Written by Jay Turo on Monday, May 21, 2012
Obviously the Facebook IPO has absolutely dominated the business news this past week, and for very good reason.
Not only was it the biggest technology IPO in history, but the company in just a few short years has embedded itself into the very fabric of the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
And the tale of Mark Zuckerberg and that of the founding and the beyond supersonic growth of the business is exactly the kind of feel good, incredibly inspirational entrepreneurial success story that America and the world desperately need.
So yes, the Facebook IPO is greatly inspirational.
And its product is off the charts awesome - intuitive, fast, elegant, user-friendly software as a service that allows networks of people to share and connect with a speed, ease, and breadth like never before in history.
So Facebook is great. Facebook is cool. I have and regularly use my Facebook account as do a lot of people (though by no means most) I know.
But moving forward, as a business with real big legs, of that I am not so sure.
You see, Facebook falls into that category of things that are nice and interesting and kind of fun - all of which of course are very good things and ones on which you can build a very nice business.
Think fashion, music, and most forms of entertainment.
But does Facebook really feel like something that anyone really needs?
And it goes deeper than that.
You see, Facebook, for lack of a better word, for too many people, even its most active users, is actually quite annoying.
Now I admit that a lot of my evidence and thought process here is anecdotal, but really when was the last time that you asked someone their opinion of Facebook they came back with anything other than some variation of the below:
"I have an account but I don't really use it”
“I just don't get what the big deal is"
Or yes, the bane of all of our Facebook’s existence: "I just can't stand people on Facebook who just brag incessantly about how great their lives are and do so like 42,000 times per day!”
Okay, so there is a strong argument, like with many new technologies that all of us just really don't know how to use Facebook yet.
And as we do, the value of the product will naturally increase and the annoyance factor will go down.
But in the case of Facebook, I am not so sure.
The best analogy I have to make on this point - and not coincidentally, the company that Facebook is most often compared to - is Google.
Google, from its first days, gave users an experience that was both incredibly exhilarating and useful.
How many times have you interfaced with a Google search and just been blown away by the speed and accuracy of the results?
And here is the key point - how many times have you done so in an "economic" frame of mind - i.e. searching for a product or service for which you were in a buying mode?
This strong intent of most Google searches is at the heart of the unique usefulness for advertisers and thus the vast and awe-inspiring profitability for Google's business model.
Now let's compare this to Facebook.
Sure, it is interesting to see what some long-lost and distant connections are up to.
And yes, this "voyeuristic pleasure" does make the Facebook experience strangely and uniquely addictive.
But, is so doing really solving an obvious and pressing problem?
It is fine if it doesn't, but at the level of current valuation of the company, the assumption is that Facebook will be solving the kinds of problems that people would pay far more for than the very obvious, pressing, and actionable ones that Google search does.
My gut tells me this won't happen.
Facebook will remain a cultural icon, but as a big, public company its monetization prospects will most likely resemble that of other "nice to have" technology services that inevitably disappoint on their so very high expectations.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, May 14, 2012
One of the key objectives of the recently passed JOBS act is that it will “open” the now 11 years and counting "shut” window for initial public offerings.
Hopefully, it will help. Because golly, when it comes to the IPO market and public market returns in general, help is needed in a big way.
How bad is it? Since the Internet bubble burst in 2001, the number of IPOs hasn’t recovered to even 1980s levels.
That's 30 years ago, folks.
For perspective, before 2001 over 40% of all venture capital exits were via initial public offerings.
By 2010, that percentage had declined to a mere 3%.
Or, in hard numbers from 1990 to 1996, 1,272 U.S. companies went public.
For the period from 2004 to 2010 a mere 324 did.
Not unrelatedly, since the bottom has fallen out of the IPO market, the performance of the public market as a whole has been dreary to say the least.
Let’s call this the Boston Celtics phenomenon. Twice in the last 20 years the Celtics have had great teams decline as they “got old” as they didn’t sufficiently “re-invigorate” with younger, fresher players.
And aren’t our public equity markets - after more than 10 years now of only a handful of dynamic, innovative companies being added to them in any meaningful quantity - like that too these days?
The major stock market indices certainly seem to indicate so, with the Dow and the S&P and the NASDAQ trading today basically in the same range as they were 11 years ago.
