Investor Selection

What the greatest technology investors say about Investor Selection

INVESTOR SELECTION POSTS ( 27 posts)

The following is a list of the post titles by author under this topic.  Scroll further down this page to find the actual blog post by your selected author.   Author’s posts appear in reverse alphabetical order.  For example, following this list, Fred Wilson’s posts appear towards the beginning of the blog page, and Jeffrey Bussgang’s posts appear towards the end of the blog page.   

JEFFREY BUSSGANG   (4 posts)

Jeffrey Bussgang: Why Twitter Picked Fred Wilson as its Lead Investor

Jeffrey Bussgang:  How to Select a Venture Capitalist

Jeffrey Bussgang:  Be Wary of Term Sheet Tactics

Jeffrey Bussgang:  Relationship between Option Pool Size & Price

CHRIS DIXON  (2 posts)

Chris Dixon: Problems Taking Seed Money from Big VCs

Chris Dixon:  The Company’s Stage: Weighing  Investor Quality vs. Valuation

BRAD FELD  (2 posts)

Brad Feld:  Brad Feld: 3 Types of Angel Investors

Brad Feld:  How Entrepreneurs can Increase the Chance of Success

JOSH KOPELMAN  (1 post)

Josh Kopelman: High Valuations Can Limit Exit Opportunities

JASON MENDELSON  (2 posts)

Jason Mendelson:  Investors Only Care about Two Things

Jason Mendelson:  Investors Only Care About Returns & Control

BABAK NIVI  (2 posts)

Babak Nivi:  The Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs make when Raising Money

Babak Nivi:  Tips When Raising a Seed Round

BASIL PETERS  (2 posts)

Basil Peters:  Why VC's Block an Exit

Basil Peters:  How to Ensure There's Alignment on Exit Strategy

NAVAL RAVIKANT  (2 posts)

Naval Ravikant: 5 Main Qualities of an Exceptional Startup

Naval Ravikant:  Social Proof is Powerful

MARK SUSTER  (7 posts)

Mark Suster:  Mark Suster's Financing Advice for Entrepreneurs

Mark Suster:  Mark Suster:  Angels Need Five Skills to Excel

Mark Suster:  Select the Highest Quality Investor Available

Mark Suster:  Dilution Benchmarks & Fundraising

Mark Suster:  Fundraising Terms Pile Up with Later Stage Investors

Mark Suster:  VCs Want Big Outcomes & May Block a Sale

Mark Suster:  The VC “Squeeze” and Dilution

FRED WILSON  (3 posts)

Fred Wilson:  Board Member Chemistry is Critical

Fred Wilson:  Why I Believe Twitter Picked Us as their Investor

Fred Wilson:  Great VC’s Care Most About the Company

Great VC’s Care Most About the Company

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

“I think that great venture capitalists care more about the company than they do their investment. []

They’re not focused on money, they’re not focused on how much of the company they own, they’re not focused on the financial metrics so much. [] They’re focused on strategy, product, management team, building a world class organization, all those things [].”

This Week in Startups, Fred Wilson, episode # 523, Mar 10, 2015 @ approx. 8.48 min.

http://thisweekinstartups.com/fred-wilson-launch-festival/

 

 

Why I Believe Twitter Picked Us as their Investor

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

“[] we were probably alone at the time in advocating that approach [to various strategies for scaling the product, etc.] and I think that’s why they [Twitter] picked us [Union Square Ventures VC firm]. [] I think, I don’t know for sure, I think they probably wanted an investor who was aligned with the way that they wanted to run their company.”  This Week in Startups, Fred Wilson, episode # 523, Mar 10, 2015 @ approx. 6 min. http://thisweekinstartups.com/fred-wilson-launch-festival/

Board Member Chemistry is Critical

Fred Wilson venture capitalist and Co-Founder Union Square Ventures

“[] Chemistry among the Board members [] is critical to a well-functioning Board [] [just as it is among team members.]  [] Chemistry [] must be strong [] [with mutual respect and reliance] on each other's strengths to [make] right decisions.”  Investing in chemistry should be for the long term including participating in activities outside the Board room.

“Unless [a] Director has a contractual [Board seat or a unique skill], [Wilson recommends removing that director who doesn't fit in and] replace[d] [] with someone with similar skills who will in fit better.

[][A] company needs a strong Board and [the CEO] must do everything [to ensure getting one including getting input from other entrepreneurs and CEOs to improve the Board]. [] [If certain directors can’t be replaced, Wilson advises adding independent directors] to balance them out [] [to] build chemistry between the independents and the investors.” Changing 1 or 2 directors can change chemistry.

