ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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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.

Corporate Venture Capital vs. R&D

Nov
04

According to a venture capital database (CB Insights), the venture capital market invested $74.2 billion across North America in 2015. The Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) groups participated in 17 percent of the deals in that region, making up 24 percent of the total venture investment distributed to startups that have been fueled by VCs.

This definitely reflected a reasonable improvement in CVC activities as their participation was limited to 12 percent in 2011. Significant growth has been observed in this investor type as an alternative source of funding for new businesses, but only a few know what corporate venture capital is.

 

Corporate Venture Capital (CVC)

CVC is defined as an equity investment by an established company in a startup business. It can be put together as an independent part of a company or an appointed investment team that is off their company’s statement of financial position. The main goal of CVC is to invest in companies showing high growth prospects. Some of the marquee brands having venture presence in the technology and healthcare industry, include Dell Ventures, Google Ventures, Cisco Ventures, Intel Capital and Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

Corporate venture capital has been one of the most critical contributors in the venture capital ecosystem that has matured over time.

 

Research and Development (R&D) and Corporate Venture Capital

R&D and CVC are two prominent sources of creating new potential.

CVC can be used as a substitute for internal research and development in creating such opportunities or capabilities. In different theories proposed by Dushnitsky and Lenox (2005), Cassiman and Veugelers (2002), and Gompers and Lerner (2001), there was unanimity on the idea that R&D backs the increasing use of CVC, in contrast with CVC to be used as a substitute for internal R&D. However, not much consideration has been given to how different industries might affect the relationship between these two sources.

 

Preferred Use of Investment

With the rapid changes in the global market, companies have drawn their focus on research and development investment to strive for achieving short term targets, as VCs are considered too quick to get caught up in the latest thing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A number of opportunities with the great potential to boost innovation already exist, except corporations are not able to make use of it. One of these means is to use corporate venture funds.

 

Corporate R&D – Slow and Expensive Investment

Research and development investment is mostly focused on perfecting technologies that are already used by the public. The United States has spent billions on gigantic science projects for years, but the commercial returns were not as expected. Cutting back on R&D is not the right choice either, as Kodak ended up filing for bankruptcy when they cut their research funding and focused on film, and Nokia is now being purchased by Microsoft as they tried to keep their focus on low-end phones.

 

Corporate Venture Capital – Quick and Cheap Investment

CVC, on the other hand, is better at identifying new regions and is quite flexible and cheap as compared to R&D. During the last 20 years, a number of CVC initiatives gave a boost to pharmaceutical companies that were struggling to catch up with new advancements in bioscience.

The large companies in a corporate sector stay cautious of CVC, as they have seen them distributed ineffectively. For a corporate venture to be a successful mode of investment, its goals should be in line with corporate objectives and the approval of funds should be done smoothly with the same compensation levels as offered by independent venture groups. If a company fails to provide a fair incentive, it is likely to face a consistent flow of desertion. Rewards should always be given if people solve a problem or launch a new product in the market, but they do not necessarily have to involve cash. Recognition can also be a significant reward for such efforts.

Traditional R&D are not good at pointing out threats from the competitors. Instead, it keeps its focus on a specific number of projects that results in ignoring innovative advances that happen outside the company. Whereas, CVC quickly responds to change and potential threats, which allows decision makers to withdraw from any investment that doesn’t seem to be generating revenue in the future. It is highly likely that a creation of the CVC fund would prove to be a breakthrough idea that changes everything.

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.

Is Funding Your Startup with Venture Capital Always the Right Choice?

Oct
13

With the rapidly growing tech-world, it has become quite common for startups to fuel their ideas with funds injected by venture capitalists (VCs). Whenever you pick up a business newspaper now, there is mostly something written about VCs or the early stage businesses that were funded by these investors.

  • But is it always the right choice?

In today’s fast pace environment, everyone wants to make huge profits as soon as they possibly can. However, as the old saying goes, “haste makes waste.” This is also true for businesses.

Although, venture capital investment may be a good choice for some businesses, yet, it comes at a cost of coping with high expectations held by these investors, which also results in many startups to fail. The fact is, new ventures do not need such investments all the time. Besides, simply because you are a tech-company, doesn’t necessarily means that you have to have your office in the Silicon Valley. There are many companies in the world of technology that grew organically and made it big. Though, the progress was slow, it was steady and made them even stronger as they made it to where they are today. One such success story is of the MailChimp. Started as a design consulting firm, providing email service as a side project, the company touched a revenue of $280 million last year in 2015.

