Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are You Fundable? Part 1

Section 1 - Summary 

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Winning Over Investors
by Alan Brody

After 12+ years of evaluating pitches and helping entrepreneurs raise money, we have put together a book of rules on what it takes to get funding. What Investors look for and how to make your plan fundable. By looking through the prism of Angel Investor wisdom. It tells you how to:
• evaluate an idea
• find the right investor
• build sales
• attract sponsors
• pivot, reconstruct or know when to fold

At the heart of the book is this idea: you understand Start-Ups by seeing them through the eyes of investors. If you know how they handicap you, then you not only know how to get ahead but which race you should be in.

Not all Start-Ups are the same. You already knew that, but do you know what sets them apart in the minds of investors? When you do, you can increase your chances of success dramatically.

Why Ask “Am I Fundable?”
The key reason to ask is that it forces you to think about your enterprise from the outside in. When you do that, you get out of your own spin zone and into the mindset of real customers and investors.

Here is what you will discover:

1.     There is a hierarchy of Start-Ups - you need to understand where you belong on that line-up.
2.     Customers and Investors may be  connected to each other but often have very different points of view – what makes a customer want to buy your product or service can be different from why an investor would want to write you a check.
3.     All businesses have to adjust their much loved ideas to the reality of the marketplace.                                                                                                                                                                                             
4.     When you know what you have and how it is really perceived, you can calibrate your message for each audience: investors, customers and potential partners. You can also realistically determine how to spend your – pursuing customers or investors in just the right measure, instead of wasting time doing both incorrectly.


The Start-Up Hierarchy: What Kind of Entrepreneur Are You?

The heart of Are You Fundable? is the idea of a hierarchy of Start-Ups and then a matching taxonomy of investors. Investors handicap you according to your status. If you pitch an idea that is inconsistent with your status you will probably lose credibility. Without credibility, you don’t get funded or even attract business.

The Hierarchy of Entrepreneurs

What is a Serial Entrepreneur?
A serial entrepreneur is someone who has started one or more businesses. These Kings of the Start-Up realm can sit by the phone and investors will offer them money just in case they come up with an idea.

What is a Semi-Serial Entrepreneur?
At the next rung are serial entrepreneurs with a mixed record.

The Pedigreed Start-up
At the next level down in the hierarchy are what we like to call the Pedigreed Start-ups. I can say anecdotally, that these people seem to get the lion’s share of the Start-Up money. Almost anyone with 10 years in an industry could make a case if only they found the marketable idea within their domain of expertise and understood the “rules.”

Pedigreed Start-ups are people who have:
• 5 or more years of domain experience in a field (10 years seems to be the sweet spot)
• have identified a key market with a critically needed product in their field
• have the developer team in place with the product ready or at least a working demo
• have the customers who want or need to buy it

Not-So Pedigreed
Here are some of the traps this kind of entrepreneur can fall into. Investors look out for this and if you are not careful, you can disqualify yourself:
• Salaryman/woman: never been an entrepreneur before
No skin in the game – as in not having your own money at risk, is negatively viewed. 
Tied to a paycheck: the risk with this type of entrepreneur is that they could be more interested in finding a paycheck than in taking on the struggle of launching a business. • Mixed age team. Having an older manager and a very young developer raises generational issues.
• Acting like an exec. Don’t be aloof, you’re supposed to hustle or it will seem like you never left the previous company.
You were fired. Tricky and best left to the later conversation but if you were fired for being an entrepreneur, as long as you were one in the past is not a bad story.
The worst sin: coming up with an idea that has nothing to do with your previous line of business.

Moonshots, Up-and-Comers and Career-Enders
At the bottom level are the youngest and the oldest. These are the folks who come to our really early stage Start-Up events called Startupalooza. They are the heart and soul of the TV show “Shark Tank” and they are the biggest winners when they get it but overall, the most consistent group of losers. They either reach the moon or fizzle out trying.

1. The greatest Start-Ups are usually founded by people under 27 Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Netscape and so on.
2. Only the young can invent the defining ideas of their generation which is by definition, an untapped market.
2. They can afford to take the greatest risks since they have the least to lose. The right person is also adaptable, able to struggle, accept loss and still recover.
3. They appeal to the vicarious reinvention psychology of Angel Investors.
4. Young people who have these qualities – even if the idea is wrong or the investor doesn’t invest in their deal – are a kind of currency that Angels like to “trade” with each other.
5. They have nowhere to go but up.

Let’s Give them Something to Tweet About
The way investors find out about great Start-Ups is that people talk.

The Up-and-Comer
Most Start-Ups have a good idea that is essentially a twist on other ideas in play.

The Older Player
If you are over 50, you can pretty much forget about getting Angel money. Angel Investors will probably deny this but I am sure they will also want you to believe they are not a day over 50 either.

The Going Enterprise that Seeks Growth
For a company already showing profits, to bring on investors is usually a double edge sword. Their actual profits tend to put a cap on their valuations.

This is more challenging than it seems. Do you have a formula that with nothing more than the addition of capital, will generate more sales?

Transformative Element  Not just projections,
--> something that the changes the business paradigm.

What Impresses Investors
How to Improve the Way Investors Rank You

Get a Lead Investor or Champion or Make Friends with Serial Entrepreneurs
If you don’t have a lead investor or at least an investor who introduces you to other investors, or a serial entrepreneur, the next best thing is a fellow entrepreneur.

Thumb on the Scale and other Anti-competitive Ideas
They want to know if you have a thumb on the scale – a special advantage that others don’t have and can’t see.
A defensible patent is prized by investors, but any patent along with business momentum carries value because it has the possible effect of warding off competition.

Barrier to Entry
If you don’t have a patent then you want to convince investors that you have some type of barrier like special equipment or rarefied knowledge that competitors either can’t get.

First Mover Advantage
This is essentially what Amazon had as the first online bookseller. The reality is not so much that the first in a market as much as the first credible player in the market wins.
What Investors Don’t Want

Lifestyle Business – the Big No No
What they cannot abide, what the live in fear of is the lifestyle business. Be careful of phrases that suggest this: like having a steady business, being a consultant or living off sales.

What Investors Fear
Settling (A Tribute of Sorts, to Steve Jobs)
Even the idea of selling out too soon – or settling will upset an investor.

The Zombie Business
Never quite taking off but never quite dying either. You always need more money because you’re always just about to break .

Failed Execution/Failed Idea
Fix it and then pitch….

The Tells – How you Know You Need Help!
a.      “If we just had 5% of Google’s (or Apple/Facebook/put_big company_name here) market we would be worth a billion Sure!
b.     We need the money for sales and marketing. When you ask for money in order to sell you’ve just told them you don't have the confidence to sell yourself.
c.     We have no competition
Hosni Mubarak used to say the same thing about his Egyptian regime and for 40 years he was right. Then along came Facebook. There is always competition.
d.     Our competition is Microsoft, eBay and Google - but they don’t get it.
Nor do the investors.

What kinds of deals investors are looking for?  

What Investors DO Want

The rule of thumb for fast-rising business in a massive, emerging market is a defensible business in a sector that is likely to double every year for 5 years in at least a billion dollar market. They also need to know that it is scalable through capital. 

Are You Fundable?

eBook or Print
Part 2 discusses fundable ideas like anticipation, natural progression, aggregation, undercutting. How ideas are measured and rated. How to pitch them, how to value and how to move to the next level.

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