January 18, 2024

Cooking up a raise: brief lessons from Zest's preseed journey

Jake Gutstein
Jake Gutstein

We are thrilled to announce that Zest has successfully closed its preseed round, marking a significant milestone in our journey. As someone new to the fundraising landscape, I learned invaluable lessons during the process. In this post, I'll attempt to share those insights. Particularly those relating to the controllable aspects of the fundraising process, the importance of a dedicated team, and the mentors who played a pivotal role in our success.

Most importantly, there is no silver bullet. My experience stands as an N=1, and I have found that to be true of every other founder I have spoken to, even those who share a lead investor with Zest. . The nature of fundraising is unpredictable. Two people’s journeys are never the same. Do not fall victim to snake oil salesmen offering prescriptive ways that success should unfold.

While the fundraising landscape can be unpredictable, certain aspects are within our control. Building an organized funnel, maintaining disciplined outreach, having multiple presentations tailored to individual investor preferences, and constantly iterating on how we answered questions were key strategies. That said, the linchpin was real and sustained business traction—proof that our idea wasn't just a concept but a viable, growth-oriented business. Many have written about the disadvantages of raising without trying to build a business. Everyone I know who has done this has either failed to raise money in the short term or  fallen victim to the potentially misaligned incentives of venture funding in the long term.

Behind every successful venture is an exceptional team. Zest owes its success to the incredible group of individuals who work alongside me. With unwavering focus, they dedicated themselves to creating the strongest product possible. Their collective efforts have been the driving force behind our early traction.

We are immensely grateful for the guidance and mentorship received from industry luminaries. Jason Calacanis and the LAUNCH team provided invaluable insights, steering us through the intricacies of the fundraising landscape. Additional mentors, including Neal Sales-Griffin, Bob Moesta, Stephen Goldmann, Lisa Whitsitt, and Sierra Bloodgood, enriched our journey with their wisdom and experience. They have influenced every element of our building process.

Closing our preseed round is a testament to the dedication of the Zest team and the support of our mentors. As we move forward, we carry the lessons learned—understanding the uncontrollable, leveraging the controllable, investing in building a sustainable business, and embracing the guidance of mentors. Zest's journey is just beginning. We are grateful for the opportunity to continue our mission: sharing knowledge that makes your world more sustainable and nourishing.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to spice up the culinary learning experience with Zest!

Jake Gutstein

Founder, Zest