Growthink Blog

Be Like Mike...In Your Investor Meetings


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According to the book "How To Be Like Mike: Life Lessons About Basketball's Best," Jordan's practice habits and conditioning regimen amounted to an "almost alarming harshness."

In fact, many experts, such as Florida State University professor K. Anders Ericsson, argue that practice continually trumps talent. Prominent examples of success attributed to continuous practice besides Jordan include:

  • Bobby Fischer: yes, he became a chess grandmaster at the ripe age of 16. But, he had nine years of intensive study and practice before this.
  • Warren Buffet: who is known for his extreme discipline and the significant time he devotes to analyzing the financial statements of organizations he considers investing in.
  • Winston Churchill: who is widely considered one of the 20th century's best speakers; it is said that he compulsively practiced his speeches.
  • Tiger Woods: who developed rigorous practice routines from an extremely young age. He continues to devote hours upon hours each day to conditioning and practice in order to improve his performance.

These same practicing principles apply when you are selling your company and your products/services to investors, customers, partners and/or employees.

With regards to your elevator pitch, which is often your opening communications with all outside constituents, practice it over and over again until it flows from your mouth and causes prospects to nod in agreement and understanding each and every time.

With regards to your investor presentations, you should practice them over and over again. And when you practice them, you should think about the goals of your presentation and simulate the questions you might be asked.

For example, you should be thinking:

  • What is the outcome of the meeting that I am seeking?
  • What questions about my business will the investor have, and how will I most quickly and easily answer them?
  • What investment objections might the investor have and how will I overcome them?
  • What will be the signs that my presentation is going well, and how will I adapt if it is not?

By practicing your presentation over and over, you will get better and better at it. Just hearing yourself saying the words out loud will help. You will hear what sounds good and what doesn't.

Likewise, you should practice your presentation on real people -- your advisors, friends or family members. And after these mock presentations, ask them to recite back to you the key points you made. Importantly, make sure they recall the key points that you want to convey. If not, continue to improve your presentation content and your delivery until it reaches perfection.

A Great Tactic for Both Pitching Investors & Thriving On Twitter


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I attended a great online marketing conference a few months ago and learned a lot about marketing your business via Twitter.

The key Twitter advice that was given was to treat Twitter interactions just as if they were offline in the "real world."  That is, act just like you'd act as if you were meeting at a cocktail party.

For example, at a cocktail party you wouldn't go up to someone and start screaming "this is what I do" and "buy my product now." (A lot of people do this on Twitter.)

Rather, you would get to know the person, ask them some questions, and hopefully provide some valuable information and advice. This process builds rapport, shows them that you care about them, and positions them to reciprocate in the form of wanting to learn more about and support your business.

So, how does this relate to pitching investors?

Well, I recently read an interesting blog post by Nic Brisbourne, a venture capitalist based on the UK. The key message of Brisbourne's post was that entrepreneurs should pitch him as if they were pitching their best friend.

In doing so, entrepreneurs should:

  • Give the information straight
  • Keep it interesting
  • Deliver it like a conversation rather than like a fire hose
  • Try to inject some humor
  • Do as much listening as talking
  • Focus on the areas that your friend wants to hear about
  • Adjust the length of the pitch to the level of interest

Like in your Twitter conversations, it's not all about you. You need to listen to the needs of your investor audience before you pitch them. You must develop rapport. And you can't pitch, pitch, pitch. You need to slow down and deliver your pitch in a more integrated fashion (such as giving some information, allowing the investor to ask questions, and responding as appropriate).

So, before you speak with your next prospective investor, you should create a checklist in your mind. Make sure you understand the needs of the investor, make sure you ask questions and do a lot of listening, and make sure that you effectively convey your message without being overbearing.

How To Make Your 33 Wishes Come True


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I came across a very interesting advertisement in my Sunday paper the other day.

The ad was from a psychic named Maria that promised to allow you to achieve up to seven of 33 possible wishes.

Now, before I go any further this seemed to be a scam, and in fact, upon checking online, this psychic unfortunately appears to have been scamming people around the world for many years.

However, what I found really interesting was the list of 33 wishes that the advertiser supplied.

I figured that these scammers (since they probably have spent millions in advertising) did some research to ensure that these 33 wishes were universal; that is, that they pretty much sum up the wishes of most people. From a marketing perspective, this is something I found very interesting.

Below are a handful of the wishes on the list that stood out to me the most.  Believe it or not, I firmly think that each of us CAN achieve each of these wishes. So, below each wish, I have provided my thoughts regarding how to achieve them  -- without psychic assistance.

1) Sell or set up my own business

Start learning now to start, finance, grow, and exit your company.

2) Have a monthly income of $5,000.00

Start a business. Work hard. Make it successful.  $5,000/month is nothing if you have a successful business.

