ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

The Unicorn Movies — Biggest ROIs vs Biggest Winners

Feb
16

There are lot of players involved in the film industry such as film production companies, film studios, animation, screenwriting, distribution; and of course actors, directors, and other film crew personnel.

All of them make a global industry that shows projections for the coming years from about USD 38 Bn. in 2016 to USD 50 bn. in 2020.

But when it comes to thinking about the earnings of the industry, all of us think about the best sellers or the box office grosses or what its also known as The Billion-Dollar Film Club.

And of course we will find in that list the following top 5:

  1. Avatar — Worldwide Gross: USD 2,787,965,087
  2. Titanic — Worldwide Gross: USD 2,187,463,944
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Worldwide Gross: USD 2,068,223,624
  4. Jurassic World — Worldwide Gross: USD 1,671,713,208
  5. The Avengers — Worldwide Gross: USD 1,518,812,988

But when we check the ROI of these movies, we can see that Avatar had a total production budget of $ 425.000.000.- which means a 556% ROI. A huge return for the investors and everyone who bet on the James Cameron project.

 

When it comes to the most profitable movies, based on Return on Investment (ROI), none of the previous list made it to the following one.

If we think of them as an asset class, film would appear to be uncorrelated to the other types of investments and somewhat recession resistant as people still go to the movies.

As any other investment, diversification is a key part. Invest in a portfolio of films, rather than a single production. Through diversification comes a more proper balance of risk and return.

The film industry only confirms the great quote by George Soros:

Money is made by discounting the obvious and betting on the unexpected.

2017’s Industry Recap and 2018 Hottest Industries for Venture Capital

Feb
01

According to KPMG´s Venture Capital market report, it experienced the highest amount of investment in the U.S. in 2017. The total amount of investment in this sector was over $84 billion last year. Although, the deal value increased from $21.24 billion in the third quarter to $23.75 billion in the fourth quarter, the overall deal volume experienced decline as it fell from a total of 1997 to 1778 deals. The reason for the decline was growing interest of investors in smaller companies with profitable prospects instead of placing bigger bets on large companies.

 

Sneak-peak at 2017

The investors in the United States were mainly focused on late-stage deals during 2017. This eventually lead to the decrease in deals with other funding levels. Seed and angel deals were the ones that got affected the most as they suffered a decline from 50 percent in 2016 to 47 percent in 2017.

Biotech and healthcare were two sectors that stood out among the rest, especially during the fourth quarter when a number of large deals were successfully completed. Healthcare sector was also at the top in terms of exits, which triggered an increased activity overall.

The late-stage deals hit $250 million in the last quarter of 2017, which was very high as compared to $135 million a year before that. Companies that raised funds of over billion dollars were Cancer-screening biotech Grail Technology that raised $1.2 billion and Ride-hailing company Lyft that managed to get $1.5 billion.

 

Expected Trend in 2018

The trend seems quite optimistic as it will build momentum, especially via strong exit markets in Mergers and Acquisition and Initial Public Offering (IPO) for companies backed by venture capital.

At this time, it isn’t sure whether 2018 will have a record number of IPOs as experienced in 2015 or not, but this year will definitely have an increasing number of IPO activities. The co-lead partner of KPMG VC practice, Conor Moore, was of the opinion that as more firms are deciding to remain private in the long run, the secondary market is sure to experience more growth.

Following are some of the prominent sectors investors are likely to invest their money in:

 

Blockchain Technology

Instead of investing directly in the cryptocurrency, investors are inclined to invest in underlying blockchain technology. The reason is simple; the prices of digital currencies have skyrocketed. Investors are trying to find creative ways to make profitable investments.

A partner in Canvas Ventures, Rebecca Lynn, is looking for firms that use blockchain to build their infrastructure, especially the ones that store health records and track trademarked and copyrighted licensing rights and content.

