“One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It’s not.” Steven Ellis, Professional Pitcher
Major League baseball pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than they actually do pitching. The same should be true of an entrepreneur who is attempting to secure money from sophisticated investors.
The steps outlined below represent an ideal approach to raising capital from sophisticated investors. Unfortunately, your fundraising efforts will be less linear. You might be at Step 2 with one VC and Step 3 with another. However, the greater degree you can sequentially follow these steps and maintain your discussions with each venture capitalist (VC) at relatively the same stage, the sooner you can spend less time in the company of investors and get back to running your business.
Although it is tempting to overly intellectualize modern-day venture capital, its underlying construct has been part of human society for thousands of years. From the earliest days of seafaring traders, affluent dilettantes have been entrusting their capital to less-affluent, enterprising workers willing to share a portion of the resulting gain with their benefactors.
Two early venture capitalists were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who backed Christopher Columbus. The traits these royal investors sought in Columbus are surprisingly similar to the characteristics modern investors look for when evaluating startup teams.
Startup blogger and venture capitalist extraordinaire Fred Wilson recently published a great article on Venture Debt, which I strongly suggest you review HERE. Go ahead, I will wait…
…welcome back. As Fred points out, many entrepreneurs hear the word “debt” and promptly run the other direction. In the past, venture debt was often viewed as a funding vehicle of last resort. When the current investors were tapped out and a bigger fool could not be brought into a venture, all eyes turn towards debt. However, when deployed judiciously, venture debt can mitigate investors’ and founders’ dilution.
At Rincon Venture Partners, we are in the midst of negotiating a term sheet with a cash-positive startup that is growing aggressively. The nature of the company’s business model requires it to fund certain costs before it is paid by its customers. Thus, even though the company is cash flow positive, its growth is constrained by the amount of payables it can fund. Enter venture debt.
In the early 1970s, the Seven-Up Company devised an ingenious plan to market its flagship soda. The campaign was so successful it eventually catapulted 7-Up’s sales to rival that of both Coke and Pepsi, making it the third most popular soft drink in the US.
The company hired the Dominican actor Geoffrey Holder, who delivered the commercial’s signature tagline with memorable panache, “Maaarvelous, absolutely maaarvelous.” Overnight, “maaarvelous,” spoken in an exaggerated Caribbean accent, became a national catchphrase.
What made the commercials noteworthy was not their charismatic pitchman. It was the fact that the Seven-Up Company defined its product by describing what it was not, via the “UnCola” label. When evaluating a potential Institutional Investor, entrepreneurs should consider what they are not, as much as what they are. Entrepreneurs in search of startup capital are well served to seek an UnVentureCapitalist (UnVC), an investor who understands and appreciates the unique benefits of capital efficiency.
Below is a talk on New Venture Investing from the University of California Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program, by Jim Andelman.
In this video Jim Andelman explores venture capital investing and the emergence of capital efficient businesses.
Jim Andelman, co-founder and General Partner of Rincon Venture Partner
Jim is a co-founder and General Partner of Rincon Venture Partners. In this capacity, he is responsible for driving the fund’s investment activities, as well as the firm’s operations. Jim has more than fifteen years of experience in venture capital investing, technology investment banking and advisory services and strategic business consulting.
Previously, Jim led software investing at Broadview Capital Partners, a $250 million expansion-stage venture capital firm. Jim was responsible for developing investment themes, sourcing investment opportunities, performing company assessments, negotiating and executing transactions, and advising portfolio companies. Jim led the assessment of over 300 investment opportunities, participated in the deployment of $78 million across five portfolio companies, four of which exited via acquisition despite a challenging macroeconomic environment.
During the late 1800’s, American author Horatio Alger wrote 129 novels, most of which recount the deeds of impoverished young people who overcome their modest means to establish independent lives as self-sufficient, middle class citizens.
Years after Alger created this new genre, it was derisively (and incorrectly) termed “rags to riches.” A common critique is that Mr. Alger’s heroes succeeded by conveying a simplistic formula comprised of honesty, cheerfulness, virtue, thrift, and hard work.
Dismissing Mr. Alger’s works as juvenile rags to riches novels misses the author’s primary point and the reason why the books had such a tremendous impact on several generations of American entrepreneurs.
It is your chance to break into the “big time” All of your hard work and preparation comes down to a brief performance, the outcome of which could be life-changing.
This was the situation faced by the hundreds of comedians who debuted on “The Tonight Show” during Johnny Carson’s 30-year tenure. If they succeeded, Johnny shook their hand at the end of their routine and offered them a seat in his guest chair. This small gesture indicated that he approved of their act and would invite them back for a future performance.
The careers of nearly every successful comedian during the 1970s and 1980s, including George Carlin, Flip Wilson, Freddie Prinze, Sr., Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Jay Leno and David Letterman, were launched by a brief monologue on “The Tonight Show.”
In the 1960s cop show “The Mod Squad,” Linc played a vital role as the tough, street-savvy member of the hip, made-for-TV crime-fighting team. When you shake down a drug-addled informant, Lincs are a great asset. However, when you are negotiating with a Big Dumb Corporate Investor (BDCI), links between the strategic aspect of your partnership and the investment terms can be fatal to your adVenture.
Each aspect of your BDCI relationship, financial and operational, should stand separately on its own merits. If there is not adequate strategic value in the relationship, do not accept BDCI funding.
Nair was developed during the 1970s as a hair-removal product for the emerging population of busy, professional women. Despite potential side effects such as itching, burning and scarring, Nair continues to help women effectively remove unwanted hair and leave their skin “smooth and shiny, with no nicks or cuts.”
Ask any venture investor. They would love to slather their startup investments with Nair. Why? Because every deal has unwanted hair – one or more significant flaws which make the deal imperfect. Savvy entrepreneurs also understand this reality. As a result, they do everything within reason to reduce the hair on their adVenture before they seek investment capital.