Why do we pitch so many companies?baseball-vc-pitch

I like to tell the story of the first time I filled out a questionnaire about Rockies Venture Club’s activities for the Angel Capital Association.  When I got the the question about how many companies we present each year, the choices were something like 1-3, 4-7, 8-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 25+ pitches per year.   With over 100 companies pitched in 2012 and 80 in 2013, we are off the charts!

I have a huge respect for the people I’ve met at the ACA, so I began to wonder whether we were doing something wrong.  I started looking at how the different angel groups functioned and why we were different.  Here is a summary of what I found:

1)      RVC is unique in that it serves the whole community and not just investors.   We have pitch events with 100+ people watching four pitches every month and conferences with hundreds of people watching 12 or 24 pitches.  We reach out to the community through partner groups.  If you just have a few dozen angels to depend on for your deal flow, then you won’t see a lot, but if you involve the whole community, then the deal-flow suddenly becomes significant.

2)      RVC is also unique in its focus on education.  By educating both the angel investors and the entrepreneurs, we make a smarter environment full of smart investors and savvy entrepreneurs.  This means that there are more high quality deals available than if no quality educational resources were available.  Without Pitch Academy we’ve noticed that most  (but not all) of the pitches we see are pretty flat.  They’re not only poor pitches, but the thinking behind them is often thin and poorly researched.  RVC workshops help entrepreneurs to build a solid logic to their plans, backed up by good research and hard work.  This alone is not enough to succeed, but it definitely raises the bar and puts higher quality deals in front of investors who now have the tools to really evaluate the deals that they’re looking at.

3)      You could challenge our plan to pitch roughly one in ten applicants.   “Why not just pick a few really good companies and go with them?”   There are a few problems with this challenge.  The first is that in many cases you don’t know which companies are good until you pitch them and get into due diligence.  If you just goody-pick the companies with great executive summaries all you get is companies that are good at executive summary writing.

4)      What about the 75% of RVC pitch companies who don’t get funded?  I’m often surprised about what does and what doesn’t get funded.  What I have seen is that something like two thirds of the companies that don’t get funded didn’t make it because they weren’t ready to pitch yet.  They still had homework to do in order to back up their plan and to refine their message and build a sharp strategy.  Some times these companies give up and other times they go back to the drawing board and come back six or twelve months later with a new CEO on board and the funding falls immediately into place.  Giving these companies the opportunity to pitch provides them with the perspective that they need to grow and get funded – or better yet, it teaches them how to bootstrap so that they never have to be beholden to angel or VC investors!

5)      Seeing lots of companies is the best way to build your 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours as an investor.  Some angel groups pitch only one company per month.  It would take one of those angels ten years to see as many deals as an RVC investor sees in a year.  Which investor do you think is going to have the ability to spot the winners from the losers?  Pattern recognition plays a big part in investing and the only way to build that is to see lots of deals.

6)      Enterpreneurs benefit by seeing lots of pitches too.  If entrepreneurs can see lots of great pitches, they get an idea for how high the bar has been set in our community.  They see what investors like and don’t like and they get to see which companies get funded and go on to do great things.  In many angel groups, the first pitch the entrepreneur sees is their own.  This is a bad way to learn how not just to pitch your company, but to build a winning strategy and team.

After thinking about it, my conclusion is that, like so many things, the best solution is to reach a balance.   It’s great to pitch a lot of companies for perspective, exposure and deal flow, but you also have to be prepared to limit the companies pitching to the ability of your entrepreneurial community to produce quality deal flow.    Right now we’re seeing 80 quality deals a year, but if things slow down, 60 might be the  right number, or if they heat up, then maybe 120!

To see a dozen great pitches – and I mean it – twelve highly investable companies – attend the 25th Rockies Venture Club Colorado Capital Conference.  #2013CCC   This even will have twelve great companies PLUS presentations from four Colorado companies that have gone big-time and had huge exits this year.  Hear from their founders and CEOs to learn how they did it and what to watch out for as either an investor or entrepreneur.

