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25 things investors say when rejecting your startup 投资者拒绝你的25种回应方式 May 29, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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Brian Witlin

After speaking with a number of fellow “hustlers” (fellow fundraising CEOs), I was able to amass an awesome list of classic messages people have received from investors after initial contact or initial pitch. As the title implies, below are 25 ways people get rejected from investors.

Maybe I am a bit weird, but I tend to find rejection as a fuel to my fire. When I was in college, I got the Chicago Crain’s Magazine list of top 300 companies to work for. I hacked the list and mail-merged “personalized” letters and applied to over 290 internships. I received more than 250 rejection letters but got 3 offers. I plastered the rejection letters over my door and highlighted the part where they told me why I was not a fit. My favorite letter was from McDonald’s (corporate). It had a watermark of Ronald McDonald and friends. So now I can say that I was rejected from McDonald’s. Ha!

In grad school, I kept my two rejection letters from Stanford pinned above my desk (I got in on my third try). I found it both funny and motivating.

After going through two successful venture fund raises for ShopWell, I found it fun to create this top 25 list of rejection messages from investors that I, and others in my network, have received. I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

General Lack of Interest or Uncertainty

No response
We don’t see this as a fit at this time (the classic non-answer)
I was regrettably unable to get it over the finish line with my partners.
We are hesitant to invest as the lead, but keep us informed if you get a lead term sheet.
I’m unsure on this one. Let me set you up with one of our associates who has more expertise in this area.

Bandwidth

I am currently overwhelmed at the moment, and can’t spend the time pursuing this any further.

Competitive

We see this being competitive to one of our portfolio companies.
We have concerns that there are not strong competitive barriers to prevent others from doing what you are doing.

Market Thesis

We want to see how [insert portfolio company] plays out before we invest again in this space.
This space is too fragmented at this point for us to see a clear cut winner.
We don’t currently have a thesis on this space yet, and therefore are going to need to pass.

Firm Fit

We tend to invest locally, and you are located too far away.
You are slightly too early for our firm and we can’t see around the curve yet.
You are slightly too late for our firm at this time as we invest earlier stage.
We would invest if you had a local lead investor.
We don’t have more room in the current fund to invest.

Product Market Fit

I just don’t see people doing [insert primary action of your app] as a mainstream activity.
We would be more interested if you included [insert random feature/technology] in your product.

Distribution and Market Traction

We don’t see a clear path to cost effective user acquisition for your company.
We would like to see more months of [insert metric] before we feel comfortable moving forward.

Monetization

We are unsure of your business model and will need to see more proof points before we feel comfortable.
Your market isn’t big enough.

Team

We will feel more comfortable if you have added a/team of [insert hire(s)] to your team. There is too much team risk in this competitive environment.

Company Structure

We don’t like the cap structure of the company.

Other

I left the firm and therefore cannot make investments on behalf of [insert firm] anymore but you should check out my new venture! It is so cool.

我们时常与大家分享投资者可能喜欢什么样的创业者,而创业者又该怎样做才能赢得投资者青睐。事实上最后被拒绝的创业者可能还是占多数,那投资者通常都是怎样拒绝创业者的呢?

连续创业者,ShopWell创始人兼CEO Brian Witlin结合自己的经历及网友建议,总结出投资者在拒绝创业者的融资请求时常见的25种回应。同时他还按可能的原因将其分成几大类,创业者或许能因此从中获得更多信息。

通常缺乏兴趣或不确定
■ 无回应
■ 我们认为现在时机还不成熟(经典的拒绝措词)
■ 很遗憾,这已经超出了我们的底线。
■ 我们正在犹豫要不要领投,有人领投时你可以随时通知我。
■ 在这一点上我不确定。你可以和我的另一个同事谈谈,他/她在这方面更专业。