 

Artificial Intelligence Businesses

Investors are searching for tangible business ideas. For example, David Pakman, a partner in Venrock, is in search of startups that will be using Artificial Intelligence so as to assist companies in making decisions that were previously taken by the people; it includes preparing manufacturing instructions for machines, sales planning, and the hiring process.

 

Pop-up Stores

With the rapidly increasing concept of driver-less cars, startup companies are in for a treat. Venture capital firms, such as the Fifth Wall are offering a short-term lease for pop-up stores, including parking lots. Some startups that can benefit from this are Katerra (a construction company), Kasita.com (the firm that makes modular housing units), and Factory OS (a company that makes modular buildings).

 

Voice-centric Devices

These devices have taken the market by storm. This has encouraged startup companies to seek new opportunities to use voice, including advertising. It has been predicted by WIRED that new firms with creative solutions are expected to do really well in 2018, which makes it an attractive sector for venture capitalists.

 

Subscription-based Products

In the last few years, VC firms were drawn to digital media startup companies, such as Vox media, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Mic, and many more. However, some of these companies have undergone layoffs in recent times. This has eventually made the investors move on to subscription-based products, such as Patreon. In September last year, this company raised around 60 million dollars.

Another example is Medium, which raised over 130 million dollars from VC firms. This company has shifted to a subscription-based model just recently.

Will 2018 Mark the End of Initial Public Offerings?

Jan
18

2017 turned out to be a great year for technology-based IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) that were backed by venture capital.

So many names in a corporate world went public last year, including SendGrid, StitchFix, BlueApron, Cloudera, and Yext. In fact, one of the most successful IPOs in the last few years was Snapchat. In 2018, there are some potential firms that are likely to go public, which is great because the Dow and S&P 500 are at the record high.

 

Beginning of the End for IPOs?

However, dark clouds have started to form on a distant horizon regarding IPOs. Spotify will probably go for direct listing and bypass the bank underwriting to go public. On the other hand, blockchain technology is booming and has attracted many retail investors, especially the ones who are skeptical about the IPOs and the corruption in this sector. Similarly, SoftBank Vision Fund is also trying to raise as much private capital as possible to provide protection to firms from the devastating effect of vulture funds.

There is an increasing awareness that current IPO sector is a hub of corruption, wherein, only those people are benefiting from the firms growth cycle who know the ‘right people’. The retail investors, however, are on the losing end as they are getting sufficient returns. This growing awareness is not going to subside, especially when there is a constant increase viability of other options.

 

Robust Technology – An Alternative to Conventional IPO

The fall of IPOs has been predicted so many times in the past, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ten or so years back when Google went for a Dutch-style IPO, so many people anticipated that it could a soon-to-be-ending road for banks who want to run a roadshow for investors. Similarly, a few years ago, when the pipeline of initial offerings dried up, the same hype was created.

Despite all the noise, the IPO has continued to provide good business. Although, firms will continue to go public by trading shares or securities, they are undergoing certain changes. For example, conventional ways of big banks to charge a huge fee is going to be replaced by more effective alternatives. So many bankers have already begun to lose their jobs after the introduction of technology. Goldman Sachs has already built an application that manages the IPO process. These steps are being taken to enhance the efficiency of operations.

There are only a few who have anticipated that IPOs will get a support of ethereum tokens and the Dutch East India company. However, no one can deny the fact that IPOs are growing weaker day by day, and they won’t survive in the long run if drastic measures are not taken.

 

Spotify’s Direct Listing

The company has managed to secure around 70 million paying subscribers, but at the same time, its chief content officer has resigned. In addition to that, the company is also dealing with some lawsuits filed by the music labels, which can be very damaging in the future.

Despite all the ups and downs, the news has come to light that Spotify is planning to go public via the direct listing. By undergoing direct listing, the company will not issue any new shares nor will it raise any capital through the process. For IPOs, this arrangement can be very devastating as financial institutions like Goldman Sachs will become deprived of underwriting fees, whereas, institutional investors will lose an opportunity to buy IPO shares at a huge discount like they did in the past.