3) Win enough money to never have to work again

Build a successful company. Sell it.

4) See my kids do really well in their studies

Work hard in starting and growing your successful company. Because you are the boss, you can spend more time with your kids helping them. Your hard work will also provide the funds to hire a tutor as needed.

5) Be on TV

Once you've started that successful company I've mentioned a couple of times- hire a good PR firm.

6) Attract men/women

Working hard and being successful will give you the confidence to better attract members of the opposite sex.

In fact, the majority of things on this "wish" list...

  • Finding a job which is enjoyable and pays well
  • Be able to stop working with a substantial monthly income
  • Solve my financial problems once and for all
  • Get a new car
  • Travel around the world
  • Have enough money to help out my family
  • Retire with enough money to have no worries
  • Buy a boat
  • Buy a house
  • Go on a cruise
  • Have a house in the country
  • Success in an important competition
  • Be the friend of wealthy people
  • Never have any more money problems



..can all be attained by starting and growing a successful business. Let me repeat that - You can have virtually everything you want if you work hard and start and/or grow a successful company.

It's that simple. Anyone who falls for Maria the Psychic's scam should be ashamed of themselves.  Success simply does not come without hard work.

I have, unfortunately, seen people work very hard for others and not achieve the success they wanted.  That is why starting your own company is so critical if you have not already done so.

Work hard. Work smart (I consider working "smart" as investing in expert information that allows you to choose and complete your tasks more effectively and efficiently). And most of those 33 wishes WILL come true.


Kirill Makharinsky & How To Predict A Startup's Success


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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.


The Creative Fundraising Strategy That Became a Successful Business


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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:

 

 

 


An Interview with Brette Simon, Partner at Jones Day


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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.


Capital Raising Bootcamp - Registration Now OPEN


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I’m excited to announce that today is the first day of registration for the Capital Raising Bootcamp!

To register your spot, go here.

And here are a couple of important updates about the Bootcamp.  

Update #1: I realize it’s the middle of summer, and many of you have probably planned vacations – or may even be on vacation right now (lucky you!).  To account for this, I’ve decided to provide recordings and transcripts as an added bonus when you register, in case you have to miss all or part of one of the sessions.  

Update #2:  I’ve decided to add an extra day to the Capital Raising Bootcamp curriculum, to allow for questions-and-answer time.  I’m going to dedicate this 4th day (Friday August 7th) entirely to Live Q&A.  

So, now, the finalized Capital Raising Bootcamp curriculum/schedule is as follows:

Day 1: Tuesday, August 4th:  Essential Overview of Raising Capital
Day 2: Wednesday, August 5th:  Venture Capital and Angel Funding
Day 3: Thursday, August 6th:  Debt, Grants, and Creative/Alternative Financing
Day 4: Friday, August 7th: Questions and Answers

(Each session runs from 2:00pm EST to 3:30pm EST).

Remember: There are only 50 spots available.  

We are putting a strict limit on registration in order to make the experience as valuable as possible for each participant – and, most importantly, to allow enough time for each person to have his or her questions answered during the Q&A time.  

To register go here.





Creative Business Finance: The Story of the Chihuahua & The $1.5 Billion Man


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I'd like to tell you brief story about a Chihuahua who was taken along on a safari vacation. The story is important as it probably holds the answer to your capital-raising needs.

On the first day of the Chihuahua's trip, the Chihuahua wandered off too far and got lost in a bush. Unfortunately, within minutes, the Chihuahua encountered a very hungry looking leopard.

Realizing he was in trouble, but, noticing some fresh bones on the ground, the Chihuahua started to chew on them, with his back to the leopard. As the leopard was about to leap, the Chihuahua smacked his lips and exclaimed loudly, "Boy, that was one delicious leopard. I wonder if there are any more around here."

The leopard stopped mid-stride, and slinked away into the trees.

"Phew," said the leopard, "that was close - that evil little dog nearly had me."

A monkey nearby saw everything and thought he'd win a favor by setting the leopard straight.

(Fortunately, the Chihuahua saw the monkey go after the leopard, and guessed he might be up to no good.)

When the leopard heard the monkey's story, he felt angry at being made a fool, and offered the monkey a ride back to see him get revenge.

As the leopard and monkey approached, the Chihuahua once again turned his back and pretended not to notice them. And when the pair got within earshot, the Chihuahua said aloud, "Now where's that monkey gone? I sent him ages ago to bring me another leopard..."

The moral of the story is that the Chihuahua survived because he was creative, and because, the second time, he planned ahead.

The same is true when it comes to financing your business. While most entrepreneurs are extremely creative when it comes to coming up with unique business ideas and marketing plans, they tend lack creativity in the area where they need it most - fundraising.

Remember, without adequate capital, even the best business and marketing ideas will fail.

