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舊金山灣區工資和生活成本雙高,尚未造成人才流失 July 26, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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2013年07月24日

techcrunch.com
科技-1307-旧金山湾区工资和生活成本双高,尚未造成人才流失
根據舊金山線上稅務籌畫創業公司Good April編制的資料,舊金山灣區的科技從業者工資中位數為全美最高,達到123,497美元,但該地區的稅率和住房成本同樣比別處要高。

儘管灣區的工資和成本跟其他科技中心城市存在巨大差距,但這種情況似乎還沒有造成顯著的人才流失。

舊金山、馬林以及聖馬特奧這些地方科技從業者的工資中位數要比排名第二的波士頓地區(102,230美元)高出近21%。然而,儘管這種工資水準對一流工程師來說是福音,但也給企業家帶來了顯著的更高成本。

Good April發現,舊金山10人團隊的總薪酬平均達到1,234,970美元,而在德克薩斯州的奧斯丁,這個數字僅為932,490美元。公司創始人必須放棄的股權份額也存在巨大差異,如果你以500萬美元的估值籌集資金運營公司一年時間,你將不得不放棄27%的股權來雇傭位於舊金山的員工,這個比例在奧斯丁僅為20%。

舊金山高昂的稅率和住房成本可能對企業家和員工都造成損害。Good April公司聯合創始人米切爾·福克斯(Mitchell Fox)認為,灣區的公司必須支付較高的工資,以抵消該地區較高的生活成本;然後,較高的工資又提高了人們對房子或公寓的支付意願。

根據房地產網站Zillow提供的房價中位數資訊,在舊金山購買一棟房屋的成本遠超其他科技中心城市。舊金山的房價中位數達到805,500美元,這比紐約的535,900美元高出50%,是奧斯丁房價中位數206,600美元的近4倍。租房市場的情況並不更樂觀,6月份舊金山的房租中位數達到了3,295美元。

福克斯表示,他最近遇到一位正在將公司遷到奧斯丁的企業家,後者稱,“遷址的商業案例太吸引人了,奧斯丁擁有我們需要的一切,但成本卻要低得多。”

DeveloperAuction是一家讓創業公司競價聘請工程師和設計師的創業公司,其聯合創始人馬特·密茨凱維茨(Matt Mickiewicz)表示,該公司平臺上的資料表明,“到目前為止,沒有人正在因為高成本逃離舊金山。”他補充說,DeveloperAuction站點上的開發者中有87%的人最終並未進入提供最高工資的公司。

資訊圖表製作:Good April。

Where to Look for Investors to Fund Your Startup July 14, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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ALAN LOBOCK, CO-FOUNDER OF WORTHWORM AND SKYMALL INC.
JULY 10, 2013

where-look-investors-fundQ: Any tips on how and when to start getting to know potential investors? By the time I start to raise funding, I want them to know me.
-Ali R. Tariq
Waterloo, Canada

A: The first issue here is considering what kind of investment you’d like to pursue: angel investment or venture capital.

If you’re looking for angel investment, it’s wise to have your connections with angels established before seeking funding. Nurture these relationships, so when you’re ready to seek funding an investor not only knows your name but has had contact with you several times.

Angels may invest individually, but many also belong to an angel group. You can scout out these groups by looking at the Angel Capital Association directory for your region. Initiate contact and learn what criteria they apply to applicants for funding and the submittal process. From there, make sure to maintain casual contact with them until you are ready to seek funding.

Individual angels are harder to come by but not impossible. The best way to get in front of these investors is to attend pitch events where the presenting ventures are similar to yours and angels will be in attendance.

Networking with other entrepreneurs in your space who have secured angel financing is another way to gain introductions.

You can also check out AngelList, a website that allows angels to follow startup activity. You can either use the site to see which angels are following ventures in your space or place your venture on the site to allow interested angels to track your progress.

Finally, if your local university has an entrepreneurship program, check in with the director. He or she may be able to point you in the direction of angel investors in your area.

If you choose to go down the venture-capital route, attracting these investors at an early-stage can be challenging.

VCs tend to invest near their headquarters, especially seed-stage VCs, as they anticipate spending time with each of the companies they invest in. If you are looking for a VC firm in your area or industry, there are several online sites, like vFinance, that can help target your search. Once you find an ideal fit for your startup, visit the firm’s website to learn more about them, the criteria they apply to candidates and what other sites they have invested in.

It’s rare that a blind submittal of a business plan will gain VC interest, so networking is key. Once you have selected VCs to approach, reach out to the companies they have funded for a reference on the firm. By doing so, you are establishing a relationship with people who have direct access to the investors. Advance the relationship to a point where one or more contacts have gained some familiarity with your venture and are impressed to the extent that they will provide you with an introduction.

Also look to attend conferences where you know your targeted investors will be. Seek them out, introduce yourself, be prepared to give your elevator pitch and then ask for a follow-up meeting. If they don’t show interest, ask them to suggest other VCs who are investing in your space.

One note about VCs — they don’t like to look at opportunities that are being distributed to a large number of venture capital groups. To start out, pick no more than three venture-capital groups and see what kind of interest they express before expanding your search.

