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Venture Capital

Access New Capital for Your Business

Understand the implications of the capital injection options available to your business.

Entrepreneur

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With access to capital critical for the expansion and growth of one’s business, there comes a point where entrepreneurs need to consider attracting new forms of investment based on the significant cash injection required.

Options considered usually include listing or, alternately, taking on a private equity (PE) partner. With both able to achieve the same objectives, it’s important that entrepreneurs consider the respective implications before choosing which option will best ensure the sustainable success of their business.

The options available

Capital and liquidity are essential for the growth of one’s business. At some stage, however, many entrepreneurs will require a much larger capital injection than the bank will loan them to take their business to the next level. This is when listing or taking on a PE partner become viable alternatives.

While both options will allow an entrepreneur to raise capital fairly rapidly and increase liquidity, they will also assist the business to improve its profile in the market – thereby achieving the same strategic objectives.

Listing and PE have very different implications for a company that entrepreneurs need to be cognisant of from the outset.

In both scenarios, one is inviting external parties to become involved in the core functioning of the business. Because of this, it’s important to appreciate how these new relationships will work, and the obligations and roles of each.

Listing your company

Listing your business in a positive economic climate can work particularly well, as prices and earnings increase on the back of investor confidence. This is what we saw in many of the local listings that took place in the market about five years ago.

The recent global economic downturn has changed this significantly though, reducing the amount of liquidity available and making investors more reticent to invest in newer ‘unknown’ companies. When liquidity is at a premium (as it currently is), big fund managers typically pursue blue chip investments in favour of small-cap companies.

As a result, small-cap companies are punished in this type of cycle – going against their original intention for having listed. Because trading is slower and somewhat restricted, a business’s shares can become inert, with prospects for raising capital and increasing liquidity significantly limited.

Companies also often list in order to make future acquisitions. In recent years, the option of using a listing in order to purchase another company has, however, been curtailed as operators are reluctant to sell for ‘paper’ – rather wanting cash for the sale.

There are a number of other considerations to take into account before listing. When listing, one is moving from the context of a private company to that of the stock market where dealings are highly regulated and scrutinised. This has various consequences for one’s business.

From a corporate governance and administration perspective, there are a number of very stringent requirements to adhere to. One must consequently have the right systems in place in order to meet these on an ongoing basis. The level of reporting required by a listed company also makes it fairly easy for one’s competitors to analyse one’s business; establishing everything from margins to positioning of one’s competitive advantage.

Before making any decisions, understand what you are getting yourself and your business into. Should listing not prove the right option for a business in the long term, delisting can be costly and have negative implications for the company’s profile. To this end, listing should be based on a sound forecast of increased earnings projected over the next five years, in a bullish economic climate.

There are pros and cons to listing as well as taking on a private equity partner. The important consideration is what suits your business. Many entrepreneurs don’t realise that a PE partner offers concrete liquidity and is usually open to new acquisitions – offering a viable alternative to listing purely for this reason.

Because PE players also assist with management buyouts, they can bring new blood and expertise on board during the process, enriching the talent pool and potential of the business. PE goal-posts are different to those of a listing, and PE partners are typically in it for the long haul: what happens in the interim is not as important as overall performance of the company.

As such, one’s PE partner is normally far less interested in a linear trajectory of earnings than the market would be. This is because they’re ultimately working towards selling at the ‘right’ time, even if the business takes longer to reach that point.

By joining the board of the business, a PE investor can also provide invaluable expertise and act as a source of independent advice to management. In the case of RMB Corvest for example, our objective is to understand the business and add value.

This means that, while we don’t become actively involved in managing the company, we attend board and management meetings. In this way, involving a PE partner can bring the right combination of liquidity and expertise to a business, especially if it’s a small-cap company. It can also act as a step on the path towards listing – improving corporate governance procedures and boosting growth prior to entering the market.

Thus while listing and involving a PE partner both offer entrepreneurs a means of taking their businesses to the next level, the most important part of the process is arguably making the right choice between them.

