ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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

European Startups Seeking Assistance of Family Office Investors

Apr
06

There have been a number of stories about the connection between family offices and startups. Family offices are basically private wealth management instruments that are formed by rich families. There are a lot of venture capital companies that established their worth through family offices, including Greylock Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Atomico, and Frog Capital.

There are so many well-off families that have built their empires via entrepreneurship or by making seed stage investment.

 

Rising Trend of Family Offices in Venture Capital

It has been estimated that family offices around the world have $4 trillion worth of capital available for investment purposes. Moreover, there has been a rising trend of family offices in the world of venture capital.

An increased appetite for venture capital has been found among these investors. Interviews with 300 family offices around the globe, revealed that 70% of them were either actively investing in the startups or assessing the investment exposure to technology VC. However, there is another group of investors who had mixed reviews. They were still in the process of either recovering from a sudden shock or were still unsure of how to go about investing in startups effectively.

 

Consequences for Europe’s Tech World

Venture capital firms in Europe have experienced a huge funding gap with the United States. There are more technology companies in Europe as compared to the United States with high production of developers, yet, startups in the European region only receive a small percentage of investment in relation to their United States counterparts. Unless there is an improvement in this section, Europe will always lag behind in the production of tech unicorns and famous brands like Google or Apple.

Apart from large companies, family offices that currently have $759 million in asset under management should also contribute in bridging this gap.

 

Higher Returns

If you look at it from a startup or venture capitalist’s perspective, the involvement of family offices is not a big deal. Having relatively relaxed procedures, family office investors have created a stronger network as compared to institutional investors with an ability to open more avenues effectively.

It is totally understandable if you look at it from another angle. For example, family offices always look for those investment opportunities that offer a higher return. They are moving toward riskier products that offer high yield, such as a venture capital opportunity to grab prospective profitable investments.

Moreover, there was a research where it was pointed out that those who are taking control of family offices have a natural inclination and a better understanding of small scale businesses in the technology industry with ground breaking and innovative business models.

 

Changing Perception

It is true that family offices alone cannot bridge the funding gap of Europe as it requires an alliance between city or national level governments, institutional investors, angel investors, and corporate sector alongside the richest families in the world. However, it is not easily possible as it calls for a shift in perception toward venture capital, especially in Europe because it is still far behind the United States in terms of progress.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic, there is a high inclination toward taking huge risks. It is beneficial in the long run, because venture capital generates value much higher than the basic investment. In America, everyone knows that talented entrepreneurs who couldn’t make it in the first attempt are actually winners in the making, who will definitely make it big next time. Unlike America where failure is considered a stepping stone, Europe takes it as a stigma, which eventually influences their decision of capital allocation.

With the rise of technology startups in Europe, risk attitude is gradually changing among private as well as institutional investors. It is highly likely that family offices will be investing in the next wave of European innovation and research and development. This leads to increase in the number of startups that will get to the point of escape velocity and will also thrive at growth stage and beyond.

 

If the tech momentum in the European market does not die down, family offices should make a heavy investment into venture capital or else it will be left behind from other regions as well, such as Asia.

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.

Lithuania Government and Venture Capital

Feb
16

The past research shows that the role of governments to activate the VC market is a result of direct or indirect public policy measures. They choose the optimal measures that focus on timely economic issues and also encourage private investors to fund the sector where there is insufficient capital. Different governments around the globe are making efforts to increase the development of innovative SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises). Although, VC market is normally talked about in the context of developed countries, such as the U.S., UK, Japan, Canada, France, Australia, etc., but in 2007, a joint initiative, called the Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises or JEREMIE, happened to take place in Lithuania and other European states.

 

What is JEREMIE and its Purpose?

The JEREMIE initiative was an effort made by the European Commission and European Investment Fund (EIF) in collaboration with the European Investment Bank Group and other financial intermediaries to have a coherence among the EU. It was formed to distribute a portion of the EU Structural Funds through new risk finance initiatives for innovative SMEs.

In 2009, Lithuania experienced a dramatic emergence of VC funds as the agreement was signed with the EIF to implement the JEREMIE initiative in the region. Moreover, VC association was also established in the country. Lithuania is known as one of the leading countries in terms of the JEREMIE holding fund agreement – a fund managed by EIF and includes pre-seed and VC fund, co-investment fund, portfolio guarantees, and credits.

