UK’s MarketFinance secures $383M to fuel its online loans platform for SMBs

Small and medium businesses regularly face cashflow problems. But if that’s an already-inconvenient predicament, it has been exacerbated to the breaking point for too many during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, a UK startup called MarketFinance — which has built a loans platform to help SMBs stay afloat through those leaner times — is announcing a big funding infusion of £280 million ($383 million) as it gears up for a new wave of lending requests.

“It’s a good time to lend, at the start of the economic cycle,” CEO and founder Anil Stocker said in an interview.

The funding is coming mostly in the form of debt — money loaned to MarketFinance to in turn loan out to its customers as an approved partner of the UK government’s Recovery Loan Scheme; and £10 million ($14 million) of it is equity that MarketInvoice will be using to continue enhancing its platform.

Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo S.p.A. and an unnamed “global investment firm” are providing the debt, while the equity portion is being led by Black River Ventures (which has also backed Marqeta, Upgrade, Coursera and Digital Ocean) with participation from existing backer, Barclays Bank PLC. Barclays is a strategic investor: MarketFinance powers the bank’s online SMB loans service. Other investors in the startup include Northzone.

We understand that the company’s valuation is somewhere in the region of under $500 million, but more than $250 million, although officially it is not disclosing any numbers.

Stocker said that MarketFinance has been profitable since 2018, one reason why it’s didn’t give up much equity in this current tranche of funding.

“We are building a sustainable business, and the equity we did raise was to unlock better debt at better prices,” he said. “It can help to post more equity on the balance sheet.” He said the money will be “going into our reserves” and used for new product development, marketing and to continue building out its API connectivity.

That last development is important: it taps into the big wave of “embedded finance” plays we are seeing today, where third parties offer, on their own platforms, loans to customers — with the loan product powered by MarketFinance, similar to what Barclays does currently. The range of companies tapping into this is potentially as vast as the internet itself. The promise of embedded finance is that any online brand that already does business with SMEs could potentially offer those SMEs loans to… do more business together.

MarketFinance began life several years ago as MarketInvoice, with its basic business model focused on providing short-term loans to a given SMB against the value of its unpaid invoices — a practice typically described as invoice finance. The idea at the time was to solve the most immediate cashflow issue faced by SMBs by leveraging the thing (unpaid invoices, which typically would eventually get paid, just not immediately) that caused the cashflow issue in the first place.

A lot of the financing that SMBs get against invoices, though, is mainly in the realm of working capital, helping companies make payroll and pay their own monthly bills. But Stocker said that over time, the startup could see a larger opportunity in providing financing that was of bigger sums and covered more ambitious business expansion goals. That was two years ago, and MarketInvoice rebranded accordingly to MarketFinance. (It still very much offers the invoice-based product.)

The timing turned out to be fortuitous, even if the reason definitely has not been lucky: Covid-19 came along and completely overturned how much of the world works. SMEs have been at the thin edge of that wedge not least because of those cashflow issues and the fact that they simply are less geared to diversification and pivoting due to shifting market forces because of their size.

This presented a big opportunity for MarketInvoice, it turned out.

Stocker said that the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the bulk of loans being taken out to manage business interruptions due to Covid-19. Interruptions could mean business closures, or they could mean simply customers no longer coming as they did before, and so on. “The big theme was frictionless access to funding,” he said, using technology to better and more quickly assess applications digitally with “no meetings with bank managers” and reducing the response time to days from the typical 4-6 weeks that SMBs would have traditionally expected.

If last year was more about “panicking, shoring up or pivoting,” in Stocker’s words, “now what we’re seeing are a bunch of them struggling with supply chain issues, Brexit exacerbations and labor shortages. It’s really hard for them to manage all that.”

He said that the number of loan applications has been through the roof, so no shortage of demand. He estimates that monthly loan requests have been as high as $500 million, a huge sum for one small startup in the UK. It’s selective in what it lends: “We choose to support those we thought will return the money,” he said.

#api, #bank, #barclays, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #coursera, #digital-ocean, #economy, #embedded-finance, #europe, #finance, #funding, #invoice, #loans, #marketfinance, #marketinvoice, #marqeta, #money, #partner, #short-term-loans, #startup-company, #uk-government, #united-kingdom

Index Ventures launches web-app to help founders calculate employee stock options

The ability to offer stock options is utterly essential to startups. They convince talented people to join when the startup is unlikely to be capable of matching the high salaries that larger, established tech firms can offer.

However, it’s a complex business developing a competitive stock option plan. Luckily, London-based VC Index Ventures today launches both a handy web app to calculate all this, plus new research into how startups are compensating their key hires across Europe and the US.

OptionPlan Seed, is a web-app for seed-stage founders designing ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans). 
The web app is based on Index’s analysis of seed-stage option grants, drawing on data from over 1,000 startups.

The web app covers a variety of roles; 6 different levels of allocation benchmarks; calculates potential financial upside for each team member (including tax); and adjusts according to policy frameworks in the US, Canada, Israel, Australia, and 20 European countries.

It also builds on the OptionPlan for Series A companies that Index launched a few years ago.

As part of its research for the new tool, Index said it found that almost all seed-stage employees receive stock options. However, while this reaches 97% of technical hires at seed-stage startups and 80% of junior non-technical hires for startups in the US, in Europe only 75% of technical hires receive options, dropping to 60% for junior non-technical hires.

That said, Index found stock option grant sizes are increasing, particularly among startups “with a lot of technical DNA, and weighted towards the Bay Area”. In less tech-heavy sectors such as e-commerce or content, grant sizes have not shifted much. Meanwhile, grants are still larger overall as seed valuations have grown in the last few years.

Index found the ESOP size is increasing at seed stage, following a faster rate of hiring, and larger grants per employee. Index recommends an ESOP size at seed stage is set at 12.5% or 15%, rather than the more traditional 10% in order to retain and attract staff.

The research also found seed fundraise sizes and valuations have doubled, while valuations have risen by 2.5x, in Europe and the US. 


Additionally, salaries at seed have “risen dramatically” with average salaries rising in excess of 60%. Senior tech roles at seed-stage startups in the US now earn an average $185,000 salary, a 68% increase over 3 years, and can rise to over $220,000. But in Europe, the biggest salary increases have been for junior roles, both technical and non-technical.



That said, Index found that “Europe’s technical talent continues to have a compensation gap” with seed-stage technical employees in Europe still being paid 40-50% less on average than their US counterparts. Indeed, Index found this gap had actually widened since 2018, “despite a narrowing of the gap for non-technical roles”.


Index also found variations in salaries across Europe are “much wider than the US”, reflecting high-cost hubs like London, versus lower-cost cities like Bucharest or Warsaw.

The war for talent is now global, with the compensation gap for technical hires narrowing to 20-25% compared to the US.


Index’s conclusion is that “ambitious seed founders in Europe should raise the bar in terms of who they hire, particularly in technical roles” as well as aiming for more experienced and higher-caliber candidates, larger fundraises to be competitive on salaries.

#australia, #canada, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #investment, #israel, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #stock, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #warsaw, #web-app

As UK Gov reaches out to tech, investors threaten to ‘pull capital’ over M&A regulator over-reach

UK competition regulators are spooking tech investors in the country with an implied threat to clamp down on startup M&A, according to a new survey of the industry.

As the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer engaged with the tech industry at a ‘Chatham House’ style event today, the Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) think-tank released a survey of over 50 key investors which found startup investors are prepared to pull capital over the prospect of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) new Digital Markets Unit (DMU) becoming a “whole-economy regulator by accident”. Investors are concerned after the CMA recommended the DMU be given ‘expanded powers’ regarding its investigations of M&A deals.

Controversy has been stirring up around the DMU, as the prospect of it blocking tech startup acquisitions – especially by US firms, sometimes on the grounds of national security – has gradually risen.

In the Coadec survey, half of investors said they would significantly reduce the amount they invested in UK startups if the ability to exit was restricted, and a further 22.5% said they would stop investing in UK startups completely under a stricter regulatory environment.

Furthermore, 60% of investors surveyed said they felt UK regulators only had a “basic understanding” of the startup market, and 22.2% felt regulators didn’t understand the tech startup market at all.

Coadec said its conservative estimates showed that the UK Government’s DMU proposals could create a £2.2bn drop in venture capital going into the UK, potentially reducing UK economic growth by £770m.

Commenting on the report, Dom Hallas, Executive Director of Coadec, said: “Startups thrive in competitive markets. But nurturing an ecosystem means knowing where to intervene and when not to. The data shows that not only is there a risk that the current proposals could miss some bad behavior in some areas like B2B markets whilst creating unnecessary barriers in others like M&A. Just as crucially, there’s frankly not a lot of faith in the regulators proposing them either.”

The survey results emerged just as Chancellor Rishi Sunak convened the “Treasury Connect” conference in London today which brought together some of the CEOs of the UK’s biggest tech firms and VCs in a ‘listening process’ designed to reach out to the industry.

However, at a press conference after the event, Sunak pushed back on the survey results, citing research by Professor Jason Furman, Chair, of the Digital Competition Expert Panel, which has found that “not a single acquisition” had been blocked by the DMU, and there are “no false positives” in decision making to date. Sunak said the “system looks at this in order to get the balance right.”

