July 29, 2015

Why a VC Pitch Should be like a James Bond Movie

From a blog post by Aaref Hilaly of Sequoia Capital titled "How to Present to Investors":
Everyone who watches Bond loves the opening sequence, before the titles come on. There’s suspense, action, and unbelievable stunts – in essence, those first 5 minutes bring home why you love Bond, and that keeps you going through the next 2 hours of nonsensical plot twists. 
In the same way, you need to convey the main reasons why an investor should love your business in the first 5 minutes. We found the best way to do that is to open with 3 slides:  
1.What’s changed? Explain what’s the discontinuous shift, break-through, or innovation that opens the window to create a substantial new company. 
2.What you do: A one-sentence explanation of what your company provides to capitalize on that big change. It still surprises me how often we can get 20 minutes into a meeting without a clear picture of exactly what a company does. 
3.Fast facts: Lay out the key metrics for your business: when were you founded? How many employees? What stage of development / market traction? What are you looking to raise? This helps the investor put the rest of the presentation in context.
Related: Another post on the Sequoia blog titled Writing a Business Plan.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

May 08, 2015

A Day In The Life of An "Aam Entrepreneur"

From an article in Economic Times by Anuvab Pal:
Judging all Indian businessmen by the top 15 billionaires is like judging every website as if it were Facebook. The bulk of India’s businessmen and entrepreneurs are people you’ve never heard of, are not politically connected, and no one puts them on any magazine cover. They struggle daily just to keep their enterprise open, make about the same as a middle-class employee of a corporation, and often fail. After bank loans, overheads, legal costs and employee salaries, they are often more common than the common man protesting outside his or her office.

Doing business in India is insane. Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you it’s like fighting a small war every day. And that’s just to manage things nothing to do with the business: flip-flopping regulations, needling competitors, litigations, some infrastructure collapse. And then, at some point in the day, maybe the evening, they get to the actual business with its own crises: absent employees, irate customers, some online review with false accusations, stolen money, stolen inventory.

...A small businessman who runs three restaurants explained to me, “Forget a Swiss bank account. I can’t even open an HDFC Bank account. I don’t know who the media thinks we are when they say businessmen are making millions and looting the country. Just today, I had to pay three bribes, solve three internal fights, two cooks resigned, deal with a Neft issue that blocked delivery from our supplier. And it’s just 7:00 am.”

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

April 25, 2015

Declaration of Independents: A New Venture Funding Model Without the Exit Pressure

Indie.vc is a new experiment (in the US) that provides equity like capital to founders in return for cash distributions from profits instead of needing to sell out or taking their company public.

The philosophy:
There’s a mythology that entrepreneurs need to take VC money to hit the big time. While it’s true that some companies really do need outside capital, there are many examples of great companies that have reached revenues of hundreds of millions of dollars, or even gone public, without ever taking in capital, or taking it in only at a late stage, when they’d already created a high valuation by bootstrapping the company.
...Like cement, the cultural foundation for new projects and companies sets early. Those who focus on raising outside capital and achieving fundable milestones have a very difficult time getting off that VC treadmill. Those who focus on creating value for customers and generating positive cash flow from the very beginning are able to make their own decisions independent of competing outside interests.
Can companies today who plan to stay independent and bootstrap their business be competitive in a world awash with Silicon Valley startups and Sand Hill Road cash? Can we build a new kind of startup community that values independence and a DIY work ethic?
The Methodology:
Traditionally, technology investors only get their money out when you sell out (another term for this is a “Liquidity Event”). An investment from IdVC doesn’t preclude you from selling, but in the event you stay independent, our investment will get paid out as distributions from cashflow over time.  
...Initially, we will get 80% of those distributions while the founders take 20% until our initial investment has been returned 2x. At 2x the model flips to 80% to founders, 20% to inde.vc until we’ve received 5x our investment. Distributions to indie.vc are capped at 5x. 
Only if and when you choose to raise more money from traditional investors or sell out do we become shareholders in your company.
More detailed summary of the terms are spelt out here. A model for how the cash distribution will work is here.

More about the "Declaration of Independents" by Bryce Robeters here.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

March 02, 2015

Under Promising & Over delivering is for Amateurs?!

Clearly, our entrepreneurial ethos and role models are going through a massive generation change. The quotes from Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy that entrepreneurs in the 1990s took to heart included:

``Under promise and over deliver. Investors respect this.'' (On why Infosys gets the kind of valuations it does) 

"Revenue is vanity; profit is sanity; cash is reality"

and

"PSPD: Predictable, Sustainable, Profitable and De-risked"

Cut to 2015. Mukund Mohan, Head of Microsoft Ventures, writes:
Amateurs under promise and over deliver. They are the ones I hear always complain about valuations. They fail to realize that the “professional” entrepreneur friend they have is growing at an insane rate, but they choose to only compare “valuations” and dilution.
And what do the "Professionals" do to make "investors chase them"?
Professionals over commit and outperform. They are the ones that get the best valuations and are diluting very little. They push their entire team to crush already high expectations. They dont heed the “research” that says that it does not pay to over deliver. They crush their metrics on all accounts and deliver growth that’s off the charts.
The times are indeed changing. What do you make of this?

 Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

January 18, 2015

The Science and Art of Finding a Co-Founder

Extract from INSEAD Prof. Vissa Bala's article in the Economic Times:
While complementary skills and social capital matter, it is good to remind ourselves that the entrepreneurial journey is fraught with uncertainty. When times are tough and there is no light at the end of the tunnel, the founding teams that persist and press on regardless are the ones with shared values. So it is critical that your co-founders are as passionate as you are about the opportunity or dream that you are pursuing; that your co-founders share with you the same convictions about what your venture stands for and how you build it.

...Shared values make it much more likely that the founding team builds chemistry and trust; these elusive qualities are essential so the team can handle the pressure cooker environment of a start-up. You have to ask yourself: Can I survive being in the same room together with this person for 72 hours at a stretch to handle a crisis, without biting his or her head off? Because if there is one thing we know for sure about building a growth venture, a crisis that will require long hours at work may be lurking around the corner, just when you least expect it.

...Given that it is difficult to find a co-founder who is a perfect match on every criterion, it is often better to run with a 'good enough' match and execute a founders' agreement or a shareholders' agreement to govern the principles of the relationship.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 07, 2014

Why Indian Companies Are Smart to be "Short-Sighted" and "Risk Averse"

Extracts from the brilliant article by Dr. Ajay Shah:

Let us start with short-sightedness. The best firms in India are able to borrow five--year money at around 13%. At 13%, a rupee five years from now is worth 54 paisa today. A rupee ten years out is worth 29 paisa today, and a rupee twenty years out is worth 9 paisa today. In contrast, a rupee next year is worth 88 paisa today. With this kind of discounting, it is not surprising that projects that yield returns next year (i.e. 88 paisa today for each rupee of profit) are very attractive when compared with projects that yield returns 10 years from now (i.e. 29 paisa today for each rupee of profit). This difference -- between 88 and 29 paisa -- is striking. In a world with high interest rates, being short-sighted is rational.

...What about risk, and the willingness to undertake risky projects? Modern finance teaches us that when firms are able to issue equity into liquid and efficient capital markets, the risk premium that they face is driven by the `beta' of the company's stock against the index. The long run historical rate of return on Nifty is around 21%: this is also the long run historical cost of capital that the typical firm faces. A firm that has a beta of 1 against Nifty has to plan on giving a return to shareholders of around 20%. If the future is discounted at the rate of 20% per year, it makes sense to look for cashflows in one or two years. It also makes sense to look for less risky (i.e. low beta) projects. In a world with a high cost of capital, short-sightedness and a lack of venturesomeness are rational outcomes.

...If you believe that this economic reasoning explains the bulk of the short-sightedness that afflicts India's firms and managers, then there is an extremely optimistic implication: it is not very difficult to change this behaviour. If we make a transition into an environment with low inflation, low interest rates, and low risk premia, then that would give us a whole new breed of risk-taking, far-sighted firms and managers. The management gurus would even write books about the new generation of Indian managers who have developed a `new culture' of doing risky, far-sighted projects.

Dr. Shah also highlights how the solution to this "cultural problem" we Indian entrepreneurs have can be achieved through through a combination of financial sector reforms, pension reforms, fiscal strengthening and capital account convertibility.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

November 06, 2014

How ICICI Bank's K.V.Kamath learnt from an air hostess and a bellboy

From Charles Assisi's column in Mint:
...why is it a stewardess on Jet Airways greets each passenger who gets on board with a smile? For that matter, why is it if a guest asks for directions at any Ritz-Carlton property, they aren’t directed, but led to where they want to go? Everybody, from the bellboy to the hotel manager, follows the rule. 
The stewardess at Jet Airways told Kamath’s colleague their research on passenger behaviour indicated that when greeted with a smile, people lower their guard. For instance, if a flight is delayed or the meal they expect is not on board, as a thumb rule, most people take it in their stride. In the absence of a smile, even minor deficiencies are viewed as offensive, people get boorish, and their behaviour permeates to others on the flight, making it a harrowing experience for the crew. At Ritz-Carlton, the key Kamath observed is empowerment. A bellboy is empowered to take time off from whatever it is he has been assigned to do if a guest walks up to him with a request.  
Having studied both these cases closely, Kamath took a call and introduced the idea of lobby managers at all ICICI Bank branches. Trained by professionals from the hospitality business to greet customers with a smile, they ask around if anybody needs assistance, and help make their dealings at the bank easier. “It’s a soft skill we picked up because we were curious about the workings of those in the hospitality business,” says Kamath. 

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.