On Wikipedia, I found the word "angel" defined as "a supernatural being or spirit, often depicted in humanoid form with feathered wings on their backs and halos around their heads."
While this might depict an "angel," it certainly is a far cry from the definition of an "angel investor."
Below I define exactly what an "angel investor" is along with answers to the other most common angel investor questions.
1. What is An Angel Investor?
The term "angel investor" is officially defined as a private investor who offers financial backing to an entrepreneurial venture.
When several private investors form an organization to collective fund ventures, they are known as an "angel investor group."
The act of providing the financial backing is known as "angel investing."
The amount of angel financing is significant. According to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, each year over 60,000 ventures raise over $20 billion from angel investors.
2. Will an angel investor invest in my ______ (insert restaurant, hotel, technology, website, product, app, salon, etc.)?
The answer to this is "yes."
Software is the top sector that receives angel funding, representing approximately 23% of total angel investments annually.
Healthcare Services/Medical Devices and Equipment (14%), Retail (12%), Biotech (11%), Industrial/Energy (7%) and Media (7%) are the next top sectors.
Importantly, that leaves an "other" amount of 26%. And ìotherî includes every type of company there is. So, yes, there is an angel investor out there who would fund your type of business.
3. What is the difference between angel investors and venture capitalists?
Venture capitalists differ from angel investors in that they typically provide more money (generally at least $2 million) and focus on companies that have achieved more operational milestones than companies generally funded by angel investors
Other key differences include the following:
4. What return on investment do angel investors want?
There is no set formula for the return angel investors want. In general, they simply want a "fair" return. "Fair" might imply millions of dollars if your company eventually goes public and is valued at billions. Or, "fair" may be a 15% return, or a reasonably higher return than they would receive if they invested in the less-risky public stock market.
The key is to figure out what the prospective investor deems to be ìfairî and offer it to them.
5. Where can I find angel investors for my company?
The best place to find angel investors is through networking. Who do you know? Who do your friends know? Who does your attorney know? And so on.
And then once you meet those referrals, ask who they know. And so on. By networking, you can reach tons of prospective angel investors and raise the funding you need.
Importantly, the vast, vast, vast, vast (yes, I know I just said ìvastî four times!) majority of angel investors are what I call "latent angel investors." That is, they don't know or walk around thinking of themselves as angel investors. But, they have the means, interest and ability to make angel investors.
Latent angel investors are the BEST for entrepreneurs, since they arenít seeing tons of potential companies to fund. As a result, if they see one good deal, thereís a good chance theyíll fund it. Conversely, those investors who see tons of deals are less likely to fund any particular venture.
Now that you know the answers to the five key angel investors questions, use this knowledge to raise this great funding source for your business.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
- Winston Churchill
At the very heart of entrepreneurship, small business, and investing sit risks, roadblocks, challenges, and delays.
The statistics are only debated to their degree but not their overall thrust - a small percentage of businesses ever become meaningfully profitable and a smaller percentage still are ever sold for a meaningful price.
In other words, the vast majority of businesses - by objective, financial measures - do not achieve their desired and sought after objectives..
Even worse, a lot them do so badly - never achieving even one dollar in revenue and / or go so deeply in the hole that they have significant and negative financial spillover effects.
Like business and personal bankruptcies and investors losing all of their money.
In a word, the trials and tribulations of business are and can be traumatic.
Now it is not the kind of trauma that survivors of war and natural disasters experience, but in the world of work it can be about as bad as it gets.
Yet both domestically and around the world entrepreneurs are starting and growing businesses at a greater rate than at any time in the last 15 years…3% of the U.S. adult population annually start one, and a multiple of that contemplate doing so.
And investors make more money investing in startups and small businesses than in any other asset class.
So what gives?
Well, there is the financial view, namely that the rewards of a business sale are so great and life-changing that having any probability of its occurrence make the grave financial risks of business - building more than worth taking.
But this at best only explains half of the story.
No, there is something else going on here, and research regarding of all things - Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome - points to what it is.