“[] [A well-constructed, well-managed Board with strong chemistry functioning effectively] [] is a tremendous asset to a company.”  Fred Wilson, The Board Of Directors: Board Chemistry,  Mar. 26, 2012; http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/03/the-board-of-directors-board-chemistry.html

 

The VC “Squeeze” and Dilution

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

“[] most VCs have a 20% minimum [equity threshold] so bringing in multiple VCs can be very expensive in terms of dilution. [] The biggest problem [with 2 VC’s in a deal] is the “squeeze.” All VCs want to own between 25-33% [equity]”, above their internal 20% minimum.  A founder with co-founders can quickly get very diluted once an option pool is included.  “[]There are [] VCs [] who don’t cling to the old “20% or the highway” mentality [] and [Suster] suggest[s] [founders] seek them out.” Mark Suster, How Many Investors are Too Many? February 22, 2011http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/02/22/how-many-investors-are-too-many/

VCs Want Big Outcomes & May Block a Sale

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

“VCs want big outcomes.  [VCs] will demand a veto right over [a company sale].  [A founder] might be very happy selling [his] business for $9 million and owning 50% of the company.  [A] VC is not necessarily going to be happy getting $3 million for his 33% stake for which he invested $1 million.

[While that’s] a 3x return [] it’s still just $3 million and if the VC has a $300 million [fund] it is just 1% of the money [needed] to reach his “hurdle rate” of when he’s entitled to earn carry (e.g. big bucks).  It’s just too much time to spend [] for such a small total return.  Many VC’s would still let [a founder] sell []” but some would block the sale.  Mark Suster  Do You Really Even Need VC? July 22, 2009; http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2009/07/22/do-you-really-even-need-vc/

Fundraising Terms Pile Up with Later Stage Investors

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

“[] any [early stage terms] will certainly be asked for by future investors in [] later funding rounds so all of these terms pile up [after] 3-4 rounds of funding over a 5 year time frame. And by the time most companies get to an exit [which realistically is still 8-10 years,] often the founders own very little of the economic upside."  Mark Suster, Want to Know How VC’s Calculate Valuation Differently from Founders?  July 22, 2010

http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2010/07/22/want-to-know-how-vcs-calculate-valuation-differently-from-founders/

Dilution Benchmarks & Fundraising

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

Negotiations between entrepreneurs and investors include dilution and other fundraising terms.  “[] the “fairway” of [investor’s equity] is 25-33% per round [i.e., entrepreneurs’ dilution]. [] If [the entrepreneur is] “super hot” or “super experienced”, [he] can end up with much less dilution –in some cases 12-15%.  But this is the exception, not the rule.”

“[] [These] dilution numbers don't take an option pool into account [].  Options are additional dilution.”

“[] [Valuation can be driven up] ONLY if there’s [] competition [for] a deal.  [Investors stay honest when entrepreneurs] talk with multiple parties.”

Fundraising also requires considering how many future rounds are needed and expected total future dilution.  It’s not an arbitrary spreadsheet-driven exercise reflecting attaining profitability.  It requires “understanding [industry norms necessary] to build a successful Internet business and where [the company falls] on that spectrum given [its business type].”  Mark Suster,  8 Questions to Help Decide if You Should be Raising Money Now, February 17, 2011 and comments;  http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/02/17/8-questions-to-help-decide-if-you-should-be-raising-money-now/

Select the Highest Quality Investor Available

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

 Suster advises entrepreneurs to select the highest quality and most experienced investors available.   It’s generally better for the company long term to have the right investors vs. optimizing every last piece of equity up front.  “Worrying about giving up an extra 10% [equity] at [an early] stage can be meaningless if the ultimate outcome is either success or failure.”  Mark Suster, Raising Angel Money, July 19, 2009; http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2009/07/19/raising-angel-money/

Mark Suster: Angels Need Five Skills to Excel

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

Suster identified “[] five skills [angel investors need to excel]”:

1.  “Access to the Best Deal Flow” []

2.  “Domain Knowledge

“[]Domain knowledge [] [is] [well-honed industry knowledge].” “[] It requires domain knowledge to know what you’re talking about and success long term as an angel. [] One of the biggest problems is when “you don’t know what you don’t know.””

3.  “Relationships with VCs

“[] Relationships with VCs [] protect [angel] investments” by taking out angels’ positions. 

