Robert Ochtel’s Blog

An Experienced Approach to Venture Funding

Being a Successful “David” in a World of “Goliaths”

Entrepreneurs need to fight the good fight every day.  Often the situation you find yourself in is much like the story of David versus Goliath.  As in this story, you are going up against insurmountable odds.  Accordingly, you are taking on a challenge that most individuals would not attempt.  As with David, the odds are long and the probability of success is small. In addition, you do not necessarily have all of the tools your competition has to be successful in the upcoming battle. This will make your road to success that much harder. But you take on the task anyway, because something inside of you tells you that you can be successful and create a product offering that is substantially better than that of the Goliath competition and at the same time be a success in the market.  In what follows is a short discussion on how to be a successful entrepreneur as a “David” in the world of “Goliaths”.

Believe in Yourself

As with any entrepreneur, the first thing you need to do to be a successful “David” in a world of “Goliaths” is to believe in yourself and your vision. Hoping that others will believe in you and see your vision of the future is not something that will happen. More often than not people will tell you that you cannot accomplish your goal of competing in a market of players that are much larger than you.  In addition, they will try to convince you to give up your plans and follow the road more traveled.  This, they will tell you, is a much easier road and much more reliable.  In this situation you need to ignore your critics.  They do not understand your will and desire to build a successful company, and more often not are telling you what they are comfortable doing.  So, ignore your critics and believe in yourself.  More often than not, in your journey as an entrepreneur, you will be the only one that believes in your vision and you ability to accomplish your task of building a successful product offering to compete in the market against your much larger “Goliath” competitors.  Many times, during this journey, colleagues will fall by the wayside, customers will tell you they are not interested, and vendors will not take the risk of working with a small start-up company.  Ignore them all and keep moving forward, it is your belief in you and your vision that will make your start-up company successful. 

Invest In Yourse

With the changes in the investment community, you need to do a lot more work to get investors’ attention and ultimately secure funding for your start-up company. The old “back of the envelope” investment scenario is all but non-existent in today’s funding environment.  If fact, having a strong plan, a differentiated product offering, and a first class team will not necessarily get you funding in today’s investor environment.  In addition, investors want to see that you have “skin in the game”.  This will not only include non-monetary time and effort, but they will also expect you to have invested “hard money” into your company.  Today’s investors do not what to be the only ones putting money into your company.  They will expect that you and your team will have invested not only time and effort, but hard money into your start-up company to move it forward.  Like “David”, you have very little funding resources at your disposal compared to your “Goliath” competitors. Therefore, you need to be prudent and “capital efficient” with your monies in order to get to a prototype early on, the general expectation of today’s angel and venture capital investors.  So, take the time, to come up with a plan and the necessary funding resources to move your start-up company to the next level. If you do not invest in yourself and your start-up company, more often than not, your potential investors will pass, as there are many other entrepreneurs that have invested their own monies to get them to the point of having a working prototype in today’s environment.

Take Your Product to Your “Goliath” Competitors

Often entrepreneurs do not put in the effort to contact their customers early on.  As a “David” in the world of “Goliaths”, this is something you necessarily need to do.  You are not walking in the door with “Intel” on your back, and as such setting up meetings with potential customers will be a much more difficult task than that of your “Goliath” competitors.  But, as the entrepreneur and “chief evangelist” of your “David” start-up company, you need to contact your customers and find a way to get you and your product offering in front of them. In addition, you need to remember to differentiate your product from your “Goliath” competitors. This is very important, as being the small player in a market dominated by large “Goliaths”; you need to convince these same skeptical customers to purchase your product offering.  So, take the time and effort to introduce your product offering to your customers and at the same time create a differentiated position yourself against “Goliath” competitors.  This will provide you with confidence in front of your investors and provide you with much more insight as to what will make your “David” start-up company successful in a world of “Goliath” competitors. 

As an entrepreneur, you need to fight everyday to move your start-up company forward. Being a “David” in the world of “Goliaths” you will often find yourself being the only one that sees your vision.  In order to be successful in this situation, you need to necessarily believe in yourself, invest in yourself, and take your product to the competition. Only by taking this approach will you be able to create a path forward to success in the market.  Remember the business world is full of “Goliaths”, but it only takes one “David” to slay the giant and change the world.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at www.amazon.com.

