The DogBall - The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


Yesterday, I received an interesting package in the mail. I opened it up and inside was a shoebox. And inside the shoebox was "The Dogball." The Dogball, as I found out, is a new toy for dogs, and the founder, based in France, was trying to get me to distribute it here in the United States.

There are actually several important lessons from The Dogball as it relates to your business plan and raising capital. So, I documented them in a video since I had to make sure each of you could actually see exactly what the Dogball is:


Is There VC Money Out There?

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


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:


Individual States Plan to Encourage Entrepreneurship


Last week, we talked about how entrepreneurs, who serve a crucial role in growing an economy, have been shortchanged by the proposed stimulus package.

See our previous post: How Entrepreneurs are Key to Job Creation.

Now, as the Wall Street Journal reports, many individual states are planning to harness the energy of entrepreneurs in an effort to jumpstart the economy.

Maryland is tackling the issue head on by allocating over $70 million for programs to support small and minority owned businesses, and $15 million for heath insurance at such businesses.

The approach in Florida includes low interest rate loans for small businesses with less than 100 employees.  Loans up to $250,000, that would be purposed for everything from expansion to new salaries, would be available at a 2% interest rate.

In New Jersey, to spur expansion and hiring, a stimulus plan includes grants and tax incentives. $3,000 is available for small companies that hire an employee and keep them for a year.  Sales tax credits are being considered for capital investments that exceed $5,000.

Similar tax incentives are being considered in Colorado, Arizona, and Minnesota.

Such considerations at the state level are a step in the right direction, and signal recognition, at the government level, that entrepreneurs can and will play a significant role in reinvigorating the American economy.


Entrepreneurs are the Key to New Job Creation


As the House rushed to put the $819 billion economic stimulus package in place, Congress may be overlooking one of the most critical components to creating new jobs: entrepreneurs.

The stimulus package is chock-full of plans to stimulate job creation though public works and projects. However, a study by Grant Thornton recently released to the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration reports that investing in business incubators, which support young companies and entrepreneurs, is a more effective strategy for creating jobs.

And the numbers are staggering. Here is a look at what a government investment of $10,000 accomplishes in different sectors:

  • Roads and transportation projects:  4.4 to 7.8 jobs created
  • Commercial structures: 9.6 to 13.4 jobs created
  • Business incubators: 46.3 to 69.4 jobs created

Business incubators create jobs at an expense as low as $144 per job -- almost 10 times less than road and transportation projects, which typically cost more than $1,200.

This data, while surprising to some, supports what we’ve always believed here at Growthink: That the American entrepreneurship isn’t just one piece, but the most important piece of our economy.

If you're looking to start your own business, you need to learn the main components of a business plan before you start. Keep that in mind before you begin putting your plan together.

Related post: President Obama and Entrepreneurship


An Interview with Venture Capitalist Dave Humphrey


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:

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:



Webinar: How to Invest in Venture Capital and Private Equity


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.


Growthink on the Town: Throw Some Shrimp on the Bah-Bee and Take a Cue from the Aussies


All stereotypes aside, I’ve never heard an Australian utter the above words with the exception of the highly-paid voice over artist for Outback Steakhouse.  And possibly Paul Hogan in his notable performance as "Crocodile Dundee" (only the first movie, of course – the sequels aren’t worth mentioning).

No matter where said stereotype originated, what I do hear emanating from Down Under is a keen series of statements reflecting how happy our Australian friends are to be doing business in America.  After two weeks traveling and attending events, all – oddly – involving Australians, I had to wonder why entrepreneurs from south of the equator were more positive about the investment environment than we are:  the ones who live, work, and dream in a Country where anything is possible.  Whatever the reason, I’m inclined to eat a bloomin’ onion for dinner.

The companies with which I’ve been meeting span the industry spectrum, from consumer electronics to video games, multi-media, and entertainment.  In each reside a spirited CEO and management team, all of whom endeavor to make their places in the States.  For many, it will be their first foray into the American investor market; for others, who’ve been building a life here for several years, it is their third or fourth company after several successful prior exits.  And yet, in what we all know is a recessionary economy, all are seeking or continuing to seek opportunities here. 

Nowhere else.  HERE.  Why? 

Because they want the same thing every domestic entrepreneur wants: the chance to fulfill a dream, to create a successful business, and to retire to a large, beautiful island.  Wait… the Aussies already have one.

Nevertheless, my idea-generating friends, the point is that we need to again find our spirit, our confidence, and our joie de vivre.  Entrepreneurs from all over the world know that the United States is the place to come to cultivate relationships and to secure growth capital.  The current economic “ebb” has an effect on the entire planet, yet those who wish to prosper still look to us for guidance.  Perhaps we should not lose sight of that very basic fact.

I think actress Rachel Griffiths said it best, with comedic proportion, when being honored at the G’Day LA gala dinner last week (I do not quote verbatim, since I was wielding flatware in lieu of a pen): “I never thought I would do American TV; now I’m doing a Network series.  I never thought I’d live in America, now I’m married to an American.  I never thought I’d have children in America, now I’m breeding Americans.  And I have to say: I will always be Australian but I’m PROUD to be breeding Americans!”

What does it really mean?  I wasn’t entirely sure at first, but it made us laugh.  And as I sat there, surrounded by her Countrymen, it hit me: as much as I jest above about barbequing shellfish, Ms. Griffiths was jesting as well.  Stereotype or not, Hollywood provided her the opportunity to expand her career.  She seized upon it and is ultimately thankful for what it provided her.  

Many follow the same path – rising star or layman – to this land where those who seek their good fortune have a chance to be thusly rewarded.  It may not be easy, but it IS and will ALWAYS be possible for people with ideas, talent, tenacity, and enough hope to see the light at the end of this tunnel we call a recession.


Risk of Inflation is VERY Real


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."


President Obama and Entrepreneurship: "The Risk-Takers, the Doers and the Makers of Things"

In my 10 years at Growthink and my 20 years in business, I have never lived nor worked through a period with as much uncertainty and negativity, as much economic depression, as much market fear, as we are living through right now.  As spirits have waxed low in the markets, I would be not candid if I did not confess that I have bouts of dispiritedness.
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