Robert Ochtel’s Blog

An Experienced Approach to Venture Funding

Leveraging Connections for Business Funding

You’re smart. You know that, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 64% of net new jobs in the past 15 years have come from small businesses. You know that small businesses are booming. You also know that there are plenty of business solutions out there offered by companies so that you can easily get your business off the ground without having to worry about every small detail. What you don’t know, however, is where to get funding for that business idea rolling around in your head. But you know what? You know people. Here are the top three ways to gain business funding by leveraging your connections:

1. Family and friends
Why not try the most obvious place? Go ahead and see if you have any close acquaintances that are either interested in loaning you money or even becoming a partner. You already get along well with them, so you know that they’ll be nicer to talk to about this stuff than an employee at the nearest bank. Just make sure you write up a contract so that, when everything is over, you’re still friends.

2. Networking for angel investors
Angel investing has been booming in the past few years. According to Travis Kalanick, CEO and founder of UBER, this change is caused by the ever growing importance of social networking. He claims that “how you get angel funding has substantially changed because we know who to go after. It’s very clear because they’re all blogging and tweeting out their interests on angel investing and their thoughts on it … Now, it’s much, much quicker to get these deals done.” So start looking around your existing social networks or jump in by looking at the people you know who are already there. There are plenty of people out there who would love to hear about your idea!

3. Connecting to venture capital
The research firm CB Insights notes that “venture capital investments rose 19 percent, to $21.8 billion in 2010 — the first annual increase since the downturn.” There’s more venture capital money out there than ever before, meaning there’s a better chance for you to be able to get a piece of the pie. However, venture capital isn’t as easy to get as angel investment. You’ll have to work through the people that you know to find an “in” to pitch your idea and have the chance at funding.

When it comes to funding your new business idea, don’t think that you have to go on an arduous quest. Instead, look around you at the connections you already have and see if you can rustle up some money that way. It’s not always easy, but it’s easier than having to start from scratch!

James Kim is a writer for Choosewhat.com. ChooseWhat is a company that provides product reviews and test data for business services and products. Their goal is to help small companies make informed buying decisions on business solutions that help their business.

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June 5, 2011 Posted by | Venture Capital | , , , , | Leave a comment

Entrepreneurs, Heart, Brains and Courage Do Not Come from Your Investors and the “Land of Oz”

Many entrepreneurs expect investors to solve their problems. They firmly believe that investors with their investment funds will provide them with the necessary heart, brains and courage to develop a successful start-up company.  In addition, more often than not, these same entrepreneurs believe that securing funding from investors is like the “Land of Oz” – anything is fundable and all you need to take the journey and in the end, the investors (or the “Wizard”), will solve all of your problems by providing your start-up company with the necessary funding that you require to be successful.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  In fact, once you receive funding that can be your worst day as an entrepreneur of a start-up company, as third party funding money comes with demands, rules, and expectations. So, don’t approach investors expecting that their investment monies will provide you with the necessary heart, brains and courage to develop a successful start-up company.  If you did not have these characteristics before you approach investors, any amount of funding in the world will not provide you with these same characteristics.  Therefore, before you approach investors, you need to step out of the “Land of Oz” and first convince yourself that you have the necessary characteristics to be a successful entrepreneur. This includes having the “heart” to follow your vision, the “brains” to properly develop the investment opportunity, and the “courage” to cold call your customers and execute your plan. If you do, you will ultimately be a successful entrepreneur, and that securing funding from third party investors is just a bonus on the road to creating a successful start-up company.

You Must Have the Heart to Follow Your Vision

Most opportunities do not create themselves, as they are often a result of an entrepreneur having a “vision” based on experience and a set of market truths.  More often than not, at the beginning this vision is not very clear, but with time and effort, an entrepreneur can develop their “concept” or “idea” into a clear vision that addresses an underlying strategic opportunistic need in the market.  Hence, as an entrepreneur, you need to follow this vision with all of your heart.  And often along the road you will have many “naysayers” telling you that you cannot accomplish your goals or that you that there is not use in trying as other, larger competitors will crush your start-up company.  This is exactly the time when you need to believe in yourself and have the heart to follow your vision, as more often than not this is what will drive you to success. And often as things evolve your vision will allow you to create a technology, product or service offering that is truly differentiated from your competitors and provides your start-up company with a long-term, sustainable competitive advantage in the market.  So, as an entrepreneur you need to have the heart to follow your vision, as no investor with all the money in the world can provide you with this.    