In addition, a statement from the Treasury, out today, said more than one-fifth of people in the UK’s biggest cities are now employed in the tech sector, which also saw £11.2 billion invested last year, setting a new investment record, it claimed.

Sunak also said the Future Fund, which backed UK-based tech firms with convertible loans during the pandemic, handed UK taxpayers with stakes in more than 150 high-growth firms.

These include Vaccitech PLC, which co-invented the COVID-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford and is better known as the AstraZeneca vaccine which went to 170 countries worldwide. The Future fund also invested in Century Tech, an EdTEch startup that uses AI to personalize learning for children.

The UK government’s £375 million ‘Future Fund: Breakthrough’ initiative continued from July this year, aiming at high-growth, R&D-intensive companies.

Coadec’s survey also found 70% of investors felt UK regulators “only thought about large incumbent firms” when designing competition rules, rather than startups or future innovation.

However, the survey found London was still rated as highly as California as an attractive destination for startups and investors.

#artificial-intelligence, #astrazeneca, #california, #chair, #coalition-for-a-digital-economy, #competition-and-markets-authority, #corporate-finance, #digital-markets-unit, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #finance, #jason-furman, #london, #money, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #uk-government, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #venture-capital

Better.com acquires UK-based Property Partner ahead of SPAC close

Online mortgage company Better.com has acquired U.K.-based startup Property Partner as it seeks to expand into new markets and offer new product lines. The deal could give Better a way to augment its lending business with the potential to enable fractional ownership of properties in the U.S. and other markets.

Better plans to go public later this year through its planned merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in a deal that values it at $7.7 billion. In the meantime the company has been active in the M&A market, acquiring two U.K.-based companies in the lead up to the deal’s close.

In July, Better announced its acquisition of Trussle, a digital mortgage brokerage in the U.K. that was widely seen as its first step to international expansion. But with the purchase of Property Partner, Better could gain technology capabilities to expand its feature set in the U.S. and other markets.

Launched in 2015, Property Partner enables fractional ownership of “buy to let” properties throughout the country. Through its platform, users could invest in individual properties or in a portfolio of properties and earn a portion of the rental income generated by those assets. It also created a resale market, enabling users to sell off their shares to other users.

The startup claims more than 9,000 investors on its property crowdfunding market and £140 million of assets under management. With the Better acquisition, the company expects to be able to expand both its investor base and properties to invest in.

Property Partner sent a message to users late last week to inform them of upcoming changes as a result of the deal. The startup announced it was temporarily pausing trading on the resale market while promoting some of Better’s plans as a result of the deal.

Under the new ownership, Property Partner said it would be able to reduce fees, grow its investor base, and dramatically expand investment opportunities by adding properties in the U.S. and other international locations to its platform.

For Better, the deal adds a new income stream in the short term while enabling the company to completely reimagine homeownership over a longer time horizon. Over the years Better has sought to augment its core mortgage lending business with additional products and services, including real estate agents, title and homeowners insurance, and the ability to make all-cash offers in certain markets in which it operates.

But in an interview with TechCrunch last month, Better CEO Vishal Garg previewed a vision for how fractional ownership could reduce friction and enable more freedom for the home-owning public:

You have a large population in this country that is composed of retirees and they don’t have a current income, so they cannot actually refinance their mortgage and they’re still paying interest at 6%. They’d like to move to a warmer climate. Well, they can’t, it’s gonna cost them 6% to sell their house, then it’s gonna cost them 6% to buy the other house.

Why can’t they set it up so they sell 1% of their house in Connecticut every year and establish an income stream that qualifies them to go get a cheap mortgage and sell that house in Connecticut over a period of time, to someone who wants to live there and buy a piece of property in Florida.

There are all these frictions and it’s honestly just a simple data-matching problem. There’s no reason you need to own 100% of your home. What if we could give you the ability to sell 10% a year or 3% of your home or 2% of your home to people who want to buy a home in your neighborhood and are not ready yet because they’re renting.

For a more detailed overview of Better’s upcoming SPAC and its product plans once it goes public, check out our feature on ExtraCrunch.

#better-com, #corporate-finance, #finance, #loans, #property-partner, #real-estate, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #vishal-garg

CoachHub raises $80M in Series “B2” round, as coaching goes digital in the pandemic

The world of professional coaching has grown over the years as coaches realised they could easily counsel people remotely and clients realized digital coaching was far more efficient. But, equally, a problem arose in how to sift the wheat from the chaff. At the same time corporates realised that their own staff could benefit – but faced the same sifting problem. In a classic Internet play, CoachHub came along three years ago and applied AI to a marketplace to do the sifting. All well and good, but with training and personal development going almost completely digital due to the pandemic, the market has exploded.

Berlin-based CoachHub has now raised $80m in a Series “B2” funding, increasing its total Series B capital to $110m. Investors Draper Esprit, RTP Global, HV Capital, Signals Venture Capital, Partech, and Speedinvest all participated bringing the total funds raised to $130m, since 2019.

Last year it raised a $30 million Series B round, also led by Draper Esprit, alongside existing investors HV Capital, Partech, Speedinvest, signals Venture Capital, and RTP Global.

The startup competes with other aggregators such as AceUp out of Boston, which has raised $2.3M.
 
The three year old startup says it has tripled its employees, and added new clients including Fujitsu, Electrolux, Babbel, ViacomCBS and KPMG.
 
Co-founder and Chief Sales Director Yannis Niebelschütz said in a statement: “This latest round of funding will allow us to meet the ever-growing demand for digital solutions for training and personal development, which has been triggered by the pandemic.”
 
Christoph Hornung, investment director at Draper Esprit said: “It’s no longer just about the pandemic. What we are increasingly seeing with digital-first, highly enriched platforms such as CoachHub are more dynamic and – crucially – more accessible tools to transform companies through training and education.”
 
CoachHub says it uses AI to match individuals with 2,500 business and well-being coaches in 70 countries across six continents. Coaching sessions are available in 60+ languages.

#corporate-finance, #europe, #finance, #money, #tc

Lessons from COVID: Flexible funding is a must for alternative lenders

Rachael runs a bakery in New York. She set up shop in 2010 with her personal savings and contributions from family and friends, and the business has grown. But Rachael now needs additional financing to open another store. So how does she finance her expansion plans?

Because of stringent requirements, extensive application processes and long turnaround times, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like Rachael’s bakery seldom qualify for traditional bank loans. That’s when alternative lenders — who offer short and easy applications, flexible underwriting and quick turnaround times — come to the rescue.

Alternative lending is any lending that occurs outside of a conventional financial institution. These kinds of lenders offer different types of loans such as lines of credit, microloans and equipment financing, and they use technology to process and underwrite applications quickly. However, given their flexible requirements, they usually charge higher interest rates than traditional lenders.

Securitization is another cost-effective option for raising debt. Lenders can pool the loans they have extended and segregate them into tranches based on credit risk, principal amount and time period.

But how do these lenders raise funds to bridge the financing gap for SMBs?

As with all businesses, these firms have two major sources of capital: equity and debt. Alternative lenders typically raise equity funding from venture capital, private equity firms or IPOs, and their debt capital is typically raised from sources such as traditional asset-based bank lending, corporate debt and securitizations.

According to Naren Nayak, SVP and treasurer of Credibly, equity generally constitutes 5% to 25% of capital for alternative lenders, while debt can be between 75% and 95%. “A third source of capital or funding is also available to alternative lenders — whole loan sales — whereby the loans (or merchant cash advance receivables) are sold to institutions on a forward flow basis. This is a “balance-sheet light” funding solution and an efficient way to transfer credit risk for lenders,” he said.

Let’s take a look at each of these options in detail.

Funding sources for alternative lenders.

Image Credits: FischerJordan

Equity capital

Venture capital or private equity funding is one of the major sources of financing for alternative lenders. The alternative lending industry is said to be a “gold mine” for venture capital investments. While it is difficult for such companies to receive credit from traditional banks because of their stringent requirements in the initial stages, once the founders have shown a commitment by investing their own money, VC and PE firms usually step in.

However, VC and PE firms can be expensive sources of capital — their investment dilutes the ownership and control in the company. Plus, obtaining venture capital is a long, involved and competitive process.

Alternative lenders that have achieved good growth rates and scaled their operations have another option: An IPO lets them quickly raise large amounts of money while providing a lucrative exit for early investors.

#bank, #bluevine, #column, #corporate-finance, #credit, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #finance, #forward, #funding, #kabbage, #lendingclub, #loans, #money, #new-york, #ondeck, #online-lending, #startups, #united-states, #vc, #venture-capital, #venture-capital-investments

It’s time for the VC community to stop overlooking the childcare industry

Square. Uber. Zillow. Airbnb. Besides being some of the biggest technology companies, what else do these titans have in common? They all operate in entrenched, highly fragmented, geographically localized and regulated industries. That means they required a lot of upfront venture capital investment to disrupt their respective markets. And the investment has paid off — these are now some of the most valuable companies in the world.

Venture capital alone hasn’t funded some of the largest companies. One of today’s most successful tech entrepreneurs was funded by massive infusions of investment from the federal government — Elon Musk received $4.9 billion in public subsidies for his companies, including SpaceX and Tesla. Moreover, government investment, via tax credits for electric vehicle purchases, made it more affordable for consumers to buy the green transportation they needed.