Dan Kurzius and Ben Chestnut started the company in 2000. Some of their clients were demanding a solution to engage their customers by email, so they tweaked some old codes that were used for an unsuccessful online greeting card business. For the next few years, this project was run parallel to their main business. In 2006, however, they started having reservations. Having the entrepreneurial family background, both the founders were passionate about helping small businesses grow. Despite being in a critical state of its growth, they knew MailChimp was a low cost marketing channel for small scale business firms. So, in 2007, they packed up their web design business and shifted their entire focus to email service. So, what made it such a huge success?

 

Valuing What Your Customer Needs

Even when the company was fully focused on providing email marketing service to its clients, they faced a host of larger and better funded competitors, including Constant Contact.

  • What kept MailChimp retain its clients?

It was the trust their customers had placed in them. Chestnut said that it was their close connection with the customers that their rivals didn’t have. They knew what their customers wanted. They offered affordable services, which also allowed greater customization to cater the customers’ needs.
Learning to Make Money is More Rewarding than Spending it as a Startup

Co-founder of Basecamp, Jason Fried, said that you learn bad habits from raising money, for example, if you have some cash in your bank account, it makes you good at spending it. But on the other hand, if you have to earn it yourself, it makes you good at making it, which is a good habit for an entrepreneur to learn sooner than later in running a business so as to survive without relying on other people’s money. For MailChimp, learning to make money instead of spending it were just the essentials to keep their business running.
Understanding A Small Business is the Key

Although, MailChimp was approached by many potential investors from time to time, but Chestnut says that every time they had rendezvoused with investors, they failed to understand the gist of small business. They wanted to see the company at an enterprise level with a large number of employees
Chestnut further said that they were often told that they were sitting on a gold mine, but something about this idea never felt right to them. For the founders of MailChimp, it was all about proving to small businesses that they can do it just like Chestnut and Kurzius made it happen. Being a small business itself, this mail service company could understand the requirements of other small businesses fairly well. Despite the high level of uncertainty that persists in the tech-world, both of them feel that the company will run better if they control it rather than the outside investor.

Therefore, a startup doesn’t always have to let venture capitalists control them by fueling their ideas with a large amount of debt. Instead, they can be the pirate of their own ship and sail it through highs and lows the way they desire.

How to Invest Smarter?

Oct
06

Angel investors and venture capitalists provide funds to early stage or emerging startups in exchange for equity and aiming to make huge profits. The trend of such investments has been increasing and there are a number of startups that became successful as a result of such investments, including WhatsApp, Uber, and Facebook.

It is very important to invest in a promising startup that has a potential to attain a unicorn status, yet, it is not easy to be an investor. Choosing the right start up is as important for an angel investor as it is for an entrepreneur, but does it determine an investor’s success? To understand how one can invest smarter, let’s look at a few tips by different investors.

Focus on Team and Market

The investor in Famo.us, TouchOfModern, and Airseed, Siqi Chen, said that when you make an investment in a startup, it is usually a very early product. Therefore, it is crucial for an investor to calculate and assess the opportunities accordingly and should keep the focus on the team and the overall market.

Ask Yourself – “Would I Join this Start-up?”

Another angel investor, Mike Greenfield, who invested in Hullabalu and Pocket shared some important insights on taking an investment decision. He said that in the beginning, he used to ask himself if the startup would yield a positive outcome on an investment, but it changed over time, and now he usually asks if he could see himself joining that company when he was 24? If the answer to the latter is affirmative, it shows that the founder of a particular start-up is working a problem that isn’t structurally flawed and has a good chance of winning big.

He further said that such companies have a potential to convince a geeky person like him as they work on something that is important and also ace the integrity test. He added that if a startup satisfies all those things, it makes him feel like he’s doing something right as an investor, regardless of whether he makes money out of it or not.

Read the Herd Correctly

There is this common phenomenon in a stock market, whereby, investors can make a lot of money simply by reading the herd correctly. The same was observed by Christopher Schroeder, investor in Vox Media and Skift, when he began angel investing a few years ago. He said that when he presented a deal to bright and successful friends, the first question they asked was “who is in?” even before the question about a team and its concept popped up. Therefore, one has to read his herd correctly before taking any decision.

