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Venture Capital: A Transition in Progress?

April 19, 2013 Comments off

vctreeIs the VC risk profile changing?  That thought came to mind after reading commentary by Kent Bernhard Jr.’s article: “Venture capital gets a serious smackdown in the Harvard Business Review”.  Both articles are great reads.  Bernhard comments on an article in the HBR that makes the case that the VC world is shrinking due to, among other things, not providing an adequate return to its investors.  The article contemplates perhaps the industry is destined to failure – or a change of business models?

I agree with Bernhard in that VC’s will stay and continue to fund in a sweet spot that’s needed in the market.  I also think that the incredible growth in Angel Funding and the upcoming potential for crowd funding plays right into a stronger return of the VC industry.  How could it not?  Now, the VC industry can look across a horizon of companies that either make it or not in development and proving a product to the market.  Thus, I believe the VC market will move up a risk-class and place less risky bets on more proven technologies.  Look out Angels on your Series B, C, or D, rounds.  VC’s will be looking to secure a return for their investors and secure their traditional compensation models.  Until they can’t, but that’s a long time from now.

Even though, the disruption of the financial markets have been tough on all of us, I believe this transition has created opportunities never imagined before – and that’s a good thing for everyone.  Look for even more investing models to emerge in the coming months and years.  Nature abhors a vacuum!

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Inclusive Management, Messaging and Trust

February 8, 2013 Comments off

slide-39-638I recently found a great report – a global study called the Edelman Trust Barometer.  There’s a lot to learn from this report, but the key take aways for me are the following:

  1. A trusting culture requires a dynamic, not “top down” management – here they call it Inclusive Management – and it just doesn’t mean getting people’s opinions.
  2. “Credentialed Experts” are far and away more trusted than CEO’s as communicators.
  3. People (customers and employees) need to hear a message 3 to 5 times from various sources to change behavior or influence their opinion.
  4. CEO’s and Government Officials – Hit the bottom for worldwide trustworthiness in delivering a message

There’s much more to this report and a lot of learning.  Perhaps its time to have your “expert” on staff start delivering your message 3 to 5 times across multiple communication channels to ensure you have a trustworthy image that you can live up to.  In our world of increased transparency, you may not have any option but to have integrity.

Doping and Finance – Similar?

January 31, 2013 Comments off

bikemoneyAfter reading the “Post Lance Future of Doping” by my friend Michael Joyner, I took a moment to realize how similar the entire “doping culture” and drive to win by athletes has a very similar parallel in our corporate world and financial markets.  Especially in light of Armstrong’s interview with Oprah; and Michael’s perspective.

In Michael’s post he uses the statement, “Most people, including journalists, fail to understand that a 1% edge in something like a 10,000m running race means the doper wins by 100m, a huge margin.   This also means that there is no need to use industrial strength doping. ”  This is similar to the fact that most people, including journalists, fail to understand a 1% edge to a hedge fund has a similar huge margin, and a 1% edge to a CEO and his corporate team could mean the difference between a huge and marginal bonus. A tempting incentive to cheat, just a little.

Joyner goes on to say,  “Some argue that all the sports federations, leagues, sponsors and TV networks want is the appearance of clean play and that depending on the situation they intentionally or unintentionally turn a blind eye toward doping.”  As the financial industry grew before it imploded (think just recent history: Arthur Anderson, World Com, Tyco, then think the mortgage crisis),   An entire industry was building around those institutions getting the 1% margin, its difficult to fire a really good customer or client that’s growing like wildfire.

Finally, he makes the point: “Everyone was doping therefore it is “dope or be marginalized”, that is more or less one of the arguments Lance made to Oprah.   Just like the average person and journalist do not understand what 1% is worth, most don’t understand what it is to be immersed in a micro-culture where the only things that matter are the last race or workout or the next race or workout.”  Sound similar to quarterly earnings or investment performance?

I think in the end, we are studying human nature and the ebb and flows of ethical behavior in our society.  Perhaps we should think about studying the core of human behavior and ensuring we parents and educators instill ethical decision making early in our next generation.  We can only hope for a better future, but we are, indeed, human.

