Growthink Blog

Is There VC Money Out There?


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Sometimes it feels like you’re just spinning your wheels. This is how I felt a few years ago when I was helping one of my clients raise VC (venture capital) funding. The client was an early-stage, Southern California-based networking company…

I started by creating what I felt was an awesome VC prospect list with 455 prospective investors.

The list looked like this (number of prospects in parentheses):

  • Priority A: Strategic/Corporate Investors (24)
  • Priority B: Most Active Southern California Investors (24)
  • Priority C: Active Southern California Investors (25)
  • Priority D: Most Active Networking Investors CA-based (72)
  • Priority E: Active Networking Investors CA-based (88)
  • Priority F: Most Active Networking Investors U.S.-based (46)
  • Priority G: Active Networking Investors U.S.-based (176)

The list itself took me days (and a proprietary database) to compile. As any direct marketer knows (and raising capital is direct marketing), the quality of the list is everything. For example, if you’re trying to sell a franchise opportunity to folks at a nursing home, you’re not getting any buyers no matter how good the opportunity is!

Armed with my list and my teaser email (teaser email = solicits interest without giving away the farm), I started calling and emailing investors.

And I had lots of early success.

We had about 20 first meetings with strategic and venture capital investors. And the result... nothing.

We only got about 5 investors who explicitly said “no” but the others weren’t quite ready to write us a check.

So, naturally I started getting discouraged. As you can imagine, I had already invested over one hundred hours on this project and had no multi-million check to show for it.

But fortunately I remained persistent, and eventually one investor referred me to another investor (which, believe it or not, was not on my list of the top 455 prospective investors!!!!) who wrote us a $3 million check.

I bring up this story since I’ve been getting a lot of questions about whether or not there is VC funding out there right now.

The answer is an emphatic YES. It is out there. And like always, it takes great knowledge and persistence to get it (and probably now more than ever).

Here are the facts. According to the National Venture Capital Association, 3,808 ventures raised VC funding in 2008 totaling $28.3 billion. And, according to the Center for Venture Research, 70,000 ventures were funded by angel investors last year totaling $37.2 billion.

So lots of companies continue to receive funding from venture capitalists and angel investors.

It’s mostly a matter of REALLY wanting to receive capital for your business and making the investment to do it (i.e., the time/money to learn how to, and the time needed to execute on, a capital-raising campaign).

So, capital IS still out there, and YES, you can raise it!

Searching for the "Google" of Clean Tech? Diversification is Key


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The National Venture Capital Association recently released data for 2008 venture capital investments.  Venture capital firms invested $28.3 billion in 3,808 companies in 2008.  This represents an 8% decrease in dollars and a 4% decrease in deal volume from 2007.  

One big bright spot is clean tech.

Venture capital firms invested $4.1 billion into 277 clean tech startups in 2008, a 52% increase from 2007.  Popular investments include solar, biodiesel, nuclear energy, and battery start-ups.

When we step back and try to view these investments over the long-term, it becomes clear that only a handful of these start-up companies are going to become extremely successful.  Only a few of them will dominate their marketplaces and become the "Googles" of solar, wind, water, and biodiesel.

While the majority of individual investments into start-up companies will fail, the asset class as a whole has historically produced superior returns to most other alternatives.  Seed stage and early stage venture capital investing has achieved historical 20 year returns of over 20%.  The asset class as a whole is only able to achieve these returns by investing in a handful of "home runs" -- the startups that grow to be multi-million and billion dollar acquisitions and IPOs.

Despite what the admittedly brilliant minds on Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley would have us believe, it is nearly impossible to predict which of the hundreds of thousands of promising new companies launched every year will become the "next Google" of their industry.

That's why diversification is a critically important "best practice" for successful venture capital and private equity investing.  As such, the investor's goal should be to aggregate positions in several promising early stage companies in order to improve the chances of finding that "Black Swan."

And as the public stock markets take a beating, real estate continues its downward spiral, and cash is endangered by the long-term threat of inflation as a result of record U.S. government deficits, we at Growthink believe that the early stage private equity asset class is among the most attractive long-term investment alternatives available to qualified investors.

To learn more about our perspectives on this subject, we welcome you to attend our webinar:

Webinar: Keys to Successful Private Company Investing

To register, click here: http://www.growthink.com/livedeals
 


An Interview with Venture Capitalist Dave Humphrey


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Earlier this week, Growthink's Co-Founder Dave Lavinsky spoke with Dave Humphrey, COO and Senior Investment Professional for Oklahoma Equity Partners, based in Tulsa OK. Humphrey has served as a principal at Davis Tuttle Venture Partners (the oldest VC firm in Oklahoma). Also, in over 10 years with Koch Industries, he led $300+ million of expansions and acquisitions, and served as the CEO of a $200 million business where he increased profitability by six-fold.