Research done by among others Dr. Richard Tedeschi of the University of North Carolina shows that strong, negative experiences like war and natural disasters are NOT as scarring as once thought.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Statistically, most survivors of traumatic experiences - like prisoners-of-war and victims of natural disasters - come out of them stronger and on most measures, out-perform those in their peer groups unaffected by the awful events.
Now everyday all of us should count our blessings dozens of times as “there but for fortune go I’ and offer nothing but great compassion and empathy for those suffering trauma, especially when it comes through no fault of their own.
But we also should take significant solace and inspiration from the rest of the story.
Life, as it does, goes on.
And according to the latest research, the old adage is true of that which does not kill you REALLY does make you stronger.
Now it would not be proper to equate a business failure with the physical and emotional traumas experienced by survivors of war and disaster, but entrepreneurs and executives can and should draw important wisdom from them.
Such as if you “fail” at this particular business, you won’t be broken and scarred forever.
And that professional and entrepreneurial growth is a participatory sport – learned only by doing and trying and striving and not by watching and fretting and waiting.
And then there are the related ideas of diversification and iteration.
Such as, in business, it is almost always far better to have two business “failures” and ONE success than it is to go zero for zero.
For the entrepreneur this does not necessarily mean running multiple businesses concurrently, but it does mean that the business strategy should be iterative and testing based.
Successful Internet companies get this intuitively - see Amazon and eBay and thousands of others - and you should too.
As for investors, they should take advantage of the incredible opportunity that the modern financial system offers to back multiple entrepreneurial companies, and not just one or a handful.
With the average return of the startup company asset class being 2.5X in a mean time of about four years, the odds are strongly in your favor if you both invest right and diversify properly.
So entrepreneurs and investors get in the game!
Failure is no way near as bad as advertised and if approached with the right spirit and strategy, it can truly be the ultimate blessing in disguise.
To Your Success,
The power of business intelligence tools and technologies (BI) to provide managers and leaders accurate, real time visibility to the performance of all aspects of their companies - marketing, sales, operational financial - along with "automated" insight as to how to improve them has made BI one of the highest ROI arenas of business management in the world today.
This is evidenced by both the huge sums of money companies are investing in BI (forecast by IDC to grow to over $52B in 2016) and by the research that show "BI Best in Class" companies enjoy double the revenue growth and triple the profit growth relative to their “BI Average” competitors (Gartner Group).
Yet…for the executive looking to put the power of BI to work in their companies it can be a very noisy and confusing (see terms like predictive analytics, Internet of Things, Hadoop, Executive Management Platforms, etc.) buying marketplace to navigate.
So here is a short-hand primer on how to start putting BI to work in any company in just a few short days…I call it being BI H.A.P.P.Y and it goes like this:
High ROI is Everything. When it comes to BI, the first place to look is at it should be - cutting through all the noise and clutter and asking any BI provider a simple question: Show me how your tools will generate high ROI and make my business money right away.
This should of course be the first question asked for any business investment, but especially so in a burgeoning arena like BI, where a lot of the providers are new companies themselves and when you cut through their marketing veneers don’t really have documented proof for their stated value propositions.
Press them on it, and if they just keep coming back with platitudes versus ROI proof then move on.
Agnostic is Best. A key distinction when it comes to BI tools and approaches is whether they are agnostic / open-source or closed / focused on a specific business process / industry application.
My strong recommendation is at this early BI juncture is to take the agnostic / open-source approach, because no matter what BI tool one chooses, in just a few months there will be a next generation option that will be cleaner (i.e. less riddled with bugs), probably less expensive, and more naturally business intuitive than the current crop.
This does not mean that one should wait to get started until these next generation tools arrive, only that the systems and platforms that one commits to now should be easy to upgrade / port over to / connect with the next generation systems as they become available.
As importantly, agnostic / open-source BI systems also allow for a standardized, company-wide “Manage by Data” look and feel unavailable in industry / process specific systems.
The Best BI is Prescriptive AND Predictive. BI at its best should be both Prescriptive - interpreting for us the meaning and importance of historical results and how to improve them and Predictive –performing the regression analyses for us as to what the future is mostly like to hold.
Is the technology to do this fully there yet? No, but it is getting close, and the smart executive recognizes the value of building these prescriptive and predictive BI muscles now because when the technology does gets there, the companies that can’t run this “analytics race” will be lapped by those that can.
