Traversing the Entrepreneur’s Valley of Death with a Business Plan

The business plan is a bridge that extends from initial startup to plans for long range success. That bridge crosses a wide canyon that includes seed money, angel investors and eventually venture capitalism and commercial funds. The first round of funding by angel investors is enough to get the business established and generating income through modest growth, but at some point for successful businesses the funding chasm becomes wide and deep. This Valley of Death, as the $2 million to $5 million is not so affectionately called,  can kill young businesses if it’s not traversed with injections of new venture capital investment money. On the other side of the valley can be found business loans from traditional lenders meaning the company is now poised for unlimited growth.

There’s a lot of debate on whether this valley really exists. Many business analysts believe there is always money for market worthy companies that need cash. This is based on the assumption that inefficient companies or companies with products that don’t succeed in the marketplace will drop out of the running for funding. That leaves the companies with competitive products and services looking for funding. Angel investors play an important role in this process because they fund companies with the well designed business models and that are most likely to succeed over the long run based on their analysis. The poorly prepared business plan and angel investors act like culling tools and force bad ideas out of the funding process early in the process.

Crossing the Valley of Death will take a concerted effort to find multiple sources of funding in many cases. For example, young entrepreneurs can bridge the gap by vigorously blending venture capital with government tax credits. A fairly new concept is the ‘certified capital company’ in which a state issues tax credits to companies in return for making investments in young businesses ready to cross the Valley of Death. There are a number of new and creative funding concepts being introduced across the nation to stimulate job growth and economic development.

In other words, if you need angel funding or are facing the Valley of Death, rest assured that professionals familiar with the funding environment can steer you to funding arrangements you may not even be aware exist. If you see the Valley of Death looming, it only means you have been successful already.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at www.funded.com Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Don’t Hype the Business Plan

A business plan is a living breathing document in that it can help you obtain capital through angel investors and then serve as the blueprint for goals and strategies. However, the business plan filled with hype is dead on arrival during fund raising because business plan readers will quickly recognize over-promising exuberance not based in reality. You may have an amazing idea and believe it’s a wide open market niche with no competition, but can you prove so?

Though angel investors are not financial institutions, they still rely on solid market and financial evidence for decision making. Using an abundance of words like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘one of a kind’ sends a signal that you have not done in-depth market research. Even if you have done the research, these kinds of hype words set a tone of naiveté and inexperience because very few products are unprecedented and lack competition.

As you write the business plan with the intent of submitting to angel investors, the words you need to be thinking should be more along the lines of ‘proven’, ‘accomplishments’ and ‘competition.’ If you say that your product is unprecedented then that word needs to be supported by third-party market research proving to the best of their ability that you have actually developed a radically new product.  Even in that case, you also must still prove that an expanded market will want to buy your unprecedented product before angel investors will capitalize your startup. An unsold unprecedented product has no value.

Avoiding the hype in a business plan takes discipline because entrepreneurs are naturally excited about their initial stage of business growth. Hype makes your job of selling a business plan to angel investors much harder than it needs to be. Avoid the hype and the business plan begins on solid ground, and from there your fund raising chances can only go up.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at www.funded.com Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Angel Investors Remain Committed to Business

Angel investors have been a “significant contributor to job growth” according to the University of New Hampshire Center for Venture Funding Angel Market Analysis Report. Entrepreneurs preparing business plans may also like to know that angel investments were made in healthcare (25%), industrial/energy (17%), biotechnology (14%), software (11%), media (8%) and retail (8%). In other words, angel investors invested in most industries the first half of 2011.

Government officials frequently talk about job creation. It’s interesting to learn that jobs are being created steadily through private investment in small to medium sized startups. Small business has always claimed that real job and economic growth relies on small business success more than the success of large corporations. In fact, two-thirds of new jobs in the U.S. are due to small businesses. Startups and small business expansion play critical roles in the economy and in promoting job growth. Since angel investors fund small business, that makes them just as critical to economic growth.