 

Emergence of Financial Intermediaries in Lithuania

In 2010, three financial institutions, a consortium of MES Invest and STRATA, LitCapital, and BaltCap were chosen for equity instruments. The last two have been established to manage VC funds, whereas, the first one is for the management of Business Angels co-investment fund.

 

Launch of Seed and VC Fund

A year after the emergence of financial intermediaries, Seed and Venture Capital Fund was launched in Lithuania under the JEREMIE initiative and a team of professionals titled CEE Capital was appointed by the EIF to manage it. The purpose of this fund was to enable the establishment of seed fund in Lithuania that is supported by the State. According to the newsletter published on the website of Ministry of Economy of Lithuania Republic, the size of this fund was approximately EUR 20.7 million and its aim was to extend financial support to Lithuanian firms that have a high growth potential. It was fueled by the Structural funds that were allocated to the JEREMIE holding fund under the management of EIF. It primarily provides capital to companies that are at seed stage of the development and also help in the further expansion of new enterprises.

Although, implementation of the JEREMIE initiative increased the amount of risk capital for SMEs in the country, yet, only a few investments were made in the innovative enterprises.

 

Baltic Innovation Fund

The Baltic Innovation fund, also known as the fund of fund initiative, was formed in 2012 by the EIF in collaboration with the government of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. It was created to boost the equity investment into Baltic SMEs having a great growth potential. The fund represented the investment of 52 million euros by EIF, along with the 26 million euros from each Baltic government. The aim of this fund was to focus on the Baltic States during the period of four years between 2013 and 2017 through a funds-of-funds process in order to bring more private capital and also to introduce the best market standards for equity investment in enterprises. This opportunity can definitely improve the competitiveness and employment situation in the region.

 

Progress in the VC Sector

  • The number of firms that got VC capital increased from 5 in 2011 to 16 in 2012. In 2014, the number eventually rose to 23.
  • According to Enterprise Lithuania (government agency), 63 startups were funded during the period of eight years with a capital of 101.5 trillion euros.
  • There were about 320 tech startups in the country by 2016 according to the statistics provided by The Lithuanian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, Startup Lithuania, and Practica Capital.

Last year, Cabinet of Ministers in Lithuania approved legislation that would make the process of permanent residency easier for non EU/EEA citizens who want to do innovative businesses in the country. The VC market in Lithuania is not yet developed and its progress is really slow. However, the public initiatives would give a boost to national VC market in the country.

Israel Government and Venture Capital

Feb
05

The government of Israel has actively participated in the development of Israeli Venture Capital (VC) market through hybrid financing, i.e., a mix of private and public VC funds. This was done to gain the maximum advantage of private funds from foreign investors.

 

Formation of the YOZMA Group – Initiative of the Israeli Government

The government has continually faced the challenge in Israeli VC policies on how they can deal with a small size of their domestic market and limited availability of funds. In order to tackle this issue, the Israeli government created the YOZMA Group in the early 90s. This program followed the U.S. style VC operations. Although, it carried tax breaks and equity guarantees for foreign investors, yet, there were not enough incentives for local investors.

YOZMA group was formed in 1993 with the infusion of 100 million U.S. dollars that was supplied by the Israeli government. It is basically a VC fund that invests in high-tech startups. During the next three years after its formation, the group created a total of ten hybrid funds. The second fund was launched in 1995 with the backing of European, American and Israeli investors. Each of these funds was financed with approximately 20 million U.S dollars.

Alongside these initiatives, YOZMA was also involved in new startups, which gave rise to a professionally managed VC market in Israel. The group turned out to be a catalyst for development and growth of the VC sector in Israel. Companies at any stage of development could receive funds from the group, but its primary focus is to invest in early stage companies that target high potential companies in biotechnology and life science sectors.

 

YOZMA III CEO Club – Initiative of the YOZMA Group

The group also developed professional relations with a number of well-known academic institutions and IT incubators in the country. Some of the companies in the YOZMA portfolio directly arose from these institutions. With the aim to involve executives at a senior position and founders of successful firms in YOZMA’s activities, a group was formed called YOZMA III CEO Club. This group turned out to be a great success and was a valuable source of a number of investment opportunities available at a particular point in time to companies or investors.