So the hope of the JOBS bill is to encourage more “emerging” companies to take the IPO plunge via relaxing regulation and reporting requirements for smaller, younger companies as they go public.
Will it help?
…the bill will not in any way alter the technological and global macro-economic forces that:
A) Just make it far more interesting and possible for private companies to do and have everything that public companies do - from big multiple exits (see Instagram), to growth capital (see the robust world of hedge and private equity funds), to liquidity (see Sharespost, Second Market) - without the headache of a public listing; and,
B) Seem to indicate that even when companies do go public that it is almost a sign that their best innovation and growth days are behind, and NOT ahead of them.
Sure, there are exceptions, but in a world driven by SaaS, by open source, and by the “app store” phenomenon, the cost of innovation - and the cost to disseminate that innovation globally - has dropped so far and so fast that the days of needing a public market “balance sheet” to innovate seem long behind us.
What does it all mean?
Well, for investors seeking capital appreciation, it is critical to digest that the “big picture” vectors all point toward private companies that remain private being the main drivers of innovation - and thus growth - for as far as the eye can see.
Now translating this overriding point into a specific, private equity investment strategy is hard for sure…
…but the alternative of looking to public stock market investing as a true growth strategy long ago passed into the realm of that famous definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, May 7, 2012
One of the hardest challenges of those leading a business is keeping its “star players” happy, productive, and aligned with the mission and key objectives of the company.
This challenge is compounded exponentially in the Internet age - with fast shifting competitive and marketplace realities naturally necessitating that tomorrow’s key priorities and objectives will most certainly NOT be those of today.
As a result, it is almost impossible for everyone every day to be on the “same page.”
Even and especially when doing so seems to many in the company as being contrary to their personal self-interest.
And when these organizational “breakdowns” occur, the wise manager knows to proceed very carefully as these are the kind of “crowded hours” in which business success - and failure - are often defined.
So when this kind of trouble arises, the first suggestion here is to simply take a breath.
Things will fall apart, and even the highest performing employees, teams, and organizations will have their bad days.
Then, try to see these breakdowns as “positive crises.”
Crises that inspire the kind of reflective thinking that can drive organizational design and perspective breakthroughs.
Finally, never underestimate the power of engagement.
Everyone - especially star players - want their voices to be heard, their opinions valued.
Making this happen in an organization in a real, productive, and elevated way is hard and vexing work.
It can easily turn into unproductive airings of grievances.
Or perhaps most insidiously just into an unproductive distraction from the customer - focused work that is so central to the fulfillment of the mission of the company.
But when these “difficult” conversations are properly moderated and bounded, and related and connected NOT to shorter term “selfish” agendas, but rather back to the mission and ideals of the company…
…well, that is when the magic happens.
That is when a team, an organization, and even its most “selfish” star players, truly get on the same page and do great things together.
It may not last for long, and without the continued exertion of spirited and principled and DAILY leadership, it will soon fade away.
But for those that are serious about building companies to last, it is a necessary and ennobling discipline.
And as a lovely bonus, all this hard, principled effort often creates the kind of togetherness, the kind of collaborative elation that we all seek from our professional work.
And dare I say, from our lives too.
Written by Jay Turo on Wednesday, April 25, 2012
At the end of the day, we all want to close more deals and do more business. To do so, we have to be very convincing.
But often at that crucial moment, when it's most important to be convincing, 9 out of 10 times we're not.
Our most important messages have a surprisingly low chance of getting through.
I recently connected with #1 New York Times bestselling author, Oren Klaff, who knows the answer.
Oren’s book – the amazing Pitch Anything – is hands-down the best book on modern selling and deal-making I have ever read.
And I have read a LOT of them.
And it is driving a quiet “turn the tables” revolution on the relationship between buyer and seller.
But don’t just take my word for it. Here are what some of Oren and his method’s thousands of devoted followers say about his revolutionary approach:
“If you've ever come out of a meeting, conversation, or sales appointment with a "no", or "unfavorable" response from your audience or prospect AND didn't know why, then you may want to check out this book.”
“Oren cuts through old patterns of boring conversation that we all despise and breathes new life into the art of business meetings, presentations and pitches.”
“Oren Klaff has a dazzling ability to clearly describe totally new methods for presenting ideas.”
