ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
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New Unicorn Wannabe

Jan
19

A number of Venture Capital (VC) investors are predicting 2017 to be the year when a large amount of money will flow into startups, especially if those startups have the opportunity to become “Unicorns”. Although, 2016 was not the best year for the startups as 70 percent reduction was observed in the companies that made it to unicorn status, 2017 seems quite promising.

For example, a number of VC firms, including Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz, managed to raise around $40.6 billion – a huge sum of capital needing to be deployed.

 

Rising Trend of Unicorn Companies

A rising number of unicorns from different industries have made it big.

  • Uber – Transportation service
  • Xiaomi – Consumer electronic
  • Airbnb -Lodging services
  • Snapchat – Social media
  • SpaceX – Aerospace

The marketplace for used goods has also picked up the pace during the last ten years as a number of startups have emerged in the market, such as OfferUp, 5miles and OLX.

 

Boom of the Unicorns in the Used Goods Marketplace

The online market for used goods has dramatically increased over the past decade as more and more e-commerce companies have made their entry. Encouraging the users to get rid of the items they no longer need, these companies have created a multibillion dollar market.

Recently, Letgo, a company that allows users to purchase and sell products secured $175 million in new financing. It has previously grabbed on to $325 million since it was initially launched and is currently approaching one billion dollars in valuation.

Moreover, some of the big unicorn names like Facebook launched a Marketplace Tab on the lower bar of its mobile application that allows quick access to shopping and selling on the basis of location. This goes to show how it is planning to penetrate in the e-commerce industry rather more aggressively.

 

LatAm Unicorns – Making it Big

On the other hand, in Latin America, some of the talented entrepreneurs are hosting five of the world’s biggest Unicorns ($1 billion in valuation). Although, the list of tech startups founded in Latin America is short, yet, these companies have made it possible for other new entrants to envision themselves as growing on a global scale. Argentina is the only country in Latin America with 4 (soon to be 5 with Letgo) out of 6 Unicorns. Those Unicorns are MercadoLibre, Despegar, OLX and Globant.

MercadoLibre is an online company from Argentina that is involved in online auctions and e-commerce. eBay made a strategic alliance with this company back in 2001. Apart from Argentina, the company currently has its presence in Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and a lot of other countries.

B2W is another name in the same sector. It was founded in 2006 and its headquarters are based in Rio de Janerio. B2W is a retail company that came into existence as a result of a merger between Americanas.com (holding a control share of around 53 percent) and Submarino.com (controlling the remaining percentage of share). The market-share of a company in the year it was founded was almost 50 percent of the online sales sector in Brazil.

Similarly, another renowned Argentine unicorn company from the e-commerce sector is OLX, which was founded by Fabrice Grinda and Alec Oxenford in 2006. Its headquarter is based in New York. The company is currently operating in more than 40 countries around the world.

The total number of internet users in Latin America is closer to the users in the U.S., but it has shown rapid growth in the past couple of years with the growth rate that is 8 to 10 times more than the U.S. rate. It means that the potential for new startups to make it big is huge in this region. Besides, there is a strong institutional and government support for entrepreneurial companies, which can further increase the expected number of unicorns in that area.

How to Invest Smarter?

Oct
06

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

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

Focus on Team and Market

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

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

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

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

Read the Herd Correctly

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

Identify the Scale of Assistance Required by a Startup

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

Choose a Company with a Good Working Product

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

Double Down the Investment Once a Potential Unicorn is Spotted

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

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

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

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