DFY. A fundamental BI dimension is the Done-For-You (DFY) to Do-It-Yourself (DIY) spectrum.
While it is important to develop strong DIY BI competencies, we also should recognize that because BI tools and technologies are so new and because so much of the value of them is found "On the Margin," that working with a BI skills-specific service provider is almost always a necessary best practice.
A skilled BI service provider helps us:
• Decide which BI analytics and dashboard tools and technologies are most appropriate for our business
• Finds the data in our organizations - on our desktops, in our spreadsheets, and through the various SaaS programs and platforms on which our companies run
• Visualize and parse the data in ways that work for us as managers and leaders
• Interpret what the data means and what to do about it
• Make sure that all of the above doesn't “break” and that the “BI muscles” within our organization are built and remain strong
H is for High ROI
A is for Agnostic / Open-Sourced
P is for Prescriptive
P is for Predictive
Y is for DFY (Done-for-You)
Follow this simple meme and watch the results from your BI Investments and for your company soar.
Last month, data management and dashboard start up Domo announced it had raised an additional $200 million in growth capital, bringing its total haul over the past four years to a truly remarkable $450 million.
Now given that the company has yet to even come close to breaking even, this can be viewed as either a great validation of Domo's business model, or as more evidence of the “Bubble Mania” of the current technology financing landscape and a screaming signal to get out while you still can.
For those in the bubble camp, Domo is a “Tech Unicorn,” a recent start-up worth, either through a financing, an acquisition or IPO, more than $1 billion usually without any meaningful profits to speak of and thus instead valued via reasonings and justifications far outside of the pale of traditional finance and accounting.
On the other hand, while financings for companies at Domo's stage of development have never been as large and audacious as they are now, do remember that valuing technology companies on a combination of their future earnings promise, the intonations of their charismatic founders, and just the out and out coolness of their technology is nothing new, and that much more money has been earned than lost on these kinds of bets.
From this perspective, Domo is just another in a long line of American software companies - like Uber, Palantir, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Slack - with the ability and promise to transform and disrupt “Business as Usual” for core life and work processes across markets and industries.
And investors just can't enough of them.
On a macro level, this has a lot to do with simple supply and demand. Globally, most investors only feel comfortable putting money to work in places with stable political systems, stable currencies, liquid exit markets, and ones that have protections against expropriations of wealth once earned. So both crossed off are domains where 80%+ of the world’s population’s live and work, and characteristics that the U.S. in general and California in particular have in unique abundance.
On a micro level, most investors prefer to deploy capital without taking Technology Risk (as would be typical in say - a biotech start up).
So easy to understand and believe in are Software-as-Services Models like Domo's, with business models often boiling down to a simple cost of customer acquisition cost divided by lifetime customer value metric (in Domo's case, over $50,000 per customer!).
And most importantly, investors have and will always love to back Disruptive Technologies - which, to be clear, is different from Technology Risk.
This has been true from the days of Rockefeller with Oil, to Ellison, Gates, and Jobs with the computer and software, through Zuckerberg with social media to Kalanick and Chesky with Uber and Airbnb and The Sharing Economy.
And so it is potentially true with Domo and its promise: The better organization, visualization, and analysis of data, toward the end of changing the world of business done by gut and hand to one done by statistics and evidence.
And because this value when delivered to customers is so potentially significant - making their enterprises more efficient and predictably profitable - Domo's ability to both charge a lot for its services and have customers stay with them for a very long time is again...
...easy to understand and believe in.
And that's why that $2 billion valuation may not be so high after all.
There were some great responses to my post last week as to the poor returns experienced by venture capital fund investors.
Some suggested that the blame for this lied more with the very difficult market and deal conditions of the past decade than with the VC investment model itself.
Typical was this comment submitted by a San Diego VC: "I agree that the VC fund industry is guilty as charged when it comes to being opaque as to real returns data, but I challenge you to revisit your analysis in 24 to 36 months, when we all will have had time to benefit from today’s strong M&A and IPO markets."