You Must have the Brains to Develop the Proper Investment Opportunity

One thing is for sure, most investors are generally “smart guys”.  Whether they have been through the school of hard knocks or are Ivy League educated MBAs, they often have the necessary insight to properly evaluate and quickly discern an appropriate investment.  So, as an entrepreneur, you need to have the “brains” to put together a “cogent” plan that creates a necessarily attractive investment opportunity for these same investors.  This means that you need to do the hard work and use your brains to do the research to develop a well thought out plan that makes both logical and financial sense from an investors’ point of view.  In the “Land of Oz” too often, entrepreneurs believe that anything is fundable and that their investors will not only provide the money, but the “brains” to help them create a successful start-up company. Nothing can be further from the truth. With only three percent of all start-up companies receiving outside investor funding on an annual basis, it does take a fair amount of “intellectual” savvy to develop a well thought through plan that is fundable form and investors’ point of view. So, take the time and use your brains to develop a well develop business investment opportunity.  Investors will not help you with this.  You need to develop this investor appropriate investment opportunity on your own.

You Must have the Courage to Cold Call Your Customers

Many entrepreneurs have all both the “heart” and “brains” to develop attractive investment opportunity, but lack the “courage” to cold call their customers and as such, they will not be successful in the market or have the ability to execute their plan. Cold calling customers is often the hardest thing to do for entrepreneurs. Why, because this is where thinking and planning hits the pavement and there is the always the potential for rejection.  Hence, cold calling often paralyzes these same entrepreneurs.  Even if you have a great plan, you need to be able to execute this plan and in a definitive time frame.  So, as an entrepreneur you need to have the “courage” to cold all your customers and generally do what it takes to “press the flesh” to close the necessary number of deals to develop a successful start-up company. Remember, as an entrepreneur you are in business to secure customers and not to develop a cool technology, product or service offering.  So, buck up and have the courage cold call your customers and execute your plan. Nobody else will do it for you; especially your investors and all the money in the world will not help you with this task.

Many entrepreneurs expect investors to solve their problems.  They firmly believe that investors with their investment funds will provide them with the necessary heart, brains and courage to develop a successful start-up company.  This is not the case, as securing funding does not necessarily result in success in the market.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur you need to step out of the “Land of Oz” and decide that only you have control over the ultimate success of your start-up company, not investors and their funding sources.  To do this you need to have the “heart” to follow your vision, the “brains” to properly develop the investment opportunity, and the “courage” to cold call your customers and execute your plan.  If you take these steps you will go a long way toward ultimately securing funding and developing a successful a start-up company.

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.

March 22, 2010 Posted by | Venture Capital | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Seeking Venture Funding Don’t Forget to Focus on Your Business

The process of securing venture capital or any other type of private equity funding is very time consuming.  With all of the preparation, travel, presentations and required follow-up, entrepreneurs often forget to focus on their business.  This article reminds entrepreneurs that while focusing on their venture fund raising activities is important to move their start-up company forward, they need to remember to focus on their business and to move it forward, as this is just as important of an activity as is venture funding is for their start-up company.

Fund Raising is a Time Consuming Activity.

Ask any entrepreneur that has secured venture funding, and they will tell you that it is a very time consuming activity.  First, there is the materials preparation, including the development of your start-up company’s:

  • Executive Summary,
  • Business Plan, and
  • Road Show Materials.

Each of these documents, individually, can take substantial development time, working and then re-working to get them to the level of being investor-quality documentation.  As such, it usually takes several months of research, due diligence, creation, writing and then re-writing to develop the appropriate investor documentation.  Also, getting the attention venture funding investors (e.g., venture capitalists), just to schedule a meeting, can be very laborious and challenging for entrepreneurs.  This is especially true if you do not have a lawyer or some other person to provide your start-up company with the appropriate “soft” introduction to the investor community. Then, there is the required travel, presentations and follow-up with each of the individual venture investment groups, just to get to the next level of potential investor interest.  So, as can be described by seasoned entrepreneurs, venture fund raising is a very time consuming and difficult task that can take all of your available time, if you let it. This leaves little time to focus on your start-up company’s day-to-day business related activities.  This is not a recipe for a successful start-up business as there a multitude of issues that need to be addressed daily to ensure your start-up company in moving in the right direction and at the same time creating value for your company.