But one massive industry has not yet benefited from the large amounts of money that both venture capital and government can provide: Childcare. Families in the United States spend $136 billion on infant and child care every year, and the market is only growing. If you include school-age care and education for all children under 18, that number grows to $212 billion. In investor terms, the TAM (total addressable market) is huge.

To put things in perspective, one new company has raised more funding in 2021 than the entire childcare industry.

So where is the investment? Biden’s current compromise on an infrastructure plan does not include many provisions for childcare. Venture investment in this space is nascent and insufficient. In 2020, only $171 million was invested in care and early childhood education. The funding situation has improved in 2021, with $516 million invested in childcare, but it’s still just a tiny fraction of the $288 billion of venture capital invested so far this year.

To put that in perspective, a single new company has raised more funding in 2021 than the entire childcare industry.

Funding emerging childcare technology may require a lot of upfront capital. For starters, the industry is regulated and safety is and should remain a priority. Caring for and educating young children takes training, skill and love — it cannot be done by a computer.

But there are so many facets of the industry that are ripe for innovation. Parents sometimes take weeks to find a childcare provider that meets their needs. In some markets, there is not nearly enough supply (three children for every licensed slot) to meet the demand. Assessing quality, pricing and availability is challenging, and payments and business operations tools for the nation’s 300,000+ daycares are still often pen, paper and Excel spreadsheet affairs.

This industry just needs patient investors with long-term perspectives.

This is a great time to diversify investment portfolios and support relatively recession-proof companies meaningfully expanding access to childcare. COVID has finally started to bring this largely offline industry online. Parents are now willing to go digital for childcare decisions and providers are adopting new online technologies at a record pace. These tailwinds provide the perfect conditions for startups.

Solving this problem is a huge business opportunity that affects so much else. When the millions of parents with young children can’t find care, they can’t work. We saw this over and over again since the start of the pandemic. The average American family can spend up to 25% of their income on early childhood care, while the average care worker makes approximately $12 an hour.

Unlocking innovation here at scale will require public and private investment. Government shapes and enables markets, from the explosion of technology that followed from Kennedy’s investment in the space race to more recent fundamental investments in wind, solar and electric vehicles. NASA catalyzed dozens of new technologies in the 1960s because it had both a generous budget and the flexibility to work with the best private-sector contractors available to solve specific problems.

The revitalization of the childcare sector would benefit from an ambitious and galvanizing “moonshot” goal, like providing universal, free childcare for all Americans.

By collaborating with flexibility and creativity across the public and private sectors, we can achieve a basic shared goal that other democracies have already fulfilled — the accessible provision of high-quality childcare for all members of society.

#child-care, #column, #corporate-finance, #covid-19, #diversity, #economy, #federal-government, #opinion, #startups, #tc, #tesla, #uber, #venture-capital

A VC shares 5 things no one told you about pitching VCs

The success of a fundraising process is entirely dependent on how well an entrepreneur can manage it. At this stage, it is important for founders to be honest, straightforward and recognize the value meetings with venture capitalists and investors can bring beyond just the monetary aspect.

Here are five pointers that founders should consider while pitching to venture capitalists:

Be honest and accurate

Raising a venture round is, in a way, a sales process, but any claims that could call into question a founder’s trustworthiness can result in a negative outcome rather than an investment.

As VCs, we cannot overemphasize how important it is that founders are transparent and upfront.

Here are a few select cases of such claims:

  • Overstating traction or revenues, which due diligence brought to light.
  • Concealing material attributes of the founding team — such as a co-founder’s commitment to the company, which at best was part time.
  • Speaking of committed investors who were about to wire money to the company, except they were still at the due diligence stage and eventually decided not to invest.

Investing in early-stage companies is often about making bets on people. As VCs, we cannot overemphasize how important it is that founders are transparent and upfront. It is critical to help establish the initial seeds of trust with a capital partner.

Further, most investors understand that things change — if there are any material shifts during the diligence process, communicating them promptly is an additional signal of maturity and uprightness. This will go a long way during the capital raise and beyond.

Know your BATNA

Founders often enter conversations with venture capitalists with a good handle on their product and the business. However, it’s common for entrepreneurs to falter at the negotiation stage, not knowing what their best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) is.

We have witnessed founders who mistake initial interest in the venture market for real commitment, and unreasonably hike their valuation, which results in them losing serious investors. We have also seen founders fail to ascribe the value serious VCs bring to the table and consequently hesitate to discount their valuation, only to later realize that the existing cap table lacks firepower.

The best way for founders to uncover their BATNA is to run an efficient process. This requires:

#column, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneur, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #private-equity, #startups, #venture-capital

Perform a quality of earnings analysis to make the most of M&A

As a startup founder, there will be three scenarios in which you’ll need to understand how to properly do a quality of earnings (QofE) if you want to maximize value.

The first scenario will be when you decide to raise a Series A and subsequent VC rounds, followed by when you do a strategic acquisition, and lastly, when you sell your company.

This post is a framework for how to think and organize your QofE and go through the most common items that you’ll want to keep top of mind for every M&A and private equity transaction you may be part of.

Why perform a QofE?

The goal of a QofE is to adjust the reported EBITDA to calculate a restated EBITDA that best reflects the current state of the company on an ongoing basis. It also presents a historical adjusted EBITDA that is comparable throughout the last two or three years.

QofE can have a significant impact on a company valuation for three main reasons:

  1. The adjusted EBITDA will be used by a buyer/investor as the basis for valuation (for companies valued based on an EBITDA multiple).
  2. The adjusted revenue will be used to recalculate the effective growth rate.
  3. The adjusted revenue and EBITDA will form the basis of forecasts.

With that in mind, every entrepreneur must understand how to properly form a view of what is the proper adjusted EBITDA and adjusted revenue of your company. It is common for founders in an M&A process to be unfamiliar with the notion of QofE and leave value on the table.

When performed by a professional transaction service advisory team, the quality of earnings is a result of a thorough review of all the documents generally available in a data room.

This breakdown aims to ensure that you won’t be that founder and that you’ll be armed to negotiate your company valuation on equal ground with your investors. If you are in the seller’s shoes, you will get the advantage of understanding how an experienced investor or buyer thinks. If you’re in the buyer’s shoes, you’ll benefit from understanding and valuing your acquisitions better.

How is a QofE professionally performed?

When performed by a professional transaction service advisory team, the quality of earnings is a result of a thorough review of all the documents generally available in a data room. These include, but are not limited to: Legal documentation, financial statements (P&L, balance sheet, cash flow), audit reports, management presentation and contracts.

When doing a QofE analysis, it’s key to consistently ask yourself: “Can or should this information translate into an adjustment of revenue or EBITDA, net working capital (NWC) or net debt?”

Why did we include NWC and net debt? That is because they often have an indirect impact on adjusted EBITDA. Think of an adjustment to the historical level of inventory. Less inventory likely means fewer storage costs. So if you adjust historical inventory, you’ll want to also impact your adjusted EBITDA.

On top of reviewing all the aforementioned documents, your QofE analysis will heavily rely on interviewing management. No matter how long you look at the financials, if you can’t have management confirm information or explain trends, you won’t be able to draw proper conclusions and understand the numbers.

Principles for efficiently building your QofE

  1. Automatically link everything you read and hear to potential QofE adjustments. This has to become second nature during the engagement.
  2. Always think about all the ways an event or item that qualifies for an adjustment impacts the financial statements overall. For instance, if the event impacted revenue, did it impact costs in some way as well?
  3. Make sure that the cost you are adjusting was not already offset by another accounting entry (i.e., had no impact on EBITDA).
  4. Make sure that the cost you adjust for was classified above EBITDA in the first place.
  5. Make sure that you can quantify each adjustment in the most objective and rational way. This is sometimes not possible and you may have to come up with a range.

    #accountant, #column, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneur, #finance, #ma, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #private-equity, #pwc, #startups, #united-states, #valuation

Introducing the Open Cap Table Coalition

On Tuesday, the Open Cap Table Coalition announced its launch through an inaugural Medium post. The goal of this project is to standardize startup capitalization table data as well as make it far more accessible, transparent and portable.

For those unfamiliar with a cap table, it’s a list of who owns your company’s securities, which includes your company shares, options and more. A clear and simple cap table should quickly indicate who owns what and how much of it they own. For a variety of reasons (sometimes inexperience or bad advice) too many equity holders often find companies’ capitalization information to be opaque and not easily accessible.

This is particularly important for the small percentage of startups that survive in the long term, as growth makes for far more complicated cap tables.

A critical part of good startup hygiene is to always have a clean and updated cap table. Since there is no set format and cap tables are generally not out in the open, they are often siloed rather than collaborative.

Cap tables are near and dear to me as someone who has advised hundreds of startups over the past two decades as the founder of an accelerator, a venture partner and a senior adviser at a government-funded startup launchpad. I have been on the shareholder side of the equation as well and can assure you that pretty much nothing destroys trust between shareholders and startups quicker than poor communication, especially around issues such as the current status of the cap table.

A critical part of good startup hygiene is to always have a clean and updated cap table.

