ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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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.

ICOs Surpassed Early Stage Venture Capital Funding

Sep
15

New startups that raised funds through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have now surpassed the early stage VC Funding for internet firms.

But before diving into it, it is important to know what ICOs are.

 

What is Initial Coin Offerings?

This is another way of raising cash.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain startup companies raise capital through ICOs by selling tokens of investors in exchange for equity funds. It is somewhat the same as Initial Public Offering in which stocks are issued in exchange for equity. Just like crowdfunding, ICOs provide a way to get funds from users by enabling them to have a share of the business. They get digital currency in exchange for the money they invest in the business.

 

Rising Popularity of ICOs and VC Funding

ICOs have gained massive popularity in the last few months among blockchain and cryptocurrency startups. In April this year, the total capital raised via these offerings was around $100 million and in May, the amount went up to about $250 million. The month of June turned out to be the biggest surprise when the total funding exceeded $550 million. According to Goldman Sachs, it was the first time that it performed better than seed and angel venture capital funding. Early stage and angel venture capital funding was less than $300 million in June.

In July, the offerings were a little more than $300 million, whereas, early stage and angel funding was just a bit higher than $200 million.

 

Popularity Among the Celebrities

ICOs have become so popular that even the celebrities, including Paris Hilton and Floyd Mayweather, have started jumping on board. In fact, Paris has been involved in it for over a year now and also met the COO of Ethereum last year.

 

Total Value of ICOs in 2017

The total value raised by 92 ICOs in 2017 is $1.25 billion. This is a really good number, given the recent boom of such offerings in the VC sector. There are so many firms that have used these offerings to raise money. For example, Tezos managed to get the capital of over $200 million by creating a new blockchain, whereas, another firm, Bancor secured $153 million via ICO.

 

Criticism and Scrutiny from Regulators

Despite the boom, this phenomenon has been under severe criticism and scrutiny from regulators and other authorities. For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) released a statement in which it was mentioned that these offerings are exposed to money laundering and other terrorist financing risks, because the nature of these transactions remains anonymous. Another concern raised by the MAS was the collection of large amounts of capital in such a short time frame, which makes ICO vulnerable to high-level risk.

On the other hand, the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in July this year that the security law of the U.S. will be applicable to this cryptocurrency. The experts are also showing concern over its legitimacy. They have highlighted that the sale of a cryptographic token makes the investor entitled to a certain share of profit in the firm, which can be considered as a violation of financial rules and regulations. The People’s Bank of China and a lot of other government departments have released a joint statement that people and firms that have raised money through ICO should also make arrangements to return that capital.

 

Firms Facing Increasing Risk of Getting Hacked

Despite all the boom and criticism, the risk of ICOs cannot be ruled out. A clear example of this is CoinDash that initiated an ICO, but ended up getting hacked in July. As a result, all of its funds got stolen. Although, it has gained popularity in the past few months, yet, the risks cannot be ruled out entirely.

 

Future of ICOs

The Chief Information Officer of UBS, Oliver Bussman, raised his concern and said that strict regulations and measures, as applied to IPO businesses, are required in ICO to safeguard the interest of investors. However, he is quite confident about this new mode of raising funds and expressed that such offerings will continue to happen in future. He said that as a new business model that is benefiting the blockchain technology, ICO will continue to sustain by combining hybrid equity ownership/currency and crowd funding.

Women Still Struggling in the World of Technology and Innovation

Apr
13

Although, it seems as if things are moving in a positive direction for female entrepreneurs, there is yet a lot to be done. Women have made accomplishment in every field, but they are still facing a number of challenges, especially when you talk about the increasing number of female startup owners and their ability to get funding.

David S. Ricketts, the senior innovation scholar at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, said that this is the number one challenge they face when their businesses are experiencing growth.

 

Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in the IT Sector

Female owners of IT companies have to come across various obstacles when they try to raise capital from venture capital firms. This holds true in case of the Silicon Valley and tech hubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, London. Not only does it adversely affect the progress of women entrepreneurs, but it is also bad for the technology sector, because restraining their leadership and talent hampers the overall growth and impede innovation. Moreover, the gender gap is rapidly increasing around the world, with 90 percent of the venture capital going to male entrepreneurs and only 10 percent retained by female founders. In addition to that, only 10 percent of the strategic level positions in tech companies are occupied by women.