You can click here to listen to the entire interview: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/public/248.cfm

In the interview Dave discussed how networking plays a role in both capital raising and bolstering a management team, as well as a way to approach financial projections that will show investors your true capacity to execute on a market opportunity.

Also discussed are the 3 key elements that Humphrey looks for in every business plan.

To listen to the interview, visit this link: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/public/248.cfm

 


Webinar: How to Invest in Venture Capital and Private Equity


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We welcome you to attend our webinar "How to Successfully Invest in Venture Capital and Private Equity."

In the webinar, Growtthink's CEO Jay Turo provides an overview of venture capital and private equity investing, including commentary on current market conditions (credit crunch, decline in stock market, real estate bust) as well as private equity investing "best practices" for success in the current environment.

During the webinar, Jay provides his perspectives on:

  • The credit crisis and the stock market correction
  • Why smart investors are engaged in a "quest for value" and how this relates to private equity
  • The importance of applying portfolio theory to private equity & venture capital
  • How to assess risk and price venture capital & private equity deals
  • Why most private equity investors fail -- and what to do about it
  • Which sectors present opportunities NOW

 

Use this link to learn more and reserve your spot:


Growthink's Private Equity & Venture Capital Webinar

 

Special Announcement:
Are you an entrepreneur looking to raise capital from private investors? With Growthink's Private Placement Memorandum Template, you can finish your PPM quickly and easily, so that you spend less time "preparing," and more time speaking with investors.


Risk of Inflation is VERY Real


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Sometimes things are so obvious as to be hard to see.  

That is certainly the case right now with the incredible flood of federal stimulus pouring into the economy - both in terms of fiscal and monetary policy.   But saying it in this way, as it is often done by the chattering media classes, makes the issue unnecessarily opaque and complex.   We agree with Milton Friedman (and not just because of his long Stanford connection) when he describes inflation as "always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon."


Cleantech Attracts Ongoing Attention from the Investment Community


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Clean technology (“cleantech”) is one of the fastest growing areas of investment within the venture capital and private equity community, showing constant growth since 2003 and accounting for 7.4% of total venture investment in 2007. According to data compiled by Cleantech Group, LLC, the 3rd quarter of 2008 saw $2.6 billion invested in 158 deals in the sector, with total investments in 2008 projected between $7.6 and $8.1 billion. This represents 30% growth in comparison to 2007’s $6.01 billion, $2.2 billion of which was invested in U.S. companies.

The cleantech category is comprised of a variety of subsectors that represent products, services, and technologies created to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop energy independence, promote energy efficiency, and conserve natural resources. Subsectors within the category include:

- Solar, wind, biofuels and geothermal energy generation
- Infrastructure to support alternative energy generation
- Energy storage (batteries, fuel cells, etc.)
- Agricultural productivity and natural pest control technologies
- Materials and manufacturing processes requiring less resource intensive inputs
- Pollution control, recycling, clean coal, and wastewater/water technologies

Despite the economic downturn, cleantech is one of the only sectors still projecting investment growth, particularly once President Elect Obama takes office tomorrow. Obama’s energy plan calls for a $150 billion investment in clean technologies over the next 10 years, aggressive targets for greenhouse emissions reductions, and programs to promote energy efficiency, low-carbon biofuels, and renewable energies. Obama has also called for a national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring that utilities generate 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. New mandates, tax incentives and the recent Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will continue to drive domestic growth within the sector.

Internationally, interest in cleantech has grown in countries around the world, particularly in the Middle East, Europe, and China. Sovereign wealth funds from countries in the Middle East were involved in six of the top ten largest financings within the cleantech sector in the 3rd quarter of 2008. More specifically, countries such as Qatar have been raising funds solely for cleantech, such as the recent $396 million Qatar Investment Authority cleantech fund. The European Union has targeted 20% of its energy to be derived from renewable resources by 2020 and China has targeted 15% under its Circular Economy Law. As new regulations are put into effect globally, particularly in emerging markets such as China, demand for innovative energy sources and cleantech solutions will grow as existing resources are depleted.

Through its consulting and capital raising advisory services, Growthink has worked with innovative emerging growth companies across all of the various cleantech sectors. Through this unique combination, Growthink is able to provide cleantech entrepreneurs with the perspective required to identify and capitalize on prevailing trends in their respective markets and industries.


Learn More

If you are an entrepreneur or a potential investor seeking more information about investment opportunities within cleantech, contact us at (800) 260-6630.  


An Interview with Guy Kawasaki


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Growthink's Co-Founder Dave Lavinsky had the opportunity to speak with entrepreneurship guru Guy Kawasaki last week. Guy is the Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures. His blog, "How To Change the World," is ranked among the world's top 100 blogs, and he is a successful author. In 2004, his book "The Art of the Start" was a BusinessWeek bestseller.

