What Rapt Media’s Erika Trautman Learned From Pitching 200 VCs


We expect a lot out of our content these days. We’re inundated with ads, articles, pictures, Tweets, status updates, email, and YouTube. And that’s just online.

It takes something special to really catch our attention, much less make us want to share the content with others.

Emmy-award winning producer Erika Trautman understood that when she decided to produce a video-based, gamified web series. As she and her husband–a game developer at NAMCO–played with the technology, they had an epiphany.

This could really help other people online, too.

So, the couple sold their Bay Area house, used the profits to move to Boulder, CO, and started Rapt Media. They hired their first engineer with personal money and no guarantee anything was going to work.

When Rapt Media was accepted to the 2011 class of Techstars Boulder, things began to look up. World class accelerators, great mentors. Surely the business would only be successful, right?

Well, except the Demo Day for that year’s batch happened to fall on the same day as the debt ceiling crisis.

“Investors were just getting up and leaving,” Trautman told me over the phone.

Despite the stressful Demo Day, Rapt Media ultimately raised all the money they needed, though it came in dribbles instead of one, fully subscribed seed round.

Trautman recently talked about her experiences raising capital as a woman in a post on Entrepreneur.com.

“I think there’s an inherent challenge for women telling the “Billion Dollars or Bust” story, or at least there was for me…Don’t get me wrong. I want nothing less than to reinvent online video to make it richly interactive. And I want Rapt Media to lead that billion-dollar expedition.

But the process of building a company is iterative and I focus on the next set of milestones and the next risks to be mitigated. If the guys are great at describing the view from the top of the mountain, then I’m the one focused on putting one foot in front of the other to get to the next ridge.”

Despite the challenges of raising capital as a woman, Trautman made it happen. She believed in her company and its ability to change how video is done.

I asked her if she ever felt nervous or uncomfortable, pitching a room full of male VCs who were used to hearing male CEOs tell those great stories. She laughed and referenced her background in journalism.

“No investor was a drug lord who could order a hit on me, so I would probably be okay.”

Rapt Media is a company that, by common wisdom, “shouldn’t” work. They moved from the Valley when so often companies move the other direction. They have a woman CEO in a male-dominated industry.

But with clients like NBC Universal, HBO/Cinemax, Maybelline, and One King’s Lane, they are working. And their innovative videos are proving valuable to clients, a feat other forms of video have never done.

While Trautman recognized that being a female CEO created some challenges, she has never really felt that it hindered her.

“It’s about taking your individual style and strengths and applying that to strategy,” she said.

And that’s true no matter your gender or location.


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