How To Get Business Investment

How To Get Business Investment

There never seems to be a shortage of people wanting you to invest in their brilliant idea that is going to take the world by storm. So what do I look for in an investment opportunity?

Just to be clear, I’m not going to invest in a business where the money goes to paying off loans, scooped of the table by founders or pays off some other obligation. The purpose of investment money is to GROW the business so that it is successful…..not clean up messes.

Escrow.com

When I invest in a venture, I’m actually investing in a person so I really listen to not just the content of the pitch but whether the person giving it really understands the value proposition. If they can’t articulate the value proposition in about 1 minute, then I become completely disinterested. I’m not deliberately being rude; I just don’t have the time for someone that hasn’t clearly thought about it themselves. It may be a good idea but a potential founder who hasn’t thought about why it is of benefit to customers is not investable.

The second thing I look for is the background of the founder and how they came up with the awesome idea. I’m wanting to hear passion in the voice and why they are going to put everything on the line to get the business up and going. Entrepreneurs tend to have a succeed at any cost mentality that allows them to push through or around any obstacles in their path. If that attitude isn’t there, then you’ve lost me.

Assuming I’m still interested I’ll request a deck. The deck needs to synthesize the entire business in about seven slides. Any more than that and you’ve lost me again…. The slides tend to be:

1.      Summary page – (eg. Including how much you are seeking for what valuation)

2.      What is the problem being solved?

3.      How is the problem going to be solved by the new business?

4.      Market size and how it is going to be reached.

5.      Potential competitors

6.      Financials / Investment

7.      The team

 

I want to be absolutely convinced that you’ve thought about all of the issues for the new venture. Trust me when I say that breaking the business down into a very short deck will help you really think about all of the issues. Behind each slide there should be a lot of research that you can provide me at a moment’s notice. It’s all a part of the business plan that you will execute once you’ve received the investment capital.

Whatever you do, please be realistic on the investment and valuation. I had a startup business come across my desk the other day that had an insane valuation. They had no revenue or product and were giving up 5% of the business on a $13m valuation. They were essentially value an idea and it really wasn’t that great anyway….

If the business is a going concern then whatever you do, have your financials up to date. I am never going to invest in a business where the founders have a cavalier attitude towards the books. If you are a completely new start-up, then put together a cashflow and make sure you really understand all of the assumptions underpinning the “hockey stick” retained cashflow of the business.

BTW – I’m yet to see a business plan that doesn’t have somewhere in it that it’s a sure thing and going to make millions. I can guarantee you that despite all of the care you’ve taken with the business plan you have still underestimated how much time it will take to get started.

In the cashflow I’m going to get really focused on how big a hole is being dug and also what are the assumptions that drive the cash burn. If I’m still really interested, I’ll probably dig around to see if the cashflow can be adjusted to minimise the level cash burn. From here I’ll calculate the “go/no go” point.

When someone invests in a business there are basically one of three decisions that need to be made at some point in the ventures early stages. If the business is going gangbusters then everyone is happy and congratulations are all around. If the business is going out the backdoor then the decision is simple, close it down.

The third one is a bit harder, if the business is “struggling but may make it” then it requires a LOT more thought…..and this is where businesses typically end up somewhere in the first twelve months. The business is neither thriving or dying but just limping along. These businesses tend to soak up time and sadly, it’s often better to just kill them.

If you are really after a particular investor for their skills and what else they bring to the table, you may want to offer some equity just for them being involved. I’ve done this a number of times over my business career. I’ve dramatically reduced the valuation (to almost nothing) just to get particular individuals into the business. I’ve never regretted having a smaller percentage of a large pie over a big percentage of a small one.

Please let me know any of your thoughts on this topic and if you would like further articles on how to get business investment.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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How Domainers Get Into Financial Messes

How Domainers Get Into Financial Messes

So many business owners have an incredible desire for profit but so few actually understand why it’s so important or how to attain it. So I’m going to first ask a really dumb question, “So why is profit so important?”

At its core, profit is a measure of a business’s sustainability. If year after year a business is not profitable then it will ultimately fail. Yes, you can keep on raising capital but at some stage investors will stop investing and demand a return on their investment. This will either be in the form of a dividend or a capital increase.

