Several months ago, I came across YouNoodle, a website which offers tools and a platform to help startup companies succeed. What I was initially drawn to was their Startup Predictor tool. The idea of a tool that could help predict the success, or lack thereof, of a new company really intrigued me.
So, I contacted Kirill Makharinsky, one of YouNoodle's co-founders, to learn more. Kirill was gracious enough to do the interview and provided tons of valuable information.
I started by asking Kirill about the Startup Predictor, and specifically about what are the key indicators that a new business will be successful.
Kirill started by explaining that they created the startup predictor after looking at rich data on approximately 3,000 companies. From this data, they determined patterns between initial conditions (particularly in terms of the team and what their intentions were) and the end result.
The results found really strong indicators that the following three factors are key indicators of a venture's future success:
1. The quality of the team in terms their experience and accomplishments, and how well the team members know each other.
2. The amount of commitment the team has in terms of their opportunity cost - specifically how much they are giving up to be in the venture (e.g., leaving a steady, high-paying job) and how much skin they have in the game (e.g., how much of their personal funds have they committed).
3. Having advisors. YouNoodle found that having the right advisors, even if they provide minimal amounts of time contributing to the business, strongly impact the future success of the business.
Kirill went on to discuss fundraising. He explained how allowing two advisors to take part in forming and modifying YouNoodle's business idea helped secure them as angel investors. He also gave a great case regarding why you should contact investors BEFORE you have a concrete business idea when raising funding.
Kirill also discussed why the quality of your business idea is over-rated, and provided a great answer to my question regarding the top 5 things entrepreneurs really need to know in order to be successful.
To listen to excerpts of this interview click the blue triangle on the player below.
To listen to the full interview and/or read the transcript, click here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/326.cfm
To visit YouNoodle, click here.
We just published a new series of capital-raising articles on the Growthink website, within our new "Capital Raising Resource Center."
Stay tuned! In the coming weeks and months, we'll be adding new articles and videos.
Are there any specific capital-raising topics you'd like us to cover? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
I'll be the first to admit that this fundraising strategy isn't for me. But I have a wife and kids, so maybe, a few years back, I would have given this one a shot.
The strategy: renting out the extra space in my apartment or house to travelers on a budget.
For three entrepreneurs, this fundraising strategy took on a life of its own. The three entrepreneurs, Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky, and Nathan Blecharczyk, used this creative fundraising strategy (renting out the extra space in their apartments) to generate revenue after they quit their jobs to become entrepreneurs.
But, interestingly, they found the strategy so successful, that that turned it into a business that is now thriving.
The business, Airbnb is essentially the "eBay of space." It works like this...People list their apartments and houses (if they aren't going to be home), and even spare guest rooms, futons, and couches on the site and set a price per night. And then travelers who are looking for a place to stay search the listings for an accommodation that's right for them.
So, real estate owners and renters earn money, travelers get a discount, and Airbnb earns a 10% fee on all transactions. A true win-win-win. As you might imagine, Airbnb is doing very well, and is now in over 1150 cities in 82 countries.
My takeaways/lessons here are two-fold: first, if you have extra space or are traveling, you should consider listing your space on Airbnb to generate some revenues to invest in your business. Second, as this company illustrates, you can never be too creative in coming up with ideas to fund your business.
If you want to see a brief video of the Airbnb team, including their story of how Barry Manilow's drummer is one of their top users, here is a cool clip:
The other day, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brette Simon.
Brette is a partner at Jones Day, a top tier law firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, and several major international cities.
Brette advises companies and investors in private equity and venture capital financings, and is on the Venture Capital and Private Equity Committee of the American Bar Association. She is also a member of the Los Angeles Venture Association. And Brette was recently recognized by The Deal - a popular venture capital and private equity publication - as one of the top 13 dealmakers in the country. Very impressive.
So, naturally based on her background, I thought Brette would be the perfect person to interview about the legal aspects of raising capital. I was right.
Brette started the interview by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of certain forms of incorporation, and noted that a C-Corporation is what most venture capitalists prefer. She did note, however, that there are many nuances with regards to the corporate structure with regards to tax treatment, so the choice of your type of entity could become more complex.
We then shifted topics and discussed how entrepreneurs can protect their business ideas and intellectual property. To this, Ms. Simon discussed non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements. She also made the key point that entrepreneurs must make sure to get their employees, consultants and vendors (and everybody else who may be working with them) to sign PIIAAs (Proprietary Information and Invention Assignment Agreements), in order to make sure that the company owns all the intellectual property that is being created.
