Demetrius Gray Explains How He Raised $107M for His Startup, Gives Advice to Black Tech Founders
Being a successful founder in tech isn’t easy. Add being Black on top of that, it’s deemed impossible.
Demetrius Gray is on the long list of Black tech gurus who are changing that narrative. Recently, TechCrunch reported that Gray raised $107.3 million for his company, Captain. The startup helps homeowners advance money to contractors for home repairs following natural disasters. The customer then receives reimbursement from insurance companies or the government.
The website states that claims are funded in 72 hours or less. Contractors who use Captain to pay for their material, supplies, and labor costs can complete their home repair projects in 30 days, which is “six times faster than the industry average.”
Captain isn’t Gray’s first company. His first startup, WeatherCheck, didn’t pan out the way he expected, but he feels the experience helped Captain’s success. “The incentives weren’t aligned,” Gray said. This time, Captain was able to raise $100 million in venture debt and $7.3 million in private equity. While not all founders are able to achieve this feat, there are some nuggets the Silicon Valley exec feels others should follow.
In an interview with Forbes, Gray said one way is not to bombard investors. Back-to-back pitches can be exhausting, so he he advised them take a moment to “breathe” and use a script as temperature check. “Hey, I understand that you’ve had a busy day. I can’t imagine how many meetings you’ve had so far,” Gray begins. I’ll give you 30 seconds to just take a breath. And then I’ll start.” He also feels Black founders stop fundraising too soon. Getting “no” over and over again doesn’t mean you stop – something he learned while raising for Captain, as he says his idea “resonated” with investors.
The seasoned founder advised up and coming gurus to put on a show when pitching. He told TechCrunch that making a great first impression and performing generally leads to a “yes” from investors, taking a lesson from celebrities we expect first class performances from. “The Black community is a community of a lot of entertainers and athletes,” Gray said. Take a cue from Serena Williams, Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, LeBron James — the greats — and treat it like it’s a performance.”