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"The TRUTH About
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The Internet has created great
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"Barking orders" and other forms of
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Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, October 7, 2011
Donald C. Harrison is no typical doctor.
He's perhaps the most financially successful cardiologist ever.
You may think his success is the result of his serving as the Chief of Cardiology at Stanford University for 20 years. But Harrison didn't achieve financial success by performing medical evaluations, operations or teaching.
Rather, Harrison achieved enormous success as an entrepreneur. I'm talking about some serious success. The first company he founded, EP Technology, grew quickly had an IPO, and was later acquired by Boston Scientific. And later he founded AtriCure, which he also grew rapidly and took public (NASD: ATRC).
Founding and taking two companies public is a massive feat, which very few entrepreneurs have achieved. So, anything that Harrison says is worth listening to; and listening to closely.
Recently, Harrison was interviewed by author Robert Jordan for his book, "How They Did It." My favorite answer from the interview is Harrison's dead-on response to the question, "What are the biggest mistakes that company founders make?"
Harrison's answer: "A poorly written business plan is a mistake, and so is a poorly organized presentation. When you're making a presentation, if you can't convince the potential investor within 10 minutes that you've got something novel or a solution to a problem and you're dedicated to doing it, you're not going to succeed. Most venture investors are looking at hundreds of opportunities, so you've got to clearly have an edge."
Now Harrison attributes his serial success not only to always having a solid business plan, but to other key points that we entrepreneurs should always keep in mind:
- Hang out with other entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial people. Harrison trained at the National Institute of Health with what he felt was a very entrepreneurial team. Without this exposure and entrepreneurial attitude he gained from it, he probably would have just been another cardiologist.
- Always search for a better mousetrap. Harrison says his mother used to say, "If you want to find a worm, you gotta look under many rocks." In business, that means you need to realize your first choices and/or solutions may not always work and you must be willing to try a lot of things to find the better solution.
- Find an unmet need and a problem, and fix it. When asked what the common element was for each of his startups, Harrison replied that for each, he found an unmet need and problem, and worked with others to solve the problem. I know this sounds simple; because it is. Even if you're a great entrepreneur (e.g., you know how to manage and motivate people, you have great marketing and sales tactics, etc.), if you have a me-too product or offer a product/service that doesn't solve a real need or problem, you're going to have a really tough time achieving the success you desire.
- Find multiple forms of funding early. One of Harrison's companies received early funding from a strategic investor (a large corporation). But when that corporation experienced an internal shake-up, it stopped funding Harrison's startup. As a result, Harrison's company nearly failed. Fortunately, he was able to scramble to find funding to keep his company afloat. That was the last time Harrison relied on only one source of funding.>
- Get compatible partners and employees. As a successful serial entrepreneur, Harrison understands that he can only succeed if he can find, train and motivate others to do great work. In one venture he took on a partner, and in doing so realized quickly that your partner must be completely compatible with you if it's going to work. (Most of you know that I have a partner at Growthink and if we weren't highly compatible, there's no way we would have lasted the past 12 years together). Likewise, you need to find great employees that have skills that you don't.
Donald C. Harrison's success should serve as an inspiration to us all. Few cardiologists have the entrepreneurial bug, and even fewer have succeeded as an entrepreneur.
Harrison did it twice. And both times he did it big time. His words of advice are simple as outlined above. Following them is a bit harder and require perseverance and determination; which I know YOU have by the fact that you just read this!
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, September 30, 2011
Recently, at the request of our PR manager, I had new headshots taken.
Not only was my existing headshot a couple years old, but it was unprofessional. It was taken by an amateur photographer in not-so-great lighting.
So, here are my old and new headshots:
I'm assuming you can tell that the one on your right is the new one. It was taken by a professional photographer who knew what he was doing.
Now, I'm not writing this essay to talk about branding nor the importance of a good headshot. But, rather, I wanted to talk to you about the importance of split testing.
Let me explain.
Every day, thousands of entrepreneurs visit my website. And many of them come to a page that shows the old picture of me.
So, let me ask you a question: when I change my website to include my new, professional photo, will conversion rates go up?