Although, a direct listing of Spotify will be a little bumpy, it doesn’t mean that the process will end in disaster. The rise of digital trading based on algorithms will help Spotify stabilize the price after analyzing the market. The process will be executed as fast as it does for other initial offerings.

 

Increasing Trend of ICOs

Another disruptive disaster expected to happen is the rising trend of ICOs. Initial coin offerings or ICOs are being considered as a replacement for VCs. The rush of initial coin offerings among startup companies has placed a big question mark on the existence of IPOs. ICO model might not be applicable to every company, but being a competitive threat to IPO, they do not necessarily have to apply to every firm.

All in all, IPO is facing back to back attacks; a direct public offering will dramatically reduce the fees involved in conventional IPO, whereas, ICO will be an effective tool for potential financial growth. These disruptive tools are definitely going to rule out the need to go public so as to achieve financial strength, which would eventually impact the long-term sustenance of IPOs.

Venture Capital Sector Facing Challenges in the Era of Cryptocurrency

Jan
04

In the past couple of years, cryptocurrency has experienced a sudden boom and is now making news in every sector. In the beginning, when bitcoin was in its initial stages, everybody was talking about Venture Capital (VC) and how it is going to benefit the small businesses.

So many venture capitalists made money by investing in innovative ideas that eventually materialized into unicorns. Instead of investing in the digital currency like bitcoins, investors preferred to invest in the companies, such as Coinbase or 21.co.

 

Bitcoin Price at All Times High

Some of these firms performed better than the other. For example, Coinbase ended up being in the first place in the app store of Apple last December as a result of hype over bitcoin. On the other hand, 21 kept changing its names and business plans. Back when Coinbase got its first round of funding from VCs, its price was about $110. However, recently, it has managed to reach $19,000.

An investment associate in the Digital Currency Group, Travis Scher, was of the opinion that had investors invested in the cryptocurrency instead of investing in digital currency firms, they would’ve gotten much higher returns by now.

 

VCs and the Increasing Trend of ICOs

This isn’t easy to grasp as it complicates the core idea of VCs.

The conventional way of making an investment was to find out the rising trend in technology, identify the targets that were in line with those trends and were in a better position to make it big, and then taking a profitable exit as soon as those companies were either sold out or went public.

But it won’t be an effective strategy for digital currencies like bitcoin. In fact, as more and more cryptocurrencies have entered the market, it has become even more confusing and complex. The community of dreamers, and entrepreneurs have been raising money via ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), wherein, they create their own digital currencies, sell them for money and trade them in the open market.

When it comes to venture capital firms, they offer the investors an unrestricted access to private companies that are not publicly listed. Therefore, the question is, where will these venture capital companies go, if ICOs become a strong medium for people to get a bit of hot technology.

 

Venture Capitalists and their New Tactics

Venture capitalists have been devising new tactics to deal with the frenzy of cryptocurrency. Instead of seeking a stake in the digital currency firm, they have started purchasing the rights to acquire tokens ahead of initial coin offerings via legal contracts. In addition to that, they are improvising conventional equity deals, offering guarantees to investors in terms of getting tokens if a startup company goes for ICO in the future.

Some investors have also invested directly in bitcoin for years. The founder of VC firm Social Capital, Chamath Palihapitiya, said that he, along with his partners, invested in 5 percent of the bitcoin in circulation and still hold a reasonable stake in the currency.

 

Increasing Risks Faced by Investors in the Digital Currency Market

Although, the cryptocurrency market is rapidly growing, yet, it is not without risk. In fact, so many investors have suffered from hacking attacks and have also been threatened physically.

Threats are very real and harmful, because bitcoin will be lost forever if somebody steals it.

 

Cryptocurrency Hedge Funds and Futures Tokens

So many VC firms, including Sequoia Capital, Union Square Venture, and Andreessen Horowitz have made an investment in digital currency hedge funds in order to benefit from the boom without worrying about managing these currencies. They earn profits by trading dabble, litecoin, ethereum, and bitcoin in the ICOs market.

