Madison Wickham and Ryan Young were just simple fraternity brothers at Texas State University, but their college mindset did not stop after they graduated, coming up with a now very successful idea for a startup.
During their frat days at TSU the brothers would use the catch phrase “total frat move” when they would talk about ridiculous stories to each other, trying to one up. They then thought, lets take this to the next level, and they created a twitter like feed with the statements ending with #TFM, which launched in 2010. Their acronym really started to gain traction and catch on, just like other popular ones like FML, or TFLN (texts from last night). Building up a solid fanbase, this thing started to go viral, and the former frat brothers realized how big this random idea was getting.
Starting to put more effort into their craft, making longer posts, and articles lead to even more followers, generating upto millions of reads per month organically. They even decided to launch an apparel brand focusing on their audience, which apparently makes over 75% of the companies revenue. Grandex, which is the umbrella company to TFM, they have some pretty impressive sales numbers, with their biggest sellers being “Back to Back World War Champs” and “DadBod”.
This e-commerce and ad revenue pairing really started to make some serious revenue for the company, and this is a very popular business model for a bunch of fresh media start-ups. Thrillist, is a similar type of company as Grandex, and a major competitor, which owns the JackThreads clothing brand. JackThreads generates most of Thrillist’s revenue.
Grandex has raised its first round of financing from a few angel investors, taking over 18 months and a lot of hard work, the company has raised $2.2 million, at a $20 million valuation. This is nearly double their 2015 revenue.
Investors include former Dell CFO Jim Schneider, Tory Burch board member John Hamlin, former Lockheed Martin COO and president Chris Kubasik, EMC CEO Joe Tucci, EMC Vice Chairman Bill Teuber, and Seagate president Rocky Pimentel.
“It was definitely a challenge to manage the fundraising and the business at the same time,” Whickham tells Business Insider. “During the 18 months, we had about 3 months of hardcore fundraising at the end of 2014/beginning of 2015, where we raised the majority of the money, but it definitely consumed a lot of mental space during the entire time period.”
Being a revenue-generating startup allowed Wickham to take his time during the fundraise. The company is also relatively lean with just under 50 employees. “We have never operated the business with a cash burn, so there wasn’t a specific point in time where we had to close all of the funding,” Wickham says. “This allowed us to be a little more lax with the timeframe.”