How do angel investors typically deal with the legal agreements and similarly how would they help deal with legal issues for a startup they’ve invested in?

All investments by angels (and everyone else) in a company are made according to detailed legal documents that specify everything about the relationship among the various parties, the terms of the value exchange and the various rights and responsibilities of everyone involved. The paperwork can range from 5-10 pages for a pretty straightforward convertible note, up to 120 pages or more for a full Series A round.  Because these are legal documents, both parties (the company and the investor(s)) have their own lawyers, who work together to develop the actual agreements signed by the principals. Typically one lawyer will be responsible for the base drafting, with the other making comments, although in virtually all cases the documents are based on standard models that have been developed for use by anyone who wants to use them. Read more

Don’t Forget Grants If You Need Early Seed Money

In the US, many entrepreneurs see grants as “free money,” since they are not loans and don’t have to be repaid. A grant is not an equity investment, so the entrepreneur doesn’t have to give up a stake in the company either. Typically they can be used to fund product development and commercialization that would otherwise require outside investors.

A good place to start looking is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which is a lifeline for high-tech startups. A more general approach is to check out Grants.gov, which is a searchable directory of more than 1,000 federal grant programs. An advanced search tool is provided to search for a grant by eligibility, by issuing agency, or category. Read more

How do venture capital firms make money by investing in startups?

The venture capital fund itself makes money…

…by investing early in a startup company’s life, when success is not at all assured. In exchange for investing capital to help the company grow, the fund receives an ownership interest in the company. Because in the early days a company will not be worth very much, the fund’s ownership interest will be worth exactly what it paid. But as the company grows and becomes more valuable, the value of the fund’s corresponding percentage grows as well. Read more

7 Steps To Making A Great Entrepreneur Impression

Barack Obama meets Mark Zuckerberg, photo via Wikimedia

Entrepreneurs are all about firsts, and the most important is you making a great first impression – on investors, customers, new team members, and strategic partners. Poor first impressions can be avoided, but I’m amazed at the number of unnecessary mistakes I see at those critical first introductions, presentations, and meetings.

The key message here is “preparation.” People who think they can always “wing it,” bluff their way past tough questions, or expect the other party to bridge all the gaps, sadly often find that what they think is a win, is actually a loss which can never be regained. Read more

Why are some venture capital firms not funding women?

The facile answer to this assumptive question is “because some women are not seeking funding from venture capital firms”.

But there is actually quite a bit of truth in both statements. Women-led ventures definitely account for a smaller percentage of venture investments than  do ventures led by men, but women-led ventures also account for a MUCH smaller percentage of ventures seeking funding in the first place! Read more

Don’t Let Investors Conclude Your Startup Is A Hobby

Software Development Process via Wikipedia

Software Development Process via Wikipedia

Even when your startup is a one-man show and lots of fun, a “business” needs some discipline and controls to keep it from being defined as a hobby by investors, and assure some financial return. Like it or not, you are now entering the dreaded realm of specifying and documenting “formal business processes.” The right question is “What is the minimum that I need?”

The simple answer is that you need to implement one process at a time, starting with those things that are most critical to your business, until you feel a relief that things are starting to happen naturally and consistently, without the attendant stress and continual recovery mode. If you feel that the process itself is a burden, you have likely gone too far. Read more