Some of the big names in the world of VC, including Bain Capital Venture, Union Square Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, have entered the deals to acquire digital tokens. For that, they are using legal agreements called “Simple Agreements for Future Tokens” also known as SAFT. Andreessen Horowitz is also taking steps to include provisions in standard contracts for investments in order to properly address ICOs.

According to a research website, in 2017, startup companies made about $3.6 billion in ICOs. This, however, is nothing in comparison to the $52.6 billion earned by VCs from around the world, as stated in the report by CB Insights and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Despite that, investors are inclined toward ICOs as it enables them to make millions in short span of time as compared to VC investments, which take years before you can reap the return.

National Currencies last breath?

Dec
18

The world of digital currency has gained massive popularity in the past couple of years.

Bitcoin has moved over $19,000, whereas, Ethereum is increasing in value every day and its price has crossed over $700. The continuing boom of cryptocurrencies might eventually lead to the next big step, i.e., the end of cash currencies.

Yes, you heard it right. Even the director and founder of Bitt, Gabriel Abed, is of the opinion that cash has been in the market for too long, and all the currencies will eventually be digitized.

 

Rise of the New Economic Age

All the cryptocurrencies, including Ether and Bitcoin, are basically issued by private organizations, groups, and individuals, they mine it through cryptographic protocols  and more and more countries are gradually heading in that direction.

  • Russia has recently announced its plans for a national digital currency called Crypto-Ruble.
  • China and Kyrgyzstan are following the lead.
  • In Japan, over 200,000 stores have been accepting bitcoin as a legal tender and some of the big banks are planning to create their own version of these cryptocurrencies.

In a highly innovative environment, efforts are being made to circulate digital currency in various economies. The Federal Reserve in the United States however, has no such plans of nationalizing the cryptocurrency.

 

Crypto-Ruble – A New Start for Better Russian Economy?

Putin is very strict about following law and order and despite the advantages of having a national digital currency, it has gray areas when it comes to its legal status. This is why he is a little skeptical about cryptocurrencies. Therefore, the aim of Russian official crypto-policy is to eliminate the chances of illegal transactions such as, human-trafficking, terrorism financing, and  money laundering, while at the same time using this technology to modernize the internal capital management of Russia. This is the main strategy behind crypto-ruble.

The crypto-ruble will serve as a connection between the real world and the crypto-world, which would enable the efficient tracking of capital flow in the Russian economy. Those who won’t be able to provide a paper trail of ownership will have to pay tax on crypto-ruble at the capital gain rates. It will encourage the development of low-cost crypto-payment systems, which allows the exchange of rubles for goods only in digital currencies where ownership can be tracked.

 

China Taking a Step to Cryptocurrency Implementation

People’s Bank of China has already created a prototype of a digital currency that may be circulating in the market in times to come, alongside Yuan. The country is testing possible scenarios in a simulated environment and running dummy transactions using digital currency with a few commercial banks in China.

 

Making Quantitative Easing Easier with National Cryptocurrency

The rise of new economic age with cryptocurrency as a national currency will make quantitative easing much easier. Quantitative easing is an economic concept, whereby the central bank purchases predefined amount of financial assets and government bonds to give a boost to the economy. By having a national cryptocurrency, it will be easier to execute the concept of quantitative easing.

 

Why is National Digital Currency a Better Idea?

Abed further added that nationalizing the digital currency is a better option as it is more transparent, immutable, and efficient. In fact, there have been talks between the Central Bank of Jamaica and Bitt to enable testing this technology. At the same time, the company has been running the active pilot programs in other Caribbean countries.

Jamaica is encouraging the FinTech startups by enabling them to operate in the country. The main reason behind these efforts is to foster innovation. A representative of the Caribbean Development Bank said that they do not want to be in a situation where regulatory authorities have a strong and dominant hand initially. He further said that the Caribbean can be used as a virtual space to test the new technology in a secure environment. These efforts will eventually enable them to take bigger steps in the future.