“Now THIS is the “Art” of the Deal – Trump’s got nothing on Oren Klaff!”
Oren put thousands of hours of dedicated research as what needs to go in every pitch, every presentation.
And he’s put it all in this new video.
When it comes to delivering a pitch, Oren Klaff has unparalleled credentials. Over the past 13 years, he has used his one-of-a-kind method to close deals, raise money and sell companies.
For the first time, he's sharing this method in detailed and eye-opening videos.
Whether you're selling ideas to investors, presenting to JV partners or pitching clients for new business, Oren's methods will work for you.
• How to give the "Perfect Presentation" - for an client, JV partner or investor - based on Oren's battle-tested and path-breaking formula
• 3 reasons why your emails, requests and pitches are being ignored right now
• The right way to get past the "gatekeeper of the mind" and grab attention when you need it most
• How to completely control a room - even if it's filled with strangers you just met (This part of the method is called "Frame Control" and it works).
Imagine you're sitting across from the one person who can help you secure the biggest deal of the year. Instead of listening to you, he's texting on his phone and then tells you he has to take another call in few minutes.
Your next move means the difference between big bucks or going back to the drawing board.
Have you been there? Oren shows you how to fix this problem here.
To your Success,
PS - I should also mention: Two years ago, Oren was pitching a Russian billionaire.
The billionaire asks, "Oren, give me vun last reason vhy I vould do this deal."
Oren looks at him. And says, "You know, this reminds me of the blue whale&hellip"
Find out what happened next here.
As a final thought: What would you do if you could get whatever you want from whoever you want in 20 minutes?
That's the power of Oren's STRONG pitch. His method is broken down into basic steps that are learnable and repeatable. This exclusive STRONG method can be put to use immediately:
1. Set the Frame
2. Tell the Story
3. Reveal the Intrigue
4. Offer the Prize
5. Nail the Hookpoint, and
6. Get a Decision
Each of these tactics can get you where you want to go. Used together, they make a potent cocktail for closing the deal.
Find out how to use Oren’s STRONG method here.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 23, 2012
The very high profile sale of Instagram to Facebook for $1 billion after just 13 short months in business (and no revenue) of course has entrepreneurs and investors scrambling to divine lessons and wisdoms for where and how to be and find the next “big thing.”
While Instagram’s meteoric rise and quick exit has great excitement and story-telling value, I would posit that we need to use a wider lens to find the real “actionable” intelligence and where Instagram fits into the larger ecosystem of companies with high growth and exit potential.
The catch-all term I like best for these kinds of companies is emerging.
It does not suffer from "commentary fatigue" nor opaqueness as terms like “middle market” or “venture-backed” or “SaaS” or “startup” or “small and medium-sized” do.
And it effectively carves out the large mass of startups and small businesses destined forever to stay small.
Webster defines "emerging" as follows:
1. To rise from an obscure or inferior position or condition
2. To rise from or to come out into view
3. To become manifest
4. To come into being through evolution
1. To Rise From an Obscure or Inferior Position or Condition. Emerging companies, in their most common and interesting form, are small and obscure.
Instagram was - at least for a very little while - just a couple of programmers with a dream.
2. To Rise From or To Come Into View. Far more common than Instagram’s straight up success, emerging companies are often ones that have fallen on hard times and are seeking to "rise from" their current distress via turning around and restructuring their businesses.
The real estate sector remains a treasure trove of these kinds of opportunities, as are industries like publishing and music. As adversity intensifies, so does emerging opportunity.
3. To Become Manifest: Here we need Webster's help again - to become manifest, or to be "readily perceived," or to be "easily understood or recognized."
Emerging companies are usually SIMPLE businesses.
They make things or provide services, and sell them for more than they cost to make or deliver.
And every quarter and every year, they just "chop more wood" and "carry more water."
It often isn't fancy nor often even terribly interesting.
Just reading the above it should be obvious that emerging companies are usually NOT venture capital - backed. They are able to pay for their growth through operating cash flow and thus do not need outside capital to finance their businesses.
4. To Come Into Being Through Evolution. This is perhaps my favorite because it references the essence of any business - the talent of its people and the quality of its corporate culture.
The best emerging companies are always run by a group of hard-working, thoughtful, creative, persistent, and fantastically committed owner-operators who devote their lives to their businesses for multiple, non-contradictory motives.