According to the report by the National Women’s Business Council, women invest half the amount of capital invested by men in the startup businesses. It was further mentioned in the report that firms with female founders usually get far less equity financing from venture capitalists and angel investors as compared to companies with male owners, i.e., 14.4 percent vs. 3.6 percent.

Furthermore, only 1.8 percent of the women ask their close family or friends to raise capital as opposed to 9.2 percent men.

 

Female Entrepreneurs in the European Market

A similar trend has been observed in the European market as well, wherein, the IT sector is on the boom, yet the percentage of women leaders is a lot less as compared to men and only a small percentage of venture capital is allocated to startups led by female entrepreneurs. The United Kingdom (UK) is the second biggest startup hub after Berlin. 86 percent of the startups in the UK that receive venture capital funds are owned by men. Whereas, the percentage of angel investment secured by men and women is 56 percent and 44 percent respectively. Unfortunately, even in the IT sector, the distribution of capital is not based on merit.

With such funding constraints, women owned startups in the UK only represent 15 percent of the entire sector. They either revert to self-funding or seek crowdfunding opportunities to survive in the long run.

 

Female Entrepreneurs Generate More Revenue than Male Founders

It is worth noting that female owner companies earn 12 percent more revenue as compared to companies run by men in the IT industry, and their return on investment is 35 percent higher than the firms owned by their male counterparts. If they are given appropriate support, not only do they give better performance, but also make exceptional achievements. This holds true for women living in any part of the world.

 

How Can Female Entrepreneurs Contribute to Better and Sound Economy?

According to one estimate, if women in the UK, who wants to have their own startup companies, get the right support, they can instantly generate more than 300,000 new businesses and create more than 400,000 employment opportunities. Moreover, female-led businesses can contribute to innovation and better quality products with great consumer satisfaction.

 

The U.S. Firms, such as Backstage Capital and Kapor Capital, and the UK firms like Albright are some of the prominent examples of women-led capital firms that have proven to be the game changers in the venture capital (VC) community. To let the innovative and productive ideas flowing in the IT market, VCs should open the doors to give female-led companies a head-start, because it is possible that the owner of the next big unicorn is a female entrepreneur.

Angel Investors & Friends and Family – The Key Source of Funding

Mar
30

Investing in startups is a challenging task. Some startups make big promises, but end up failing, while others turn out to be quite a success. For example, the early investors of Instagram got more than 300 times return on their initial investment within a period of two years. But these are one of the mega jackpots. On many occasions, investors suffered heavy losses as well. This is the reason why they are wary of investing in startups.

However, it has been observed that the key sources of funding for a startup are either angel investors or their family and friends.

 

Friends and Family as a Key Source of Funding

According to a survey, friends and family invest more than $60 billion every year. Moreover, around 38 percent of the startup owners gather funds from their kith and kin and the average investment value is around $23,000.

There is no better way to raise money than to seek the help of your own family members or friends. They can be an ideal option to give your business a head start. If you have reliable family members who are willing to invest, it can be a valuable resource and a long-term opportunity, especially because their main motivation will be to provide support and show loyalty toward the founder rather than expecting a high return on investment.

It is basically a close circle of those individuals who have a strong affinity with your brand or with you.

However, it is very important that these investments are officially set down in writing. All the documentation should be signed by the investors with their consent to the fact that there is a risk that they might not get their cash back.

 

What is the Risk Involved?

It is crucial to know that business should not be mixed with pleasure. Taking money from friends and family is a huge responsibility and risky at the same time. Make sure you share a strong bond with them so that your goals do not get affected when things go wrong. By accepting the funds provided by the family members or friends to start your business, you risk their money. Therefore, it is of vital importance that all parties come to a consensus before anything is initiated.

To manage and control the risk, every party should sign a promissory note that contains repayment terms. In case, your friends or family members want to partner with you, sign a partnership agreement and keep the official documents with you.

 

Angel Investors as a Key Source of Funding

According to a report, more than 268,000 angel investors are active in the United States. Every year, they make an investment of 20 billion dollars in around 60,000 businesses. The average investment amount is approximately $75,000. As per the Angel Resource Institute database, in 2012, the recorded number of angel groups in the U.S. was 385.

