ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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

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.

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.

Value Investment

Aug
25

Value investment strategy is one of the strategies used in the stock market, where investors look for the companies that have the ability to generate returns at a reasonable level during a sustained holding period. In other words, a value investor tries to find a company that is undervalued by the market, but it has a potential to show an increase in its share value once the market rectifies the error of valuing that firm. So, it allows an investor to buy a well performing share at a cheaper price.

How to Screen for a Value Stock?

Value investors are not concerned with the factors that usually cause price fluctuation in the market. For them, the factors that would impact a stock price are oil prices, inflation reports, wars, and hikes in the Federal rates. This is the reason why they look for stocks with strong dividends, earnings, cash flow, and book value, because value investing is not just about purchasing an undervalued stock, it is about purchasing a good stock that is undervalued. However, just having the strong fundamentals doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a value stock investment opportunity, because a company with strong and consistent earnings growth, attractive cash-flows, decent dividends, and a minimal amount of debt might represent a growth investment, and so, value investors won’t be interested in it.

An investor must keep three questions in mind when he seeks a high value stock:

  • How is the cash-flow position of a company?
  • If the company is generating profit from its key operations?
  • What are the future prospects in terms of growth potential?

Quantitative Aspects

How to assess a good value stock? (Just some RATIOS)

  • High Dividend Yield – The stock with an ability to generate high dividend yield, is considered a good value stock. However, a comparison should be made in the same industry.
  • Low P/E Ratio – It is a comparison between a share price and the earnings generated by each share. Paying less for more profit will be a good indication of a good value stock.
  • Low Price to Book Ratio – The lower this ratio is, the better it would be, as it shows how much will be left after the liquidation.
  • PEG Ratio – Value investing doesn’t simply means investing in low Price to earning stocks. Another largely accepted metric for finding out the intrinsic value of a company is PEG ratio, which is calculated by dividing the P/E ratio of a stock with its projected earnings growth rate over the years. It measures how cheap a stock can be while keeping in mind the growth of its earnings. Therefore, a PEG ratio of less than 1 means a company is undervalued.
  • Net-Net Method – According to this method, if a company trades at 67 percent of its current assets, an investor doesn’t have to adopt any other measure of worth, because it depicts that a buyer is getting all the non-current and intangible assets free of cost. But, there are only a few companies that are trading this low.

Qualitative Aspects

Value stocks can be found in any industry, including finance, energy, and even TECHNOLOGY. Yet, they are mostly commonly located in industries that have recently been hit by a difficult time, for example, the cyclical nature of auto industry give rise to a period of undervaluation of companies like General Motors and Ford.

Warren Buffett, one of the most astute investors of all time, learned the art of trading from Benjamin Graham, who was the father of value investing. Buffett has always emphasized that buying a good company at a fair price is far better than buying a fair company at a good price, which is true. Value investing is not about purchasing stocks at a bargain price and hoping for the best, nor is it about making quick money on a market trend. The main idea behind it is to invest in companies with strong business models.

It is important to have a long term strategy with value investing. The investors shouldn’t get faltered by short term market features, such as volatility or daily price fluctuations, because a good firm will not lose its worth even on a bad day. Although, value investment strategy is dependent on a stern screening process, yet, it has a potential to generate reasonable returns in the long run.

Basic Investment Strategies

Aug
19

Deciding on a suitable strategy to fuel your investment plan is based on various factors, including the risk appetite, the time span of an investment, and financial goals. Some investors stick to one particular strategy, while others use several strategies over a period of time. Although, investors usually have their own style that forms the basis of their decisions, yet, there are some basic investment strategies that can be employed to achieve your financial objectives.

Define Your Goals – Defining a goal is the first thing every investor should do. You cannot go about investing in the market haphazardly without having any plan in mind, or else you would end up losing all your money. Always devise a sound trading plan and define your financial goals. It allows you to identify which financial instrument is most suitable for you and enables you to take timely decisions.

Diversify – Investing is a broad term that can be intimidating for newbies as it involves a wide variety of investment vehicles and hundreds of strategies. However, it can be managed if you devise a flexible and effective plan. Today, investors have more investment options than were available to an average investor ten years ago. Having a few stocks in your portfolio might cost you more in the beginning, but it will be beneficial in the long run, because one of your investments might only generate 5 percent profit, while the other one gives you a 100 percent return five years later.

Monitor Your Investments – Investing in the same stock forever is never a wise option. Even the blue chip companies can turn out to be a failure, because the old perception of buying and holding the stock forever doesn’t work in today’s world with such an effervescent economy. Therefore, monitor your investments and take timely decisions to avoid losses.

Start Investing Early – The sooner you start, the better. This is certainly true when it comes to investing in the financial market. If you keep your money invested for a longer period of time, it will have more potential to grow. Patience is the key! If only you learn to practice patience and adhere to a long term investing strategy, you would definitely experience financial success and secure reasonable returns.

Turn Discretionary Income into Your Investment – It is important for you to not confuse your needs with wants. The president of the U.S. Retirement Strategy for Transamerica Retirement Solutions, Stig Nybo, once said that phone bills, cable TV packages, and other automatic services eventually become necessities, which doesn’t let the would-be investor jump out of it. He further said that you should question the things that have become the norm, but they might not be necessities.

Adhere to a Cash-flow Plan – It is an essential element that should become a part of your investment plan. Reinvest your money every month during your employment years and stick to a strict cash-flow plan, while making reevaluations as life progresses. This will definitely help you go a long way and enable you to achieve your financial goals.

Separate Emotions from Financial Decisions – Emotions play a major role in your investment decisions. But, it is very important to separate emotions from your short as well as long term financial objectives. Emotional involvement tampers with your judgment and performance. Just because everyone is talking about hot stocks, doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to be a good investment. Always analyze the trends and pay close attention to market news and events, as it allows you to take rational decisions in the long run.

Assess Your Tolerance for Risk – Whenever you invest in the market, ask yourself one simple question, “How much can I take and sleep at night if the value of my investment drops by 10 percent or 50 percent?” If a huge decline is going to hit you hard, you should consider investing the major portion of your funds in safe investments, such as, bonds or utilities.

However, bear in mind that it takes some time to be able to understand the gist of these strategies. Being a newbie, you might initially experience a high risk of loss if you follow one of these strategies. Therefore, observe patience and perseverance, because you will eventually get there.