You can click here to listen to the entire interview or download the transcript: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/public/226.cfm

In the interview, Guy spoke openly about the things to keep in mind when seeking venture capital, the words to avoid using in any conversation with a VC, and his new book, "Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition." For those seeking capital, there’s also an interesting eHarmony.com vs. HotOrNot.com comparison to listen for.

Also, we encourage entrepreneurs to visit Guy's site Alltop.com, specifically these three sub-categories:

* Innovation
* Startups
* Venture Capital

To listen to the interview or view the transcript, visit this link:
http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/public/226.cfm

Growthink Services in a Down Economy


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Recently, we at Growthink have received a flood of inquiries from entrepreneurs and business owners, asking for advice on how to proceed in these turbulent times.

The fact of the matter is that it is hard to reassure anyone, in light of recent economic circumstances, that there is an upside for business owners who are revising short/intermediate goals or looking for capital. Small, medium, and large companies alike are hesitant to put themselves out there in an unstable, cash-constrained environment.

Yet amidst the seeming cynicism, we at Growthink are still seeing extremely positive movement amongst funds – especially around our headquarters here in California – that have not only the moneys to invest, but also the eagerness for new, niche deals.

Historical patterns indicate that downturns, such as the one in which we presently find ourselves, result in some of the highest levels of new company formation.

What this proves is that entrepreneurs – no matter the ebb or flow of Wall Street and Main Street – are consistently creative people, who seize upon circumstances and leverage them to start and/or grow their businesses. They reflect the American Dream so often referred to in the latest Presidential campaign.

Growthink's mission and vision, as founded by such entrepreneurs, is to help aspiring peers build and set forth strategic plans to gain momentum in their marketplace; and to hopefully attract investment dollars from the right people at the right time.

With all of that said, it comes down to a few key characteristics of good deal-making: confidence, relationships, and perseverance. Just because the opportunities are out there, doesn't mean they are easy to find, qualify, negotiate, or transact.

Our expertise, in working with investors on a daily basis, renders us the ability to quickly identify an outreach strategy, to get to a "yes" or a "no"; and to conduct diligence with interested parties, speeding the time to a closed deal. What this enables our clients to do, rather than expending 100% of their efforts on raising capital, is to focus on the day-to-day operations of their businesses. Ultimately, this is where potential investors want to see busy executives utilizing their skills and capabilities.

At Growthink, we welcome the opportunity to speak with you about our investment banking and consulting services. Should you be interested in scheduling a call, please contact us with the best day, time, and way to reach you, and we will happily accommodate.

Growthink Announces Launch of Growthink University


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As a supplement to our consulting practice, we're pleased to announce the launch of Growthink University, our new membership club dedicated to teaching entrepreneurs and business owners how to raise capital for their businesses.

The club assembles 10 years of capital raising expertise and methodologies developed and refined by Growthink, and gives entrepreneurs an additional "Do-It-Yourself" option to perfect their business plans.

Growthink University covers topics including, but not limited to:

  • The biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make when trying to raise capital and how to avoid them.
  • How to overcome the capital-raising challenges faced by first-time entrepreneurs.
  • The difference between pre-and post-money valuations and making sure you don't get taken by investors.
  • The ten biggest mistakes that companies make in their business plans.
  • The winning ways to get meetings with investors -- and the most important things to know before sitting down at the table.
  • What financial projections need to prove about your business

 

Go to Growthink University (http://www.growthinkuniversity.com) to learn more.


American Idol Meets Venture Capital


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For the new entrepreneur, there are few factors with a higher correlation to unbridled success or devastating failure than the ability to raise capital. In an economy of questionable strength, dreaming up a shiny new venture of revolutionary proportions is no longer the battle; the new challenge is finding the minds that will fuel that venture with dollars. In New York, one business-woman named Yao-Hui Huang has borrowed from popular culture to devise a sensational way to bring new ventures face-to-face with potential investors.

Admittedly, the project known as the Gauntlet is far from the first organized attempt to bring entrepreneurs and investors together. How this differs, is that it emulates the strategies of the highly successful TV show: American Idol. Similar to the show, which employs a panel of industry experts, the Gauntlet has a panel of judges with expertise in law, accounting, finance, technology, and investment.

Contestants who make it through the rigorous application process are chosen in groups of three to present at the monthly gathering. In front of the panel and an audience of over 100, entrepreneurs get seven minutes to pitch their venture along the areas of: problem, solution, market, industry, overview, operations, and financials. Presenters are then inundated with feedback from the audience and panel, and a select few go on to receive venture capital.

It is nice to see a refreshing approach to matching the right investors with the right entrepreneurs. Also, this structure provides the ability to share a business model with peers and experts while allowing the entrepreneur an attractive opportunity to refine, revisit, and hopefully improve areas of their business strategy.

Would your business plan be ready to go through the Gauntlet?


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Blog Authors

Jay Turo

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