Posts Tagged ‘start-up’
Though I have no experience in pitching to the VCs, I have written this based on my theoretical knowledge, and based on the inputs given by some of my acquaintances. My experience always taught me that people always want things very plain and simple. Though there are a hundred things to take care of in a business, a VC is looking forward to check some simple points in a firm under consideration.
Any VC will look forward for the following simple points:
- Who are you? What did you do till now? What do you intend to do?
- What is your future and why should I partner with you in your future?
- What is in it for me in the future and in how many years?
- Does it suit my investment portfolio and strategy?
Most VCs look for a very strong team that have the relevant domain and management expertise. In fact, this is the only factor that can offset any weaknesses in the business, because a strong team gains the trust of the investor that they know where they are going.
- Who are the Key Founders?
- Who are the Key Advisors?
- Who are the board members, if applicable?
A Quick View or an Elevator Pitch
What does the company do?
What problems do you address or how do you add value to the customer?
What is the target market size?
Why will the customer use it?
Why do you want to do what you want to do? It is about ‘Why?’.
What do you want to achieve in this endeavor? It is about ‘What?’
It is important to see that the Vision and Mission statement realistic, and doesn’t include everything under the sun.
Market and Industry Environment
- Industry or Area you operate in
- Different market segments
- Target segments, Size and Growth rate of the Target segments
- Critical factors in this market, and the target segment
- Situational Analysis of various stakeholders – customers and other participants, competition, suppliers, and distributors, etc.
- Who is your customer? (This is probably the first and the most important question that one has to answer.)
- Why will the customer use your solution?
- Why will the customer pay you?
- What are the alternatives available to the customer?
- Road-map of the evolution of the suite of products and services
- Assumptions made
- Existing Competition
- Future Competition
- What sustainable competitive advantage you have?
- Important revenue and cost drivers of the business
- Pricing and Different customer offerings
- Key partnerships and alliances
Financial till date (if applicable)
- All the audited financial statements – PNL statement, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow, etc.
- Break even path
- Assumptions made
Until here, the document explained all the details about the business background, achievements till date, and the possible market strategies with some assumptions. Now, the document has to convince the investor by showing why this is a good business to invest. One can do that by:
- Showing the competitive advantage that the investor will gain
- Which are the possible companies that might acquire you and the reasons?
- What are the valuations of similar companies in the past after a particular duration?
Capital Required and the Return on the Investment (ROI)
Most VC firms have a strategic advisory panel that will help on the capital required and how to manage the funds. But, an entrepreneur who is paving the future is also expected to know how much money does he need and the reasons. If the business model is decently good, the best way to convince the VC is always to talk about money – Return on Investment.
- Amount of capital needed and the rationale behind it
- Rationale for the allocation of the funds
- Return on the Investment at different time period
- Exit Strategy for the VC
Risks, Gaps, and Assumptions
It is always important to do a detailed study of the best probable investors for your start-up based on the domain and other factors such as the size and stage of the start-up. Following is the list of some top VC firms in India based on the number of investments made till now, it is not based on the value of the investments. Most of these VC firms invest in a diverse portfolio of companies across different verticals like consumer, technology, healthcare, finance, energy, etc and some of the VC firms are interested in only some verticals.
- Sequoia Capital India
- Intel Capital
- Helion Venture Partners
- DFJ India
- Norwest Venture Partners
- Nexus India Capital
- NEA IndoUS Ventures
- Canan Partners
- Kleiner Perkins
The following is a nice article from The Economic Times on start-up and fund-raising. I thought it would be a good article for all the start-up buddies here.
To raise risk capital from a private equity or venture capital investor marks a high point for most start-up companies . It sets to rest one of the biggest concerns in the initial months of company formation and while many entrepreneurs are loath to admit it, being funded by a venture capitalist is a prized validation.
However,once the initial euphoria fades away, most entrepreneurs find that raising money was the easy part, managing the intricacies of having an investor on board and minimising conflict while maximising the benefits is the more arduous task.
When to raise funds?