Identify the Scale of Assistance Required by a Startup

Jeff Miller, another investor in the world of angel investing, said that when an angel provides a feedback on a product, founder usually appreciate it. But the clutch actions are quite rare than anticipated by him. Such actions can affect a company’s future. However, if you look at it from the perspective of successful companies, they look for a minimal assistance from their investors. So, it is important to identify the scale of assistance required by a startup for its future growth.

Choose a Company with a Good Working Product

It is of vital importance to invest in a company that has a good working product. Having a good team of individuals in any startup is not enough if they don’t have a product that solves a problem. A product has to show a “product-market fit.”

Double Down the Investment Once a Potential Unicorn is Spotted

Once you identify a potential winner, you should “double down”, as it represents almost 20 percent of the initial pool of investment.

However, patience is the key, and individuals in early stage startups usually have to wait for 3 to 10 years before they start earning profits from their investment.

Although, there is a lot of risks involved in investing in a new startup, yet the trend for angel investing is rapidly increasing. In order to invest smarter, an investor has to always welcome different ideas, because great ideas are born every day.

But only a few of them, with the right investor (and investment) turns out to be a complete success.

Women & Angel Investing

Sep
29

Angel investing is a known term in the world of investments. Startups and early stage companies in need of funds usually try to approach these angels who make investments in exchange for stocks of the company. A number of popular names, such as WhatsApp, Uber, and Facebook have encouraged the angel investors to come forward and invest in startups with an aim of making huge returns.

The Shift in Focus Toward Female Entrepreneurs?

So, what do angel investors really look for? It is mostly the commitment, quality, integrity, and passion of the brains behind those startups that these investors care about. Last year, an angel investor and CEO of photo editing software PicMonkey, Jonathan Sposato, made an announcement that he’ll only invest in startups that have one or more female founders in it. He said that female entrepreneurs face a tough time getting traction, whether it’s about raising money, sharing their ideas, or even recruiting. He further said that you cannot just ignore these issues; you have to act as a catalyst if you are passionate about it. Sposato was of the opinion that this problem arises, because investors tend to back those startups that are similar to other successful firms they funded before, and most of those companies are led by men.

Male Entrepreneurs Securing More Investments

According to a recent research by the Women’s Business Council and Deloitte, it was identified that the proportion of women entrepreneur fell in 2014 despite a large number of registrations by new companies. Lack of female angel investors is also a contributing factor as most of the angel investments are still controlled by men. In a study of 220 UK startups by Startup DNA, it was revealed that male founders are 59 percent more likely to secure investments than females.

Angel Investing – Tides are Changing

However, the tides are changing. In a report issued by the UK Business Angels Association and the Center for Entrepreneurs, women now represent one in seven angel investors in the UK, which is twice as much as it was observed in 2008. Similarly, in the U.S., the number of female investors has increased from 20,000 in 2005 to around 60,000 in 2014.

More opportunities are being created for women and its source is the ever growing awareness among angel investors about the fact that startups with female founders are good investments. Moreover, women are also becoming aware of their potential to be a successful entrepreneur, whereby, they no more have to clean other people’s mess and can instead focus on materializing their own goals. Jeffery E. Sohl, director of the Center for Venture Research, said that while a percentage is still low, a large number of women-led organizations are getting angel funds. He is hopeful that this trend will continue to grow, as more women are getting degrees in engineering, technology, and science.

A senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and Founder of Next Wave Ventures, Alicia Robb, gave credit to the women entrepreneur role models who are paving a way for other women and showing how they overcame the obstacles despite the challenges. In 2015, 29 percent of the entrepreneurs, who sought funding, were women and 24 percent of the angel backed companies had female founders. According to a report by the BMO Wealth Institute, 51 percent of the personal wealth, U$S 14 trillion, in the United States are currently controlled by women and the amount is expected to rise up to $22 trillion by 2020.

Although, angel investing has always been dominated by male investors, the media has begun to play its part. For example, TV shows, such as Shark Tank, are familiarizing women with angel investing. Robb also said that angel groups have put in a lot of effort to reach and engage women. One example is Astia and Golden Seeds. They are focused on connecting investors to invest in startups with female founders. During the last five years, different organizations, including Pipeline Angels, 37 Angels and Female Funders have also joined them, and it has expanded from 21 cities in 2015 to 33 cities in 2016.