They want to offer true value to the marketplace with their product and service offerings.
They want to leave a legacy via building an enterprise of lasting value and character.
And they want to make a lot of money.
While popular business culture is fascinated with "golden boy entrepreneur" stories like Instagram, these are way more the exceptions than the rule.
Far more common are stories like Amazon, Kinkos, The Body Shop, Outback Steakhouse, or even Wal-Mart and Hewlett-Packard - companies that had long gestation periods, and many slow or no growth periods, before evolving to successful forms.
Look for the above qualities in companies worth backing.
Look for them quantitatively with the key metric of operating cash flow growth.
And look for them qualitatively in the mindset of management and in the tenor of the corporate culture.
It will take longer than 13 months, but if both the numbers and the business tone align and you can get in before the whole world knows about it, then you have yourself a winner.
Or, another way of saying it, an emerging company.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 16, 2012
A lot of folks are frightened by the word luck.
Especially for those of the capitalistic persuasion, luck can be a very uncomfortable word.
It can offend our puritan sensibilities.
Our sense of us as masters of our fate.
It can fly at the heart of that sacred concept of our American way of life, of the American dream, that if we work hard, we get ahead.
And if we don't, we won't.
Yes, shouldn’t our fate really rest not in our stars but in ourselves?
And then there is our entrepreneur.
Please let me add that I take an expanded view of who an entrepreneur is.
For me, they are not only those who start a new company - the classic man (or woman) with a plan entrepreneur, but they are anyone - in big companies and small, government and non-profits - that channel the famous words of George Bernard Shaw and do not just look at things as they are and say why but rather see things and ways of doing and being that have never been and say why not?
Yes, really all of us - at least every now and again - embrace this expanded “why not” definition of entrepreneurship.
And it is in these moments of idealism, of childlike innocence, that yes there is the kind of luck that every entrepreneur deserves to have.
It is the kind of luck Dave Lavinsky talks about in his upcoming new book “Start at the End,” that in the modern world, the old SWOT - strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis - really no longer applies.
No, Dave posits that our brave new world is a “SO” world.
One of only Strengths and Opportunities.
And in this world, every entrepreneur deserves the kind of luck that their hearts and minds are focused only on the bounties of opportunities that are everywhere around them and that they have the confidence and conviction in their strengths to go out and win them.
And it is in this space of "why not” that every entrepreneur deserves the kind of luck that is expressed in my most favorite of Growthink’s client promises - that we all honor each others hero’s journeys.
Journeys of business, of professional development, of philanthropy, of parenting.
Really of any project of importance and ambition.
And it is in this luxurious space of self-actualization that such a tiny percentage of our fellow human beings are ever afforded even a moment's time to be in…
…that every entrepreneur deserves the kind of luck that they stop and catch themselves and are filled with that even more luxurious space of gratitude to live in a world like ours where so much is possible and for so many.
And from this space of gratitude that we finally reach that so fundamental kind of luck that every entrepreneur deserves to have.
It is that so exalted place where it is not about what luck can do for you - how it can make you rich and famous and powerful - but rather what you can do with the luck.
With it, how we can build and do great things.
And touch and connect and inspire those around us.
And maybe leave this world just a little - or a lot – better place than we found it.
May we all be so lucky.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 9, 2012
"An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea, and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome. He or she is an ambitious leader who combines land, labor, and capital to often create and market new goods or services."
- Professor Arthur O'Sullivan, from "Economics: Principles in Action"
So who is and who isn’t an entrepreneur. First, the “obvious” entrepreneurs:
Individuals STARTING New Companies. New companies, startups of all shapes and forms, across all industries, all around the world.
Yes, the classic men and women with big dreams in their hearts and ambitious business plans firmly in their hands.
In the U.S. alone, this represents the more than 6 million new businesses started every year, and the many, many millions more contemplated.
Thank heavens for all of them - according to a famous M.I.T study new business starts account for more than 2/3 of all net new job creation.
And this power of entrepreneurial job creation, thank heavens has spread worldwide.
Take Peru, where over the past 25 years more than 1.5 million jobs have been created from microfinance loans (think Kiva.org).
Largely as a result of these thousands of points of small entrepreneurial flowering, the unemployment rate in that still very much developing country is now less than that of the United States!