Will more people download my reports? Will more people purchase my products? Will more people fill out our contact forms? Will more people call Growthink's offices?
Fortunately, we track each of these key metrics. So we'll be able to tell EXACTLY what happens when we change the photo on our website.
So, do you think the new headshot will improve performance?
Well, if you said "yes" I think you're going out on a limb. Likewise, if you said "no" I'm not sure if I'd agree with you.
In fact, the only answer that I like is "who knows."
That's right, while you or I might have a hunch as to the effect the new headshot will have, in actuality, it might help, hurt, or have no effect at all.
We'll have to wait until a statistically significant number of people visit the website, and track the actions they take, in order to figure out the effect.
Importantly, this testing process is known as "split testing." Split testing is a marketing method whereby you compare a "baseline control sample" (my old headshot) to a "new sample in which one variable is changed" (the new headshot) and record the results.
Multivariate testing is the same thing, but when you are able to test multiple variables at the same time (for example if I had one web page that showed my old picture with the name "Dave Lavinsky" in red under it, and a second web page that showed my new picture with the name "David K. Lavinsky" in green beneath it).
Now the key point I want you to understand is this: by continuously using split-testing and multivariate testing on your website, you can improve results and create massive competitive advantage.
So, what should you test on your web pages? Here are a few things:
- Headlines: the headlines you have at the top of your page
- Colors: your background and text colors
- Text Fonts: font sizes and choice of fonts
- Graphics: the types of images you use (and whether you use images at all)
- Copy: the text you use throughout your page
- Positioning: where on your page you include your calls to action (e.g., top right vs. bottom center)>
- Price: the price at which you are offering your products/services
And when you think about it, the list of things you can test on your web pages is nearly limitless (e.g., adding live chat, adding BBB logos, etc.).
So, here's how it might work. You start with one page on your existing website where you either get most of your traffic, and/or to which you direct specific visitors. This is your "control page."
By installing Google Analytics or some other analytics package on your website, you'll be able to see exactly how this control page is doing. For illustrative purposes, let's say that the goal of your web page is to get visitors to fill out a Contact form, and that currently, 2.3% of visitors complete the form (i.e., your control page has a 2.3% conversion rate).
Then, you start testing variations of your control page (using a tool like Google Website Optimizer makes this easy). You try new headline text. You change the background color. You add new images, etc.
Some of these tests will increase your conversion rate, while others will have no effect or decrease your rate. You find the winners (those that increase conversion rates) and keep testing and testing more variations.
It would not be unlikely for your 2.3% conversion rate to double to 4.6% within a matter of just a few months.
Now, here's where it gets interesting and cool. Because your competitors have NOT split tested and optimized their web pages, they'll still be getting the low 2.3% conversion rate. So, for every thousand visitors, they'd only get 23 leads while you'll be getting 46 leads.
This will allow you to dominate your competitors. You will be able to out-advertise them since your website is so much more effective.
And, they most likely won't be able to "reverse engineer" your web page, since only you'll know the effect that each of the variables you tested had on your conversion rates. They'll be shooting in the dark.
In summary, I want you to think about your website. Whatever results your site is achieving today, they could be MUCH better. Simply by testing key variables, you can find the optimal mix that maximizes your leads and profits. And which leaves your competitors in the dust.
Suggested Resource: The Ultimate Internet Marketing System provides even more instruction on optimizing your website. Click here to learn more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 29, 2011
Generally I would not use the word "wisdom" and the name of legendary/infamous boxer "Mike Tyson" in the same sentence, but in this case I think it's deserved. Because his quote "everybody's got plans... until they get hit" is really important.
I'm probably stating the obvious, but to make sure we're all on the same page, here's what Tyson means: every boxer has a game plan when he (or she) goes into the ring. By the time he enters the ring, the boxer has analyzed his competitor and trained repeatedly in order to attack the competitor's weaknesses and protect himself against their strengths.
But, in the heat of the battle, when you "get hit," things quickly change. Your gut instincts trump your well laid plans, and anything goes.
