find time

While it may seem exciting to many to start your own company and go out to raise venture money—there’s a downside.

“So many people lie about being both a founder and a parent at the same time,” Fabian said bluntly. “They talk about it like it’s not that hard to balance … I don’t know the last meaningful conversation I had with my kids … and that bothers me.”

Fabian is a father of four: Isaiah, 11, Elijah, 10, Noah, 9 and 4-year-old Sloane. He estimates he gets to spend about one quality night a week with his kids.

“When your company is so young, it’s just so fragile,” he said. “But that’s just the reality of the situation. When you are putting something into the world—just like kids—it’s time-consuming.

“What it comes down to is I have to get through this really hard period,” Fabian added. “I’m trying to build a unicorn and you have to be all in. At least they think what I’m doing is cool.”

There’s also a particular perspective Fabian keeps that helps center him as he continues along the path to building his company.

“Everybody has a thing in their life, which is the best thing they’ve ever done,” he said. “But the thing is, most people don’t know it when they’re doing it. But I’m lucky. I know this is it.”

Photo illustration: Dom Guzman

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