Tag Archives: Raising Entrepreneurial Capital

Venture Capital Criteria

Most venture capital firms concentrate primarily on the competence and character of the proposing firm’s management. They feel that even mediocre products can be successfully manufactured, promoted, and distributed by an experienced, energetic management group. They know that even excellent products can be ruined by poor management.

Next in importance to the excellence of the proposing firm’s management group, most venture capital firms seek a distinctive element in the strategy or product/market/process combination of the firm. This distinctive element may be a new feature of the product or process or a particular skill or technical competence of the management. But it must exist. It must provide a competitive advantage.

After the exhaustive investigation and analysis, if the venture capital firm decides to invest in a company, they will prepare an equity financing proposal. This details the amount of money to be provided, the percentage of common stock to be surrendered in exchange for these funds, the interim financing method to be used, and the protective covenants to be included.

The final financing agreement will be negotiated and generally represents a compromise between the management of the company and the partners or senior executives of the venture capital firm. The important elements of this compromise are ownership and control.

Ownership

Venture capital financing is not inexpensive for the owners of a small business. The venture firm receives a portion of the business’s equity in exchange for their investment.

This percentage of equity varies, of course, and depends upon the amount of money provided, the success and worth of the business, and the anticipated investment return. It can range from perhaps 10% in the case of an established, profitable company to as much as 80% or 90% for beginning or financially troubled firms. Most venture firms, at least initially, don’t want a position of more than 30% to 40% because they want the owner to have the incentive to keep building the business.

Most venture firms determine the ratio of funds provided to equity requested by a comparison of the present financial worth of the contributions made by each of the parties to the agreement. The present value of the contribution by the owner of a starting or financially troubled company is obviously rated low. Often it is estimated as just the existing value of his or her idea and the competitive costs of the owner’s time. The contribution by the owners of a thriving business is valued much higher. Generally, it is capitalized at a multiple of the current earnings and/or net worth.

Financial valuation is not an exact science. The compromise on owner contribution’s worth in the equity financing agreement is likely to be lower than the owner thinks it should be and higher than the partners of the capital firm think it might be. Ideally, the two parties to the agreement are able to do together what neither could do separately:

1. grow the company faster with the additional funds to more than overcome the owner’s loss of equity, and

2. grow the investment at a sufficient rate to compensate the venture capitalists for assuming the risk.

An equity financing agreement with an outcome in five to seven years which pleases both parties is ideal. Since the parties can’t see this outcome in the present, neither will be perfectly satisfied with the compromise reached. The business owner should carefully consider the impact of the ratio of funds invested to the ownership given up, not only for the present, but for the years to come.

Control

The partners of a venture firm generally have little interest in assuming control of the business. They have neither the technical expertise nor the managerial personnel to run a number of small companies in diverse industries. They much prefer to leave operating control to the existing management.

The venture capital firm does, however, want to participate in any strategic decisions that might change the basic product/market character of the company and in any major investment decisions that might divert or deplete the financial resources of the company.

Venture capital firms also want to be able to assume control and attempt to rescue their investments, if severe financial, operating, or marketing problems develop. Thus, they will usually include protective covenants in their equity financing agreements to permit them to take control and appoint new officers if financial performance is very poor.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D has over 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

Applying for a Loan

In making loan requests, entrepreneurs tend to be confident that they will meet or exceed what they consider conservative financial projections. They then have trouble understanding when they receive a less than enthusiastic response. To complete the picture, however, we need to look at the process from the banker’s perspective.

“What bankers view as a good loan application is at times different from what applicants think,” says Ray Fincken, vice president of HSBC Bank USA in New York. “Applicants know the bank needs information about their company to process the loan. So in the first interview they often describe all the good things happening within their company — focusing mainly on marketing and sales.

“However, bankers are usually more interested in assessing risk and consequently learning that the company has a good core foundation. Does the company have experienced management? Do these managers have various talents and experiences to guide the company through good times and bad?”

Given confidence in the management team, the bank must look at the elements of the business plan from a more objective standpoint than the entrepreneur ever can. The critical consideration is whether the company’s major products or services provide sufficient profitability and cash flow to meet all its financial obligations, particularly payments to service the debt under consideration.

If the company is a startup, the best indicators are often the norms for the business in which the company will be competing. Are projected margins and ratios in line with others in their industry? The bank will also look at credit reports and tax returns on the key individuals involved in the startup.

If the company has some financial and credit history, the bank will check corporate tax returns and financial statements, individual financial statements, liens, litigation, agency reports such as Dun and Bradstreet, etc. To ensure finances are in order, Ray recommends receiving your personal and business credit reports prior to seeking a loan to make sure the information is correct before going through this process. Misinformation or old loans and liens may erroneously still be on the report. Taking care of these errors prior to applying for a loan can streamline the process.