安全投资热正在进一步升温,安全初创企业Lastline获1000万美元融资 June 25, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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似乎棱镜门事件发酵的安全投资热正在进一步升温。最近一个月先后就有Pindrop Security、Disconnect、Encap、微护照等安全初创企业获得融资。保护企业免受恶意软件攻击的安全初创企业 Lastline 刚刚又宣布获得 1000 万美元的融资。

Lastline 成立于 2012 年,创始人是加州大学圣巴巴拉分校及东北大学的计算机科学教授团队,其目标是为企业提供高持续性威胁、定向攻击和零日威胁的实时防护。公司创始人曾开发了著名的恶意软件分析工具,基于云的 Anubis 和 Wepawet。公司的恶意软件防护解决方案是 Previct。由物理监控设备 Previct Sentinel、管理工具 Previct Manager 及文档分析工具 Previct Analyst 组成。该公司自视为今年刚刚融资5000万美元的安全公司FireEye的直接竞争对手。

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此轮融资由 Redpoint Ventures 和 e.ventures 领投。公司计划利用所得资金进行销售并进一步研发恶意及威胁检测技术。

China Startups – The Gold Rush and Fire Extinguishers April 17, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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STEVE BLANK

Land Rush
For the last 10 years China essentially closed its search, media and social network software market to foreign companies with the result that Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Dropbox, and 30,000 other websites were not accessible from China. This left an open playing field for Chinese software startups as they “copy to China” existing U.S. business models. Of course “copy” is too strong a word. Adapt, adopt and extend is probably a better description. But for the last decade “innovation” in Chinese software meant something different than it did in Silicon Valley.

The Chinese Social Media Landscape diagram below from Resonance does a great job of illustrating the players in the Chinese market. (Note that the inner ring shows their global equivalents.)

The downside is that with so much venture and angel capital available, investors have been willing to fund the 10th Groupon clone. For the last few years, there really hasn’t been a demand to innovate on top of the ecosystem that’s been built.

china-social-media-ecosystem

New Rules for China
Not only is the Chinese ecosystem completely different but also the consumer demographics and user expectations are equally unique. 70% of Chinese Internet users are under 30. Instead of email, they’ve grown up with QQ instant messages. They’re used to using the web and increasingly the mobile web for everything, commerce, communication, games, etc. (They also probably haven’t seen a phone that isn’t mobile.) By the end of 2012, there were 85 million iOS and 160 million Android devices in China. And they were increasing at an aggregate 33 million IOS and Android activations per month.

It was interesting to learn about China’s digital divide – the gap between East China and Midwest China, and between urban and rural areas. Internet penetration in Beijing is greater than 70% while it’s less than 25% in Yunnan, Jiangxi, Guizhou and other provinces. While there are 564 million web users with 420 million having mobile web access, 74% of Chinese Internet users make less than $500/month and are students, blue-collar workers or jobless.

Unlike U.S. websites that are sparse and slick, Chinese users currently expect complicated, crowded and busy web pages. However, there’s a growing belief that the “design preferences” of Chinese consumers are just bad design. TenCents WeChat, (designed for an international market) is the first incredibly popular app in China to dramatically raise the bar for what a good user interface and user experience looks and feels like. WeChat may change the game for Chinese U/I and U/X experience. The one caveat about online commerce is that while Chinese users will buy physical goods online (Taobao is huge), they seem to hate to pay for music or software, and the model for games seems to be moving to free play with in-app-purchases for accessories and powers. An interesting consequence of the rigid censoring and control of mainstream media is that blogging – reading and writing – is much higher than U.S.

My guess is the current wave of “copy to China” will burn itself out in the next few years as the smart money starts to move to “innovate in China” (i.e. like WeChat.)

Competition
If you’re a software startup competing in China, the words that come to mind are “ruthless and relentless.” The not so polite ones I’ve heard from others are “vicious, unethical and illegal.” Intellectual property protection is great on paper and “limited” in practice. The large players like Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent historically would be more likely to simply copy a startup’s features than to hire their talent. The large companies strategy seems to be to cover every possible market niche by copying successful models from others.

The slide below from the Zhen Fund shows the breadth of business coverage of each of the Chinese Internet incumbents. Each column represents a company (QQ, Sina, Baidu, Netease, Sohu etc.) and the rows indicates their offerings in open platform, group buying, online games, microblogging, Instant Messaging, BBS, Q&A and E-commerce.

internet-giants-want-to-do-it-all

Small startups act the same way, simply cloning each other’s products. Sharing and cooperation is not yet part of the ethos. I can’t imagine a U.S. company setting up some subsidiary here and expecting them to compete while they were following U.S. rules. In some ways, the best description of the market dynamics would be “imagine you were competing with 100 companies who are as rapacious as Microsoft was in the 1980’s and 1990’s.” Eventually, China’s innovation-driven economy needs intellectual property rights and anti-trust laws that are enforced.

Sea Turtles and VPN – the connections to the rest of the world
Entrepreneurs in Beijing were knowledgeable about Silicon Valley, entrepreneurship and the state of software and tools available for two reasons. First, there are continuous stream of “sea turtles”—Chinese who have studied or worked abroad—returning home. (The Chinese government must be laughing hysterically over U.S. immigration policy that’s forcing Chinese grad students out of the U.S.) Many of these returnees have worked in Silicon Valley and startups or went to school at MIT and Stanford. (There is a huge difference between the Chinese who have never left and those who went to school abroad, even for a few months – at least a difference in their ability to relate to me and have a conversation on the same wavelength. It’s clear why families try so hard to send their children abroad. It changes everything for them.)

