"I've got a check here for $25,000. What do you think your company is worth?"
There was a long pause. And in that pause, I knew that everything had changed. Before sitting down to negotiate, we'd been allies playing for the same team. But not anymore.
The moment we sat down at that table, we became adversaries.
I know that for some angel investors, the best moment is when the company has an exit, and you cash that big check. But for many of the angel investors I know, the best moment is when you write the check, when you get to facilitate someone else's dream. I wanted to write the check.
And so, I did something desperate. I said, "Look, just take the $25k. Give me 5% of the company, give me 10% of the company — I don't really care. All I want is the opportunity to continue doing this, which is to say, sitting down with people like you and helping them get started on their dreams. So here's my offer:
You decide how much equity I get. Then, when there comes a day that that equity has value, here's what we'll do: the two of us will find new people to invest in. You can sit with me on this side of the table, and together we'll use that money to facilitate other people's dreams. How does that sound? Would you like to be angel investor yourself someday? Would you like to be my partner?"
There was another long pause, but this one felt different. Finally, he asked, "Under those terms, why wouldn't I give you twenty percent?"
Then he added, "That's pretty much the best deal I've ever heard."
The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right.
See a future together. Negotiate as allies. Presume abundance.