Even when it was looking likely that angels like Shawn and Wally would fund us, Jack insisted that we keep exploring other paths. He said he knew consultants who specialized in helping small companies get big funding. And then there were also the venture capitalists (VCs)...
To get others to see us as grown-up, Jack said we had to show what we were going to look like years from now. We thought this was ridiculous. We knew we would grow up big and strong, but held no illusion that we could imagine exactly what that would look like.
Jack had a tough time comparing us to any other type of company out there. We were kind of like an Amazon.com or a Yahoo for the healthcare business. We were kind of like a couple of private companies that were being funded (Ariba and Commerce One). But we were not really very much like any of them.
We certainly didn’t serve the consumer market, where growing sites with huge traffic were quite the buzz. And we weren’t providing infrastructure, the software tools integrated into the way large companies run their day-to-day business, where enterprise software companies had made huge sums.
We were a company focused on improving a particular process in a particular industry. Since we couldn’t be classified, most large investors weren’t interested in speaking with us. They were seeing plenty of consumer Internet and business infrastructure companies to keep them busy.
We vigorously resisted classifying ourselves. We thought that it was a good thing that we were so different from other companies — that showed how unique, creative and special we were, didn’t it?
We discovered that, when it came to funding, uniqueness was not a good thing.
What we couldn’t know at the time was that, two years later, more than a hundred companies would get funded by describing how they were like Neoforma. Too bad that couldn’t help us in 1997.