I really like the idea of a cap table being an open corporate record, because the value proposition to the companies is clear. From the time a startup creates a cap table, it’s prone to inaccuracy, friction and mistakes. What this means in practice is that startups may spend money on cap-table-related issues that they should be spending on other things. From a legal process perspective, the law firm that is brought in to help with these issues has to deal with tedious back-end work, so the legal time isn’t high value for either the startup or the law firm.

The value proposition for equity holders is equally clear. All equity holders have a general and legal interest in a company’s capitalization information. They have the right to this information, which they may need for a variety of reasons (including, if things ever get really bad, an aggrieved shareholder action). So making this information clear and easily accessible is a service to equity holders and can also encourage more investment, especially from less experienced investors.

When I imagine what this project could become in the next couple of years, I think back to late 2013, when Y Combinator announced the SAFE (simple agreement for future equity). I think the SAFE is a good analogy here, as no one knew what it was and people wondered if this was a nice-to-have rather than a must-have for startups. But the end result was a dramatic improvement in the early-stage capital-raising process.

While the coalition’s founders include Morgan Stanley’s Shareworks, LTSE Software and Carta, it’s also heavy on Big Law, with Cooley, Goodwin Procter, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Orrick, Gunderson Dettmer, Latham & Watkins, and Fenwick & West rounding out the group of 10 founding members.

So what’s the real motivation of seven law firms, which together saw revenue of over $10 billion in 2020 to collaborate on an open cap table product for startups? Deal flow.

Big Law has been trying for a couple of decades to build relationships with startups at the stage where it makes no sense for a startup to be dealing with a massive and expensive law firm. Their efforts to build startup programs have often fallen short and received mixed reviews. They have also been far too heavy on the self-serve and too light on the “we’re going to give you our regular Big Law level of services at a small fraction of the costs just in case you make it big and can one day pay our regular fees.” So these firms are trying to separate themselves from the rest of the Big Law pack by building this entrepreneur-friendly tech.

The coalition has already produced its initial version of the open cap table. The real question is whether this is going to be a big deal, as the SAFE was, or whether it’s going to be a vanity solution in search of a real problem. My best guess is that if this coalition gets all the relationships right, doesn’t get greedy and understands that there is a social good component at play here, this could be, reasonably quickly, as impactful as the SAFE was.

#capitalization-table, #column, #cooley, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #fenwick-west, #gunderson-dettmer, #law, #opinion, #orrick, #private-equity, #startups, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

What I’ve learned after 5 years of buying common stock in startups

From day one, Pillar VC has offered to buy common stock in startups.

Instead of the standard 10-page venture capital term sheet riddled with terms and conditions, our team believed that a far simpler structure where we owned the same security as the founders would align interests, increase trust, and hopefully, enhance the performance of our investments.

There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders

Five years since launching Pillar, as we finish investing our second fund and begin deploying our third, we thought it was a good time to reflect on whether buying common stock instead of preferred stock has offered the benefits that we had hoped for.

Preferred stock can misalign incentives between parties

There are many terms and conditions in a preferred term sheet that can misalign investors and founders — for brevity, I’ll highlight just two below. (For more, see the term-sheet grader).

Preference: Preferred stock has a “preference” that gives the investor the right to choose whether they want to get their money back or take their percentage of the total proceeds. In downside scenarios, having an investor take their money back may mean that they are taking a far higher percentage of the proceeds than the founders “thought” they sold.

For example, if an investor buys 25% of a company for $2 million in preferred stock, their break point on this decision will be $8 million, which happens to be the post-money valuation of the round. If the company is sold for less than $8 million, the investor would rather take their $2 million back. If the company is sold for more than that, the investor would choose to take 25% of the total.

The founder thinks that they sold 25% of their company, but that percentage is actually determined by what the company is sold for. Yes, if the company is sold for $8 million or more, they sold 25%, but if the company is sold for, say $4 million, the investors will choose to take their $2 million back, which is 50% of the proceeds. Worse still, if the company is sold for just $2 million, investors will take all of it.

Anti-dilution: This clause means that if an investor buys shares for $10 and the startup raises money in the future at a price point that is lower than $10, the investor’s share price will be recalculated retroactively to a lower price. How is this done? By issuing the investors more shares, which dilutes the rest of the ownership pie, especially the founders and employees. The company is not performing well and the investors are made whole at the expense of the founders. Aligned? Hardly.

#column, #common-stock, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #funding, #investment, #private-equity, #startups, #venture-capital

Untitled Ventures joins the scramble for Russian & Eastern European startups with a $118M warchest

Sorry Mr. Putin, but there’s a race on for Russian and Eastern European founders. And right now, those awful capitalists in the corrupt West are starting to out-gun the opposition! But seriously… only the other day a $100 million fund aimed at Russian speaking entrepreneurs appeared, and others are proliferating.

Now, London-based Untitled Ventures plans to join their fray with a €100 million / $118M for its second fund to invest in “ambitious deep tech startups with eastern European founders.”

Untitled says it is aiming at entrepreneurs who are looking to relocate their business or have already HQ’ed in Western Europe and the USA. That’s alongside all the other existing Western VCs who are – in my experience – always ready and willing to listen to Russian and Eastern European founders, who are often known for their technical prowess.

Untitled is going to be aiming at B2B, AI, agritech, medtech, robotics, and data management startups with proven traction emerging from the Baltics, CEE, and CIS, or those already established in Western Europe

LPs in the fund include Vladimir Vedeenev, a founder of Global Network Management>. Untitled also claims to have Google, Telegram Messenger, Facebook, Twitch, DigitalOcean, IP-Only, CenturyLinks, Vodafone and TelecomItaly as partners.

Oskar Stachowiak, Untitled Ventures Managing Partner, said: “With over 10 unicorns, €1Bn venture funding in 2020 alone, and success stories like Veeam, Semrush, and Wrike, startups emerging from the fast-growing regions are the best choice to focus on early-stage investment for us. Thanks to the strong STEM focus in the education system and about one million high-skilled developers, we have an ample opportunity to find and support the rising stars in the region.”

Konstantin Siniushin, the Untitled Ventures MP said: “We believe in economic efficiency and at the same time we fulfill a social mission of bringing technological projects with a large scientific component from the economically unstable countries of the former USSR, such as, first of all, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, but not only in terms of bringing sales to the world market and not only helping them to HQ in Europe so they can get next rounds of investments.”

He added: “We have a great experience accumulated earlier in the first portfolio of the first fund, not just structuring business in such European countries as, for example, Luxembourg, Germany, Great Britain, Portugal, Cyprus and Latvia, but also physically relocating startup teams so that they are perceived already as fully resident in Europe and globally.”

To be fair, it is still harder than it needs to be to create large startups from Eastern Europe, mainly because there is often very little local capital. However, that is changing, with the launch recently of CEE funds such as Vitosha Venture Partners and Launchub Ventures, and the breakout hit from Romania that was UIPath.

The Untitled Ventures team:
• Konstantin Siniushin, a serial tech entrepreneur
• Oskar Stachowiak, experienced fund manager
• Mary Glazkova, PR & Comms veteran
• Anton Antich, early stage investor and an ex VP of Veeam, a Swiss cloud data management company
acquired by Insight Venture Partners for $5bln
• Yulia Druzhnikova, experienced in taking tech companies international
• Mark Cowley, who has worked on private and listed investments within CEE/Russia for over 20 years

Untitled Ventures portfolio highlights – Fund I
Sizolution: AI-driven size prediction engine, based in Germany
Pure app – spontaneous and impersonal dating app, based in Portugal
Fixar Global –  efficient drones for commercial use-cases, based in Latvia,
E-contenta – based in Poland
SuitApp – AI based mix-and-match suggestions for fashion retail, based in Singapore
• Sarafan.tech, AI-driven recognition, based in the USA
Hello, baby – parental assistant, based in the USA
Voximplant – voice, video and messaging cloud communication platform, based in the USA (exited)

#artificial-intelligence, #baltics, #belarus, #corporate-finance, #cyprus, #eastern-europe, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #europe, #facebook, #finance, #founder, #germany, #google, #insight-venture-partners, #latvia, #launchub-ventures, #london, #luxembourg, #managing-partner, #money, #poland, #portugal, #private-equity, #putin, #republicans, #russia, #singapore, #startup-company, #tc, #ukraine, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #veeam, #venture-capital, #vitosha-venture-partners, #vodafone, #vp, #wrike

Capchase raises $280M to scale its financing platform for subscription businesses

Almost overnight, platforms that offer non-dilutive capital for recurring revenue businesses have become white-hot. It was only in March that Pipe — which aims to be the “Nasdaq for revenue” — raised $150 million, but two months later had raised $250 million at a $2 billion valuation.

This fever is now reaching Europe, where today Capchase raises an additional $280 million in new debt and equity funding, led by i80 Group, following a $125 million round in June. But unlike Pipe, Capchase is playing both in the US and in Europe, where it has made €100m available to more than 50 companies in its first month of operation on the continent.

Right now it’s live in the UK and Spain but expects to expand across Europe this year.

The Spanish-American company is also now launching ‘Capchase Expense Financing’ to enable companies to manage their largest expenses – such as legal bills, cloud hosting services, payroll and bonus payments, and recruitment fees –  without depleting their cash reserves, in either 3, 6, 9, or 12-month increments.