Second, most websites that a non-Chinese would use are blocked including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google Docs, Scribd, Blogspot, Dropbox, New York Times, etc. Almost every entrepreneur I met was using VPN to circumvent the Great Firewall. When the Chinese government censors (run by their propaganda department) shutdown access to yet another U.S. web site, they create another 100,000 VPN users. And when the government tools to detect encrypted VPN’s get more sophisticated, (as it did last year), Chinese users just use stealthier tools. It’s an amazing cat and mouse system.

ccp-propaganda-department-logo
(Note to Chinese Communist party – the best name for your propaganda department should probably not be the “Propaganda Department.”)

Beijing’s Academic Hub
Right next door to Zhongguancun are China’s top two universities, Peking University and Tsinghua University. Northwest of Beijing is also home to other universities, including technical universities like USTB, BIT, BUPT, and Beihang. Like Silicon Valley, Zhongguancun also has a critical mass of people who are crazy enough to do startups. Equally of interest is a good number of them end up in the PLA’s GSD 3rd Department (the equivalent of our National Security Agency. ) And some of their best and brightest have ended up in the organizations like the 2nd Bureau, Unit 61398 tasked euphemistically for “Computer Network Operations.”

While I didn’t get much time with the academic community, in talking to students, education seems to still be one of China’s bottlenecks – rote lectures, passive learning, follow the process, exam-based performance, etc. And while startups and entrepreneurship courses are now being added to the curriculum, “How to write a business plan” seems to be the state of the art. China’s education system needs to give more attention to fostering students’ innovative thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurial Culture
Fear of Failure
Though they’re familiar with technology in the valley, I picked up some important cultural difference from students and startup engineers I talked to. Even though they’re next to Zhongguancun, the hottest place for startups in China, there seems to be a lower appetite for risk, a lack of interest in equity (instead optimizing for a high salary) and very little loyalty to any one company. The overall culture still has a fear of failure. Most of their parents still tell them to work for the government or a big company.

Talent
I heard from a few investors that as the startup ecosystem is relatively new, there’s a battle for experienced engineering talent and lack of experienced C-level execs. The lack of a previous generation of successful startup CEOs means the current pool of mentors to coach this generation is almost non-existent.

Because salaries are cheap, startups seem to try to solve every problem by throwing bodies at it. Startup teams feel like they are 2-5x the size of American teams. There seems to be little appreciation or interest in multi-skilled people.

Turnover of employees in capital in Beijing is very high. Employees work here for a few months and are suddenly gone. There’s a noticeable lack of tenacity in young, new entrepreneurs. They start a project, and if it isn’t a home run, they’re gone. Perhaps it’s the weather. Silicon Valley has great weather and lifestyle, and nobody wants to leave. Beijing has awful weather and pollution, it’s a temporary place to get rich and then leave.

Management 101
The board/CEO relationship still isn’t clearly understood by either party. I’ve talked to entrepreneurs who view the investors as a “boss.” A good number of startups in Beijing seem driven by the VCs – and not the founders. This might also be a hangover from the command and control system of a state-driven planned economy. Ironically investors told me that the reverse has been true as well. Some startups acted like the VC was a bank. They took the money and then ignored their board. Over time, as investors add more value than writing checks, this relationship will mature.

Creativity
I was surprised that startup teams ask what seems like the kind of questions Americans learn at their first jobs.

Team: ”We keep spending money trying to get people to our web site but they don’t come back. We are almost out of money.”

Me: ”Ok. Why are you still spending money?”

Team: “long…silence…we need people to come to the website.”

On the other hand, for most of them it probably is their first job. And the educational system hasn’t prepared them for executing anything other than a plan. Iterations and pivots are a tough concept if you’ve never been taught to think for yourself. And challenging the system is not something that’s actually encouraged in China.

They also ask questions I just don’t know how to answer. “How do you know how to be creative? What do we have to do to be creative?” ”You Americans just seem to know how to do things even if you’ve never done them – can you show us how to do that?” This seems to be an artifact of the Chinese rote educational system and its current system of government.

Innovation Ecosystem
On the plane ride home I started to think about the similarities and differences between the innovation ecosystems of Silicon Valley and the TMT segment I saw in Beijing. The motivations are the same – profit – driven by entrepreneurs and venture finance. And the infrastructure is close to the same – research universities, predictable economic system, a path to liquidity, a stable legal system and 24/7 utilities. But the differences are worth noting – it’s a young ecosystem, so startup management tools are nearly non-existent. But there’s a difference in the culture of failure and risk taking – the current cultural pressure is to “work for a big company or the government.” Outward facing Universities are just starting to appear, and while there’s a free flow of information inside China, it suffers from the constraints of the Great Firewall.

china-vs-us-ecosystem1

But there are two striking differences. The first is the lack of creativity. The Beijing software ecosystem I saw has spent the last decade in a protected market copying successful U.S. business models. ”Copying, adopting and adapting,” is not the same as ”competing, innovating and creating” in a global market. Perhaps products like WeChat, designed for an international market, might be the beginning of real innovation.

The second difference in ecosystems – the lack of freedom to dissent – goes deeper to the difference between the two systems. In the U.S. entrepreneurs are encouraged to “Think Different.” Our touchstone for creativity is the Apple ad that said, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers,… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things….” This spirit of rebellion against the status quo got us Steve Jobs. In China the same attitude is likely to get you jail time. Unless you can speak truth to power, you’ll never have an innovation economy.