In 2011, angel investors created 134,130 new jobs. The angel investors also increased their seed and startup funding in the first 2 quarters of 2011. This was interpreted as a good sign because it reflects an increasing rate of small business development which means economic and job growth. If there is any doubt of the availability and economic influence of angel investors then consider the fact that the total amount of angel investments in the first 2 quarters of 2011 was $8.9 billion.

The data clearly shows that angel investors, despite their low profile, are a powerful economic force in the U.S. If you are interested in finding startup funding, rest assured there are angel investors interested in your plans.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at www.funded.com Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

The Typical Angel Investor? No Such Thing!

Have you ever wondered where angel investors come from or what type of people you are going to present a business plan to? Is it a Donald Trump type of person – flamboyant and quite wealthy? Or is the investor someone more like your neighbor down the street who has quietly amassed a small fortune yet lives frugally? The truth is that the angel investor could be either person or a group of people.

The stereotype of an angel investor is someone who is a hardened business entrepreneur who has amassed great wealth but is always ready to create more. The image is of someone who swoops in, evaluates the business plan, does some inquiries and then funds a startup with the expectation of high returns. In reality, the angel investor may not be wealthy but is financially savvy.  Many are still employed but looking for a way to grow their money by promoting innovative new businesses.

Angel investors fill a gap that exists between the venture capitalist and the commercial lender. Venture capitalists and financial institutions lend larger amounts with the former willing to accept high risk and the latter expecting minimized risk. Many angel investors invest smaller amounts of money, $20,000 instead of $200,000, but there are no limits so $500,000 up to $2 million is possible. They don’t want to play an active role in the business, but do have business savvy. Mostly they just want to make money.

Angel investors are also groups of people who pool their money to fund startup businesses. They include investment clubs, professional groups like doctors or lawyers and even other entrepreneurs. The reason there is a bit of mystery surrounding angel investors is simply because they keep a low profile, so are difficult to categorize. What you do know is that they are financially savvy, thorough in their evaluation of businesses and hopeful of earning a high return on their investments. So don’t stereotype angel investors because they can be anyone.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at www.funded.com Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Enter the Angel Investors at the Startup Stage

Financing a small business is done in stages with angel investors usually funding startup expenses. The amount of startup funding needed is figured in the business plan financial section along with projected revenues. Startup funding is actually just one stage of business financing because a new business must be funded from idea conception to expansion.

Businesses operate on a continuum. Initially, seed money is needed to do the original product development, business filings, research and market survey. The  entrepreneur often gets the seed money from personal savings, family and friends, or personal loans. Some even use their credit cards or house equity. In other words, seed money usually comes from personal resources because at this stage the business is only an idea and the risk of losing the money is too high.

Once it’s determined that the idea can be turned into a solid business, the picture changes. The business plan is prepared and the enterprise begins operating. At this point, the first revenues are generated which establishes the fact that the products or services are market viable. It is at this stage, often referred to as the series A or first round investment, that angel investors are approached. However, sometimes entrepreneurs will look for outside investors who will actually pay for startup. In other words, the business doesn’t begin operating until funding is obtained from venture capitalists willing to accept higher risk investments.

Angel investors can also be approached during the second round or series B investment stage. This is the stage at which initial expansion after startup takes place and funding is needed for inventory, staff or marketing expansion.  Later expansions using angel investments would be referred to as series C, series D and so on. In this way, each investor knows by investment reference how their investment ranks in the history of the business funding.

Eventually, a successful business will look for a larger funding source like a bank to finance a major expansion. Angel investors play an important role in the launch of new businesses and enter the business at one of its most critical stages. It’s no wonder they are called “angels.”

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.funded.com/ Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Accepting Economic Challenges Via the Business Plan

Addressing today’s economic environment in a business plan may seem challenging, but it’s also the perfect time to prove you’re up to the challenge. In fact, angel investors are aware that successful ventures in a tight economy are poised for expansion when the economy improves. Successfully starting, managing and growing a business when the GDP is expanding at a sluggish 3 percent (like now) or less is indicative of a business with high growth potential as the economy returns to normal. Though capital access may seem tight, making it difficult to obtain venture funding, the fact is that it’s time like these where some of the greatest opportunity exists.

