Growthink Blog

1st Quarter 2014: Best for Investing in 15 Years


Don’t you just love these booming markets? Well, if you don’t, try on these IPO, M&A, and financing stats from 1st Quarter 2014:

Initial Public Offerings: 72 companies went public in the U.S. in the 1st quarter - the largest number of new issuers since 2000 -raising a total of 11.1 billion. And, as of Monday 54 of the 72 of them were trading above their IPO price.

Mergers & Acquisitions: Global mergers & acquisition activity totaled $710 billion (Thomson Reuters), up 54% from last year.

Private Equity. Private equity firms did 850 deals, representing investments of greater than $152 billion (Pitchbook), up 11%.

Venture Capital. 1,348 companies raised more than $15 billion from venture capitalists, up 36%.

They also raised $10.3 billion for 578 funds in the 1st Quarter, up 51% from last year.

After many years of ongoing economic and investment dreariness, isn’t this so refreshing?

And aren’t we heartened that the doomsayers have been proven so fundamentally wrong?

Wrong about the U.S. economy.

And wrong about what is so clearly the dominant leadership position of this country in all of the great technologies growth industries of the 21st Century - software, biotechnology, energy, digital media, and more.

And beyond the numbers, there are some great stories.

Of new industries being built, of fortunes being made. Here is one of my favorites:

Last week, Facebook acquired virtual reality headset maker Occulus VR for approximately $2.24 billion.

Among the investors were Peter Thiel and Sean Parker, of PayPal and Napster fame, who through their VC The Founder’s Fund last year invested $16 million into Occulus.

Upon Facebook’s purchase of the company and correspondingly of their shares, their position is now worth more than $740 million, or a return of close to 50X on their invested capital.

How did they do this?

What selection strategies did they utilize to identify companies with this kind of return potential?


Well, attend my webinar Thursday - What Peter Thiel and Sean Parker Know about Investing and What You Should Too - to find out.

On it, I will share:

- Why the majority of investors presented the opportunity to invest in Occulus declined to do so

- How Thiel and Parker and their fund partners diligenced the deal and decided to invest in Occulus instead of in the dozens of virtual reality technologies then and now in the marketplace

- How Big Data and Black Swan portfolio theory and modeling were critical to their valuation analysis on the deal

- How today’s booming IPO and deal market, discussed above, is affecting (positively and negatively) the technology deal marketplace

Register now via the below link:

To Your Success,

P.S. Interested in the topic but can’t make the webinar time? Well, do register and will make sure that you get a recording of the presentation.


Tech M+A: $65.2 Billion and Counting


Global Technology Mergers & Acquisitions Activity is now at its highest year-to-date level since 2000 (in terms of both dollar volume and deal number).

Overall there has been $65.2 billion of M&A activity announced year-to-date (Thomson Reuters).

And then layer in the the crowdfunding boom (both donations and investment-based) and the exploding growth of peer-to-peer lending sites like Lending Club and, and never before have there been so many and so good “digital” places for those seeking and those providing capital to connect and transact.

The result?

More entrepreneurs and businesses having access to outside capital than ever before and...

…for the first time investors having the ability to efficiently build diversified portfolios of private equity and debt investments with strong, positive expected value.

Now compare all of this freshness and innovation against the ongoing dreariness of the “public” markets.

From 2000 to today, the Dow Jones has risen from 11,078 to approximately 16,268 (as of 03/26), or approximately 42%.

During that same time inflation has reduced the dollar’s purchasing power by almost exactly that same amount (38%).

So basically 15 years and ZERO real investment return.

Now what do these two fast diverging worlds, the increasingly innovative and transparent one of private investing on the one hand, and the flat and more opaque than ever one of the traditional public market returns on the other, mean for the entrepreneur and for the smaller investor?

Quite simply, it is all good.

For investors, it means access to higher returns.

Research from the Kauffman Foundation Angel Returns Study and the Nesta Angel Investing study, compiled by Robert Wiltbank, have demonstrated that the "...average angel investor (across the U.S. and UK) produced a gross multiple of 2.5 times their investment, in a mean time of about four years.

And for the entrepreneur, it means more, quicker, and cheaper access to capital, especially in smaller amounts.

Which leaves more time and energy for what entrepreneurs want to do and what we all need them to do…

starting and growing profitable and innovative companies that make the world a better place.

Amen to that. 

To Your Success, 




P.S.  To listen to a replay of my Thursday webinar, where I explored some of the key lessons learned from Sequoia Capital's $58 million investment into WhatsApp - and subsequent $3 billion windfall - upon Facebook's purchase of the messaging app last month, click here.