Importantly, the same holds true in business. While I strongly support creating a business plan, things will NEVER go exactly as planned. And the key to your success is how you react when YOU "get hit."
What will you and your business do when you don't get the funding you expected? Or when a key employee leaves? Or when your number one customer goes elsewhere? Or when the economy tanks?
I have found that the entrepreneurs and companies that respond best to "getting hit" are the ones that employ mission statements.
What are mission statements? Mission statements explain what your business is trying to achieve. For example:
- Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- Kiva's mission is to connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty.
- And, since 1901, Nordstrom's mission has been to "offer the customer the best possible service, selection, quality and value."
Why do mission statements matter? For internal (e.g., employees) and external (investors, partners, customers) audiences, your mission can inspire and get them excited to be part of what your company is doing.
And, importantly, for internal decision-making, mission statements help as key decisions should be made with regards to how well they help your company progress in achieving its mission.
So, when your company hits a rut, rather than completely scrambling, you need to ask yourself what you should be doing to achieve your mission.
Your mission statement keeps you grounded. It helps you make strategic versus opportunistic decisions. Opportunistic decisions are ones that may bring in short-term revenues, but often guide you off course (these opportunities are often the "bright shiny objects" that distract entrepreneurs). On the other hand, strategic decisions are those that drive the company closer to achieving its stated mission.
When your company "gets hit," go back to your mission statement. Decide what has to be done to allow your company to achieve its mission. It is true when they say there are "many ways to skin a cat" or many different ways of doing the same thing. So, find new ways to achieve your mission.
If you can't raise funding, how else could you achieve your mission? Could you get another company to joint venture with you and provide cash and other resources?
If a key employee leaves, can you get them to still work on weekends? Could you find other human resources? Could you outsource parts of their job to a few others?
If you lose a key customer, can you find other customers? Can you identify why you lost the customer, and improve your product/service so you get that customer back along with many more?
If you have your mission statement set, and everyone in your organization knows it well, then you and your team will constantly make the right decisions towards achieving your company's goals. And even when you and your company "get hit," you'll get right back up, and move forward towards success without skipping a beat.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Monday, September 26, 2011
I recently had the opportunity to interview Adam Toren, co-author of the new book Small Business, BIG Vision.
Here's what he had to say...some great thoughts from a great entrepreneur:
1. How is your new book, Small Business, BIG Vision, different from other business books on the market?
Well, I don’t want to knock any other books out there, because there really are some great business books with very valuable information in them. But when we set out to create our book, my brother Matthew and I were very clear that we didn’t want to produce “just another business book.” So we looked at what was missing in the business and entrepreneur genre. What we came up with was the concept we used in Small Business, BIG Vision – a book packed with real, practical, actionable advice that any entrepreneur can put into practice immediately, on the topics entrepreneurs ask about most. Then we included profiles of highly successful entrepreneurs who have used the same principles presented by us in the book to achieve their own success. So the book provides useful advice, and then it backs it up with proof that it really works!
2. You profile successful entrepreneurs in each chapter of the book. What’s one profile that stands out?
Well, we have a lot of well-known entrepreneurs in the book who have done amazing things. We’ve got Matt Mickiewicz of SitePoint and 99designs, Gary Vaynerchuk sharing his insights on social media, and personal branding expert Dan Schawbel, to name a few. But one that stands out to me, who many people might not have heard of is Scott Harrison, the founder of charity: water. Scott has an amazing story, and what he’s been able to accomplish with his organization is truly amazing. One of the things I love about what Scott has done is that he’s applied the success principles of a for-profit startup to a non-profit company. His marketing and branding is second to none, and it’s really paid off. To date, charity: water has brought sustainable, clean drinking water to over 2 million people worldwide. As I said, it’s an amazing story.
3. What is one concept you hope everyone takes away from reading Small Business, BIG Vision?
There are a lot of important entrepreneurial concepts presented in the book. When we wrote it, we set out to answer the most frequently asked entrepreneurial questions, and I believe we accomplished that objective. If I had to choose just one, I would say that the overall theme of the book – that you need to create and follow a Big Vision, is something everyone should take away.
