Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
- “Our projections are conservative.” (But if I don't show a hockey stick of growth you won't listen and tell me I can't make enough fast enough)
- “Jupiter says our market will be $50 billion in ten years.” (And if I show you it is only $500 million you will tell me it is to small for a VC of your stature - as you're only interest in home runs - not singles)
- “Several Fortune 500 companies are set to do business with us.” (yep and If I don't have name clients ready to go, you'll tell me to get go get them before you can consider funding us)
- “No one else can do what we’re doing.” (and if I tell you there is lots of competition and we're not very different except for our positive attitude..............)
- “Hurry up because other investors are about to do our deal.” (we all know you're going to drag your feet and take your time to do your due diligence and you know / we know we need your money yesterday - so what would you like me to say, take your time you're the only game in town?)
- “Our product will go viral.” (hockey stick again - Entrepreneur speak "we're posed for slow steady growth and although you won't get your money back within the life of your current VC fund you can't lose!")
- “The large companies in our market are too big, dumb, and slow to compete with us.” (If we didn't think we could beat them why would we be here and why would you invest in us..?)
- “Our management team is proven.” (would you prefer "we're a bunch of propeller heads but we will learn on the way - with your money - forget about it...........we're good to go")
- “We filed patents so our intellectual property is protected.” (And if we didn't file you would tell us we don't have any IP so if we fail you have nothing to fall back on so go get some IP or you can't invest)
- “All we have to do is get 1% of the market.” (yep, didn't we hear that with China?)
- “I liked your company, but my partners didn’t.” (happens, VC's don't want to be the only to pick a company within their own VC team - if something ever goes wrong guess where the finger points!)
- “We are patient investors who want to help you build a great company.” (Ha, Ha - my fund is a 10 year closed one and I have 3 years to invest 3 more to re-invest and 4 to divest - you figure out the timing)
- “If you get a lead, we’ll invest too.” (Ummm, I didn't say I would invest with just any other lead investor, did I?)
- “There are no companies in our portfolio that conflict with what you’re doing.” (yep, there is also this game called liar's poker and man are we good at it!!!!!)
- “Show us some traction, and we’ll invest.” (can't laugh at this one because it is fair ... most of the time - but if I don't have money to gain traction - how can I do it......?)
- “We love to co-invest with other firms.” (as long as we take the lead, they follow what we want, our lawyer is bigger than them, we get our equity out first, we choose the next CEO+Board+management and.............)
- “We’re investing in your team.” (but wait, didn't we already say we don't think your team is proven....?)
- “We have lots of bandwith to dedicate to your company.” (As long as it doesn't interfere with our golf and sailing schedule - we're so busy you know. Oh and don't forget if one of our companies starts looking like the next Google, Facebook etc., we're really really busy )
- “This is a plain, vanilla termsheet.” (except for all the perks for us that will hurt you down the line - you have no idea how much we pay our lawyers to slide stuff in - and we know you can't afford a good lawyer)
- “We will get other companies in our portfolio to work with you.” (right.......................)
- Marketing: use blogs and social media to promote your products.
- Tools: most tools are Open Source and free. Microsoft offers free versions of applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the cloud!
- Infrastructure: More cloud goodness—you don’t have to buy servers anymore.
- People: callous for me to say, but in a recession, people are free or cheap.
- Office space: what office space? You can work out of your garage (like David Hewlett and Bill Packard) or just form a virtual team.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Other good news included sales of US goods overseas have increased 29% in the 9 quarters of the recovery. This is the fastest growth in any economic rebound of the past 50 years which has been over shadowed by the continuing jobless recovery. This probably doesn't seem like great news to the many unemployed in the US, however long term it does speak to the increasing competitiveness of the US export engine as well as continuing demand from emerging markets.
The new focus on Asia by the Obama administration is not based solely on the reduction in US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. While exports to Europe are on a downward trajectory the emerging markets in Asia (most significantly China) continue to increase and account for 50% of the world economy. The US concern of a dominant China in the Asia Pacific region is part of the reason but China has been very active in South America & Africa as well as Asia. They lead with government backed businesses that provide government "aid" in return for access to oil and mineral rights. There have been many articles written on the bait and switch tactics of this approach and the value to citizens of these countries vs. the ruling elite and the environmental impact is up for spirited debate.
From a military perspective it would take decades for China to catch up to US military power, even with the planned trillion dollar cuts over the next decade now on the table. However as an economic power they continue to be an increasing force that bears great opportunity for US business as well as a fight for market share. It will be interesting to see if demand increases in 2012 throughout the developing world even though the central banks in China and India have raised borrowing costs to try and tame inflation as well as a housing boom in China that has bust potential in it.