A version of this article originally appearedin Entrepreneur Magazine and can be seen here.

Who Gets Funded? Great Businesses vs. Great Presentations


From businesses come needs – like raising capital. Raising capital usually means pitching investors.

So which businesses are most likely to be among the approximately 5% who raise funds from professional investors? The chart below tells the brutal truth quickly and easily.


A great business which gives a great presentation is most likely getting funded.
A lousy business with a lousy presentation isn’t getting funded.

But what about a good business with a lousy presentation? Is it more or less likely to get funding compared to a good business with a great presentation? The answer probably won't surprise you.

After speaking with over 110 angel investors, VCs, entrepreneurs and educators, the consensus was solidly in favor of the good business with a great presentation. The deciding factor came down to the team, the single factor which most influences investors.

A person and a team who made a great presentation took the time to practice. Investors like to see the results of preparation and hard work. A great team willing to practice may simply need some advice and be willing to pivot, changing a good business into a great business.

A good business which gives a lousy presentation says to investors, “We didn’t care enough to put in our best effort.” The lack of preparation and the condescending attitude toward investors will derail just about any business seeking capital.

At the very least, it says the team is not ready, not mature enough, and probably not coachable.  With plenty of investing opportunities from which to choose, investors quickly move on.

Want to improve your chances when pitching to investors? Follow the eight recommendations below to maximize your chance of raising capital.

PRACTICE your pitch

If you didn’t practice 25-50 times before presenting, it will show in your lack of confidence, poor pacing, and use of filler words like “uh”, “um” and “like”. Then you’ll likely resort to the boring reading-slides-to-your-audience-with-your-back-turned method of pitching. Buy the coffin. You’re dead.

GENERATE some enthusiasm!

No one expects you to have over-the-top local sportscaster enthusiasm. But don’t pitch with a sleep-inducing monotone, either. If you don’t have passion for your business, neither will an investor.

PREPARE for contingencies

Fertilizer happens. Prepare for it.

* Know every slide in your pitch deck by heart

* Have two thumb drives with your pitch deck saved in PowerPoint / Keynote and PDF

* Bring your own laptop, projector, clicker, batteries, microphone, cables and cords

* Inspect the room beforehand, if possible. Know the lighting and sound conditions

BREVITY is king

Got 10 minutes to pitch? Finish in 9:45. Almost nobody finishes with a strong close in the allotted time. Investors love someone who can manage time effectively. It sends the message that you can manage other areas of business effectively, too. Keep your pitch deck to 10-12 slides maximum.

NAIL the opening and closing

Tell a brief story; do something unexpected; focus on emotion. Those are great concepts to open a pitch. Close powerfully with your call to action. Now think about how most people open speeches – and don’t do that.


Sprinkle in stories to drive home a point, to magnify emotions, and to keep your audience engaged. Generally, a single story should take no longer than about 7% of your total pitch time. For a 10 minute pitch, a story is most effective when 45 seconds or less.

Use storyboarding, a technique invented by Walt Disney in the 1930s, to create your overall theme. Do this before designing your pitch deck.

VISUALS, not text

Your pitch deck should be primarily visual. You’re the focus, not your pitch deck. If your slides are full of text, your investor audience is reading the slides and not listening to you. Your audience can read faster than you can speak. When they finish and you’re still talking, they’ll disconnect. After that, they’re almost impossible to re-engage. Great visuals enhance your story because vision is the most dominant sense in people.

WIIFI: What’s In It For Investors?

Why you? Why now? Why should an investor care? When your pitch answers those questions in a concise yet detailed manner, your chance of funding improves.

Knowing your investor audience is essential. Pitching friends and family is somewhat causal, pitch angel investors is more serious and pitching institutional investors is sophisticated. Tailor your pitch accordingly.

Successfully raising investor funding is often a long, frustrating and complex process. Getting turned down dozens or hundreds of times will test an entrepreneur’s patience. Persistence doesn’t guarantee success but quitting guarantees failure. Investors use the process to find the most resilient entrepreneurs worthy of funding. Getting investor funding will often change your life and your world for the better. The guidelines above will make your process faster and easier.

P.S. The author Luke Brown is an Engagement Partner with Growthink.  If you would like to discuss how Growthink could help in creating your presentation for you, do reach out to Luke directly at [email protected], and / or at 310-846-5047

Made In China


This Saturday, I took my sons to Toys"R"Us to buy them baseball gloves. A great American tradition to be sure, and with opening day just 2 weeks away, both spring and the national pastime were in the air.

