Category: fundraising

Posts

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07 October / fundraising / trends / data analysis
We’ve all seen the data on the average increases in round sizes over the last four or five years. Startups are able to raise larger early rounds because of the financial environment. One way of thinking about the early-stage fundraising market is as a collection of financial products. In 2008, there was a $5M series A product and a $10M series B product. Those were the most popular. As I’ve written about before, there’s now a continuum of financial products available to startups at the early stage.
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11 March / fundraising / startups
Rewind a decade. Angel investing was an important part of the Startupland ecosystem. Today, you can’t make the same argument. 2018 observed the fewest number of angel-led financing rounds since before 2010. Angels led 156 rounds last year, a figure that collapsed from 714 in 2015. In that same time period, the median angel round has fallen from $500k to $270k. And the total number of dollars invested by angels halved from a peak of $365M to $177M.
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04 January / benchmarks / saas / fundraising
How far along was the typical SaaS Series A in 2018? The median business was at $1.8M in ARR and growing at 250%. The chart below shows a representative sample of SaaS Series As’ ARR and projected ARR growth rate for 2018. Breaking this down a bit more into quartiles, the ARR quartiles were: 25th 50th 75th 1.4 1.8 3.0 And the ARR growth rate quartiles were:
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03 September / fundraising / trends
The SEC announced last week that it wants to find ways to let Main Street investors access stage private venture companies. This news item underscores an important trend that is reshaping the industry. Today in Startupland, startup access is the scarcest commodity. Everybody wants an allocation, an opportunity to invest in the very best companies. The SEC story highlights how much has changed in Startupland. In this post, I’ll touch on three.
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23 July / fundraising / trends / startups
Jacob’s Ladder is a toy of thin wooden blocks attached by ribbon. If you hold it in your hand and rotate it to touch the second block, it seems to set off a cascade of blocks falling from the top. The blocks haven’t changed positions, though they do rotate. It’s a moving optical illusion. When I watch this toy, I’m reminded of the current state of the fundraising market.
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27 June / fundraising / startups
Earlier this week, I wrote about the collapse in the number of seed investments. I received many questions about the data, all the same. Why is this happening? This is a deeper dive into the data. First, there are fewer seed investors participating in the market than in 2015, about 40% fewer. Second, many of the most active seed investors and institutional seed funds are investing in fewer companies.
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24 June / fundraising / trends / startups
In the last six years, the median time between seed and Series A has more than tripled from about 200 days to about 750 days. Why? The seed market is in the midst of some secular changes. Seed rounds have declined 63% from their peak. Total dollars invested have fallen by 37%. But the median round size is up 3x in the same time period. In other words, investors are concentrating capital in fewer startups.
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03 June / trends / exits / fundraising / startups
There are five forces driving the startup ecosystem today. They are working together to reinforce a high valuation environment. These forces are: An infusion of capital into Startupland. There are many reasons for this. The money supply in the US has doubled in the last 10 years. A low interest rate environment means a low cost of capital, which means yield is hard to find for cash. VCs raise larger funds and more frequently.
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30 April / fundraising / trends
The venture capital markets are flush with capital. We’re approaching the heady days of the dot com era. In that epoch, despite the record volumes of venture dollars, startups went public quickly, in 4-5 years. Today, that timeframe is no longer realistic. In fact, the surfeit of private dollars delay IPOs. From 2000-2005, the “typical” IPO-bound startup listed on an exchange 5 years after founding. After the Lehman collapse and the crisis of 2008, the IPO closed, and startup age spiked to 16 years median.
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14 April / fundraising
Ten years ago, Guy Kawasaki took this photograph of me. I was attending my first YCombinator Demo Day, maybe three months into my time at Redpoint. Much has changed. I’m am not as young or as green. YCombinator has thrived and scaled. And the startup demo has disappeared. At that August Demo Day, each pitch lasted eight minutes. Without fail each featured a demonstration of the product. It was the height of the Web 2.
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Recently, people have been asking just where are we in the SaaS valuation cycle. I last updated the chart above more than six months ago. The answer is close to ten year highs. The chart above shows the median enterprise value to forward revenue multiple to multiple. Enterprise value is the market of a publicly traded company minus the available cash the company holds. Forward revenue is the sum of the next 12 months’ revenue.
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In the US, the median seed round has nearly quadrupled over the past seven years. In the mean time, seed investment has grown more than 7x and then fallen to a bit more than half of the high. As the market has grown and retrenched during that time period, I’ve been wondering about the geographic diversity of these seed dollars. Throughout these cycles, are startups in other states benefitting? Are they increasing their share of investment dollars?
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10 December / fundraising
When negotiating your next fundraising round, should you talk valuation in premoney terms or postmoney terms? Premoney is the valuation before the investment, employee stock option pool (ESOP) expansion, debt-to-equity conversion and investment. Postmoney is the value of the business after all that. As an investor, postmoney is simpler. Despite the improved simplicity, I don’t think the industry is going to move to postmoney anytime soon. Why are postmoney conversations simpler?
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05 November / fundraising / trends / crypto
Initial Coin Offerings, a fundraising mechanism for companies using cryptocurrencies as a mechanism to buy their service, seem to be upending the world of venture capital. Filecoin raised $250M through an ICO. Tezos raised $232M. Bancor raised $153M. These are massive amounts of money. Recently, I’ve been wondering how prevalent ICOs are and whether they could potentially be a substitute for venture capital. The chart above shows the number and size of ICOs since the beginning of this year.
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22 October / trends / fundraising / saas
Last week, I participated in two discussions about the changes in the SaaS world. I believe they are fundamental. The most important force shaping the industry today is competition. The level of competition in many core SaaS segments is intense. Why? The SaaS era is about 20 years old. Salesforce was founded in 1999. Since then, many major categories of software have been saasified. Venture capitalists have financed many of those businesses.
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21 August / fundraising / saas
We’ve seen quite a bit of volatility in the valuations of publicly traded software companies over the last 5 years. In 2014, the average software company traded at 7.7x forward revenues - the sum of projected revenues over the next 12 months. Two years later, that multiple dropped 57% to 3.3x. Today, we’re exactly where we were in 2013, at 5.4x, which is coincidentally, is the average over this time period.