 

Privatization of YOZMA and New Challenges Faced by the Government

The late 90s, the government took a decision to privatize the YOZMA group as it believed that the private sector was adequately strong and healthy. The Israeli government auctioned its direct co-investments in 14 organizations. It also sold away its interest in 9 YOZMA funds to its partners. Although, the state still holds a small interest in two YOZMA funds, yet, all the funds are privatized and the direct contribution of YOZMA related VC capital has largely declined.

 

Other Initiatives by the Government to Improve VC Sector

The Israeli government also undertook a number of other initiatives, including the launch of tax incentive schemes for investors, fostering the international research and development, and development of other programs.

  • Tax Incentives for International Business Angels

According to a research paper by Günseli Baygan, a large number of Israeli VC funds are believed to be injected by business angels in Israel and other countries, specifically the U.S. The government offered tax incentives along with other programs to connect small enterprises and VC funds with international institutions and multinational companies.

Many of the VC funds started their offices in the U.S. and Europe to provide assistance to portfolio companies in finding investors and bringing awareness of technological and market developments in the international market. Given the small scale of the local market, it was a great move to flourish VC firms.

  • Fostering International Research and Development (R&D) Agreements

The government also fostered international R&D agreements, including the Israel-US Binational Industrial R&D (BIRD) foundation and the US-Israeli Science and Technology Commission. The BIRD was established in the 70s to fund R&D in startup companies. Moreover, it has also made a contribution by working alongside VC community, making its matchmaking services available for their portfolio companies in order to find out the business angels.

  • Other Programs

Apart from the above mentioned initiatives, different government bodies, including the Export Institute in Israel, MATIMOP – an Israeli Industry Center for R&D, and MESSER – Israeli Idea Promotion Center, made their contributions by offering assistance to small firms and entrepreneurs in assessing local and foreign markets for launching their services and products.

 

The VC industry in Israel grew from an investment of $440 million in 1997 to $1,759 billion in 2007, and almost all the investments in the country focus on high-tech companies, including bio-technology and ICT.

China Government and Venture Capital

Jan
12

In emerging nations, governments have greater influence over markets than ever due to regulations and political control. The ubiquity of a government can be seen in every economy through indirect or direct ownership of investment vehicles. China is no different.

The Chinese government started relaxing its grip on the economy during 70’s, which resulted in the escalation of investment and private entities. Since 1979, private and foreign investments have contributed a major role in making China one of the fastest growing economy in the world. Despite that, the country struggled to have standard financing mechanisms for businesses, including the availability of debt finance for smaller firms or presence of efficient equity markets. Although, it gave rise to a number of challenges, yet, it created opportunities for Venture Capital (VC) in China.

 

Rise of VC firms in China

The VC firms started making their way in the Chinese market during the early 80’s, and the impetus for this development was public policies, because the government still plays a dominant role in the country. The National Research Center of Science and Technology for Development suggested in 1984 that China should set up a VC system to encourage high technology market development. A number of local governments in the country supported and sponsored VC funds so that they could be invested in State Owned Enterprises (SOE) so as to level them up at a global standard in terms of quality and productivity. An example of such organization was China New Technology Venture Investment that was formed in 1985. Some of them were established for years, while others were formed only to make an investment in firms, especially the SOEs.

During 80’s, the primary focus of VC firms was to invest in property and infrastructure as there was an increasing popularity in hotel development and tourism sector. However, many of these investments couldn’t perform well and private equity investors lost interest in such investments. By the end of 1980s, interest in the Chinese market started brewing again. Due to steady economic growth and the government’s interest in such investments, VC was encouraged. But it wasn’t without a conflict as the government wanted to invest in high technology market and private investors wanted to keep their focus on low risk investments.

 

Evolution of VC in the Chinese Market

There was a lot of investment failure in the beginning as tourism and hotel development business couldn’t produce sufficient return. Moreover, a sudden proliferation of VC also turned out to be a failure, because the government officials and entrepreneurs didn’t have that experience.

As a result of such failures, a new body was formed in 2002, called the China Venture Capital Association, to improve the professionalism in this sector. Since then, the VC ecosystem has not only evolved but also shown tremendous growth.