I looked for the American baseball glove names of my youth - Rawlings, Wilson, Easton, Spalding, Cooper.

My boys happily tried on gloves (most much too large for their little hands) to find the perfect fit.

For whatever reason my eye was caught by the fine-print label on one glove and its none too surprising "Made in China" imprint.

My curiousity piqued and my young sons' attention of course being diverted by all of the amazing toys in the store, we started wandering about.

Tonka. Backloaders, dump trucks, bulldozers, and more. Made in China.

Chutes and Ladders. Gnip Gnop. Battleship. Twister. Yahtzee. Risk. Connect Four. Made in China.

The erector sets have evolved impressively from the clunky sets I remembered. Made in China.

Hundreds of Hot Wheel model race cars - beautifully modeled Camaros, Jeeps, Corvettes, and more. Made in China.

On to the figurines and action figures. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tom Brady, Lebron James, Albert Pujols. Staring out lifelike from their boxes and Made in China.

Blond-haired blue-eyed Barbie and Ken. Made in China. GI Joe. Defending our freedoms and Made in China.

Notes To Self

Call me old-fashioned, call me protectionist but it just didn't feel right to buy my sons Chinese - manufactured baseball gloves.

Then thinking practically as a striving parent does, first order of business was to go home and get my boys immediately enrolled in intensive Chinese language instruction because by golly if this is how the world is now then where is it going?

And on this thought I caught myself. I realized I had fallen for the classic mercantilist trap and confused "Made In" with "Value Added."

What's the difference?  Well, for you parents reading out there put it this way - none of you I would surmise want their sons and daughters to grow up and work in a factory (though, of course, it is like all work noble and deserving of praise).

But a LOT of you would be VERY happy if your son or daughter went to work as a product designer for Lego.

In marketing or public relations for Mattel.

In corporate finance at Rawlings.

At the NFL league office.

In post-production on the movie Avatar.

As eco-friendly packaging and shipping designers for Toys"R"Us itself.

These Are the Good Old Days

While it is hard for many to accept, it is beyond clear that America is MUCH wealthier today than it was in the so-called good old days when the U.S.A. was the manufacturing capital of the world.

What's The Point?

Very simply, wealth and power in the modern world is NOT about making things. It is about reconceptualizing them.

Apple. Google. Microsoft. In Apple's famous (and grammatically incorrect) advertising campaign, none of these great American companies actually make anything in the strict sense of the term. But they invest lots and lots of time and money in thinking different about them.

To put it another way, modern wealth and power are NOT in the things themselves. They are in their recipes - the instructions of HOW to make them.

And in making new and better recipes, American entrepreneurs lead the way by miles and miles.

And assuming government stays out of their way, they will continue to do so.

To when my little boys enter the workforce and beyond.

What’s up with WhatsApp – Part Deux


Last week, I shared how between 2011 and 2013, Sequoia Capital invested approximately $60 million in WhatsApp – the instant messaging subscription service bought last month by Facebook for $19 billion.


And how Sequoia’s return on that $60 million was close to $3 billion, or more than 50 times its original investment.


I then offered to share some of our research findings as to the selection strategies that early-stage technology investors like Sequoia now utilize to identify companies with this kind of return potential.


Not surprisingly, the response was overwhelming.


So much so that only a very of those who wanted to learn more were able to get in before registration sold out.


So to accommodate all of the requests I have agreed to re-present our findings and will do so via web conference tomorrow at 7 pm ET / 4 pm PT.


To register, click here:


On it, I will share:


• Why the majority of investors presented the opportunity to invest in WhatsApp declined to do so


• How Sequoia partner Jim Goetz diligence the deal and decided to invest in WhatsApp instead of the literally hundreds of comparable messaging applications then and now in the marketplace


• How Big Data and Black Swan portfolio theory and modeling were critical to Sequoia’s valuation analysis on the deal


• How today’s booming IPO market, with through March 1st more than 42 IPOs raising $8.2 billion – the highest YTD activity since 2007 – is affecting (positively and negatively) the technology deal marketplace


• And much, much more


Register now via the below link:


To Your Success,


Today's Webinar: Equity Investing in 2014


We’re hosting a webinar today at 4 pm PT about equity investing in 2014, and you’re invited to attend.

To register, click here:

On it, we will share some key statistics, especially that while from August 1982 to September 1999, the Dow Jones industrial average rose from 777 to 11,078, in comparison since 1999 it has moved only from 11,078 to 16,017 (approximately 44%).