Fincken says: “We look for consistent, sound cash flow from operations and good, quality assets. We look at these because they are the primary sources of repayment. We then analyze this information and compare it to other similar businesses as a guide.”

Once the records are in order, the next step is the bank’s formal application process. “Planning ahead will help you increase your chances of receiving a loan as well as streamline the loan timeline,” Fincken advises. “Put together a business plan and description of why you need financing; include three years of financial statements or projections.”

Expect to be asked, and prepare your answers to the following questions:

• How much money is needed?

• What is the purpose of the loan?

• How long do you anticipate using the money?

• How will the company be able to pay back the loan?

• How will the bank get paid if something goes wrong?

Here is a list of the most common reasons for loan denials:

• The company is deemed unable to repay the loan

• There is inadequate financial information

• The financial statements are unprofessionally prepared

• There are perceived critical weaknesses in management

• Applicants fail to demonstrate their ability to implement sound accounting and management information systems.

You would certainly be reluctant to extend credit to a prospective customer where you had significant doubt of their ability to pay. Remember that the bank’s business is to lend money, and that they must apply the same discretion to your request.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D has over 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

Entrepreneurial Career Consulting

The following is excerpted from Careers in Entrepreneurship, http://careers-in-business.com/en.htm. If you find it overwhelming, consider entrepreneurial career consulting. There are sources of free consulting such as SCORE, http://www.score.gov.

Entrepreneurs start new businesses and take on the risk and rewards of being an owner. This is the ultimate career in capitalism – putting your idea to work in a competitive economy. Some new ventures generate enormous wealth for the entrepreneur. However, the job of entrepreneur is not for everyone. You need to be hard-working, smart, creative, willing to take risks and good with people. You need to have heart, have motivation and have drive.

There are many industries where wealth creation is possible be it the Internet and IT, personal services, media, engineering or small local business (e.g., dry cleaning, electronics repair, restaurants).

But there is a downside of entrepreneurship too. Your life may lack stability and structure. Your ability to take time off may be highly limited. And you may become stressed as you manage cash flow on the one hand and expansion on the other. Three out of five new businesses in the U.S. fail within 18 months of getting started.

It’s important to be savvy and understand what is and is not realistic. The web is chock-full of come-ons promising to make you rich. Avoid promotions that require you to pay up front to learn some secret to wealth.

Look for inefficiencies in markets. Places where a better idea, a little ingenuity or some aggressive marketing could really make a difference. Think about problems that people would pay to have a solution to. It helps to know finance. It’s a must to really know your product area well. What do consumers want? What differentiates you from the competition? How do you market this product?

A formal business plan is not essential, but is normally a great help in thinking through the case for a new business. You’ll be investing more in it than anyone else, so treat yourself like a smart, skeptical investor who needs to be convinced that the math adds up for the business you propose starting.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has over 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

Financial Issues in Business Startup

The prospective new business owner approaching a lending institution should keep in mind the “five c’s of credit:” character, cash flow, capital, collateral, and (economic) conditions. Character consists of the borrower’s integrity, experience, and ability; particularly close attention is paid to a borrower’s credit history, which is a matter of record. Should you decide to try to fund a startup through a commercial lender, the remaining criteria are addressed in the loan request.

A primary inhibitor of business start-up is that few people have the financial cushion to give up a job for the uncertain income of a start-up venture. In a recent survey, about 30% of new business founders identified inadequate funding as their biggest hurdle, and a similar amount said lenders were too conservative. About 15% reported being unable to find investors, and a similar amount claimed a lack of collateral.

The prospective new business owner approaching a lending institution should keep in mind the “five c’s of credit“: character, cash flow, capital, collateral, and (economic) conditions. Character consists of the borrower’s integrity, experience, and ability; particularly close attention is paid to a borrower’s credit history, which is a matter of record. Should you decide to try to fund a startup through a commercial lender, the remaining criteria are addressed in the loan request.

The loan request should include a credit application, financial information such as tax returns and personal financial statements, and a brief business plan emphasizing projected financial performance of the new venture. The plan should demonstrate how the business will generate sufficient cash flow to repay the loan, specify collateral, and show the borrower’s personal investment.

In addition to servicing the loan, cash flow should also cover operating expenses, and provide for some re-investment for the increasing financial demands of a start-up venture. As collateral, banks will often lend up to 80% of the market value of real estate, and up to 50% on business assets such as equipment, inventory, and current accounts receivable. Lenders and investors often require that the bulk of start-up monies be provided by the business owner. This assures these stakeholders that the owner is committed, and has confidence in the financial projections.