November 6-7 in Denver and Golden.  The 25th Colorado Capital Conference

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success-next-exitI’ve been talking to a lot of people about exit strategies this year, including VCs, Investment Bankers, two and three time exit participants, entrepreneurs and investors.  I’ve heard a lot of great exit stories and yet there doesn’t seem to be a consensus about when a company should begin planning for its exit.

One school of thought is that you should just start a company and grow it as fast as possible and you’ll know when it’s time to exit.  This has been described kind of like lightning striking and then it’s time.

The problem with this school of thought it that it is all wrong.

Companies should be thinking about their exit plan before they even form the company.

Why?

Here are a few reasons:

1)      It’s an agreed upon principle that a company should really know its customer.  If you’re selling widgets  through your company, you need to know the widget buyers, but if you’re eventually going to be selling the company, pursuing an IPO or other exit, you need to know your customer – and it’s not the guy who buys your widgets – it’s the company that acquires you.   You need to know why your company would be a strategic advantage for them – would you provide a geographic benefit?  A new set of clients? Intellectual Property? Or would they buy you just to get rid of a meddlesome competitor?  You need to know who will acquire you and why they want to acquire you.  Once you know that, then you build the company to provide the most value to the people who will buy it.

2)      Exits aren’t executed in a day.  By the time that you realize it’s time to exit, it’s probably too late to put a plan together and get it done.  Smart companies plan for their exits and understand acquisitions in their field and structure their company so that multiple companies will be likely to be bidding for it when the time comes.  If you spend your time building a company that has only one potential acquirer do you think you’ll get top dollar?  A great exit is built on relationships.  These can take months and years to cultivate, especially among multiple acquirers.  Why not begin those relationships at the start and shorten the time to exit?

3)      Understanding exits is the key to understanding company value.  Many valuation methodologies for early stage companies are based on the exit value.  The Venture Capital Method begins with potential exit scenarios and then discounts the value of those exits to present value.  If the company can’t develop a strong case for a big exit, they will either fail to raise venture capital, or they may raise capital at valuations far lower than their potential.  Early stage companies should research who is acquiring whom in their market and for how much.  This research will make them much more attractive to investors who know that without an exit, they will never get their money back.

4)      I recently worked with a company that set up several subsidiary companies with different ownership structures and potential conflicts of interest among them.  This could make sense in terms of building an international distribution business, but it makes no sense to potential acquirers.  Ultimately this strategy would lead to much lower acquisition price in the end.  If you think about the exit when you’re setting up your company, your decisions will be easier since you can just ask yourself “what will add the most value to an acquirer?”

5)      Finally, there’s Steven Covey’s second Habit of Highly Successful People “Begin with the end in mind.”   Do you think he meant this for everything except something as important as the destiny for your company?   No, you need to found your company with the idea that there will be an exit and a clear idea of who will acquire it.  Without this clarity, the company will be spinning its wheels on initiatives that may not ultimately be adding value to the acquirer.  Some people say that you can’t know for sure who will acquire you when you’re just starting out.  Sure – that’s true.  But the fact is that you can’t know ANYTHING for sure, so if you can only plan for things you know for sure, the only sure thing is that you shouldn’t be planning on being an entrepreneur.   I’ve heard the same arguments from people that entrepreneurs shouldn’t even bother with a business plan – just do it, they say.  This is a pendulum-swing response to those who are stuck with analysis-paralysis which is also a company killer.  Neither extreme is good.  These people are sometimes lucky, but more often not, they’re forming part of the 90% of businesses that fail.  All investors and entrepreneurs should know that their plans are not likely to be executed as stated, but this doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a plan.  Without a plan, there is no alignment among team members, no goal, no smart thinking about options and alternatives, and all you’ve got going for you is luck.  Good luck with that.