Emotions and Smart Investments Decisions

Sep
22

How Emotions Keep You from Taking Smart Investment Decisions

Being an investor in a financial market, a person must be able to control his or her emotions, because buying low and selling high may not be possible if emotions get in the way and adversely affect the investment decision. Most people tend to underrate the effects of emotions, whereas, market downturn is one of the factors that increase hospitalization rates when emotions run high.

Getting emotional in a financial world distorts even the best planned strategies. This is the reason why investors are advised to use reason and not emotions when making a financial decision. According to 2013 Dalbar Quantitative Analysis of Investor Behavior, emotions and the behaviors triggered by those emotions were partly the cause why investors underperformed the S&P 500 by almost 4 points over the last 20 years. This was because the element of desire to grab a hot investment and to sell losers for the avoidance of further losses tends to create a pattern of buying high and selling low.

Investors are most vulnerable when there is high volatility in the markets. That’s where emotions trigger panic, depression, capitulation and fear. However, by taking control, investors can prevent their emotions from affecting their decisions.

  • How many times you regretted the investment decision that you made? If you come to think of it, there would probably be quite a few that come to mind.
  • What caused it?
  • Was it lack of knowledge about the market, bad timings, or did your emotions play the part?

Following are some of the behavioral finance concepts that reflect how emotions can have a real impact on an investor’s ability to a sound financial decision:

 

Having a Short-term Thinking Process

People tend to disregard and ignore future benefits as compared to the more immediate ones. So, oftentimes, it becomes harder to make long term financial plans a priority in everyday life decisions. For example, everyone understands the value of saving for retirement or college education of a child, yet, find it difficult not to spend lavishly on buying a new car or a vacation.

 

Fearing Losses more than Valuing Rewards

Considering the aspect of behavioral finance, i.e., fearing losses more than valuing rewards, which is mainly triggered by short term thinking, it can become very problematic for an investor to take the right decision. This phenomenon is normally called loss aversion, as it leads to a risk averse behavior that eventually exposes the investment to a greater risk. For example, although, investors rationally understand that the markets will bounce back from a downturn, yet, the emotions instigate them to overreact.

As the behavioral economist, Richard Thaler, said, “We think we will be smart enough to take the long view, but when markets actually drop we lose our courage and sell at the bottom.

 

Being Overconfident

Studies have shown that a large majority of investors consider themselves above average despite the fact that not everyone can be above average. According to the findings of a study conducted by Glaser and Weber (2007), investors overestimated their investment performance by 11.5 percent per year. Thaler said that people think they are better than everyone else, regardless of the evidence that most people fail to beat the market.

For example, in a rising market, investors might believe that it is their own performance that is causing them to succeed, which might cause them to ignore warning signals or the need to caution, eventually leading to unavoidable losses.

There are so many other emotional factors that can jeopardize the investing behavior and a well devised long-term financial plan of an investor, and these are as follows:

 

Hyperactivity

If an investor gets overwhelmed by a heavy stream of real-time information, he or she would start reacting to every twist and turn in the market, which might expose them to risky situations.

 

Greed

In any market, the greed to make more may tempt an investor to seek more growth in the value of his investment, but what they do not realize is that higher returns also mean higher risk.

 

Euphoria

The enchantment to see the stock going up day by day makes an investor falls into a trap of believing that success is self-perpetuating. He can easily get caught up in a bubble mentality.

So, even if we think we are being rational and analytical while making a move, deep down under the surface, emotions are always working in ways we cannot escape and may never entirely understand, which can keep us from taking smart investment decisions.

No undefeated fighter (like Floyd Mayweather Jr.) in Investments

Sep
15

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is not only considered the best boxer of all times, but also one of the highest paid athletes of 2012 and 2013 in the Forbes list. Known to be an invincible boxer, Mayweather won 12 world titles and was six-time winner of the Best Fighter ESPY Award, two-time winner of The Ring Magazine’s Fighter of the year, and three-time winner of the BWAA. This year, he has been ranked by ESPN as the greatest pound-to-pound boxer of the last twenty-five years.

But can there be a Mayweather among Venture Capitalists or Investments in general? When it comes to Venture Capital investments, there is no undefeated Fighter; nothing like Floyd Mayweather Jr. in boxing. A venture capitalist has to face the risk of losing his investment at some point in time. Just because they think they have taken all the right decisions, doesn’t mean they will always generate higher profits. There are a number of external factors that play a vital part in making a venture capital (VC) investment successful or unsuccessful, and none of these are avoidable.