 

Current Status of VC in China

While the investors in the developed nations are cutting their stakes in startups and golden age of unicorns is reaching the end, the venture capital fund backed by the Chinese government has brought together the biggest pool of startups in the world. It has reached 10 times the amount invested by VC in startups in 2015 ($32.2 billion).

 

Beijing Initiative

The country recently announced the formation of a $30 billion state-backed VC fund for encouraging the reform of SOEs and bolstering innovation. The fund is backed by the State Council and China Reform Holdings Corps, and it is established to find out the market-friendly ways to combine state assets and easily channel investments toward specific projects. It can turn out to be an effective move by the government in the long run despite the concerns regarding inefficient distribution and governance of assets. With the help of this initiative, if Beijing successfully upgrades its SOEs through effective investment in promoting high-tech companies, it can be helpful in rebalancing the economy of China by taking its reliance away from investments that focused on consumption based growth.

 

Other Investments Made by the Local Governments

China is struggling with economic difficulties as a result of ever increasing corporate debt, skyrocketing home price and reducing trend in exports. To combat such issues, local governments in China are also entering the VC sector, investing a total of ¥30 trillion. The purpose of this investment is to trigger the development of high-end manufacturing firms, internet and bio-technology so that it replaces the eroded economic growth of stumbling sectors.

Around 780 local government funds are competing to seed the upcoming multibillion dollar startups, including online emporium Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Xiaomi, and SZ DJI Technologies Co. (Drone maker company), as China is striving to create at least one Silicon Valley in more than 20 provinces.

 

If China is able to achieve a desired outcome of such investments, it will not only enable the country to avoid the middle income trap, but also scale the entrepreneurship and innovation at a massive level.

Governments and Venture Capital

Dec
29

Several governments around the world have started equity co-investment programs to bridge the financial gap by injecting Venture Capital (VC) to businesses that do not have sufficient capital but they have high potential. These hybrid (public/private) programs still engage private sector VC firms as a channel through which public support and a large amount of capital is invested.

 

Hybrid Scheme in the United States

In the U.S., models of the Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC) program, such as, hybrid schemes have been launched. It involves a participation by the state as a public guarantor or a special liability partner (LP) for the large part of the total capital raised for investment. Subsequently, full operational autonomy is entrusted to the general partnership (GP) by the state once the investment eligibility guidelines are agreed upon. This is done to attract investment returns to the investors, i.e., the LPs.

These models have been widely adopted by a large number of governments since the collapse of dot.com bubble that violently shook VC funding raising. Moreover, developing countries have also started showing interest in such models to encourage innovation and new startups.

 

Hybrid Venture Capital Schemes – The U.K. and Australia

Other developed countries, including the U.K. and Australia, also followed the SBIC models and designed their own Hybrid Venture Capital Schemes (HVCFs). The Enterprise Capital Fund was formed in the U.K., whereas, the Innovation Investment Fund was formed in Australia.

The UK government devised the program to provide growing startups an equity financing of £2 million ceiling. Under the program, the early stage funds, invested in the growing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups, consist of private investment by the private investors with uncapped profit share and loan or equity from the government with capped profit share. A common structure of investment is one where there is an equal distribution of profit between private and public LPs. However, to increase the expected profits of private LPs, HVCF adopts a number of mechanisms where changes are made to the profit distribution, down-side protection, timings of investments, and the payment of operating cost related to the funds.

Although, SBIC wasn’t a complete success, yet, the governments that are in favor of equity enhancement programs followed its design and changed it to match their own requirements and preferences.

 

Issues Faced by High-Technology Companies

High tech organizations face three major issues when they try to access venture capital. Firstly, they do not have enough information about venture capitalists in the market and there are limited financial channels for technology companies. Secondly, organizations that seek public venture capital causes low demand for other VCs, and thirdly, these organizations need to have creative and dedicated management teams or else they face issues in convincing VCs to provide funds, which further widens the financial gap.

 

Role of Governments in a Developing Country to Counter the Issues of High-Technology Companies

Governments of different countries have taken measures to address these issues. For example, there is a “triple-helix model” that expresses a relationship between: University – Government – Industry to promote innovation in a society.

