Friday, November 27, 2009

Report from the VC Outlook iBreakfast

More Funding, Low Valuations, Getting M&A Ready

With a fast-growing entrepreneur environment - thanks to the somewhat recovering economy, this is a good time to go back to investors and find out what they are looking for. As we know, valuations are low, exits are limited but the business idea mill goes on nonetheless.

Now that the 40 plus set is the fastest-growing portion of the entrepreneurial class, the fundable ideas tend to be niche solutions. Geoff Judge talked about his own pre-investor record at 24/7 Media and true to form, is looking at investing in new kinds of ad networks - especially ones that are focused on specific high-growth areas.

Juan Lopez-Alcarcel described a kind of localization ploy that is quite common in Europe. When a US restaurant reservation company tried to spend money opening up in Europe, the locals quickly demurred when they realized their businesses would now appear on record and therefore subject to taxes. So a local entrepreneur stepped in with a similar idea but without the record-keeping. Often, local knock-offs like the first German version of eBay get acquired - or they just do well by using local knowledge.

Michael Kurdziel talked about exits which today, are mostly M&A. However, VC investment appears to be growing and new markets are emerging to trade and therefore create liquidity for founders stock. The bottom line, however, seems to be: find out what companies are buying and make your start-up M&A ready!

About the Speakers
Michael Kurdziel is the Managing Director of Landmark Ventures. He was a Partner and Managing Director with ARC Investment Partners, a Director at Activision, Inc., and a founding member of DealerTrack (Nasdaq: TRAK).

Juan Lopez-Valcarcel the Managing Director for The Digital
Sunrise Group, a new incubator and angel investment group for European digital startups. He was a VP in the Digital Media team at NBC Universal and the General Manager for

Geoff Judge is an active investor in early stage companies and member of The NY Angels. He was the Chief Revenue Officer of Piczo and COO of Preclick, a Digital Photography software firm with clients such as Hewlett Packard, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sandisk.

Film Funding iEvening Report (Nov)

Raising Money, Marketing and Shooting Digitally

Understandably, filmmakers are focused on making the film and not about marketing it. Raising the money is so hard, it seems almost reasonable to expect that if you do, everyone will come to see it. That's not necessarily so. The good news is that although Hollywood has always put a lot of money into marketing movies - often consuming as much as half the budget - in the digital age, there are many new options for independents.

Since you can build an audience while you are making the movie - it is not only possible to pre-market the movie but you may also develop a better understanding of your audience so that the film is ideally crafted for their tastes. This was almost unimaginable in the old days - especially for independent producers. In the digital age- it is highly possible.

So we began with a case study of sorts - Richard Temtchine's new movie, "How to Seduce Difficult Women" came out to an appreciative audience but vicious critics. What transpired was an expensive process of discovering his true audience - 18-24 males and mature women. Apparently, young males appreciate the idea of a challenge and mature women enjoy their complexities. Had he known in advance, he might have avoided the critics and gone directly to these specific markets. With social media it could have been possible to find them. We will discover going forward how he accomplishes it. In the meantime, the movie will be re-launched in May, probably recut and not at any film festival either because, according to Richard, they do not do a good of job selling movies - only of selling themselves.

Marc Jacobson talked about New York State tax benefits and movie dealmaking with much experience, big names and great stories. And for a lawyer - he spoke with great passion (although his last deal did feature a famous lawyer......). Here's a quick one - if you can start a movie in by Dec. 31 and your investor is awash in passive real estate income, you can write off up to around $400,000 of the flick. For this Thanksgiving, if you have a movie in you - rush to your landlord. Working him or her into the storyline could help.

Tom Ellis, a producer who has worked on many independent movies talked about savvy techniques for saving money on a shoot - like keeping a low profile and shooting with a new jerry-rigged camera that uses a better chip than the Red camera for a fraction of the price..

Jay Levy of Zelkova Ventures talked about investing in a digital network rather than content itself - a typical stance of investors. Likewise, many filmmakers talk about a slate of movies as a way to offset risk. But does that really work in this troubled time? Our answer is build an audience and then the investors will come. Digital Media enables that and it will be the theme of many more of our evenings to come - returning in January