Growthink Blog

Web 2.0... Still? Trends in Early Stage Financing


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It's almost mid-way through 2008 and the investment ideas that VCs are excited about sound awfully reminiscent of those that were hot two, three years ago: digital media, social networking, Web 2.0 companies. In fact, when asking most VCs what sectors they are actively pursuing, the only one that sounds vaguely zeitgeisty is clean/green technology.

While the sectors that VCs are looking at may have remained the same over the past several years, their approach to them has changed. Very little "traditional" VC investing actually takes place anymore, so VCs need to be guaranteed returns of 200% or 300% of their investments in order to make a play. If your company can only offer 20% or 30% returns to an investor, it is better suited for an earlier stage investment from an angel investor or friends and family.

However, angel investors should always expect to get diluted in a valuation or further investment of the company. Some guidelines follow:

  • 20%-30% of a bridge loan should be expected to be given up as a discount to angels

  • With strategic capital, anywhere from 10%-50%, with an average of 20%-30% can be given up

Also, VCs anticipate company valuations to come down in line with the recent credit crunch, with an expectation that deal valuations will drop as credit markets tighten. Based on the current market environment, cash is king.

13 Costly Feasibility Study Mistakes ...And How To Avoid Them


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To make your new venture succeed -- whether you are creating a new product, constructing a hotel, or developing a community center -- you must convince investors and/or management to fund your initiatives.

Feasibility studies play a critical role in this early planning and fundraising process.

A feasibility study is a detailed investigation and research analysis of a proposed venture or development project. The purpose of a feasibility study is to determine whether it is technically and financially feasible to move forward with a new project.

An effective feasibility study demonstrates the following:

  • That your ideas are sound

  • That there is a need for your venture

  • That your execution plan is practical


To help you navigate through the feasibility study development process, we have just released a special report titled:

13 Costly Feasibility Study Mistakes – And How To Avoid Them


In this free report, you will learn:

  • The key mistakes to avoid when conducting a feasibility study

  • The important difference between “data” and “intelligence”

  • How entrepreneurial over-confidence can doom a feasibility study


Click here to download the report.


Secrets of Investing in Startups and Emerging Companies


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We just released a white paper titled "Secrets of Investing in Startup and Emerging Companies." It provides tips and advice for those looking to make early stage investments in private companies.

We're releasing the report in the midst of strong "angel" investing activity in the United States. According to the University of New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research, in 2006, there were approximately 234,000 active individual angel investors and approximately 49,500 private companies which received funding from individual investors.


Early stage angel investment can produce stratospheric returns on investment. Our report cites the famous example of Google's first private investor, Andy Bechtolsheim, who wrote a $100,000 check to Google in 1998 when it was an early stage private company. That $100k investment grew to be worth $1.5 billion.

And, according to more than 20 years of data collected by Thomson Financial, early and seed stage private company investing has over the long-term, outperformed all other investment classes -- with average annual returns of over 20.6%.

The report provides an overview of private investing, including its benefits and risks, and key advice for successfully investing in early stage private companies, including:

- How to Find, Evaluate, and Profit from Early Stage Investment Opportunities
- How to Position Yourself to Earn Outsized Returns
- How to Mitigate Your Risk Through Diversification and Investment Monitoring

To download the report, please follow this link: Secrets of Investing in Startups and Emerging Companies.


Growthink Client in the News: DCIP


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Last week, several theater chains and studios announced they were nearing an estimated $1.1 billion financing deal to upgrade cinemas to digital technology. This investment is expected to boost attendance and save Hollywood billions of dollars in various annual print and delivery costs.

"We're hopeful that in the second quarter we will get it all arranged," said Travis Reid, chief executive of Digital Cinema Implementation Partners (DCIP).

DCIP is a joint venture between Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark Holdings Inc and AMC Entertainment Inc.

Growthink assisted in the development of the strategic business plan for the joint venture.

Read more about DCIP and digital cinema technology here and here.