For example, tight markets mean less competition for both customers and funding. The people who succeed in this type of economic climate are the ones who have solid business plans and excellent ideas. The general quality of brands is necessarily raised because only the best can compete. These companies are attractive to investors looking to fund companies with growth potential.

Another way to look at the business climate is that businesses able to develop business plans that accommodate tight capital markets are more likely to attract angel investors. The reason is due to the fact the investors will recognize that the financially conservative business is prepared for economic downturns as well as upswings. Too many business plans begin with unreasonable expectations given market conditions. Clearly showing how your business will succeed in tight economic conditions is, at the same time, showing how the business is prepared to successfully maneuver during periods of uncertainty or even setbacks over the long term. Compelling business ideas coupled with managed risk is an excellent formula for attracting angel investors.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at https://www.funded.com/ Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Dot.business plan for a Dot.com

Writing business plans to find angel investors interested in funding internet entrepreneurship is similar but not identical to writing proposals for brick-and-mortar only businesses.  A company that is going to be operated solely online still needs a strategic business plan that defines the business in detail, identifies market strategies to build a customer base, analyzes competition, lays out the operations and management plan and presents the financial plan. However, there’s a twist because investors will want to know how you plan on making your website stand out in a very crowded electronic superhighway and how you plan to attract and keep customers, who you will never meet, on the website long enough to spend money. There are millions of websites already up and running, but due to a lack of business planning they are virtually alone in a virtual world.

A strategic business plan for an internet based company must include the traditional business information, but it also requires planning for online design and content, online marketing strategies, website support and upgrades, online product ordering and security. Even planning for customer service has unique features in that contact will be primarily electronic. Angel investors will want to know how you will blend online and offline promotion strategies to insure maximum exposure. Internet marketing strategies address the marketing funnel in which customers are attracted to the website and then moved along a narrowing path to ordering and payment using a variety of well-designed enticements. A well thought out business plan for an internet based business addresses plans for accessing the right kind of business management technology to insure sales are captured using a virtual gateway and online shopping cart.

In other words, angel investors will review the business plan for thoroughness on two levels instead of one – traditional and electronic. Just because the business will be internet based doesn’t mean you can skip the traditional strategic planning. It only means you need to expand and integrate the unique features and requirements of an online business.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.funded.com/ Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Writing Business Plans that (Really) Matter

Business plans are not all alike and neither are angel investors, venture capitalists and loans. Then why do so many business plans seem like carbon copies of each other? Rubber stamping, so to speak, a business plan and only changing the names isn’t going to generate much interest among savvy investors. How many small businesses are ready to become the next corporate success story, but can’t seem to get investor interest? There are plenty, and many will never get a chance to find success because their business plans don’t pique the interest of angel investors or any other investor for that matter. The business plans are just too ordinary and fail to convey the uniqueness of the new idea, concept, product or service.

If you took a test and it said to name the most common mistake made on business plans, would you know the answer? The answer is: The business plan begs for money but doesn’t beg for understanding. A business plan is much more than a plea for money. It’s a driver’s manual that defines goals and objectives while providing the road map to a new destination. If the directions are clear and point right towards what makes your idea market unique, investors can’t get lost on their way to the endpoint. That’s where the financing waits. Focus on what makes your concept unique and prove you have carefully thought through the components of success – people, opportunity, context or relationship to industry and market, risks and rewards. In other words, write a business plan that really matters and not just one that fills in the blanks and makes a pitch for money. Don’t be ordinary…be unique. It’s what entrepreneurship is all about.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.funded.com/ Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Meeting the Expectations of Venture Capitalists

Entrepreneurs seeking venture capital often approach the market a bit naively. Though there are similarities to applying for funding through traditional lenders, there are also some differences. For example, venture capitalists can set any terms they want whether they fit traditional funding models or not. For example, a bank may require returns that are 5 times within a 5 year period. The venture capitalist may require 8 to 10 times within that same time period.

