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Raised $200k without MVP & CTO in the team: Stairways journey

We spent about $50,000 of our own capital not knowing how the things work in Web3. And now, we finally raised $200k of pre-seed round in 1,5 months after HUMANS acceleration.
Full name
11 Jan 2022
5 min read

What we are building

Our project is called Stairways — it’s a Web3 platform that allows users to invest in real-world assets: namely, art. 

Who we are

We’re a team of two: My name is Nikolay and I had previous experience as an art director, product designer and small business owner. My co-founder Max has been focused on working with galleries and museums (so the direction of our project is pretty self-explanatory!).

Why we joined HUMANS

Before joining HUMANS, we faced several challenges. First, we couldn’t determine the optimal structure for our MVP and verify a proper business model. 

What’s more, our previous experience was mainly in Web2, and we didn’t have either useful connections in Web3 or a clear understanding of the fundraising landscape in the industry. We spent about $50,000 of our own capital not knowing how the things work in Web3 and which fundraising strategies would prove effective for us.

What we gained

1. Business Model Verification and Industry Knowledge
Almost every lecture or meeting with the advisors was quite helpful and gave us more confidence in how to navigate the Web3 industry. They helped us gain a clear understanding of what Web3 business model works for our product and how to verify it: how to conduct customer research before having a finalized product, as well as where to reach out to potential users. 

Moreover, the knowledge base also proved to be useful for that: by reviewing workshops on Web3 product development and Go-To-Market strategies, we bolstered our knowledge in this field.

2. Clear Guidance on Legal Matters

The most controversial topic for us was legal: how to create a legal entity, how to issue coins/tokens, how to structure the company to raise investment. These questions were closed for us with the support of Roman Buzko (the founder of DEGOVERNED, a law firm that specializes in helping Web3 businesses) who helped us during the workshop and 1:1 sessions.

3. Assistance in a Fundraising Process

Given the tight investment market, we had a lot of questions about the best fundraising options and how to navigate the process effectively. With the support from HUMANS, we established a process around applying to grants to receive some initial capital and show traction to VCs. 

Our HUMANS curator Yana helped us gather a list of 20+ fitting programs: find the ones that are currently active (as the grant websites often give misleading information) and would accept applications from projects that are not open source and don’t have MVP yet. We went with the Lisk accelerator as the application was focused on the team, idea and previous experience. HUMANS shared examples of their previous grant applications and went through the application together with us — and we’re now waiting for the results.

4. Pitch Deck Improvement & Partnerships Development Strategy

The advisor Mikhail Sidakov, who’s a venture partner at Republic, played a vital role in reviewing our pitch deck. He helped us find the pitch’s weak spots (for example, we didn’t have a proper team slide) and review our business model in general:

Reviewed Business Model
Reviewed Business Model

Sidsel Loschenkohl, on the other hand, helped us develop a compelling strategy for establishing strategic partnerships with prominent players in our market, within the gallery and museum sector. We got a list of potential partners who might be interested in joining our project (considering the conservative nature of some companies in relation to Web 3 and NFTs). She also provided invaluable insights on how to effectively approach galleries and auction houses, and even offered a promising contact to us.

Overall, we always felt like we had a helping hand in HUMANS, and would definitely recommend the program: especially to first-time Web3 founders! Within a month, we had already achieved our first set of results and are looking forward to further work 💚

What it leads to

We finally raised $200k of pre-seed round from an angel investor in 1,5 months after HUMANS acceleration.

Who helped us