7 Ways To Be More Attractive To Lenders


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It's always said that access to funds is the life blood of any company. Going out and securing outside financing to help grow a business is an important step in the life of an emerging organization. Keep in mind, the process of commercial borrowing is best done in preparation for needing the capital, rather than when the request is made in a dire situation. Here are some necessary tips to keep in mind when preparing to seek a loan.

1. Bookkeeping – Install accounting software so you can produce up to the moment financial reports including Balance Statement and Profit Loss Statement. These reports will give the Lender a snapshot of the current financial condition of the company. It also assures that you know enough about accounting to understand the internal cash flows.

2. Customer Credit – Show you have a process in place to check the credit of all your customers. Learn how to avoid issuing credit for more than they are qualified. Sales to customers are what business is all about. Knowing the difference between a solid customer and a bad credit is crucial to long term stability.

3. Borrowing Amount – Know how much capital the business requires to operate. Whatever the business does, whether provide a service or sell a product, you must be aware of the profit margin on these activities. You should have a solid business plan in place with budgets where you can determine the potential short fall and take precautions through financing.

4. Purpose –
Your business plan needs to be able to show a purpose for using the capital. This must be very specific. The more details you can provide on where the loaned money will be employed, the better the Lender can determine the viability of your plan. By admitting potential problems and offering contingency suggestions, your business plan will have added dimension.

5. Repayment – In the business plan, give a reasonable timeline for the repayment of the loan. Preparing cash flow Performa will show the road map to ultimate success and profitability. Again, incorporating contingency budgets will help to mitigate potential risk.

6. Team – Make sure the owners, managers have strong bio’s and thorough knowledge of the industry. The Lender must have confidence that the operators of the business plan can perform based on their experience.

7. Loan package – Do your homework, and put all this together with your business plan into a binder so a lender can easily see who, what, where, how this company will deal with a loan. By being pro-active through the entire process you will become a more attractive prospective client to a Lender, and therefore will have some bargaining leverage with regards to the terms of the loan. It’s always a good idea to get involved with a professional to help you through the process.

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Guest post by Creative Capital Associates, a leader in account receivables financing.

Learn more about commercial financing here.


The U.S. Hispanic Market: Untapped Opportunity for Los Angeles Business


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The U.S. Hispanic market, combined with the number of successful small businesses in Los Angeles, means that regardless of the fluctuations of the stock exchanges, opportunities continue to germinate on our doorstep.

Companies that create products and services for the U.S. Hispanic Consumers will continue to enjoy impressive growth, increasing revenues and expanding markets.

Our optimism on the potential of U.S. Hispanic consumers to be promising partners to enterprises astute enough to provide a range of solutions—from credit cards to Internet connectivity—which embrace the needs and aspirations of U.S. Hispanics, is based on three powerful trends which have transformed 44.3 million U.S. Hispanics from a group long ignored by the majority of American businesses into an empowered and emerging market.


1. The U.S. Hispanic Economy – An Emerging Market Right Here At Home

Together, 44.3 million U.S. Hispanics constitute their own sizeable, secure and financially empowered domestic emerging market that the 245,000 businesses based in greater Los Angeles businesses should be serving today. U.S. Hispanic consumers possess several important advantages typically seen in consumers in foreign emerging markets: rapidly rising incomes, which are fueling a surge in demand for consumer goods and services.

The average age of U.S. Hispanics is a young 27.4 years, giving this group the advantage of time to build wealth—and for companies to develop lifelong loyal customer bases – loyalty being a hallmark of the Hispanic consumer. In 2007, Hispanic consumers will spend $800 billion dollars, a figure that is on track to reach $1.5 trillion by 2012.

And this particular emerging market enjoys an additional asset that consumers in foreign emerging markets can as of now, only dream about: U.S. Hispanics are creating economic opportunity in a nation where laws governing employment, financial transactions, private and intellectual property are strongly enforced. These advantages provide entrepreneurs with a level of security crucial to making investment decisions, which develop new products, expand capacity and provide high levels of services to their customers.

Clearly all companies—here in Los Angeles and throughout the U.S—must develop strategies and services appealing to a group, which is moving en masse, from aspiration to affluence.