Bandwidth
■ 现在我有些吃不消了,无法花时间作进一步了解。

竞争
■ 这与我们已投资的公司存在竞争。
■ 你们在构筑强大的竞争壁垒方面做得还不够。

市场认识
■ 目前我们对该市场领域仍持观望态度。
■ 市场很混乱,我们很难看清真正的赢家。
■ 我们对该市场还没有足够的认识,所以暂不考虑。

公司契合度
■ 我们倾向于投资本地企业,你们公司的位置离得太远。
■ 对我们来说,你们处于过于早期的阶段,还不能预期发展状况。
■ 你们现在所处阶段有些靠后,我们一般做更早期的投资。
■ 如果你们在本地找到领投者,我们将跟投。
■ 我们在当前领域的基金中没有更大的投资空间。

产品市场契合度
■ 你们应用中的主要功能似乎并不主流。
■ 如果你们在产品中加入xx功能可能我们会更感兴趣。

市场动力
■ 我们没看出你们已找到获取用户的有效方式。
■ 我们希望每月能看到更多的XXX数/量。

增值
■ 我们目前还没搞懂你们的商业模式,需要进一步证实。
■ 你们做的市场不够大。

团队
■ 该领域有太多的团队风险, 如果你的团队有XXX可能会更让我们放心。

公司结构
■ 我们不喜欢帽子状的公司结构。

其它
■ 我已经离开xxx公司,不能再代表他们进行投资,但你应该看看我们的新公司…

VCs Are Partners, Not Bosses May 25, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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20120525-151950.jpgMark Peter Davis

What’s up with the superiority complex exhibited by both venture capitalists and entrepreneurs?

A shiver goes down my spine when I hear a venture capitalist refer to a portfolio company as “my” company, or a CEO who runs one of those portfolio companies as “my” CEO. The implicit suggestion is that VCs are kings and founders are lowly grunts who exist only to humbly serve the capital-holding masters. Ugh.

This condescension goes both ways. It’s not uncommon for a founder to poo-poo the importance of investors suggesting financiers don’t know how to oversee start-up operations day-to-day.

As both an entrepreneur and a venture capitalist, I deeply believe that these stereotypes are not only wrong, but also foolish.

As a VC, I understand why VCs might claim seniority. After all, VCs typically join the boards of the companies they invest in, and boards have the ability to fire CEOs. So, in that way, start-up CEOs work for VCs. In addition, VCs often have the contractual rights to control a company’s destiny, especially if they hold preferred equity. VCs might be able to veto a company sale, or the issuance of any new security.

That said, entrepreneurs can easily point to another set of facts that suggest they are the rulers of start-up land:

Founders typically own far more of a start-up’s stock than any single investor.

They often represent half or more of the board, meaning that they’re the real bosses of their CEO-selves, and equal to investors in the board capacity.

And, founders usually have the loyalty of the start-up’s team.

Truth is, when you home in on the complex relationships between founders and investors, it’s difficult to untangle who is actually the boss. Each party holds different types of power in different situations–to protect both from risks inherent to each role.

Perceptions of seniority or subordination by either party are just that, perceptions. They don’t typically impact how a company is managed. The reality is that investors and operators are partners in a venture. They’re each contributing different skills, with different rights in order to achieve a common objective: creation of shareholder value.

In the end, of course entrepreneurs don’t want to be insulted or talked down to by their investors. And, investors look for entrepreneurs to respect their input and support their objectives.

如何融到你的100万美元种子资金? May 14, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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融资对于大多数创业公司来说都是无法绕过的一步,而种子阶段的融资又决定了能否快速将“点子”付诸实施。在外人看来,当前的投融资环境已形成一个泡沫,似乎任何一个拥有两名工程师与“点子”的人都能拿到投资(当然也不乏这样的真实案例)。然而事实并非如此,对于创业公司来说,如今的竞争环境从未如此激烈过。那么如何才能快速获得种子阶段的融资呢?我们来看看自由写手交易市场Scripted CEO的几点经验分享。