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13 August / fundraising / strategy
“Would you compare a bootstrapped SaaS company to a seeded company? At what point does the bootstrapped company have to raise if it’s profitable, if ever?” One founder asked me this question recently. I hesitate to compare and contrast bootstrapped and venture backed businesses, because I’m a venture capitalist and it’s very easy to dismiss any analysis as biased in favor of venture investment. As I’ve said countless times, there are many ways of building a very successful business.
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20 July / fundraising
Tell me three numbers and I can estimate the amount of capital your startup will need to raise. Which figures are those? The startups’ revenue target, the average revenue per customer and the average cost of customer acquisition. For example, I’d like to estimate the cost for my SaaS startup to reach $100M in annual recurring revenue (ARR). My typical customer pays $25k average contract value (ACV) and my cost of customer acquisition (CAC) is $29k.
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16 July / fundraising
Bloomberg published a post this weekend called San Francisco’s VC Boom is Over. The article pointed to the seeming collapse in the amount of venture capital raised by San Francisco startups relative to other regions. The slowing of venture investment more broadly across the US serves as a backdrop to San Francisco’s particularly strong correction. I was curious about the drivers of these trends, so I ran my own analysis.
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12 June / fundraising
When I analyzed the SaaS fundraising market in 2016, three trends emerged. The number of SaaS companies raising rounds had stalled, while the total number of dollars plateaued. Meanwhile, round sizes swelled. In other words, there was a concentration of capital in an increasingly small number of names. A year later, those trends have continued to converge, and SaaS valuations have resurged, reaching their highs of the 2014-2015 boom.
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14 May / fundraising
In January, I wrote The Hardest Round to Raise which argued Series B rounds would be the most challenging early stage round in 2017. Irrespective of the annual vicissitudes of the fundraising market, Series Bs are always the most challenging rounds to raise because they are in-between rounds. The Series B is the pimpled and gangly adolescent phase of startup evolution. If the aim of every round of venture funding is to prove a hypothesis - which I believe is true in Series Seed, A and B - then the Series B is the last milestone before proving cash is the business’ limiting factor.
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30 April / fundraising
Instead of raising an equity round, a startup might choose to borrow money - and for good reason. Venture debt dilutes founders much less than equity rounds. Low interest rates have increased the attractiveness of venture debt, because the cost to borrow is low. Venture debt is an attractive financial product. No wonder it has grown in popularity by 16x in the in the last six years. The chart above shows the amount of venture debt borrowed by US technology startups.
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01 March / fundraising / exits
The public markets have changed the way they value SaaS companies. The median forward revenue multiple for SaaS business reached its peak in February 2014, fell to its nadir two years later, and has since recovered, hovering at around five times forward revenue – where it has remained with little variance over the last six months. However, that’s not the whole story. It’s not just that the median has fallen.
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29 January / fundraising / startups
How much should a founder raise for their startup? I imagine almost every founder contemplating a fundraising round ponders this question. There are many different paths to developing an answer. The right answer that every startup founder has told me is as much capital as possible at the highest possible price. But what strategies exist to justify increasing the round size and consequently price? These are the three most common I’ve observed.
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27 January / startups / fundraising
Over the last seven years, software startup investing has changed quite a bit. In 2010, classic SaaS was booming, the benefits of a subscription model were finally becoming clear to the public markets and the mass-market. Since then, many other types of software businesses have been created in new categories like agriculture technology and robotics. Which of these markets are growing the fastest for investment dollars? The chart above breaks out 14 different software categories and shows the amount of dollars invested in each category indexed to 2010 levels.
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05 January / fundraising
The fundraising market is in flux. The data indicates that it is certainly reverting to the mean after two record years in 2014 and 2015. Late stage market dynamics are changing as hedge funds and mutual funds seek other areas to invest. In 2017, there will be a lot of comparison between the prices public bound companies fetch at IPO compared to the last round private valuations as the public window opens.
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18 December / fundraising
Australia, Canada, Israel, China, India. SaaS startups are thriving in these countries and many more. Next generation software companies hail from many different parts of the world, and some of them are worth billions of dollars. Shopify and Hootsuite in Canada. Atlassian in Australia. Xero in New Zealand, just to name a few. As these successful startups have boomed, how has the early stage fundraising market for them evolved?
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09 November / fundraising
Public companies are often required to disclose the process of their acquisition. LinkedIn’s sale to Microsoft is described step by step in an SEC disclosure and it offers both a peek into how these massive acquisitions are consummated, and also illustrates the best practices for how to run a process, both acquisitions and fundraisings. The timeline above shows how the deal progressed. Five potential bidders are included in the chart including Party C, whose identity is unknown.
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07 November / fundraising
About $1B has been invested in early stage SaaS startups as of November 1. Over the last nine months, marketing startups have raised more dollars in aggregate than any other segment. The chart above shows the early-stage investment dollars by buyer within the organization. Operations teams following second, with human resources focused startups in third. Notably, sales startups raised the least amount of capital. If we compare these trends to the total aggregate market capitalization of public SaaS companies by buyer, we observe a few interesting patterns.
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21 September / saas / fundraising / startups
Recently, we examined the comparative efficiency of bottoms-up and top-down businesses. Today, we’ll dig into valuation metrics to see if there’s any systematic bias in the investor community for SMB, Mid-Market and Enterprise SaaS companies. Using public data, I categorized the 50 or so public companies by ACV at IPO. SMB is less than $10k, Mid-Market is between $10k and $100k, and Enterprise is greater than $100k in average customer value.
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31 August / startups / saas / fundraising
If your SaaS startup were to trade in the public markets today, what would it be worth? The true answer is we don’t know, but we can approximate it by comparing it to the other publicly traded SaaS companies and benchmarking the business by its growth rate. The chart above shows the median multiple of public SaaS companies by growth rate bucket, 25%-49%, 50%-74%, and 75%+ trailing twelve month revenue growth rate.
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08 August / fundraising
Average Series A valuations have hovered around $15M for the last 9 quarters. Series B rounds have settled into $50M, while Series C rounds have rebounded to $100M. Later stage rounds, however, have fallen by 50% from their high of $400M to just under $200M. However, in the early stages the frequency of down rounds (e.g., a Series D with a smaller valuation than a Series C) aren’t at historic or even six year highs.
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19 July / fundraising
Over the last year, the amount of series A investment in US startups has fallen by nearly 33% from a high of $6 billion to about $4 billion in Q2 2016. Later stage investments have followed a similar path. Curiously, the series B/Expansion stage market has witnessed remarkable resilience, continuing to increase despite volatility. The series a market is also seen a similar drop in the total number of investments, indicating a slower investment pace.
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26 April / fundraising
As the overall venture market environment evolves in 2016, so too does the SaaS and Software segment. The number of Series A, B, C, and D investments in software companies stabilized at roughly 170 per quarter from mid-2013 through mid-2015, before falling 17% in Q4 2015 to a two year low. In Q1 2016, SaaS rounds increased a modest 10%. The SaaS fundraising has slowed in parallel to the rest of the market.
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18 April / fundraising / startups
Party rounds symbolized the heyday of the startup seed market just a last year. Called parties because of the number of investors who collaboratively financed seed rounds of startups, the lists became almost comically long as seed sizes ballooned and investor syndicates swelled with them. Recently, I have heard from founders that they are less interested in party rounds, but does the data support the case? The chart above plots the percentage of seed investments for US startups by the number of investors in their seed round.
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07 April / fundraising
About one third of US startups that raise a seed round raise a Series A. The larger the seed investment, the greater the odds the company successfully raises the next round. A $500,000 seed round results in a series A 20% of the time, while $1.5M seed increases the chances to 30%, an increase of half. larger seed rounds enable early-stage companies to experiment more, hire more aggressively, recover from mistakes better and attain more of the milestones necessary to raise a series A.
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04 April / fundraising / data analysis
Over the last six years, seed rounds have grown in size by 12% annually. Series As have grown by 14%, series Bs by 9%, series Cs by 14% and series Ds by 11%. In that same timeframe, the median series A and series C has doubled. Median seed rounds have more than tripled in size. This tripling of seed round sizes is a recent phenomenon, taking place in the first quarter of 2016.
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01 April / fundraising
Q1 venture capital investment remains steady relative to Q4 2015 at about $15 billion, but down from the near records attained in 2015. Over the last five years, seven of the twenty-nine quarters have reached or exceeded the $15 billion mark, all of them within the last two years. So, on a historical basis, venture capitalists are still investing at rates substantially above average. 2016 is off to a slower start than 2015.
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11 March / fundraising
What do you look for in SaaS companies? It’s hard to answer this question concisely because there are so many different ways of building a great software business. The best way I’ve found to describe it is a technology innovation leading to a go-to-market advantage. That’s how I answered the question in the 20Minute VC podcast with Harry Stebbings. Software is a competitive world. Sales and marketing software vendors have flourished, growing from a few hundred to several thousand in the span of a few years.
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07 March / fundraising
The startup fundraising market in 2016 has been difficult to characterize. Punctuated by a concentrated decline in public tech stocks, the sentiment in Startupland has changed from resolute ebullience to a calmness approaching caution. Two months in, we can analyze January and February data. This posts analyses US headquartered information technology companies which VC-led investment rounds, except for the $793M Series C in Magic Leap, which I excluded as an outlier.
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At SaaStr 2016 and SaaS Office Hours in New York, I shared an analysis of the fastest growing SaaS companies over the last 3 years. In particular, I benchmarked the revenue, growth rates and round size characteristics of these businesses at their Series A. I’ve embedded the slides here. Benchmarking Exceptional Series A SaaS Companies from Tomasz Tunguz These are the key bullet points from the deck about exceptional SaaS companies.
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22 February / fundraising
Attorneys witness the changes in the fundraising market from a unique vantage point. Consiglieri to startup founders and investors alike, attorneys assist in the negotiation and are privy to the terms of investment. Fenwick & West, one of those law firms, released data this morning detailing the evolution of financing terms for Q4. I’ve reproduced the most salient difference in Q4 compared to previous periods above. The median growth in startup valuation has fallen from a high of 74% in Q2 2016 to 39% in Q4.
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18 February / office hours / fundraising
Join me for SaaS Office Hours on February 22 in New York at the Axial headquarters. This is the first time we’ll be hosting SaaS Office Hours on the East Coast, and there will be more to follow. Given the volatility in the market and the number of inbound questions about the implications, this SaaS Office Hours will be focused on fundraising and the venture capital outlook for 2016.
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15 February / financials / fundraising
There are several forms of venture debt. Convertible notes are the most common, today. Most startups raise seed rounds using convertible notes. Startups that have substantial working capital requirements often employ lines of credit/revolvers. Last, many startups take out term loans. They borrow money for several years and repay it over time. Venture debt can supply additional capital for a startup to grow at a lower cost of capital than equity.
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05 February / fundraising
Leverage. It’s the key to negotiating. Classic negotiating books like Getting to Yes define the BATNA, the Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. If you were to walk away from a conversation, what’s the next best choice? The BATNA singlehandedly creates leverage in negotiating. Over the last few years, startup founders have exerted tremendous leverage in the fundraising market by taking advantage of the supply/demand imbalance. Too much capital chasing a sliver of exceptional startups.
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21 January / fundraising / financials
65% of entrepreneurs believe that fundraising in 2016 will be more difficult than in 2015, according to First Round’s survey. The volatility in the stock market, the steady erosion of public multiples, and the broad decline of seed, venture and growth investment in Q4 2015 seem to portend a repricing of the startup market. In light of those changing circumstances, entrepreneurs should prepare a few different analyses for 2016.
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11 January / fundraising / data analysis
For all the talk about late stage rounds, megarounds and unicorns, early stage startups are benefitting disproportionately from near-record years of venture capital investment. Of the $42B invested in startups in 2015, 34% or about $14B was raised in series A and seed rounds. That figure is up from 18% in 2005. The 35% attained in 2013 share for early investment ties the 1996 record. Both an increase in the number of investments and the average amount raised by early stage companies has contributed to this trend.
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27 September / fundraising
Today, 70% of startups in the US that raise a Series A have raised a seed round. That’s up from 50% ten years ago. In the same period, the amount of seed capital invested in the US has increased about 10x from $200M per year to $2B. What does this imply for early stage founders? First, it implies greater competition at the Series A. Larger seed rounds enable a seed stage company to achieve more - more growth, more revenue, more hiring.
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30 August / fundraising
During their fundraising processes, founders often tell me “I’d really like to get back to building the business.” I’m certain it’s true. Every founder surely would certainly rather be building their product and company than fundraising. Nevertheless, a founder skilled in fundraising can create enormous leverage for their business and develop unassailable competitive advantages. This is why it’s critical for early stage founders to invest time to perfect their pitches.
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24 August / saas / fundraising
The public markets are down more than 10% from their highs in the last few months. Public SaaS companies have been particularly hard hit. The chart above shows the enterprise value of publicly traded SaaS companies. Many of them are down substantially more than 10%. Let’s dig in a bit more. While there are five companies who currently sit at their all time highs, as of August 21, more than 90% of the SaaS companies are below at a median decline of 40%.
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09 August / fundraising
When we say a startup has raised a big round, we often mean the round is big in two dimensions - total amount invested and valuation. And when we say a big valuation, more precisely we imply the round was priced at a high revenue multiple. A SaaS company that will generate $400M in revenue next year that raises $200M at $1B valuation has raised a big round, but at low valuation-to-revenue multiple of 2.
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07 August / fundraising
Startups today are growing faster than they have in the past. US VC backed startups in 1998 grew revenue 63% per year on average. In 2014, the median startup grew at 85% CAGR before going public. More impressively, newer startups must be 5x larger than 15 years ago before going public. In 1998, the median IPO-bound startup reported $11.8M in revenue in their S-1 (inflation adjusted dollars). In 2014, a startup needed $54M.
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If there’s one notion that will define the decade early 2010s in startupland, it’s the Megaround, the investments of greater than $40M in private companies. Historically, startups needed to trade on public exchanges to access sums of money from $40M to several billion. But today, the private markets are providing this capital. These billions of dollars, which amount to about half of all venture investment, skew substantially towards consumer investments.
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In Q2 2015, VC investment totaled $16.7B, about a 66% of the $28B deployed in Q2 2000 according to a new report. And the trends shows no sign of stopping. A big contributor to this growth are nontraditional investors including mutual funds and hedge funds, which now account for approximately 40% of dollars invested. And while the market is similar to the dotcom era in some regards, it is substantially different in others.
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Earlier this week, we examined the trends in the major categories of startup investment including eCommerce, Software, Social Networking and Education. But which lesser known startup sectors are starting to raise venture dollars? Where are founders finding unique opportunities to innovate? Bitcoin is the fastest growing sector followed by photo sharing and physical storage (which includes moving and self storage companies). Each year, starting in mid-2012 through mid-2015, these sectors have grown their investment dollars by more than 145%, according to Mattermark data.
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In the last six months, VCs have invested more than $57B according to Mattermark data, which puts 2015 on pace to exceed 2000 as the year the most venture capital will be deployed, ever. Which sectors are benefitting from all these venture dollars? The chart above contrasts the top 12 sectors receiving venture funding in the US, and plots the relative share of dollars invested by month. The red line indicates the monthly data point, the thin blue line shows a linear regression trend line, and the shadow around the blue line is the area of standard error.
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06 July / fundraising / startups
About two years ago, we examined the new Second Seed, a tactic employed by startups who raise an initial seed round, achieve a set of milestones and raise a second seed round, before raising a series A. During the two years since that analysis, this trend has continued. In the last 24 months, Second Seeds have grown From 7.5% to 18% of US technology seed rounds, both in number and in dollars invested according to Crunchbase data.
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22 June / fundraising
As Fred Wilson wrote over the weekend, Janet Yellen, the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), indicated last week that the Fed would likely increase the federal funds rate, which has hovered around zero for the last seven years - since the collapse of Lehman. In the last 35 years, the federal funds rate has varied from as high as 16% in 1981 to as low as 0.
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The rate at which startups are raising follow-on rounds is decreasing, and has decreased steadily from 2003 through 2013. Between 2003 and 2006, post-Series A startups raised series Bs about 57% of the time. However from 2011-2014, that figure fell to 28%. The same trend is true in series C rounds, where success rates fell from 43% to 35%. This decline in startup follow-on fundraising success is the result of an increased number of series A, which have been growing at a rate of 18% per year since 2009.
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10 April / fundraising
In a post earlier this week, Josh Kopelman coined the term Private IPO to describe patterns in the runaway late stage financing market. In addition to the points Josh makes about the dangers of stale valuations, there is another important and related implication for founders. When entrepreneurs pursue a Private IPO as the ultimate round before they go public, they make an implicit bet about the growth rate of their businesses: company revenues will more than double before a public IPO.
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Every morning, it seems like a startup raises a massive growth round. In fact, the data proves the point. In 2014, there were 251 working days and 211 $40M+ growth rounds - just about one per day. In contrast to the frenetic private market, there were 15 US IT venture-backed IPOs with offerings greater than $40M last year, slightly more one IPO per month in 2014. Private market rounds were 14x as common as IPOs in 2014, compared to the 2004-2007 era, when IPOs were about as equally common as large private financings.
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18 March / fundraising / saas
Over the last 15 months, the typical high growth public SaaS company’s multiple has halved. The chart above plots the average enterprise value to forward revenue multiple for established SaaS companies and high growth SaaS companies. High growth companies peaked in February last year at about 22x forward revenues and have fallen to 11x on March 1, 2015. Established companies dropped similarly from 6.6x to 4.5x. The chart above shows the same figures per company.
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Every SaaS company should be focused on mitigating churn because greater retention enables a business to grow far more rapidly, to reduce the cost of customer acquisition, and to slash the amount of capital required for the business to grow. But there’s one additional reason to focus on churn: predictability. The more dollar churn a business creates, the less predictable its performance - and vice versa. Let’s paint the picture for a hypothetical startup which generated $2M in revenue last year and forecasts growing to $5M this year for 150% annual growth.
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13 March / fundraising / data analysis / saas
In a recent survey, 40% of VCs pointed to SaaS as the startup sector most likely to be impacted by a market correction. There’s no question that the early stage SaaS founders are benefiting from substantial multiple expansion and pre-money valuation increases. But I was curious about how widespread aggressive investments are in software companies. As the data below shows, the seed and Series A markets have been relatively stable, but Series B rounds have seen a dramatic acceleration recently.
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06 March / fundraising / startups
Over the past four years, the amount of seed investment has increased by more than 200%. And the typical seed investment size has risen by 25% in just the last 12 months. In 2014, for the first time in four years, median Series A round size have increased. When we analyzed the data last year, this wasn’t the case. But in 2014, the median Series A hit $6.8M, increasing 14% over the trailing three year average.
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23 January / fundraising / data analysis / saas
In 2015, SaaS companies trade at a 30% lower multiple of revenue than last year. In early 2014, the typical SaaS company traded at about 9.2x their next-twelve-months of revenue. Since August 2014, that figure has dropped by about 30% to about 6.0x. Almost every public SaaS company has seen multiple compression. Only RealPage, Qualys, NewRelic, ConstantContact and Hortonworks are at highs in 2015 compared to 2014. The other companies in this basket have have all fallen between 1% and 60%+.
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22 January / data analysis / saas / fundraising
Figuring out how much capital your startup may need to raise will inform lots of different strategic decisions. A startup’s growth rate is often highly correlated with the amount of capital it can invest in sales and marketing. More customers means more bookings, which means more capital and so on. The chart above shows the cumulative dollars raised across a basket of more than 50 enterprise software companies. The median company raises $88M before IPO in year six.
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16 December / data analysis / startups / fundraising
Are startups growing much faster than they have in the past? The chart above plots the time required for startups to raise rounds at $1B or greater valuation, over the past ten years. The blue line is a logarithmic regression demonstrating the decrease from about 7.5 years to less than 2.5 years. The answer seems to be an unequivocal yes. Let’s break this chart down by type of company: B2B and B2C.
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05 December / data analysis / fundraising
When will the tech bull market end? It’s a question that I’m asked with some frequency. There are three fundamental reasons for the bull market. First, technology is changing nearly every part of the economy. Consequently, there are many huge opportunities for entrepreneurs to seize. Our internal analysis shows that only 2% of IT budgets are spent on cloud today. Second, the capital startups require to pursue those opportunities is plentiful.
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06 November / fundraising / data analysis / startups
Seed investments are booming. According to Crunchbase data, the number of seed rounds in US companies has grown by 10x in 6 years from 200 per year to more than 2,200 in 2013. This is driven by the expansion of the institutional seed investor and the tripling of seed stage capital available to founders. With all that capital entering the market, seed round sizes have also increased. The top quartile seed rounds have expanded by 44% in 8 years, and by 75% since 2008.
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03 November / data analysis / fundraising
What a difference a few quarters make! In the past nine months, Series A valuations have skyrocketed. In fact, 2014 Series A pre-money valuations have surpassed median Series B valuations from 10 years ago, accounting for inflation. The same is true for Series B valuations exceeding Series C valuations. Cooley, a top tier startup law firm, reported this trend in their valuation quarterly report, which tracks these figures where they are counsel to either investors or founders.
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When we analyzed the impact of location on a startup’s ability to raise capital, we found no statistically significant difference. Startups in San Francisco, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Austin and many other cities all demonstrated similar ability to raise follow-on rounds. But is the same true for investors of various locations? Do investors across the US invest similarly across Seed, Series A and Series B? They do not. In fact, there is a statistically significant difference in investment patterns of investors depending on their location.
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The WSJ published a recent chart of the 49 startups with billion dollar valuations. According to their research, there have never been as many privately held companies with such high valuations ever. The absolute number of these massively valuable companies alone is amazing. Ten years ago, most of them would have gone public by now. But what other insights can we tease from the data about these very special businesses?
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I started working in venture capital three months before Lehman imploded. After the bankruptcy, the fundraising market contracted as investors internalized the new normal of the public markets. Over the past six years, the fundraising markets flipped from quite bearish to mildly bullish to extremely bullish. Or at least, that’s the way it feels to me. I’ve often struggled to convey the magnitude of the change and its unevenness. So I thought I could do it with data.
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The market for startups raising capital has changed dramatically over the past few years. Round sizes have ballooned: startups raise 50%+ larger rounds than a few years ago. The looming Series A crunch never occurred. Instead, we’ve seen the bifurcation of the Series B market. Series Bs are the spring of hope for some startups who raise megarounds and the winter of despair for others who must compete for increasingly scarce Series B dollars.
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Bill Gurley and Fred Wilson have focused on burn rates as an important topic for startups. The immediate question that follows this commentary is: How much does the typical startup burn throughout its life? And what is a “risky” burn rate for a company? I use a rule of thumb to evaluate the burn rate of a Series A startup. I multiply the number of employees by about $10-12k, depending on the location of the company.
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24 September / startups / fundraising
I remember many the great TED talks I’ve watched. Sir Ken Robinson’s ,“How Schools Kill Creativity” and the story of a little girl whose genius was unrecognized in school until she was allow do dance, and ultimately became a prima-ballerina, is simply unforgettable. In most of my meetings, I remember Amy Cuddy’s “Body Language” talk for a split-second. Commanding her body language changed her career. And who can forget Steve Jobs announcement of the iPhone?
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18 August / data analysis / fundraising
If you’re a founder or potential founder and looking to raise seed capital, you’re entering possibly the most attractive period in a decade to start a business. A few weeks ago,we analyzed the impact of Series A and later stage VCs in the seed market. In the past four years, traditional VCs began to invest in seed-stage companies, which led to a rise in the number and size of seeds.
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I’ve listened to thousands of fundraising pitches in my six years so far at Redpoint. Some with demos, some without. Some with hockey-stick charts, and others just an idea. I’ll never forget one meeting when the founders presented an entirely hand-drawn deck on 12 pieces of paper. The extent of founders’ creativity is hard to over-state. Most founders do cover the essentials of a pitch in their presentations. But what distinguishes the best pitches?
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Through the first six months of 2014, VCs have raised about as much as all of 2013. If this pace of fund raising continues, 2014 would mark the biggest year for VCs since 2001, when the industry raised about $38B. This new money hasn’t yet hit the startup fundraising market in earnest, as the chart above shows. The second quarter of 2014 is the sixteenth largest by capital deployed sinced 1995, making it a top quartile quarter, but to break into the top five, that figure would need to triple.
