ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

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.

Wave of Change in the VC Sector

Sep
01

Every day many venture capitalists invest in startups with the hope that it will be yet another unicorn. Venture capitalists are a type of investors who are also futurologists. They invest in new businesses with an anticipation that it will turn out to be the next Facebook or Uber and their investment will multiply several times.

A perfect example of such investment is the one made by Mark Tluszcz in Skype. In 2001, he invested $2.5 million and now is worth $250 million.

Investors have the chance of winning big or losing all of their investment. Tluszcz also shared his experience stating that 50 percent of the startups they invest in, end up as a failure; 20 percent of these investments only make as far as returning their investment money and another 20 percent increase their stake three times. It is the remaining 10 percent that makes it big, he added, and keep the venture capital (VC) firms going.

 

A Wave of Change in the VC Sector

Keeping all of this in mind, it is an undeniable truth that VC firms have undergone massive changes over the last two decades.

In the UK, the amount of investment by venture capitalists has increased from £453 million to £1961 million between 2011 and 2016. A number of these firms are filled with entrepreneurs who are passionate about building a business and not just a career.

 

Lack of Diversity

Despite all the changes, there is still a lack of diversity in the sector. Debbie Wosskow, a VC investor who was once an entrepreneur, came face to face with the harsh reality that 95 percent of all the investments made by venture capitalists go to male-led startups and most of these investments are made by male venture capitalists.

According to a research in Harvard Business Review, when it comes to female entrepreneurs, the focal point of venture capitalists is always toward potential losses, but with male founders, they look at it from the perspective of potential gains. Regardless of what the reason is, things have started to change in the VC sector.

 

Wind of Change — A Step Toward Revolutionizing the VC Sector

According to a venture capitalist, Suranga Chandratillake, said that those who present their ideas before a group of investors have to sell their idea of making it big. He further said that investors need a convincing idea that has a potential to generate good profits and not a presentation that just talks about becoming another unicorn like Uber. Investors need to see that entrepreneurs are not just into organic growth; in fact, they should be willing to take risks of revolutionizing the entire sector with a proper plan and potential to bring the right people in their team.

 

Self-awareness — A Trait of Successful Entrepreneurs

Another venture capitalist, Jillian Manus, believes the best ideas come from those startups where one partner has a sales and operation background whereas the other one is into technology. They come together as a team to sell their idea along with a well-devised plan of how they will achieve their goals. She added that a founder must be honest with exciting ideas as the most important question she asks the entrepreneurs is to tell how they failed. Those who say they have never failed are either hiding the truth or they lack self-awareness.

To secure an investment, a founder of a new startup should show that they have learned from their mistakes and be honest about it as it enables them to identify a problem ahead of time. All in all, venture capitalists do believe that honesty is the best policy when it comes to investing in new startups, because if an entrepreneur needs a venture capital, he or she must tend to scale up and expand their business quickly.

The Key for Venture Capitalists Better Performance

Jul
20

Venture capital is a booming sector in developed economies. With the increasing trend in venture capital investments, a lot of research work is being carried out for its growth and continuous developments. Recently, a working paper has been posted on the National Bureau of Economic Research by professor Paul Gompers from Harvard University and a Ph.D. student Sophie Wang.

 

Greater Gender Diversity

According to the paper, if a venture capital (VC) firm hires a partner who has daughters, it is more likely to perform better as compared to other VC firms. But it does not mean that a girl totally understands what’s hot in the investment market and what’s not. Gompers and Wang conducted a study of large venture capital companies between a period of 1990 and 2016. They observed that the partners of the firms with higher gender diversity have, on average, more daughters. During the period of their study, it was revealed that VC firms with higher gender diversity have shown better performance as compared to firms with partners that do not have daughters.

The study also revealed that raising daughters decrease the element of biases toward women and it eventually leads to hiring more female staff. Researchers noted that firm partners who had daughters that were above 12 years of age had instilled a culture of higher gender diversity. They said that it goes hand in hand with fathers experiencing a likely gender bias faced by their daughters as they grow up.

 

Having a Daughter – A Step Toward Successful Deals?

72 percent of the venture capital companies do not have any female investors, therefore, the effect of having a daughter should be considered. The study conducted by Gompers and Wang comprised of 998 firms with 1400 investing partners. They employed a mathematical model and concluded that if each partner of VC firms had a daughter instead of a son, the firm would have experienced successful deals with a growth of 31.6 percent on return on capital employed than an average growth of 28.7 percent.

These calculations were based on reasons, such as, generation of better ideas in a diverse working environment or the opening of new avenues to access better deals.

 

The significance of “Having a Daughter” Effect

It is not astonishing, however, that by replacing a female child with a male child, the chances of hiring a female investor increases by 24 percent for VC companies. According to the study, 8 percent recruitments in the past 15 years were female and an increase of 24 percent would only represent a ratio of 10 percent in the VC sector.