Individuals LEADING Small Companies. Per that M.I.T study, the other 1/3 of net new U.S. job creation comes from "gazelles," - the 641,000 U.S. firms with between 20 to 1,000 employees. They, along with startups, account for more than 62% of all private sector employment.
Anyone that has spent even a day at a growing, middle market company can literally breathe the entrepreneurship in the air.
The best of them are led by deeply ambitious men and women walking the talk of American business.
Now very importantly, not all small business people are entrepreneurs. The key phrase in Professor O'Sullivan's definition when evaluating whether one is, or is not, is ambitious leader.
All of us know small business men and women - that while certainly possessing many wonderful attributes – for whom it would be a big stretch to describe them as ambitious leaders.
Now how about those that we don’t normally think of as entrepreneurs, but who certainly demonstrate daily the attributes and attitudes described in Professor O’Sullivan’s definition.
In some ways, those that do so in the contexts of bigger business, philanthropy, and government are even more impressive than our obvious entrepreneurs. Such as:
Individuals that are Accountable for Change and Growth at BIG companies. Into this category falls executives like Wal-Mart’s CEO Mike Duke.
Mr. Duke is certainly an ambitious leader with very significant accountability for risks and outcomes, $420 billion in revenues, 2.1 million employees.
Heck, growing Wal-Mart even 5% annually requires creating a company every year that would rank in the top 100 largest companies in the country.
Individuals with Leadership and Change Responsibility in Organizations of All Types. The challenges of leadership and accountability exist in ANY organization taking on meaningful and challenging objectives.
Bono, arguably the world's best known philanthropic celebrity, is an entrepreneur on two fronts.
First, via his commitment to world-class creative output as the leader of the mega-rock band U2.
And he is an entrepreneur, via his unique effectiveness as an activist and spokesperson for big projects - third world debt relief, and AIDS and African development issues, among others.
Other examples of “philanthropic” entrepreneurs include Gary McDougal – a former Partner at McKinsey - who later in his life re-engineered the broken Illinois welfare system and made it a model nation-wide.
Or how about Gail McGovern - President of the American Red Cross - who thinks and works entrepreneurially everyday to expand the brand and effect of the organization beyond disaster relief.
Global Entrepreneurs. Now more than ever ambitious individuals worldwide strive to not just be entrepreneurs per the American way, but to take the best of what we do and how we think and add to it and candidly, then to crush us. And I say more power to them.
Because entrepreneurship at its essence is about creation, and from Peru to Peoria the success of one accountable and ambitious entrepreneur anywhere results in a better life for all of us everywhere.
Yes, entrepreneurs really are the men and women the world over with plans, ambition, and accountabilities that make our world a wealthier, healthier, and all around more interesting and dynamic place.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, April 2, 2012
This week, the President is expected to pass H.R. 3606 - the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) bill, which includes provisions that for the first time legalize investment-based crowdfunding.
While the crowdfunding portion of the bill still needs to go through SEC rule-making, the die is clearly cast that a whole new social networking – based world of start-up and small business investing and financing is coming fast upon us.
So who will the winners be and who will lose ground once the new rules are fully live?
Well, the first group of winners will undoubtedly be the tens of millions of American entrepreneurs - and eventually hundreds of millions of worldwide - that for the first time in human history will have access to on-demand capital for their creative and future-focused projects and initiatives.
To envision this, visit (or revisit) Kickstarter.com, and browse through the incredible diversity of cause and passion - based projects, from charitable to design to artistic to technological, crowd funded on a donations basis on the site.
Then, layer in elements of the kinds of companies funded by angel investment groups and early stage venture capital firms – i.e. focused on hot technology spaces like mobile commerce, healthcare information technology and possessing fast-scaling revenue and thoughtful “Porter Five Forces-Friendly” business models.
Doing so will give you a good feel for what the first turn of investment-based crowdfunding will be.
But quickly following these early adopters will be the best of the best of U.S. small and medium-sized companies.
These businesses - think of the Inc. 500 list of America's fastest growing companies - are home to the most talented, hardworking, and just nose to the grindstone, money making and job creating entrepreneurs and executives in the world.
And, sadly and embarrassingly, these best and the brightest among us have been mostly abandoned by the U.S. banking system when it comes to funding their growth initiatives.
