Archive for the ‘Investor Relations’ Category

The Investor Casting Couch

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

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“The Investor Casting Couch”: a mindset that says we are best served at our first meeting, acting cagey, and getting the other party (co-investor, adviser or entrepreneur) to reveal themselves to us first to protect our own self-interest, at all costs. In extreme cases, we must do as little as possible to reveal our own past, ideas or intellectual property.

Reality: Your actions merely serve to show that you have close to zero interest in building a trusting peer-level relationship, collegiality or collaborating in anything other than constant “fear” (stolen IP or contacts). You might, of course, be right on the odd occasion when you have a rogue across the boardroom table. However, 9 times out of 10 assuming that you have done your due diligence properly, you are merely revealing the depth and breath of your own insecurities. Why would you create that first impression? In the misplaced belief, it projects your superiority when all it does is project your stupidity. Why would anyone, except the desperate, choose to spend a millisecond further in your company?

I see this mindset widely adopted by experienced bankers, corporate financiers, private equity and venture capital professionals to the point of huge irritation. They have been a success in their career but they refuse to act like a success. Stop, in the name of common sense!

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Framing Your Ideal Investor

Monday, February 27th, 2017

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“We need more investors, can you help?” is a request I hear daily from entrepreneurs and executives, co-investors and seasoned corporate finance experts. The obvious response is “yes, maybe or no”. Sometimes the obvious is not the most helpful to gain control of the conversation and kick start movement. Let’s frame the real “need”. Remove the irrelevant, focus on the relevant information. You will get dramatically quicker towards your goal.

  1. You’ve asked for capital raising assistance. Are you talking about your ability to attract follow-on investments from your current investors, new investments from your current investors, new investors for your current businesses or new investors for new businesses? What is it exactly?
  2. Then, I am curious where is your current marketing time and money being deployed? Is it being directed to all investors, or those within a specific geography, deal size, stage, investor type? There are 5 generic types of investor for you. Those that are apathetic, pretenders, aspirants, serial developers and leading-edge investors. The first three make up the majority of your audience and are the most price-sensitive, the final two are highly value-driven. Who exactly are you currently talking to? Would you recognise the differences (past relationships, capabilities, substance, style etc)? Let’s agree who you should be talking to?
  3. Then, what are the existing or anticipated needs or needs that you can create for your ideal investors that you are uniquely able to address? How is your investor better off or personally better supported after realising their investment with your help? (Financial, intellectual, social, cultural improvements)
  4. Then, who ideally has a need now or one that could be readily developed for that “return” on their investment? Who has the means and authority to approve the investment? Who can move quickly? Who is not overly prescriptive about the your “past”?
  5. How do you best reach those investors and they you? (referrals, networking, publishing, speaking, awards, media interviews etc)
  6. How do you create the ideal conditions? (eager to meet you, strong word-of-mouth)
  7. How do you create the ideal time? (no disruptions, no delays)
  8. How do you create the ideal location? (neutral, zero distractions)
  9. How do you create the strongest first impression? (impressive content, credibility, rapport)
  10. What competitive, distinctive or leading-edge offerings do you have to draw them in as a current or a future investor? (increasing investment, intimacy)
  11. Are there gaps where you need to add new offerings or to create greater differentiation (value) between existing investor offerings?
  12. What have you jointly agreed to do next? (exchange information, call, meeting)

You can see quickly here that framing your investor question, creates a dramatically sharper point on your arrow.

 

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Startup, Startdown

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

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Are you taking advice from an experienced entrepreneur as you proceed (business growth, raising capital, building partnerships and so forth)? Have they done what you want to accomplish successfully? Can they translate and transfer their expertise, knowledge and contacts to me? Never hire anyone who you cannot confidently answer a firm “YES” to those questions. There is a huge cottage industry of fawning advisers, business brokers and connectors, prying on startup and early-stage entrepreneurs with lousy and unproven advice. A great many entrepreneurs are drawn to these individuals by people they assiduously trust (family, friends, past colleagues and so on).  The giveaway is a promise to introduce the entrepreneur to a “celebrity” investor, adviser, potential client etc. The entrepreneur signs away a monthly retainer, and lo and behold they are taken on a merry ground, laced with excuses and failure. There is close to zero commitment because the economics don’t justify it.

You are building a “start-up”. Make sure that you are not consciously or unconsciously now in a “start-down”.

© James Berkeley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 

Compelling Investors

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

“Please feel free to share investment opportunities in the future….” or “This isn’t right for us at this stage we have a prefer businesses with positive EBITDA” The problem with so many investors is there is no “siren call” to them. Their language is weak, their feedback is meaningless, and there is visibly close to zero commitment to a future relationship with the introduction source. In return, there is no compulsion to make you THEIR priority. To put you at the top of their call list. To keep you uppermost in their thoughts. To reciprocate, in a meaningful manner.