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July 26, 2010 Posted by | Venture Capital | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entrepreneurs, Trade Shows Can Be Useful Events to Move Your Start-up Company Forward

As the entrepreneur of a start-up company you need to take advantage of anything that will help move your company forward.  Trade shows are focused events that often only take place once a year.  Generally, these events bring together a broad set of senior management and other individuals with a common interest in technologies, products or services for a specific industry.  As a start-up company looking to get your name out there, you need leverage these trade show events to your advantage. To do this, as a start-up company with limited funds, it is most cost effective to just attend these events as a “registered attendee”. This does not cost much money and will provide your start-up company with the maximum amount of exposure for a limited amount of money. This article focuses on some of the things to consider and do when attending a trade show.  If done properly trade shows can be useful events to move your start-up company forward.

Focus on the Correct Trade Show Events

As part of your business planning process and ultimately outlined in your business plan, you need to focus on attending a limited number of trade shows each year.  If you are an industry insider you will know which trade shows that are important to your targeted industry.  If you are not, talk to your customers and ask them which trade shows they regularly attend on an annual basis.  All trade shows, even within the same industry, have different focuses, and as such, some trade shows, although similar in theme, are much more important and effective to attend than others.  Unless you have attended a specific trade show, you will not really know which events are more valuable to your start-up company and its technology, product or service offering.  Therefore, it is very important to not waste your time and money on trade show events that will not bring significant value and result in a productive experience for you and your start-up company. 

As a minimum, you should plan on attending three to four trade shows a year.  This will provide you with a broad exposure to what is going on within your industry and will also allow you to consider which trade show you will need to exhibit at in the future.  So, as an entrepreneur, you need to focus on the correct trade shows that will bring the most value to your start-up company. Generally, these are trade shows that are focused on your end customer base and at the same time are closest to the end market application that you are targeting as a vendor.  Doing this, will allow you to focus only the necessary trade shows that will help move your start-up company forward.

Set up Your Important Meetings Ahead of Time

One of the keys to having a successful trade show is to set up your meetings with important current and potential customers and possible strategic partners a head of time.  This is very important, as with most industry focused trade shows, they are widely attended by the senior management of virtually all customers and vendors that are important to that particular industry.  Therefore, you have the ability to meet with all of your potential customers and many possible strategic partners, and show them your technology, product or service offering by only having to travel to a single event. Therefore, you need to necessarily take advantage of this opportunity.  So, several weeks to a month ahead of time you need to get on the phone with your current and potential customers and set up times to meet with their senior management at the trade show.  These meetings generally last an hour and are often where start-up companies can meet “face-to-face” with their key senior management of their customers for the first time.  These events and associated meetings are often very productive for both parties and can be the beginning of a long term relationship. 

The same is true for potential strategic partners.  If you are aware of a company that has a technology, product or service offering that can complement or supplement your start-up company’s product offering, it is important to set up a meeting with the appropriate individual within senior management from this company so that you can meet them and properly explain the potential value and synergies of your company’s working together.  Therefore, for each trade show you attend, it is very important to get on the phone and set up as many potential meetings as possible. This will provide for a productive event and allow you to move your start-up company forward.  

Prepare and Attack the Trade Show Floor

As a start-up company, attending a trade show, it is important to set aside the appropriate amount of time to walk the trade show floor.  This walking the floor of the trade show should not be a random event.  To take the most advantage of your limited time available at the event you need to first prepare and then attack the trade show floor.  To do this, after you register, you need to sit down and spend the appropriate amount of time to go over the trade show guide and exhibitor map and identify those exhibitor booths that you would like to visit as potential customers and strategic partners. In addition, you need to identify all of your competitors and visit their booths to better understand what they are showing, and to pick up as much G-2 that you can on their technology, products or service offerings.  By diligently mapping out your targeted customers, strategic partners and competitors, you can then put together an attack plan to make the best use of your time while you are on the trade show floor.  Also, remember, it is very important meet and talk with the appropriate senior management at your targeted companies of interest. This should also include your competitors.  If these individuals are not available, get their card and contact information.  This will be invaluable for follow-up to the trade show and will allow you to contact them as appropriate after the event.  Therefore, it is very important to make the best use of your time while you are on the trade show floor by first planning and then attacking the floor to the best advantage of your start-up company.    

Trade shows can be very useful events to help move your start-up company forward. By focusing on the correct trade shows, setting up your important meetings ahead of time, and properly planning and attacking the trade show floor, even with a limited budget, you can make the most of these events. This can include meeting and engaging the appropriate potential customers, strategic partners and competitors.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you need to identify and attend a limited number of targeted trade show events each year.  By doing so, you will have the opportunity to identify and then develop and nurture the necessary relationships to move your start-up company forward in the future.

This information was taken from Robert’s new book: “Business Planning, Business Plans and Venture Funding – A Definitive Reference Guide for Start-up Companies”.  Available at www.amazon.com.  For more information on the book go to www.carlsbadpublishing.com.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Venture Capital | , , , | Leave a comment