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动荡时期给创业公司的话

Roger Ehrenberg 2011年08月11日

排除干扰,安然度过经济动荡年月的关键是保持镇定思考的能力。

    公开市场一片恐慌。全球各大股市纷纷暴跌,投资者不加区分地大举抛售,高质量证券也未能幸免,跨市场相关性正趋近于1,金价屡创新高,问题显然相当严重。或许更大的问题在于:没有什么方案能轻易解决问题。第三轮量化宽松(QE3)或者其他向市场注入更多流动性的政府政策很可能无法带来多大帮助,因为这次危机并非缺乏流动性所致,与企业或个人资产负债表也没有多大关系。其根源在于:人们对政府制定合理、长期且符合经济需要的改革政策的能力持怀疑态度。至少就近期而言,宏观经济背景充其量只能说是“不景气”。

    尽管经济不确定性很可能会使消费者在支出方面更加谨慎,但美国个人的资产负债情况相当不错,可以说很长时间以来都没这么好过了。虽然就业问题仍然很严重,失业率维持在令人无法接受的高位,但消费市场仍然蕴含着巨大的消费潜力。只要能给消费者带来与众不同的体验,使其生活更加便利并能提供极佳的价值,这样的产品和服务仍然能大获成功。此外,由于2008年金融危机后,企业纷纷执行更加保守的财务政策,大公司手中的现金储备之多也是前所未见。它们当然不会拿着账本四处炫耀,作为精明而富有经验的买家,这些公司现在拥有充裕资金,可用于收购产品、服务或企业。

    对创业早期的公司来说,这意味着融资环境发生了何种变化呢?从原则上来说,不确定性对筹资不利,但这也并不意味着融资窗口已经关闭。【广和投资(Union Square Ventures)合伙人——译注】阿尔伯特•韦格纳上周发表的一篇文章谈及该话题,他指出,有意融资的公司应该尽快达成协议,不要为了估值问题而斤斤计较。要想安然挺过市场动荡,能够拿到手的资金至关重要,这远比在估值上锱铢必较,非要多争取几个美元更重要。选择合适的投资伙伴终究远比估值多少更重要,这一逻辑永远成立。因此,对想要融资的企业来说,我的建议与阿尔伯特所见略同:尽快完成融资,尝试储备18-24个月运营所需的资金。在制定运营计划的时候,还应该确保一些“弹性”,即市场需求、宏观经济环境和融资条件发生变化的时候,应该要有能力增加或削减开支。保持灵活性和敏捷性在任何时候都是值得追求的目标,但在经济形势动荡时尤为重要。

    不过,最重要的是:继续执行公司的计划。要记住,打造一家公司需要三种活动:运营、投资与融资。在创业之初,需要投入于上述公式中的融资环节的时间非常多,这是合情合理的:没有充足的资金,就没有公司可言,正因为此,创业公司的首席执行官(CEO)的头等大事就是确保公司不会耗尽资金。可是,一旦融资问题尽可能好地得到解决,运营和投资决定就成了成功关键。如何缔造企业架构,使其形成规模?侧重于哪些市场和顾客?企业应当扮演何种角色?何时着手?企业的真正价值最终还是建立于这些决定之上,融资只不过是使它们得以实现的前提。

    总而言之:确保拥有充裕的财务资源以实现关键的运营目标,并在计划中留下一些弹性空间,以便应对恶劣的融资环境。做好这些工作后,继续专注于你最擅长的事情:打造自己的公司。能控制的事务就要控制好,但不能过于焦虑,试图面面俱到。避免外界干扰,专注于核心目标。然后就是执行、执行、再执行。因为即使是在动荡年月,业务表现可期的企业仍然能获得丰厚回报。你要做的正是全力以赴,使自己的公司成为其中一员。

    本文作者Roger Ehrenberg是风投公司IA Ventures的创始人,他的博客地址是InformationArbitrage.com。

    译 小宇

    The public markets are in panic. Global exchanges are getting crushed, with high-quality issues getting sold along with weaker securities. Cross-market correlations are trending towards 1. Gold is hitting new highs. This is not a pretty picture. And perhaps even worse, there are no easy solutions. "QE3" or other Government-sponsored measures to flood the market with liquidity are unlikely to provide much help, as this isn't a crisis driven by illiquidity or even corporate or personal balance sheets: It's about a fundamental lack of confidence in governments' ability to enact sensible, long-term, needed reforms. At least in the near term, the macroeconomic backdrop is dismal at best.

    However, while economic uncertainty will likely make consumers more careful with their spending, personal balance sheets are in a better place than they've been in quite some time. And even with unemployment at lousy and unacceptable levels, there is tremendous spending power across the consumer landscape. Products and services that provide consumers with differentiated experiences, make life easier and offer excellent value will still be successful. Further, large corporations are sitting on more cash than ever, having employed more conservative financial policies since the credit scare of 2008. This doesn't mean they're flashing around their checkbooks, but that they are smart and savvy buyers with money to spend on products, services - and companies.

    What does this mean for the early-stage financing environment? Uncertainty as a rule isn't good for raising money, but it doesn't mean the financing window is shut, either. Albert Wegner raised this very issue in a post last week, noting that if a company is in fund-raising mode, it should get its deal done ASAP and not get cute by optimizing for valuation. Available runway is key to weather market uncertainty, and this is far more important than trying to squeeze the last dollar out of valuation. And is always the case, getting the right investment partner is far more important than valuation, anyway. So for those in financing mode, my advice would closely reflect that of Albert: get it done, and try to sock away 18-24 months of runway. Also make sure that you have some "flex" in your projections, with an ability to expand and contract spending based upon market demand, macroeconomic environment and financing conditions. Remaining flexible and nimble should always be the goal but especially in periods of uncertainty.

    But most of all, continue to execute your plan. Remember, there are three activities that make up a business: Operating; Investing; and Financing. In early-stage venture, an inordinate amount of time is spent on the Financing piece of the equation, and for good reason: with inadequate financing there is no company, which is why the start-up CEOs #1 job is not to run out of money. But once this issue is addressed as best it can be, Operating and Investing decisions need to carry the day. How the business is being built to scale. Which markets and customers are being prioritized. Which roles are being filled, and when. These are the decisions that ultimately build real value: the Financing decisions are merely the enabler.

    So let's be clear: Make sure you've got enough financial resources to hit key operational milestones with some flexibility in your plans to deal with lousy financing conditions. But then continue to do what you do best: build your business. Control what you can control but let go of generalized anxiety. Block out the noise. Maintain your laser focus. And execute, execute, execute. Because even in uncertain times those whose business performance demonstrates predictability get handsomely rewarded. Just work to make sure that yours is one of those businesses.

    Roger Ehrenberg is founder of IA Ventures. He blogs at InformationArbitrage.com

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