If you have a clear view of your vision and your planning creates the path to that vision, so many other things fall into place naturally. When a question of which direction to take comes up in your business (as they so often do), you can look to your vision for the answer. Which choice best supports you reaching the vision you have for your company? Asking that question makes decision making infinitely easier. Also, having a strong vision keeps you going when times are hard. If you can call up your vision in your mind and focus on that, it will help you to push through any obstacle.
4. How old were you when you started your first business?
My brother and I were in grade school. He was 8 and I was 7. Our grandfather Joe set us up selling little stunt flyers – super-light airplanes – at a local festival. It was a blast, and we sold out in a weekend. I still remember thinking that even though we worked hard, it was “easy money” because we loved it so much. That’s pretty much how Matthew and I still look at entrepreneurship. We feel very fortunate to do what we do. It’s hard work, and it certainly doesn’t always go according to plan, but there’s no doubt, there is nothing we’d rather be doing.
5. What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own business today?
If there’s a “formula for success” in entrepreneurship, it has to do with mixing passion with integrity and hard work. Whether you’re starting your first or fifteenth business, those three ingredients have the best chance of getting you to where you want to be.
Passion for what your doing makes the work fun and helps you get through the tough times when things aren’t going the way you’d like. Without it, challenges will seem bigger, and you’re more likely to throw in the towel when faced with problems. Integrity is a must for any successful business person. There is still a misperception out there among some people that business owners are all greedy and will do anything to get to the top, but the nothing could be further from the truth. The business owners I know and deal with regularly are some of the most honest, caring people you’ll ever meet. And they’re success is a direct result of their integrity. Last but not least, it takes hard work and perseverance to make it as an entrepreneur. There are no actual overnight success stories. Everyone who has found true success has done it through taking the right actions, and that includes working for as long and as hard as it takes, until you reach your Big Vision!
Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: "Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right" and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, September 23, 2011
The number of companies acquired in 2011 has been huge. In the online and mobile sector alone, the value of firms acquired has jumped 52% versus last year.
And the payout to these companies that were acquired: a whopping $43.3 Billion.
Why do I tell you this? Because selling your company is the "promised land" for entrepreneurs; selling your company is how real wealth is made.
Now, the $43.3 Billion paid for these companies didn't all go to the entrepreneurs who founded them. Investors and lenders took some of the money. And employees of the firms realized big gains too. But the biggest winners were the founding entrepreneurs.
In fact, 80% of pentamillionaires in the United States (those with a net worth of $5 million or more) are entrepreneurs who started and then sold their businesses.
Here are some acquisitions that have taken place in just the last few days in the online space alone:
- Online global travel network TravelShark acquired eat.shop guides, a publisher of local travel guides
- Social networking site Tagged.com acquired WeGame, a game discovery startup
- MarketLeader.com, which offers online marketing and technology solutions for real estate professionals, acquired RealEstate.com
- Women's media company Glam Media acquired Ning, the online platform for building social websites
- Google acquired the German daily deal site DailyDeal.de
- Marketing company Vertive acquired CouponCodes.com
And the list keeps going.
Now importantly, I want you to understand why each of these companies were acquired for big dollars. Here's the answer: each of these companies were acquired since the entrepreneurs who built them developed "VA's" or Valuable Assets.
You see, whenever a large company considers buying a smaller company, they make a "build or buy" decision. That is, they think, "how long and how much money and resources would it take for us to build what that company has already built." And then, they compare that answer to the price at which they could buy the company.
And when the larger company thinks that buying the smaller company is less expensive (in terms of dollars and time savings), they'll buy it.
Now, what VAs or valuable assets do buyers want? There are 20 core types of VAs that buyers want and will pay dearly for, such as: products, customers, intellectual property and quality employees.
So, make sure that as you build your company, you focus on building valuable assets so that larger companies will want to purchase you, and you can reap the full financial benefits of being an entrepreneur.
Suggested Resource: "Million Dollar Exits: How to Build a Business You Can Sell for Millions" is a free webinar that provides online training in building a sellable business. Click here to learn more about it and to register.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 22, 2011
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of helping thousands of entrepreneurs develop their business plans.