Business Plan or Not? – Definately a Plan

December 7, 2012 Comments off
English: Business Plan Presentation at FSG 2009

English: Business Plan Presentation at FSG 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Accelerators section of the Wall Street Journal proposed the question:  Do new businesses or new business segments need a business plan?  The experts weighed in on both sides of the argument.  Many simply said no:  Too tedious, no one reads it, and the business ends up going in a different direction, anyway.  I get that, but if you read into the content of their arguments against a classic business plan, they also state they get some sort of proposal/presentation when they evaluate opportunities.  So, perhaps the details have changed, but the concept remains the same.  In order to be prepared, you need to plan.  If you don’t know your market size, your customer needs and some sort of idea of what they are willing to pay, your business model and some idea of your operating infrastructure, no inside or external investor will be impressed enough to put money in your concept.

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Three Steps to Know you are Pointed Toward a Successful Initiative

November 12, 2012 Comments off
Steps

Steps (Photo credit: susanvg)

In the last post, I spoke about Passionate Certainty, how do you know your passion and direction align.  Further, how do you take steps to develop an initiative personally or professionally?  To select an initiative, it takes thought and planning to ensure you are pointing your team in the right direction.  There are many layers below these steps, but they are, by nature simple.

  1. Assess – review as much information as possible.  In the start-up world its called market validation.  Who’s in the business, why, is this idea/initiative solving a real problem that people are willing to pay money for?  Does this initiative align with your company’s vision/mission (or your own?).  If you moved forward, what would you consider to be a success metric(s)?
  2. Analyze – drill your assessment into measurable metrics.  It could be features/benefits of the product, customer or expert reviews, or other quantitative or qualitative measures. The important part is to go through the exercise.  Write it up and report it to your team or a reliable peer or expert.  See if it makes sense when you say it out loud and you truly have an initiative that creates value in the mind of your audience.
  3. Act – Go out into the market.  See other products/services in action.  Talk to experts, ask questions.  If you have a demonstration item to present, have them look at it.  If not see if you can assess what your initiative can do to improve productivity or profits.  Do it on a small scale, measure it and determine if you can scale it.

One you “act” make sure it is on a very small scale, measure your success and go back to #1 before you decide to scale the idea.  Did it achieve your objectives, profitably (in your personal world, did it satisfy you and align with your beliefs system?).  If so, we are ready to move to Diligent Pursuit.  If not, a failure at this level is a success. Few resources were spent, and either a pivot strategy was developed, or you agreed to abandon the initiative in pursuit of a more attractive opportunity.

In completing a business development strategy, following these steps ensured our message aligned with our customers.  We assessed the market and its perceptions, analyzed our target customers and acted through interviews to ensure we it our target.  It works with concepts like marketing and products that serve customer needs.

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It’s Not About Perfect, It’s About Progress

September 12, 2012 Comments off

I just returned from one of my most enjoyable roles with the PIPELINE Entrepreneurs organization (By the way, they are accepting applications for a new class – see pipelineentrepreneurs.com).  I work with these high growth business owners to help them communicate their business concept – in plain English – and set and achieve milestones for their business. I encourage them to set goals for their team and themselves that make meaningful progress toward their success.

It seems we sometimes reach a conundrum when we work toward these objectives.  Either we are paralyzed by the size of the task in front of us – and therefore can’t break a big goal into small tasks, OR we get overly focused on the details of the goal – attempting to make it a perfect measurable task to move you closer to your objective.  In either case, I am a proponent of simple progress.  Figure out a way to move in the general direction of your objective and refine your goals along the way.  You just don’t know, unless you get started.  Indeed, it is about progress, not perfect.  Let’s get moving!

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The 12 “Most Convincing Words” – That Probably Aren’t

August 21, 2012 Comments off
English: The logo is from the http://www.yale....

English: The logo is from the http://www.yale.edu/printer/identity/logos.html website.Yale University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was ready to publish my blog yesterday when I decided to find the actual source quoted by a writer who stated a Yale University study compiled the 12 most convincing words in the English language – and suggested they become a priority in my presentation vocabulary.  What I discovered was an oft quoted urban legend summarized at this link on signs.com.  This “research” which does not exist has lasted in the published domain for more than 30 years (that predates the commercial Internet!).  Be careful when relying on information to run your life and your business.  Make sure the research is real!

FYI, here are the oft quoted “most convincing words”…you, money, save, new, results, health, easy, safety, love, discovery, proven and guarantee.

If you want descriptive terms, read:
From Earphones to Cars – how to write a product description that sells
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