Conclusion
China is astonishing. The country has risen. Their economy is the envy of the world. The entrepreneurial and “can do” spirit reminds me of what the U.S. was known for. Chinese citizens are proud of their country and believe the world is theirs in the way Americans did in the 1950’s. Their leadership has shown incredible foresight in engineering an amazing economic engine and formidable military. They come so far, and yet…

To take nothing away from what China has accomplished, a visit to Beijing had all the subtle reminders that this version of capitalism has come without democracy or justice; the guards in the Forbidden City armed with fire extinguishers in case more protestors try to set themselves on fire, the security around Tiananmen Square to prevent protestors from gathering, and the “black jails” to keep rural petitioners out of Beijing. And of course the “great firewall,” attempting to keep information about the outside world from reaching inside China.

The bet the government is making is that if they can keep the economy cooking and distract the masses with ever increasing consumer goods and foreign adventures, maybe it can survive.
All of these are signs of a weak China not a strong one. They are the signs of a leadership frightened not by external enemies but by their own people.

It usually doesn’t end well.

Avoiding Undue Diligence: My Strange Approach To Angel Investing February 4, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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Dharmesh Shah

In a few weeks, I’m going to write a $25,000 check to invest in a company that currently does not exist. There is no company. There’s no team. And I have no idea what the company will do or hopes to do. I’m investing almost completely blind. More on this craziness a little later in this article.

To understand why I would do something so crazy, let me first catch you up a bit on my angel investment history and “strategy” (and I use the word strategy very loosely). It’s not your typical story.

20130204-145436.jpgI first started angel investing while I was a graduate student at MIT. I had recently sold my last company, made some money and went back to graduate school to figure out what I wanted to do next. I had promised my wife it wouldn’t be another startup (startups are hard) so my plan was to do angel investing. It was a way for me to scratch my entrepreneurial itch by vicariously living through other entrepreneurs. Lots of fun, and almost no pain. Seemed like a great idea. And it was.

The first entrepreneur I invested in (not counting myself) was Brian Shin — his company was Visible Measures. He was a classmate of mine in “New Enterprises” at MIT. Brian was literally one of the smartest people I met during my time at MIT. And, he could hustle like nobody’s business. So, I invested $50,000 despite not really knowing Brian and not really liking the original idea (they have since pivoted). And, not really knowing what the heck I was doing It turns out, to be an angel investor there is only one requirement: You have to have to be accredited (i.e. have the money to be able to afford the risk). You don’t have to go to angel investment school, take any tests or otherwise prove your mette. You just need cash and be willing to write checks.

I continued making investments all through graduate school and then post-graduation, as I was building my own startup, HubSpot. I’ve now made 35+ investments. You can see most of my AngelList profile. What makes my approach unconventional is that I have a few “rules”:

All of the rules are based on one simple constraint: I have no time. I have no time to spend on/with startups because I’m maniacally committed and focused on my own company (HubSpot), which is doing very well. That’s where all available time goes. If I didn’t have these rules in place, I wouldn’t be able to angel invest at all.

So here are my rules:

1. No due diligence. Seriously, almost none. In over half the deals I’ve done, I’ve never met the entrepreneurs or talked to them on the phone. Generally just exchanged an email or two. My rationale here is two-fold: I’m optimizing for my time (my biggest constraint) not magnitude of outcome. Also, I think at the very early stages, most diligence that typical investors spend time on is “undue”. There’s just not that much that’s knowable. Either you like the people, or you don’t. You like the idea, or you don’t (which is irrelevant, because the idea’s likely going to change anyways).

2. No follow-on investments. This one’s controversial. Many would argue that it’s economically stupid for me not to “double down” on the deals that I have a right to maintain my pro-rata investment. They might be right (but I don’t think they are). The reason I don’t do follow-ons is that it requires spending time (which I don’t have) and for the deals that I don’t invest in, I might create a signaling problem for the entrepreneur. By unilaterally not doing any follow-on investments, all signaling issues go away. This has worked brilliantly for me so far. I take the money that I would have invested in deals I’m already in, and just channel it to new startups. In the grand scheme of things, I think this works out well for everyone.

3. No advisory board positions or official involvement. Once again, this goes back to the lack of time. I don’t have time to commit, so I don’t commit it. Occasionally, I’ll make an email introduction, or see entrepreneurs in my portfolio for a nice dinner — but other than that, they almost never see me or hear from me.

Overall, my unconventional approach seems to be working OK. I’d put my angel investment portfolio up against any early-stage investor (angel or VC). After all is done, I’m going to make a fair amount of money. If you don’t think so, just check out my portfolio.

And, to those that might criticize my unconventional approach and classify me as “part of the problem” (the problem being, the “Series A Crunch”), I have a simple response/position: There’s no such thing as too many companies starting up. But, there is such a thing as not enough companies shutting down…but that’s a different problem.

Important Note: If you are seeking angel investment, just about all of my investments these days are through AngelList (Disclosure: I’m not just a member of AngelList, I’m also an investor). And, I focus exclusively on Internet/software companies.

So, back to my crazy $25,000 investment. A few weeks ago, I heard about the upcoming LAUNCH Festival hosted by Jason Calacanis. Jason sent an email out announcing that as part of LAUNCH, he was putting together the best hackathon in history. Jason was going to angel invest $25,000 into the winning team. When I saw that email, I thouht “that’s a pretty good idea, and I’ve done stupider things”. So, I volunteered to match Jason’s $25k with $25k of my own. Secretly, I’m a major, major believer in hackepreneurs. If I can buy into someone that manages to get in to the LAUNCH hackathon and then wins — I think it’s a pretty good bet.