In fact, when you look at the number of business plans that Growthink has written for our clients, the number of entrepreneurs who have purchased our business plan templates, and the number of entrepreneurs who have downloaded our business plan guides, the number exceeds half a million.
This vast number has placed a large responsibility on me; mainly it has forced me to spend countless hours figuring out how entrepreneurs can most easily create their plans, and more importantly, how to ensure that their plans lead to success. And in terms of success, one key factor that's top of mind for me, is how successful these business plans are in raising money.
Importantly, in assessing business plans and their success in raising money, I have found a clear correlation between the maturity of your business and the importance of your business plan.
The correlation is this: the younger your business is, the more important the quality of your business plan when raising capital.
When you think about it, this is really intuitive. Here's why. Business plans are read by investors and lenders for risk management reasons. These money sources realize they are taking a risk with every check they write, and want to mitigate this risk. The business plan explains to them how the business will use their funding, and paints a picture as to the likelihood that they will get an adequate return on investment.
For mature businesses, the business plan is just one of several variables the investor or lender can assess in their decision-making. For example, if you have a mature company, the investor or lender can speak to your customers, analyze your financial history, assess your team members' backgrounds, compare your product to competitive offerings, and so on. As a result, if your business plan is weak but the other factors are really strong, your mature company may still receive funding.
On the other hand, for a new company, particularly one that doesn't yet have revenues, the quality of your business plan is critical; because it is one of very few variables that the investor or lender can review. The investor or lender can consider your business plan, the bios or you and your team, and maybe a product or service prototype if you have one. That's pretty much it.
Clearly, because raising capital is so competitive (i.e., the number of entrepreneurs seeking funding dwarfs the number of funding sources), entrepreneurs need all the ammunition they can get. And if you're not yet a mature company with revenues and a track record, that ammunition needs to go in your business plan.
Below are some tips to make sure your business plan is fully loaded and ready to penetrate the checkbooks of any funding source to which it's presented.
1. Always remember that your business plan is a marketing document
You need to view your business plan as a marketing document. You use it to convince a lender or investor to write you a check. It is not a stodgy 50 page document, but rather should be more like a brochure that gets the reader to turn page after page. They should be excited to get to the end, as each page should make them more and more certain that your company is a solid investment opportunity.
2. Write with confidence, but be careful of superlatives
Your business plan needs to give investors and lenders confidence that you will be successful. As a result, you need to write in an appropriate style.
For example, business plans should never say things like "we hope to achieve this and that." Rather, they should say, "we will achieve this and that" and "we are poised to achieve this and that."
However, at the same time avoid superlatives like "best," "greatest," "most powerful," etc., unless you can back them up. For example, saying that you have the "best management team" will turn off many investors. Rather, you should say something like, "our management team has the experience, skills and track record to successfully execute on our plan. Among other things, our management team has [and then list the credentials of your team]."
3. Answer the key questions, but not all the questions
The purpose of your business plan is not to answer every conceivable question that an investor or lender might pose. Rather, you need to answer the key questions that will get them excited about your venture, and influence them to invest more time meeting with you to discuss investment possibilities.
The key questions to answer relate to key sections of your business plan, such as:
- Who are your target customers, what are their needs, and how does your product or service meet those needs?
- How big is your market? What trends are effecting your market size, and how will that influence the success of your venture?
- What marketing tactics will use you to attract new customers?
- How much money do you need for your venture and why?
All of these answers should help support the main premise of your business plan, which is to prove to investors and lenders that your venture will ultimately be successful.
In summary, remember that unless your business is mature and has a track record of success, your business plan will be a critical factor in your ability to raise funding. And remember that your business plan is a marketing document. You should be proud of your plan, and know that when investors and lenders look at it, they will be nodding in agreement; and not throwing it in the trash pile along with the majority of plans they review.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, September 16, 2011
The Startup Genome Project just released a very interesting study.
In the study, which took 6 months to conduct, they gathered and analyzed data on over 3200 startup companies in the technology field.