Innovation can be brought in industry and university via direct or indirect VC investment, government stock, enactment of laws, formulation of policies, and through the promotion of high-tech SMEs. Government can play its role in different ways, i.e., by having a creative function, through venture investment regulations and tax policies that directly leave an impact on VC market, and by other measures that indirectly affect VC industry, such as regulations and laws that govern the labor market, patent, stock market, pension funds, etc.

For example, there is a city in China called Suzhou where 75 percent of the science parks are backed by municipal public VC. A special institute, which is responsible to the Local Science Committee of the central Chinese government, was developed to administer these parks. The employees of the institute are directly recruited and trained by the government. Therefore, as a developing country progresses in becoming a developed nation, a shift in the role of public VC arises from its direct participation in the market environment to provision of services.

 

Governments usually provide support to the Venture Capital markets due to perceived market failure or financing gap faced by startups or early stage businesses, and also due to the positive impact it will have to bring innovation and create job opportunities for a prosperous economy.

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.

Venture Capital and Equity CrowdFunding Co-Existence

Nov
17

It’s been more than four years since the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act has been enacted, and its democratization has already started with a few Regulation A+ CrowdFunding (CF) offerings officially recognized by the Security and Exchange Commission to raise funds.

Given the increasing interest in Equity CF and reward based CrowdFunding, venture capitalists would find it hard to seize startups seeking investment opportunities as they prefer to raise funds via crowdfunding. On one hand, it has ignited the fear in some VC firms as they believe it could disrupt their industry by creating a hindrance to attracting young companies, whereas, other venture capitalists are of the notion that startups looking for both seed and later stage funding can utilize CF and VC funds alongside each other.

This gives rise to an important question

Whether Equity Crowdfunding and Venture Capital Co-exist or Not?

The answer to that is yes.

Despite the apprehensions raised by VCs, both the sources have turned out to be successful for startup businesses, as they offer two unique routes to raise funds. Although Venture Capital makes up a large part of the financing, yet, crowdfunding can add an extra element to it and help companies by allowing them to raise money quickly and in a more cost effective way.

 

CrowdFunding Provide Real-Time Feedback

Every VC investor seeks strong ideas that have a potential to provide high reward with minimal risk. With equity CrowdFunding, VCs have the advantage to get real time feedback as they observe the public response to see whether a product or service gain traction. According to an article by Deborah Gage on the Wall Street Journal, three out of every four startups (supported by VCs) fail. However, if it is supplemented by Equity CrowdFunding, the number can reduce to a minimum. As David Loucks, CEO of Healthios, rightly said that both the sources of investments complement each other. It can be seen as a sequence, wherein, CrowdFunding plays its part and then Venture Capital plays its role.

He further said that CrowdFunding doesn’t necessarily have to be restricted to the seed stage; in fact, startups can use it at a later stage to help strengthen their deal. He went on to say that instead of going to the capital markets, companies can turn to CrowdFunding in order to arrange funds around a specific initiative, as there is certainly going to be an investor in the market who would seek a partnership with a top buyer.

 

Challenges of VC and CrowdFunding Partnership

There is always a risk, to VC firms, of getting involved with scores of other equity investors. Loucks said that VCs have to be strict in ensuring the credibility of the sources of funds that a CrowdFunding platform represents.

Lynn said that there can be a situation where companies coming to the Venture Capital round, with thousands of shareholders if they find successful CrowdFunding offering, which complicates the capital structure, especially for Venture Capitalists who want to have a lion’s share in the business.

It also reflects a tough choice on the company’s part that seeks funds through CrowdFunding prior to attracting VC money.

 

Venture Capitalists Can Bring Their Own Skill Set

When it comes to CF, Venture Capitalists can go with the number of structures that allow them to co-invest in a company in tandem with new crowdfunding methods. For example, VCs might get access to preferred stock when CF investors may only get common stock. Moreover, VCs can also maintain control provisions, including anti-dilution measures so that rights attributed to them are not applicable to CF shares.

These arrangements can be quite fruitful for startups and investors alike, and in many cases, VCs can boost the overall value of an enterprise, while structuring arrangements in a way that meet their business needs. They can bring connections and market exposure to the table. As a result, new companies get to raise capital, Venture Capital firms get validation, and CF investors get the advantage of VC guidance and experience. Therefore, it can be fairly said that with the right strategy and partners, both the VCs and CF investors can co-exist.

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.