Why Do People Raise Money?
Oct 27 2008

Raising money is a hard thing to do and often harder when you are raising money for a non-profit.  The payback isn’t measured in dollars, in quantifiable ROI (return on investment), or in perks and huge salaries.  It’s measured in change.  It’s measured in the effect your cause has made on your community…on the world.  I have yet to read such an inspiring article/post on the matter of raising funds in a non-profit as the one written by Sasha Dichter, who works at the Acumen Fund, on Seth Godin’s blog called In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs.  Whether you are in a non-profit or a company trying to be profitable, it is a MUST read!  You can feel his passion in his post.

Here are a few excerpts, but please go read his entire post…it is truly inspiring.

“How good is your idea?  How important is your cause?  Important enough that you’ve given up another life to lead this life.  You’ve given up another job, another steady paycheck, another bigger paycheck to do this all day long, every day, for years if not for decades, to make a change in the world and to right a wrong.”

“Breast cancer has an unbelievable level of awareness in the United States, definitely ahead of all other cancers.  Yet breast cancer is actually the 5th leading cause of cancer death in the United States, behind lung, stomach, liver and colon cancer.(2)  So why does it get the most attention and the most funding?”

“So why are you so scared to ask people for money?  …

How about this instead: “You are incredibly good at making money.  I’m incredibly good at making change.  The change I want to make in the world, unfortunately, does not itself generate much money.  But man oh man does it make change.  It’s a hugely important change.  And what I know about making this change is as good and as important as what you know about making money.  So let’s divide and conquer – you keep on making money, I’ll keep on making change. And if you can lend some of your smarts to the change I’m trying to make, well that’s even better.  But most of the time, we both keep on doing what we’re best at, and if we keep on working together the world will be a better place.”

If only we could all feel as passionate about our lives and ideas with this same level of intensity every day, but most of us can’t (maybe even Sasha doesn’t feel this way every day) so we read posts like these and get inspired by someone else’s passion.  What a true gift of charity when people share their wisdom and passion…expecting nothing in return…except for maybe a little change.

Author: | Filed under: charities, entrepreneurship, fundraising | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Cost of Customer Acquisition – What Is It?
Feb 18 2008

dock.jpgOne of the interesting things about fundraising is the different perspectives you get from potential investors.  If they spend enough time to really understand what you are trying to do, they offer great feedback, suggestions, and advice.  They also sometimes ask a tough question or two.

I officially started the fundraising process a couple of weeks ago and have had a couple of meetings and a few more set up in the coming weeks.  Since many of these angel investors are really busy, getting on their calendar can take weeks!

One question I was asked had to do with the cost of customer acquisition.  It’s so hard to tell what that might be given the uncertainty and newness of many business concepts out there (including mine) today.  I searched and searched and oddly only found very dated ancient info (i.e., 1999 – 2001) figures for sites like Amazon.com.   At a high-level, the cost of customer acquisition is how much it costs to get a customer/visitor to your site.  My guess is for sites with successful viral uptake like facebook the cost is in the cents (i.e. [total marketing and some R&D costs]/number of unique visitors).  On the other hand I’ve heard that customer acquisition costs for companies like Vonage are in the hundreds of dollars.  Anyone who has seen their mailers and expensive TV commercials can see why that number is so high.  Last I heard I think it takes them at least 2 years to break-even on each customer they get.

I even had the MBA student who helped me create the financial model search his resources and no such luck.  I would be happy to get information on even what the amount that a magazine like O Magazine or Pregnancy Magazine spends getting one customer to sign up.  You’d think that as much has been written about facebook, that their cost per visitor would be somewhere on the Internet, but for some strange reason that information is not readily available.  Go figure!

In my quest, I happened upon the following links that might be useful for any other entrepreneurs looking for the same information. 

Calculating Customer Acquisition Costs  (an online calculator)

Customer Retention and Acquisition (definition and 1999 info on Amazon.com)

On Measuring The Cost of Customer Acquisition (a 1999 Entrepreneur.com article)

There may not be a satisfactory answer (or more likely I don’t have access to the money or resources to help me find it) but at least being aware that there could be an answer is probably not a bad thing.  I ended up backing into some numbers using the information in our financial model which to me, the ever optimistic entrepreneur, seemed reasonable enough. :-)

UPDATE: This post was re-published on Found|Read here. Check it out to see additional comments by their readers.

Author: | Filed under: angels, entrepreneurship, fundraising | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My Fundraising Toolkit
Jan 10 2008

sears-toolkit.jpgFollowing on my Other People’s Money – The Hunt Begins post, I thought it might be interesting to share what I will be putting in my Fundraising Toolkit.  Check out The Entrepreneurial 7 Year Itch to get some additional background.

I plan to raise seed financing from angel investors for Babble Soft, and here’s what I will have in my toolkit.

An Executive Summary.  Thankfully people have moved away from the 35 to 40 page business plans that used to be required when I raised money for my first company.  Now it’s easier to get your foot in the door with a 5 to 7 page summary.   If they are interested, they will ask for additional information.  In a typical Executive Summary you will see sections on: 

  • The Company
  • The Problem
  • The Solution (i.e., Your Products)
  • The Market (including Competitors)
  • The People
  • The Numbers (i.e., the Financial Projections).

Financial Projections.  In my opinion, creating Financial Projections for an Internet startup is often an exercise in futility that shows you have an idea of how you will make money.  Most experienced technology investors know that predicting the future is a crazy process at best especially when you are starting from ground zero and success primarily depends on many viral factors.  Financial projections for IBM are much different than financial projections for an Internet start-up.  The assumptions you make are the most important part of the model as they give the investor an idea of the homework you have done on the market. 

