Thursday, November 29, 2007

Open Discussion on early stage funding options

Recently, Dave Berkus, Frank Peters and yours truly participated in a round table style podcast on the the Frank Petes Show -- click here to listen.

You may find it interesting.

Additionally, Graeme Thickins did a nice summary of the podcast on his blog at:

Monday, November 26, 2007

related feature

The above article features related content

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Entrepreneurial Case Study: A true failure story.

… and it happens everyday - different people and different businesses.

A year and change ago, I was asked to make an investment in a venture – a couple of smart technologist with previous management experience creating a VOIP related company. I knew the entrepreneurs and was absolutely convinced that they are smart and dedicated. The business model, however, did not make sense to me and I did not invest.

The company raised around $500K. A few months later, they are looking for money and are considering a change in the business model… and later, a new angel investor with another $500K or so has influenced the team to focus on an originally tangent mobile technology to create a novel consumer application.

The new business model and technology was intriguing and reached for my check book! But before signing, met with the two founders and the recent addition to the team, a brilliant new CEO with big telecom and carrier experience.

So, I met the team and my check book was quickly back in my pocket. The founders were showing early stages of the “founder disease” – we are in love with what we are building, we know exactly how it should work, if we only need money to scale the product and market it, the company is worth millions and WE will build it into a new giant. In short, I found the team non-coachable and looking only for a check book and not a partner. I also found the new hotshot CEO Was suffering from the “big company syndrome” -- very limited early stage experience; I did it at XYZ so I can do it here, we had a $100 mil budget, over 300 developers and delivered the product in only 3 years - oopps there is no mega dollar budget, only a few developers, a very limited and rapidly depleting bank account – no room for error.

Later news … the team had made some progress and a pilot demo was built, VCs were approached and a term sheet was received at a great valuation (dilution of about 30%).

The team did not accept the term sheet. One of the clauses (standard in almost 100% of VC term sheets) was the ability for the board (not the VC alone) to augment the management team, if needed -- the team was offended!

A few months later the team is disassembled, the hot shot CEO is after the next big dream, my simple investigation indicates that the mobile product is falling far short what was promised, the founders are doing some consulting to make the ends meet and are looking for someone to buy the Intellectual property. What a shame! Very smart people, so many hours of hard work, over a million dollar down the drain, a great business concept (the second version), and a true failure story.

The question is who’s fault is it? The founders are of the opinion that they had a great team and a great idea and that the VC’s destroyed their dream company and that the angel seed investors failed them by not giving them more money.

I guess my opinion is rather clear… what do you think?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Entrepreneur Effectiveness alert - The curse & bliss of emails; mundane but important

This topic may not be sexy or intellectually challenging, BUT, I think it is important. As emails go, I think we are confusing effectiveness and speed.

I get in excess of 250 emails a day. So often important issues may be ignored due to volume and unimportant matters may take a lot of time. And I am not the only one inundated with so much volume.

The problem is that simple issues that can be resolved in minutes with a quick personal conversation actually take multiple emails. Important issues that require real discussion is boiled down to snippets of responses – the result is that decisions are most likely not as comprehensive and often based on either partial information or influenced by the desire to quickly get to a yes / no answer. We achieve speed of exchange but in a lot of situations lose effectives. I can’t count the number of occasions when efforts are duplicated because some one acted on partial information exchanges in emails and had to re-do things. Now, add the complications of global operations, language barriers and time zones and you have a real challenge on your hand.

There are clearly two schools of thought 1) short, abrupt, and to the point emails vs. 2) verbose and detailed – focusing on CYA. Some write so much stuff that makes me wonder, if they have nothing better to do, and others are so quick to rush to an answer that makes me wonder if they truly care about how their answers may effect the company results and effectiveness.

NO, I am not suggesting to go back to the dark ages. I am suggesting, however, that people are essential to execution and confused people can only produce confused results and effective communication is the only way to get to clarity of direction and purpose. One of the ten commandments of effective execution is effective communications – emails are effecting execution!

My advice, LEARN, AGAIN, TO USE THE PHONE for important issues, use the email for things that do not require fact finding and discussion. Be quick on trivial and very diligent on critical matters. Speed is important, but effectiveness is much more important than velocity.

Remember, the faster errors are made, the more errors can be made in a unit of time!