Miguel Fernandez, co-founder, and CEO of Capchase said: “Our new expense financing solution is a first in the industry, and we believe it will be a game-changer. Since we launched just over a year ago, we’ve seen first-hand the challenges that companies face when securing the financing they need to grow their business. Managing large expenses and having to make difficult decisions over how they spend their cash is one of the most consistent and trying issues that our clients face. There’s also a great opportunity to reduce costs by making use of the upfront discounts that vendors provide. Now Capchase users can pay upfront with Capchase, get a discount, and pay Capchase monthly over the following months.”

At interview Fernandez told me their main competitor is venture debt: “That is the one that we constantly keep winning against.”

He said: “We’re not limited to just monthly or quarterly subscriptions, we can work with any revenue. We apply intelligence to it and work with customers. It’s not just the ability to pull forward revenues to find the growth, but also what is the implied schedule in order to achieve a business goal.”

#corporate-finance, #economy, #europe, #finance, #money, #spain, #tc, #united-kingdom, #venture-capital

Hyper is a new fund that offers $300k checks and promise of a media slingshot for founders 

Hyper is a $60M early-stage fund co-founded by Josh Buckley, Product Hunt’s CEO along with writer, founder and designer Dustin Curtis. Two ex-Sequoia operators are part of the team at launch as well. Malika Cantor as Partner and GM and Ashton Brown as Head of Program. The fund launches today and is self-described as ‘inspired by the Product Hunt community’. 

The team will be writing $300k checks for 5% of very early companies in any arena that seems promising to the partnership in a fixed deal structure that mirrors Y-Combinator. 

The fund will exist as a ‘sister company’ to Product Hunt (though it’s going to technically own it). Product Hunt, however, is the first of what the team says will be many companies it will own, create and operate in order to provide ‘direct value’ to its portfolio companies. 

I had a chat with Buckley, Curtis and Cantor about the new fund and company and the way that they hoped to differentiate Hyper in a world of aggressively service-oriented venture firms. 

The short version is: distribution. It’s hard to argue with the overall assumption that the Hyper team is working under — capital is majorly commoditized. Frankly, sometimes that’s all you want from an investor whose value add is more of a thorn in your side than anything. But, especially at the early stage there are a few funds and firms that offer a strong value outside of writing checks in the form of, say, hiring, sales introductions or board members that have relevant operational experience. 

Where Hyper differs, says Buckley, is that they see distribution as the biggest value add for a nascent startup at the stages where the firm hopes to invest. Product Hunt is one opportunity that he points to as an example. It’s an established launch pad to an audience of extreme early adopters that can provide a seed of a real user base — Hyper itself is launching via a post on the platform. 

I’ll let the Hyper team’s words spell out what they say is its thesis:

Hyper believes that every company (B2B or B2C) needs access to distribution channels to find customers, users, and talented employees to join their teams. Hyper works with early-stage companies at three key junctures in a startup’s journey:

  • Initial customer acquisition and validation (often at the pre-Seed stage)
  • First product/company launch and hiring (often at the Seed stage)
  • Scaling customer acquisition and fundraising (before the Series A)

Founders who go through the program will remain a part of the tight-knit Hyper founder community long past their Series A.

Over the past few months, Buckley says that Product Hunt has grown headcount by around 50% in part to boost its ability to act as an enhanced distribution channel. 

A short list of some of the people involved as advisors, mentors or investors themselves includes Alexis & Serena Williams, Alfred Lin of Sequoia, Garry Tan of Initialized, Harry Stebbings, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Naval Ravikant, Owen van Natta, Ryan Hoover, Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic and Sriram Krishnan of a16z. 

It’s a pretty eclectic group, but if you squint you can see the shape of the ambitions that Hyper has reflected in the parties involved. A mix of media, venture and product figures is probably the right way to go if you want to back yourself into a media empire funded by venture capital returns. 

They’ll be building additional media products as well, especially ones that focus on areas of hyper growth and high interest in order to both generate deal flow and to feature companies in the portfolio. Interestingly, unlike many marketing-operations-disguised-as-journalistic-enterprises, Curtis says that they want these to be real, functioning media companies and that startups funded by Hyper will be presented on those sites and platforms in clearly defined sections that make it clear that they are part of the program. 

As an example, the team is careful to state that Product Hunt will remain a ‘neutral platform’ for launching products and that Hyper companies will get clearly marked slots on the site. 

Surrounding those placements will be content that is produced by editorial media arms independent of the fund (though, in the end, funded by the profits of the fund). They’re not quite up to giving specifics about how they’re going to power these media properties initially but the funds management fees as well as most of its profits from carry will go towards cultivating the distro side. The other part of the ‘most’ will, one assumes, go to the individual investors. Curtis says that there could be other ways to obtain capital to speed up this process that is allowed by the unique structure of Hyper like debt or equity financing. 

Hyper itself is trying to establish two lines of business. A portfolio of wholly owned companies like Product Hunt (which still counts AngelList as a majority investor and Ravikant on its board) and other new media brands. And the other component which includes the portfolio of Hyper funds (plural theirs) and a founder program that includes mentorship, twice-a-year-events, and other future efforts — eventually. 

The mentorship component that Hyper hopes to add for founders in the fund is an 8-week founder program that includes individuals from “partners” like Andreeessen Horowitz, AngelList, Sequoia Capital, the Twenty Minute VC Podcast and Product Hunt helping founders to solve ‘key challenges’. Some of the participants are investors in Hyper, though none of the funds participated themselves The group includes some close to home figures as well, in Product Hunt GM Ashley Higgins and founder Ryan Hoover.

The program will also offer office hours with experts, an exclusive Product Hunt launch event and a Public Hyper Demo Day and Investor Demo Day to participate in within a year of being in the program.

The Hyper concept sounds fresh in combination, if not in components. An enormous amount of ink has been spilled, for instance, on the spinning up of the VC media apparatus as a bullhorn for a tech-optimism POV. But most of that content is understood to be talking the firm’s book and not intended to be seen as journalism. Though the media publications that Hyper is planning on forming have yet to be realized, there is enough of a differentiating spark here that could make it a unique play that attempts to straddle the worlds of editorial and venture. 

I have thoughts about the way that venture and media interact, as you might imagine given what I do and waves hands at the masthead where we are having this little chat. Combining a media and investing apparatus is not a new concept — as TechCrunch readers will know. But it’s not without its complexities. Enthusiast media that works does so for a couple of major reasons, in my opinion:

  • Genuine obsession with the subject matter. The writers, editors and even business people involved must have a crazy thirst to understand and contextualize the subjects that they write about. There can be no in-between here, as they are speaking every day to an audience that is just as obsessed with it as they are and can detect any level of commitment to it that is less than 100%. 
  • A patina of either trust or candor built over time. You can go into it with some bona-fides that you buy with a big name hire or series of them, and the reputations that they’ve built elsewhere. But if you’re full of shit, you’re going to lose — no matter how well positioned and funded you are. You may ‘win’ long term by turning what you’re doing into something else, a broad interest publication in niche clothing, for instance. But you won’t win at the enthusiast level.
  • An intense, punishing commitment to momentum. The further you delve into any niche, the more knowledgeable your audience will be. This means that you must produce uniquely insightful, crisp, well-researched content every day and you must do it with a level of granularity that surpasses anyone else in your niche. Your audience lives and breathes this stuff so if you’re telling them things they’ve already read on 3 message boards, in private texts or in their work slack then you’ve lost. You’ve got to get subcutaneous and not just superficially so. 

And when you add in a layer of complexity that is proudly announcing your vested interests in the success of particular companies, it just ups the level of difficulty massively. I don’t think that it’s at all impossible to run a fund that feeds a media arm, but it’s definitely a ‘doing a really hard thing while also on fire’ kind of operation.

Which doesn’t mean that Hyper can’t pull it off. Product Hunt is the model for what they’re trying to do, creating close-to-the-ground media that attracts as many operators and investors as it does early adopters. Duplicating that in a variety of publications and events, however, is not easy at all. 

I will say that a bet on distribution as value add is still one of the better stabs that I’ve seen lately. The capital is, as Buckley told me, readily and generically available. And having your calling card be “we can help the first 10, 20 or 30 thousand people know that you even exist” isn’t a bad situation at all. It works.

This is, after all, what we do at TechCrunch, we just don’t take a cut. 

The announcement today is the Hyper the fund, and the fact that they’re opening applications to a small cohort of 25 companies. The applications are planned to open for roughly 4 weeks every quarter and the deadline for this tranche is August 10th, 2021 at midnight PT. The second cohort will open in November 2021. 

The fund is taking applicants worldwide though notes that some countries present legal complexities for investment. 

#advisors, #alfred-lin, #angellist, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #dustin-curtis, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #garry-tan, #harry-stebbings, #head, #horowitz, #hyper, #jeffrey-katzenberg, #josh-buckley, #media, #money, #naval-ravikant, #owen-van-natta, #product-hunt, #ryan-hoover, #sequoia-capital, #sriram-krishnan, #tc, #venture-capital

Firat Ileri becomes Hummingbird VC’s new Managing Partner, as the firm looks to expand

Seed investment firm Hummingbird VC, which previously invested in Deliveroo, Peak Games, MarkaVIP, and Kraken has a new Managing Partner. Firat Ileri, previously a Partner – who at 28 became one of Europe’s youngest VCs when he joined in 2012 – takes over from Founding Partner Barend Van den Brande, who will now take on a more strategic role at the firm.

