With the creation of the Adobe $100 Million dollar venture fund, there are a lot of questions about venture capital within the development community. I have been around the block with start-ups (4 times) and venture capital (2 times) and there are some important things everyone needs to know.
DISCLAIMER – I work for Adobe but I do not have any involvement in the venture fund. This post is based on my own experience in venture capital and the start-up process.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
You must have a business plan, period. No VC is going to give money without a plan, not one cent. Investors need to see a business plan to judge an investment in terms of quality. No plan, no money.
Test your plan!
Your business plan will be scrutinized in every detail from every angle by many people. If you do not explore the plan and test it in detail, you are toast.
60 Second Rule!
The plan needs to be simple, easy to communicate, and easy to understand. If you cannot communicate the plan in 60 seconds with 1 presentation slide, you are toast.
NDA, NDA, NDA!!! This NDA item was on the line. I use an NDA but many VCs will never sign them. In hindsight, striking this one is advisable.
Get an NDA signed in advance of talking about anything. Fail to do this and you are toast.
Focus on “What” not “How”
“How” will change but “what” (your goals/objective) will not. Whether the business delivers using Apollo or Mobile or AJAX is unimportant when compared to the value you are going to provide. If you are building a mouse trap, first you need to decide “what” you are going to catch, “how” your particular business works comes later.
WAG, WAG, WAG!
Make sure that you take into account all inputs and outputs of the business. Do your best to identify all inputs/outputs in terms of time, money, ip, and people. When you are unsure about an area, insert a WAG, or Wild Ass Guess. Adding WAGs into your business plan is smart because it accounts for the unknown. There are 1000s of unknowns in a new business and if you do not account for them, you will not have enough money and resources when it matters most.
Asking for more!
Unless you have accomplished your goals with money received, do not ask for more. If you fail to accomplish your goals with funding asking for more is a brutal. If you take funding, you need to know that you can deliver 150% of what you promise. Fail to deliver and asking for more will cost you an arm and a leg.
Failure to have a working demo is a mistake. You need to have a working demo or a complete product ready. If you are looking for first round money, you will be taken to the cleaners without something working. VCs like to avoid risk, if you have a working application, your venture is far less risky in their eyes. Having something working means you understand the problem well and that you have thought deeply about solutions. A demo is worth 10000 words.
Make sure you need the money!
If you ask for VC money make sure you need it. For every dollar you receive you will be giving up ownership and control of the business. VC money is not free and comes with a price in terms of equity control. The flip side of this argument is that funding adds tremendous value and capability to a venture. Just make sure when you decide you need funding that you in really need it.
Early money, larger bite!
The earlier you get funding in a venture, the larger equity stake the investment will take. The driver here is investment risk. Early money takes a much larger risk than late money and thus typically gets a larger stake. In many cases, the first money is the most important because it established a base value of the business investment-wise. Say you take $1M dollars for 25% of the company, investment-wise the company is worth $4M based on the investment. Assume you take $10M in a second round for 10%, the company investment-wise is now worth $100M based on the 2nd round investment. $4M to $100M is a big jump in value yet the 2nd round got far less of the company than the 1st round did. The key is that the first round was far riskier than the 2nd round for the investors.
Create 3 exit strategies for your business. VCs will evaluate your business on its ability to return the investment or exit. If it doesn’t have a viable exit in being sold, going public, or profits then your business will be viewed as less desirable. Show the ability to exit well and you are golden!
Be a First Mover!
Have an original idea and be a first mover. These ventures get funding. The only exception is when you have a delivery model that is dramatically better than what exists. VCs look for ideas that are hard to duplicate and are defensive in the marketplace. If you do not present something original or something better you will have little hope of getting funding.
There will be a lot of companies created to develop Apollo based applications. If you are serious about wanting to create a company around Apollo do this first:
1. Create a Plan.
2. Create the killer application/demo.
Get a high quality NDA.
4. Create a 3 Slide presentation and a 60 second elevator pitch.
5. Pound the pavement shopping for funding.
6. Never give up, Take no prisoners!
The irony is that venture capitalists must find companies to invest in. They must fund businesses in order to grow returns for investors. If you have a great idea and have what it takes, there are investors ready to fund the next big thing.
Adobe has committed $100 Million to funding business around Apollo and is looking for investments. I strongly encourage everyone to get started today by creating a plan and getting started with Flex.