The starting point is to research — and understand — the options in the context of your own business. Remember that this is the next step in positioning your company for sustained success and growth. As such, your strategic objectives must be aligned with the means of achieving these.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Steven Green

    Dec 20, 2012 at 07:46

    Nice article I think it would have been nice if you Had referenced some companies that offer these sorts of deals as well.

  2. Business Plan Whiz

    Jan 17, 2013 at 12:31

    I agree Steven, in adition it would have been great to include a discussion on crowdfunding here. A recent Deloitte report says that around $3Bil will be raised through crowdfunding this year so surely deserves a mention here?

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Venture Capital

Fitbit And Adidas Know Something That Venture Capital Doesn’t

Your startup might accelerate growth by forming a strategic partnership with established businesses — not just VCs.

Dan Lauer

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The media would have you believe that securing venture capital support and funding is the epitome of “making it” in the startup world. But, leaving aside the influx of much-needed capital, what many fail to realise is that VC partners aren’t always a good strategic fit.

Take Fitbit, a company that VCs poured millions into just a few years ago. Unfortunately, the funding couldn’t stop Apple from overtaking Fitbit in the wearable market last year.

So, when Fitbit was looking to light a spark under its fledgling line of smartwatches earlier this year, it didn’t tap another VC. Instead, it turned to Adidas, the shoe and apparel giant known for reinventing itself.

The product – the Adidas-branded Fitbit Ionic – dropped at the end of March and seems to have reinvigorated interest in Fitbit’s Ionic model, which made its tepid debut last year.

Not only did Adidas lend financial support to Fitbit, but it also lent the smaller company the fashionable, influential fan base that Adidas has carefully cultivated in the past few years.

Even though the collaboration hasn’t yet propelled Fitbit past Apple in the smartwatch space, the lesson here is clear: Your startup might accelerate growth by forming a strategic partnership with bigger, established businesses — not just VCs — to access financial backing, mentorship and expert guidance.

The sum is greater than the parts

Companies across a wide range of industries, from technology and retail to media and telecommunications, are investing in startup partnerships. In 2014, Wells Fargo created its own startup incubator to nurture new clean-tech businesses in the marketplace. The incubator, known as IN2, has invested nearly $6 million in 20 companies since its inception.

Related: Developing Partnerships With Fintech Innovators

In successful collaborations, the relationship is symbiotic, with many layers of engagement. We saw a successful example of this at the Ameren Accelerator in St. Louis. Rebate Bus, one of the startups in our 2017 cohort, used the investment and mentorship to get off the ground and scale growth.

During its accelerator phase, Rebate Bus received funding and mentorship and has since secured a partnership with a large company to run a 90-day trial. The large company, for its part, added Rebate Bus’s valuable new technology to its arsenal to stay competitive in the marketplace.

One unintended benefit was that Rebate Bus added five new jobs to the St. Louis market, as well.

In addition to providing financial support, collaborations with bigger companies provide an opportunity to tap into a deep well of knowledge and senior-level management expertise that only a more established brand can provide.

And, because the larger company will likely share a common mission with your startup, it will be concerned about more than just return on investment – something you can’t always say about a VC.

Cultivating a successful partnership

Just like any healthy relationship, this sort of collaboration won’t be successful without care and attention. Here are three ways to build and sustain successful relationships with larger companies.

1. Don’t use a partnership as a crutch. Business relationships are fragile. In fact, statistics from The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals show that nearly half of business alliances fail. That’s why it’s extremely important to set relationships up for success from the outset.

One of the best ways to do this is to approach the partnership as only one facet of your overall strategy for your business’s growth, not its make-or-break point.

While corporations want to create an environment that spurs growth for everyone, they don’t want startups to become dependent on them. Show potential partners that you can stand on your own two feet and leverage a partnership to everyone’s benefit.

Related: The Foundations Of Growth

2. Don’t paint your partnership into a corner. So many venture-backed startups expect to see 12 years of growth in 12 months. These impossible expectations can hamstring a business partnership from day one. Instead, set time lines and goals with your potential partner that are specific and challenging, but also realistic.