Check out the Bloomberg article: Record U.S. Exports Led by Caterpillar seen in World Markets.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
- Disruptive technology or service with lots of room to grow (Most VC's want home runs - more than singles)
- Good core management team
- Passionate Leadership - investors believe management can do it
- Great Elevator pitch - You're able to quickly get to the "I get it" stage when describing what your product or service does - to the buyer as well as investor
- Have sales already in place with customers that are happy to sing your praises
- Pitch Deck - 10 slides - Short, Sweet, no fluff - the Pitch deck should be the starting point to great conversation not explain everything
- Know that no VC will sign any non-disclosure agreements to hear your pitch
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Keiretsu Forum is now the largest Angel investor network in the world with 750+ members on three continents and growing. They have invested over $200 million in 225 companies and their presentations are run like a well oiled machine! I have spoken to Randy a few times since our initial meeting about opening up a branch in Australia and think that might happen sometime in the not too distant future (hint, hint Randy!).
Five companies presented at the forum: Windpower, Anza International, iVoiceNetwork, Vesuvio Entertainment and Reality Gap. The members are provided with a presentation from each CEO followed by a Q&A session. Having run these investor forums for Australian companies entering the US I'm well aware of the amount of preparation required prior to the event and how challenging it can be for CEO's to step out of their "what they think is important world" to focus on what "investors think" is important.
As you can imagine the presentation quality varied wildly. Some of the chaps had fancy video's (which sometimes worked - note to presenters always test prior to delivery in front of an audience - don't leave it up to the in room "techies") and others were your standard vanilla PowerPoint you see in any investment pitch. The presenter from IVoiceNetworks (Guy Morris) was a bit of a showman and was able to create some real excitement which glossed over some of the issues they're facing. That being said I think it is an interesting play that will attract investors. Reality Gap seemed to focus on the games portion of their business when in reality the business was about Gamebux / monetizing virtual currency for social media networks and online gaming. WindPower reminded me a little bit of another company I saw at AlwaysOn awhile back Mariah Power - but, the difference was a focus on wind turbines for commercial vs. individual home owners. They have some issues but I think they might be the most investor ready of the group.
Vesuvio Entertainments play was all about making low budget ($100K), profitable movies from the get go with the CEO's (Greg Sims) claim to fame being the discovery of George Clooney. Hollywood is littered with the carcasses of startup movie studios but I think these guys may actually be able to make a go of it and I look forward to seeing if they can. Anza International seemed to be the least polished of the group and I heard someone say they had completely changed their presentation (likely from a prior Keiretsu presentation) and unfortunately it showed. Having worked in international business for the past two decades I can honestly say firsthand how much I abhor the ridiculous rates the big banks charge for international and domestic money transfers. Randy Gutierrez (CEO) talked about the margins they charge vs. what he is doing with Anza. His presentation wasn't "great" but this space looks like a good one and flashy presentations don't always translate to success. I'm hoping he succeeds if only to bring the big banks down to earth from their exorbitant fees as well as my vote for a clamp down on the excesses of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street.
Keiretsu events are invitation only. However, if you're an entrepreneur or someone who is interested in investing in startups I highly recommend you contact these guys and attend one of their presentations.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
By combining website marketing, SEO, product focused blogs, corporate tweets (Twitter), face book followers (see Jet Blue http://facebook.com/JetBlue), LinkedIn, delicious etc., companies are communicating with their clients in a way that wasn't conceivable a decade ago. They can push out content as well as receive feedback faster than ever before.
Savvy marketers are pulling out all the stops to ensure that their corporate brand is properly marketed in all the different social mediums and ensuring they are maximizing their online presence as well as gaining very useful market research. They're also aware that bad press in this new world is a challenge and some of the more with companies actually search for bad press to jump on customer problems before they go viral. For example, if a Comcast cable subscriber "tweets" or "yelps" that Comcast Sucks with an addressable issue their searching for it and have a customer service representative contact them with the hope that their next tweet / yelp talks about them solving the problem.
The bottom line is that marketing is evolving at hyper speed and the companies that get it and embrace social networking will benefit their bottom lines. I bet they will be writing about this time period in the business schools and history books in the not too distant future as a transformational era that completely changed traditional marketing as we knew it just five short years ago.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
The first and most critical step is commitment. By that I mean is your company committed to an export strategy rather than trying to get a quick hit to unload extra product or help during a downturn? Many companies will not make money in the first year or two of a new market entry and they need to be prepared for it, ready to ride out the bumps as part of a longer term strategy. With commitment comes the next most important stage which is planning.
Developing an international marketing plan starts with the basics. What is your company selling? Who is buying it in your current market and how does it compare to your current in country competitors? This is often skipped but I believe it is a critical first step. If you don't know what you do better, cheaper or faster than your competitors in your current environment why, would you think you could do it in another, that you know even less about? I also think if you're currently working in a small market and if you're not one of the leaders there with your product / service you're probably not ready for a larger market like the United States - which is often the goal of many aspiring exporters.
Now that we understand what we do well in our current environment, its time to look at the chosen market a company thinks they can export into. My next blog will revolve around the next step, what a market entry analysis should include and how to go about developing one.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So this begs the question, is there a new trend starting where the inside Angels are looking to get into bigger rounds with smaller chunks of capital replacing the traditional VC model? Stay tuned this maybe worhth watching.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
If its time for your company to expand internationally or if you're already international and looking at new countries to enter, the answer is yes! As entrepreneurs know from starting their businesses there are always things that pop up that they did not anticipate or plan for. Developing a strategy reduces uncertainty by committing to paper what you know, what you think you will do and how you will do it. Many people “know” what they are going to do but when asked to write it down they often find it challenging. By taking the time to write an entry plan (and utilizing a solid plan template) it forces them to think through all the steps they need to take and make sure they have covered as many elements as possible as well as put the right resources in place.
