This is the first article in our “Bottom Line” series focused on the $787 billion plan, where we analyze the spending bill's significance as a stimulus for U.S. entrepreneurs and emerging businesses.
The figures are mind boggling. A few billion dollars there, $50 billion there. And how about the $165 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that made its way to the executives of bailed-out AIG in the form of bonuses? The unprecedented amount of public funds being spent to save and spur the economy through recent programs certainly includes a bunch of life vests for those failed companies that are “too big to fail,” but what about for the Entrepreneurial Economy?
The American Entrepreneurial Economy includes 550,000 new businesses started every month. It includes the emerging market: the 2.2 million firms in the US with between 5 and 100 employees. These are almost all private companies and most are less than 15 years old. According to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) make up 99.7% of all US businesses, account for 50 percent of the gross national product and create between 60 and 80% of the net new jobs each year. Entrepreneurs are confident – often stubborn – risk takers who take on personal debt so they can follow their dreams of launching new businesses. They collectively make up the American business engine that largely drives innovation, invents new products, and creates new jobs.
We at Growthink work with these companies and business owners everyday and have assisted almost 2,000 in the past 10 years. Due to their impact on the US economy, we sure expect to see incentives for entrepreneurial companies in the stimulus plan, in addition to the $200 billion doled out to some of the largest financial institutions in the US. As a country, we don’t need to “bail out” emerging businesses in the sectors that will drive the economy – young firms that are working to improve healthcare, producing energy efficient products and developing environmentally-friendly pesticides – we need to spur them on.
We are following the distribution of stimulus funding closely. This means we’ve had to spend countless hours trying to figure out what’s in the plan and who’s getting what – the plan is about eight inches thick and leaves most of the funding details to the various governmental agencies that oversee specific sectors. It’s been no easy task. Just because the federal government is giving away an unprecedented amount of money in a record amount of time to save the economy doesn’t mean that it’s not being given away by the same bureaucratic system that existed before the stimulus plan.
In our “Bottom Line” series on the stimulus plan, we’ll focus on just that: What’s the plan's bottom line for the Entrepreneurial Economy? During the Series, we’ll provide concise descriptions of the business opportunities in various sectors and provide insight into how to receive funding. We’ll also provide honest feedback on the results of the program from the perspective of the entrepreneurial community.
So far, we’ve come across reasons to be optimistic. The plan includes programs for entrepreneurial sectors and includes promising opportunities for innovative, growth-oriented firms, such as:
We’ve also seen some early outcomes that give us cause for concern. Of course, there were those AIG bonuses, luxurious private jets flown by executives from failing automakers to beg Congress for bail-out money, and the hundreds of billions of dollars given to the firms that helped get us in this mess in the first place. And hucksters, of course, have recently populated email spam folders with promises of stimulus funding in return for credit card information.
But we’ve also seen frustration on the front lines when we’ve spoken and worked directly with leaders of promising businesses in those targeted sectors. How do I apply for the funding? Am I eligible? Where do I even find the information?
Of course, part of the confusion and a lack of clear information are inevitable – current systems to notify businesses of the methods to access these funds are inadequate for such a surge in new programs. But the confusion is largely due to the same complaints that start-ups and small businesses have expressed about government “support” programs for decades: It’s difficult to even figure out what’s available and how to apply for the resources, and continues to be in the age of the Internet.
During the next two weeks, we will provide those answers on a sector by sector basis. No fluff, no platitudes, just the Bottom Line for your business.
The next article in our Bottom Line Series will focus on stimulus funds available for entrepreneurial companies in the healthcare sector.
A few months back, a unique conference called "AngelConf" took place in Silicon Valley. The conference was organized for angel investors and its goal was to educate angel investors on how to invest in startups.
Key questions that the event addressed were:
It was this last question that conference organizer Paul Graham from YCombinator agreed was the most important.