Should Regulators be Concerned About This Profitable Investment?

Nov
23

Although investors from around the world have shown increasing interest in the digital currency, many regulators negatively criticize Blockchain and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). However, there has been an exception recently as Yao Loong Ng, the executive director of the Financial Market Strategy department, is encouraging the regulatory authorities around the globe to learn about cryptocurrency and ICOs. He even pointed out the fact that learning about the developments in the world of digital currency can be useful for regulators.

In a panel discussion of the South East Asian Nation Capital Markets Conference that was held in Malaysia, Ng said that it takes a lot less time to market for the ICOs as compared to IPOs (Initial Public Offerings).

IPOs can take as much as 9 months to market. This is why he believes that if the entire process of writing a white paper for ICOs and its subsequent listing is taking just a few days, then regulators certainly have something to learn from it.

 

Current Developments in Cryptocurrency

But the question is, why is there a need to regulate it? Cryptocurrencies have gained a lot of traction in the last few years and so many investors have been investing in the virtual currency. In fact, in July 2017, Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution’s author, made an announcement of closing an over-subscribed financing of 20 million dollars for his digital investment funds. The hedge fund is called NextBlock Global. His opinion is that this fund has everything, including domain expertise, and market access to have a bright future.

Last year in September, Olaf Carlson also created a hedge fund of digital currencies, which had more than $200 million in Assets Under Management. Among many venture capital firms that are backing this fund, Union Square Venture, Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz are a few leading names.

Currently, the majority of the investors in the world of digital currency are either individuals with high wealth or retail investors. Institutional investors have so far shown very limited interest in cryptocurrencies. But this is not going to stay the same. In fact, the change has already started taking place. The new flow of investment by the institutional investors will give a boost to bitcoins and other altcoins by pushing its value rapidly in the upward direction due to their small market capitalization.

In times like this, it has become increasingly important to step forward. Instead of negatively criticizing the new form of currency, it’s time to embrace it and start the efforts of regulating it. Although, there has been a constant backlash from the regulators community at large, there are a few countries where authorities are working on creating regulations.

 

Regulating the Digital Currency

In Malaysia, the Security Commission has made an announcement that it is currently in the process of preparing guidelines and regulations on how these currencies should function, which includes secondary market trading of established digital assets and currencies.

Tan Sri Ranjit Singh, the chairman of the commission said that they are working closely with the central bank of Malaysia to develop a framework on cryptocurrencies. He further added that it will take a few months for the framework to complete. He also mentioned that they are observing it very carefully and since the Security Commission control and regulate the secondary market, they will design the rules and regulations in such a way that there is a right condition in place for trading values in order to secure market integrity. This is also being done for providing the projection to investors.

 

Regulatory Efforts

A consultant at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, Munish Sharma, talked about the dilemma faced by most regulators, especially when it comes to the existence of this new technology in the highly regulated space. He said that digital currency has gained a lot of investors’ attention in the past 5 years, but at the same time, there have been growing concerns among the financial institutions’ regulators around the world.

Instead of just letting the digital currency grow without any interference or regulation, governments of various countries are brainstorming with the regulators on how to regulate these virtual currencies.

Rising Trend of Initial Coin Offerings

Nov
09

According to a report by Mangrove Capital, 204 ICOs have made a return of about 1,320 percent.

At the same time, investment banks and hedge funds have shown increasing interest in the digital currency with over 55 crypto-specific hedge funds. Before diving deep into why investors are showing greater interest in cryptocurrency, let’s take a look at what ICO is.

 

What is ICO?

Unlike conventional financial system, ICO or Initial Coin Offering is an alternative and unconventional way of crowdfunding. It has enabled a number of successful firms and projects to get the finance to start their business. New businesses and startups around the globe are getting millions of dollars in funds by issuing digital coins. The rising trend of digital currency has made people both worried and excited.

