5 Entrepreneur Ideas That Investors See Too Often

People are always asking me for an inside tip on Internet sites that will be “the next big thing.” Those are hard, since someone has to invent something innovative, but I do have some views on other ideas whose time has come and gone.

In some cases, these are concepts that have already been done too many times, and the space is crowded. In others, the concept has been tried too many times, or no one has yet succeeded in making any money. Or both. Here are my favorites: Read more

When do you startups begin fund raising?

If founding a startup was easy, there would be a lot more of them, and the percentage that are successful would be much higher.

Unfortunately, it isn’t.

The essence of entrepreneurship is creating a new venture where one does not already exist in the market as you find it. As such, the founding process is one in which the entrepreneur is competing with market forces. Read more

How does someone get a meeting with angel investor David S. Rose?

The most useful meetings with an investor are ones where going in everyone understands that there may actually be a rational reason for the investor to be interested. So even if my own mother asked me to meet with you, and you were pitching me a biotech opportunity for a $10 million investment at a $90 million valuation, I might take the meeting, but it wouldn’t be particularly useful for either of us. Read more

Practice Entrepreneur Integrity As Seen By Others

Image via Flickr by Zaneology

Image via Flickr by Zaneology

As an entrepreneur, your personal integrity is critical for getting and keeping the support of investors and team members, and your company’s integrity is critical for getting and keeping customers and vendors. But in a practical sense, what does that really mean?

Most definitions of integrity include something like “the quality of being honest and morally upright.” Yet, I’ve found through experience that both honesty and morality are relative terms, depending on the reference point of both the speaker and the receiver. In business, the only view that counts is that of the receiver. Read more

What is the best way to connect with investors?

With Gust, the power of the system is that your completed investor relations profile can now serve as your official application to virtually any organized angel group in the world…all you need to do is share it with them*.  I’d suggest that you browse through the Gust investor search engine for investment groups (and accelerators, incubators, business plan competitions, et al) that are relevant to your startup (by location, industry, type of organization, etc.), and read their detailed profiles to see if they would be a good match for your venture.

For example, from the profile for New York Angels, you will find out about the types of companies in which the group invests, the returns and valuations they seek, and a list of many of the companies in which they have already invested. If you’re logged in to LinkedIn, you will also see the names of investors within the group to whom you have a personal connection!  Assuming the group seems like a fit, then simply click the “Share Now” button at the top of the page, and voila, you’re on your way. New York Angels, like most other mainstream angel groups these days, does not charge an application fee so there is nothing to lose by applying.

On Gust, investment organizations are able to set filters for submissions in order to be sure that neither you nor they will be wasting each other’s time if you apply. In the case of NYA, the group is pretty eclectic, and open to receiving applications from virtually any company in any area. While the large majority of investments are made into US-based ventures, all New York Angels members have access to all applying companies, and many of the group’s investors are prepared to get involved with a company personally, even if it is not right for the group as a whole.

*Note that Gust also allows you to share your password-protected investor relations site with individual investors and VCs you know or may meet, even if they are not part of an angel group or fund that uses Gust to manage its deal flow. As such, it’s a handy way to keep all your information and your investors organized.

*original post can be found on Quora @ http://www.quora.com/David-S-Rose/answers *

Why should different stock classes in a startup be created?

A useful way to look at it is the difference between current value and potential value.

When an investor puts money into a company in exchange for an ownership stake, mathematics means that the amount of ownership the investor receives for the amount of the investment determines the “value” being assigned to the existing company before the investment.

As an example, let’s say that I invest $100,000 into Company X and receive 10% of the company’s stock in exchange for my investment. Simple math tells me that if 10% is worth $100,000, then 100% of the company must be worth $1 million.

Now, since Company X has $100,000 in its bank account following my investment, we need to back that out to determine how much the company was worth beforemy investment. So we subtract the $100,000 and find that the terms under which I invested mean that I valued the company at $900,000 before I appeared in the picture.

So it would seem on the surface that I contributed $100,000 and you as the founder contributed $900,000, so we should therefore both just get a proportionate number of shares of the same kind of stock, right? That certainly makes sense, except for one thing: there is a substantial difference in the form of the two contributions.

My $100,000 is a suitcase full of dollar bills (or the equivalent) that can be exchanged for anything at all. My late grandmother called them “universal gift certificates”. They are the same dollars that can buy me a vacation, or a Rolex or a trip to the Superbowl, all of which I have passed up on in order to invest in you.

Your $900,000, however, is made up of your ownership in a brand new company that likely doesn’t have revenue yet, let alone profits. So what I am doing by putting in my investment is betting on the future value the company could be worth, after you become successfully profitable.

If everything works out as planned, that’s just what happens! The company is successful and a bigger company comes along and buys it for a lot more cash. We split the sale proceeds 90/10, and we were retroactively proven correct in the value we had originally assigned to the company.

The problem, however, is that with a majority of investments, it does not work out that way.

Let’s say that despite everyone’s best efforts, the company does not succeed, and it is eventually acquired by a bigger company for only $500,000. If we both  owned the same type of shares and divided the cash in the same 90/10 manner, I (who had put in cold, hard cash) would only get back $50,000 of my money. You, however, who had put in little or no real money, would be walking away with $450,000 in cash as your reward for running a failed business and losing $50,000 of MY money!

While that might seem like a nice result for you, that’s certainly not what *I* would consider to be fair. So if that is the only way you would be willing to take my investment, I’ll say “thank you, but I’m going to pass on this particular investment, and instead spend my money on that vacation, watch or football tickets.”

Because THAT isn’t an outcome that either of us really wants, we come to a compromise: instead of us owning the same type of stock, we’ll create another kind (technically called “Convertible Preferred” stock). The primary feature of this new class of stock is that in the first case (the good one) it converts into exactly the same kind of stock you have, we split 90/10, and everyone is happy.

HOWEVER, if the bad case happens, then it works a little differently: we agree that the first money that comes in  should go to fully pay off the cash that I invested (the $100,000). THEN, anything left over (in this case it would be $400,000) goes to you (who own what is called “Common” stock). The effect of this is to retroactively adjust the nominal value we had assigned to your contribution, to match what it turns out to have really been after all.

And that, in a very simplified way, is an explanation as to why there are different classes of ownership in startup companies.

*original post can be found on Quora @ http://www.quora.com/David-S-Rose/answers *

When Are Business People Entitled To Be Entitled?

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

Where did this sense of entitlement in our business culture come from? I’ve written about this before, but I was reminded again a while back at a conference for startups when an entrepreneur started berating investors for not funding early-stage startups. It sounded to investors like me that they felt a funding entitlement for their startup idea. Of course, I’m sure entrepreneurs sense that many investors feel entitled to deals with no risk. It’s bad news either way.

As a society, we seem to think we’ve evolved to the point where we can fashion a large portion of existence according to how we wish it to be. We notice what we like and what we dislike, so we work to make society match our dreams. Somehow, these dreams and wishes have morphed in many people’s mind to an entitlement. Read more