Escrow.com

So in terms of a domain portfolio, unless you are earning a profit then your business will fail unless you (ie. the shareholder) keep on funding it through cash injections. This is very different from running short of cash to pay domain renewal fees….more on that later.

So the question needs to be asked, why do domain business often fail? I personally believe that there is a really simple answer to this question. Most domain businesses aren’t businesses at all. They have more of the characteristics of a hobby than a business where the owners are collectors rather than investors.

Just ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Do you have a cashflow?
2.      When was the last time you looked at your balance sheet and profit and loss statements?
3.      Do you have a clearly defined business model for each of your domains?
4.      When was the last time you cleared out non-performing assets?
5.      Does your accountant about how to treat domain names?
6.      Why is tracking both the purchase and the sales price so important for your business?
7.      What is the return on your investment and could you gain a better return elsewhere?
8.      How much do you value your time in your business plan?
9.      When was the last time you seriously considered outsourcing to free up your time?
10.  Do you understand the difference between cash and profit?

Let me tackle point number ten with a little story as it’s often really confusing for people to understand. It’s very easy to have a highly profitable business that doesn’t have any cash....let me show you how.

Imagine a domainer looks at their bank account and sees a whole lot of money has accumulated for the year from their domain parking earnings. They clap their hands with glee and go out and spend it all by purchasing a $30,000 premium domain that they've always wanted to own.

Sadly, even though they’ve spent the $30,000 in cash they actually can’t expense it. In most countries the accounting/tax rules insist that they take this sized item to the asset side of their balance sheet. Here’s the problem, let’s imagine they have $10,000 worth of expenses during the year. This means their profit is revenue less expenses or $30,000 less $10,000 = $20,000.

The government will put its hand out for their fare share of the profit. In the case of Australia, they want 30% or just under $7,000. But hang on! The domainer just spent the $30,000 and don’t have a spare $7,000 lying around.

I hope that this simple example illustrates the traps that many domain investors fall into. They completely confuse both cash and profit. This often compounds if they’re able to defer their taxes and can result in what seems like a double whammy if they continue to make the same mistakes.

So let’s imagine they managed to borrow some money from a friend to cover their taxes and this is secured against the $30,000 domain. If the friend is charging interest on the money then the domainer can expense it during the financial year that it was incurred BUT the capital payments will ultimately need to come out of the following year’s profit (not going to get involved with depreciation here). Yep, it’s starting to feel like a knotted ball of string already!

Suddenly, the ultimate business opportunity arises for their $30,000 domain. A major developer would like to partner with them to develop out the domain on a 50/50 basis. The developer is the ideal fit and they are absolutely convinced they’re going to make a killing. All they have to do is put their domain into the venture and the developer will match it with $30,000 of development.

Hang on a second……they’ve now essentially encumbered the domain twice. Their friend’s $7,000 is secured against the domain and if they default on the payments they won’t be too happy if the domainers gone into a partnership that involves the domain with someone else. At this point in time I’ve seen many domain owners say, "I just won’t default"….and try to slide the second transaction on through.

As time goes by, this scenario gets played out across more partnerships and more domains. Documentation of the transactions becomes scarce and before they know it, the wheels come off the cart and the domain owner is in a complete mess, defaulting on payments and trying to understand how they got into the mess they’re now in.

Fundamentally what it all comes down to is that the domain owner really doesn’t understand business but they love their hobby. They didn’t really know what profit is and how it’s different from cash. This level of naiveté is played out across all of their other business dealings.

Here’s a few sage words of advice, “Have a good account that you talk to regularly. Avoid all deals which involve forming equity partnerships…..they rarely, if ever work out.”

I’ll share more on business thoughts in future blog posts.

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Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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What's Your Business Model?

What's Your Business Model?

It’s critical that every one of your domains has a business model associated with it so that you can make appropriate decisions about how to best increase their value or realise there value.

So what are the business models that I use?

Traffic domains – these domains are those that receive traffic and are monetised. The key is to extract the maximum value out of the traffic each and every day.