One reader reference Gust Founder David Rose’s new book - “Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money and Having Fun Investing in Startups” and to Rose’s main contention that to access the 25% IRR potential of the asset class one must hold positions in not less than 20 companies.
He asked, “Is this practical advice? I mean - who really has the time to find, diligence, and invest in dozens of companies? And for those that don’t, are there really any “Warren Buffet-types” to back in this asset class?”
This is the billion dollar question, is it not?
And while of course anyone will be very hard-pressed to even approach Warren Buffett’s other-worldly track record, there are some powerful forces right now driving the timeliness of venture investing via the “Berkshire Model.”
These forces fall into three main categories – Improved Liquidity, Investment Flexibility, and what let’s call “Labor Arbitrage.”
Improved Liquidity. Illiquidity is a huge elephant in the room when it comes to startup and emerging company investing. Most startups and early stage companies that seek outside investors are years away from investor liquidity – either via sale to a strategic or financial acquirer, or far more rarely via a Public Offering of the Company’s stock.
Now Berkshire Model companies, as entities with fundamentally investment vs. operating mindsets more naturally position, language, and network their businesses in finance contexts.
While doing so by no means assures successful outcomes, it does create the far more likely possibility of secondary market liquidity alternatives for investors that “want out” in the interim before the final exit.
Investment Flexibility. Investment companies in the Berkshire mold have great flexibility to structure investments of various types: traditional straight cash-for-equity, warrants, contingent warrants, revenue certificates, convertibles, in exchange for professional services, on project-by project bases, and more.
This flexibility is a game changer, as when done right it can provide managed, diversified exposure to a portfolio of deals and opportunities inaccessible via more “traditional” means.
Labor Arbitrage. A wise man once said that all businesses fundamentally do is “bridge the gap” between markets for labor and those for products and services.
Relatedly, one of the best advantages of the Berkshire model is the ability it affords to "Mark Up" the labor involved in effecting deals and transactions.
Let’s explain this by example.
Say a finance or advisory services professional is paid a salary of $80,000 per year, plus bonuses and incentives based on deals, transaction closings, and successful exits (not atypical terms).
Let’s then utilize a 20% load factor and assume that this worker’s fully loaded cost is $100,000 per year. Let’s then assume a 2,000 hour work year (we hope they work harder than this, as this is such an opportunity filled industry!).
Then, on a hourly basis, this professional’s fixed cost is approximately $50 per hour.
Now it is neither unusual nor unreasonable for even midlevel management consultants and investment bankers to bill out at $250 an hour and more on a cash basis, and much more than this on a cash equivalent basis when services are performed in exchange for contingent and / or equity compensation pay structures.
The critical point here is that when services are performed in exchange for equity compensation , even with average deal “picking” there is a natural Deal Arbitrage Effect that can easily create positive expected value on each and every deal.
A massive advantage.
Like everything associated with startup and emerging company investing, a lot of hard and smart work is needed to do it right.
But when done so, the payoffs can be enormous.
Just ask any Early Berkshire investor for confirmation.
To Your Success,
P.S. Like to learn how to apply these principles to your portfolio? Then attend my webinar this Thursday, “What the Super Angels Know about Investing and What You Should Too.”
Click Here to learn more.
One of the great joys of my work is the unique opportunity it affords to meet and to learn from talented, committed, and effective executives - working hard and long on their entrepreneurial journeys.
Men and women like Mike Kovaleski and Carrie Kessel of Mahar Tool, a Michigan-based, mid-sized automotive technology distributor that is reinventing how vendor partnerships are structured and maintained in the global, high-tech, and oh-so competitive modern car business.
And as they do, they are creating both good jobs and an inspiring culture that's reflected in both the great longevity of their company (68 years young and counting!) and in the average tenure of their executive team (12+ years and increasing daily!).
Leaders like Dr. Ezat Parnia - President of Pacific Oaks - a small and fast growing Pasadena-based college that under his leadership is merging traditional offline educational values with the promise and power of online learning.
And as he does so, everyday demonstrating his fierce commitment to his students, mostly adults going back to school mid-life to earn training and degrees in early childhood education…
…who armed with their Pacific Oaks’ educations go out into the world and effect the school’s mission of seeing every child - no matter race, gender, or economic circumstance - be treated as a unique, special, and able learner.