Research from the American Psychological Association shows that setting these types of goals led to higher performance 90 percent of the time in the companies examined.

It’s critical to set these expectations early to ensure you and your partner are aligned from the start. The good news is that established companies whose sole purpose for a partnership isn’t ROI should be more open to realistic financial benchmarks.

3. Practice reciprocity. For startups seeking investment, landing capital can begin to feel like the endgame. But remember: Established companies are expecting something out of a partnership, too.

Older companies, meanwhile, are always looking for fresh perspectives; and startups usually have innovative ideas to contribute. It’s important to clearly communicate what each partner brings to the table.

Related: Win-Win: Strategically Partner With Your Top Competitors

Take the career-finding solution PathSource, for example. Co-founder and CEO Aaron Michel didn’t even consider partnering with a company that didn’t share PathSource’s goal to help people find better jobs. That’s why the company finally landed on a partnership with the GED Testing Service, the country’s high school equivalency testing administrator.

As Michel wrote in The Next Web: “A great relationship is a balance of give and take. When you approach a potential partner, don’t bother contacting them unless you know why they would want to speak with you. Know what you have to offer them.”

Legacy companies have a tremendous amount to contribute to entrepreneurs; often, these companies have even more to offer than a venture capital firm.

Related: 5 Things to Do Before Saying ‘I Do’ to a Business Partner

When both partners know what they want out of the relationship and know what they’re willing to give, the end result for both can be more lucrative than what each would reach on his or her own.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

Is Your Business Ready To Be Funded?

A venture capitalist and an entrepreneur who has secured funding weigh in on what you need to become funding-ready.

Matt Brown

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1. Ability to Scale

According to Clive Butkow, CEO of VC firm, Kalon Venture Partners, there are many important criteria VC firms evaluate when making an investment decision, but the ability to scale is the most important.

“At Kalon Venture Partners we only invest in businesses if we believe we can make a 10X return on our investment when we exit the company. If we do not believe the business can scale, both in South Africa and globally, we will not invest,” he says.

“Scalability can swing an investor valuation discussion towards a ‘blue sky’ scenario, presenting an endless opportunity for revenue multiples on an initial capital cost-base,” agrees Benji Coetzee, founder and CEO of EmptyTrips.

“However, unless the potential is paired with execution capability it remains irrelevant,” she warns. “As a founder you need the perseverance and commitment to prove that your product will be scalable. In other words, you need to demonstrate your capability to replicate the offering to unlock upside, clients and product growth.”

Related: What’s Stopping Your Business From Growing?

2. Founder’s Mindset

benji-coetzee

“The founders and CEOs of businesses are the visionaries. They are the fuel in the engine and the Lieutenant General on the front line fighting fires. A founder’s attitude, resilience and ability to rally their troops is therefore paramount,” says Benji.

“Before a company can scale it needs to go through painful growing pains. The product evolves, customer orientation flips, the team matures and competition increases. To navigate this changing multi-faceted journey, the CEO is critical in the fight. Founders create the strategy, rally the army and lead the effort, in both the tough times and the victorious ones.  Without a good fight-plan, and consistent implementation of it toward the objective, the company cannot scale.”

Clive agrees. “In my experience, what got you here will not necessarily get you there. Meaning the skills that helped you build a R10 million business are not the same required to build a R100 million business. Some founders either have the skills or are able to re-skill themselves and take the business to the next level, while others can’t. Sometimes the founder needs to be replaced with a professional CEO that can scale the business. This does not imply the founder leaves, but rather that they take on a new role that is more aligned with their strengths.”

3. Take Action

Clive doesn’t believe it’s right or wrong to scale a business – instead, it comes down to what the founder wants. “Many founders are happy to grow their businesses organically and maybe only build a lifestyle business,” he says.