The other advantage of writing a plan is to obtain outside perspective or guidance. Entrepreneurs often get wrapped up in day to day operations and are challenged to step up and look at the big picture. By soliciting experienced external assistance the CEO can have someone look at their company without the rose colored glasses we often wear and make suggestions / recommendations which may have been over looked. This will often challenge the CEO’s thinking and lead to a better overall strategy. Generally speaking an experienced operator in your vertical is your best bet. If you can get them to help you for free great, if not find a consultant that does this for a living and map out what they will deliver and what you will do to develop your plan.
If a CEO chooses not to do the upfront market research and develop a coherent entry strategy, the best case scenario is a bit of floundering and squandering of valuable time and resources (something most small businesses can ill afford). Worst case scenario is an entry failure or even more disastrous the development of a brand error which could haunt any future re-entry endeavors.
The bottom line is that by investing your time and energy into writing a market entry strategy before you start selling, you will reduce entry uncertainty, be more confident you have the right plan and ultimately greatly increase your chances of success in your chosen market.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Everyone in Silicon Valley is now familiar with the “PowerPoint” that Sequoia Capital www.sequoiacap.com sent out last month. They were the buzz of Silicon Valley when they invited their portfolio entrepreneurs & CEOs into a meeting and greeted them with an image of a tombstone that said “RIP Good Times”. The premise of the meeting was to cut costs immediately and figure out how to survive and successfully emerge on the other side of what they predicted would be a long downturn. From a historical perspective they also had a similar all hands on deck meeting before the last downturn.
Sequoia’s speakers (including Uber-investor Mike Moritz) told the Financial Times www.ft.com/home/us “It’s pretty clear that demand is going to soften across the board for every company - it doesn’t matter if you’re selling to consumers or companies.” They went through each functional area and showed their investees how they could/should cut costs to decrease their burn rate and increase their survivability in an extended down turn.
Now, as a fellow entrepreneur I’m very familiar with the need to extend your burn rate and believe that some cost cutting is in order in downturns. However, I take a different tact than many when it comes to marketing. When most companies and people are burying their heads in the sand I believe it’s the best time to get going and create some head wind for your company! Your marketing / advertising efforts will get more bang for your buck because there is less competition for head space. Your dollars will go farther and marketing / advertising is cheaper because they’re happy for any new business they can get. Last, this is the time to gain market share on your competitors and strike while they're scared and sitting around wondering what to do because “the sky is falling”, we better not do anything and just wait it out. Your more experienced Angels/VC's get that and the ones who do usually get the best valuations / long term deals because they kept at it during a downturn but became more focused and used their marketing budget proactively. However, we all know it is much easier to be a sheep than strike out (especially in Australia w/the tall Popeye syndrome!) and hit the gas judiciously.To my mind, more entrepreneurs should take the contrarian Warren Buffet approach and when all the sheep are headed to the pens go out in the field and look at this time as an opportunity to take advantage of, rather than to run scared and miss out on an opportunity to position your company for the coming up turn!
Check out the American Marketing Associations survey www.marketingpower.com for more information on this topic.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
From a market entry consultant's perspective market research such as country demographics are nice to have but not really something we recommend paying for since its readily available at places like http://www.fedstats.gov/ . What we often recommend is allocating a budget for what I call "Actionable Market Research". This includes a range of research dependent on the client's current knowledge base and management team but often contains competitor research such as how are they selling their product or service (channel strategy) and how are they pricing / distributing it, how do they compare to you? It should also look at potential customers - what does your potential client look like, what are the potential changeover costs and why is your product better, cheaper or faster than your competitors? Another area that is often forgotten is influencers i.e., who will your end customer go to in order to research your competitors or you and who tracks companies in your space. This isn't just the Gartners http://www.gartner.com/ or Aberdeen's http://www.aberdeen.com/ it also includes bloggers, hard copy and soft copy magazines.
There is much more involved in developing a really strong market research project but at the end of the day your market research should reduce market uncertainties, give you a good window into whether you should even enter the market and give you the base information required to develop your market entry strategy. That is why quality actionable market research is so valuable to a successful entry and should be part of any new market entry budget.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
They use Avatars to help Desk Jockeys stretch, maintain a healthy posture, focus on thier ergonomics and monitor their keyboard and mouse use. The idea is that they will help companies with lots of sedentary workers (call center staff to every day heavy computer users) stay on top of stretching to reduce carpal tunnel syndrome, back & neck pain. You can download personal copies in the near future or a company can buy a license for their whole company and white label it if they choose.
The challenge with any Australian IT company is how do you create product awareness from so far away and what is the best delivery channel for the US. In addition with a product that can be purchased online or sold through sales people or resellers what is the best way to optimize sales as well as margins. We'll check back with Desk Active in a few months and see what their strategy is and how the implementation is going.