Successfully obtaining venture capital requires being fully prepared to meet the special demands of venture capitalists. Since these are private lenders, they can set the bar high in order to lower risks. The venture capitalist wants to know if you are going to make money, how long it will take to see investment returns, what kind of track record or related experience you have, and whether the company management team is competent, innovative and forward thinking.

If you can answer these questions successfully, there’s a good chance you will attract funding. However, matching the company with the right investor is critical. Term sheets detail the proposed agreements and at this stage it is critical that each side ask the right questions, come to a full understanding of expectations, and agree to valuation. There should not be any major surprises during the final negotiations once the term sheets are agreed upon.

Keep Your Deal Sweet and Not Sour

As odd as it may sound, you can select the wrong venture capitalist if you do not clearly explain your business model in terms of how you plan on operating and what your long term goals are for success. It’s not a matter of fabrication, but more a matter of clear communication. A deal can go sour really fast if the venture capitalist discovers during final negotiations that the company management really plans on taking a different growth path than was explained or has plans that were not divulged and could potentially adversely impact operations.

Viewing End Goals Through Valuation

If this seems obvious then you would be surprised how many negotiations fall apart even after terms sheets have been agreed upon. One of the main areas of contention is business valuation. Business valuation is normally figured by determining the discounted cash flow and then adding the residual value of the business. The projected cash flow will extend to the end of the agreement because that is the period in which the venture capital funders expect to get their money back.

Of surprise to many businesses applying for venture capital is the fact the venture capitalists will value their business much lower than the business believes is accurate. However, the venture capitalist viewpoint is one of minimizing risk and earning a profit while a business is anticipating growth and profits and is willing to take risks to achieve their goals. The business and the venture capitalist have the same end goals but will approach valuation differently while deciding if it is possible to reach those goals. Want more info or assistance? Visit http://www.funded.com

Control and Angel Investors

As you consider the various types of funding for a new businesses or business expansion, one of the important questions that arise concerns control. How much and how often will the angel investors get involved in your business once the funding is approved? The answer depends on a lot of factors including the negotiated terms and the success of the enterprise that is funded.

Many angel investors aren’t interested in having a say in day-to-day operations. They simply want you to accomplish what the business plan said you would accomplish and earn the investment return that is expected.  The investors know what progress is being made because you will have to submit financial and performance reports on a pre-established basis. This is true for all types of investors whether they are angel investors, equity partners, venture capitalists or banks giving business loans

Security Issues

Control issues really come down to how secure the angel investors feel about the success of your enterprise.  Though it goes without saying that investors approving start up funding or business funding for expansion believe the projects will succeed, they are savvy enough to know there is always a degree of risk. The higher the risks, the more control the angel investors will require.

A solid business plan will be realistic and a profit must be shown at some point even if not the first year or two. The best plans though are not guarantees the initial forecasts will be met. The types of control angel investors may require include the following:

  • Passive investing in which investors providing business funding rely on the quarterly, monthly and annual reports and have virtually no contact with the business management or board of directors
  • Passive investing in which investors are available for consultation when requested
  • Active investing in which angel investors sit on the board of directors and have full voting rights
  • Active/passive investing in which the angel investors advise the board of directors as mentors
  • Active investing in which the angel investors assume an executive management position like Chief Executive Officer

The Full Gamut of Control

As you can see, angel investor control runs the full gamut from no participation to running the company.  Some investors will take control of the majority share of stock to gain full control of the company like equity partners; however, that is not the preference of most angel investors. They are not investing to become business owners, but rather to make money. In addition, if there is more than one angel investor, the group may designate a single representative as the primary contact.

The control issue can be one of the more difficult areas to negotiate at times. Though an entrepreneur needs money, he or she doesn’t want to give up control of their vision or dream. You can take care of that issue by submitting a solid well thought out business plan that is realistic.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at http://www.funded.com.  Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions.  If you need to access a vast network of business people, entrepreneurs, partners and service providers to help you start, finance and run your business, check out http://www.funded.com.