Angel investor is an affluent person who provides funds for startup companies, mostly in exchange for equity ownership or convertible debt instruments. A lot of these individuals are either business professionals, higher-ups in the corporate sector, or renowned entrepreneurs. Similarly, there are angel groups as well that consist of individual angels who come together for a common goal, i.e., to evaluate and fund the startup companies. These groups allow such investors to pool their money and make larger investments.

 

Benefits of Having Angel Investors as a Source of Funding the Business

They are usually the ideal source to fulfill funding requirements, because they are focused on the healthy growth of a startup company. Moreover, they also contribute as a coach or mentor based on their own experiences. For example, angel investors introduce startup founders to prospective investors and potential clients. They also identify the problems, advise solutions, and help these businesses to get recognition and credibility in the market. All in all, angels take a lot more risk as compared to other institutional investors. This is the reason why they are so dedicated and seriously concerned about the profits and losses of their portfolio companies.

 

 

To summarize, there has been a rising trend of getting funds from angel investors or family and friends, as they have not only been beneficial to fuel the startups, but have also contributed toward a better economy around the globe.

UK Government and Venture Capital

Jan
05

New startup have a potential for high growth, and these businesses have been emerging at a fast pace since the recession of 2008. However, the success of these companies is based on a number of factors, one of which is the availability of an appropriate source of business finance. Due to the credit crunch, new businesses suffered a lot in the UK in terms of getting finance. Therefore, it was important to rehabilitate the economy of the United Kingdom by encouraging alternate sources of investments, such as, Private Equity or Venture Capital funds.

The main challenge faced by the government of the UK was not to create high-growth firms, but to take measures in order to ensure continued growth of these companies. Innovative ideas can only thrive if the right investment opportunity is available. The businesses with a potential of high-growth need a substantial amount of funds up-front, which is hard to obtain via traditional sources of finance.

 

Rise of Business Angels in the UK

Right after the credit crunch, business angel network evolved in the UK and took the form of well-structured and organized groups of professionals. It allowed them to make significant initial investments and undertake subsequent investments in the same professional way as Venture Capital investors do. However, the Venture Capital funding system was not established and focused on investing in innovative ideas, but it began to change.

 

The UK Government Support for Venture Capital Investment

Inspired by the Venture Capital (VC) backed firms in the United States, economists and authorities in the UK showed rising interest in this alternate investment opportunity for its unique role in distributing resources and expertise to a small percentage of high potential businesses.

Every major economy in the world has implemented initiatives to promote the role of VC, and many governments have formed their own VC funds. Similarly, the UK government has established various hybrid VC funds to achieve the entrepreneurial objectives and bridge the equity gap by strengthening the VC ecosystem. The purpose of these funds is to focus on growth oriented startup firms with innovative ideas that continue to face difficulties in obtaining capital. The UK government has a history of such interventions in a financial market that goes back to 1945 the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation (ICFC) was formed for SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises).

 

The Government VC Funds (GVCFs)

There are three main GVCFs operating in the UK, namely UK Innovation Investment Fund (UKIIF), Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF), and Angel Co-investment Fund (ACF). All of these are the hybrid co-investment schemes and their aim is to promote public-private sector investment.

  • UK Innovation Investment Fund (UKIIF) – It was established in 2010 to encourage VC investment in the Research and Development sectors. It supports the formation of viable investment capital and targets the high-potential IT businesses in the UK. The investment is made via two underlying funds, i.e., the UK Future Technology Fund (now ceased) and the Hermes Environmental Impact Fund. These funds invest in those VC funds that are involved in giving capital to strategically crucial sectors of the UK, such as, life sciences, digital technologies, advanced manufacturing, or clean technology.
  • Enterprise Capital Funds (ECF) – This fund started operating in 2006. It represents a combination of private and public investments in businesses that have a tendency of high-growth. The purpose of establishing this fund was to lower the entry barrier for fund managers to operate in the VC ecosystem as well as to increase the supply of equity in the region where small businesses do not have access to the growth capital. It is rolling a program of 19 funds around £840 million with a planned life-cycle of ten to twelve years.
  • Angel Co-investment Fund (ACF) – It is the UK government’s £100 million fund that was launched in 2011. The objective of this fund is to provide direct investment to SMEs with high growth potential and to support the UK business angel market. Under this scheme, funds are allocated across the UK with a goal to support companies at every stage of development in different sectors. Furthermore, it operates at an arm’s length from the UK government under the administration of the British Business Bank.