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I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man I’d sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town He’d tousle my hair and say son take a good look around. This is your hometown My Hometown by Bruce Springsteen Hometown investors, the local group of angels and VCs within a startup community, are an essential part of startup ecosystems.
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Last week, the team at Wharton in San Francisco invited me to speak at the Entrepreneurs Workshop. I chose the topic of the “Five Forces Shaping the Fundraising Market” and prepared a Mary Meeker style presentation, with a chart and a bullet point on each slide, to illustrate the forces in tension. It was great fun. I’ve embedded the slides from the presentation above and will link to the video once it’s live.
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There’s a cyclicality to fundraising. Certain sectors rise quickly and become competitive while others decline. I’ve been wondering about the state of the market. First, which sectors are in vogue now in Seed investing and Series A investing? Second, is there a delay between the sectors attracting seed capital and Series A capital? In other words, do seed investors see trends before VCs do? The chart above shows the trends in the seed investment market.
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image credit: Svjetlana Tepavcevic Is it better to raise your startup’s seed round from only angel investors, or is it better to include a VC or two? Several founders on the precipice of launching their seed fundraising processes have asked me this question. It’s a very difficult one to answer hypothetically because there are many different variables to balance. For example, VCs may invest larger sums than angel investors. The imprimatur of a VC’s investment in a company might help convince potential customers and recruits.
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For the past several years, early stage VCs have entered the seed market with vigor. VC’s entry has resulted five different important trends in the past five years: The total dollars entering the seed market has increased by 132%. The mean seed round size has increased by 114% to $1.4M. VCs’ typical seed investment has grown by 50%. Mega-seeds, those seed investments over $2M, have reached historic highs exceeding 80 instances in 2013.
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Fenwick’s report on the state of the venture market and I came across these three data points that summarise one facet of the market in Silicon Valley succinctly: 11 venture backed companies raised funds at a valuation of over $1 billion in Q114, more than did so in all of 2013. Hedge and mutual funds participated in 23 venture deals through mid-April, compared to 41 in all of 2013 Investment in later stage comprised 47% of all dollars invested in Q1, while Series A investment fell to a five quarter low at 15%.
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Has there been optimal time of year to raise a seed round? The chart above shows the number of seed rounds by quarter of the year from 2009-2013. At first blush, it would seem that the first quarter of the year is the most attractive period to raise a seed round. But that’s a faulty conclusion. First, there’s no statistical difference between the number of rounds raised in each quarter, according to a t-test on the four years of Crunchbase data I tested.
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Last week, we reviewed the state of the public SaaS market and observed the average company had lost 33% of its value from their highs. How have newly public consumer companies fared in the same environment and what does that mean for the tech industry broadly? I created a basket of most of the venture-backed consumer IPOs since 2010 and added bellwethers Facebook and Google. Above is a chart of these companies enterprise value (market cap minus cash) over the past six months.
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01 May / saas / fundraising
What a difference three weeks make! Since I wrote “The Correction in SaaS Company Valuations”, SaaS company valuations have continued to fall. As a basket, SaaS companies have fallen 33% from their highs (median), wiping all the gains for the last year. To make that point more explicit, below I’ve charted the total value of public SaaS companies over the last ten months. In that time period, the aggreggate enterprise value has fallen from greater than $150B to $117B today.
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Last week, we analyzed the fund raising history of billion dollar SaaS companies and determined SaaS startups are raising nearly twice as much capital as 16 years ago before going public. Given that trend, I wondered if there is there any truth to the idea that startups today require less capital than before to succeed. To answer that question, I’ve taken the same basket of public SaaS companies and computed a revenue-on-invested-capital (ROIC) across the four 4-year IPO cohorts from 1998-2014.
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One of the cloud’s great promise has been cost-reduction and for a while, we’ve chanted a mantra that startups require less capital than before to get started and ultimately succeed. As the number of publicly traded SaaS companies has grown with time, it’s possible today to examine whether those statements are proven in the data, at least for those 41 publicly traded companies. I’ve gathered the financing histories of the 41 publicly traded SaaS companies and adjusted them for inflation.
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21 March / startups / fundraising
Over the past few years, I’ve debated the existence of a Series A crunch and found in that analysis that the volume of Series As was increasing. This trend hasn’t abated. The number of Series As has grown by 31% annually for the past 5 years, reaching more than 831 Series As in 2013, up from 284 in 2009. In short, no founder should be concerned about the Series A market.
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Each morning’s news seems to bring another fund-raising announcement of ever larger scale. Just a few months ago, Pure Storage raised $150M in the largest ever venture investment in a storage company. These record financings certainly generate significant press interest. But how representative of the fund raising environment are these mega-rounds? The chart above breaks down fund-raising activity in US tech companies using Crunchbase data. Each chart shows the number of rounds raised bucketed by size from $0 to $5M and up to $150M to $200M from 2005 to 2013.
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Last week, Sean Ellis made an interesting comment in response to this post on public SaaS companies’ growth rates: I’m guilty of giving the same advice to startup founders without providing a transparent rationale. This post is my explanation of why the 15-20% MRR growth number is a reasonably good target for post-Seed/pre-Series A SaaS startups to aim for. Let’s create a hypothetical SaaS startup called SaaSCo with a set of founders who aspire to a fund-raising trajectory like the one in table below.
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13 March / saas / fundraising
At the time of the IPO, the median Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company generates $100M in revenue, creates $2.6M in profit and holds $85M in cash on the balance sheet. A company in this position typically raises $107M in its IPO and trades at 11x revenue, for a $1.1B market cap. The path to getting there is revealing. Below is a chart showing the median revenue ramp of the 41 publicly traded SaaS companies by year since founding.
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11 March / saas / fundraising / exits
SaaS companies are the darlings of the public market. The average publicly traded SaaS company enjoys twice as strong a revenue multiple as ten years ago. SaaS companies’ time to IPO has been decreasing steadily from over 10 years since founding to under 7. Despite the decrease in time to IPO, the average dollars raised at IPO has tripled from the early nineties and grown by 50% since 2000. I analyzed the 41 publicly traded SaaS companies comparing to understand the trends in SaaS IPO.
