Archive for June 2009
Despite the economy in a slump, there are a few new start-ups on the horizon seeking the proper seed capital to get their businesses off the ground or take their company to the next level of success. It appears to be a tough road ahead, but along every path there are a few bumps to proceed to the next promising opportunity. Last week AlwaysOn hosted the Venture East conference at the Mandarin Hotel Boston, providing an opportunity for venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs and new start-ups to showcase their products and services, as well as discuss their thoughts around business today during these unpredictable times.
A few local companies offered demonstrations of their products and/or services available today, or are just a step away from the store soon. Maybe you always wanted that surround-sound audio system in your living room, office, or bedroom, but didn’t want to bother building, breaking down walls and investing in all the parts to put it together? Emo Labs has the answer with its built-in speaker technology revolutionizing the way sound is brought to you. Hate the line and check-out counter at the supermarket? Why not consider ModivMedia’s point, click and scan your items that expedites the time it takes to do your shopping and check out. All it takes with their product is a quick minute or two to pay the bill at the register.
There was some discussion of the venture capitalists having to overhaul their internal infrastructure and be more cautious about the types of investments for the future. The old ways of doing business is not working in this economy. Some professionals are jumping ship from traditional firms to start funds of their own to take advantage of the up and coming industries. In the past, too much money was being thrown at IT and very few deals are coming together now.
Business Week reported in These Angels Go Where Others Fear to Tread ( June 1, 2009 issue), that more and more people are shying away from the venture capitalists to further conduct business and are seeking help from angel investors. Josh Kopelman, founder of First Round Capital reported, “…many old-line firms have gotten too big and unwieldy to build innovative companies the way they used to, and many angels, individuals who invest in start-ups, don’t have enough money to back most high-tech ideas . The article continues to discuss the importance “to take [venture capital]..back to its roots, when firms were smaller, more nimble and more likely to get start-ups off the ground.”
Is There An Angel in the Hub?
As an entrepreneur, angels can be another route to get your business off the ground. Some New England leaders at different local organizations had spoken at the conference. These included Jean Hammond, of Boston’s Golden Seeds, Ham Lord of Launchpad Venture Group, and David Verrill of Hub Angels to name a few, who provided some advice to prepare promising entrepreneurs with the proper tips when approaching angels.
- Find someone you want to target that has experience in your business, or someone that can help to network you in.
- Make sure to have an interesting set of people that are working for your business that can bring diverse skills to the table.
- Be sure to have a great connection to customers and consider bringing a few to the meeting when pitching your product and/or service.
- Make sure to have a proof of concept, patents, etc, validate your target market needs/wants.
- Prove that you have thought through the parameters around the exit and make sure the right fund is a strategic fit.
New Investment Opportunities:
Boston VC’s Offer Hope on the Horizon
Managers of many of the local venture capitalist firms also spoke about the opportunities in Cleantech, discovering new tools and uses within digital media, eCommerce and mobile as a few contenders for consideration. David Beisel, VP at Venrock sees new hope in performance advertising where there is a shift in publishing to ad networks and/or real-time ad exchanges. Yet, in some instances, ad networks can hurt publishers as the business scales. Bob Davis, General Partner at Highland Capital Partners, said there is very little interest in media companies. So if you’re looking to attract any interest, you must be able to engage 100 million unique users each day and the audience must be measurable. Alan Spoon, Managing General Partner at Polaris Ventures spoke about how social media platforms may create awareness but monetizing this is still a tough struggle. It’s key to focus on what platforms you are using, and what types of intellectual property has been created that can be of value to other companies that wish to acquire those aspects of the business.
Jeff Bussgang, General Partner of Flybridge Capital Partners commented on additional areas of growth which includes virtual goods where people are willing to pay a premium for a service such as certain subscriptions or online games.
Kopelman also sees light at the end of the tunnel vested in interest to “building businesses on information freely on the web, or disrupting markets with cheaper web technology.” As technology has improved, the barriers to entry for many are few, thus positions many entrepreneurs down an easier path to get their businesses off the ground. However, some are finding it tough to gain customer acquisition and further online engagement with their brands that could be attractive to potential investors. In that case Kopelman states, “hire a marketing executive and launch a guerilla campaign.”
Too often I’ve seen companies especially new start-ups overly focused on the product and technology development and neglect one of the most important pieces of the puzzle. MARKETING. You can have the best product, but you have a problem until one can easily identify “what can this product/service do for me?” - I’ve seen quite a few glitzy websites, all very beautiful showcasing models, graphs, technical jargon – You name it! There is no clear understanding of the target audience, nor the proper research conducted to create a brand that could attract audiences. A skilled-marketer should be a part of the product development and go-to-market plans early on and communicate with all the different departments. This prevents moving along too far along the process, but rather take into consideration how to attract the audience, how to understand the audience, how to define the needs of the audience, and learn to market the business in the right fashion.
Tell me more about your business and be featured in a future blog post. What challenges have you encountered? What avenues have you considered for your marketing and sales strategy, or what would you like to learn in hopes to attract interest from potential investors? I welcome an opportunity to consult with you, or become a future member of your team in a marketing or business development role.