Some venture capitalists like high profile Fred Wilson (a.k.a. A VC in NYC) of Union Square Ventures go as far to say that sometimes you can wait to scale before figuring out and executing your business model when describing his stance on Twitter’s lack of a current business model

Since Babble Soft is not Twitter, I’m not already a gazillionaire, and I have a million things to do, I have a sharp MBA student, Anand Balasubramanian, helping me create an Advertising and Subscription based model.  I love energetic, rock star, cheap, student help!  He has done a great job so far building a simple, easy to understand financial model for me.

Visuals.  Since I’ll be raising funds for products that do not exist yet, I have engaged a great local design, user experience, and information architecture firm, Projekt202, to create a few mock-up pages illustrating both the web and mobile components of our new applications.  They seem as excited about the vision as I am and are taking on some of the financial risk with me.  It makes me so happy when I find people who get what I’m trying to do!  I’ll also have a demo account of Baby Insights and Baby Say Cheese ready to log in to demonstrate our existing applications.

An Investor Leads List.  However you choose to keep track of your calls, meetings, and referrals it’s important to do so.  I have met entrepreneurs who want to raise funds who aren’t organized about the process and end up looking a bit flighty.   Unfortunately the investors are allowed to be flighty but they usually don’t tolerate too much flightiness in entrepreneurs.  Remember:  “She who has the gold makes the rules.”  After a while it’s easy to forget what you promised to get to whom and who referred you to whom.  It’s important to remember at what stage of the investing dance you are in with each potential investor.  On this spreadsheet I plan to keep track of:

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Professional Background
  • Who Referred Them to Me
  • Investment History
  • Typical Investment Size
  • What Items They Need From Me, and
  • Personal Assessment on the likelihood they will invest. 

Passion Tempered With Wits.  I think that often the big thing that can swing an investor, especially an angel investor who has been in your shoes before when building his/her company is your passion.   Why are you doing this when there are much easier ways to make a buck?  What will keep you going?  What excites you about the business?  I am passionate about helping new parents and caregivers connect and find answers.  I am passionate about building a business.   I am passionate about finding great people to work with.   If that passion is tempered with some logical thinking, that’s a big huge ‘ole plus!  All of us entrepreneurs are a bit crazy at times so I just hope I don’t lose my wits in the middle of an investor pitch!

Since I am still working on everything above except for my passion which has recently been reignited, I’ve got a lot to do before the meetings I already have set up with potential investors in the next couple of months.  If you have suggestions on other things I should have in my fundraising toolkit, let me know by leaving a comment below.  It’s been a while since I have raised money and I’m always open to learning new things.

Join me for the journey.  Subscribe to the blog and hold on to your stomachs, it’s bound to be a scary roller coaster ride at times!

UPDATE Jan 12, 2007:  Found|Read republished this very post  on their blog and called it My Funding Toolkit.  Check out that post for some great comments!  They have many more readers than my blog currently does so I’m delighted that they chose to share it with their readers!

Author: | Filed under: angels, babble soft, entrepreneurship, fundraising, technology, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Fred Wilson on Venture Capital Fund Performance
Nov 10 2007

For those of you interested in venture capital, you should definitely check out Fred Wilson’s blog called A VC – Musings of a VC in NYC.  He’s been doing a series of articles on Venture Fund performance that is very interesting.  Although I’m not currently looking to raise venture capital, it’s good for entrepreneurs to understand the history of venture financing because these venture funds might be investing in future partners or competitors.

I am currently evaluating the opportunity to raise angel and strategic financing to take Babble Soft to the next level.  I am reaching near the end of my pocket book (or purse strings) and I have so many ideas that I want to implement that will mostly likely require outside capital.  The interesting challenge I have with Babble Soft is that we are not only a Web 2.0 (ACK!$%#) play but also a web portal, thingamajig, mobile application, [invent new word here] play.  Most of these plays are in my mind, scratched out on paper, or mocked up in PowerPoint and the only things lacking are the money and the people to bring them to fruition.

Anyway, check out:

VC Fund Performance – Some History

VC Fund Performance – Selection Bias

The Rise and Fall of the Venture Business

VC Fund Performance – Sample Size

VC Fund Performance – The Ugly Years

A VC – for future posts that I’m sure Fred will be putting up on the subject.

I’m excited about the prospect of raising angel funds because I had a good experience with the two angel rounds I raised for my first tech start-up.  However, having raised funds before I know how long it can take and how many doors will be slammed in my face before getting to the right investment partners and I’m not looking forward to that.  For my first company, we raised money in 1998, 1999, and 2000 (just a few months before the bubble burst) so I know that things went faster than they normally do in ‘fundraising land.’  Isochron survived because it has a solid product/service that companies like Coca-Cola were willing to pay for but let’s just say we as Founders were washed out when it was sold in 2002.

I’m a little bit wiser now on how to play this game, however, now I’m leading a company that has a Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C) business model compared to my last which was purely B2B.  Plus even though the Internet has been around for a while, things are evolving at a lightening pace making last years, last quarters, or last months strategies in some cases no longer repeatable.

Interesting times ahead!  All I know is that of all the deals out there, Babble Soft will one day be in the top 10% of ‘why didn’t I think of that’ ideas!  Ah yes, spoken like a true high-tech entrepreneur who might one day wish she had invented those little, cute Croc shoe accessories called Jibbitz instead of trying to do a high-tech startup!  Yeesh…I don’t even own a pair of Crocs, but I know that mom who invented Jibbitz is sitting back laughing all the way to the bank!

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, new york city, technology | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments »