Portfolio

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Innovation continues apace

Despite the generally uncertain economic climate, we have seen no diminution in the flood of interesting new ventures being launched.
In common with others who are investing in start-ups, I receive at least 2 or 3 propositions per week.
Its undisputable that the bar has been raised pretty high now for new tech companies. There is so much outstanding innovation about and the volume of new businesses is so high that fairly tough criteria are having to be set in order to filter.
For example, the companies we are favouring are those:
1. Founded by 2nd and 3rd time tech entrepreneurs
2. Aspiring to build global businesses with scale
3. With genuinely original ideas which are game changing or a significant advance on current state of play
4. Where the founder(s) have built prototypes or are already demonstrating momentum in customer/consumer adoption
5. Where founders have shown an ability to considerably ‘bootstrap’ the business with very little or no external cash (outside of friends and family).

Funding business plans from first time entrepreneurs just won't happen anymore!

For businesses with some or all of these attributes, there is still a large amount of money available.

9 comments:

  1. Robin, when you suggest funding for first time entrepreneurs just wont happen, I assume you mean from you.

    Otherwise, if applied universally, then entrepreneurs will soon be an extinct species given that people cannot move between zero and two/three ventures. Of course, you are may be including folks who've tagged along in management roles with founders in your category.

    I understand why you might use this filter, but entrepreneurs repeating previous success is also not a given. Whilst second time round entrepreneurs may have learnt lessons [from failure or success], you can also buy-in experience in support of a great proposition.

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  2. sorry. Wasn't clear enough. My point was that just funding a 'business plan' ie a powerpoint plan with a 3year blue-sky financial model won't happen.
    Of course, first time entrepreneurs who bootstrap and build something, demonstrate consumer or trade engagement are always going to be of great interest.

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  3. Robin, thanks for clarifying. That makes much more sense and certainly in relation to tech ventures, given the reduced costs of building an initial beta version of a service.

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  4. Alfie Dennen6:20 pm

    Thanks for the post Robin. It's interesting. I do think it's a *lot* more complicated than you state in this list:

    1. Founded by 2nd and 3rd time tech entrepreneurs
    2. Aspiring to build global businesses with scale
    3. With genuinely original ideas which are game changing or a significant advance on current state of play
    4. Where the founder(s) have built prototypes or are already demonstrating momentum in customer/consumer adoption
    5. Where founders have shown an ability to considerably ‘bootstrap’ the business with very little or no external cash (outside of friends and family)

    There is confusion amongst investors when they see a start-up or newish business whos business model isn't immediately clear and 'put in a box'able.

    We have done the rounds, we have presented at Library House, whatever, the fact remains that we fulfill every criterion in your list above and we're certainly not beating investors off with a stick. But hey, we're cash rich and we've bootstrapped ourselves so far, we might just be fine on our own :)

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  5. At TAG we pride ourselves in thinking 'outside the box' - if you look at our portfolio I think it should bear that out.
    What your business?

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  6. Kyle MacRae8:07 pm

    Very interesting post, Robin. I'd agree that 2 and 4 should be givens, and 5 is an unfortunate fact of life for startups. Point 3's focus on originality sounds more like VC positioning than the reality, imho, given that smart me-toos can and do get funded. Maybe a twist on the model or attacking a fresh market is all that's required. Point 1 - terrible for innovation if true but your subsequent comment makes good sense. It *has* to be possible for 1st time entrepreneurs to get great businesses off the ground or we're all doomed.

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  7. Alfie Dennen8:25 pm

    I agree you do think 'outside the box'. Not sure how we haven't run into you before :)

    Our business is moblog:tech - principally www.moblog.co.uk

    We're odd in that on one hand we're a mobile blogging community for consumers, but on the other make almost all of our money in a more Software licensing model. For example: www.moblog.co.uk/featured

    These are all (in the main) paying customers, who we do a lot of repeat business with.

    We just won a Guardian Innovation award, and have been (today!) shortlisted for a BAFTA in the interactive category ( http://www.al4ie.com/?p=921 )

    We've found in some of our conversations with investors that this sort of bifurcated approach, at once a solid community and also a bit of an agency is not really what folk seem to be looking for.

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  8. Sounds like good common sense to me... your list of required attributes looks good and I am surprised that people were able to receive funding without meeting these requirements before.

    Understandably there are going to be exceptions to the rule where the concept is just so great it is worth taking a punt, but on the whole surely all investors should be based on a criteria like this? Do people actually get big investment from a business plan alone?

    I've done it the hard way... struggled through with my own funds to get going 2 years ago, took a small bit of angel funding but I learnt a hell of a lot by doing it this way and feel I now fully understand all aspects of my business.

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  9. Nigel6:54 pm

    Great post Robin, As a budding entrepreneur on the brink of popping his start-up cherry point 1 only stands to makes me more determined (I'm sure most successful entrepreneurs are tenacious).

    On thinking outside of the box, Hey if your first startup fails you will at least meet Robin's first criteria on your next startup :)

    No excuse for not trying, right?.

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