 Fund Raising Takes Time.

Many entrepreneurs assume that they can secure venture funding in two months or less.  This is not realistic.  Even in a good economy, it takes a typical start-up company 6 to 12 months to secure venture funding for the development of their technology, product or service offering.  This time table assumes that you have contacts in the funding community, and can set up your initial meetings with investors fairly early in the funding process.  If this is not the case, then you can add on a few months to just schedule your initial meetings with targeted investors.  Also, in today’s economy, this funding time table is even longer, given the fact that in slow economic times, investors tend to stick with their current investments, making it just that much more difficult for entrepreneurs to secure funding, from these same investors, than it would be in a strong economy.  Therefore, as an entrepreneur, you need to look at a realistic time table for securing venture funds, and often the resulting time table is much longer than originally anticipated.  This can make the funding process and the associated time frame can be even more detrimental to the overall development of your start-up company.

You are in Business to Create Value for Your Company.

As an entrepreneur, you are in business to create value for your company.  This means that in addition to securing venture funding, you must work diligently to move your company forward, with or without funding, such that you are creating value for your company every day.  This should be your personal expectation and it surely is the expectation of your investors.  They have to believe that even without funding that you and your executive team can continue to use creative ways to move your company forward and at the same time creating underlying value for your company in the market.  This can include:

  • Securing customers,
  • Aligning with strategic partners,
  • Developing your sales channels,
  • Continue to market your company to target customers,
  • Working with early “beta” test customers,
  • Moving product development forward to the next level, and
  • Other.

All of these activities and many others can create inherent value for your start-up company, both in the market and to your potential investors.  So remember, that securing venture funding is only one vehicle that can be used to move your company to the next significant value level. There are many other things you can do on your own through securing customers, the development of a strategic partnership, or bootstrapping that can also create near term value for your start-up company, and at the same time prove to your investors that you have the ability to move your start-up company’s business forward, even in non-ideal financial circumstances.

Continuing to Focus on Your Company’s Business is Often Beneficial.

During the venture funding process, focusing on your company’s business can take you away from the everyday hassles associated with venture funding.  This can be a good thing. By continuing to simultaneously focusing on your company’s day-to-day business activities, you can move your company forward to the next level and accomplish significant milestones that will be beneficial to your company.  This business focus can also create new opportunities that were not originally available to you and your company at the beginning of the venture funding process.  Remember, the venture funding road is a long one, and continuing to knock down significant development milestones, securing customers, or developing strategic partnerships, etc. can be just the ticket to get the attention of your investors.  Also, often, significant business opportunities often take time to develop and by continuing to focus on your business, while your are raising funding, can often provide the required time period for such opportunities to develop and take hold for your start-up company. 

Focusing on Your Business Can Facilitate Funding.

In the end, by focusing on your business while working to secure venture funding may be the vehicle that facilities the funding for your company.  No company can go for 6 to 12 months, without focusing on their business.  In addition, by developing new business opportunities during the funding process, you continue to create value for your company and its potential investors.  One or all of these business activities together, may be just the ticket that gives your potential investors the proof that your company is the one they are willing to risk their monies on to provide the types of returns they require.  Therefore, continue to focus on your company’s business and your investors will recognize the value you are creating during for your start-up company, even before you secure funding from third party investors.

Focusing on venture funding is just one phase of your start-up company’s development.  But, your company’s business is the real item that needs to be developed to create value for your company.  Therefore, while you are trying to secure funding for your start-up company do not forget to focus on your business.  By doing so, you can create significant value along the way and at the same time help facilitate the venture funding of your start-up company.

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Business Planning, Finance, Venture Capital, venture finance, Venture Funding | , , , | 1 Comment