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Over the last 12 years, the number of startups founded has grown each year by 25%, according to Crunchbase data. That’s quite an acceleration each year! See the chart here. As the number of companies in a sector grows, do the odds of successfully raising capital decrease? The chart above shows startup company formation rates, the number of new companies formed each year from 2004-2011 by Crunchbase sector. I didn’t graph the 2012 or 2013 data because the Crunchbase team told me the data sets need about 2 years to mature.
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28 February / startups / fundraising
Raising capital from venture capitalists at any stage can seem like a very strange, ambiguous and amorphous process. I’ve written about the way Redpoint diligences/researches a startup and its market and what questions we tend to ask at each stage. In this post, I’ll focus on the process from entrepreneur’s point of view. When raising capital, entrepreneurs will see potential investors move through four phases of investment decision-making process: screening, socialization, diligence, and decision.
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18 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
Great entrepreneurs can come from anywhere. But do the locations of startups affect their ability to raise follow on capital? Do seed stage companies in the Bay Area face lower likelihoods of raising a Series A because of more competition? Or is it that New York based startups, because of a smaller ecosystem, face more difficulty? Using Crunchbase data, I charted the financing follow-on rates across the 12 US cities in which at least 10 seeds, 3 Series As and 3 Series Bs have occured in the Crunchbase data set from 2005-2014.
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12 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
Has it become harder to raise money? is a question I hear all the time. On one hand, the total dollars invested by VCs is relatively flat at just under $30B per year, according to the NVCA. On the other hand, the stories of difficulty raising series As and Bs have become a steady drumbeat. To get some sense of the patterns, I analyzed 917 companies from seed through Series B over the past 14 years, using Crunchbase data.
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09 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
The average seed stage startup has a 20% chance of raising a Series A according to Crunchbase data for IT startups who raised seed and Series A rounds between 2006 and 2013. But this figure varies significantly sector by sector. Below is a chart of the different startups’ sectors and their rates of raising Series A capital net of the mean of 20%. To contrast two diametric examples, 40% of seed-stage search startups raised Series As, while on average only 10% of hardware startups raise Series As.
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07 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
Naming your startup can be one of the hardest things to do when starting a company. Each founder must agree. The domain must be available to buy. Last and perhaps most importantly, investors need to like it because the first letter of startup’s name has meaningful impact on how easily the company will be able to raise money. Whatever you do, don’t pick a name that starts with the letter J.
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06 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
How large of a seed round should founders raise to maximize their chances of raising a Series A? Smaller seed rounds are simpler and faster to raise because they typically require fewer investors. They may also require less dilution because of the smaller investment size. On the other hand, to raise a Series A, the startup needs enough runway to hire a team and prove certain milestones to Series A investors.
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04 February / startups / fundraising / data analysis
In What’s Up with the Series A, Nikhil Basu Trivedi documents the bifurcation in the Series A market. While there are a handful of startups that raise blockbuster Series As of greater than $10M, the average Series A investment size remains relatively constant over the past 6 years just around $5.3M for US technology companies according to Crunchbase data[1]. After reading his post, I wondered if a big seed round is a leading indicator of a big series A.
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29 January / saas / fundraising / data analysis
​ An entrepreneur asked me the question, what is the maximum viable churn for a startup? Within that question, a few others are embedded. How should a founder think about trading off efforts to grow revenue and mitigate churn? What is the impact of account growth on net churn? Startups must walk a tight-rope to balance growth, churn and cash. Below is the framework I use for working through maximum viable churn.
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Aside from a startup’s internal considerations about the right time to raise money, founders should weigh the seasonality of the fund raising market when planning their raise. There’s a rule of thumb batted around the valley that the worst times to raise capital are in the dog-days of summer and after Thanksgiving. As it turns out, this aphorism is only a half-truth. Below is a chart of the dollars VCs have invested by month of year.
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Financial statements are a Rosetta Stone for startups. They reveal the strategies and the tactics of how to bring a product to market. These are the ten metrics I look at when sifting through a startup’s operational model, whether when considering an investment or in a board meeting. Revenue growth indicates how quickly a company can grow under the current way of doing business. The top line shows whether the market affords steady growth (SaaS) or lumpy revenue growth created by the long sales cycles of big customers (Telecom) and whether the company must sell one product or a collection of complementary products.
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12 November / startups / fundraising
Steven Blank wrote yesterday about a novel way of depicting a startup’s competitive landscape in a pitch deck, called a petal diagram. While the petal diagram is a great way of describing an ecosystem or a go-to-market strategy, I don’t think it’s a great way to show a competitive landscape because petal diagrams don’t communicate the startup’s unique way of competing in the market. The ideal competition slide accomplishes at least one but up to four goals.
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30 October / startups / fundraising
How do you validate an idea for a software startup before the product is built? Last week, a founder of a SaaS business and I were wrestling with this problem. It’s a question without a universal answer. After a while, we came up with quick and dirty rule of thumb for his business. Can he hit his quota? Suppose this founder wasn’t the founder, but the first inside sales hire for the startup.
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There’s a perpetual and roaring debate in Startupland about the ideal founding team. Should the ideal team be entirely computer scientists? How important to success is having an MBA/business person? What about the stories of billionaire dropouts? To answer that question, I’ve aggregated the academic backgrounds of 30 of the top startups of the past few years and analyzed the make up of each of those founding teams. Above is a chart comparing the number of “billion” dollar startups by the total number of founders and the share of technical founders.
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23 October / startups / financials / fundraising
Financial statements are the Rosetta Stone for a business. They are the most succinct way of communicating how a business operates to management teams and boards, who weigh the trade-offs of different investments. In the early stages of the startup, financial statements aren’t used much as a management tool. They are most often used to keep an eye on monthly burn rate. But as companies grow, startups hire leaders to manage marketing and sales and product and engineering.
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22 October / saas / data analysis / fundraising
In the past 24 months, something extraordinary has happened. The value of publicly traded SaaS companies has grown by 200 to 400% while the underlying customer unit economics of those businesses hasn’t changed. Below is a chart of the ratio between enterprise value to revenue for two segments of SaaS companies. The All Segment contains 36 publicly traded SaaS companies. The High Fliers comprises the upper half. From about 2004 to 2011, the average publicly traded SaaS company held an EV/Rev multiple of 3 to 5x.