The ratio of daughters in the VC sector is not so low. It represents a ratio of about 125 male children for 114 female children. This is consistent with the national demographic figure of 51 percent boys. It indicates that apart from an artificial genetic selection, the argument of daughters having an impact on the VC sector does not seem to be strong.

It has been acknowledged by researchers, because the basis of this view is mainly to eliminate the gender bias and also to emphasize its importance for the prospects of the venture capital market. Those who seek to have gender equality in the VC market can rely on the gradual change that has taken place in the sector over the years.

 

A Move Toward Gender Equality

In 2014, a financial market where venture capitalists operate, women represent 54 percent of the labor force, wherein, 18.3 percent of the women are board of directors and 12.4 percent are executive officers. A managing director and co-founder of the Women’s Venture Capital Fund, Edith Dorsen, is of the opinion that teams with greater gender diversity are more competitive in the market and companies with such teams have higher chances of financial growth. The majority of the people have, so far, not been able to fully understand that it is a real opportunity to earn high profits.

Anu Duggal, a founder of VC fund called F Cubed, started her firm in 2013 and the main purpose behind it was to change the common perception. She is building a network of support that comprises both men and women. This network will be focused on finding the most innovative ideas and entrepreneurs.

Evolution of the Venture Capital Sector

Jul
06

Venture capital (VC) industry is highly volatile. It is constantly evolving and has undergone massive changes in the past ten years due to the growth of the software sector. The shift toward the IT industry will continue to persist until one of the two situations occur:

  • Either the software market starts experiencing saturation as a result of huge inflow of money in the industry or
  • There is a manifestation of a new industry that shows higher profits, hence catching the attention of investors.

There are some analysts in the financial sector who are also anticipating another bubble bust that will be similar to the dotcom bubble in the 90s.

 

Rise and Fall in the VC Sector During the Past 5 Years

In 2015, VC investment around the globe experienced a growth of 19 percent. The total funding was between $128.5 billion and $130 billion, which has been the highest in the last 5 years. However, the investment continued to grow in the U.S. from $58.8 billion in 2015 to $69.1 billion in 2016.

As far as the rise of unicorn companies on a global level is concerned, it gradually declined after 2015 when the total number of startups that reached unicorn status were 71. The number reduced to 40 in 2016. On the other hand, a decline was also observed in seed funding as it dropped by 25 percent and touched the lowest point since 2012. The late and early stage investments also went down by 14 percent and 5 percent respectively.

 

Opportunities for VC Investors

Although, a large number of high profile investors pursue seed stage deals, they usually have sufficient funds to invest in the most attractive startup companies, which has subsequently strengthened Series A and Series B rounds.

Moreover, seed stage investments performed really well in 2014 and 2015, indicating the fact that investors who made those investments will be continuing in 2017. It will give rise to a great opportunity for investors who are seeking to make an investment at a later stage.

The momentum in the IPO will also increase, because the public sector tends to grow when valuations in the private sector are higher. It is quite likely that the IPO market backed by VC investors will outperform in 2017 as compared to 2016. For example, it has been reported that Snap Inc. is expected to offer its share at about $20 billion. If the offer materializes, it will be one of the largest VC backed IPO deal. In addition to that, Spotify, Pinterest, Dropbox and Uber are some of the names creating buzz in the IPO sector.

 

Rising Trends and Acquisitions

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have grabbed a lot of attention between 2015 and 2016, and they are likely to secure more investment in 2017 as well. There were more than 300 businesses that managed to raise early and seed stage funding in 2016, yet, approximately dozen secure funds at a later stage.

Moreover, a number of healthy acquisitions have also taken place recently. The examples include the acquisition of Movidius by Intel for $350 million and acquisition of virtual assistant developer Viv by Samsung.

 

Economics and Investors’ Behavior

There is a major role play of economics when it comes to VC investments. Since economics follow a cyclical pattern, it is highly likely that history will not be repeated nor will the unpredictable happen. Also, economics involves study of human behavior that contains an element of irrationality. This element enables us to anticipate the shifts in behavior of VC investors only to an extent of its repetition and history, but it cannot be predicted with full certainty.

VC investments change with the passage of time. As the inflow of funds increases in the software sector, it gives rise to increasing competition in the market, which eventually reduce the overall returns as several firms compete to maintain a customer base. It might also cause a shift in venture capitalist behavior in times to come if other sectors seem more viable.

 

All in all, the justification of a VC investors’ behavior can be summed up by saying that venture capitalists tend to go in a direction where the money flows.

What do Venture Capitalists Look for in a Startup?

May
26

Billions of dollars are invested in new startups every year. Therefore, it has become even more important to find the answer to the following question: what do venture capitalists want?