 

To learn more about exits and learn from some of the biggest exits in Colorado, attend the Colorado Capital Conference November 6-7 and hear about seven big exits and how they happened.  You’ll also get to see twelve great startup pitches, all of which have a clear exit strategy articulated!  Join us and follow the debate!

Register now at www.coloradocapitalconference.org

Register for Investing In Tech Companies event

At the Esprit Entrepreneur Conference in Boulder this week a question was asked about how we can make Colorado more than a flyover state and attract more out of state investment.

Given that Boulder and Denver are in the top three cities for startups on a per-capital basis, it’s clear that we don’t have a problem with developing an entrepreneurial community  and the great high quality deal flow that comes from that.  I’m continually impressed with the ability of the Front Range ecosystem to turn out high quality companies.

But, if we want to attract more out of state investors, we need to have more Colorado exits that we can celebrate and make public.  This year has been a great year for Colorado exits with the IPOs from Noodles & Company and Rally Software.  Both companies have more than doubled since their IPOs and are doing great.  We’ve also had a number of great $100 million plus acquisitions including LineRate and NexGen Storage.

Colorado needs to get the word out more about these great exits.  We’re well known for startups, but investors know that without exits, there is no way to get their money back.  In short, exits are what investors care about.  When investors see that our community is sophisticated and is thinking about how to best position ourselves for exit, even if it is an acquisition by an out-of-state firm,  that there is a greater chance of attracting those coastal dollars to Colorado.

Rockies Venture Club is celebrating Colorado Exits with its 25th Colorado Capital Conference November 6th and 7th, 2013.  www.coloradocapitalconference.org  We will be hosting twelve great startups whose pitches will ALL include a description of their exit strategy so that investors know how they will get their investment back.  The theme of the conference is Steven Covey’s Second Habit of Highly Successful People – “Begin with the End in Mind.”

We will also have speakers from the top companies who have had exits this year who will tell us how they positioned themselves, how they decided on IPO vs. acquisition, and when they actively started the exit process.  The fact that the founders are still with the companies shows that an “exit” is really a liquidity event where money is returned to investors, not an actual exit where the founders leave a company.  This year’s CCC is a must-attend event for investors and entrepreneurs alike.

You think you can sell your company? Learn from those who have done it at 2013 CCC next week!

 

The entrepreneur’s dream: starting from scratch, building something significant, and creating value for everyonesuccess-next-exit on your side. Maybe that means holding on to a business you could retire on or pass down to your family. If you’re in the VC world, taking on investors means you are expected to cash out, hopefully for far more than was invested. Acquisitions and IPOs are great, but why doesn’t it happen more often? A successful exit can be a rising tide that lifts the boats around it – why do so few entrepreneurs actually make it? Beyond a little luck, what does it take to get there?

I don’t know all the answers to these questions. If I did, I might be taking a yacht to the island I just bought to relax for the rest of my life. More likely, I would be looking for the next masochistic opportunity to work really hard at something for no cash for years, in order to do it all over again. I haven’t exited a company (yet) so I can’t tell you the secrets from experience. Thankfully, a few serial entrepreneurs who have been through it all will share their minds on the subject at the Colorado Capital Conference November 6th and 7th.  This year’s theme is “begin with the end in mind” – Habit #2 of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Here are this year’s speakers, who together have built billions of dollars in value in Colorado:

Ryan Martens, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Rally Software. The Boulder Colorado-based company, which specializes in agile project management software, priced its 6 million shares at $14, raising $84 million at a valuation of $315 million which has more than doubled since it’s IPO earlier this year.

John Spiers, CEO and Founder of NexGen Storage. John Spiers story of entrepreneurial lightning striking twice, first with his sale of LeftHand Networks to HP and this year’s sale of Nexgen to Fusion-IO for $119 million.
Kevin Reddy, CEO of Noodles & Co.   Noodles started with $73,000 in personal funds from founder Aaron Kennedy and raised $200,000 from friends and family.  The company grew to $300 million in sales and had an IPO that more than doubled in its first day and has continued to grow since then to a market cap of over $1.3 billion.
– Steve Georgis, CEO of LineRate.   Louisville based LineRate received early venture backing from Boulder Ventures and wroked in stealth mode with its Software Defined Networking product that increases speed and efficiency in data centers and just ten months after their product announcement achieved success with an acquisition by F5 Networks in one of the largest acquisitions in the Boulder area in the past several years.

