Fred Wilson on Reserves

Fred Wilson has a spectacular post up on how VC funds should think about reserves. It’s even more valuable to entrepreneurs so they can understand how the best VCs think about reserves, giving the entrepreneurs ammunition to ask their investors how they are thinking about reserves.

I only noticed one thing missing from Fred’s post which is a statement about cashflow which I commented on.

“Fred – phenomenal. The only thing I noticed missing was a comment on fund cash flow. To recycle, you have to have the cash flow. If you don’t have the exits to generate funds to recycle, you can hit a cash flow wall where your reserve model breaks (since you don’t have the cash to fund the reserves.) There are several solutions to this, including recalling capital, having an annex fund, and suspending management fees, but the best is having the cash in the first place …”

In addition to the post being great, the comments have a lot of rich stuff in them as well.

Employee Questions To Ask When Joining A Unicorn

Scott Belsky has a great post up titled Don’t Get Trampled: The Puzzle For “Unicorn” EmployeesIn it, he’s got a bunch of questions, along with detailed discussion, that you should ask your potential employer if you are considering a job at a unicorn (company with > $1b private valuation.) His suggestion is to strongly “audit your comp” in advance.

The questions include:

  • Have you raised capital with liquidation preferences, and what are they?
  • How many months of runway do you have?
  • If you need to raise more money but are unable to do so at standard terms, will you accept less favorable terms or will you raise at a lower valuation?
  • Has the company taken on debt?
  • Does the company aspire to be a public company?
  • If the company’s plan is to stay private for the foreseeable future, have there been secondary sales for employees and/or founders?
  • Have the company’s financials been audited?

I encourage you to read the whole post at Don’t Get Trampled: The Puzzle For “Unicorn” Employees.

Don’t Have A Lazy Relationship With Your VC

Today’s great post is from Bilal Zuberi @ Lux Capital. In it he asserts that Friends Don’t Let Friends Have a Lazy VC/CEO Relationship. I see this play out so many times in so many ways that – while it seems obvious – it’s an important reminder to all entrepreneurs who hear their friends complaining about their relationship with a VC.

Oh – and make sure your VC has a sense of humor. For example:

Hornik: Get an Introduction

I love it when David Hornik – one of the very first (maybe the first) VC bloggers writes a post. Today’s is Want to get funded? Get an introduction! So simple, yet so often overlooked or ignored.

The punch line – it’s the transitive property that we learned about in elementary school math:

So how do you get funded?  Step one — get an introduction.  Find someone you know who can introduce you to the person you want to pitch.  The closer your relationship with the person making the introduction, the better.  And the closer that person’s relationship with the VC the better.  I’ve written about this before and described it as “borrowed credibility.”  If you are being introduced by someone who has credibility with the VC, and you have credibility with the person making the introduction, you will have credibility with the VC.

I learned about this in elementary school math class — it is called the transitive property:

if

A has credibility with B

and

B has credibility with C

then

A has credibility with C

And as a corollary to the traditional transitive property, (1) the stronger the credibility between A and B, and (2) the stronger the credibility between B and C, (3) the stronger the credibility between A and C.

If you don’t follow VentureBlog, you should. It’s the original.

Bootstrapping with Brad Feld

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Tom and Tony of tastytrade talk with Brad about Foundry Group, Techstars and Bootstrapping…

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Reid Hoffman – New VC Blogger (Essayist)

Reid Hoffman, founder / executive chairman of LinkedIn and partner at Greylock has started blogging. Well – he’s started writing long form essays on a blog that my understanding is will come out about once a month.

The first post is If, Why, and How Founders Should Hire a “Professional” CEOIt is outstanding and I expect Reid’s blog should be on your must read list. My only complaint is there are no comments open – I’d encourage Reid to engage with people reading this, rather than just lecture to us!

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What Is The Appropriate Time Horizon Of A Financial Model for VC’s?

Q: When building a financial projection model for a pitch to VC’s, should you include future rounds of funding in the model or simply show what measurable goal you are trying to achieve with the current round you are seeking?

A (Brad): It depends on the stage of the company. But first, it’s important to understand how a VC is going to look at your projections in the first place.

  • Early and pre-revenue: Investors are going to be most interested in your near term burn rate and how long their money is going to last. Focus on putting this information front and center – don’t hide it. Recognize that your revenue is totally speculative so the “base case” is going to be zero revenue.
  • First product in the market, < $100k / month of revenue: Revenue matters here and the projections out into the second and third year will give a good indication of how you are thinking about the ramp of your business. However, if your revenue is modest, a smart investor is going to look at your gross margin also. If you are a recurring revenue business, the month-over-month growth – both of revenue and gross margin, is going to be important.
  • Meaningful revenue, > $1m / quarter: You have entered the zone in which you have a real business and likely can have a credible growth plan out three or more years.

Now, in every case, a VC is going to be interested in how long the current round of financing is going to last. In early cases, they are going to focus on cash / monthly-burn-rate. In later cases, they will factor in some amount of revenue and gross margin projection, but likely discount both, viewing you as being overly optimistic on revenue as well as the gross margin percentage.

Then, building off of this, they will be interested in how much additional money you think you will need to get cash flow positive. They’ll calibrate this against whatever your current plan is. The earlier the life of your company, the more skeptical the VC will be of any projections of revenue, and any time horizon greater than one year.

Update: I just noticed a twitter comment that said “I would suggest that it should take you up to their expected exit as that is most definitely their primary concern.” While some investors may ask for this, it’s the exception as most rational investors will want to understand what it takes to be cash flow positive. It’s impossible to predict the exit as there are too many variables at play, including the notion that you can’t force an exit. However, you can run a business indefinitely without additional financing if you are cash flow positive. So I’d assert that showing the plan getting to cash flow positive is much more important than showing the plan getting to an exit.

What Are Qualified Conditions Of Debt Conversion?

Q: On page 105 of the second edition of Venture Deals under Debt Conversion Mechanics, you state: “Therefore, having outstanding debt (that doesn’t convert) can be a bad thing if an entrepreneur ever gets sideways with one of the debt holders”. I infer this to mean that convertible debt cannot bring about the same bad results. Is that correct? How can the company trip conversion so that debt holders cannot enforce these bad results?

A (Jason):  Convertible debt only automatically converts (normally) under two circumstances:  One, the company completes a financing of X amount or two, the debt holder elects to convert.  We’ve never seen convertible debt where the company can unilaterally convert the debt, thus the caution around getting sideways with a debt holder.