 

Government interventions have become more important with the rapidly changing business environment and more initiatives are required to be taken by the government to promote the innovative ideas in the country to boost the overall economic environment.

Angels going back to heaven

Dec
22

The global market is at its all times high and businesses are getting investments in abundance.

Angel investments have also stepped up their game. In the past few years, a number of deals took place where the investments from angel investors flooded in, for example, Reid Hoffman, who made an investment in Facebook and Flickr, whereas, Chris Sacca invested in Instagram and Twitter. You would find so many names behind the companies who made it big in a short period of time, such as Friendster, Yelp, Twitter, etc.

 

Business Cycles leading the Angel Cycle

Most of the startups in the tech-industry have been backed by contributions made by angel investors, but the question is:

How long will it last?

This question has been brewing for quite some time, and there is a reason behind it.

If you take a look at past three decades, you will find out that angel cycle followed the same pattern as a business cycle. With the boom and bust experienced by the business cycle, angels took exits and departed to safe haven from time to time. There has been a total of five distinct cycles over a period of the last thirty-one years, depicting the rise and fall of silicon valley’s angel investors.

The sine curve that keeps track of fluctuations in the angel cycle typically follows the sine curve that keeps track of ups and down in a wider business cycle. It shows that as angel investing begins to rise up, the remaining startup investment market would be going through a radical shift.

 

Rise of Angels in Past 5 Years

For the past six years, the size of an average investment made by angels grew almost sixty percent, and pre-money valuation has shown a growth of around twenty percent.

Angels have invested heavily in the valley, wherein, different groups of angels have infused a lot of cash as the rounds got bigger and bigger each time. For example, two years ago in 2014, an investment of more than $24 billion was made by angel investors.

As they were risky investments, they hardly took into account more than 10 percent of an angel’s portfolio. Most of these investment decisions were discretionary; this is the reason why appetite of these investors and available funds got exhausted due to uncertain market conditions.

 

If the Cycle is about to Mature?

As predicted by Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley, the cycle is about to reach its maturity growth is given more value as compared to making profits. Regardless of whether it is happening, when it eventually happens, angel investors will become more cautious, wherein, some of them would wait for the market to go back to where it was prior to the fall, while others would simply pack up and leave.

 

History Repeats Itself

If you look back in the past, angel investors flee from the recession that occurred in the beginning of 1980s, only to enter the market again with the introduction of PCs and record high job opportunities coupled with the surge in the real estate market in San Francisco. Another downfall of angel cycle was observed with the economic recession of the 90s, as they made an even dramatic comeback later on with the growth of the dot – com bubble. Right after the bubble was burst in 2000, not only did they leave the tables once again, the investments turned out to be a failure as well.

They made another comeback after that, but escaped to safe havens when the real recession hit the market in 2007. Since then, the industry has experienced bullish trends, but no one knows when it will come to an end. However, the only certainty on the basis of past events is that it will come to an end.

 

If Time for Startups is Now?

If you have a startup company or planning to raise capital for funding your idea, it is better to raise capital now. Try to attract as much funds today as you can, while the market is experiencing a boom, because when the business cycle takes a shift, angels will take a step back. In times of good market conditions, business cycles are considered perpetual. What businesses tend to forget is, it is a cycle that goes through a series of surges and plunges. The global economy is not immune to the unavoidable macro events, as their occurrence gradually causes the shift in business cycles.

How Smart Angels Invest? – A Guide to Creating Your Investment Strategy

Dec
15

Investing in a startup has become more of a trend recently as it promises to return more than what it’s originally worth if it becomes successful. Some of the startups that made it big include Uber, Facebook, and Twitter. If you believe that you have enough capital to invest in the startups, but don’t know how to begin and what strategic direction to choose, it is better to start by analyzing the strategies of smart and successful angels; the type of investments they have in their portfolio and the course of their invested money over a period of time.

It may take some time to master the skills of these angel investors, but don’t get disheartened by it because it will eventually be brought to fruition as you learn to take the right decision. Even the successful investors made plenty of mistakes before they reached this position. Following are some of the things some of the well-known angel investors believe in when they make seed-stage investments.

