An Email Challenge

Merlin Mann throws down a serious challenge in today’s 43 folders. It’s a great business lesson, and one I’m going to think about for every email I send today, and hopefully, I can keep it up in the future.

Email Insanity & the 0.001 Challenge | 43 Folders

The 0.001 Challenge

Imagine that the person receiving the email you’re composing receives 1,000 other message each day more or less identical to yours. What would you do to distinguish yours from the others? What change would make your email amazingly easy to deal with and not insane? Does the content of your email belong someplace else? Like an SMS, a face-to-face meeting, or maybe even in an angry, venting screed that you never send.

What can you do to improve communication with your customers, partners, or constituents?

angel investing Business Entreprenurship

Angel Investing Talk 4-10-08

David Rose from NY Angels and Angelsoft spoke tonight at the 92nd Street Y’s Tribeca location on Hudson Street on Angel investing. About 225 people in attendance.

Key ideas: 600K companies start every year. Only 50k are funded by angels. Rest are funded by the founders, or by friends/family.

VC: Professional investors.
Angels: Rich-ish people investing own money and their mentoring time for a good economic and personal returns. – Early Stage Deals.
Profile of Angels – 57 yrs old, masters degree, 15 year entreprenur, 2.7 ventures founded. Has to be an accredited investor (1MM in assets,or 200k/yr income for 2 years or more). Invest for 9 years, in avg of 10 companies, have had 2 exits/closures, and 10% of their wealth is in angel investments.

Startup food chain is: You! first. You fund your own business. But, if you’re at a University or can create an app, you can go for an SBIR/STTR grant – phase I is up to 100k, phase II is up to 700k. Or, Bootstraping – get your own contracts/sales, and start up yourself.

Banks don’t like to invest – they rent money.

When you sell shares of your company, your first stage is usually sold to friends and family. This is a first test – if you believe you have a business that can scale, if you can’t convince friends or family to invest, there’s probably a problem.
Next stage – Angels – 25k – 250k.
In the middle -the gap – between 250k and 2MM. – Angel Groups – group of angels who share deal flow, pool capital, shared expenses (via dues), variety of experience, standardized terms, and lets them be smarter investors and enjoy social experience.

Later on stages – Venture Capital Firms, 200k and up.

Over time, there have developed over 300 groups. Typical groups do 7.3 deals, 4.5 are new, rest are follow-on, 1.9 mm (NY angels did 5-6MM), do aprox 250MM per round, on average. Typical angels are investing around 33K. NY Angels do 25k minimum per investment.

VCs invest in less than 1% of deals. Angels, about the same.

NY Angels get 30-40 plans/month. What do they look for?

  • Great Entrepreneurs – integrity, passion, skills, expertise in the domain, business management skill, leadership, commitment, vision, ability to listen and be coachable
  • Scalable business model – something that will get big, fast. Which is why web businesses can get funded.
  • Unfair advantage – something special that’s important to the angels , ex patents
  • External Validation – ex. sales, beta tests with known companies, great advisors,
  • Low investment required –
  • Reasonable Valuation – in case of angels, that often has to be low valuation – 1MM to 2-3MM

Secret economics of Angels –

  1. $1MM for angel investment from a person’s portfolio. Must diversity portfolio so
  2. Distribute it across 10 deals
  3. 1.25(to the 6th) = 3.8x ROI – it’s as risky as it gets, wants 25% annualized return, this is a long term hold 5-7 years (6 yrs).
  4. However, not every investment returns that amount.
  • 5 return 0. 0
  • 2 return 1x. 0.2 return
  • 2=3x return. 0.6 return
  • 3.8-.8 – last deal has to return 3x money. You have to make 30x to help the angel make their return.

So, if your deal isn’t in the position of returning 30x, they won’t invest.

How do you find an angel? Network and tell everyone. Get introductions. Lawyers, accountants, etc. LinkedIn could be good for it.

Angel groups have two parts of a process.
Part 1.

  1. Have a detailed business plan. They may not read the whole plan, but you must know the answers to the questions they’ll ask
  2. Research the groups to find a good fit.

Application to the group – including a video.
You get a one pager back, and gives to the angels, all the salient features of your business.

Angels get this – and try to figure out which are appropriate for them.

