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Start-up Advice

Is Your Start-Up Fundable?

Money can make the difference between success and failure. Can your start-up’s IP attract the right investors?

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A study done by Shikar Ghosh, a Harvard researcher, indicated that 75% of start-up businesses fail. Why is the failure rate so high and what sets the remaining successful 25% apart?

In the majority of cases, it simply boils down to money — having adequate financing available. Any business requires the necessary finances to initiate, maintain, develop and subsequently expand their business.

What your investor could be looking for

When a business is seeking outside financing from a third party, such as an investor, the third party is likely to look at the expected rates of return of the business, its existing commercialisation activities, its assets vs liabilities, the existing and target users, market potential and its current and expected turnover rate and profit margins.

Related: 10 Ways To Beat The Odds And Get That Funding For Your Start-Up

However, the average start-up has not been trading for a sufficient amount of time to have the level of financial data needed for an investor to value the company adequately in this manner. How can a realistic value then be placed on a start-up?

The role of intellectual property

Unlike valuing companies with revenues, assets and longer track records, there are no agreed upon standards for start-ups. As it is unlikely that a start-up would possess any tangible assets, it is paramount to focus on the intangible assets such as ideas and the intellectual property protecting the ideas such as patents, trademarks, copyright and registered design rights.

Although it may be challenging for a start-up to spend money in order to obtain such intellectual property rights, it should be kept in mind that intellectual property rights are recognised as property and assets. Intellectual property rights may also be ‘the shiny object’ that attracts potential investors.

What intellectual property is telling your potential investors

Intellectual property is also indicative of a sustainable competitive advantage, a well-managed company, good growth prospects and a niche market. As such, it provides a means of setting the start-up apart from other players in the industry.

A significant amount of money is spent on getting the start-up off the ground in terms of advertising, research and development, development of prototypes and the like.

These ‘negative’ but realistic expenses may be equalised or outweighed by intellectual property rights, as once an intellectual property right is applied for, it becomes an enforceable right that is not easily taken away and may also attract a stable and predictable financial income if licensed, by providing royalties to the owner.

Intellectual property may assist a company if troubled by risk or bankruptcy as it may be assigned, and thereby transferred from one owner to another owner, or licensed — for income.

Related: 6 Resources For Start-Ups Looking For Alternative Funding

The commercial potential of intellectual property

Start-ups in a quest for capital have two options: Equity financing or debt financing. Equity financing may be advantageous if the start-up’s revenue is limited. In terms of debt financing a start-up may be required to pledge their intellectual property, which could be the only and/or the most valuable asset they have.

The intellectual property may then serve as security, however, it is arguable and also dependent on the start-up what the financial value would be. Such security is more beneficial as it is not debt per se but rather a predictable income.

Intellectual property as an asset

The value of intellectual property as an asset is dependent on economic, market, technical and legal factors. A start-up that creates intellectual property with commercial potential already has a foot in the door, as this creates confidence in both the founder of the start-up and potential investors.

Being realistic, it is entirely dependent on the type of start-up as intellectual property is not always an option or possibility. Should intellectual property not be a viable option, it is recommended that start-ups emphasise their future promise and also rely on evidence demonstrating growth, drive, engagement, talent, execution and worthiness. The key is to create excitement amongst investors.

Related: How Giraffe Played The VC Game (And Won Funding)

As an end note to the founders of start-ups, keep Colin Powell’s quote in mind: “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure,” and to investors, keep Peter Drucker’s quote in mind: “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Elaine Bergenthuin is Managing Director at De Beer Attorneys, which specialises in all aspects of Intellectual Property Law.

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Start-up Advice

6 Resources For Start-ups Looking For Funding

Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.

Josh Althuser

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Anyone who has ever considered starting their own business, or is currently in the process of doing so, knows that every little bit helps when it comes to making ends meet. Part of the charm of start-up culture is the low-budget creative atmosphere that seems to continually fuel innovation. But, eventually you’re going to have to keep the lights on and water running, and you can’t do that with creativity alone.

Whether you are a business that is just starting out, or already well on your way, there are plenty of online platforms that offer start-ups advice and funding opportunities. Here are 6 online resources that can help you pay the bills and grow your business at the same time.

1. Kickstarter

kickstarter-logoAt one point it seemed that anyone with a clever idea could make a video showing why the world should invest in the next big thing. While a lot of crazy projects have gotten funded over the years, utilising a crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter continues to be a viable way to get your project off the ground. Of course, if you want to reach your funding goals, it’s best that you have already done your market research, have a solid plan, and treat crowdfunding like a global VC.

Visit Kickstarter here.

Related: 4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

2. Toptal

toptal-logoThose who are new to the start-up world might not know exactly where to start when it comes to looking for funding. While the freelance economy has grown immensely in the last 5 years, it’s important to know where to look.

Platforms like Toptal offer a wide range of freelance professionals that specialise start-up funding. Start-ups seeking a consultant on Toptal can also rest easy knowing that they carefully screen each candidate, ensuring they have the necessary professional background and experience to guarantee a successful project. 

Visit Toptal here.

3. Appbackr

appbackrIf you couldn’t already tell by the name, appbacker is definitely worth checking out if you are a start-up working in app technology for both Android and Iphone. The platform helps people discover different apps through the crowdsourcing model. Investors can scroll through apps from around the world, and if they like what they see, they can choose to invest. Funding incentive is based on an investor’s ability to purchase an app at the wholesale price, eventually making a profit once the app starts flying off the shelves in the official app store.