Every investment has its ups and down, and venture capital investments are no exception. Being an investor, it is very important to have a realistic mindset; one cannot simply rule out the risk associated with that investment. However, what he can do is manage the risk. Same is the case with venture capital investment; a venture capitalist can always minimize the risk and increase the chances of success by working hard and continuously analyzing the market. If not all, it will allow him to succeed in most of them. Like Mayweather said, “To be the best, you have to work overtime.” And that is the key; a key to success.

In every sport, an athlete can improve the likelihood of success if only he trains hard for it. The loss is unavoidable, yet, it can be managed and minimized so as to reduce its overall impact. So, how can a venture capitalist minimize the risk of loss? What attributes must he possess to make a venture capital investment a success?

Understand the Market – One of the crucial elements of VC investment is to have a good understanding of the market. The markets are continually evolving and venture capitalists must have a good understanding of rapidly changing market trends in order to make the best out of their investment.

Be Optimistic about the Change – A key factor to adapt to a change is to stay positive. A co-founder of the Polaris Ventures and Emeritus Chairman of National Venture Capital Association, Terry McGuire, said, “You have to believe that the world can change; be optimistic and at the same time, be realistic and guarded, not romantic”.

Situational Awareness – A founder of Accel Partners, James R. Swartz said that a good venture capitalist possesses a trait of situational awareness, meaning he can walk into any meeting and identify the issues in just a few minutes; he can sort of cut through it and figure out what’s going on.

The CEO and fund manager of Renaissance Venture Fund, Christopher L. Rizik, has identified three qualities of a good venture capitalist. According to him, a good VC has a good sense of the world around him, and how it changes. Another quality is patience – a smart venture capitalist would never lose control or panic when the going gets tough, in fact, they make profits and eventually succeed as opposed to those who freak out and give up at an early stage. Lastly, a VC has to be fair to everyone as individuals want to work with those venture capitalists who are fair, smart and treat everyone well, and not with the ones who just think about themselves.

It is all about practicing, bringing precision and polishing your skills in order to learn and grow. Like Mayweather once said,

Everybody is blessed with a certain talent, you have to know what your talent is; you have to maximize it and push it to the limit.

Value Investment Strategy in Venture Capital

Sep
08

Why succeed in every investment (or the majority of them) is more important than depending on the statistical model of “Spray and Pray”.

Starting a business is not easy. One has to invest a lot of effort, time, and brain in order to introduce an idea that can stand out and is of value to others. Every individual is naturally inclined toward investing in a startup with better prospects than a start-up that would not generate any value and likely to fail in the future. Every investor would want to see his investment a complete success, whether it be an investment in a single stock or a bucket full of stocks. Same is the case with Venture Capitalists; they wish every investment to be successful, and for the same reason, prefer to use value investment strategy over the statistical model of spray and pray.

Although, spray and pray has got a lot of media attention in the past few years, and the face behind it is none other than Dave McClure, the founder of 500 startups, yet, you cannot deny the fact that it is important to reasonably manage your risk.

Nurturing the Idea is as Important as Making Money Out of it

Nurturing the idea is as important as making money out of it and this is exactly what value investors believe in, because you won’t be able to make money out of it if it doesn’t grow well. Manu Kumar, the founder of K9 Ventures, said that most companies do not turn out to be a failure because of their investors, but despite their investors. This is why he doesn’t want the startups, he has invested in, to fail, and wants a reasonable success rate in his investments. He keeps an average of four or five companies in his portfolio and he wants each one of them to be a success. This is why he is very selective and prefer to go for the one with good prospects. He keeps his investment between $100k and $200k and screen companies down while expecting a much higher rate of success. He looks for appropriately priced deals and doesn’t touch anything that is five or higher.

Value Investing Strategy – Bridging the Gap between Investors’ Mindset and Founders’ Perception

Another famous name among the Venture Capitalists, Thomas Korte, said that they do everything in a scaled way, because the majority of the founders tend to take the funds they are offered in the seed stage. There are very few in the market who believe that their investors would take them through Series B and Series C, and their apprehensions are true to a certain extent. At one point, McClure said, “it is not that their portfolio has a high death rate, it’s just that there is a higher death rate out there.” Instead of aligning himself with the founder and an acquirer, he prefers to align with an investor and acquirer. So, if a company has a scalable impact, he makes a deal as soon as possible. It is not easy to bridge the gap between investors’ mindset and this commonly held belief of startups. However, Value investing strategy can contribute towards changing this mindset and bringing harmonization to achieve common goals.

