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成功获得风险投资的10点建议

Patricia Sellers 2011年04月07日

你可能有很好的点子,但如果你无法展示如何赚钱,那也白搭。当然,Twitter也还没有想明白,但你很可能不是Twitter。

    上周五,我在硅谷主持了以商业、企业家精神和科技为主题的BlogHer BET大会的闭幕式。宏盟集团(Omnicom Group)执行副总裁珍妮特•里奇作为小组发言人之一,就筹集初创资金给出了10点建议。这些建议事实上源于里奇认识的一位企业家,即Communispace的首席执行官黛安•赫森,上个月赫森刚刚同意将她的公司以1亿多美元售予宏盟。

    里奇将我引见给了赫森——(事实上)我多年以前就已经认识她了,早在Communispace向其他公司提供帮助的社交媒体业务还不为人所知的时候。赫森与我分享了她的10点建议,现在我拿来与大家分享。—— Patricia Sellers

    1. 风险资本家也是人。他们喜欢把钱投给他们认识的人……或他们的朋友认识的人。因此,如果你和他们之间没有任何关系,那么你不过就是一个陌生人提交了一份商业计划书。在你的人脉上下功夫吧。通过推荐,你可以找到一个听众,但要是彼此完全陌生,那就真是碰运气了。

    2. 做好被拒的准备。我认识的大多数人都是要接触十几家风险投资后,投资事宜才会有所推进——而很多人可能还要同更多家风险投资谈。你不可能适合所有的风险投资。因此,如果你是一家生物科技初创公司,那么就去找那些喜欢这个领域的人。

    3. 讲干货。如今,冗长乏味的PPT演示已难再激发人们的兴趣。风险投资也是一样。最成功的PPT首页应该列明“以下是我希望你们记住的8项内容”,其余全部归入“附录”。

    4. 要求坦诚的反馈。当一家风险投资表示他们不感兴趣时,往往都会给出这样的标准回答,比如“这不是我们投资的那类公司”。礼貌地追问原因,告诉他们你并不想让他们改变主意,只是想学习。他们接下来可能会说,“我看不到这项业务如何规模化”。那么,你就能试着进一步了解并学习如何完善自己的商业计划。

    5. 不要臆断“女性身份即问题所在”。很多女性都跟我抱怨“歧视女性”现象。我看过她们的商业计划书,真是糟透了。因此,不要吸取错误的教训。

    6. 不要谦卑。大多数风险投资都想在5-10年内赚取至少5倍的利润。如果你希望获得500万美元投资,而你的商业计划书显示你的公司收入或许能在10年内达到1,000万美元,猜猜看结果会怎样?你穿什么去见风险资本家并不重要。要勇敢和大胆!有魄力的人会说,“我知道这是一个充满竞争的领域,但我们相信,我们可以拥有它,到2014年将销售额做到10亿美元”。这就是那些与你竞争的人。

    7. 获得帮助。如果你住在大都市地区(特别是波士顿和纽约),那里有众多的创业者网络,在那里你可以从有经验的人那儿获得帮助和指导——而且是免费的。还有提供免费办公空间的创业孵化基地、竞赛(比如很棒的Mass Challenge)以及很多愿意提供帮助的成功企业家。

    8. 像当初想创业点子一样仔细思考你的商业模式。你可能有很好的点子,但如果你无法展示如何赚钱,那也白搭。当然,Twitter也还没有想明白,但你很可能不是Twitter。

    9. 区分天使资金和风险资本。前者可能是个人或一群人,他们喜欢你以及你的创业想法,想帮你把这个创想带到一个新水平:试验你的创想、进行试水、打造你的软件等等。风险投资者是更加顶真,你需要更进一步。大多数风险投资(或被称为“机构投资”)需要看到理念的验证、客户接受度等更多细节。

    10. 要自信!不要为你的不足道歉。强调未来业务令人激动的地方,随时表明你将如何克服障碍。如果你从未担任过首席执行官,把你的顾问团队以及管理团队中其他强人展示给他们。