“Other founders want to build a business that will change the world. We call these exponential entrepreneurs. The key to scaling a business, in my experience, is having the right skillset, as well as a mindset that embraces a ‘can do’ attitude and has a bias for action.”

“I call it AA or Attitude of Abundance,” says Benji. “Founders are the alphas. They need to lead, aspire to and believe in scale.”

Related: 3 Start-up Funding Tips To Help Launch Your Company

 

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Venture Capital

You’ve Raised Early-Stage Funding! Now What?

Four ways to set yourself up for success with your new high-maintenance stakeholders.

Candace Sjogren

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I had 225 conversations and pitched 95 separate investors in order to raise my first $2.2 million. I remember applying for every possible pitch competition, attending every startup event and chamber meeting, tracking down every high net worth individual I could find – anyone willing to listen to my 30-second, 5-minute and hour-long presentations. It was a full-time job raising money, and it took me more than a year before the final investor closed.

But then, on that fateful spring day in 2012, the seed stage fundraise was complete. Then the real work began. It is one thing to paint a vision and promise a movement. It is entirely another to meet milestones, generate revenue, and keep the company on track for an exit. The one thing that I could have never prepared myself for was the pressure that I’d feel from the investors after the money had been raised.

If you are gearing up for a fund raise or are in the midst of one, you may think that you are undergoing the toughest part of your journey.  And if you can prepare appropriately and build good habits early on, you will be.

Related: The Investor Sourcing Guide

Here are four tips for managing the investor’s expectations before you create cause for concern:

1. Communicate early, often and to everyone

When I first began interacting with investors, I made the (incorrect) assumption that they invested in me because they expected me to know what I was doing, and that they only wanted to hear from me if I had dividends to pay. This could not be further from the truth. As a (now) early-stage investor, I invest in businesses when I believe that 1) the founder has the passion and fortitude to stick with it through the tough times; 2) I have experience that can be helpful in propelling the business to first revenue, cash flow positive or exit; and 3) I will be engaged throughout the early days of the company.

To engage your investors, whether current or future, you want to be consistent and honest. If you are sending a prospective investor email and a current investor email each month, continue to send both. If you are undergoing a colossal failure or your burn rate has grown to three times what you had projected, your investors should be the first to know.

The biggest failure in building a relationship with your investors is not sharing everything that might affect them. An investor never wants to be surprised, but if you hit a wall, they would much rather hear the news from you and as quickly as possible.

2. Structure board meetings before you have a board

One way to structure communication formally and in a way that investors will appreciate is to schedule monthly board meetings before you have a formal board of directors.  Invite all current investors to join this meeting/call, send an agenda in advance, and ensure that any items discussed during the meeting are followed upon in as timely a fashion as possible. Show your investors that you know how to work with them, value their time, and heed their direction.

Related: Is Venture Capital Right For You?

3. Engage your investors for assistance

I enjoy being engaged by my companies. If I have a connection that could be useful to a sale, additional investment or a decreased expense, I expect that you will ask me for an endorsement and introduction. If I have modeled financial projections for several previous companies, ask me for help in modeling yours (if relevant). If my home would serve as a great venue for a client dinner, ask me to host.

By engaging your investors for operational assistance, you build stronger champions for your vision, and empower them to better advocate on your behalf with the outside world. If they invested in your company, they have likely found personal and/or professional success themselves, and appreciate using their credibility to propel your company forward.

4. Know when to say “no”

Perhaps the most difficult lesson I learned in my early days of investor interaction was learning to differentiate when to heed investor advice and when to respectfully disagree. Your investors come from all walks of life and have varying motivations for involving themselves with your company – not all selfless. Often, you will receive guidance that does not agree with your business model, other valued opinions, or common sense. In these moments, it is important to voice your opinion, backed by evidence, to ensure that the direction you ultimately take is a sound one for the company.

Related: 6 Money Management Tips For First-Time Entrepreneurs

Humility and coachability are important, but you raised the money because you know, inherently, something that others don’t. Be sure to use that experience of yours to guide your investors, and use their experience, where appropriate, in turn.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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