Their goal: to identify the reason why some startups succeed, while others fail.
Importantly, in their research, they identified the ONE reason that stood out more than all the others for business failure. That reason: premature scaling.
So, what is “premature scaling?” Premature scaling is trying to grow your company too quickly.
Examples of premature scaling include:
- Spending too much money on marketing/customer acquisition before you’ve proven that your current product is the right fit for your customers’ needs
- Building “nice to have” features into your product/service before getting it in the hands of customers to get real feedback
- Hiring too many employees before you absolutely need them
- Not adapting your business model to a changing market
Six other key findings from the study include:
1. Invest in Mentors, Metrics and Education
The most successful startup founders invest in mentors, metrics and education. Startups that have mentors, track performance metrics, and learn from startup thought leaders raise 7 times more money and have 3.5 times higher customer growth rates.
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Pivot
Startups that “pivot” once or twice are much more successful. A pivot is when a startup decides to change a major part of its business. These startups raise 2.5 times more money, have 3.6 times higher customer growth rates, and are 52% LESS likely to scale prematurely than startups that pivot more than 2 times or not at all.
3. Consider Having a Partner
Founding teams with just one founder take 3.6 times longer to reach scale stage versus founding teams of two. Solo founders are also 2.3 times less likely to pivot. The most successful combination is having one business founder and one technical founder.
4. Take the Full Plunge
Founders that only work part-time on their ventures are much less successful. They realize 4 times LESS customer growth and raise 24 times LESS money from investors.
5. Don’t Underestimate How Long Things Take
The research showed that founders dramatically underestimate the time needed to validate their market (i.e., to get a product in the hands of customers to confirm their need). In fact, on average, the 3200 startups surveyed needed 2-3 times more time than they expected to validate their market.
6. Accurately Estimate Your Market Size
Startups that haven’t raised money overestimate their market size by 100 times. That’s a huge amount. The reason for this is that presenting to investors forces you to more narrowly define your market, and identify/prove the specific segment which will most want your product or service.
7. Raise Money for Your Business
As expected, the study found that not raising money, or raising too little money, was a key cause for business failure.
I think this study provided great information. But I don’t want it to go in one of your ears and out the other. So, please spend a minute right now to, based on what you learned, identify one or two things to add to your To Do list.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 15, 2011
Within the past week I have learned about two new programs to help entrepreneurs raise funding from individual or angel investors.
Will entrepreneurs successfully raise money with them? Yes.
Will they work for you? Probably not.
Let me explain.
It is every entrepreneur's dream to submit a business plan online and have investors magically appear and write them big funding checks.
But unfortunately, this is just a dream. It is NOT how investing work. Sure, it works sometimes, and perhaps one out of every thousand entrepreneurs who tries is able to find investors this way. But I'm not willing to bet on 0.1% odds.
There are two core reasons why this form of fundraising doesn't work. The first is that it's just too competitive. When investors only choose one investment after reviewing thousands, your chances of receiving that investment are small. Even if you are clearly the best investment, with all the clutter, you'll rarely win.
Secondly, there are too few angel investors that look at deals that are posted online. And as a result, few deals are funded. In fact, these investors (the ones who consider themselves angel investors and actively look at deals) represent only a tiny fraction of the total market for angel investors.
Which leads me to the key word in raising angel investments. That word is "latent." Here is how "latent" is defined:
1. (of a quality or state) Existing but not yet developed or manifest; hidden; concealed.
2. (of a bud, resting stage, etc.) Lying dormant or hidden until circumstances are suitable for development or manifestation.
So how does "latent" refer to fundraising? Because "latent angel investors" are far and away the BEST type of angel investor there is to fund your business. There are MILLIONS more latent angel investors than other angel investors, and they receive zero to few other funding opportunities. So your chances of raising funding are hundreds of times better.
So what is a "latent angel investor?" A latent angel investor is an individual who has the interest and ability to make an angel investment, but doesn't actively seek to make angel investments, nor walk around thinking of themselves as an angel investor.