Given that inflation since then has reduced purchasing power by over 37%, the net return for the period has been less than 1% per year.

So, on the webinar we will explain:

1.  Why has this happened?

2.  What should we do about it?

Well, first of all with overall GNP growth rate being cut in half, from averaging 3.6% annually from 1982 to 2000 to 1.8% from 2000 - 2014, there is simply less money to go around.

Then, the returns that are to be had…well they have been mostly eaten up by the huge big bank infrastructures built up as trading volumes have increased over twenty-fold since the 1980s.

Sadly, slow overall GNP growth remains our most likely macroeconomic reality, and does anyone really see Wall Street slimming down any time soon?

So what to do about it?

Well, on the webinar, we will suggest three prescriptions:

1. Give up on the public markets.

2. Find market inefficiencies.

3. Do it Right.

“Doing it right” should of course be all of our favorite, so we will share what we have discovered as to why today’s smart investors avoid the public markets and where, why, and how they invest now, including:

•    How many of them no longer invest in “companies,” but rather only in projects

•    How they are and how they are NOT planning to utilize the new laws regarding crowdfunding

•    How they are utilizing “cross-border” and “in-kind” transactions to shelter returns from Obama era tax increases

•    How they limit risk through "Black Swan" portfolio theory and modeling

Register now via the below link:

To Your Success,




P.S. Note, to preserve the intimacy of the presentation, we are limiting attendance to only 35 registrants so be sure to secure your spot right away.

To NDA or not to NDA?


This blog post was written by Mary Juetten, founder of, a site that provides inventors, creators, and small businesses with integrated software tools to identify and protect intellectual property.

Startups and small businesses are torn when it comes to protecting their ideas. There is a challenging balance between keeping the critical pieces secret and promoting products and services during fundraising – whether with angel investors, venture capitalists (VCs), or crowdfunding platforms.

 The NDA question comes up more than you would think because scrappy entrepreneurs are always looking for collaborators, co-founders, and capital while jealously guarding their ideas.  At least once a week, I hear one side of this debate or field a question on the topic.


What is a NDA?

Let me first say I am not an attorney (see the disclaimer at the bottom of this article). That being said, a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a legal document used to protect ideas, know-how, and other secret sauce under a variety of circumstances.

One standard use of a NDA is protecting one company from another during discussions and negotiations. That means, if I approach Company A to code my software application, I want Company A and all their employees and contractors to keep all discussions about my project confidential.  In the same situation, a mutual NDA means that everything Company A discloses about how they will work with me needs to be kept secret by me and my team. If I have a mutual NDA with Company A, I cannot go to software Company B and spill secrets learned from Company A.

As I said, I am not an attorney however I did go to law school (and yes, I graduated but chose to start my company rather than take the bar).  The answer to almost every question in law school was, “It depends.” And that is the case here.  Requesting and/or insisting upon a NDA depends on the situation. Are you hiring an employee? An independent contractor? Perhaps you are hiring a company for custom work, or are talking to potential co-founders, angel investors, or venture capitalists. Or maybe you are sharing information to collaborate or simply chatting in the grocery line.


NDA for Employees and Contractors    

It’s my humble opinion that employees and contractors should be under NDA when you are revealing your know-how during initial discussions. It is purely good business sense to ask for that level of protection. The “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” strategy can backfire without a NDA, not to mention these handshake deals are not professional and can lead to messiness (a distraction when trying to start or grow a business).

 Please seek professional advice to ensure that your contracts of employment, consulting, operating agreement, articles of incorporation, etc. have the appropriate non-disclosure provisions for your state.


NDAs are questionable for angels; NO for VCs

It is high unlikely the professional investor wishes to steal your idea. The main reason angel investors are reluctant to and venture capitalists (VCs) often refuse to execute a NDA is because they may then be limited in the future from funding similar companies.  Another reason is that your company and products may conflict with their existing ventures.

One path forward is to only reveal enough information to interest potential investors while keeping mission critical secrets secret, especially in the first meeting. 


No NDA for public pitch or demo competition    

Trade secrets are no longer secret if revealed to the public. There is no confidentiality in a public setting, so leave your secrets at home. Disclosure of such secrets may impact the ability to patent here in the US and globally, so be careful in any public pitch, tradeshow, or presentation.

All entrepreneurs understand that the tough part is execution, not idea generation. And to be technical, ideas themselves are not intellectual property. So you need to think of the context of your discussion and what you are trying to protect.

Know your audience. If you have the next great software idea and you are not technical enough to code yourself it is likely a good idea to ask potential co-founders or software companies to sign a NDA before you reveal the details of your idea.