2. Capital: The Cornerstone of Success

Providing entrepreneurs who are leading early and middle stage companies with access to the appropriate types of investment capital – especially in the $2 million to $5 million range – and the advice critical to building successful businesses — rather than a slowdown in consumer spending—presents the greatest challenge to growth.

Even those beginning stage companies with deep and proven knowledge of their markets have difficulty raising the investment capital needed for establishing a strong consumer presence and market share. Growthink’s expertise in providing capital and counsel to early and expansion stage companies has been vital to the success of Los Angeles-based, early stage enterprises such as Authenticlick, a developer of fraud detection software and Xcom Wireless, a creator of wireless routing technologies.

Growthink’s involvement with both companies was comprehensive. First we helped each enterprise identify a profitable but unrecognized opportunity to serve their target markets. Then, working with their leadership teams, we developed a business structure adaptable to potential changes in the target market and a range of capital solutions, which transformed Authenticlick and Xcom from promising ideas into thriving, venture-backed enterprises.


3. Plan and Prosper Now

Between 2005 and 2006, fifty-percent of the people added to the U.S. population were of Hispanic origin. Today 13.1 million Hispanics call California home. By 2050 Hispanics will make up twenty-four percent of America’s population.

Can you name one business that succeeded by ignoring one-quarter of its potential customers? Neither can we.

For Los Angeles businesses, Hispanic consumers present a rich opportunity for growth—and a vital shelter from the possibility of recession we’re seeing in the statistics and signals coming from Washington and Wall Street. Business cycles are a natural component of free markets. But so is opportunity. And the opportunities available to Los Angeles companies embracing the potential of the domestic U.S. Hispanic market will only grow stronger, more diverse and profitable.


Growthink Client Dakim Secures $10M+ in Series C Funding


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We were thrilled to see that Dakim has raised $10.6 million in Series C financing, in a transaction led by Galen Partners.

Dakim is an innovated provider of brain fitness technology to improve the quality of life for Alzheimer's patients.

Growthink assisted Dakim in the drafting of their business plan, and in assessing the market for non-drug Alzheimer's-related products and services -- so we're especially proud of the company's success. We're happy that we've been able to play a role in their growth.


What Should Your Due Diligence Binder Include?


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Excellent post on PureVC (www.purevc.com) regarding the key elements of a due diligence (or background materials) binder for a company seeking financing. The short list of the key elements for the binder are:

1. Background of the company
2. Background of management
3. The Company's Business plan
4. Audited and unaudited financials since company inception
5. Management discussion of company performance
6. Capitalization Table
7. Leases
8. Employment agreements
9. Purchase or sale agreements
10. Previous letters of intent

The post goes on to discuss issues of confidentiality - which and to what detail of the items above to make publicly available and which to disclose only after confidentiality agreements have been executed. A good workaround is to have shortened, publicly circulable versions of the above, with sensitive detail withheld until under non-disclosure. The full post can be seen here.


SEC Shortens Holding Period for Rule 144 Stock


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Pointing to our theme here of both markets and the regulatory environment adjusting favorably for the small cap public and the private company investment markets, today the SEC reduced the holding period for Rule 144 restricted stock from one year to six months.

The change will greatly help smaller public and private companies raise capital by easing the liquidity concerns of outside investors in these companies. Liquidity concerns are one of the biggest, if not the biggest, challenges to overcome in securing investment in private placement transactions.

Quite simply, this change is great news and in our view will be part of a theme we will see over the next few years to ease the regulatory burden on smaller company financings.

Read the article here on the change.


Raising Capital: Why Is It So Difficult?


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Raising capital for a startup or small business is without question one of the most challenging aspects of growing a business. The stories are manifold of entrepreneurs and small business owners becoming both frustrated and discouraged by the amount of time it takes to secure capital, the rejections they endure, and the lack of linearity and progress checkpoints over the course of the fundraising process. Complaints we hear repeatedly from entrepreneurs regarding fund raising include the following:


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