4.   “Deep Pockets

A company is either acquired or has an IPO in an average 7-10 years.  Suster says that angels’ deep pockets providing follow-on investments minimize these risks:  dilution, inability to protect good investments and a lack of deal diversity.  “[] [Angels] need to be able to do a large enough number of investments to create enough deal diversity.”  The greater the deal diversity, the lower the risk. 

5. “Access to Buyers”

“[] the best investors influence their end-games through well-cultivated relationships with eventual buyers of their portfolio companies.” [] [Helping] companies exit to the right buyer and importantly at the right time” can be crucial.  Mark Suster, Angel Topics Sept. 14, 2010 http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/angel-topics/

Mark Suster's Financing Advice for Entrepreneurs

Mark Suster Partner Upfront Ventures and former entrepreneur

Financing advice for entrepreneurs:  

“[] 1. Always have a lead [investor], [] [someone] with enough skin in the game []” to mobilize other investors and help “[not] just [] [with] tough times, but for conflict resolution in general.

2. [] [Financing should be] stage appropriate [];

3. [] [Understand] where the VC is at in [his] fund [] [including] when [the] fund was raised, how much capital [] [was] raise[d], how much is allocated, when [it’s] raising [its] next fund and what [its] “reserve” strategy is. []

4. Make sure [] [investors get along] [];

5. Always pitch outsid[e] [investors] for follow-[on] [rounds] [] to [keep] [inside investors] [] honest [];

6.  Always [] [include] value-added angels. []”

Mark Suster, How Many Investors Are Too Many?  February 22, 2011; http://www.bothsidesofthetable.com/2011/02/22/how-many-investors-are-too-many/

Social Proof is Powerful

Naval Ravikant angel investor, Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and former entrepreneur

“[Ravikant] measure[s] four dimensions [in startups for AngelList]:  Traction, Team, Social Proof and Product.” (AngelList is “a closed private social network [where] startups and angels [come] together.”)

“[] social proof refers to who else is involved [] as an investor and/or advisor. Which person has already given them the thumbs up is really important.  If any one of those people who is associated [with] the company is phenomenal it [the startup] passes the filter [selection criteria] [].

[] Social proof is [] powerful []. [] Get one great person to commit to your startup and you will have more control in raising your round. This is a tactic I have seen many startups use to start a bidding war or get the funding process rolling.”   Naval Ravikant, Naval Ravikant and AngelList: The Match.com of Funding [Interview] by Fatema Yasmine, February 17,   2011;   http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2011/02/17/naval-ravikant-angellist-the-match-com-of-funding-interview/

5 Main Qualities of an Exceptional Startup

Naval Ravikant angel investor, Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and former entrepreneur

“[Ravikant ] broke down the 5 main qualities of an ‘exceptional startup,’ in the following order:

1. Traction
2. Team
3. Product
4. Social Proof
5. Pitch/Presentation

[] [Ravikant] explained [] ‘Investors are trying to find the exceptional outcomes, so they are looking for something exceptional [],[so] do one thing exceptionally.  As a startup you have to be exceptional in at least one regard.’”

Naval Ravikant, Anatomy of an (un)fundable startup by Babak Nivi on June 22nd, 2011,  Ravikant’s keynote speech at the 7th Founder Showcase Q2 2011;  http://venturehacks.com/articles/unfundable-startup

How to Ensure There's Alignment on Exit Strategy

Basil Peters angel investor and Principal Strategic Exits Corporation

 “It’s surprising how often there is a misalignment between key stakeholders on the exit strategy. The only way to check is to get a ‘signoff’ on a written exit strategy. [] [Check] alignment annually. [] [The] right way to build a company is [to] determine the type of business, build alignment on the exit strategy, THEN develop the financing plan and then start to contact investors.”   Basil Peters, Maximizing Exit Value Angel Capital Assn Annual Summit Workshop Apr. 15, 2009, pg 28 & 32; 

http://www.basilpeters.com/Presentations/Maximizing_Exit_Value_20090415_Part_2.pdf

Why VC's Block an Exit

Basil Peters angel investor and Principal Strategic Exits Corporation

“Most entrepreneurs don’t even know that a VC is likely to block an exit when they accept the VC’s money. [] VCs design their investment agreements to give them the power to block exits.”

“[] VCs will almost always block a sale where they only make a 3-4X return on their investment.  This could have easily been a 10X return for the angels and a 100X return for the entrepreneurs.

[] The winners [must] produce at least 10-30X return for the [VC] fund to perform respectably.