In ICO, the coins bought by investors are for businesses and marketplaces that are not developed yet. By purchasing these coins, they make a bet that a firm or startup will end up becoming successful and as a result, the coin will increase in value.

In average it takes about six months or a year to raise money with conventional venture capital (VC) system, but it is different when it comes to ICOs. In this token crowdfunding, you get to have a large crowd of engaging supporters who want to see you succeed. Not only do they campaign for you, but they are also your early adopters.

 

Growing Trend of ICO

Startups have raised more than 2 billion dollars since the start of 2017. It is a huge amount of funding, given the fact that not many people knew about it a few years ago. Businesses are making money via this mode of funding faster than usual.

In April this year, Gnosis (prediction market for Ethereum) managed to raise 12 million dollars in just ten minutes. In June, Mozilla’s founder raised 35 million dollars by selling Basic Attention Tokens in under 30 seconds for his new web browser startup called ‘Brave’.

ICOs have become the name of the game as they have left the venture capital market behind and are the biggest source of funding. It is a great option for those companies that are pursuing the application of blockchain technology.

 

Concerns by the Regulators

Despite the increasing trends of ICOs, regulators have shown serious concerns. They are warning investors that it is a high-risk investment.

Although, some coins value has dramatically increased, a very high volatility cannot be ignored. Some have also considered it a ‘speculative boom’, but that did not stop investment banks and hedge funds from showing their interest by making an investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

 

Reason behind the Increasing Interest of Institutional Investors in ICOs

The digital currency market has made massive profits in the past one year or so. Initially, institutional investors were curious about what this is all about, but they started getting a hang of it gradually and became less apprehensive and more interested in this alternative investment. It is a kind of chain reaction that started with the rising interest among venture capitalists and now institutional investors, including mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds are following their lead. They have shown growing interest and are making an effort to estimate and grab the opportunities in the cryptocurrency market.

The reason why they are more interested in the new and unconventional currency is that it promises a higher return as compared to market averages. According to a fintech analytics firm, there have been at least 55 cryptocurrency hedge funds and a former manager at Fortress, Mike Novogratz, has recently announced a plan to use 500 million dollars for a new digital currency hedge fund. Blockchain Capital also made an announcement of raising 150 million dollars; a part of this fund will be for cryptocurrencies.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Approval

Goldman Sachs is planning to set up a bitcoin trading desk, as they believe that institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrency more than ever. The firm has reported it to be ‘a major milestone’. They believe that the investors need an over-the-counter brokerage platform where they can sell or buy as much cryptocurrency as they want. Goldman Sachs is of the opinion that it can take up this role, but there will be other issues, including market infrastructure and serious concern by the regulators.

 

If, however, ICOs becomes regulated, it will change the way how businesses raise money and will also impact the venture capital market.

A Useful Funding Tool for Less Segregated and Diverse Communities

Oct
26

Communities with a mixed ethnic background and more diversity are likely to come up with new ideas. According to a study by the Yale School of Management, having people in a community with different backgrounds is beneficial for Venture Capital (VC) firms as it leads to economic development and innovation.

In various countries around the globe, communities, universities, and businesses are pursuing diversification. Apart from the immediate benefit of getting fairness, having multiple points of view and diversity of experience is very useful for the overall performance of these sectors.

 

Effect of VC on Integrated Communities

The study also revealed that VC investment is more beneficial for ethnically integrated communities as compared to segregated communities. The effect of VC on the integrated communities was 30 percent higher as compared to segregated ones, especially in terms of creating more wealth, jobs, entrepreneurship opportunities, and facilitating innovative activities. The startup businesses create more value and job opportunities that eventually lead to economic growth.

In a diverse community, you get to interact with people having diverse backgrounds, which leads to getting access to more resources and information as compared to segregated communities. In the past, studies have shown that economic vitality is enhanced as a result of social interaction within a community.

 

Implications of Social Interaction for Venture Capital

The purpose of the study in question was to identify whether a social structure is vital for economic development or not. The VC was the focus of this study, given the fact that it is a useful financial tool for high growth businesses.