Ileri grew up in Cyprus and went on to study electrical engineering, computer science, and operations research at MIT. At Hummingbird he has lead the firm’s first investments in Latin America and in South East Asia.

Ileri initially introduced the cofounders of Gram Games, led their first investment, and helped exit the company to Zynga for half a billion. He also led the sale process of Peak Games in 2020, which exited at $1.8Bn, making history as Turkey’s largest tech exit to date.

Founded in 2010, Hummingbird is currently on its fourth fund of $200M, raised in Q4 2020, and says it invests from Europe to India, SEA, LATAM, Turkey and more recently in the US.
 
Firat most recently led Hummingbird’s first investments in engineering biology, investing in Billiontoone, the SF-based precision diagnostics company in the prenatal and liquid biopsy space, which has raised a $55M Series B round. It’s also invested in Kernal Biologics, an mRNA 2.0 therapeutics company focused on oncology.

Van den Brande said: “From the moment Firat joined us in the very early days of Hummingbird, he hit the ground running. His eye for unique and ambitious founding teams, and unparalleled expertise in Seed investing, persistence and really understanding what Early Stage companies need has made him an invaluable asset to Hummingbird and all of the founders we work with. I’m only pleased to have Firat take on the role and lead the Hummingbird family and portfolio for years to come.”

Ileri said the firm’s thesis was to invest in stand-out founders: “We’re spending much more time trying to understand who these people are and what makes them special. In a way, we’re looking for anomalies in people, and we believe that the best companies are created with nonlinear backgrounds. So, this is the thesis.”

He said the team has expanded to drive this vision: “We used to be a boutique fund, but we have the ambition to be more and especially to look for founders who have an independent mind and huge ambitions. To be able to find more companies we’ve gone more global, in order to have a better chance of finding these special stories.”

#corporate-finance, #cyprus, #deliveroo, #europe, #finance, #hummingbird, #india, #investment, #latin-america, #managing-partner, #mit, #money, #online-food-ordering, #seed-money, #south-east-asia, #tc, #turkey, #united-states, #van, #venture-capital, #zynga

Satellite operator Planet to go public in $2.8B SPAC merger

Planet, which operates a network of around 200 satellites that provides Earth imaging, as well as analytics of the data derived from that observation, is going public in a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) dMY Technology Group IV. The deal has a post-transaction equity value of $2.8 billion, and will provide Planet with $545 million in cash balance at close, including $345 million from dMY IV’s contribution, and a $200 million PIPE provided by BlackRock-managed funds, Koch Strategic Platforms, Marc Benioff’s TIME Ventures and Google.

After a bit of a lull, Planet is now the second significant private space company this week to take the SPAC route to public markets. Both are in the business of Earth observation, though Satellogic, which announced its own SPAC merger on Tuesday, operates on a much smaller scale at the moment. Planet, founded in 2010, has raised around $374 million to date, and operates the largest Earth imaging satellite constellation in operation.

The company’s mission has been to transform the way Earth imaging data is collected and provided to commercial interests here on Earth. Planet’s network can provide a complete scan of all of the Earth’s landmass on a daily basis, and it offers that to customers “via a Bloomer-like terminal for Earth data,” as Planet founder and CEO Wiill Marshall puts it. Access is provided on a subscription basis, and Planet says it generated over $100 million in revenue during its most recent fiscal year, which ended in January.

Planet intends to use the funds resulting from the merger in part to pay down its existing debt, and also to fund its existing operations and “support new and existing growth initiatives.” The aim to to complete the merger sometime later this year, at which point the combined entity will trade under the ticker “PL” on the NYSE.

#blackrock, #corporate-finance, #google, #marc-benioff, #private-equity, #satellite-constellation, #satellite-imagery, #satellogic, #spac, #space, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #tc, #time-ventures

How VCs can get the most out of co-investing alongside LPs

It has rarely been easier for people looking to invest. Nontraditional investors, which include anyone outside of traditional VC firms investing in venture capital deals, are increasingly making their presence felt in the investing community.

McKinsey found that the value of co-investment deals has more than doubled to $104 billion from 2012 to 2018. And by some counts, there are as many as 1,600 “nontraditional” investors helping to fund venture capital deals in 2021.

The primary motivator for nontraditional investors is seeking better returns, and investing alongside VC funds is a great way to achieve that. A recent Preqin study shows co-investing funds significantly outperform traditional funds.

Research shows that 80% of investors found their co-investments outperforming private equity fund investments, with 46% outperforming by a margin of more than 5%. Investors also benefit from a generally less expensive fee structure compared to traditional private equity or VC funds.

When evaluating deals, keep in mind that most companies are not going to be the next tech unicorn, so set realistic views on exits.

Co-investors can also profit by sharing the investment risk, which benefits all investors and builds loyalty and trust. And because this kind of investing requires a hands-on approach, investors get the chance to work closely with top sponsors — the general partners (GPs) — to foster deeper relationships and gain a better understanding of the GPs’ investment strategies and deal review processes. For new investors, building these relationships is essential for strengthening their own investment skills in the long run.

Why VCs love alternative investors

Alternative investors aren’t the only ones who benefit from co-investing, it’s also a boon for GPs. They gain a broader array of funding options by partnering with alternative investors, and they can leverage their own capital more effectively with prospective investments.

VCs have other benefits too: While co-investing LPs remain passive in the business, the VC can use that voting power to preserve investor rights and consolidate decision-making. It also allows them to put more money to work in any company while staying within diversification limits.

#c5-capital, #co-investing, #co-investment, #column, #corporate-finance, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #general-partner, #investment, #limited-partners, #private-equity, #uber, #venture-capital

Extra Crunch roundup: Unpacking BuzzFeed’s SPAC, curb your meeting enthusiasm, more

Meetings should have a clear purpose, but instead, they’ve become a way to measure status and reinforce what is colloquially referred to as CYA culture.

There’s a kernel of truth in every joke, so whenever someone quips, “This meeting could have been an email!” you can bet that some small part of them meant it sincerely.

Few people know how to run meetings effectively and keep conversations on track. Making matters worse, attendees often don’t bother to prepare, which makes a boring session even less productive.

And then there’s the complication of workplace politics: How secure do you feel declining an invitation from a co-worker — or a manager?

“Every time a recurring meeting is added to a calendar, a kitten dies,” says Chuck Phillips, co-founder of MeetWell. “Very few employees decline meetings, even when it’s obvious that the meeting is going to be a doozy.”


Full Extra Crunch articles are only available to members.
Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription.


Changing your meeting culture is difficult, but given that 26% of workers plan to look for a new job when the pandemic ends, startups need to do all they can to retain talent.

Aimed at managers, this post offers several testable strategies that will help you boost productivity and say goodbye to poorly run, lazily planned meetings.

“Declining a bad meeting should never be taboo, and you should reiterate your trust in the team and challenge them to spend their and others’ time with more intention,” Phillips says. “Help them feel empowered to decline a bad meeting.”

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch, and have a great weekend.

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

Why Amazon should pay attention to Shein

Image Credits: Shein

In the last year, online apparel shopping app Shein grew active daily users by 130%, reports Apptopia.

Each day, thousands of new products arrive on the app’s virtual shelves. Items are rapidly designed and prototyped before Shein’s contractors put them into production in Guangzhou factories — two weeks later, those SKUs arrive in fulfillment centers around the globe.

TechCrunch reporter Rita Liao examined how the company’s agile supply chain has become hot talk among e-commerce experts, but beyond a strong logistics game and data-driven product development, Shein’s close relationships with suppliers are integral to its success.

She also tried to answer a question many are asking: Is Shein a Chinese company?

“It’s hard to pin down where Shein is from,” answered Richard Xu from Grand View Capital, a Chinese venture capital firm.

“It’s a company with operations and supply chains in China targeting the global market, with nearly no business in China.”

Inside GM’s startup incubator strategy

General Motors Chief Engineer Hybrid and Electric Powertrain Engineering Pam Fletcher with the 2014 Spark EV Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at a Chevrolet event on the eve of the Los Angeles International Auto Show in Los Angeles, California. When it goes on sale next summer, the Spark EV is expected to have among the best EV battery range in its segment and will be priced under $25,000 with tax incentives. (Chevrolet News Photo)

Image Credits: Chevrolet

GM Vice President of Innovation Pam Fletcher is in charge of the company’s startups that tackle “electrification, connectivity and even insurance — all part of the automaker’s aim to find value (and profits) beyond its traditional business of making, selling and financing vehicles,” Kirsten Korosec writes.

Fletcher joined TechCrunch at a virtual TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 event to discuss what it’s like to launch a slew of startups under the umbrella of a 113-year-old automaker.

Investor Marlon Nichols and Wonderschool’s Chris Bennett on getting to the point with a pitch deck

Image Credits: MaC Venture Capital / Wonderschool

MaC Venture Capital founding managing partner Marlon Nichols and Wonderschool CEO Chris Bennett joined Extra Crunch Live to tear down the company’s early deck.

“The first thing that jumped out at all of us was just how bare-bones the presentation is: white text on a blue background, largely made up of bullet points,” Brian Heater writes before noting the CEO admitted that “not much changed aesthetically between that first pitch and the Series A deck.”