A venture capital firm called Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ Venture Capital) that has injected funds in around 2 dozen unicorns, including Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, and Box. One of its partners, Steve Jurvetson, shared his views on what he looks for in a startup when he plans to make an investment

 

Enthusiastic Founder

Jurvetson said that the first thing he notices is how enthusiastic the owner of a startup is – someone like Elon Musk who can convince that their idea will work. However, he added that it has to be in a sector which will contribute to the rapid growth of an economy during the times of huge disruptive change.

 

Innovation

In today’s rapidly changing world, innovation is a key to success. Products, such as electric cars, rockets, synthetic biology, etc., have proven to be the game changers in the IT sector. They never managed to attract venture capital in the past decades, but are high in demand nowadays. These industries have undergone massive change in the past few years, which is good for startups.

Investing in anything that takes an investor out of his comfort zone is worth it, because it leads to those crazy ideas that can change the world. However, it should be noted that it is those successful ideas that were never considered good in the beginning.

Jurvetson said that if an idea is strongly supported by a few number of people who believe it to be the future of the world, but the majority is against it, then it is a good sign.

 

Respect for the Team rather than Individual

Another factor he looks for is a founder who has respect for the team rather than individuals at work, a trait that contradicts the cult of a one man (in this case, a CEO) running the show. Having the self-confidence to stay humble about the proposals made and respecting the team are some of the additional attributes of a good startup owner.

 

What Sectors to Invest?

When talking about what sectors should venture capitalists invest in, Jurvetson hinted to Moore’s law as to how it’s penetrating into different sectors and turning lousy, low margin businesses into innovative software based businesses. Tesla is a great example that changed the course of different industries. Its contribution in the Planet labs, SpaceX, or automobile industry is a prominent example of the transitions made.

It took decades for these sectors to see entrants who transformed these industries through product enhancement. A number of investments failed during the process, yet, they are all IT based now and have gone through a massive transformation. Innovation has brought so many changes in the IT sector. For example, application of machine learning was considered a geeky subject a few years ago and only a few people at Google and other companies that worked on image recognition were familiar with the concept. But these techniques will now be widely recognized in every industry as they represent a new way of doing engineering.

 

A Way Forward

Remember, it is a two-way street. The world will experience the breakthroughs only if big companies welcome the evolution of technology. Jurvetson said that large companies that embraced innovation were the most exciting ones. A good example of this is Apple and its achievements over the years. Most of the large companies do not welcome meaningful innovations, which represent a connotation of disruption to depict the change. Embracing the change doesn’t mean a mere 10 percent improvement in processes, it shows a wow factor, such as freeing the automobile sector from gasoline consumption.

Similarly, back in the days, going to space was considered a tough job. Only a fighter pilot could qualify for a space mission with lots of training. But it is not going to be the same in future. SpaceX will soon launch a robot spacecraft where an astronaut will sit back and take a ride on the spacecraft. If the company is successful in doing that, space flights will become as frequent as air flights providing the same level of safety and fun.

Therefore, for a new idea to be successful, investors will have to support the change and big companies should embrace it. Not only will it be beneficial for a global economy, but will also make room for game-changing breakthroughs.

Startups Worthy of Investment … or not

May
11

It seems like those days are long gone when venture capitalists used SPRAY and PRAY strategy in the hope that one of the startups in the entire portfolio would make it big.

In other words, it is about time that startup companies show their ability that they are worthy of the venture capital (VC) funds.

 

Decline in the Number of VC Funded Companies

The PitchBook released the first quarter of the 2017 issue in collaboration with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). The statistics presented in that report were based on the thorough analysis of VC activity in the United States. According to that report, $16.5 billion was raised by 1800 companies alone. PitchBook and NVCA also observed that even though the amount of investment in the Q1 of 2017 was a bit higher than the capital invested in the fourth quarter of 2016, the number of startups has dramatically decreased to its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2011.

 

VC Investors and Entrepreneurs Exercising Caution

It looks like the VC sector is facing a gradual decline after experiencing effervescent days of glory back in 2015.

John Gabbert, the CEO of PitchBook, said that during the past few years, the VC activity managed to attain intensified growth in the United States and now it seems to be coming back to earth. He further added that it feels like startup founders and investors have started following a more disciplined approach to investing the funds and taking reasonable caution by adopting measures, such as due diligence. These activities are carried out to secure fair deals on both sides so that each party gets something good out of it.

Ernst & Young, a London based auditing firm, reported that companies in the United States raised about 41.3 billion dollars in 2,802 VC deals in the third quarter of 2016. The San Franciso Bay area represented a total of 916 deals having a value of 16.9 billion dollars.

Jeffrey Grabow, the leader of VC in the U.S. based Ernst & Young, said that VC funding has slowed down and there are various reasons for the declining trend. The prominent reason, however, is the fact that investors want the market to absorb the already distributed capital in the market. Momentum capital has reached a later stage of VC funding and injected capital in almost every that was available in the market. Therefore, it is about time to see how it all turns out.