It was revealed that such relationships have significant implications when it comes to VC investments. VC investors put their money in new businesses that are in the close vicinity. They tend to rely on professional relationships and friendships for leads and information that cannot be received via cold calls or internet search.

VC investments were compared to aggregate income, employment, new businesses, and a number of patents. It was found that VC performed much better in less segregated and diverse areas, resulting in more patents, more jobs, and created more value.

Social interaction has benefited various communities. One of the many factors that led to high level of innovation in the United States is the increasing number of immigrants that bring diverse culture. When they interact with one another, it creates room for transferring valuable information and ideas, which leads to better economic outcomes. Besides, when people from different ethnic backgrounds live close to one another, it brings about healthy relationships and effective interactions that is favorable for the wider economy.

 

Diversity Leads to Innovative Thinking

Diversity is also very useful to promote innovative thinking that leads to success in the venture capital market. Any sector that does not have diversity or mixed race is very limited in innovative mindset and thought process. This results in similar thinking with not many innovative ideas. In addition to that, there is gender bias in the VC sector that restricts the overall growth prospects. It is a widely known fact that female founders represent the rapidly growing entrepreneurial group in the United States and their firm’s experience growth 1.5 times faster than the average growth rate in the market.

 

Providing Solution to Promote Innovative Decision Making

Despite the lack of diversity, it is quite likely that change is taking place gradually. An increasing number of entrepreneurs with diverse background are entering into the market. They are focused on providing a solution to the problem and make a profit in the process.

It has become really important to promote diversity in the communities and in societies at large so as to promote economic development and prosperity. Not only will it be beneficial for the venture capital industry, but it is also going to help the masses in getting equal opportunities in every sector.

 

The venture capital market has also derived benefits from diverse communities in terms of innovative thinking and plethora of useful information. To continue moving in the right direction, countries around the globe should embrace diversity in order to have successful businesses and create more job opportunities that will eventually bring economic prosperity in the long run.

Struggles of Entrepreneurs Based on Investors’ Perception

Oct
12

The first quarter of 2017 was closed with a total financing of $27 billion worldwide and the hot sectors in the world of Venture Capital (VC) have been fintech and technology. Despite the booming industry, VC has its own ups and downs.

 

Overlooking Entrepreneurs

Innovation has always been at the heart of the United States and the country has always encouraged entrepreneurship, yet, the ideas are often overlooked when it comes to immigrants and women in the sector.

Jerry Nemorin, the founder of LendStreet, is a fine example of that case. He initiated a company to support individuals who find it difficult to pay off their debt. He looks for people who are struggling with loan repayments, buy and consolidate their debt and refinance it at a fair rate of interest. Despite such a brilliant idea, he struggled with raising funds. According to him, investors recognize a defined pattern and the chances of funding the idea of a black person who is out to solve poor people’s problem are very low.

However, he is not alone. There are a large number of entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas who have been struggling with raising funds. Less than 1% investment in new startups goes to people of color, whereas, 10% investment goes to female entrepreneurs. Only 15% of the Unicorns that are making over $200 billion have made it to the real-world industries for day to day dealings.

 

Blind Spots – Another Cause Behind the Struggles

In an economy that promotes innovation, a lot of the best ideas are left out of the conversation due to blind spots.

  • Bias

Bias is the first blind spot that they face. Although, investors don’t do that intentionally, yet, it happens. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that come from people like them.

A study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in which it was identified that applications that read ‘Greg’ got more calls as compared to the résumés that had the word ‘Lakisha’. This is not surprising, because only 5 percent of the partners in VC firms are female, whereas, people of colors are significantly lesser than that, i.e., less than 1 percent. Hence, the distribution of funding is largely based on the decision makers who are investors in this case.

  • Availability Bias

This is another blind spot that comes in the way of funding the brilliant ideas. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that are closest to them, or the last good idea they heard, versus the best. Almost 80 percent of the money goes to the firms that are situated within 30 miles of the investors.

