Let’s talk today about M&A. Mergers and Acquisitions.
Every entrepreneur dreams of selling the company and cashing out, don’t they? Like a boat, the happiest days of an owner’s life are the day they buy it and the day they sell it. Seriously, it is almost a trope that founders need to have their exit in mind from the earliest days of their startup. True, but that may be different for some startup founders. Many are on a mission to solve a problem and make better ways to live and work together. This is valid, and even noble.
BUT the business of business is business, i.e. making money for the owners. If you have investors, they expect a return on the money they put in your company.
What you may well ask, can startup founders learn from the second-wave feminist icon?
Plenty, as it turns out. For today’s tips for women seeking funding, I’d like to tell you what I learned from Gloria Steinem recently, because that may help. Her perspective on feminism, and why she is a self-proclaimed hope-aholic, will help women founders everywhere – indeed, of any gender. So guys, listen up too.
Impact funding is often referred to as funding companies with a “second bottom line.” Venture capitalists and angel investors who choose to support businesses that foster social benefit are called impact investors. They make individual investments in impact companies or they form entire groups or funds that focus solely on impact investing.
It’s exciting to see growing evidence that indicates that impact investing supports the conventional bottom line with better returns for investors. In other words, investments in impact companies are returning higher ROI to their investors than companies that don’t take into account the social impact of their work.
The value of double bottom lines is worldwide, Andy Rabens at US State said “Economic prosperity is critical to national security and entrepreneurs build economic engines.”
That said, the economics of investing for social impact have to make sense to investors. Hardly a charity operation, investing is a financial activity and solid returns are critical to the equation.
CEO’s hear this a lot: “Your Prime Directive is to BUILD VALUE FOR THE COMPANY.” We tell CEOs that everything must be run through the filter, “Is what I’m doing, being asked to do, spend time or money on, going to build value for my company?”
We even tell that to CEOs who have not yet taken outside investment, unlike who have taken investment. They have a new boss – the investor or investors collectively. They made a written agreement with those investors to work to build value for the company in a good faith effort to return a multiple of the invested capital back to the investors.
Let’s talk about broader definitions for the term ‘value’ with respect to ‘building value for the company’ that CEOs must have front and center in their thoughts every day.
By not speaking up when we see or hear sexual harassment, we are all guilty of perpetuating rape and harrassment culture.
Is it racist to acknowledge that someone has a different skin color? Anthea Marley speaks the plain truth about diversity & inclusion in the workplace
Hard on the heels of Marvel’s amazing inspiration of makeup for L’Oréal, Gucci has just released a stunning campaign based on the Original Star Trek. Vogue was the first designer to admit the inspiration of Heroines to their clothing line, and while only a little of this inspiration has trickled down to mortal realm of street fashion, it is important to note the amazing accomplishments of Vogue’s designers and their very frank willingness to admit inspiration.
Fantasy has been inspiring reality for a long time; in 1926, Nicola Tesla described the Internet and cell phones with astounding accuracy.
Let’s talk about mentors, and advisors and what the connection is between the two. We do a lot of mentoring, to individuals and to companies in our portfolio. We also sit on several boards of advisors, each of us individually and together as Outlines Venture Group.
Remember Dear Abby? Ann Landers? Advising is an old art, probably back to ancient Greek oracles or the like. People want and need advice, and ask for it. In start ups it seems to be especially welcome if it’s free. More about that later.
We interviewed Portland investor and TiE Global member Nitin Ray recently and he‘s ‘Bullish on inclusion’ in his own words. Well, everywhere I look now I see folks talking about inclusion, from big firms like Deloittte to venture firms like Kapor Capital to start ups like Asana.
Nitin Rai told us our country is becoming a ‘United Colors of Benetton’ Nation, and I’ve got to say I’m a believer. So let’s break it down. There’s a growing trend among savvy companies from ‘diversity’ toward ‘inclusion’. Here’s why: ‘Diversity’ focuses on differences, while ‘inclusion’ asks ‘how do we bring different people together? ‘Diversity’ had become code talk for hiring underrepresented minorities and women – certainly worthy goals.
Let’s talk about raising a seed round. Might as well jump into the new year with how to get your startup funded. Elizabeth Yin of 500 Startups did just that in a really clear primer on three seed funding vehicles -- equity, convertible notes and convertible securities -- three ways that entrepreneurs raise seed rounds.
In her January 4 blog post, Yin goes into the basic mechanics of how investors can seed your company. Of the three ways, she says, traditional equity is most widely used, while newer convertible notes gained popularity since 2000, and, and the newest on offer, convertible securities, a hybrid developed and used by 500 Startups and Y Combinator for about a year now. Y Combinator has a very developed and detailed program called ‘SAFE’ which means ‘simple agreement for future equity’ -- pretty much what a convertible security is.
