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.
The next time you get frustrated that the taxes you pay to the U.S. government are so high, realize that the government gives a lot of this money back to entrepreneurs. And one of these entrepreneurs can be you!
In fact, last year, the U.S. government provided funding to 69,434 companies through its Small Business Administration (SBA) lending program. And last month, the SBA stepped up its efforts even further to help entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Specifically, last month, the SBA created a new type of loan called the "America's Recovery Capital" loan, or "ARC." This loan is specifically designed to help existing businesses who are currently experiencing distress due to the economy.
What's great about ARC loans is that they are deferred loans. The funds are dispersed to you over a period of up to 6 months, but you are not required to make any payments until 12 months have elapsed since you were funded. Payback terms are up to five years.
The maximum loan principal is $35,000. And there are no fees to the borrower. And the government guarantees 100% of the loan to the SBA partner bank. Finally, the interest rates are extremely reasonably; only prime plus 2%.
To learn more about and how to get an ARC, SBA or other bank loan to fund your existing or startup business, instantly download our new report entitled "Growthink's Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Banks & SBA Lenders" here: http://www.growthink.com/products/loanguide
If you own an existing business, or are planning to start one, there is one organization who really wants you to succeed.
In fact, this organization is even willing to loan you money to start or expand your business. And they will give you this money with favorable interest rates and payback terms.
That organization is the United States government.
The U.S. government has learned over time that giving capital to entrepreneurs creates more jobs, improves the economy, and expands the tax base. All the things they really want to achieve.
Many years ago the U.S. government set up the Small Business Administration (SBA) specifically to make loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, the SBA currently has $45 billion in loans outstanding to entrepreneurs.
And, in addition to SBA loans, there are several kinds of debt capital that may be available to start or grow your business such as business lines of credit and traditional bank loans.
Each of these types of capital are covered in detail, including a step by step plan for getting these loans for your business, in our new report entitled "Growthink's Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capital from Banks & SBA Lenders."
Among other things, the report covers:
* The differences between raising debt capital and equity capital that you need to understand (Page 2)
* The important elements of loans and what you need to know BEFORE you look for one (Page 7)
* Exactly what lenders are looking for when they consider whether or not to fund your business (Page 9)
* The biggest misconception about loans that keeps many entrepreneurs from getting funded (Page 11)
* One easy, but seldom used trick to maximize your chances of getting a loan on the best possible terms (Page 12)
* The key types of loans and what you need to know to make sure you get one that's right for your business (Page 13)
* The best way for startups to overcome a key SBA requirement and quickly get the perfect SBA loan (Page 19)
* Assessment of every type of SBA loan to allow you to quickly determine the optimum one for your business (Pages 19 to 24)
* The hands-down fastest way to get an SBA loan (Page 29)
* Growthink's proven 6-step formula for getting an SBA or bank loan (Pages 32 to 36)
* The 30 U.S. banks that are most likely to loan money to your business (Page 37)
To learn more, click here.
Over the past decade, I have written countless articles on how to raise capital. I have taught thousands of entrepreneurs how to create a great business plan, how to develop a strong financial model, and ways to devise a slide presentation that gets investors excited.
And then, I have written extensively about how to grow your company once you have raised capital. Discussing how to motivate your employees to maximize their effectiveness. And how to find partners that can take your business to the next level.
But there's one thing I haven't written about. One thing that I've totally neglected. And this one thing can increase your effectiveness at ALL of these activities - from raising capital to performing all the tasks needed to grow your successful business.
For this I apologize.
So what is this one thing?
The answer is public speaking, and your ability to communicate ideas to investors, partners, employees and others.
I realized that public speaking was the missing key when I recently reviewed a unique book called "The Power Presenter" by Jerry Weissman.
And, I might not have read the book if it had not received so much praise from venture capitalists. These VCs have relied on Weissman to prepare them to not only raise money for their own funds, but to teach their portfolio company CEOs so they could raise future funding and better grow their companies.
So, why are Weissman's teachings so important? Because, your ability to present effectively and be a great public speaker is critical to your ability to raise money for your business, attract and formalize relationships with key partners, and build a highly motivated team among other things.
And importantly, Weissman's research proves that the content of your presentations is less important than your body language (most important factor) and your voice (next most important factor).
Allow that to sink in for a minute.
What this means is that when you meet with a venture capitalist, angel investor or bank loan officer, your presentation skills are more important than the content of your presentation!
This fact is a bit bothersome to me.
Why? Because it means that an entrepreneur who has great public speaking skills but a poor investor presentation and business model has a superior chance of raising capital than an entrepreneur with a great investor presentation and business but poor communications skills.
But, rather than me pouting about this seemingly unfair reality, let me tell you some of Weissman's keys to making you a better public speaker and presenter.
First of all, to reiterate, the most important thing influencing your audience is visual (i.e., your body language), then vocal (your voice and speaking rhythm) and then verbal (the story you tell).
Secondly, when you present in front of a group, your natural "fight or flight" instincts kick in. Your adrenaline starts pumping and you often get anxious and fidgety. The way that you act as a result of this poorly impacts your audience's perception of you.
To decrease your anxiety, use the following techniques:
1. Practice, practice and practice some more. The more you practice your presentation, the more comfortable you will be when you give it.
2. Concentrate. Just like an elite athlete, you need to clear your mind before the presentation so you can fully concentrate on the task at hand.
Important side note: many years ago, I had the pleasure of introducing entrepreneur and author Harvey McKay at an event. Before he went on, I saw him with his head against the wall talking to himself. I thought it was absolutely bizarre. But he used that technique to focus his mind and pump himself up. The result - he had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole time. It was truly amazing.
3. Shift Your Focus from You to Them. If you give a presentation and your best friend happens to be in the room, chances are that after the presentation the first question you will ask your friend is "How did I do?"
It is this mentality of thinking about yourself that makes people nervous. Rather, focus on the audience. Look at them and think "how are they doing?" This will allow you to present more effectively.
4. Focus on specific people in the audience. Whether there are three prospective investors or business partners in the room, or you are speaking to a room of 50 or 500, you need to visually focus on one person at a time. That is, pick one person to start and complete your first main point. Then you should shift to different people for each key point you make during the presentation. This helps you concentrate better and make sure you are focusing on the audience rather than on yourself.
5. Practice your hand gestures. Hand gestures often positively engage an audience. But, making hand gestures in front of an audience often feels awkward and uncomfortable. You must practice using them with "warmer" audiences (e.g., your friends, co-workers and/or employees) until they become second nature.
Like it or not, your public speaking ability and presentation skills are more important than the content of your presentations. As such, successful entrepreneurs need to master these skills. Use these tips to improve your skills, and remember to really practice all your presentations before the actual event. As you know, in most cases, you only get one shot at key presentations.