And leaders like Good Samaritan Hospital’s CEO Andy Leeka, with his so articulate commitment to seeing his 1,400 employee strong, inner city Los Angeles Hospital become both a leader in care giving and a place that shows that even budget and regulatory-strained hospitals can be places of high staff camaraderie, great patient care, and dare we say, even a little fun, too.
What do these executives all have in common?
Well, first of all, in spite of them all leading very different organizations, with different reasons for being, competing in very different marketplaces, with very different sets of challenges and opportunities, they all think and act fundamentally the same.
Recognizing that even though they lead organizations that are on average more than 80 years old, that their fundamental business reality today is constant, unrelenting, everlasting, and fundamental change.
And that their job as leaders is to respond, pivot, profit, and win in the midst of all of it.
Second, they all "get" strategy.
Not as some academic or consultant’s exercise, but strategy as at the core of why their organizations exist and what their mandates are to lead them.
Strategies that are big, as in where do they want their organizations to be 5, 10, 20 years hence? (And how to best utilize data and Business Intelligence to get there).
And strategies that are “small,” as in grappling with what is the best CRM, the best eCommerce platform, the best project management software for their organizations.
And yes, they are all definitely contenders.
They just don't talk about reaching for the brass ring, they sacrifice every day to actually do so.
They plan their work.
And then they work their plans.
They (and everyone around them) know that it is not about them. Their glory, their rewards.
They’re in it for the mission.
Because they are blessed to be given the opportunity, and now by golly they are going to strive and strain with every fiber of their being to make the most of it.
To contenders like them, I have only one thing to say: Thank You.
For making all of our lives healthier, smarter, richer, and all in all just better.
Oh, and maybe a quick word of advice for these business and organizational heroes: Every now and again do come up for air and give yourself a pat on the back.
Because you've earned it and more.
I grew up watching Larry Bird. My dad was a huge Boston Celtics fan (which is relatively odd considering he grew up in New York City). So, I became a huge Celtics fan too. And I was a big fan of the heart of the Celtics’ Larry Bird.
This guy never gave up.
In fact, if you watch this 40 second video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_RJ5XN8TK8 - you’ll see what I consider the greatest steal ever...
The Celtics were losing by 1 point with only 5 seconds left. And the other team had the ball. The game was essentially lost. But then Larry Bird intercepted the inbound pass and passed the ball to Dennis Johnson. Johnson scored the basket and they won the game.
While Larry Bird’s steal was phenomenal, if his teammate Dennis Johnson wasn’t in the right place and didn’t execute on his layup, Larry Bird’s efforts wouldn’t have resulted in a win.
As an entrepreneur, you also need great teammates. Since you can’t possibly build a great company by yourself.
In fact, great entrepreneurs are more like Larry Bird the coach (who “hired” and coached his players into being the best they could be) than Larry Bird the player (who performed key tasks and made his co-players better).
The key is this -- you need to find, hire and then train and coach the best people. Because there are TONS of bad people. I learned this very early on at Growthink. Years ago, I generally gave people the benefit of the doubt. If they said they could do something, I figured they could. And then I quickly realized that some people “have it” and some people don’t.
I think “having it” is the quality of people who “do what they say and say what they do” and always try to do their best. You want people who “have it” and at the same time people who are qualified and uniquely skilled at the position you need to fill. For example, while I believe I “have it,” there’s a whole bunch of positions that I’m not qualified to fulfill or which wouldn’t inspire me to do my best work.
So, how do you find these great people who “have it” and possess the skills you need. Here are my recommendations:
1. Event Networking: great people have several common traits, one of which is their dedication to ongoing education. That’s why great people generally go to events and conferences. You also need to go to these events, where you’ll find some very talented individuals.
2. Being Sociable: I’ve heard lots of stories of people meeting people at sports events, supermarkets, on a plane, etc., and striking up conversations that results in great hiring decisions. I must admit that I’m not the most sociable person outside of work; but I’m getting better at this.
3. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great online network to find qualified people to come work for you. Join relevant LinkedIn groups to find folks with similar interests and who are looking to further their careers. And reach out to the best ones.