 

Comparison of the Number of Exits

In spite of the huge funding to a limited number of IT companies, a lot of companies fueled by $9.05 billion worth of venture capital took an exit in the first quarter of 2017. This exceeds the combined value of the IT companies’ exits in 2006, 2008 and 2009. The situation is relatively close to how it was back in 2007. If the same trend and immensity of initial public offerings and acquisitions follow, 2017 will either reach the same figure of 2014, i.e., 39.74 billion dollars, or might exceed it. Only time can tell what is to come next, but it continues to happen at the same pace, it would probably exceed the value of 2014.

IT firms around the world continue to leave behind all other kinds of businesses that are funded by venture capital. According to the NVCA and PitchBook report, Initial Public Offering of Snap and acquisition of AppDynamics by Cisco has been ranked among the top 10 biggest exits of their types during the past 10 years.

 

Investments in VC Activity

California has left behind all other states in the United States in terms of the number and value of VC investments. A total of 560 investments was made in 556 companies, which were worth 8.3 billion dollars. As far as the number of investments was concerned, New York was ranked second with a total of 218 investments. Whereas, Massachusetts was in the second position in terms of investment value as it was slightly higher than 2 billion dollars. Although, there may be a rising trend in the remote work among startup companies, yet, the concentration of venture capital is still high in the Silicon Valley.

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.

Rise and Fall of the Venetian Empire

Feb
24

The Rise and Fall of the Venetian Empire should be a must-know Lesson for Innovators

In the fast paced world of technology, innovation is the name of the game. If entrepreneurs do not keep up with the innovative strategies, they would eventually end up losing their market share. A great example can be none other than the rise and fall of the Venetian Empire. To get a better idea of what happened, following is a brief background of the empire along with the lesson learned from it:

 

Background of the Venetian Republic

Every business would want to last for centuries just like the Venetian Empire did. Between 697 and 1797 AD, the empire flourished the most as a result of its ability to make good decisions in the field of technology along with its unconventional ways and geographic location. However, you should bear in mind that if one has to face a sudden change, it can cause the strengths to turn into weaknesses, leading to a fall of thousand years of success.

  • The Military Technology

Having a military technology and central position on the main trade routes gave the Venetian Republic a strong edge. The Arsenal, a naval military weapon factory that was considered a production line method of manufacture, was a core of the empire’s naval industry. It fostered creativity and encouraged entrepreneurship and innovation in building its galleys.

  • Central Geographical Location

The Venetian Republic’s location allowed it to protect itself from sea based as well as land based invaders. Its geography propelled it to develop a money lending and trading economy as there was a limited area that could support agricultural activities. Moreover, it was situated at the top of the Adriatic Sea, which enabled it to become an important trading hub, connecting both the west and east side through the Mediterranean.

  • Exploitation Over Exploration – A Beginning of the End

Like a number of successful organizations, Venice also hit the level where it started focusing on exploitation instead of exploration. Entrepreneurs decided to follow a traditional route, as established practices gained popularity as compared to exploration. Traders and merchants focused on incremental innovation through efficiency and optimal use of resources. Having a focus to quickly increase their fortune, they deviated away from mapping new directions.

 

According to Alessandro Barbero, a professor of medieval history at the University of Eastern Piedmont, galleys were favored by the city’s navigators for a very long time. But as seafaring galleons began to surface, it allowed countries, situated at the border of the Atlantic, to create new routes for trading. These routes were not flowing through the Adriatic Sea. Venice lost its competitive edge with the introduction of ships that could survive at sea for a longer period of time i.e., months and years. This was the age of exploration, and this is when the city began to fall. So, with the invasion of Napoleon, the Venetian empire officially collapsed.

 

Lesson Learned

One of the most important lessons learned from the fall of the city was that stronger you believe that the future will function as the present does, the greater the likelihood of a decline in the state of affairs. If a company does not explore new directions, it will not be able to survive for a very long time. Therefore, it is important to conform to the fact that future will not be the same as present. The future is always uncertain and opened to all sorts of options. A ground breaking move by a competitor or launch of innovative technology is all it takes to cause an empire to fall. Having a sound business with high walls and neat gardens is not enough, because you might come across opportunities or threats beyond those walls.

 

Innovators’ Approach to Success

Innovators and entrepreneurs avoid the concept of “success as usual”. They rather invest their time and money in new business models along with exploring latest technologies. They keep a bigger perspective in mind and are cautious of being too effective or efficient, which enables them to foster unconventional mindset, problem solving skill, and an art of challenging the status quo. An innovator will not go after a fixed horizon. Instead, his focus will be on how the horizon moves as they take a step in that direction.

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.