Jared Polis, Congressman and a two-time successful entrepreneurial exit success story! His first exit with BlueMountainArts.com for $780 million and then ProFlowers for $480 million.

– Morgan Rogers McMillan, Executive Director of Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO). EFCO brings together local venture capitalists and start-ups to set aside 1 percent of their profits to charity.

Register here for the 2013 Colorado Capital Conference. The opening Gala in Denver is the evening of Wednesday November 6th, and the full day conference in Golden is Thursday the 7th. Hope to see you there!

The Rockies Venture Club has announced the companies that will pitch at the Colorado Capital Conference. On Thursday, November 7th, the following 12 will give investor presentations:

 

 

These companies are now working with their volunteer individual ‘pitch mentors’ from the Rockies Venture Club. RVC will also provide volunteer ‘deal mentors’ experienced in startup financing to help entrepreneurs navigate investor term sheets and the post-pitch process.

 

This year marks the 25th annual Colorado Capital Conference and will be hosted in Denver and Golden on November 6th and 7th, 2013. It is one of the biggest events for early stage companies and investors in Colorado, and features a great speaker lineup this year. Register here if you haven’t already!

On November 6th and 7th, the Rockies Venture Club will host the 25th annual Colorado Capital Conference in Denver and Golden, CO. 12 companies will be selected to pitch to investors, and the 2-day event will focus on recent Untitledsuccessful exits from other Colorado businesses.

2013 CCC speakers include Jim Lejeal, CFO of Rally Software that went public this April, and John Spiers, CEO of NexGen Storage, who sold to Fusion-io just a couple weeks later. Congressman (and Techstars founder) Jared Polis will also keynote the conference. A rare breed in politics, the Boulder native earned substantial entrepreneurial success, including multiple exits and an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, before running for office.

Applications to pitch are competitive, and open until October 15th. Conference attendees and investors can find early-bird discount registration until October 10th. The Colorado Capital Conference is one of the most important events of the year in Colorado both for investors, and companies looking to raise $100k to $2 million. In 2012, companies that pitched through Rockies Venture Club received over $22 million in financing, and this year’s CCC is sure to kick off the last big funding push of the year!

 

By Michael Price,

Executive Director of Coalition for a Connected West

michaelprice@connectedwest.org

Innovation takes action. That’s a core takeaway from Denver Startup Week and the APEX Conference the prior week.  Both events were jam packed with amazing entrepreneurs who told inspiring stories of perseverance and anecdotes of how they made their ideas a reality.  Now people are wondering if the energy and excitement generated by DSW will have a lasting impact.  That may be the wrong question to ask.

DSW shouldn’t be looked at in isolation. The event is the culmination of years of hard work and is predicated on the fact that a startup culture already existed in Colorado.  Before DSW there were small meetups in coffee shops, at bars and larger ones like New Tech.  DSW’s existence and subsequent success is actually a sign that Colorado’s startup community is growing stronger.  If the community is going to continue to mature, it’s going to take constant action.

“Do it yourself first,” is a principle espoused by the book Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson (creator of Ruby on Rails).  Colorado’s most successful startup entrepreneurs are people who embrace this perspective, and it’s a trait that has weaved itself into the local DNA.  Entrepreneurs see gaps in the market, create solutions and provide services that consumers are compelled to buy.  They don’t always need a lot of money or government support, they just do it.

Colorado’s spirit of innovation has grown despite threats to its existence. Using outdated models for managing markets, regulators can stifle innovation or, even worse, stop it in its tracks.  While there’s an interest in protecting consumers from bad actors, regulators can sometimes overreach and prevent great ideas from reaching their full potential.