India Emerging spoke to a roster of start-up entrepreneurs who have successfully managed this transition. Taking on investment at the right time is essential. “Do not raise capital to keep it in the bank for mental comfort. Raise it when you need it,” says Manav Garg, whose firm Eka Plus develops risk management software for commodity firms across the world. However, entrepreneurs say the timing of the fund raising depends on the business model and the stage a company is in.
Eka Plus was started with seed funding from Thailand-based GP Group and later took on venture investment from Nexus Venture Partners. Garg says most companies take on investment when they are developing a product, or to invest in sales and marketing and in operations when they are expanding . “We took on funding when we were expanding internationally to the US and the UK and needed to hire international talent,” says Garg. Still, others do not have the luxury of choice.
Sourabh Jain launched JiGrahak Mobility Solutions, which runs mobile-based shopping solutions product ngpay, in 2005. But funds started running out in 2006. “We took on funds for survival . It was as simple as that,” he says. Jain raised funds from Helion Venture Partners in 2006. However, Jain says it is best to raise funds as late as possible .
The earlier the investment , the more time required for returns to come through. “How long can the VC wait without numbers and clear direction ? Life is easier for the entrepreneur and the VC if the investment is done later,” he adds.
Amount and Valuation
Once an entrepreneur decides on when he needs to raise funds, he also needs to decide how much equity he is willing to dilute for the required funds. Typically , VCs look to acquire over a fifth of the company going up to owning almost 40%.
They could stay invested for up to five years and would expect to earn at least a three-fold return on their investment .
“Entrepreneurs must also know that with every subsequent round of funding, promoter’s stake will reduce,” says Manish Sharma, co-founder of Printo, a printing and documentation solutions venture, which received funding from Seed Fund and Sequoia Capital at different business stages. Eka’s Garg says an entrepreneur should build in a buffer while raising funds as sudden expenses can come up. He says the investment should last for around 24 months.
The role of a VC
While money does matter, that should not be the only consideration , as a VC has a say in the running of the business. Most entrepreneurs also expect strategic direction, business contacts and help in hiring talent from the VC. Garg compares an entrepreneur-venture capital relationship to marriage.
“It is one of the most important relationships an entrepreneur can have. The chemistry is important ,” he adds. IT management services venture Appnomic Systems raised funds in two tranches from Norwest Venture Partners in 2009 and 2010. The company’s co-founder D Padmanabhan says they wanted Norwest’s managing director Promod Haque on board.
“Participation from Promod is very high and that was very important for us,” he says. Padmanabhan says the strategic and sometimes practical advice Haque provides is invaluable . He says that in their hurry to expand internationally the team considered acquiring a company. However, Haque told them to first partner with the company as Appnomic was still getting its structure and processes in place. “This was very good advice . We finally expanded organically and did not acquire the company,” says Padmanabhan.
Dealing with conflict
In an early-stage venture, most partners, including VCs, cannot know for certain which decision will lead to results. Entrepreneurs feel the VC must not interfere in operational issues while their counsel is important on strategic matters.
Ngpay’s Jain says there was a time when he wanted to stop a particular segment in the business , but the Venture Capitalists wanted to keep it going for some more time. “I did not want a delay in decision taking and we agreed to stop it immediately,” he adds.
Knowing that such disagreements can happen and handling it maturely will steer the relationship away from break point. “Communication is important. The VC should be kept in the loop, especially if the decision will have an impact on the fund,” says Eka’s Garg.
Managing expectations is also important. “Expectations change as an entrepreneur matures . When I set up my first company, I was literally expecting ‘hand-holding’ ,” says Alok Kejriwal, who straddles both lines of the entrepreneur-investor divide. A serial entrepreneur, Kejriwal also invests in start-ups .
He says now he expects industry contacts. Printo’s Sharma says the Indian VC ecosystem is still in its infancy and so many of them cannot contribute more than funds to a start-up . “Entrepreneurs need to temper expectations and should do extensive homework before opting for a fund,” he adds.
Finally, entrepreneurs say it is still all about the money. The fund can help in getting excellent valuations in further rounds of funding. Kejriwal, whose Mobile2win China was acquired by Walt Disney, says: “VCs help in exits, not because they love you, but because they love themselves.”