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29 August / fundraising / startups / trends
There’s a concept in computer programming called operator overloading that neatly describes the current Series A investment market. Overloading means using the same code for two very different purposes depending on inputs. For example, a programmer could redefine the + function so that instead of adding two numbers, the function would multiply the numbers if one of the numbers was negative. Overloading can create lots of confusion in programming because the same function name can return very different results.
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From time to time, entrepreneurs ask one investor for referrals to other investors. After all, investors network frequently, work together and have long term relationships with each other so a referral should go a long way. But not all introductions are equal. The most successful investor-to-investor referrals are those where the referring investor is investing in the business and is seeking to fill out the round with complementary capital. By investing, the referring investor sends a strong signal to others about his/her excitement about the company.
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24 July / fundraising
Sales pitches ought to frame a product in a way to maximize the chances of success of a sale. One trend I’ve been seeing in pitches is to talk about how software can save costs by reducing a customer’s head count. A pitch that focuses on cost savings by reducing staff should be delivered only after much consideration because of a few objections created in these pitches that might slow or halt the sales process.
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24 June / fundraising
When I first started in venture capital five years ago, I wanted to create a programmatic way to analyze companies well. My goal was to be able to step into a meeting with an entrepreneur with some kind of form that I would fill out throughout the meeting, so that by the end of the meeting I might have an understanding how the startup fits into its ecosystem. It took quite a while to devise this framework and to revise it until it became useful, practical and insightful.
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19 June / fundraising / startups
There’s an adage that is being passed around by entrepreneurs that goes something like this: “As soon as you raise this round, it’s time to start worrying about the next round.” I think it’s a wise adage. It’s similar to my most important principle of fund raising which is “Raise enough money to achieve a set of milestones that will attract a subsequent round of investment from new investors.” Those two ideas are simple and logical.
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Reading through the tech press since the Facebook IPO, you might get the impression venture capitalists are still reeling from that apocalyptic offering, believe no further successes can be had in the consumer web, and so are fleeing the consumer web in droves to pursue enterprise investments. That’s because in the past year or so most major tech publications have swung from focusing on consumer products to enterprise companies. GigaOm made this transition first, now TechCrunch and PandoDaily are following suit.
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02 April / fundraising
Below is my general outline for a typical diligence process. First meeting When I’m meeting a startup for the first time, my goal is to understand as much about the business and team as I can. Founders/Team: How do the founders know each other? How do they interact with each other? Are they passionate? How qualified are they? What would it be like to work with them?
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29 March / fundraising
Some of our companies started financing processes in earlier this quarter. At a strategy session with one of our companies, the team and I crafted the outline of the pitch deck. They asked me what questions a venture investor might ask in the initial meeting. Distilling the investment analysis into a small number of general questions is challenging because of the diversity of businesses we see but, I gave it a try and came up with the following questions I might ask a startup to answer in an initial meeting.
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28 March / fundraising
Though the industry is called venture capital, the goal of a VC isn’t to maximize every risk. Instead, we try to understand all the risks a business might face and weigh those risks with the reward - the exit. Here are the major risks that I typically review when a startup pitches. Market timing risk - Is now the right time for the business? It’s often hard to evaluate this risk, but nevertheless, it’s an important consideration.
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When deciding if to raise a venture round, it’s critical to ensure your venture investor shares the vision for the company: both the product roadmap and the financial goals of the company. Most founders never consider the impact on fund size on VC motivations. As long as there are enough reserves to invest as the company grows, a founder might think, that’s fine with me. But this is naive. Fund sizes dictate a VC’s strategy.
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With the analytics tools today, it’s easy to measure hundreds if not thousands of different metrics for your business. Cutting through all the chaff to determine the most important or insightful metrics can be quite a challenge. Below are the ten metrics I’ve found to be most useful in board meetings. They answer the questions of how should a startup founder might measure the business at the highest level. You should have many more metrics than these, but I’ve highlighted the ones that I recommend presenting to your board and reviewing each week.
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21 February / trends / fundraising
Last night I spoke at the Enterprise Tech VC Panel. We discussed five trends in the seed market and the outlook for 2013. These are the five most important trends for 2013, in my view. MicroVC Funds Have Doubled Their Assets Call it micro-VC or mega-seed fund, there’s a new investor class which raises funds between $50 and $100M to invest in seed-stage companies. Felicis manages a $70M fund, Jeff Clavier at Softech invests from a $55M fund and Steve Anderson of Baseline has raised at two funds totaling $100M.
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01 February / fundraising
The most important principle of start up fund raising is: Raise enough money to achieve a set of milestones that will attract a subsequent round of investment from new investors. Last week, a founder of a seed stage company came to pitch. When I told him the opportunity wasn’t a fit for us, he asked me what milestones he would need to achieve to raise a Series A - as he was raising a seed round!
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30 January / fundraising
Once each month I met Peter at Café Habana in Nolita for huevos rancheros drenched in tomato sauce and a glass of fresh orange juice. Mopping up yolks with tortillas, Peter and I chatted about his business: the techniques of scalable customer acquisition, the priorities of the product and engineering team, the structure of sales quotas and the ebbing and flowing dynamics of the market place he and his team were building.
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17 January / fundraising
Products aren’t sold in isolation - they exist within ecosystems. Great product market fit and sales pitches hinge on understanding and serving all the members of an ecosystem. Should a product fail to meet the needs of any one member, company success and sales velocity will falter. One tool I use with portfolio companies is the Value Proposition Diagram (VPD) which shows why a product is compelling to every customer - and most products are sold to more than one customer at the same time.
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24 October / fundraising
I met the Electric Imp team in April. I had bumped into one of their engineers at a party and he pinged me a few weeks later to say he was working for a startup and the company was raising. The company came in to the office on a Monday at noon. Hugo, the founder, Electric Imp demoed their product to me. Ten minutes in, I stopped the pitch meeting, pulled 3 partners from their Monday partner meeting, and issued a term sheet that afternoon.
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03 September / fundraising / startups
The most effective financing processes, like the most effective auctions, create scarcity. Of late, many founders have been triggering pre-emptive financing processes for their raises. This is my interpretation of their playbook. Strategy First, founders build credibility with investors. This can be done in many ways like cultivating a long term relationship with a handful of VCs or in less direct ways like brand building through social media and blogging. Founders have established credibility through referrals from people-in-common.