Hope you get a chance to attend LAUNCH. It promises to be an amazing event. And, if you’re the hackepreneur type, hope you’ll participate in the hackathon and take my money.

Cheers.

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Kickstarter、AngelList 與募資革命 January 30, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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Mr.Jamie

Screen-Shot-2013-01-31-at-7.22.49-AM-550x456

Kickstarter 日前公布了他們的「The Best of 2012」年度總結,其中這張圖大概會讓很多人震驚。創立短短三年,Kickstarter 已經成長為一個 3.2 億美金的募資管道,一年有 220 萬人參與贊助,讓將近 2 萬個計畫得以成功進行。

相較之下,北美的創投產業一年投資約 400 個種子期案件,總金額落在 9-18 億美金的範圍。而專門幫種子期公司找天使的 AngelList,目前一年約幫助 1,000 個種子期的公司募資,總金額是 1.4 億美元左右。

對比到台灣,我們的創投產業一年投資種子時期公司約新台幣 3.2 億,類似 AngelList 的服務尚未出現,而類似 Kickstarter 的有成立不到一年的 FlyingV ,目前協助的募資金額大約在數千萬台幣之譜。

單純從「募資」的角度來看,Kickstarter 與 AngelList 這類型的服務其實是一種「去化中間人」的概念。傳統的創投模式,管理的基金來源多為企業、金融業與各式的退休基金、校務基金,是一個非常多層次的資金通道 — 個人先把錢拿去投資企業的股權、買保險、存放退休基金或贊助校務發展,再由企業、保險、基金經理人代替個人決定要把錢放在哪一種投資工具,其中一部分放在創投基金的,再由創投經理人決定要投資哪些新創企業,新創企業得到了資金,再生產商品去販售給個人。

傳統上這樣多層次的專業管理有許多好處:

決策成本:個人有自己的工作與興趣,往往不想花過多的時間在投資決策上,所以合理的解決方案是外包給專業經理人處理。

資訊的取得與分析:好的投資決策需要充足的資訊與知識作為基石,但個人往往沒有足夠的時間可以花在資訊採集與研究上,在這方面專業的資金經理人有規模經濟的優勢。

分散風險:投資一定有風險,如果要降低「非系統風險」,也就是避免踩到地雷,必須把資金分配在一個投資組合之上。在這方面,機構往往也比個人有規模經濟。

進入門檻:尤其在創投,僅有不到 10% 的案件會產生 90% 的投資報酬。因此,好的投資機會往往是供不應求的「賣方市場」。當募資方有選擇的權力,則往往專業、有長期聲譽的投資機構比較容易進入。

交易成本:創業投資案件往往有簽約、文件往返處理、申請註冊、會計、律師等固定成本,所以能夠一次投資較大金額的機構投資人,也有規模經濟的優勢。

後續追蹤管理:投資之後,個人往往也沒有太多時間追蹤管理這些資產。相對之下,專業投資機構除了可以積極管理下檔風險,往往也可以正面協助被投資公司的種種業務,增加投資的期望值。

但它也有一些壞處,例如:

規模不經濟問題:機構投資由於較有規模,為了滿足管理與交易成本,一定會有投資金額的門檻,相對也讓小型資金需求無法得到滿足。

管理成本:每一層次的專業經理,勢必要收取管理費用,這是資金的損耗,也降低個人最終的投資報酬期望值。

代理人問題:上述所有「好處」發生的必要條件是專業經理人的一切行為,必須以最大化股東利益為依歸,當然在現實的世界,一定無法 100% 達成。

也因此,在每筆募資金額小,風險因此容易分散,並且決策成本低,資訊取得與分析相對容易,無明顯進入門檻,且交易成本低時,這樣的案件其實適合跳過傳統的多層次創投路線,直接讓小企業去面對個人去募資,因而解決規模不經濟問題,並且省下層層的管理成本,避免掉代理人問題。

這也就是為什麼你看到 Kickstarter 的平均每案的募資金額只有 1.8 萬美金,而每個個人的貢獻值更只有 143 美金,因為這些案件大多是以「預購」的方式成立,個人只是「貸款」給企業去生產產品,生產完成後個人則得到商品作為投資報酬,這個決策非常簡單,風險在個人能承受的範圍內,也不太需要後續的追蹤與管理。

相對之下,在 AngelList 上,決策、交易成本稍高,並且需要一定程度的投資後追蹤管理的種子案件,它的平均每案金額就拉高到了 14 萬美元左右。而決策、交易成本更高,需要非常專業的投資後管理的創投種子案件,每案金額則更進一步拉高到 200-500 萬美金。

從這個角度看去,Kickstarter 與 AngelList 帶來的其實是募資的「下放」,填補了傳統創投模式因為規模不經濟所沒辦法觸及的低金額募資市場,讓 1 萬到 100 萬美金等級的募資計畫,能夠有更高的成行機率。

投资者为什么最爱贝索斯 January 15, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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文|CBN记者 董晓常

  作为一个刚刚经历季度亏损的电子商务公司,亚马逊的市盈率为什么远远高过苹果。

  在全球最知名的科技公司中,你知道投资者最爱的是谁么?如果以市盈率来衡量,亚马逊绝对是独一无二的那个。亚马逊目前的市盈率是3131.92倍,而苹果是44.16倍,Google是 21.39倍,Facebook是197.53倍。