That’s why it’s important that entrepreneurs be the leaders of the startup community, a philosophy of Brad Feld’s “Boulder Thesis.”

Entrepreneurs are the best vessels to carry the message that innovation can’t be contained and the winners and losers should be chosen by the market.  Those with the ability to take ideas from conception to consumer should be rewarded and allowed to compete.

At the Coalition for a Connected West, we strive to generate a dialogue between entrepreneurs and policymakers so that innovation in Colorado can continue to thrive.  We have a great advisory board of thought leaders, who also happen to be entrepreneurs, and are compelled to get involved.  They are the ones who can have the most impact because they live it every day.

If the startup community in Colorado is going to continue growing, it’ll take a commitment from entrepreneurs to be both leaders of their businesses and of their communities.  Have awareness about the policies that affect your community.  Learn more and work with organizations like CCW, Rockies Venture Club and Colorado Technology Association to make a difference.  Take our future in our own hands.

 

Denver Startup Week was huge for the Denver entrepreneurial scene! It was vibrant with a ton of activities and wide participation from the Denver area. Also in Denver during the same week was the Rocky Mountain Life Science Investor and Partnering Conference, put on by the Colorado BioScience Association. For a bio nerd and startup junkie like myself, it was a very rewarding week. I enjoyed both events, I’m thankful to have been able to IMG_2471participate, and I’d go back next time they come around. CNBC even covered both here and here. My perspective is on the intersection of the events – or more accurately, the lack thereof.

I’m beginning to obsess over this idea. How do we connect the parallel universes of Colorado startup industries? Life Science/Biotech isn’t the only silo, but outside of tech it’s the only one I’m immersed in. Brad Feld talks about the issue in his book Startup Communities, and specifically highlights an unsuccessful interaction with a Boulder biotech group. I won’t say that any person or any group is to blame for the current split – only that we’re here now, and it needs to get better.

Denver Startup Week has been successful twice in two years, and grew significantly from 2012 to 2013. It was not quite, as their signs suggested, a “celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver” but it’s getting there, and I only expect the event to grow and become better. It is led by inclusive entrepreneurs, so there is significant community support.

IMG_2473The Colorado BioScience Association’s conference also stands on multiple years of success. Launched in 2009 as a biennial (every 2 years) conference, it brings startups from 5 states: Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana. The 1-day event featured 30 big investors from Colorado, both coasts, and in between: VC’s, public company venture arms, and Angel investors. 30 startups also presented, pitching for everything from angel rounds to getting ready for an IPO. InnovatioNews has a great review of the day here.

Within their own communities, both events were huge. However, almost everyone I talked to at DSW about the biotech conference had no idea it was going on, and many at CBSA’s only found out DSW was going on from the signs on 16th St, since Basecamp was only 4 blocks away. It was close enough that I walked over from the Ritz during a networking break.

There are bright spots in the gap, however. Rockies Venture Club leadership, volunteers, and a few of their top Angels were all over both events. The fact that RVC was founded in 1985 and serves a variety of industries probably helps in that area. There are other people building connections and bridges between the parallel universes, and we need to encourage and cultivate that. This year DSW added a manufacturing track, and I have every reason to believe they’ll keep growing the events. Denver did have a broader focus than Boulder Startup Week, in comparison. BSW was also a great event this year, albeit primarily focused on software and internet. I attended and loved it, and I’ll proudly wear the BSW t-shirt with the 1’s and 0’s logo, even though I can’t write a single line of code.

The noble idea that brings entrepreneurs, creators, artists, and (good) investors together is the belief that we can always make things better by creating value. Startup communities grow organically and tend to be messy, and that breeds collaboration and innovation. I have no doubt this chasm will be bridged; entrepreneurs will lead the way, and the process will add value to anyone involved. The Boulder and Denver startup communities were once pretty segregated, and we’ve seen incredible progress there. Connecting the parallel universes within the Denver/Boulder area is a positive sum game and must be seen that way. It will not be an easy or quick process, but it is worth the effort.