    朝目标努力吧!最糟也不过是你不得不另找一份工作。

    黛安•赫森是Communispace的总裁兼首席执行官,这家市场调研和社交媒体公司拥有卡夫食品(Kraft Foods)、百事(PepsiCo)、百思买(Best Buy)、惠普(Hewlett Packard)、联邦快递(Fedex)和嘉信理财(Charles Schwab)等客户。作为创建网络社区以帮助市场推广者洞察消费者需求的先行者,赫森在1999年联合创办了Communispace公司。赫森在30年的职业生涯中一直致力于帮助公司成为更注重顾客的企业——她既担任过公司高管,也是畅销书《赢得顾客心》(Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage)的合著者。

    On Friday in Silicon Valley, I emcee'd the finale of BlogHer BET, a confab about Business, Entrepreneurism and Technology. One of my panelists was Janet Riccio, an EVP at Omnicom Group (OMC), who came on stage with 10 tips for raising start-up money. Riccio had gotten the list of tips from an entrepreneur she knows: Communispace CEO Diane Hessan, who agreed last month to sell her company to Omnicom for more than $100 million.

    Riccio connected me with Hessan -- whom I knew years ago, long before Communispace's business of helping companies on the social media front was anyone's business at all. Hessan shared her 10 tips with me, and I'm sharing with you. -- Patricia Sellers

    1. Venture capitalists are human. They like to invest in people they know…or in people their friends know. Thus, if you have no relationship with them, you are a mere business plan from a stranger. Work your network! You can get an audience with a referral, but it's really a long shot to go in cold.

    2. Expect rejection. Most people I know had to speak with a dozen VCs before they got any traction -- and many had to do more than that. You are not going to fit with everyone. So, if you have a biotech start-up, find out who the people are who like your space.

    3. Net it out. A long, boring Powerpoint presentation doesn't get anyone excited these days. That goes for VCs, too. The best presentations start with a slide that says, "Here are the eight things that I want you to walk away with." Everything else is "appendix."

    4. Ask for candid feedback. When a VC says that they are not interested, they will most likely give you a standard answer like: "This is just not the kind of company that we invest in." Politely push for a reason why. Tell them you aren't trying to change their mind, but that you just want to learn. They might then say, "Well, I just don't see how the business is scalable." Then you can probe and learn more about how to improve your business case.

    5. Don't assume it's a problem that you are a woman. So many women come to me complaining about "discrimination against women." Then I look at their business plan and it's awful! Don't learn the wrong lesson.

    6. Don't be humble. Most VCs want to make at least five times their money in a five- to 10-year span. If you are asking for $5 million and you have a business plan that shows that you canmaybe get to $10 million in revenue over 10 years, guess what? It doesn't matter what you have worn to the meeting. Be brave and bold! Men will say, "I know that this is a competitive space, but we believe that we can own it and do $1 billion in sales by 2014." This is what you are competing with.

    7. Get help. If you're in a major metropolitan area (especially Boston and NYC) there are tons of networks for entrepreneurs where you can get help and mentoring from experienced people -- for free. There are incubators with free office space, competitions (a great one is Mass Challenge) and lots of successful entrepreneurs who are ready to assist.

    8. Think as hard about your business model as your idea. You might have a great idea, but if you can't demonstrate how you will make money, it doesn't matter. Sure, Twitter didn't have that figured out yet, but you are most likely not Twitter.

    9. Distinguish between angel money and venture capital. The former can be an individual or a group of people who like you and your idea and want to help you take it to the next level: to pilot your idea, to test the waters, to build out your software, or the like. Venture investors are more serious and you need to be further along. Most venture funding (otherwise called "institutional funding") want to see proof of concept, customer acceptance and more.

    10. Be confident! Don't apologize for your shortcomings. Emphasize the excitement around your prospective business and be ready to say how you will overcome obstacles. If you haven't been a CEO before, show them your advisory board and the rest of your management team who will complement you.

    Go for it! The worst thing that happens is that you have to find a job.

    Diane Hessan is President and CEO of Communispace, a market research and social media company with clients including Kraft Foods (KFT), PepsiCo (PEP), Best Buy (BBY), Hewlett Packard (HPQ), Fedex (FDX) and Charles Schwab (SCHW). A pioneer in creating online communities to help marketers gain consumer insights, Hessan co-founded Communispace in 1999. Diane has spent her 30-year career helping companies become customer-focused -- as an executive and as co-author of the best-seller Customer-Centered Growth: Five Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage.

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