  当然,目前亚马逊的超高市盈率是一个极限值,因为其刚刚经历了一个利润大幅下滑的财季。亚马逊第三季度销售额138.1亿美元,比去年同期的108.8亿美元增长27%;净亏损为2.74亿美元,去年同期净利润为6300万美元。不过,抛开现在的极限情况,亚马逊的市盈率也一向是远远高于其他的高科技公司的。

  对于很多投资者来说,亚马逊并不是那种很容易兴奋的公司。如果把亚马逊最近十年的利润做成曲线,你会发现它很像一个心电图,总是上上下下变化极大。而通常的科技公司都是一条向上的斜线。

  当然,资本市场没有无缘无故的爱,投资者的爱都是比较理性的。既然这样投资者为什么还这么爱亚马逊呢?我们先来看看亚马逊为什么会亏损。

  物流中心 物流中心一向是亚马逊花钱最多的地方。公司去年花了46亿美元,新建了17个物流中心,结果使公司该年度的运营费用增长了44%。亚马逊目前在全美40个物流中心拥有2万多名员工,并称全职员工工资比传统零售业的员工高30%。为迎接即将到来的美国节假日高峰季节,亚马逊的配送中心还将聘用超过5万名的季节临时员工。此外,亚马逊还宣布将在全球新建19个新的配送中心。

  Prime 亚马逊为Prime服务投入了大量资金。通过这项年费为79美元的忠诚用户回馈服务,顾客可以获得不限次的免费送货,免费的电子书借阅和电影电视剧流媒体服务。目前,亚马逊已为用户提供了1.8万部电影和电视剧,17万本可供借阅的电子书。Piper Jaffray的吉恩·蒙斯特认为,亚马逊为Prime服务目前投入的钱要比赚得钱还多,平均在每位用户身上要投入11美元。富国银行分析师Matt Nemer表示,公司在净运输成本上损失了约24亿美元,其中很大一部分源于Prime服务的运送。

  Kindle Fire系列产品线也是亚马逊最烧钱的部分。贝索斯在一份声明中称:“我们的办法是努力降低售价。以保本价销售设备,就能以很低的价格,打包销售许多高性能硬件。”不过,有分析认为,亚马逊每卖出一台Kindle Fire会亏损5美元。

  再来看看这几件事情为什么重要。庞大的物流中心网络可以保证亚马逊超过1700万种的产品快速有效地送到顾客手中。三年前,亚马逊推出了即日送达服务,现在已经在包括纽约、凤凰城和华盛顿特区在内的10个城市推出。Prime正如其名,这是一个可以绑定用户的服务,也会极大影响用户的购买习惯。

  Kindle Fire可能并不是一个像iPad那么优秀的产品,但它足够便宜,亚马逊也没打算用它赚钱。很明显,贝索斯有足够的耐心和投入去不断提升Kindle Fire的质量和降低价格,目的只有一个—让消费者使用Kindle Fire。对于一款高度定制的平板电脑来说,每卖出一台Kindle Fire就相当于深度锁定了一个顾客,每台亏损5美元又如何?9月份,沃尔玛停止了所有亚马逊Kindle设备的销售。早些时候,Target也停止销售Kindle。它们都明白Kindle Fire和iPad的区别是什么。

  这些亚马逊大幅投入的部分都是些依靠规模取胜的事情,而且是些很苦的工作,很麻烦但是利润率很低。这正是亚马逊和其他高科技公司的不同之处,脏活累活很难引来太多的竞争对手,而苹果那样的好生意就很容易进入太多竞争者。

  从竞争的角度来看,亚马逊是目前高科技公司中最安全的,它的竞争对手最少,而且树立的竞争门槛是最高的—对于脏活累活来说,除了技术和智慧,时间是最大的成本。如果你的壁垒不但是技术、巨大的投入,还有时间的时候,你就具备了锁定投资者、消费者的能力,商业就是这样。

思考台灣創投做法:何不試試「半投資」? January 3, 2013

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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哇奇網

我回台灣也差不多快 3 年了,現在終於稍微開始了解台灣的市場生態環境,參加過 appWorks 以及幾個研討會之後,更發覺到台灣創業、市場的特殊性。

一般狀況下,如果要談論募資,最好當然是要有好的成績單,不過在一個市場相對小的台灣來說,要做到「可以看的」好成績單並不容易。

聽說在中國,只要 Idea 有趣就能募到資金,因為一旦上線,就可以快速號召到 50 萬,100 萬的會員來測試 Idea 是否可行;可是在台灣,如果能做到 50 萬大概就已經是龍頭了。

所以,在彈藥(無論是資金或人力資源等)有限的情況下,如何號召人來使用服務呢?病毒性行銷、口碑行銷、廣告、活動,沒有一個是容易的;對於工程師背景的創業家來說,那些全部都是新領域。

台灣的創投較少針對 Idea 做投資,因為,即便創業家做了各種努力後,台灣的市場還是太小,投資報酬率不高。而創投本身也是商業模式,不是慈善基金,所以中間就形成了一個滿大的溝。

以日本市場為例,台灣創業要做到和日本一樣的規模,在各方面竟需要 24 倍的努力
這星期去日本時,我也思考了日本的情況。日本的消費經濟還滿健全的,廠商花錢努力推,消費者也都願意買單,人口也比台灣多了近 6 倍。

我不是數學家,以下也只是我個人的概念:

如果以日本的平均收入跟消費性質為基準,台灣人口是日本的 1/6

消費性質被廠商激烈的價格戰及各種短視策略,把毛利都壓縮了,而消費者願意掏錢買東西的性質大約設定為日本的 1/2

台灣人收入大概是日本的 1/3,不過將物價列入考量,可消費經濟能力大約估為 1/2

所以,1/6 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/24,要做到日本可以做到的規模就需要 24 倍的努力!