“It aligned with what we were valuing at the time,” Bennett says. “We were really focused on getting the product-market fit and really trying to understand what our customers needed. And we’re really focused on building the team.”

Dear Sophie: What options would allow me to start something on my own?

lone figure at entrance to maze hedge that has an American flag at the center

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Dear Sophie,

I’ve been working on an H-1B in the U.S. for nearly two years.

While I’m grateful to have made it through the H-1B lottery and to be working, I’m feeling unhappy and frustrated with my job.

I really want to start something of my own and work on my own terms in the United States. Are there any immigration options that would allow me to do that?

— Seeking Satisfaction

Investors’ thirst for growth could bode well for SentinelOne’s IPO

Alex Wilhelm calls SentinelOne’s looming debut “fascinating.”

“Why? Because the company sports a combination of rapid growth and expanding losses that make it a good heat check for the IPO market,” he writes. “Its debut will allow us to answer whether public investors still value growth above all else.”

Alex delves into an early dataset from SentinelOne and why public market investors still appear to value growth above anything else.

Before an exit, founders must get their employment law ducks in a row

Rubber ducks in a line

Image Credits: Jenny Dettrick (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Guest columnist Rob Hudock, a litigator who focuses on helping companies recruit the best talent available while avoiding distracting workplace issues or lawsuits, lays out the importance of putting out any employment-related fires before an exit.

“Inattention to employment issues can have a significant impact on deals — from preventing closings and reducing the deal value to altering the deal terms or significantly limiting the pool of potential buyers,” he writes.

“Fortunately, such issues typically can be resolved well in advance with a little forethought and legal guidance.”

Practice agile, iterative change to refine products and build company culture

Building an excellent product and a standout company culture require the same process, Heap CEO Ken Fine writes in a guest column.

“At Heap, the analytics solution provider I lead, a defining principle is that good ideas should not be lost to top-down dictates and overrigid hierarchies,” he writes. “The best results come when you approach leadership like you would create a great product — you hypothesize, you test and iterate, and once you get it right, you grow it.”

Here, he lays out his method that argues in favor of iterative change, not “one-and-done decrees.”

a16z’s new $2.2B fund won’t just bet on the crypto future, it will defend it

The big news on Thursday was the announcement of Andreessen Horowitz’s new cryptocurrency-focused fund. Most focused on the eye-popping $2.2 billion figure, but Alex Wilhelm dug a bit deeper into the announcement to note that a16z isn’t just pumping a ton of money into the crypto space, it’s putting on gloves to fight for it.

Alex writes that “a16z intends to run defense for crypto in the American, and perhaps global, market. Crypto-focused startups are likely unable to tackle the regulation of their market on their own because they’re more focused on product work in a particular region of the larger crypto economy. The wealthy and connected investment firm that backs them will take on the task for its chosen champions.”

5 takeaways from BuzzFeed’s SPAC deck

Image Credits: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

Alex Wilhelm dives headfirst into BuzzFeed’s announcement that it plans to go public via a blank check company.

He looked at its historical and anticipated revenue growth (the latter is very sunny, which is not atypical for SPAC presentations), what makes up that revenue (more “commerce” as time goes on), its long-term profitability projections, as well as fun stuff, like the Pulitzer Prize-winning BuzzFeed News.

Admit it. You’re curious.

3 issues to resolve before switching to a subscription business model

Three issues leaders need to address before switching to a subscription business model

Image Credits: SaskiaAcht (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Moving from a pay-as-you-go model to a subscription service is more than just putting a monthly or yearly price tag on a product, CloudBlue’s Jess Warrington writes in a guest column.

“Executives cannot just layer a subscription model on top of an existing business,” Warrington writes. “They need to change the entire operation process, onboard all stakeholders, recalibrate their strategy and create a subscription culture.”

Warrington says that in his role at CloudBlue, companies often approach him for “help with solving technology challenges while shifting to a subscription business model, only to realize that they have not taken crucial organizational steps necessary to ensure a successful transition.”

Here’s how to avoid that situation.

Veo CEO Candice Xie has a plan for building a sustainable scooter company, and it’s working

An illustration of Veo founder Candie Xie

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

Rebecca Bellan interviewed Veo CEO Candice Xie about the micromobility startup’s “old-fashioned way” of doing business.

“I understand people are eager to prove their unit economics, their scalability and also improve their matrix to the VC to raise another round,” Xie says. “I would say that’s OK in the consumer industry, like consumer electronics or SaaS.

“But we are in transportation. It is a different business, and transportation takes years of collaboration and building between private and public partners. … So I don’t see it happening from day one, turning over a billion-dollar company, while simultaneously having it all make sense for the cities and users.”

5 companies doing growth marketing right

Image of five round wooden balls moving up steps to represent growth.

Image Credits: jayk7 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

All companies want more or less the same thing: growth. But how do you accomplish it?

Ideally, don’t start from scratch.

The race to grow faster is more pressing than ever before. … “[F]orward-thinking entrepreneurs and growth marketers simply must make time to study their competition, learn best practices and apply them to their own business growth,” Mark Spera, the head of growth marketing at Minted, writes in a guest column.

“Of course, you should still run your own experiments, but it’s just more capital-efficient to emulate than to trial-and-error from scratch. Here are five companies with growth strategies worth emulating — including the most important lessons you can begin applying to your business today.”

Musculoskeletal medical startups race to enter personalized health tech market

Human anatomy, hand, arm,muscular system on plain studio background.

Image Credits: ChrisChrisW (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

With more than 50 million Americans suffering from chronic pain and musculoskeletal (MSK) medical problems, a number of startups are offering patients new products “that don’t resemble the cookie-cutter status quo,” reports Natasha Mascarenhas.

Startups hoping to enter this space have an uphill climb. Setting aside regulations that cover aspects like product packaging and marketing, they must compete with well-entrenched competition from Big Pharma as they try to partner with health insurance companies.

Natasha profiles three companies that are each taking a different approach to personalized health: Clear, Hinge Health and PeerWell.

Like the US, a two-tier venture capital market is emerging in Latin America

In the second part of an Exchange series looking at the global early-stage venture capital market, Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim unpacked the scene in Latin America, discovering it looked a lot like the situation in the United States: slow Series A rounds, fast B rounds.

“Mega-rounds are no longer an exception in Latin America; in fact, they have become a trend, with ever-larger rounds being announced over the last few months,” they write.

Despite that, the funds aren’t being equitably distributed, and the region still lags behind its peers: Brazil has the most $1 billion startups in Latin America, with 12. The U.S., meanwhile, has 369, and China has 159.

But the Latin American market remains hot, if not quite as scorching as the U.S. and China.

#andreessen-horowitz, #buzzfeed, #candice-xie, #china, #consumer-electronics, #corporate-finance, #cryptocurrency, #entrepreneurship, #latin-america, #mac-venture-capital, #marlon-nichols, #pam-fletcher, #shein, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc, #venture-capital, #veo, #verified-experts, #wonderschool

Golden Ventures raises $100M fourth fund and $20M opportunities fund

Canadian early stage venture firm Golden Ventures has raised its fourth fund, a $100 million pool of capital that it will use to invest in between 20 to 25 companies, as well as a $20 million ‘Opportunities Fund’ that it will use to make follow-on investments in standout performers among its portfolio. This is also the 10th anniversary for Golden Ventures, and its latest fund arrives at a time when the Canadian startup ecosystem looks healthier than ever, with a proliferation of angels emerging from past success stories, a number of new funds being announced, and unicorn valuations on significant funding rounds for multiple Canadian startups.

I spoke to Golden Ventures Founder and Managing Partner Matt Golden, and General Partner Ameet Shah about its plans for this fund, and about the Canadian startup and investment landscape in general.

“Over time, we’re certainly seeing more and more interest in institutional LPs, more and more interest in the Canadian ecosystem, which I think is a net positive,” Golden said. “Whereas before, the Canadian ecosystem was largely funded by Canadian institutions, so I think that’s really positive, because you have to sort of be judged on the on the world stage. And we’re starting to meet that bar as both an ecosystem and as a fund.”

Golden said that the game plan with this Fund IV doesn’t really change in terms of their investment targets; while Golden initially set out to invest primarily in companies working on software products for mobile devices, it eventually shifted to a strategy of backing North American seed stage, mission-driven founders working on venture-scale opportunities across a range of verticals and categories.

“I would say that over time, our ratio of deals, Canada to U.S., we’ve increased the number of deals on a ratio basis that we do in Canada versus the U.S., just by virtue of the fact that the Canadian ecosystem is on a terrific, high-velocity trajectory.” Golden said. “You’ve seen it coming, but I think it’s really starting to hit its stride now, with lots of founders with ‘big swing’ vision, and an increasing interest in capital playing in the ecosystem.”

Shah added that he also thinks we’re trending towards more startups that originate in Canada setting up nodes in different geographies in ways that make most sense for their talent needs, and vice versa.

“Post-COVID, a lot of companies may start here, but with the geographical boundaries just blurring, there’s really no reason they can’t set up locations in different centers of gravity and take advantage of other ecosystems’ competitive advantages,” he said. “We had one that recently set up a location in LA, as well as Toronto, capturing some the value of LA but also leveraging all the talent in Toronto as well. I think you’re gonna start seeing more and more of that, where things are moving more towards networks, and not just cities in general.”