Tim is a regular contributor to the Rockies Venture Club blog and a Master’s of Engineering Management student at CU-Boulder. He holds a bachelor’s in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Denver, and has worked for startups since he left his corporate life as a licensed investment advisor.

Twitter: @taharveyconsult

 

 

Crowdfunding has been a growing force in the financial industry, disrupting sectors each time it reaches a new one. p2biMicroloan platforms like Kiva and peer-to-peer lending such as Prosper have proven to be a quickly growing alternative in debt, and have increased access and choice for those looking for financing. Companies such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter have given rise to donation and pre-sale based funding for a wide range of people and businesses, and with the implementation of the JOBS act, equity can be sold over similar platforms as well. New technologies that connect people in meaningful ways have a way of changing the world, and P2Bi plans to be a part of that.

 

One area of financing that has not been disrupted by crowdfunding (yet) is the business receivables market. The idea of a business selling its invoices (accounts receivable) to a 3rd party to raise cash isn’t a new idea, and was even established in the Code of Hammurabi nearly 4,000 years ago. However, this $136 billion industry (in the US alone) has been quiet with relatively little innovation. Transparency has been an issue in the factoring industry in the past, and since it usually involves business-to-business transactions, it isn’t found in a public light very often.

P2Bi (Peer-to-Business Investor) is working to change this. As the first crowdfunded business receivables market, they have opened up a new and transparent path to finance growing companies, and have been connecting investors with small businesses since early 2012. This is an increasingly important gap to fill – according to a Pepperdine report, nearly 2/3 of small businesses in the US were recently unable to secure bank loans, where many had the ability and desire to repay loans but not the credit for a traditional bank to provide funding to them. With P2Bi, business owners are able to find competitively priced loans, and accredited investors can buy into portfolios of asset-backed business receivables, which are likely to generate a higher interest rate than cash instruments that are currently returning closer to 0 than even 1%. P2Bi works with a wide variety of small businesses, with the exception of transportation and construction.

P2Bi recently raised a Series A investment round, including investors from the Rockies Venture Club and John Spiers (who recently exited NexGen), among others. This follows their August 2012 seed round, and will be used to help the business scale. Among other activities, they will be hiring for multiple positions (LINK) and relocating from Louisville, CO to Denver. “We’re really excited about moving to Denver. It makes the most sense with the density of businesses and the finance industry in Denver,” said Krista Morgan, co-founder and CMO. P2Bi will also benefit from local investors and connections in the community. “Peter Adams (of RVC) was really instrumental in getting investors there and convincing them to come on board, Krista said.

Congratulations to P2Bi on closing their Series A, and best wishes helping small businesses grow while creating value in Colorado!

Tim Harvey is a Master’s of Engineering Management student at CU-Boulder and a regular contributor to the Rockies Venture Club. He has started a few businesses (nothing big yet) and most recently worked as a Fortune 500 marketing consultant with a neuroscience-based startup. Prior to that he was an investment advisor for individuals and corporations, holding FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses.

It is awkward to ask people for money. Whether an entrepreneur or fundraising for charity– most people are not used to asking for cash from other people. They’re obviously not the same, though – investing in an entrepreneur (hopefully) produces a financial return. If you’re talking to an angel or VC and you feel like you’re just asking for charity, you need to get your head right. Your frame of mind determines much of your life and other people’s response to it, so feeling confident while raising money is obviously important.

If you feel like you’re asking for charity from investors because you’re not sure about your business, stop. Save everyone’s time and money and change something before you ask for money.

If you feel awkward fundraising but believe in your business, you have some room to work with. When raising money, your mindset should be closer to “This money will allow me to better grow my company and my investors will benefit”, than “I need this money so I don’t go out of business.” Both statements may be true, but focus on the positive. I’m not saying your business should only be chasing money – I believe the goal should be to create value for your customers, and if this is done well profit will follow.