Does that mean you carry the NDA in your purse (or briefcase)? You may but it is mostly applicable for the meeting after your initial encounter. When revealing your secret sauce or business process in public, a NDA is critical.

In conclusion, if someone does not wish to sign a NDA, think of the context, timing, and the person before you walk away. That done, if you have that niggling, uncomfortable gut feeling about why the person will not sign the NDA, head in the other direction.


 Visit Traklight and use “ID your IP” with Traklight’s compliments until February 28, 2014. Remember, you cannot protect something if you do not know you have it!  Free “ID your IP” Code GROWT13 ($59 value).


 Disclaimer: This article is intended to be general information and nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Please consult with an attorney before making any intellectual property or other legal decisions.



Raising Money in 2014: Resetting the Frame


As has always been the case, most commercial and neighborhood banks only lend against quickly “liquidatable” assets or at a small multiple of historical cash flow.

Given that most startups and small businesses have neither of these, for them attaining traditional bank financing has such a low probability of success that it is rarely even worth the time to pursue.

So, where should the creative and committed small business owner go for funding when the banks say no?

Here are three places to look:

1. Crowdfunding. Donation - based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter allow entrepreneurs to raise capital from one's social and professional networks.  

And Equity-Based Crowdfunding, approved by Congress in April 2012, is very close to being through SEC rule-making.

While investor appetite will take time to develop, as it does the available pool of investable angel and venture capital (currently approximately $50 billion annually) will expand dramatically, and in turn closing the gap between the tens of thousands of companies seeking capital and the investors interested in providing it.  

2. Family and Friends.  Since time immemorial by far the most popular funding source for new and small businesses is to ask those that know you best to stake your entrepreneurial journey.

For sure it is emotionally loaded, as so many of us don't want to mix our personal and professional lives, but it does provide a great “gut check” as to how serious, committed, and “sold” you really are on your business.


Well, it is one thing to lose the money of strangers, quite another to do so of Uncle Jed who you'll be seeing each holiday season.

A way to “reverse the frame” in these family and friends dialogues is to recognize that while yes, a relative or friend is doing you a big favor by investing in your business, you in turn are returning the favor and more by providing an opportunity for an outsized investment return along with the unique excitement of being a stakeholder in a small business.

3. Sell Services. Especially for technology and consumer product companies, the long pathway of research, product development, and establishing distribution mean that often years can go by in the dreaded “pre-revenue” stage.

So as opposed to relying solely on investment capital to “deficit finance” this gestation period, how about generating some cash through selling consulting services in the interim?

As examples, a company building a new and proprietary mobile application could in parallel build apps for others, a new restaurant could do catering, or a consumer product business could sell research services regarding their market niche.

And, if structured right, in addition to paying the bills, consulting projects like these can also be utilized to iterate one’s product development forward.

Use these three strategies - and do so as with all matters related to starting and growing a business with creativity, determination, and persistence - and soon you will be laughing all the way to the bank.

This blog post is a reprint of an article written by Jay Turo in’s Small Business Blog.

Brooks, Lengyel, Lombardi, and Wooden


This time of year offers many blessings - one of them being the pageantry of New Year’s Day college football.

I am excited to be rising before the sun on Wednesday and traveling to Pasadena with my six and seven-year old sons to their 1st Rose Bowl parade.

In the spirit of the day and of the year soon to be left in our care, here are a few of my favorite sports quotes that apply so well to the challenges and opportunities of life and business.

"Great moments are born from great opportunity…You were born to be hockey players -- every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is YOUR time.

 - Coach Herb Brooks, 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Soviet Pre-Game Speech

My comment: this is the time and age of Entrepreneurs! Go for it!

"Funerals End Today”

 - Marshall Coach Jack Lengyel, addressing the remaining members of his football team not long after 75 people, including most of the team and coaching staff - died in a 1970 plane crash.

My comment: Lengyel reminds us that the best to way to honor those that have passed is to live, to strive, to win.

"Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."

 - Vince Lombardi

My comment: Hard work is the given, the base. It is a high value in itself and accomplishments of greatness and meaning are impossible without it.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

 - John Wooden

My comment: To those to whom much is given, much is rightfully expected. We live in a global, golden age of opportunity. Think, dream, and do BIG!

Happy New Year, and may 2014 be the best year of all of our lives!

Placing Bets When Making Risky Business Decisions


To read Growthink CEO Jay Turo's article from this week’s Entrepreneur Magazine as to how to make the right bets when making risky business decisions, click here.

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