准备好长期战斗

融资是一场马拉松式赛跑,因此做好长期战斗的准备是最终获得成功的必备因素。如果一项融资方案在6个月内还没有准备好,立即更换另一个方案。

放低估值期待

所有人都在谈论YC孵化公司的疯狂估值,在其172个公司中,总价值达78亿美元,每个公司的价值达4520万美元。然而,如果你不是来自YC或者其它著名的孵化器,很遗憾,你很可能无法获得如较高的估值,因此了解自己所处的环境非常重要。

找到正确的推荐人

这并不是说没有获得关键人物的推荐就不会遇到好的VC。但是一系列的经验告诉我们,通过那些成功融到资的企业家来牵引是最好的一种方法。

一句话阐述你的商业模式

不管与VC、投资人还是合作伙伴,清晰简洁的阐述自己的商业模式都是必需,最好能用一句话就说清楚。

用故事的形式阐述自己的优势

故事是人们最喜欢的一种形式,将自己的产品优势、市场优势、用户关系等等优势用故事的形式表达出来。更容易获得投资人的青睐。

NEA Raising $2.5 Billion For What Could Become The Largest VC Fund In History 打破VC纪录,NEA接近完成募集一支总额为25.6亿美元的基金 May 11, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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COLLEEN TAYLOR Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Whether it’s revenue, users, funding, whatever — nowadays in tech, it seems like the numbers just keep getting bigger.

The latest example of this: New Enterprise Associates, the global venture capital firm with headquarters in Silicon Valley, is in the process of raising $2.56 billion for its 14th fund, “NEA 14,” according to regulatory documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission. NEA has already closed on nearly $2.1 billion for the fund, and $487 million of the offering remains to be sold, the filing said.

If NEA closes on the full amount, it will have raised one of the largest — if not the largest — venture capital funds in history. As of now that title goes to Oak Investment Partners, which raised $2.56 billion in its twelfth fund back in 2006.

Documents about the NEA 14 fund were first filed in March; at that time, however, the maximum offering amount was slated at $2.3 billion. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the size increase to $2.56 billion was due to “strong investor demand” — which seems pretty apparent. Fortune is reporting that NEA 14 will likely close in July, citing sources close to the situation. I’ve reached out for more comment from NEA, but with all the regulations around what firms can say while they’re still in the middle of a fundraising process, they’re understandably being a bit tight-lipped.

This is some big money, but it’s not out of character for the 34-year-old NEA. For its previous fund, NEA 13, which was raised back in 2009, the firm closed on $2.45 billion.

It all plays into a larger trend in venture capital, where the total number of firms in the game are shrinking but the ones on top are getting bigger and more powerful than ever. According to a report released recently by the National Venture Capital Association, the top five VC funds accounted for nearly 75 percent of total fundraising during the first quarter of 2012, while the amount of funds raising money fell to the lowest levels seen in more than two years. In a report about the VC industry released last month, Dow Jones VentureWire editor Zoran Basich put it like this: “A few big firms continue to have no trouble raising large funds, as limited partners are sticking with what they see as safe bets when making their venture allocations.”

钱都到哪里去了?很多募集不到资金的中小VC可能会这么问。但现在看完这个标题,你应该知道答案了,它们大部分去了大牌VC。

今天一份披露给美国证监会的文件显示,硅谷VC NEA正在接近完成募集一支总额高达25.6亿美元的基金。已经完成了近21亿美元的募集,目前只剩下4.87亿美元的缺口尚在寻找出资人。

NEA的资金募集很显然显示了投资人强烈的投资意愿。但是对于中小VC来说,情况却完全不一样。有数据显示今年美国第1季度VC资金的募集75%由排名前5的VC完成,但是筹集到的资金总数却是两年来最少。因此证明了钱都在追着大鱼跑,大鱼越长越大,小鱼越饿越瘦。

最后,还有一条值得指出的数据是这家有34年历史的VC上一支基金数额也很庞大(09年),为24.5亿美元。不过大牌VC融资过多,可能会导致创业公司的初期没人投资,因此也可能对整个创业生态链造成负面影响。

Evernote估值10亿美元背后那些鲜为人知的故事 May 6, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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昨天,云笔记和储存应用Evernote获得7000万美元投资,估值高达10亿美元。从目前来看,Evernote算是一款非常成功的笔记本,而估值10亿美元的背后又有着怎样的故事呢?