  • Two-way Thinking

Lastly, most investors have two-way thinking when it comes to funding the ideas. Many people believe that they should focus on making a profit from a business, regardless of whether it is good or bad for the society at large, while engaging in philanthropy and nonprofit activities for the benefit of the society without paying much heed to financial sustainability.

Jerry’s idea supports this ideology, i.e., making a profit from a business that helps people in paying off their loan.

 

Overcoming the Blind Spots

Although, these blind spots are deep-rooted, yet, people can overcome these obstacles if they make an intentional effort to welcome new ideas. Kapor Capital intentionally invested in LendStreet to support Jerry’s idea. As a result, an initial investment of $500,000 turned into a portfolio of 40 million dollars, which enabled Jerry to refinance the financial statements of thousands of families in the U.S.

 

These ideas are available in abundance, but investors have to look closely and more carefully to fund new startups based on the merit so as to reap substantial benefits.

Interest Rates and Venture Capital

Oct
02

The Venture Capital market has experienced a massive growth in the last two decades. Startups prefer to get venture capital funding instead of raising debt. However, when it comes to economic growth, interest rates and Venture Capital (VC) go hand in hand. VC boost entrepreneurial activities and interest rates are helpful when it comes to risk-taking activities for the wellbeing of the economy.

If the interest rate is low, it serves as a fuel for VC investment, but at the same time, it discourages venture capitalists to put their money in riskier startups that are young, in other countries and in less popular industries.

Typically, VC firms invest their money after comparing the profits they achieve with profits that are available to the investors somewhere else. However, the relationship between interest rate and risk-taking can change based on which investor’s point of view is considered.

 

Effect of Interest Rate on non-traditional Capital

When we talk about short to medium term variations in the interest rate, it usually affects non-traditional capital source, including hedge funds and mutual funds. Unlike conventional Venture Capital investors, who keep their money invested for 10 years or so, unconventional investors can put their cash in different baskets and spread it across different assets classes. They can quickly decide where they should put their money in order to reduce the impact of interest rate variation.

 

Changing Effect of Interest Rate on VC Investments

Over the last three decades, federal rates have changed from as high as 16% in the early 80s to as low as 0.09%. However, VC has evolved from a small industry into a $100 billion per year asset class. Venture capitalists are investing a massive amount of money every year. Therefore, it is important to understand the changing effect of interest rate on VC investments.

Between the year 2000 and 2009, the federal fund rates and VC investments were parallel to each other. When the technology bubble was burst, the Federal Reserve adopted the strategy of decreasing interest rates so as to promote the economic growth. For venture capitalists, the environment was not as attractive as it was before and limited partners invested less in venture capital. The VC decreased with the decline in interest rates.

After the introduction of quantitative easing, this relationship between VC and interest rates ceased to exist and they became inversely proportional to each other.

 

Moreover, after the credit crunch, near-zero interest rate policy enabled financial institutions and brokerages to renew their balance sheets, settle their toxic assets, and revitalize their financial health. It also allowed the U.S. economy to recover from the after-effects of the crisis and enabled businesses to borrow capital at reasonable rates. During this phase of cheap money, technology sector, VC firms, and startups took advantage of the friendly valuation environment.

 

Federal Reserve’s Decision to Raise Interest Rates

By the end of this year, Fed plans to raise the interest rates. If the plan materializes, it will be  the first time in the past nine years that the U.S. will experience the increase in rates, which will bring the era of zero interest rate to an end.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, indicated that the increase in interest rates will not be rapid.

It will be a gradual increase, which will not change the valuation environment of a startup and technology sector instantly. However, it will change along with a valuation environment of the stock market. The reason is simple; valuation multiples are indirectly correlated to interest rates, where in, the multiples decrease with the increase in rates.

 

It is important to observe the next move of the Fed and market reaction to changing interest rates, because it may affect the Venture Capital market.