 

Investing in People

One of the most famous angel investors of today is Ron Conway, who has made an investment in a number of successful ideas in the past decade. According to him, the most crucial element to consider when you invest in a startup is its team. He said that the idea of an entrepreneur changes and evolve with the passage of time, therefore, it is important to invest in people.

He follows a common strategy called spray and pray by making a large number of small investments. Not every investment made by him guarantees a successful exit, but he certainly has a huge network with different types of investors who look forward to joining the league of these angels.

 

Capital Efficient Business Idea

Another successful angel investor, Reid Hoffman, who is also a founder of LinkedIn and has made an investment in Flickr, Facebook, etc., believes in innovative ideas that have a tendency to scale efficiently. Whenever he invests in a company, he looks for a product that is unique, has the potential to attract millions of users, and most of all, it can attract funding as a business grows.

 

Identify the Products that Appeal Consumers

Chris Sacca, an angel investor who has invested in Instagram and Twitter, looks for a product that will be in demand once it hits the market. An example can be his investment in Turntable.fm, in which he invested a lot of time, because he realized it in the beginning that users would become engaged in this investment.

 

Team Involved in Materializing the Idea

Another well-known name in the angel investors’ community is Chris Dixon, a co-founder of Hunch. He invested in Skype and Milo. Moreover, in 2010, he was ranked number 1 investor in Businessweek. Although, he is always on a hunt for high-tech startups, yet he believes in diversifying away from the risk, and so also invest in startups that do not fall in the category of high-tech. However, apart from the technology, he focuses on the team involved in bringing an idea to reality, and this, he believes, is a crucial part of his investment. He said that as environmental changes occur, the shortcomings in the original idea start popping up. A good entrepreneur would always adjust to the changing environment, which can only be seen through the passion of the team involved.

 

Reasonable Compensation

Everyone must’ve heard the word PayPal; its co-founder who also invested in Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, and Friendster, Peter Thiel, said that he keeps his focus on what a CEO is paid. If these people are being paid a lot of money in the company, the chances of an investment to run out quickly are very high, but if the CEO is paid less than average, it depicts the alignment of his interest with equity shareholders. Therefore, he sees how reasonable a compensation is in the company when he invests.

 

Provides Solution to the Problem

A famous celebrity, Ashton Kutcher, has only been on the field for four years, yet, he has made substantial investments in high profile companies, such as, Skype, Zaarly, Flipboard, AirBnB, etc.

According to him, what he looks for in a company is the tendency of its product to solve a problem, and the user it engages who demand that solution.

 

 

To summarize, whenever you plan to invest in a company, you can choose one or use a blend of these ideas in order to examine factors that may lead to finding a successful deal. All in all, what they focus on is the entrepreneur; the team he assembles, and the idea he represents that determines whether an investment would be profitable or not.

What do Social Investors Want?

Dec
02

Funding is a lifeblood of any startup. It is a crucial element for the survival of any business.

For social entrepreneurs, it is important to take steps in the right direction if they wish to secure funds. This is the reason why they have to learn what social investors really want and what their expectations are. Having a thorough understanding of your businesses increases the likelihood of attracting the right investor. Therefore, the vision of your business must be clear and well-focused.

Below are four main guiding principles every social entrepreneur must bear in mind in order to secure reasonable funds to keep their businesses running.

 

Financial and Social Objectives Must Be Well-Integrated

Social entrepreneurs have to be convincing in order to succeed in winning the trust of an investor. They not only should have a persuasive social mission, but also present a strong business case. If both these elements are properly aligned, they create a strong case that can make an appealing financial outcome to widen your impact. A great example of that can be Taxi-Electric that runs the cars on electricity and charge a fair price for providing taxi services. In addition to that, they also provide job opportunities to people who experience long term unemployment or are students. Both of these core elements have enabled them to sell as many taxi rides as possible.

Another well-known example is Tony’s Chocolonely that produce and sell chocolates. Moreover, it opposes child labor and slavery at the same time by partnering up with trade firms in Ghana and Ivory Coast to purchase cocoa beans at a fair price directly from farmers. These organizations are making an effort to spread a positive message while growing their revenues and returns.

Investors usually look for such businesses that offer a combination of both. It is quite likely that angel investors would invest in visionary ideas and would try to improve the business side of these social startups, whereas, investment funds tend to focus on the business side in order to assist them in aligning their social goals. Investors normally expect social entrepreneurs to have a deep understanding of their financial as well as social goals along with having an integrated approach and clear vision. It is important to optimize your plan through discussion with your investor.