If the game is about identifying, attracting, evaluating, and applying impressive levels of knowledge to high-quality investment opportunities and making wise decisions consistent with an investor’s strategic goals, there is a need to constantly nurture referral sources. You don’t achieve that with bland throwaway sentences or anaemic feedback. You do that best by providing something of value to the introducer quickly (ideas, insights, other investor names, a promotional opportunity and so forth). Of course, that assumes your real intention is to have an ongoing relationship and not banish the referral source to Siberia.

© James Berkeley. 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Losing The Potential Investor

Monday, November 7th, 2016

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Why do so many executives and entrepreneurs lose control of discussions with potential investors at an early stage in the capital raising process? Most don’t have a route map. A set of small steps that starts from the first approach direct or by their adviser and takes them through and beyond committed capital into the value creation phase. Since they have no way of knowing where they are, they don’t know when they are lost.

Here is three common mistakes, and quick ways to avoid the landmines:

  1. A Failure to Identify the “Economic Investor”. Definition: The individual within the investment firm with the ability to approve the investment, the ability to sign off on the terms sheet, whose fund  will support the investment into your business, who will be held accountable for success or failure and so forth. In large firms, private offices and funds, of course, there may well be multiple “economic investors”. Obstacle: Too much time is spent with non-investors or worse, you are caste as a peer of the junior folks, never welcome in the inner sanctum. Next Step: It is your job and that of your adviser BEFORE you enter the conversation ideally to know, who the economic investors are specifically and to work out the ideal conditions (warm referral) in which they will respond favourably to your request to meet. Thereafter, the goal is to build a comfort level and sufficient trust that an informal or informal relationship can ensue.
  2. Hiccup or Fatal Diversions. Having broken the ice with the “economic investor” in a first call or meeting, he or she asks that you meet with some of his junior analysts to qualify the investment opportunity, as he is currently “travelling / busy this week / unable to respond quickly” (code: you are not my priority). You have two options: say, “No, quite frankly, we are both first, making a strategic decision on whether to invest in a potential relationship, unless I am wrong we don’t need others to decide that for us. If not now, when can we meet or talk next?” or “Yes, we will happily agree to talk to them but we must have a definitive time and date for us to speak again. Specifically, to compare notes on what we hear and more importantly, to agree the nature and direction of our relationship.” The mistake many entrepreneurs make is once they meet the junior folks with a propensity to please them, they start engaging in a more detailed conversation (sharing follow-up information with them, agreeing to their next steps). They are now a “plaything” of the junior people, which is great for them but potentially deadly for you. The economic investor watching from the sidelines is quite happy to allow this to happen because it is one less priority for them, creates distance (another layer of protection) and the unpleasantness of rejecting your proposal. You have now descended from the executive floor to the second floor, not only had a conversation when the elevator doors open, you are now following them through the corridors on the second floor, at their speed and direction, getting further away from the executive’s office. I find that entrepreneurs of an amiable disposition or those that somehow feel fortunate to be in the building are most susceptible. There is also a cadre of restless entrepreneurs, who won’t take heed of their adviser’s warnings. Bye bye!
  3. Talking About Valuation Before Defining The Investor’s Objectives – I see this so often it is almost laughable. Unlike a game of monopoly or snakes and ladders, this isn’t bad luck, this is self-inflicted pain. You know the question is coming your way, you either choose to neatly sidestep it, by re-framing the conversation in the investor’s self-interest or you allow yourself to tread on it at your peril. Think about this way. How many times does the investor respond, “Wow, you are massively undervaluing your business” or “That is an eminently sensible valuation”? Perhaps, 1 in a 100. I’d say, 30% respond “that’s way too rich for us” (immediate termination), 40% respond “we are struggling with those kind of valuations”  (highly probable termination) and the final 29% “tell me where did you get that valuation from” (needs a lot of convincing). You are left constantly defending rather than explaining your approach to making your investors money. If it comes up early on, you are wise to say, “it would be unfair to throw a valuation at you without first explaining how we intend to accomplish your objectives and secondly,  determining whether a relationship is in both of our best interests. If you are willing to listen, we’ll happily address it at the appropriate moment.” (Note, if they won’t listen, they almost certainly see you as a commodity. Do you need that kind of investor relationship?).

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Interview With Me: Do’s and Don’ts of Investing in Private Comanies

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

In an interview for U.S. News & World Report with the former longtime staff writer, editor and columnist at the Chicago Tribune, Lou Carlozo, James talks about why many investors in private companies jump on the bandwagon of out-sized returns while overlooking the inherent risks.

http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-09-20/dos-and-donts-of-investing-in-private-companies 

 

 

Fishing For Investors

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

 

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In August the docksides and inlets in North Norfolk are lined with kids casting bait (bacon or salami are highly effective) on primitive fishing lines to catch the abundant crabs that lie close to the surface. Perhaps the crabs know the odds are stacked in their favour or they are so greedy but little boys and girls pluck them out at will before returning them to the sea.