Benefits of Value Investing

Potential to Make High Profits – As opposed to spray and pray strategy, value investing has a potential to make high profits, because value investors tend to invest in companies that are being offered at a discount price and sell them well above their intrinsic value by bringing their true value to light through solid research on a value stock, its peers, and the sector.

Avoid Exposure to High Risk – Investing in a few companies with good future prospects will not only enable the investor to focus on materializing the potential value, but also keep the overall cost to a minimum. The investor will not be dependent to succeed on that only company that make the revenue beside all the others have already failed.

 

Yes, there might be a lot of effort and hard work involved the value investment strategy to be implemented while choosing the startups for investments, but it is important to note that short term price fluctuations are not always a true depiction of the true value of an asset.

As Benjamin Graham, the founder of value investing and mentor of Warren Buffet, once said, “In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”

Value Investing or Spray and Pray

Sep
01

In my last article I wrote about the value investment strategy, now I will compare it with the “Spray and Pray” method.

Value investing and Spray and Pray are two of the widely talked about strategies in the world of venture capital. Some of them view value investing as a reasonable approach, because it is concentrated toward investing in companies that are undervalued and have a strong business model with good future prospects. While others consider spray and pray method to be a wise approach as they believe it gives rise to diversification and enables investors to generate maximum return out of a few startups that reach a unicorn status. Before going into detail about which strategy is better, let’s take a look at what value investing and spray and pray strategies actually are.

Value Investing

It is a commonly used venture capital strategy, where investors seek the companies that have a potential to produce large profits for an extended period of time. It is a concentrated investment approach that allows VCs to identify good startups after keeping in mind certain factors, including the cash flow position of a company, profit generation from its key operations, and its potential to grow in future.

Spray and Pray Method

Spray and pray method is a more diversified approach and is considered aggressive by some investors. A well-known name in the world of venture capital, Dave McClure, founder of 500 start-ups, is usually known as a spray and pray venture capitalist. However, he detests the idea of being characterized as such. A few years ago, he participated in a panel discussion of angel investors, where he said that he puts a lot of thought into his investment strategies, so it is not fair to call it spray and pray method; it is diversification with a thorough working behind it.

More Concentrated Approach or Diversified Approach – Which is Better?

When it comes to choosing between value investing and spray-and-pray strategies, mixed reviews are received from the market. For example, in an interview with McClure, he argued that a high volume and diversified investment strategies, like spray and pray, provide consistently stronger cash on cash returns than in the case of more concentrated scenario. He supported the idea by explaining his portfolio of 500 startups that around 60 to 80 percent of his investments do not reach any return less than 1x invested, whereas, 15 to 20 percent do provide 3 to 5 times the original investment. Moreover, 5 to 10 percent reach exceed the value of $100 million, but the actual return is generated from 1 to 2 percent of the startups that reach a unicorn status and provide 50 times or more of the originally invested funds.

When we talk about multi-party seed round, investors are compelled to earn their right to participate in the next phase due to the increased level of competition. It not only provides greater value to venture capitalists, but also turns out to be beneficial for entrepreneurs. According to McClure, using spray and pray at the seed level, collecting insight and optionality on early stage startups, and then doubling the bet on the successful investments, can actually break the perception of considering the concentrated portfolio strategy as industry best practice.

Flagship ventures, on the other hand, carefully select later stage value investments. They actively evaluate and fund the companies that are at an advanced stage in a product development, yet, these firms require additional funds and strategic involvement to reach their full potential. In a panel discussion of angel investors, Jed Katz from Javelin Ventures said that they invest as little as a few hundred grands to $2.5 million in the companies and dedicatedly invest the time and energy to expand their scalability. Another venture capitalist, Manu Kumar from K9 Ventures, said that he prefers all his companies to be a success, and this is the reason why he is very cautious about where he should invest. He further said that there are various strategies at a seed level, however, it doesn’t mean that one strategy is right and the other is wrong; they are just suitable at different levels.