Importantly latent angel investors represent the vast majority of the 265,400 individuals* who funded privately held companies last year (* according to the Center for Venture Research).
Latent angel investors are the best potential investors in a company since they have the funds to invest, but aren't bombarded with potential deals (unlike angel groups and venture capitalists who are constantly bombarded).
So, who are latent angel investors?
Most latent angel investors are current or former entrepreneurs, successful executives, or otherwise wealthy individuals. Importantly, since they are often individuals with extensive business experience who have operated and owned successful businesses of their own, they can often provide more value to your business than just the money they invest.
How many latent angel investors are there?
According to TNS Financial Services, there are 9.3 million households in the United States with a net worth exceeding 1 million dollars. Three million of these households, according to Merrill Lynch & Co. and Capgemini Group, have investable assets of at least $1 million, excluding their primary homes.
In summary, in the United States alone, there are 3 to 9.3 million latent angel investors, which fortunately, is a HUGE number.
How do you find latent angel investors?
You can find latent angel investors via:
2. Networking at events and through multiple degrees of separation
3. Focused Prospecting
Fortunately for entrepreneurs, angel investments are growing rapidly. According to the Center for Venture Research, last year angels invested $20.1 billion in early stage private companies, representing a 14% increase over the previous year. Once again, this was primarily fueled by latent angel investors.
The good news is that latent angel investors are all around you. But you're not going to find them by submitting a business plan online. Which is a good thing...since your plan won't get lost in the clutter of business plans submitted by naïve and lazy entrepreneurs.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Friday, September 9, 2011
A venture capital firm is a financial institution that focuses on providing capital, in the form of equity, to companies who offer them the prospects of significant growth.
The partners and associates at venture capital firms are known as venture capitalists. The term "VC" or "VCs" applies to both venture capital firms and venture capitalists.
Unlike angel investors, who invest their own money, VCs are professional institutions that invest other people's money. VC firms raise capital for their own funds from sources which primarily include pension funds, financial and insurance companies, endowments and foundations, individuals and families, and corporations.
The VCs are then charged with providing a solid return on investment on this money. This is the one thing that every VC wants. By providing a solid ROI to their investors, VCs earn bonuses and raise more funds so they can stay in business.
VCs earn returns for their investors by finding high growth companies, making investments in them at favorable terms, guiding and nurturing them, and enacting a liquidity event (e.g., selling the company or having it complete an initial public offering).
Because they are utilizing other people's money, and are judged and compensated by the performance of their investments, venture capitalists are extremely rigorous in their investment decision-making process.
Importantly, VCs tend to only invest in companies with significant market potential of $50 million, $100 million or more. This is because even with all their relevant experience, the average venture capital firm will lose money on half the companies they invest in and only break even on a third.
Where VCs make their money is on the approximately 20% of companies they invest in that see explosive growth and provide remarkable returns of 10 times to 100 times or more on their investment.
Industry insiders sometimes refer to the 2:6:2 rule. This rule is that an average portfolio of ten VC investments will include two losses (e.g., companies go bankrupt), six moderately performing companies (may break-even on the investment or lose a little) and two very successful returns.
In fact, an analysis by Bygrave and Timmons of VC funding found that just 6.8% of investments returned ten times or more on the invested capital (these "home runs" are what give VCs high overall returns). Conversely over 60% of investments lost money or failed to exceed the amount of money earned if the capital had been put in an interest-bearing bank account.
The result of this analysis is that typically a venture capitalist will want to see the ability to get 10X their money back or more from investing in your company (they are seeking "home run" investments which compensate for the 60% of their investments that don't pan out) . As such, for every $1 million you are seeking from VCs, you must show them a realistic scenario where you can turn it into $10 million.
So, importantly, when approaching venture capitalists, remember 1) their primary goal is to make significant money from investing in you; and 2) you need to show them how they can earn a 10X return.
Now, if your company can potentially give VCs a 10X return, then seeking venture capital might be right for you. However, raising it is virtually impossible if you don't know what you're doing and haven't done it before. So follow this plan:
1. Develop a list of VC firms.
Start by creating a list of venture capital firms.