同一個 Idea,如果日本創投願意投資 3,000 萬日幣(約 1,000 萬台幣),台灣可能是 500 萬;以各國的物價來看 2 個金額可以說是同等價值,畢竟這筆錢能做的事情差不多一樣。

但,同一筆錢要做到一樣的規模,如果在台灣,必須努力 24 倍!

不是精神上、時間上努力 24 倍而已,效益也要有 24 倍才會成長到日本那樣的規模。

如此一來,以需要要求投資報酬率的創投來看,當然又更是「想投但是不知要怎麼投」。

該怎麼辦?

台灣應該要有自己的的創投法則,何不試試「半投資」?

中國有中國的一套,日本還可以學美國的方式做小修改,但是台灣也要有台灣的做法才行。

比如可考慮投資的前一個階段,再設一個半投資的階段。

只要這個團隊做出來的產品,創投覺得想支持,就提供免費的辦公環境、伺服器(雲端)使用權,限每月流量傳輸量在 1GB 內,幾個團隊一起分享等等,提供網路環境、人脈介紹、互助行銷管道、金流物流等服務的優惠談判等創業初期必要的環境。

不過要能夠獲得這些免費資源,當然必須透過創投的評估--但不要等上線營運一陣子後,而是 Prototype 出來時的階段就開始提供;雖然這些都會成為創投的成本,但是換來的是團隊更快速地成長,讓團隊早日抵達可投資標的的速度。

這是我的建議而已,我只是覺得台灣必須要有自己的一套做法。

我認為,appWorks is on the right track,他們的育成計劃已經把上面那些事情做好一半了,但我希望台灣能夠有更多更多符合自己文化的做法,也希望政府有為一點加強執行能力,讓台灣真的是寶島,不要變成薄島。

VC冒险意愿下降 明年继续收紧互联网投资 December 29, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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  最近几年,互联网创业者在面对风险投资家时总是占据上风。但如今这种局面已出现转移迹象,而该趋势在2013年将继续加速。

  之所以出现这种变化,是因为风险投资者冒险意愿大大降低。2010年、2011年和今年年初,许多投资者争相投资互联网初创公司。为了获得这些初创公司的股份,投资者甚至还同意创业者提出的提高估值的要求。

  但最近一年至两年,Facebook、Zynga和Groupon等热门互联公司的上市表现令人大跌眼镜,导致风险投资家的冒险意愿大大降低,纷纷控制他们在消费互联网等领域的投资。

  毫无疑问,这对创业者带来了不良后果。在市场资金规模缩减的同时,为有限的资金争得鱼死网破。在该过程中,他们还可能被迫接受低于预期的估值。

  融资估值下降

  Institutional Venture Partners风险投资家托德·查菲(Todd Chaffee)称:“当前投资活动无疑呈放缓趋势。今年上半年,初创公司会向风险投资公司寻求高估值,最终有四家至五家如愿以偿。而如今,没有哪家公司能获得高估值。”

  调研机构entureSource数据显示,今年第三季度,美国获风投支持的公司达成了820笔融资交易,融资总额为69亿美元,低于上年同期的906笔交易和101亿美元的融资额。

  另据律师事务所Fenwick & West LLC调查结果显示,第三季度61%的风险融资实现估值增长,该比例低于第二季度的74%。与此同时,融资价格平均涨幅为23%,低于第二季度的30%。

  风险投资家收紧投资并不限于那些要求数十亿美元估值的互联网创业公司。在最早期投资领域,投资者也显示出谨慎迹象。上个月,知名创业孵化器Y Combinator称,将对投资计划进行调整,将投资者投入到每家初创公司的资金额从15万美元下调至8万美元。

  Y Combinator在博客中称:“我们将下调投资额,因为经验告诉我们,15万美元太多了,超出了成功的初创公司所需水平。”

  当然,科技创业者手中仍掌握不少王牌,尤其是在其所创建公司正处于营收和用户迅猛增长的情况下。

  企业技术公司受宠

  目前,一部分曾被投向消费互联网市场的风险投资资金正向其它快速增长的科技领域转移,如大数据公司,下一代存储技术和云计算服务领域。

  New Enterprise Associates风险投资家斯科特·桑德尔(Scott Sandell)称:“这些企业技术将继续吸引风险投资。”桑德尔表示,其所在公司就减少了对消费互联网公司的投资,加大了对企业科技公司的投资。

  此外,风险投资家不断变化的风险意愿开始给风险投资状况带来影响。

  企业家们是否跟上投资者情绪的变化还不得而知。美国风险投资协会(National Venture Capital Association)和VentureSource调查结果显示,企业CEO们仍比投资者乐观许多。

  调查显示,只有38%的受访风险投资者预计,其投资组合当中的初创公司明年将获得估值增长。而在受访CEO中,该比例却高达78%。

  融资不易

  旧金山初创公司加速器i/o Ventures负责人保罗·布拉吉尔(Paul Bragiel)称,与5年前或10年前相比,企业家仍拥有更多的信息和影响力。但他同时承认,如今要获得投资也并不容易。

  社交旅游初创公司ZeTrip上个月完成了51.5万美元的种子融资,公司创始人爱德华·塔贝特(Edouard Tabet)称:“融资过程比我预期的困难许多。”

  ZeTrip于今年8月启动融资,塔贝特称,最初许多投资者对他的会面请求没有做出回应。还有一些投资者明确表示,已暂停投资。

  塔贝特说,在线旅游市场已经十分拥挤,在10名投资者中有9名拒绝了他的投资请求。他说:“看到许多人都融到资金,你也许会说‘我也行’。但事实上,只有外行人才会觉得融资是件容易的事情。”

我做錯了什麼?為什麼創投公司不繼續投資? November 30, 2012

Posted by Ian Cheng in Funding.
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20121202-155005.jpg
創業投資者對還在發展初期的網路消費新創公司很有興趣,但為什麼這些新創公司,通常都很難再得到後續投資?