4. Recommendations & Referrals: Oftentimes the best hires are the ones that were recommended to you by friends and colleagues. Send emails out to your network and advisors asking if they know someone with the skills you need. People generally only recommend people that they believe are competent, since their own reputations are on the line.
5. Executive Recruiters: while this will cost more money in the short-term, executive recruiters (also known as “headhunters”) can find you great candidates. This is what they do. Importantly, they will often find you people who aren’t actively looking for a new job. These are often the best folks. I mean, would you rather hire an unemployed person looking for any company that will take them, or someone who’s thriving at a company but sees great opportunity in helping you grow your venture?
Importantly, in its relative infancy, eBay used executive recruiting firm Kindred Partners to find and hire Meg Whitman. Whitman turned eBay into a multi-billion dollar company and herself into a billionaire.
Using one or more of these five tactics will get you qualified job candidates. But, before you hire any, I highly suggest you give them two tests as follows:
1. A skills test: whenever possible, you should test the skills of the job candidate. If you are hiring someone for a research job, give them a research assignment. If you are hiring someone to be a receptionist, do mock calls with them. Etc. I realize that for some jobs, it may be harder to test, but get creative since you want to make sure they will be able to perform.
2. A culture test: if someone comes highly recommended and passes a skills test, it still doesn’t mean they’re the right hire. They MUST match with your company’s culture. For instance, if they’re a stiff, and your company thrives on fun and creativity, then they’re not the right match. Your company culture is critical, so don’t ignore this key test.
Hiring the right players for your team is critical to your success. There are no wildly successful 1-person companies that I know of. Imagine for a moment if you had a dream team; a group of employees that were so talented your competitors would be in awe. How good would your company become? How much faster would you accomplish your goals? How great would it be to come to work every day? Think about your answers to these questions, and then start building a great team and a great company today.
Earlier this month, the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team was sold by Herb Kohl for $550 million. What’s interesting was that in 2003, Michael Jordan was interested in investing in both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Charlotte Bobcats. However, for his $50 million, neither organization would give him managerial control.
So, Jordan passed on the opportunity to invest in either. However, over the following seven years, the Bobcats imploded and Jordan was able to purchase the entire team for $175 million in 2010. Since then, with full managerial control, Jordan has turned around the Bobcats team (the team made the playoffs this year for just the second time in history). As a result, the value of Jordan’s investment has gone way up. In fact, it’s most likely considerably higher than the $550 million just paid for the Bucks.
So what is it about Michael Jordan that’s made him succeed in both sports and business?
My answer: Preparation and Practice
According to the book "How To Be Like Mike: Life Lessons About Basketball's Best," as a player, Michael Jordan's practice habits and conditioning regimen amounted to an "almost alarming harshness."
In fact, many experts, such as Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson, argue that practice continually trumps talent.
Prominent examples of success attributed to continuous practice besides Michael Jordan include:
As you can see, and as is pretty intuitive, preparation and practice are keys to success in sports. And in business, it’s the same.
Consider these examples that entrepreneurs often face:
Importantly, for these and other business situations, think about your goals. What is the goal of developing your business plan? What is your goal of presenting to an investor or prospective customer? And so on. Having these goals clearly in mind when you prepare and practice ensures you prepare for the right outcomes.
Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect practice means you’ve done your preparation, for instance, learned what perfection is. And both on the sports field and in your business, doing the right preparation and practice will pay significant dividends. So, be sure to make preparation and practice a part of your daily routine.
My Post last week on the fast funding and growth success of Domo (over $450 million in capital raised at a $2 billion valuation), generated a lot of great responses - some whimsical, some skeptical, but with the most interesting being variants of:
"How can the lessons of Domo (and those of the other Tech Unicorn's profiled), be best applied to my business and investment plans?
This is such an important and in so many ways misunderstood topic that I decided to share, via live Webinar, key insights from the business models and investment strategies of Unicorns like Domo, Uber, Airbnb, Dropbox, and Slack and why some of the smartest business and investment minds in the world today consider what these companies do so important and valuable.