High Value domains – These are more often than not two letter or single word domains – for example, ab.com or vodka.com. These are the “rainbow” domains….in other words, if a large corporate decides to buy one then you’ll get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I would highly recommend that you outsource these domains to a qualified good broker who knows how to create a market.

Stock Items – These domains are often multi-word domains and should all be priced and ready to sell at sub $1,500. You may get more…..which is great but it’s all about moving the stock. The ultimate goal here is to sell around 3% of your domains per year.

Development – You can’t develop everything….you just don’t have the time to impact thousands of domains in a meaningful manner but you do have the time to build a business on a few. My advice would be to build some domains into profitable businesses and then sell them off…..then repeat.

We could refine these categories a bit further but the message should be clear that every domain needs a business model. So take a look at your domains and ask yourself, what business model am I applying to it? In future blogs I'll see if I can unpack the different categories a bit further.

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My 10 Rules For Doing Deals

My 10 Rules For Doing Deals

My daughter is in the process of trying to find her first car…always a great experience! She went and looked at one with a friend and instantly fell in love with it. “Dad, this is the best car in the world! I have to have it!”

I openly admit that I know nothing about cars….computers….we’ll that’s another thing. So Sarah returned to the seller’s house to place a deposit on the vehicle but this time she took a friend’s father who happens to be from the automotive industry. It took him ten seconds to glance at the car and say, “No.”

This raises the point, if you want to invest in diamonds don’t ask the butcher for advice, ask the jeweler – it’ll save you a packet! I have domain investors coming to me all the time with a wide variety of deals that they’ve been offered to ask my advice on whether it’s a good deal or not. If you’ve been in the industry as long as I have then you never get surprised by the garbage that some people try to sell at incredible prices.

My 10 rules of buying:

  1. Never buy when I feel pressured and take your time to think it over.
  2. Good assets are worth the price, you just need to find the good assets.
  3. You can ask whatever you want but I’ll pay the price that I’m offering.
  4. Telling me over and over again how good something is will not change my mind. If it’s a dog it’s a dog, if it’s not then it’s not.
  5. Fancy deals normally end in tears….keep it simple.
  6. If it looks too good then it probably is.
  7. Go for repeatable income not just look out for the big one offs.
  8. Investigate the person selling the asset as much as the deal itself. If they’re right then the majority of the time the deal will be fair.
  9. Never do transactions, do deals where everyone wins and both parties will want to do business together into the future.
  10. Get good advice and then make up your own mind.

Do you have any rules that you use in your own deals? Please add them in the comments below.

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Cutting the Grass

Cutting the Grass

A few minutes ago the doorbell sounded and upon answering it I discovered our friendly lawn mower man smiling back at me. In my opinion his dark sun tanned wrinkled face had seen altogether too much of the Australian sun but that was his job and he loved it.

During the few minutes of idle banter I remembered that we had a now thoroughly dead Christmas tree down the side of the house that needed removal. I asked him if he’d take it away and he quickly replied, “Not a problem but there is a disposal fee of $10.”

I know that the local council will charge something but it’s nothing like $10. Despite this I quickly replied, “Not a problem!”

So why did I do it? The value in not having my wife Roselyn ask me to remove the tree was worth more to me than the $10. For that matter he probably could have asked for $15-$20 and I would have agreed! My problem would have been at that price Roselyn would have made me do the tip run the following year with the pine needles from the dead tree filling up my sports car. She pays the bills in our family and there’s nothing getting past her.

From our mower man’s perspective he normally gets $35 per cut so he’s just dramatically increased his take from his client. It works out really well for him, for me and that’s what business is all about.

I speak to a lot of people about business and it surprises me that time and time again many of them think that it’s all about trying to get the most out of the other guy. That’s a transactional mentality. At some stage the person on the other end of the transaction will get smarter, feel ripped off and go elsewhere.

I personally think that it’s better to have a more long-term view with clients. This means that every transaction needs to be fair and work for all parties. I don’t just want a deal now I want to deal multiple deals into the future. With the result that we’ve had clients for seven plus years with ParkLogic and whenever there is an issue we have a relationship with them that’s stood the test of time…..I think that’s a much better way to go.

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