Ms. Simon went on to discuss other items that can help protect one's intellectual property such as patents and staging diligence.
We then discussed several other key topics including:
* Some of the main laws and regulations that entrepreneurs need to know about and act in accordance with when raising capital
* The documentation needed to raise capital
* What you should be focusing on when you look at a VC's term sheet
* Misconceptions that entrepreneurs often have about the legal process
* The right time for the entrepreneur or management team to hire legal counsel during the process of raising capital
I really enjoyed conducting this interview. Brette Simon obviously knows the legal issues with regards to raising capital inside and out and is a wealth of knowledge! This is definitely information that all entrepreneurs must know when raising funding, particularly venture capital.
To listen to excerpts of this interview click the blue triangle on the player below.
To listen to the full interview and/or read the transcript, click here.
Starting a venture and launching a product/service is not an easy task as can be testified by the thousands of individuals that start a business every year.
Yet many of these individuals overlook what I term, "Creative Transformation," the thought process, emotions, and actions needed to take one's idea and transform it into a viable business.
Often reality is not representative of what we think/dream in our heads. This predicament is often seen in start-ups in which entrepreneurs have a great idea but when developing that idea into a business the results may be a venture that is not representative of what they thought.
What causes this discontinuation?
Each case is different, but for a majority of cases a mix of a misguided thought processes, escalated emotions, and ineffective actions may lead to an unsuccessful venture. A recent client of mine, Alex Wagenheim, has experienced Creative Transformation and exemplifies how an entrepreneur can overcome it.
Alex Wagenheim is an ambitious and true entrepreneur by heart who has identified an unmet need in the small business market: the need for simple and efficient software. Alex's first major obstacle as an entrepreneur was being able to articulate his idea and vision into words so that our consultants could help him craft a business plan.
Alex went through a thought process where he had to analyze his idea and determine the value proposition that his service would provide to his potential customers. This thought process was a struggle as different variables had to be considered such as existing technologies, the market needs, and the level of sophistication of the customer base.
Each of these areas revealed more questions that needed to be answered and from there Alex experienced emotions of excitement when he discovered a large market for his venture. But he became apprehensive when he realized that in order to launch his venture properly a large amount of work would need to be completed. Alex stayed optimistic and decided to curtail his frustration and create a plan of action.
Overcoming emotions and creating a plan of action is often the breaking point for many entrepreneurs. When the thought process, emotions, and risks are all negative it is typical for an individual to abandon their idea. Plans of action are abandoned and what is left is just an idea of what could have been.
At the onset of Creative Transformation, Alex realized that he needed help to develop his venture and service. The emotions he was feeling prompted Alex to react and seek the consulting advice of experts.
With Growthink's help Alex was able to transition smoothly through Creative Transformation and execute on the proper actions that will increase the success of his business. Creative Transformation was not a breaking point for Alex, but was the catalyst that prompted him to search for help from professionals.
Alex is currently completing a market survey for his target market and will develop the first beta of his software in the near future.
Aren't you sick and tired of watching Washington spend all of YOUR money and YOU not seeing any of it?
Wonder where all of the stimulus money has gone?
Well, try this on: The Obama stimulus commits $17 billion in federal funds to reimburse medical practices for implementation of electronic health records systems and their use.
This involved doctors getting paid up to $44,000 each to transition their practices to the new technology.
And even before the government began throwing money at the sector, it was a $4 billion business growing at 23%/year.
Why Should You Care?
Well, if you're interested in capitalizing on one of the fastest growing and most dynamic technology sectors out there, and one about to see turbocharged growth driven by federal dollars, you should care.
Meet an Industry Pioneer
I would like to invite you to an exclusive opportunity to meet, via web conference, the CEO (and Stanford MBA) of one of the fastest-growing and innovative companies in the industry.
He will talk about which companies and technologies are best positioned to profit from the stimulus money, how "cloud computing" applications are beginning to see real adoption rates, and what has been driving the record revenue months his company has had this quarter in this tough economy.
Best regards, and look forward to connecting.
P.S. I know too many otherwise intelligent business men and women who have been listening to all of the negative drivel that passes as business news out there, and sitting on the sidelines and missing opportunities.
Don't be like them.
Here is a video that explains precisely why raising capital is so important to your business.
And, importantly, it includes details regarding why it’s critical that you understand how to raise capital from multiple sources, even if you currently are only seeking one particular type of capital...
Near the end, I reveal a fantastic (and perhaps my favorite) tip, which is the single most controllable factor that you have to improve your success in both fundraising and successfully growing you business.