For example, when I started Zyray Wireless, I was the only employee that was based in the US; the rest of the team was in South Africa. We wanted to move the core team from South Africa to San Diego, but first I needed to raise money. This was not easy. What US investor would put money into a bunch of people who were not even in the US? I was rejected by almost all the initial investors I pitched to. I will never forget the words of one of these investors: “Pieter, you have nothing—go home and don't quit your teaching position at university.” That was a very hard blow, but as the saying goes—if you are going through hell, keep on going. To his credit, however, that investor was the first person to congratulate me when Zyray was acquired by Broadcom.
Another great example of persistence occurred when we were pitching the idea of ecoATM. We approached 52 venture capitalists and every single one gave us a definitive no. But the 53rd venture capitalist said yes, and we never looked back.Rejection. It's an event that many people actively try to avoid, because of experiences like the ones where someone's reply is: "You have nothing." It's a message that invalidates a lot of the work that went into that concept that an entrepreneur-scientist is pitching to everyone that is willing to hear.
But van Rooyen's ecoATM example provides a glimpse into a more unbiased view of what's actually going on. ecoATM, in being rejected 52 times, wasn't necessarily told that it had nothing to pitch. I read this example as one of 52 people finding that ecoATM didn't fit their requirements, expectations, expertise, or the like, and they weren't willing to partner with a company unless they knew that something positive would come out of the relationship.
There are two sides to every deal.