When the entrepreneur can not meet the requirements of commercial lenders, and does not have a favorable arrangement with partners or other investors, the remaining options are difficult and expensive. These options include public-sector guarantees, finance companies, and the venture capital market.

Even where the start-up investment consists largely of other people’s money, the amount of financial risk for the entrepreneur is beyond what most can responsibly handle. For many with the financial means, the stress of bearing complete responsibility for the company’s direction and performance is the discouraging factor.

Once the venture is off the ground, a new set of challenges faces the entrepreneur. A recent survey showed their major concerns, named by more than half of respondents, were: “getting new business/clients”; “managing my time”; and, “promoting my business”. Another interesting question was what they missed about the corporate world. The top three responses were “company-paid health insurance”, “a regular paycheck”, and “retirement plans”.

Various estimates have been made for the failure rate of business start-ups, based on various concepts of failure and of appropriate survey methods. The consensus seems to be that less than half of new businesses survive the start-up “trauma”.

Perhaps, a major reason for what seems to be a high failure rate is that it is so easy to start a business. There is no institutionalized check of qualifications in the U.S.; on the contrary, our tax dollars fund the Small Business Administration and other agencies and programs that encourage business formation.

Another survey showed that over 80% of entrepreneurs would take a pay cut if that is what it took to keep the business going. Just over a third would sell the business, even if a good price were offered.

John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has over 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site www.jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business”, available on Amazon.

Evaluating an Opportunity

A brief case study in entrepreneurship is presented to demonstrate how opportunities can be evaluated.

Business opportunities are often based on broad trends, such as:

  • Demographic, such as the “graying” of America (creating opportunities in health services, for example);
  • Sociological developments, like the “green” movement, with its emphasis on recycling and environmental sensitivity, and;
  • Cultural changes caused by changing economic conditions and technological developments.
  • Opportunities can also frequently be found in current and developing business trends such as:

  • The globalization of business,
  • The need for outsourcing created by downsizing, and
  • The burgeoning service economy.
  • The Internet and rapid growth of e-commerce have certainly created changes in the process of buying books and CD’s, trading stock, delivering information, and bidding on collectibles. Where do you see the next process to be transformed in a major way by the Internet?

    Let’s do a brief case study in opportunity:

    Neighborhood Coffee Shop

    I live in the eastern section of town, which is growing rapidly, and food and business services are not quite keeping up. The “East” is fairly isolated from the rest of the city by water, an interstate highway, and an industrial park, forming a separate and distinct market. “People” are saying that the East desperately needs a good coffee shop. (Who are these people? Are they just in our immediate circle? Are they representative enough of the area to extrapolate from?)

    Let us analyze some factors which indicate the opportunity potential of an idea:

  • The “window of opportunity” is opening, and will remain open long enough.
  • We cannot be the only entrepreneurs that perceive these opportunities. How long before the need becomes compelling enough for others to jump in?

  • Entry is feasible, and achievable with the committed principals.
  • Two friends want to be partners with me in a venture; one is managing a coffee shop across town, and willing to manage a startup. Between us, we could muster the capital for a coffee shop.

  • The proposed venture has some competitive advantage.
  • We were among the first to locate in the new area, and are very active in the local business community. We know of an ideal site, and the building manager is a friend. She is willing to sub-contract the beverage and light-meal/dessert services the building provides tenants.

  • The economics of the venture are “rewarding and forgiving.”
  • Materials costs are a small percentage of revenues; site preparation and equipment costs are minimal.

  • We can break even at what seems to be an easily achievable volume.
  • We may even want to consider a more upscale atmosphere based on what some say is the difference between a “coffeehouse” and a “coffee shop:” About two bucks a cup… A coffee shop is a place to grab a quick bite and a cheap cup of coffee.

    Eric Gerber of the MSN Network’s Sidewalk suggests that “A coffeehouse is a place to wax philosophical –
    Mozart or Bach, Faulkner or Fitzgerald, Xena or Hercules? – while seeing just how complicated you can make a simple drink like coffee: double latte espresso-chino with half decaf Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast, extra low-fat foam and a Frangelica drizzle, please.”

    The conditions for starting a neighborhood coffee shop seem favorable, but there must be more that we can do to critically evaluate the venture while improving our chances of success. That “more” is market research, and do not leave the business launch pad without it!

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has more than 40 years’ experience as an educator, manager, entrepreneur, and strategist. He founded and ran a highly successful business for 20 years. He is the author of “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” and “The Entrepreneur’s Fieldbook” and co-author of “Raising Entrepreneurial Capital,” now in its second edition.