What Will Be Covered
On the webinar, I will reveal:
• Why the valuations for SaaS companies have grown so exponentially
• What aspects of their business models can be ported to virtually any business in any industry
• Why emulating what Tech Unicorns do and how they do it can be so high ROI for virtually any business
• Where companies with Unicorn Potential can be found in today's markets
• And much, much more!
Who Should Attend
I have designed the webinar with two main audiences in mind:
1. Entrepreneurs and Business Owners seeking transformational ideas to quickly increase the growth and value of their companies.
2. Investors interested in aggregating positions in Disruptive Technology Companies at their most opportune moments: after the highly unpredictable Startup stage, but before they become widely known and priced to market.
To preserve the intimacy of the presentation, we are limiting attendees to the first 35 registrants, so Reserve Your Seat today!
Sign up here:
This is clearly one of the great boom times in the history of Venture Capital, with more than $29 billion in fresh capital being raised by more than 250 funds over the past year. This represents a 70% jump from the comparable, previous year’s period, and more than a 225% jump from the “nadir” numbers of 2009-2010 (all stats here from the NVCA).
And VCs have seen a lot of successful exits, too (hooray!), with in 2014 more than 115 venture backed companies going public and more than 455 exits via M&A.
Probably most importantly, long term (3, 5, 10, and 20 year) VC returns continue to significantly out-perform the major public equity indices (DJIA, NASDAQ, S&P 500).
All very, very good and exciting stuff, but for the individual investor, is investing in a VC fund a good idea?
It can be, as the return examples above attest, but because of regulatory and technology changes, there are now far better ways to deploy capital into high potential, privately held companies (i.e. the VC investment sweet spot). Here’s why and how:
Market Efficiency. With now over twelve hundred active U.S. venture funds - and in general with them pursuing mostly the same deal sourcing strategies and approaches - it has become extremely difficult for VCs to consistently find and secure high potential, well priced deals.
The result has been a “regression to the mean” - with alpha performance by fund managers being driven as much by randomness and luck (as it has been with public market mutual funds for decades) as by coherent design.
Fees. The world of low and no load management fees that so transformed mutual fund investing for in the 80's and 90's is far from being on the VC radar.
In fact, as opposed going down, venture fund fees have been going in the other direction, with a number of higher profile funds upping their annual fees to 3% (along with asking for a greater share of the returns) versus the standard 2-2.5%.
These high fees obviously eat away at return, and more profoundly are in contrast to the “disintermediation spirit” so at the heart of modern investing.
Friction. Little discussed in most venture fund models are the high costs of deal sourcing, diligence, and oversight.
It is not unusual for a venture fund to sort through thousands of possible investments, deeply diligence a few hundred, prepare and submit term sheets on a few dozen, and then do zero deals.
This all costs money.
And all this doesn’t even begin to measure the management and oversight costs on the deals that are done – which at their barest minimum range from quarterly board meeting attendance to monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily calls and meetings with portfolio companies.
All this work is necessary to do VC investing right, but is also expense and friction filled.
Now, funds do work to charge some of these costs back to their portfolio companies, but usually these offsets flow to the fund’s General and not its Limited Partners.
So what to do?
Well, for those that want access to the unique returns of the asset class, but are reluctant to either a) put all of their eggs in one basket via investing in one particular startup directly and / or b) get the problems with the current VC model per the above, here are two ideas:
1. Explore peer-to-peer lending sites like Prosper.com and LendingClub, all of which offer various forms of fractionalized and securitized investing into the asset class.
And, with the SEC greenlighting equity-based crowdfunding last week, keep a careful eye on crowdfunding sites like Crowdfunder.com that will now be able to directly process smaller-denomination private company investments over the Net.
2. Do Like Warren Does. The Berkshire Hathaway Model of an “operating company owning other operating companies” can be a great gateway to the asset class, combining both diversification along with the the “pop” and fast liquidity potential that a single company investments allows. Well-run companies like this that focus on the startup space are hard to find, but when one does they are definitely worth a closer look.
In short, when it comes to this asset class, the advice here is to avoid the VCs and explore investment models – some new and some old – that provide access to it in a lower cost, higher expected return, and all-around more modern way.
To Your Success,