Whether you’re nervous or not, here are five questions you need to be comfortable with. Think of them as “elevator answers” where you can get the main point across in 15-30 seconds, with the ability to expand on them as necessary.

1) How much is your company worth?

Simple question, not-so-simple answer for a startup.

There are a number of different ways to value your company, and the Angel Capital Association has a great post on methods here. The important thing is to use a few, because they take into account different factors and can demonstrate your ability to think from multiple perspectives. Be able to explain why you used the methods you did, as well as underlying risks, assumptions, and caveats in your models. It’s not as important to come up with the “correct” valuation (not a multiple choice test here) as your approach in finding it. You don’t really define your company’s value anyway; value here is determined by what investors are willing to pay for equity. Also keep in mind that valuation is not necessarily the most important thing on the term sheet, and that a high one means more growth necessary to generate the same return.

On a very basic note, know the valuation inherent in your ask. If you ask for $1 million for 20% equity, you’re valuing your business at $5 million pre/$6 million post. If you’ve taken the “college business plan” route so far and came to your valuation by “here’s what I think I need and how much equity I feel like giving up” go back to the drawing board.

2) What are you going to do with the money?

Be specific, and ready to explain each aspect of your plan. Whether it’s to fulfill a huge backlog of orders of widgets you’ve already been selling at a high margin (great!) or you need to hire programmers or a sales team, know the specific reasons and why they’re important.

3) Can you make this work with less?

Genentech is a great example – in 1976 they originally wanted about $3 million from Kleiner Perkins, and were persuaded to prove the concept first. A $250,000 investment helped accomplish this, with much less upfront risk for the entrepreneur and investors. Genentech had a $300 million IPO in 1980, and was fully acquired by Roche in 2009 for $46.8 billion.

Know all the finances. You should already have your current and projected numbers down pat, including revenue, EBITDA, margins, etc., as well as your hopes for an exit. Also, know as much as you can about your industry’s numbers and how other valuations were determined, such as with a financial multiplier or number of users. While many entrepreneurs like to think they’re the only startup in their space, even risk-prone investors like angels or VC’s get wary of moving into virgin territory. It’s useful to have industry comparisons, but be able to distinguish yourself and why you are more likely to succeed.

4) What does it cost to acquire a customer?

This is an important and often-overlooked metric but is increasing in popularity. What does it take to produce your product and get customers to pay you for it? Once you have a customer, do they stick around? Sticky customers lead to scalability.

5) What will this investment cost me?

Last, but perhaps the most important question: ask yourself – what will this investment cost me? For the investor, this is a straightforward answer: usually a check, or a check and time on a board. (On top of due diligence – your potential investors have to pay for that, too)

For the entrepreneur, it is not so easy to answer. Raising money is not making money, and it means you have more to build to generate the same return on value. As a startup ecosystem we have a tendency to celebrate dilution, but more funding is not always better. If you get a high valuation early and need more money before the company’s value has grown, you’ll be facing a painful “down round”, where the share price is lower on a subsequent round. Last quarter, (Q2 2013) 22% of the VC deals in Silicon were down rounds, while 14% were flat rounds – the un-sexy side of high valuations.

 

In the wisdom of Notorious B.I.G. – “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

Having excess cash in your pocket can lead to an unnecessary burn rate and not validating customer traction. Even successful entrepreneurs can fall into the over-funding trap, especially after exiting their first company with a windfall. If fundraising, diluting founder’s equity to the point where it impacts your motivation is dangerous as well.

Raise money only if you need to. If you do, start the process 6-12 months before you actually need it, and make sure you’re on top of your game.

 

Tim Harvey is a Master’s of Engineering Management student at CU-Boulder and a regular contributor to the Rockies Venture Club. He has started a few businesses (nothing big yet) and most recently worked as a Fortune 500 marketing consultant with a neuroscience-based startup. Prior to that he was an investment advisor for individuals and corporations, holding FINRA Series 7 and 66 licenses.