What would entrepreneurs and executives give for a similar ease with the capital raising process? The reality today is that unless you are a well known “brand” with a powerful investor network, raising money is hard. Investors can be very choosy, they largely congregate in locations with big clusters of potential businesses to invest in and they are drawn to people, who have demonstrably made investors serious cash on cash on multiple occasions.

1. What are you doing to dramatise your value to your ideal investor(s) and the singularity of your investment proposition? (Use of powerful language, a peer of opinion makers, harnessing evangelists, creating excitement and so forth)
2. Why invest in you? (“Hot” proposition in the investor’s sweet spot)
3. Why invest now? (Brief window of opportunity)
4. Why invest in the manner you are proposing? (Special circumstances).

Time is the most precious commodity. You cannot rely on the kids fishing line, you must caste a fishing net to attract potential investors. You need to know where the high potentials reside. You need compelling “bait”. You need multiple conversations to be constantly moving in parallel, not sequential stages. You need to be constantly replenishing the investor pipeline with high quality leads. This is not a kids sport, this is your wealth at stake. Time to get serious.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Trusting Your Fundraising Technique

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

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The crucible of the Olympics separates those, who implicitly trust their technique honed over early mornings and thousands of hours of practice and those, who fear the headlines that will be writ large about their despair. The “mental toughness” commentators talk about is really a mindset issue. A “fear of failure” cripples talent. A “no fear” mindset allows talent to flow.

Owners and top managers in growth businesses don’t have to wait four years for their golden opportunity. Rarely is your failure final, nor are you likely to be written off publicly.

Why cannot you walk into that investor meeting knowing you have tremendous value to bring and do your absolute best without fear? Why cannot you exude implicit confidence in your recommendations and demonstrate absolute credibility? If you knew you couldn’t fail what would you say to the current or prospective investor and how would you direct the conversation to convert the opportunity?

Many entrepreneurs and executives tell me hundreds of reasons why the investor passed on the opportunity. Most have reasonable language techniques but they don’t trust themselves in the moment. They freeze, their mind becomes scrambled and they default to “selling” (proving their worth) rather providing value (showing their worth) to the other party. When their conversation is subordinated to a sales pitch, which is quickly rejected, it is game over.

Believe in your skills and expertise implicitly and maintain a mindset that failure is temporary at worst. Your audience want you to succeed. They are investing 60 minutes of time because they believe it will be time well spent building a formal or informal relationship with you.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Pitch Perfect

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Have you ever met anyone who honestly wants to receive an “elevator pitch”? Why do so called experts persist in suggesting businesses and funds seeking to raise capital include one in their conversations and marketing collaterals? I’ll tell you why, their mindset is all about “selling” the individuals, business or Fund and snatching something in return (scarce capital).

Contrast this with suggesting the individuals, the business or the Fund draft a powerful value proposition. 1-2 sentences that dramatises the “value” created for the recipient and the singularity of their approach.

A luxury concierge business, “we help dramatically transform the lives of time-poor and asset rich families.”

An AI Venture Capital Fund, “we invest in strong and dynamic high growth businesses able to harness artificial intelligence to generate breakthrough improvements and superior returns.”

I am not trying to sell a thing, what I do urge you to articulate is the dramatic value and singularity.

1. Why should I delve deeper after reading your teaser or tear sheet? (self-interest, visible need)
2. Is it memorable? (Brevity, distinctive)
3. Does it immediately provoke my curiosity? (Human need addressed, a problem solved or the human spirit enriched)

If you are reading this and wanting “help”, call or write to james@elliceconsulting.com now

 

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

What Is Your Story

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

 

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Every week I get smart, intelligent entrepreneurs coming to me for “help” with strategy and tactics to grow their business, raise capital, partner or even exit. I decline the overwhelming majority not because they don’t have a smart proposition but because I don’t have confidence that they can create and communicate a compelling story.

If they cannot convince me that they can get over the line, why would I invest my time and energy in convincing others? Of course, there are people I overlook who go on to prove me wrong.

The problem I find is that Founders, who may have been hugely successful in a big organisation or a different environment automatically assume their past performance and credibility confers a compelling story to others. Much as the celebrity dropping the “do you know who I am” line at the overbooked airline desk or the nightclub hostess. It rarely works.

It is about today’s story, today’s investment decision, and today’s health of your business.

Who are you today? What do you actually represent to a high potential investor, buyer or partner? How are they better off or personally better supported in investing in your success?

Knowing the answers to those questions doesn’t confer success but it sure gets your head and story into the appropriate context.

© James Berkeley 2016. All Rights Reserved.