Part 2 – if your submission is accepted, (30 submit, 15 go forward)

  1. You’ll meet a screening committee – 3 deals per month are recommended forward to present
  2. You’re coached by angels to improve your presentation
  3. You’re then able to present to whole group
  4. Exec committee meets – once they find good company – will present to other groups in a network
  5. Attend a Due Dilligence meeting (2 hours) – meeting with those who are interested, go through financials, meet with mgmt team
  6. Negotiate terms sheet

From the angels’ point of view – showing dashboard that’s the backend for over 400 angel groups.
Your submission creates a secure deal room, where angels can collaborate, links to your documents, your video, your one line pitch and your summary, your referrals. System also tracks the updates, the notes, etc.
This also lets other angels see who’s investing and their commitment.

For entrepreneurs, your one upload can be shared with all angels via “Open deals.”

UPDATE: Apparently the final few lines of what I wrote last night didn’t post – I had some trouble with the WIFI (Free wifi appreciated, 92nd St Y, but it was having some issues).

So, I thought David did an excellent job laying out the Angel landscape and helping entrepreneurs see it both from their side and from the Angel’s side. The networking both before and after the event was pretty high quality. I spent some time with Hank Williams and Jason Olim, both of whom will be on my panel at NYSIA this coming Monday the 14th. Also got a chance to catch up with Franklin Madison from ITAC and Sanford Dickert. I also caught up briefly with Karen Kline from Softbank, who always has something going on.

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My big endorsement deal with Union Square Ventures

Seems I’m endorsing Union Square Ventures on Facebook**. Tip of the hat to Michael Pinto, who was served this wonderful ad.

Fred, Brad, call me. Let’s do lunch. Who knows how big this can get… 🙂

(**Of course I knew this could happen when I became a “fan.” That’s why I’m only fans of products I can endorse. And, I’d endorse Union Square.)

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My Newsletter Strategy

Today I released the first monthly newsletter for the Harbrooke Group. If you want to subscribe and haven’t received an opt-in email (of course we did an opt-in, that’s permission marketing in action) please sign up on the newsletter tab above.

Why a newsletter? I have many friends who are all over Twitter, Facebook, and other social tools like Utterz and Seesmic, but for many of my contacts, email is still a primary communications tool. Not everyone of you regularly reads blogs, and for those who do, not everyone can keep track of all the blogs they want to. So, the newsletter is a way for me  point you to articles I’ve written that may have value in your business, but you may have missed. I also point to other smart thinkers whose work I enjoy.

The newsletter is also the answer to the question “what have you been up to?” I have been reaching out to a lot of people for everthing from my upcoming college reunion to going through my address book looking for people I haven’t talked to in a while, and this is the inevitable question. So, the newsletter is a way to keep a monthly presence in the lives of people who I care about as business connections or friends.

Finally, I’ve suggested that clients associate a newsletter with their blogs, and it is time I stepped up to do so too.

So far, just the feedback from the opt-in email has been fantastic, with connection notes from about 10 people I haven’t heard from in a while. That alone would be a great value for this effort. But, the ultimate goal is having you read what I’ve written and learn something. And if you like that, to have you pass me on to someone else who might do the same. If there’s work that I can do for you, or for that person, all the better.

Please let me know what you think of the newsletter, and share it with a friend if you have a moment. Thanks.

Business Entreprenurship events

Starting a Business (part 2) with Stephanie Booth

In Part 1 we discussed Stephanie’s background, and what led her to start her new company. In this final part we discuss the money and what Stephanie’s measure of success is, relating to finances.

Howard: Did you have to raise capital to run the event?

Stephanie: The company isn’t incorporated, so from a legal perspective I’m doing this event under my own name. In Switzerland that’s how it works. I’m looking into the incorporation, but I want to make sure the first event is successful before I do the administrative work to set up the company. There was no initial capital. The event should be self-financing, with attendee payments and sponsorship paying for it. That’s why I have some aggressive early bird pricing.

Howard: Are you paying yourself?

Stephanie: My objective is to pay myself, but the first ambition is that the event doesn’t lose any money. Hopefully I’ll make enough profit to pay myself.

Howard: Did you take time to budget the event?

Stephanie: Yes, I have spreadsheets but I was a bit naive about cash flow when I started. You can do a what’s coming in, what’s coming out, and hope the total of revenue is greater than expense. Or you can add a time component to the budget and you have a week-by-week vision of what’s coming in and what’s going out, to ensure that by, say, week 5, you’ll have enough money in the bank or incoming to be able to pay out at the end of week 5. This was something I hadn’t though about previously.