Graham's first point on this topic is that angel investors should pick startups that "make things that people want." Seems simple enough. However, Graham went on to say that angels should not invest in things that are already wildly popular. "By then it's too late for angels. VCs will already be onto them. As an angel, you have to pick startups before they've got a hit-either because they've made something great but users don't realize it yet, like Google early on, or because they're still an iteration or two away from the big hit, like Paypal when they were making software for transferring money between PDAs."
As such, angel investors need to be able to predict future market sizes (not just identify markets that are already doing well).
Graham's second point on this topic is that angel investors need to pick founders who are winners. On this point, he said the following:
"What makes a good founder? If there were a word that meant the opposite of hapless, that would be the one. Bad founders seem hapless. They may be smart, or not, but somehow events overwhelm them and they get discouraged and give up. Good founders make things happen the way they want. Which is not to say they force things to happen in a predefined way. Good founders have a healthy respect for reality. But they are relentlessly resourceful. That's the closest I can get to the opposite of hapless. You want to fund people who are relentlessly resourceful."
Now, what this means to you as the entrepreneur is that this is how you will be judged by many angel investors. They will judge the future potential of your business concept and they will judge the potential of you and/or your management team.
With regards to the potential of your business concept, you must convince them that your market is poised for growth, and in doing so, you MUST cite multiple research and statistical points that confirm your views (I can't reiterate enough how critical great market research is).
With regards to the quality of you, the founder, and/or your management team, you need to show the investor, via past performance and ALL current interaction between you and the investor that you are a winner. You need to show them that you make things happen. Here are some examples of how can you accomplish this:
These smaller, short-term accomplishments which show investors that you can execute and that you are clearly not 'hapless' will massively improve your chances of getting them to invest in you.
I want to tell you about a technique I picked up, that I can directly attribute to millions of dollars of revenues that I have generated over the years. But, even so, I'm far from mastering it.
The technique is a brainstorming technique called Assumption Reversal. It is incredibly powerful. It's the technique that has been responsible for, among many others, the ATM machine and Henry Ford's development of an assembly line which revolutionized manufacturing.
The Assumption Reversal brainstorming technique allows you to look at things differently and triggers new, creative ideas. It can be used to develop new business ideas and new product ideas, and for you to overcome virtually any challenge you face, from marketing obstacles to staffing difficulties and more.
I have put together a brief video that walks you through the four steps of the Assumption Reversal brainstorming technique and gives you a real-world example. I think you'll get much more from the video than just reading about it.
Mastering this technique could revolutionize you and your business. Check out the video below:
The world clearly has changed. Long gone are the days of Rotary Club and Elks Lodge America, and of Tuesday afternoon tea. Replacing them is the brave new world of social and virtual networking, of Linked-In, of Facebook, and of Twitter. And from a standpoint of access to and diligence of great deal flow, this is an extremely good thing.
It was this last question that really bothered me...the notion that you can simple complete a form online and have angel investors (or venture capitalists) flock to your company. Our research shows that the chance of an angel investor funding your business based on an online form is about 0.01%, or 1,000 times WORSE than the odds of getting into Harvard Business School.
Sure there are many sites that tell you to pay them, submit your plan or complete their form, and that your plan will be sent to thousands of investors. And each of these sites prominently display their success stories. BUT, these success stories are the outliers. They are the 1 in 10,000 businesses that got funding for one reason or another.
The FACT is that angel investors (and venture capital firms) DON'T invest this way.
But, the good news is that tons of angel investor do invest, and in fact, they fund 15 times more companies than venture capital firms. According to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, last year 55,480 ventures were funded by angel investors.
And because the public stock market has being doing so poorly, more and more individuals are considering angel investing.
So the angel investors and money is out there. It's just a matter of knowing how to raise angel capital.
From our recent research and having been raising angel and venture capital for the past decade, we uncovered all the ways that you and your business CAN raise this type of capital. And it doesn't include filling out forms online.