在 2012 年 9 月之前,投資在消費者資訊服務的部分就衰退 42%,像 Facebook 和 Zynga 兩間上市的網路公司,讓人們對這種商業模式抱持懷疑態度,也使得投資狀況更糟。

網路新創公司越來越多、但成功的太少,很難得到後續投資
但經營創投公司 Union Square Ventures 的 Fred Wilson 認為,其實真正在衰退的是後續投資,而不是初期的風險投資。

道瓊公司(Dow Jones)旗下創投調查機構 VentureSource 提供了創投產業更詳細的狀況:

雖然對網路消費新創公司有興趣,但是創投公司更在意他們的財務狀況。這份調查檢視 2007 年開始籌資的公司,包括著名的 Twitter、LivingSocial、Tumblr 和 Foursquare,但是大部分都還是沒沒無聞而且籌資困難。

在 165 家公司中,只有不到一半在 2010 年出售公司的所有權、進行權益融資成功換取資金之後,又能得到後續投資;在 2011 年進行權益融資的公司,更只有不到 1/4 有後續投資。

在得到後續投資的公司比例變少時,進行權益融資的網路消費公司卻越來越多。權益融資在 2011 年的合作數量達到 180 件;在 2012 年的前 9 個月,就已經有 161 家公司進行權益融資。種子投資從原先的 62 件,在2010年增加到 101 件,而在今年的 9 月單月,就有 64 件。

在 2007、2008 年進行權益融資的公司,在籌措後續投資方面,比其他在這之後才進行權益融資的公司順利得多;有 62% 都能得到更多資金。權益融資金額的中位數也從 2007、2008 年的 $4 億美金,跌到只剩 $2 億,投資金額明顯下滑。

我們可以發現,許多網路消費新創公司不論是否開始籌措資金,都只能原地踏步。

在 2007、2008 年,大約有 140 家公司在進行權益融資之後,就無法再得到後續投資,超過一半的公司都還是非公開發行公司。至於其他的呢,有 39 家公司曾被收購,1 家公開發行,剩下的不是歇業、破產就是被收購。

為什麼會到今天這種局面呢?其實有很多原因:
1. 群雄爭霸,後起之秀沒舞台

在發展 20 年之後,消費者資訊服務已經很成熟了。大型的平台開始爭奪資源,尤其是在英語系國家 Google、Facebook/Instagram、Amazon、Microsoft、Apple、Twitter、Ebay 和 Yahoo 等網站讓人們花更多時間上網。

當然偶爾會有新血加入,也有人退場。Tumblr 和 Pinterest 都在近年崛起,Myspace 則悄悄沒落。

但是消費者的行為已經漸漸固化,這讓從零開始的新公司更難吸引群眾的目光。

2. 建構多種平台系統,花錢又花時間

消費者開始從桌上型電腦/網路,轉移到手機/APP,這是目前網路消費最明顯的趨勢。大部分的網路消費公司都要同時建置 iOS、Android 和網路平台,這讓所需的時間和金錢成本都大幅增加。

在手機使用者間,該如何傳播訊息也是一大困難,許多新創公司就是卡在這一步:有成功的產品卻無法吸引廣大用戶群。能掌握下載、使用、持續使用、在桌面建立捷徑的這整個過程,是很困難的。

3. 投資標的轉向

慣性投資人或後續投資人已經開始轉向企業。創投產業是一個機會主義、沒有所謂主流而且仰賴慣性的世界,龐大的資金流向幾乎完全受市場主導。這個資金流在 2009 到 2011 年曾經全力投入網路消費/社群網路,這讓整個創投產業動起來,因為每個層面的創投者都必須小心翼翼觀察上游想投資什麼。當上游投資人的眼光轉向網路/社群,下游也就必須提供投資標的。現在他們對企業有興趣,未來方向也就很明顯了。

等待金援的公司一堆,但能順應變遷、搶得先機的人終能找到出路
這 3 個因素綜合起來,就形成網路消費新創公司籌資困難的情況。

但其實前 2 個因素幾乎已經是籌資的先決條件,讓這些新創公司更難突圍。就算真的有前景,但還在等待資金援助的公司有一大堆,創投公司還是會找上那些已經突圍成功的公司。這樣的惡性循環在網路消費領域尤其明顯。

Fred Wilson 表示,這些因素的確影響到他的客戶(其中消費者資訊公司占多數),但他們仍然鼓勵新創公司,同時他們也在積極尋找有潛力的新創公司。

他也承認這段時期比他在 2001 到 2004 年所見到的更艱難,更預估未來將會有更多挑戰。但科技業總是瞬息萬變的,就算幾年前推著網路消費風潮的動力不再,能夠順應變遷、搶得先機的人,還是能在艱險的大環境中找到出路。

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