Well, for starters the very unfortunate “derivatives-focus” of the U.S. financial markets this past decade has resulted in an entire banking industry generation to simply not even know how to do the hard diligence work of equity and fundamentals-based investing in growth businesses.
Add to this mix banking industry consolidation causing smaller capital investments to just “not be worth the trouble” for way too big a swath of the industry and the sad reality is that banks are really no longer meaningful funding players in the small business communities in which they allegedly live.
Liberatingly, crowdfunding will allow smaller companies to simply bypass and disintermediate these broken financial sources altogether.
And to do so for such simple and each to grasp purposes as inventory and receivables financing, capital expenditures with shorter payback periods, and my favorite, for the kind of high ROI, Internet-based marketing and customer acquisition campaigns about which traditional bank underwriters wouldn’t even know the right questions to ask.
The result will be that American small business will innovate and grow faster, and oh yes have the wherewithal to create the jobs and pay the taxes that fuel our whole way of life.
And smaller investors will be winners too.
No longer will the best entrepreneurs with the best ideas and growth prospects only be available to be backed by the "1%" - the cadre of institutional and super high net worth individual investors that under current rules have a veritable monopoly on entrepreneurial investing.
With fully functioning crowdfunding markets, this high return world will be open to anyone with a few hundred dollars, an appetite for intelligent risk-taking, and an abiding belief in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to improve our world for the better.
And as a bonus, won’t it be nice for the media to cover just a little more about entrepreneurial and fundamental investment successes and a lot less of the tawdry, “give them bread and circus” spectacle of our state-sponsored lottery cabals?
And points to who the losers will be in this soon to come crowd funding world.
Let’s start with the aforementioned banks and other questionably value-adding financial intermediaries (think travel agents in the late 1990s).
But really, all those trapped in cynical, pessimistic and legacy – based financial thinking and being will find these democratized and re-vitalized markets quite threatening.
Yes, financial market change for the far better is coming.
Not as fast as any of us hope, but coming inevitably nevertheless.
So let's thank those few brave souls that have made it happen.
They are the new drum majors for justice and progress on whose shoulders we will all stand.
And oh, yes, profit from too.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, March 26, 2012
Thursday’s incredibly exciting news that the Senate approved H.R. 3606 - the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) bill - should hearten all that grasp the negative impact of the tangling knot of regulation on the flow of capital and the success of entrepreneurship in America today.
Included in the bill is H.R. 2930 - the Entrepreneur’s Access to Capital Act - which for the first time legalizes investment-based crowdfunding.
This is game-changing as startups and small businesses and investors can now directly (and socially) connect and transact investments in amounts as little as $500.
Correspondingly, these Internet-marketed, transacted, and settled offerings will be exempt from the Byzantine state-by-state rules that effectively prevent a regulatory compliant securities offering for anyone with less than a $100,000 legal budget.
The combined effect of these law and rules changes - once they wind themselves through the economy - will be powerfully transformative.
How much so?
Well, at a crowd-funding and private capital conference I attended last week, David Weild, former Vice Chairman of NASDAQ, and one of the most informed and respected observers of the US IPO market, made the startling observation that if the regulatory environment for IPOs and for venture capital and private equity financings was as it was in the late 1990s that the nation's joblessness rate - as opposed to being its current 8+%, would be less than 3%, or above the level of full employment.
As exciting, the amazing, networked power of crowdfunding will usher in a true golden age for U.S. startups.
What would this look like?
Well, try on for size quick and efficient financing for any project, any product, any company that a thoughtful and passionate entrepreneur, artist and/or cause-oriented activist can dream up.
And correspondingly, how about freedom for all those with the gumption to go for it to not to have to stay in a job they don't like just to pay the bills?
How about everyone - for the first time in the history of any society – living and working at the top of the hierarchy of needs and be about - and only about - self-actualization and causes larger than themselves?
In the words of the famed social scientist, Daniel Pink, how about all of us leading professional lives of full autonomy, mastery, and purpose?
Am I overstating the impact of one bill?
Am I not speaking to and about its drawbacks, especially to the dangers of fraud and to investor protection of the regulatory loosening?
No, I don't think so.