不久前,Evernote CEO Phil Libin在一次采访中向我们讲述了公司发展过程中鲜为人知的故事。和如今的很多公司不同的是,Evernote从一开始就有着非常清晰的定位,包括产品和商业模式。

在采访的过程中,Libin就这样调侃如今的很多创业公司:“在很多创业公司看来,不转型三四次貌似是找不到正确的商业模式的。”然而对于Libin来说,他从2007年Evernote创办伊始就清楚地知道公司是干什么的,并坚持认为免费增值模式是符合Evernote的商业模式。

Libin也曾多次说到,Evernote想为每个人提供一个额外的“记忆大脑”,因为每个人都觉得自己的大脑不够用。然而一个好的产品想法和商业模式是远远不够的。到2008年夏天,那时Evernote用户还不是很多,公司的一轮融资协议已经敲定,计划完成融资的那天也正是Merrill Lynch破产的那天,投资方告诉Libin说Merrill Lynch的破产使得他们亏损60%,因此便决定撤出对Evernote的投资。

那时Evernote的资金已经不多,只能维持公司4周的正常运转。因此Libin便开始寻找新的投资方。一些投资者表示,如果Evernote将免费增值的商业模式转变成利用用户的兴趣出售广告的话,那么他们就会考虑投资。当时Libin稍稍考虑了投资者的意见,但对他们的意见并不满意,认为利用用户的兴趣来出售广告会损害用户对Evernote的信任,因此便拒绝了。Libin说道:“我宁愿将公司关了也不会这么做的。”其他的一些投资者建议Evernote专门开发出一款企业级产品,但Libin认为这实在令人难以理解,因为Evernote本来是既可以供专业使用也可以供个人使用的。

到那时,公司的资金只能维持公司运转3周,如果再融不到资,公司就不得不关门歇业。然而令人意想不到的事发生了。在查看邮件时,Libin看到了一封陌生人发来的邮件,打开一看是一位Evernote的瑞典用户发来的,这位用户在邮件中表达了自己对Evernote的喜爱,并询问Evernote是否需要外部融资。20分钟后,Libin就用Skype与这位用户聊了起来,两周后,Evernote就收到了这位用户50万美元的投资。由于这位投资者要求匿名,因此外界至今不知道这位为Everntoe雪中送炭的投资者到底是谁,而Libin和这位投资者也从未谋过面。

这位神秘投资者的投资的确帮助Evernote度过了难关,几个月后,各项数据显示,Evernote的产品和商业模式是可行的,并在不久后顺利从Troika Ventures获得了一轮投资。Libin事后回忆道:“如果那封邮件迟发过来几分钟,我可能就看不到了。”在一定程度上说,就是那位喜爱Everntoe的用户拯救了Evernote。

在面临被迫关闭边缘,是什么使得Libin宁愿将公司关了也不愿靠转变商业模式来获得投资呢?Libin表示主要有以下两个原因:

第一,Evernote在开发自己的分析工具上花了很多功夫,因此Libin清楚地知道能够衡量公司模式是否正确的指标是什么。“在我看来,最重要的莫过于我们有一套自己的衡量标准和指标,因此我们不会盲目地转变公司发展方向。”

第二,Everntoe并不是Libin创办的第一家公司,他之前已经出售过两家公司,因此他对自己充满自信,对公司的模式也很有信心,他也完全有理由按照自己的想法做事。“如果Evernote是我创办的第一家公司的话,为获得融资,我当时可能就会听那些投资者的话,从而转变公司的商业模式。”

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