AdVenture Capital is the art of raising the right amount of capital and administering at the right time. This Advice Blog is specifically designed to provide actionable intelligence for companies raising capital and the investors who seek them. It contains practical, relevant and dynamic solutions to pervasive issues. However, it is not meant to replace your own legal and professional counsel.
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By Marty Aquino
15 MAR 13
Raising capital is difficult for many promising startups. It often seems as if the desperately needed capital is just out of reach. Money, or lack thereof, is one of the fundamental reasons startups operate in all-out survival mode working frantically for every inch and millimeter of company-traction. This widespread capital problem perpetuates the breeding ground ever-ripe for venture capitalists, angels, institutional funds and most other investors to cherry-pick the “best” projects. It’s basic macroeconomics 101: too few dollars chasing too many goods. This translates into one of the key laws of capital investment: you must solve a problem pervasive enough to attract capital.
Anything can be a product. Anything can be useful, given the right circumstances. Anything can be sold under ideal conditions. The key is to identify pain prevalent enough to sustain or catapult your company or project. In the capital funding game it’s all about pain. Whether it’s a small and useful innovation like the spatula, or a large complex one like solar-powered electricity -pain is the point. If there aren’t enough cooks in your market, you won’t sell any spatulas. Nor, will you sell any clean sun-energy to anyone who’s thinking short-term. Successful investors get this.
Perennially profitable investors know that your product must cure pain. It doesn’t make a difference to most investors whether that cure is fleeting or permanent. This proverbial “thorn in your customer’s side” can even be created. For instance, mouthwash was created before people cared about bad breath. What’s paramount to your funding efforts is to show how your product quenches your customers’ thirsts in a meaningful and affordable way (to your target customers, at least). Solving problems that aren’t painful won’t get funded -just like many things on people’s ever-growing “to-do lists.”
Cure pain. Get money.
By Marty Aquino
08 MAR 13
One of the most tragic missteps a startup team makes is in the email subject line. Contrary to popular belief, the executive summary, slide-deck, or even the company logo is not the investor’s first impression of your company. Novice and seasoned startup teams often get it wrong here. The likely result is your finely-crafted and possibly very expensive business plan never gets opened.
Also, capital companies, angel groups and venture capital funds aren’t setup for customer service. There’s no metrics to capture how satisfied you were with the encounter, nor is there an 800-line to report inadequate service. Venture capital groups only seek, scan and target “tractionable” ideas or companies they can springboard to the next level of commercial-play. In other words, if you’re frustrated that not a single person from a giant-superfund has replied to your sixth email about your revolutionary company and your “conservative” multi-million dollar projections –it’s because they don’t need to care.
The reality is that investment groups get bombarded by capital requests constantly. Small and mid-sized venture capital groups can field well over 1000 requests per year. And, marry that statistic to a widely-held belief in the funding business that there’s plenty of deals in the sea. Sir Richard Branson once quipped, “Opportunities are like buses. There’s always another one coming.” It’s no wonder most funding companies prefer project-referrals from other venture capitalists and portfolio entrepreneurs –because it gives them another reason not to read your emailed pitch-deck.
The answer, then, is to think long and hard about what you enter in that seemingly-innocuous subject line.
This is where you condense the elevator-pitch you’ve been practicing for weeks -into a one-liner.
This is where you share why you’re destroying your competition –concisely.
This is where you express your company’s greatest and most profitable achievement –into a single sentence.
…Or, this is where you don’t and it does nothing.
By Marty Aquino
04 MAY 12
The process of starting-up a business is not a straight-line affair. The same impetus that drives an entrepreneur to believe their company to be unique, in many cases, can blind them to the reality of the startup process. Get prepared and you just might get through it victorious.
The now famous startup curve by Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, is a frighteningly accurate depiction of the new company process (shown to the left). Many newly-minted entrepreneurs generally believe so strongly in their idea (at least initially) that they fail to take-in the true gravity of the undertaking.
TechCrunch of Initiation
"The Process” initially catapults you to a premature high of hope, novelty and unchallenged ambition. At this point, everyone is hopeful and confident. Your team's morale is flying high fueled by enthusiasm and endless possibilities.
Wearing Off of Novelty & the Trough of Sorrow
Incredibly, this glimpse of success plummets even faster into what’s been coined the “trough of sorrow.” This is arguably the longest section of your journey. Your executive team will be forged into unbreakable tempered steel if you keep squarely focused on your startup objectives and are able to shrug-off the dissenters, fair-weather teammates and implementation issues. This is your proving ground. It’s during this part of the journey that you must get your team past the “proof-of-concept.” Failure to do so may result in the bleeding of company morale to the point of an untimely startup-death.
Releases of Improvement & the Crash of Ineptitude
Ironically, the first major improvements and evolutions of your project will occur as you uncover challenges. It will be these largely blindsiding and potentially crippling problems that truly “test your company’s metal.” Your trial and error methodologies will inevitably lead you to unavoidable “crashes of ineptitude.” When you want so badly to win, it will take a few or more failures to realize the result you seek. It’s also for this reason that your company will experience “lower than low” sensations. Startups commonly view this period as hitting “rock bottom” and being “worse off than when they first started.”
Wiggles of False Hope
If your intestinal fortitude allows you to make it this far, congratulations! It’s time for some forward momentum. Albeit, perceived momentum. During this phase, you’re trying to solidify your proof-of-concept, possibly raising external funding and perhaps even entertaining early stage talks with interested buyers. You're going to have to dig down and keep moving forward despite the false-positives. Remember, it took Edison over 1,000 unsuccessful tries before he and his team invented the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times? Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The Promised Land! & the Acquisition of Liquidity
Tangible progress! Perhaps it’s the VC wire transfer necessary to transfuse the right amount of lifeblood capital into your startup. Or, maybe, it’s getting the final signature on your first major invoice of product-orders. Whatever this milestone is, if you’ve done it, your team collectively should be smiling. And, proud you should be, fully 4 out of every 5 startups will fail within the first few years. Even if the path to success wasn’t as smooth as you would have liked -a win is still a win.
You Must Be This Brave to Ride
In the end, that’s what success is all about. You will need to take the years of toil without proper funding, working so hard you flirt with total burnout, days of everything going wrong and accept them to keep moving forward. The challenges your company will face are collectively known as the “so what of life.” No one else cares what your company's been through. They're interested in your results. They want to know that your product benefits them.
Don’t dwell on your problems, issues and seemingly insurmountable perils. Identify them. Quickly ascertain the best available solutions. And, act decisively. Asking “why is the problem so bad?” is an endless loop question. Turn the “so what of life” into “so what I must do right now to make this work.”
Take another look at the startup curve. Entrepreneurship is indeed a roller coaster ride. So please don’t go into it with a “walk in the park” mentality. The risks are many and success is not guaranteed. But, for the fateful few: bragging rights, wealth and an exciting new chapter await. Just like in life, there is no “timeout option." So, if the startup life is truly calling for you –don’t hesitate. Take action right now. Conditions are very seldom perfect, so you might as well begin the journey right now and get a head start.
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