Fortunately, I am just about to release Growthink's "Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources."  The report gives you a detailed overview of the twelve most common types of capital used to start and grow business. And then, it provides twenty-eight (28) creative and alternative sources of financing that resourceful entrepreneurs have used to more easily finance their businesses.

One of the stories in the Guide is one of my favorites...the one about Kenneth Cole. Well before global retail sales of Kenneth Cole products reached $1.5 Billion last year, Kenneth Cole was a struggling entrepreneur with no money.

But he believed in himself and his designs, and used his creativity not only on his products and his marketing, but on his financing plan. Cole's plan was this - to find a struggling shoe manufacturer in need of customers (because the economy was weak then like it is right now) to manufacture his shoes on consignment. That is, Cole would only have to pay for the shoes AFTER he sold them.

Well, Cole was able to easily find the manufacturer who financed his business buy giving him hundreds of thousands of dollars of shoes. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you are seeking financing for your business, and you have not devised a creative plan to raise capital, I urge you to learn these great, creative financing ideas and use them to raise money for your business.

I will be releasing this report later this week. But I prefer it if you start right now. Take out a sheet of paper and write down your creative ideas to raise capital. Then, later this week, I'll give you 28 more ideas so you can complete your list, figure out which sources you are most comfortable raising money from, and begin financing and really growing your business.

Creative Business Financing Techniques - Donations


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One neat thing about helping entrepreneurs fund their businesses is that whenever someone comes up with a cool way to finance their business, I end up hearing about it.

Whether they email me directly, or someone else finds out and lets me know, it always ends up in my inbox. Which is a good thing.

For years, I’ve been keeping track of these emails and stories and have decided to put together a report. The report, which will be called Growthink’s “Definitive Guide to Creative & Alternative Financing Sources” will detail tons of ways to finance your business that you probably don’t know about or haven’t considered.

One such creative financing technique is using donations. Months ago I received an email about a horoscope website, Birdielawson.com, which solicited donations from its visitors. The site has generated thousands of dollars in funding from these donations. And it’s using these donations to grow further.

Another great example of donation financing is FeedDigest. FeedDigest was founded by entrepreneur Peter Cooper in 2004. At that time, Cooper added a PayPal button to his website and asked users of his website to donate money.

His visitors subsequently donated enough money to allow him to start really growing the company. Soon after, an angel investor wrote him a check for even more money. FeedDigest grew and grew based on those investments, and in August 2007 was acquired by Informer Technologies, Inc.

And finally, perhaps the most famous recent example of donation financing is Wikipedia which has raised several million dollars in donations to date.

So, if you have a website (if not, you should create one), one source of capital that you should consider is donations. Soliciting and accepting donations is as simple as creating a PayPal account and adding a PayPal button to your website.

Alternative Business Financing: 40 Tactics to Employ


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Did you know that when I started Growthink ten years ago, I knew very little about raising capital?

Sure, I knew a lot about raising venture capital, but I didn’t know much about financing sources like angel capital or SBA loans. And I knew virtually nothing about creative and alternative financing sources. In fact, since starting Growthink, I have uncovered 40 tried-and-true ways that entrepreneurs can fund their businesses. Most of these ways I had never heard of before. But they work.

Now I’d like to share them with you.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be teaching a select group of entrepreneurs all about these 40 financing sources in a unique multi-part teleclass.

Why is it important to know all of these options for raising capital? You might be thinking “But I just need a loan right now,” or “I’m just looking for angel capital,” or “I know that venture capital is right for me.”  

Knowing these 40 options provides you with the flexibility you need to raise capital from multiple sources NOW. it also gives you the ability to raise various rounds of capital in the future.

The truth is, most successful businesses utilize at least 3 types of capital, and usually a combination of debt and equity, as well as “creative” or alternative financing.  If you’re only using 1 type of capital, but your competitors have access to several types of capital, you’re at an automatic disadvantage. 

More importantly, not knowing about these 40 financing sources, and going after the WRONG sources of capital, is the #1 reason why most entrepreneurs enter the “death spiral.”

What is the “death spiral”? Well, the death spiral is the unfortunate process that typically occurs when an entrepreneur has a great idea and needs money to execute on it.

The death spiral has four parts:

1. The entrepreneur learns a little bit about how to raise money.
2. The entrepreneur gives a whole or half-baked effort to raise money.
3. The entrepreneur fails to raise capital (in fact, they fall flat on their face) because they don’t fully know what they’re doing and/or go after the wrong funding sources.
4. The entrepreneur’s dreams die and they return to their 9 to 5 job.

If you want to avoid the death spiral, and raise funding for your business, I will teach you how to do it. As mentioned, later this month, I will be offering a unique multi-part teleclass that teaches entrepreneurs like you how to really raise capital.

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