2. Narrow your list.
Each venture capital firm invests based on particular characteristics (e.g., some only invest in software firms), so you need to make sure your list only includes VCs that are interested in your type of venture.
3. Make sure the VC is active.
Many VC firms that have websites aren't active. That is, they aren't making new investments. You don't want to waste your time contacting and talking with these firms.
4. Find the appropriate person to contact.
This is critical. Venture capital firms are comprised of individual partners and associates. If you contact the wrong one, you'll be dead in the water.
5. Send the VC partner or associate a "teaser" email.
You don't want to send the VC a full business plan or executive summary initially. Rather, you need to send them a "teaser" email to see if they are interested. You don't want to "over shop" your deal.
Once the VC "bites" on your teaser email, the next step is generally to send them your business plan. Following that you'll do an in-person presentation(s), receive and negotiate a term sheet, and then sign a formal agreement and receive your funding check.
The process is a lot of work, but once you receive their multi-million check with which you can dramatically grow your company, you'll agree it's worth the effort.
Suggested Resource: In Venture Capital Pitch Formula, you'll learn exactly how to find and contact venture capitalists, exactly what information to include in your presentations, and how to secure your financing. This video explains more.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, September 8, 2011
If you want to build a great internet marketing strategy, you need to start with great research.
Specifically, you need to understand:
* The keywords your target customers search
* The demographic make-up of your target customers
* The trends in your market
* What your competitors are doing
Here a five tools that I consistently use in conducting this research.
1. KeywordSpy.com (http://www.keywordspy.com/)
KeywordSpy allows you to see how your competitors are marketing themselves online. Among other things, you can see the keywords they are advertising on, their estimated ad budgets, their advertising copy, and what keywords they rank organically on.
This analysis allows you to identify where your competitors are getting their best online traffic, so you can replicate it.
2. Compete.com (http://www.compete.com/)
Compete.com allows you to see how much traffic a website is getting, how that traffic is changing over time, and how it compares to others in the market.
Within the premium (i.e., paid) features of Compete.com, you can see the demographic profile of the visitors to your and your competitors’ websites, and the sites that refer the most traffic to them.
This is really cool; particularly since if you know the sites which refer the most traffic to your competitors, you can contact them and try to get links to your website included there too, so you can "steal" some of their traffic.
3. Quantcast (http://www.quantcast.com/)
Quantcast allows you to see the demographic profile of visitors to your website and your competitors’ websites.
You’ll learn whether users tend to be male or female, the age breakdown of visitors, their ethnicity, whether or not they have kids, their income levels and their level of education.
If your competitors get a fair amount of website traffic, Quantcast can also show you some cool additional data, including other sites which visitors to your competitors’ websites also visit, and traffic frequency (e.g., % repeat vs. one-time visitors).
4. Yippy Cloud Creator (http://cloud.yippy.com/)
Yippy Cloud Creator is a relatively unknown tool that I came across a few years back. Simply enter a keyword and Yippy will show you other keywords that searchers of those keywords also search.
Let me explain. There are several research tools such as Google’s Keyword Suggestion Tool that allow you to search on keywords like “tennis racket” and see closely related keywords like “tennis racket reviews” and “tennis racket strings.”
Conversely, when searching “tennis racket” in the Yippy Cloud Creator, you see results such as “badminton” (showing that many people who search on “tennis rackets” are also interested in “badminton”) and Amazon.com (showing that many people who search on “tennis rackets” also frequent Amazon.com).
You can then use this intelligence to improve your online marketing.
5. Google Insights for Search
The final tool I want you to know about is Google Insights for Search, which you can access at http://www.google.com/insights/search/. To start, simply enter the core keyword (e.g., tennis rackets) that best represents the product or service you sell.
Then, using the “Compare by” and “Filter” fields, you can quickly see how the search volume for your keyword has changed over the past years, which cities, states and countries are most interested in the keyword, and related keyword search phrases, among other things.
Using these 5 tools will quickly give you a great snapshot of your market. You will better understand your customers’ needs, learn what your competitors are doing, and identify opportunities to better market yourself.