Visit Appbackr here.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

4. Gust

Gust logoInvestors are more likely to invest locally, which is why Gust is an attractive option for start-ups around the world, as they represent over eighty countries worldwide. Founded by a team of investors and lawyers, Gust knows their way around the start-up world.

With portals for both start-ups and investors, the platform seamlessly connects those seeking funds and those looking to invest. Start-ups can create a profile on Gust, and also have access to tools and tips to help them regulate finances and legal matters. 

Visit Gust here.

5. AngelList

angellist-logoNot just for investment, although that is a major part of the platform, AngelList is also a great place to find start-up jobs as well as recruitment. Those start-ups that are looking to expand can greatly benefit from this feature, while also getting their name out there to potential investors.

Their syndicate platform, led by technology experts make room for those who are looking to invest the chance to apply to a lead or directly invest in a fund.

Visit AngelList here.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

6. Seedrs

seedrs-logoFrom top corporations to big name accelerators, Seedrs aims to simplify the funding process for investors. Providing a vast network of investors from 48 different countries, who tap into an additionally impressive network of start-ups, there is plenty of room for collaboration on this platform. Seeders also encourages investors and start-ups to continue their relationship after the transaction is made. Their online and offline networks aim keep both start-ups and investors in the loop.

Depending at what stage of development your company has currently reached, exploring various funding options available to you is a worthwhile endeavour. Rather than blindly pitching investors, investigating each potential platform, whether it’s crowdfunding or a hiring a freelance funding expert, will save you time and resources so you can focus on the right type of investment based on your needs.

Visit Seedrs here.

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Start-up Advice

Picking Your Lane: Maximising Your Chances Of Success And Happiness

How do you choose? What do you prioritise? What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.

Anthony Miller

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Most entrepreneurs start businesses out of necessity.  They do what they have to.  They don’t think far ahead.  They fight fires every day.  They are the foundation of every economy all over the world.  Some succeed, some fail, few shoot the lights out.  Some are happy, some are not.

For me, there’s nothing more thrilling than building a business.  Seeing your ideas turn into reality.  Seeing your team exceed your expectations every day.  Seeing your customers’ lives improved by your products.

But, entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.  You pour blood and sweat and tears into your business.  You get more than your fair share of punches in the nose.  It’s hard, but if you’re lucky and you persevere, the rewards are great.

So, how do you maximise your chances of getting into the ‘happy and shooting the lights out’ club?

Related: 9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By

Picking the right lane – figuring out what you’re going to do – is probably the most important decision you’ll make.  Once you’ve figured that out, you can get down to the nitty gritty of picking your team and building your business.

But, how do you choose?  What do you prioritise?  What’s right for me is almost certainly not right for you.

sweet-spot-modelThe Sweet Spot Model, which has been drifting around the web for years, provides great guidance.  If you do what you love, the hard yards won’t feel like work.  If you do what you’re good at, you’ll beat or (even better) outstrip the competition.  If you provide something the world needs, you’ll feel a sense of purpose.  If someone will pay for it, you have a business.

When I co-founded Simply, I wanted to tick all 4 boxes AND work from Cape Town AND be extremely flexible (so I could prioritise family health).

I worked on three different ideas: A GIS-platform for solar and other utilities; a transaction platform for stokvels; and a cheeky online life insurance play.

The life insurance play quickly emerged as my best choice (it helped that my partners are top actuaries J):

  1. What I’m good at – doing start-ups, connecting people and teams, and using technology and data to solve business problems.
  2. What I love – working with people I like and trust to build businesses that solve hard problems and make the world a better place.
  3. What the world needs – most adult South Africans have one or more funeral policies. Few have life or disability cover and policies are often very expensive.  There’s a clear need for simple, convenient, well-priced life, disability and funeral cover.
  4. What someone will pay for – the market we’re targeting is huge – nearly R7.5Bn of new premium is written annually.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

With the stars lining up, we pressed the go button in early 2016.  It’s now twelve months since we launched to market and early signs are good:

  1. Our innovative, online products – Family Cover, Domestic Cover and Group Cover – have been well received and are improving all the time.
  2. We have an amazing, engaged team – inspired by the purpose of protecting vulnerable people.
  3. We’ve sold more than 4 500 policies to date, providing more than R2.5Bn of cover to more than 20,000 people.
  4. We’re based in Cape Town, working hard and having fun, and I seldom miss a swimming gala, netball game or opportunity to go mountain biking.

While picking the right lane is no guarantee of success, it definitely helps stack the odds in your favour. You’re going to need all the help you can get. So, take the time to pick your lane. I bet it’ll be worth the effort.

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Start-up Advice

9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By

Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

Jennifer Keithson

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Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

There are great learning opportunities that present themselves when we fail, but we must be willing to continue on and try again in order to learn anything at all.

It can be quite an arduous task to strive for your own means, to create your own vision and to rally the support within yourself that starting and running your own business requires.

Thankfully, we’re not in it alone. The wisdom of others can greatly ameliorate the process learning from our missteps and hiccups.

Taking from sagacious investors, inventors and thinkers can help you pick yourself up and make something meaningful out of your quest to become a successful entrepreneur.

By studying the thought processes of other entrepreneurs, we can become more enriched and more aware of how to approach the challenges we face in business and in life.

Here are 9 quotes every entrepreneur should live by:

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