 

A Well-Balanced and Strong Management Team

It is important to have a well-balanced team of professionals.

Investors always stress the importance of having a solid team that has its goals aligned with the goals of a business. Having a group of professionals who are motivated to invest their time and expertise in a social enterprise is considered quite healthy for a business as it is an indicator of good future prospects. Financial institutions and venture capital firms specifically look for companies with strong teams while taking investment decisions. Therefore, it is recommended to add a diverse group of people in your team at an early stage, because having more than one person behind an idea shows its strength and persuasiveness.

 

Measure Your Impact

It is not easy for social firms to measure their impact or quantify its outcome and they blame the lack of resources for not being able to do so. Investors, however, consider the impact measurement a strong requirement before they invest in a business. Although, they understand that it is difficult to measure the social impact, yet, they emphasize that it can prove to be very helpful for social entrepreneurs to maintain focus on their operations and identify clearly what their goals are.

The question remains how to get it done. The key is to start small, for example, measure the number of people employed by a social enterprise and the positive feedback it receives. There is no doubt that every method comes with its limitations, but one cannot deny that you can, at least, measure your progress with it. Taking the question “why” is it you want to measure the impact can play a vital role in integrating your financial and social goals.

 

Avoid Deviation from Your Core Mission

It is very important to stick to your key mission. The deviation can cost a business a lot in terms of losing their financial wealth and losing their core values. It usually occurs after two to three years into the business, especially when new employees, leaders or investors start showing interest.

For venture capitalists, the shift from a mission is one of the major issues that arises in social enterprises. It happens when they start deviating from their balanced view of pursuing financial and social goals together, and instead, move toward financial returns at the cost of their social mission. If such deviation occurs, it detracts the social entrepreneurs from the original mission they discussed with investors.

It is to be noted that moving away from the original mission is not a bad thing as long as the expectations of the enterprise and investors are aligned. Keeping the investors on the same page, and having their agreement is crucial for the success of any social enterprise.

Crowdfunding and Venture Capital

Nov
11

If startups manage to get funding from a venture capital firm (VC) or angel investors, they mark it as a successful milestone.

However, in the past few years, another investment vehicle has been introduced in the financial market to fund innovative ideas called CrowdFunding (CF). It has been changing the game ever since its inception and it is a new form of raising money to finance ideas. Unlike other forms of investments, such as, seed funding, angel investing, VCs or bank loans, CrowdFunding actually enables startups and entrepreneurs to invest in their business with a large amount of capital supply. Before going into detail, let’s look at what crowdfunding actually is.

 

What is CrowdFunding?

In simple words, CrowdFunding is a mean of raising money through a large amount of individuals, who are requested to fund an idea on a CrowdFunding website with a small amount of money. This phenomenon depicts the wisdom of the crowd, wherein, a business gets an opportunity to satisfy the market demand that was previously not exploited. Having this system in place results in creator getting funds to excel in his creativity and crowd getting a new product, which makes it a win-win situation.

 

CrowdFunding or Venture Capital – A Better Choice?

This can be a topic of solid debate if discussed in detail, because both sources have their upside and downside. In order to get a clear idea of which one of the two is a better choice, some of the key points have been discussed below.

 

  • Ease of Access

There is no doubt that it is easier to access funds via CrowdFunding than it is to raise capital via Venture Capital. You can meet your capital requirement with CF without having to build any connections, and instead, leave the decision to a large group of individuals. Sometimes, VC is hard to access. Despite having actual customers and real revenues, companies are considered small by the venture capitalists.

With CrowdFunding platform, it becomes easier to access a wide array of accredited individuals to fulfill initial capital requirements. On the other hand, regardless of how streamlined the venture capital processes are, there will always be more friction in terms of VC making inquiries and spending more time.

  • Stability

Stability is a key to a successful business, but it isn’t achieved easily. Most of the startups do not show an incredible growth curve in the beginning. It takes time to find the product/market fit and to find out a scalable way to sell a product. It means startups would need extra time for which, there will be extra financing requirements. In case of CrowdFunding, there is no apparent deal with responsibility and resources to fill this gap. This is where venture capital partners can assist a business to maintain their focus on execution by providing enough cash.