[] This propensity to block exits is one of the reasons that every company needs a clear exit strategy before [it approaches its] first investor.”  Basil Peters, How VCs Block Exits, August 28, 2010, http://www.exits.com/blog/how-vcs-block-exits/; Why VCs Will Block Good Exits;  http://www.angelblog.net/Why_VCs_Block_Good_Exits.html

 

Tips When Raising a Seed Round

Babak Nivi Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and angel investor

When raising money in a seed round: “[] Take as much money as you can while keeping dilution between 15-30% (10%-20% of the dilution goes to investors and 5%-10% goes to the option pool).

Compare this to a Series A which might have 30%-55% dilution. (20%-40% of the dilution goes to investors and 10%-15% goes to the option pool.)

A seed round can pay for itself  if the quality of your investors and progress brings your eventual Series A dilution down from 55% to 30% (for the same amount of Series A cash).

Don’t over-optimize your dilution.  Raising money is often harder than you expect, especially for first-time entrepreneurs.”  Babak Nivi, Venture Hacks  How do we set the valuation for a seed round?  April 17, 2008;  http://venturehacks.com/topics/dilution

The Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs make when Raising Money

Babak Nivi Co-Founder AngelList and Venture Hacks and angel investor

Nivi says “the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when [] raising money” is that “[they] focus on valuation when they should be focusing on controlling the company through board control and limited protective provisions.   (Protective provisions let preferred shareholders veto certain actions, such as selling the company or raising capital.)

Valuation is temporary, control is forever.  For example, the valuation of [a] company is irrelevant if the board terminates [the founder] and [he] [loses his] unvested stock.

The easiest way to maintain control of a startup is to create good alternatives while [] raising money. If [the founder is] not willing to walk away from a deal, [he] won’t get a good deal.  Great alternatives make it easy to walk away.

Create alternatives by focusing on fund-raising: pitch and negotiate with all [] prospective investors at once. This may seem obvious but entrepreneurs often meet investors one-after-another, instead of all-at-once.

Focusing on fund-raising creates the scarcity and social proof that close deals.  Focus also yields a quick yes or no from investors so entrepreneurs can avoid perpetually raising capital.”  Babak Nivi, What’s the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make? , October 14th, 2007  http://venturehacks.com/articles/biggest-mistake; Why do investors want protective provisions? August 2nd, 2007;  http://venturehacks.com/articles/understand-protective-provisions

Investors Only Care About Returns & Control

Jason Mendelson venture capitalist and Managing Director Foundry Group

Generally investors only care about returns and control when making investments.

“[Entrepreneurs] should focus on terms like pre-money valuation, liquidation preferences, board of director elections, drag-along rights and protective provisions.   Most [other standard term sheet terms] aren’t really all that important.  [] Many of these terms have interdependencies and it’s important [to] understand how terms such as option pools, warrant grants and  the election of independent board members will affect returns and control.” Jason Mendelson, Do More Faster  by David Cohen & Brad Feld  copyrt 2011, Get Help with your Term Sheet  pg 238

Investors Only Care about Two Things

Jason Mendelson Venture Capitalist and Managing Director Foundry Group

“In general, there are only two things that investors really care about when making investments: returns and control.  Returns refer to the end-of-the-day financial return the investor will get and the terms that have direct impact on these economics.   Control refers to mechanisms that allow the investors to either affirmatively exercise control over the business or to veto certain decisions the company can make.”  Mendelson says that if an investor resists terms that don’t impact returns or control,  it may be a negotiating tactic, he may not be savvy or could just be a jackass.  Jason Mendelson, Do More Faster  by David Cohen & Brad Feld  copyrt 2011, Get Help with your Term Sheet  pg 238

High Valuations Can Limit Exit Opportunities

Josh Kopelman Partner First Round Capital and former entrepreneur

Kopelman advises that entrepreneurs who “[] try to maximize valuation [] in many cases [] might be shortsighted” because high valuations can limit exit opportunities.  “[] too many founders are not aware that they are shutting off the majority of exits -- and therefore increasing risks -- when they accept a high valuation.”  “[] the “unwritten term in the term sheet” [means] few VC’s will willingly part with a “winning company” (i.e., a company that is executing/performing well) for less than a 10x return.”  Thus, a VC could block an exit that could have been a fabulous payout for entrepreneurs and angels.  Josh Kopelman The Unintentional Moonshot, July 10, 2007, http://redeye.firstround.com/2007/07/the-unintention.html;  When the music stops... March 10, 2006;  http://redeye.firstround.com/2006/03/as_a_little_kid.html