Smart people like David Weild, Vince Molinari, Michael Moe, Phil Reicherz, Dara Albright, and many, many others agree that fixing and updating for the Internet age the broken regulatory framework for our private and public equity markets is in the top 3 to 4 of all government levers to transform our economy for the better.
It is not as much a question of whether or not these law and rules changes will have this kind of impact, only of how long it will take.
So for those of you that despair for the fate of our world and of the inefficacy of our government and political systems, hold on just a little longer.
The arc of human progress is about to take a major upswing.
I can't wait.
Next week: Winners and losers in this new and coming frictionless financing and crowdfunding world.
Written by Jay Turo on Monday, March 19, 2012
Funding is the lifeblood of any small business. And it's getting tougher to find these days. Banks have become more vigilant about lending, and the vast majority of venture and angel funds are reserved for tech companies with big growth potential. The result is that far too many entrepreneurs can't start or grow their ventures—and can't provide jobs and new products and services to spur our economy.
Letting small companies sell equity stakes online would be a huge boost to those firms—like angel investing on steroids. The businesses would get access to tens of millions more potential investors, and could reach out to them at little or no cost through online outlets like Facebook. Then, if the companies won funding, they'd get a built-in base of customers who were strongly motivated to help the brand succeed.
Broadening the Base
Currently, equity-based crowd funding falls under strict Securities and Exchange Commission rules governing angel investing. That hinders broad-based online fund raising in a couple of ways.
First, the SEC largely limits private-equity investments to accredited investors—those with $1 million or more in net worth, among other tight standards. Only 35 nonaccredited investors are allowed to buy private equity in a company's offering. Second, the SEC prohibits general solicitation or advertising of the equity being sold. Unless the entrepreneurs or small-business owners have a pre-existing relationship with the angel investors, they can't try to sell them equity.
If equity-based crowd funding were legalized under the current proposal, those two limits would go away. So, entrepreneurs and small-business owners could target a much wider range of investors—say, for the sake of argument, the 51.7 million U.S. households with household income of $50,000 or above. And they could reach out to potential investors through venues like social networks that cost basically nothing and provide a global reach.
Raising money from a crowd provides other powerful advantages to companies. If a company raises crowd-funding money, it implies that there's real demand for its offerings. If not, most likely there's no demand, and an entrepreneur is spared the opportunity cost of starting the business (and then seeing it fail).
Likewise, equity-based crowd-funders are more likely to become loyal customers, as they have a vested interest in seeing the company succeed.
Crowd funding holds a big advantage for the funders, as well: It lets them participate in angel investing, whose returns have outpaced every other significant asset class over the past decade.
A Guiding Hand
Critics raise lots of objections to the idea. For one, they say companies need the help that seasoned investors can bring. But if companies need guidance, they can take on experienced managers or a board of directors. And raising money from a crowd initially doesn't preclude getting angel investments down the road. Lots of companies launch with credit cards, for instance, then make a name for themselves and catch the attention of angels and venture investors.
Further, critics argue that if companies must raise funds from a crowd, there are better ways to go about it, such as soliciting donations or raising debt capital instead of equity. But there isn't a strong enough inducement for people to donate; even if you offer them some reward, it won't be as enticing as equity. As for debt capital, there's a potential problem: It doesn't allow businesses the grace period they need to start building the company. Instead, they'd have to start paying it back right away.
Critics also see red flags for the investors. Among other things, they argue that crowdfunded companies won't be as carefully vetted or transparently documented as traditional ones. So, they say, lots of companies looking for money will be particularly risky bets for investors—if not unscrupulous operators that solicit funds and then vanish.
What's more, critics say, equity in privately held companies is nearly impossible to sell, except when the company itself is acquired. This may take many years, or never happen at all.
These concerns have merit. The answer, as with any investment, is common sense: People need to be aware that they may very well lose their money. They should do as much research as possible and protect themselves by holding a portfolio of investments, not staking everything on one company.
That approach will become more viable as more crowd-funding platforms are built and it gets simpler to track down investment targets. Those platforms will, hopefully, also introduce safeguards against fly-by-night fraudsters, such as background checks for entrepreneurs and business owners who solicit funds.
None of those concerns are a reason to block equity-based crowd funding. Whatever the risks of the approach, the economic effect it can have on America is much more profound.
This article was written by David Lavinsky, President of Growthink, and appears in today’s Wall Street Journal.
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