However, it should be done based on TRUST where both the founders of a startup and venture capitalists feel that the investment was done fairly.

 

Venture Capitalists working with CrowdFunding platforms

Ron Miller, a CEO of StartEngine (CrowdFunding platform), venture capitalists are compelled to use CF, because it asks founders for revealing the strength of their teams and values in the marketplace. He further said that it shows that strong teams and concepts are likely to get exposure in the market, which will draw attention of the VCs and other investors to further invest in their ideas.

For Example, Oculus Rift, a virtual reality system. They raise $2.4 million through CrowdFunding, which gave them the opportunity to rise another round led by Andreeseen Horowitz (VC firm) to raise $75 million.

 

Both sources of funds have their pros and cons. However, some VCs are now turning to crowdfunding websites to get access to new deals. Having strict timelines, they use CrowdFunding to identify if the idea is worth investing time in.

What do Angel Investors Look for in Startups?

Oct
27

Angel investors have to look for a business that worth investing, but it is not easy to differentiate between a startup that has a potential to grow and the one that is unlikely to succeed in the future. Angel investments are the most popular form of injecting funds into a business, especially a startup. According to a research, business owners are of the notion that it is a plan that attracts the investment, but investors seem to have other priorities.

Angels go for the “Ideas and Founders” and not the “Plan”

An online platform, known as Company Check that provides data on the companies in the UK, conducted a poll where 3000 business owners were asked about what they think an investor looks for while making an investment decision. It was revealed that around 38 percent of participants said it is a business plan, whereas, 27 percent of them voted for sales figures, followed by the founder, business idea, and economy. But the owner of Company Check, Alastair Campbell, was surprised with the results. He recently got an investment of $1 million for his startup called Carsnip. He said that at an early stage, it is an idea and a founder of a business that angel investors tend to go for, and then comes the sales figures and plan.

To further confirm the reasons, another poll was initiated where investors were asked the same question. Most of the investors shared the same notion as expressed by Campbell. Rory Curran, an angel investor of StatPro and Ecodesk, said that after his experience of investing in about 15 early stage startups and going through failures over time, he believes the ranking should be a founder, an idea, and then a business plan (especially the technology). And then comes the question of whether it is scalable, or if it will need significant reinvestment at a later stage. Similarly, former head of global markets at KPMG and an angel investor, Neil Austin said that he goes for the idea, then founder and then a business plan.

Another investor, Rajesh Sawhney, who has invested in about 50 startups, including Little Eye Labs (later acquired by Facebook), said that he seeks an exceptional founder with ingenious ideas and profound execution capabilities. He believes that angel investing is basically about recognizing and nurturing a unique talent.

“Experience” Matters

The chairman of Wyldecrest Parks and investor, Alfie Best, said that he considers cash flows to be a key factor, but when it comes to investing in startups, the experience of a founder along with the companies that are willing to purchase their products is what he evaluates.

Another angel investor from Silicon Valley, John Rampton, said that for a founder to make an impression, it is important to show that a team is backed by experience and credibility, because he believes it is a team that is going to make an impact and not merely the idea.

High-growth Business is a Potential Investment

Angel investors tend to go for startups with high growth prospects as compared to the ones that are likely to grow at a slow pace with modest profits. They hold their expectations high and seek a higher return than they can possibly get from a stock market. Allan Riding, an expert on angel investing and a professor at Carleton University, said, ““For every dollar that an angel puts into a company, he or she would like to take seven dollars out, after taxes, in seven years.”

An entity is likely to win an investment if it builds a business with sound future prospects. According to AngelBlog, angel investors are more likely to invest at pre-money valuations between $1 million and $3 million. By this point, it is probable that a startup has succeeded in establishing itself as something, having a real customer-base, fair valuation, and real revenues. Moreover, at the time of making an investment, they also look for an exit strategy to take a smooth exit.

Scalability

Another key factor that every investor looks for is the scalability of a business. They prefer to invest in startups that require a minimum viable product to get to the market and can scale quickly. For example, the largest taxi company in the world, Uber, does not own any motor vehicles. Similarly, a well-known retailer, Alibaba, holds no inventory. These companies scaled very quickly as soon as they entered the market.

It is important for entrepreneurs and startup owners to value the motivation and concerns of angel investors, because these investors take a significant risk when they invest in businesses.