Entrepreneur and investor Nitin Rai is on a bold mission to change the balance of women and minorities in business for better, and he backs his intentions with solid investments. Inclusion, he says, includes everybody. Diversity frequently describes women and minorities, while inclusion welcomes, as well, veterans, rural communities, and anyone or any group underrepresented, underserved or marginalized by changing economies.
He is bullish on an inclusive future, pointing to demographic trends in the country. We are growing more multicolored, “a United Colors of Bennetton”, he says. “Teenagers today have a very different view of the world, even from millennials. Inclusion and diversity are a part of their lives, especially in cities. They not only expect this to happen, they want it to happen. We must be conscious of this upcoming generation.”
It’s that time of year when founders think about how to reward our teams with some kind of seasonal gift and recognition. You know – the Season of Giving. Recognize a year of hard work on the part of your team. Acknowledgement and gratitude should be a daily activity for everyone, from CEOs to new team members. But at this time of year particularly, we need to focus on gratitude for others. Focusing on how to rewards others – especially those who have worked so hard to make our dream company come true this past year, is a critical task for December.
Hmm . . . Parties. Bonuses. Gift cards… the imagination reels… but wait! What if your startup is lean, as in “we have NO CASH?!” Of course you need to be creative. Let’s break it down to get some answers for startup founders.
Yeah, we all groan about writing them, and put doing so off as long as possible. What’s worse, how many business plans wind up in a file drawer, or in the cloud, never to be read again? So, I just have to ask “What is your business plan for?”
It appears there is no slow down in this activity for Q4, if events are any indication. We just spent a day with investors from China at Seattle Biz TechSummit, and two major investor summits are took place in Europe: The NOAH conference in London and Web Summit in Lisbon. While it’s questionable whether a start-up will actually get funded at these, they are nevertheless excellent opportunities to make contact with potential investors. We certainly saw a lot of that at The Chinese Investor event.
We’re concerned about how many times startups actually qualify their potential investors so they don’t waste precious time and effort going after those who will never funds them … i.e. barking up the wrong tree?
t’s November! What do start ups absolutely need to be doing this penultimate month of 2016?
Focus on the team, your employees.
In March we said the most important thing that must be done was to take a look at your team and ask the following questions:
Is everyone on the right seat on the bus? How did they perform in 2015? How much did their functions move your start up forward? Are their functions and responsibilities aligned with your 2016 goals?
Now as we approach the end of 2016, it’s time to review your employees’ performances. Again.
Ever hear of ‘Build A Bear’… that site where you can put together your perfect Teddy Bear?
Well, we got to thinking about what it would take to build a perfect founder. Seriously. Let’s talk about how to build the perfect founder and how to get/identify/be one. We culled a few from some of our favorite go-to sources: First Round Review, Fast Company and Techstars.
Let’s talk about strategic partnerships – how to protect yourself and still close the deal when a really big company takes an interest in your startup. What do you do when a Really Big Company wants to invest in your start up? Sounds perfect, right? But scary. How do you protect your interest?
Life in a startup is scary and exhilarating. Adrenaline-pumping. And frustrating. You know those moments of frustration . . . we all have them. A few months ago, in just such one of those moments, I came up with new rules for survival. I badly needed to draw a circle around myself to protect my sanity. You know . . . set boundaries.
Hint: These work well in life, too.
Is this you? A Founder takes charge, charges in and says, “I’ll take this from here,” and “I’ll edit that before you post,” and “I’ve got the voice of this company,” and “I know how to get that invoice paid, I’ll do it,” and so on. And becomes overwhelmed, overstressed and discouraged, while the team becomes dysfunctional.
In truth, in the earliest stages of company development, the Founder does do everything. The Founder is never sure someone else is going to do the job as well as he is doing it, and is not sure he can trust someone else to do things ‘right.’ And for good reason! There has not been anyone else. The Founder had to do it all.
“Good companies don’t die for lack of being good companies,” my friend Anne Kennedy said, “They die because they lack a distribution channel.”
A thunderclap of insight should have gone off in your head just now. If you’re starting a company with Wizards at the helm, you have all the great ideas and technical expertise any company could wish for. Your board is groaning under the weight of the brilliance of your team. But, you’re going to need an Executor or two to complete the job of building a company around your brilliant ideas. Building a profitable, sustainable, and scalable distribution channel requires a volume of knowledge, experience, skills, and tasks that rivals the technical skills and wizardry or your Wizard/idea team.