As for this fund raise, it’s one of three recent Canadian early stage pools of venture capital to also include an ‘Opportunities Fund,’ which in each case has been described as a way for the firms to participate in later stage deals in their star portfolio companies that they wouldn’t otherwise be set up to invest in as an early stage investment organization. Golden Ventures is also introducing another new type of investment to its roster with Fund IV, however.

“There’s this concept, we call it ‘Angel allocation,’ […] it’s the idea that we can invest smaller checks, sort of 400-to-500 thousand, into companies where maybe the structure of the opportunity or of the deal may not fit what our core checks would be,” Golden explains. “That could be, for example, a case where there’s not enough room left in the round, or the valuation is outside of our core range, or maybe we’re learning about a completely new space that’s highly experimental — but we still have a high degree of conviction in the opportunity, in the people behind that opportunity, and the returns that it could generate.”

Funds for those investments will come out of the main Fund IV pool, but the majority will still be targeting those core 20-25 larger checks. Overall, though, both Golden and Shah emphasize that the primary goal of the fund at this stage is capitalizing on the growing trend they see of more opportunity emerging in the Canadian ecosystem, and the impact that’s having in terms of startups across North America.

“When you talk about who are the the top five to ten companies in Canada, for a long time, it was really the same group,” Shah said. “Now, you’ve got this new crop of people that have come in and feel like they’re still on an upward trajectory, and I think that’s just really exciting as well.”

#business-incubators, #canada, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #golden-ventures, #louisiana, #managing-partner, #matt-golden, #mobile-devices, #money, #north-america, #ourcrowd, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #toronto, #united-states, #venture-capital

Seed is not the new Series A

The incredible success of the cloud business applications space in recent years has driven up valuations and fundraising across all stages of venture investment. That has in turn increased VC fund sizes, led to massive cloud IPOs and brought a new cadre of investors to further fuel the fire.

The median Series A raised by cloud companies these days is about $8 million and can often go well above $10 million, according to PitchBook data from the first quarter of 2021. Series Cs now routinely include secondary capital for founders, and many Series Ds are above $100 million with valuations in the billions.

There is a widening gap in the funding continuum between angel/seed funding at inception and the new-age $10 million Series A at $2 million in ARR.

Such an influx of capital and interest has upended many structures and long-held norms about how startups are funded. Venture funds continue to grow and must write larger checks, but ever-higher valuations force many firms to hunt for opportunities earlier. The VC alphabet soup has been spilled, making A rounds look like Bs used to, and the Bs seem like the Cs of old.

Which begs an interesting question: Is the seed round the new Series A?

We don’t think so.

Seed rounds have certainly grown — averaging about $3 million nowadays from around $1 million to $2 million previously — but otherwise, seed investments are the same as before and remain very different from Series As.

#angel-investor, #cloud, #column, #corporate-finance, #ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-column, #ec-news-and-analysis, #private-equity, #saas, #seed-money, #startup-company, #startups, #venture-capital

Version One launches $70M Fund IV and $30M Opportunities Fund II

Early stage investor Version One, which consists of partners Boris Wertz and Angela Tran, has raised its fourth fund, as well as a second opportunity fund specifically dedicated to making follow-on investments. Fund IV pools $70 million from LPs to invest, and Opportunities Fund II is $30 million, both up from the $45 million Fund III and roughly $20 million original Opportunity Fund.

Version One is unveiling this new pool of capital after a very successful year for the firm, which is based in Vancouver and San Francisco. 2021 saw its first true blockbuster exit, with Coinbase’s IPO. The investor also saw big valuation boosts on paper for a number of its portfolio companies, including Ada (which raises at a $1.2 billion valuation in May); Dapper Labs (valued at $7.5 billion after riding the NFT wave); and Jobber (no valuation disclosed but raised a $60 million round in January).

I spoke to both Wertz and Tran about their run of good fortune, how they think the fund has achieved the wins it recorded thus far, and what Version One has planned for this Fund IV and its investment strategy going forward.

“We have this pretty broad focus of mission-driven founders, and not necessarily just investing in SaaS, or just investing in marketplaces, or crypto,” Wertz said regarding their focus. “We obviously love staying early — pre-seed and seed — we’re really the investors that love investing in people, not necessarily in existing traction and numbers. We love being contrarian, both in terms of the verticals we go in to, and and the entrepreneurs we back; we’re happy to be backing first-time entrepreneurs that nobody else has ever backed.”

In speaking to different startups that Version One has backed over the years, I’ve always been struck by how connected the founders seem to the firm and both Wertz and Tran — even much later in the startups’ maturation. Tran said that one of their advantages is following the journey of their entrepreneurs, across both good times and bad.

“We get to learn,” she said. “It’s so cool to watch these companies scale […] we get to see how these companies grow, because we stick with them. Even the smallest things we’re just constantly thinking about— we’re constantly thinking about Laura [Behrens Wu] at Shippo, we’re constantly thinking about Mike [Murchison] and David [Hariri] at Ada, even though it’s getting harder to really help them move the needle on their business.”

Wertz also discussed the knack Version One seems to have for getting into a hot investment area early, anticipating hype cycles when many other firms are still reticent.

“We we went into crypto early in 2016, when most people didn’t really believe in crypto,” he said. “We started investing pretty aggressively in in climate last year, when nobody was really invested in climate tech. Having a conviction in in a few areas, as well as the type of entrepreneurs that nobody else really has conviction is what really makes these returns possible.”

Since climate tech is a relatively new focus for Version One, I asked Wertz about why they’re betting on it now, and why this is not just another green bubble like the one we saw around the end of the first decade of the 2000s.

“First of all, we deeply care about it,” he said. Secondly, we think there is obviously a new urgency needed for technology to jump into to what is probably one of the biggest problems of humankind. Thirdly, is that the clean tech boom has put a lot of infrastructure into the ground. It really drove down the cost of the infrastructure, and the hardware, of electric cars, of batteries in general, of solar and renewable energies in general. And so now it feels like there’s more opportunity to actually build a more sophisticated application layer on top of it.”

Tran added that Version One also made its existing climate bet at what she sees as a crucial inflection point — effectively at the height of the pandemic, when most were focused on healthcare crises instead of other imminent existential threats.

I also asked her about the new Opportunity Fund, and how that fits in with the early stage focus and their overall functional approach.

“It doesn’t require much change in the way we operate, because we’re not doing any net new investments,” Tran said. “So we recognize we’re not growth investors, or Series A/Series B investors that need to have a different lens in the way that they evaluate companies. For us, we just say we want to double down on these companies. We have such close relationships with them, we know what the opportunities are. It’s almost like we have information arbitrage.”

That works well for all involved, including LPs, because Tran said that it’s appealing to them to be able to invest more in companies doing well without having to build a new direct relationship with target companies, or doing something like creating an SPV designated for the purpose, which is costly and time-consuming.

Looking forward to what’s going to change with this fund and their investment approach, Wertz points to a broadened international focus made possible by the increasingly distributed nature of the tech industry following the pandemic.

“I think that the thing that probably will change the most is just much more international investing in this one, and I think it’s just direct result of the pandemic and Zoom investing, that suddenly the pipeline has opened up,” he said.

“We’ve certainly learned a lot about ourselves over the past year and a half,” Tran added. “I mean, we’ve always been distributed, […] and being remote was one of our advantages. So we certainly benefited and we didn’t have to adjust our working style too much, right. But now everyone’s working like this, […] so it’s going to be fun to see what advantage we come up with next.”

#boris-wertz, #coinbase, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #investment, #laura-behrens-wu, #money, #private-equity, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #tc, #vancouver, #venture-capital, #version-one, #version-one-ventures

Architect Capital brings alternative capital to the early stage with new $100M fund

Early-stage startups are increasingly looking for alternative ways to access capital, meaning not every company wants to raise money from VCs or take on debt.

In recent years, a flurry of startups have emerged to give companies other options. (Think Pipe, for example.)

And today, San Francisco-based Architect Capital is a new firm that is launching with over $100 million in funds to serve as an “asset-based lender” to “high-growth,” early-stage tech companies. Specifically, the new firm aims to provide non-dilutive or less-dilutive financing options to asset-rich fintech, e-commerce and SaaS companies in the U.S. and Latin America, but with an emphasis on the latter. The region, Architect maintains, does not have a plethora of institutional financing available against assets.

The firm is not out to replace traditional venture capital or venture debt, emphasizes founder and CEO James Sagan, but rather to offer asset-based products that will complement them.

For some context, Sagan is no stranger to the startup world, having co-founded and served as managing partner of Arc Labs, an early-stage credit fund focused on lending to technology-enabled businesses. He’s been investing in Latin America for years, and recognized the need for new forms of financing to fund “novel and underappreciated assets.”

Also, he believes the region is home to “the most prominent fintech ecosystem in the world.”

To Sagan, traditional forms of equity and debt financing in the venture world are vital for things like growing headcount, but he believes they are “not engineered to support the growth of a company’s underlying financial products.”

“VC is highly dilutive and should be used for ROI activities such as hiring engineers and building great teams,” Sagan told TechCrunch. “It’s expensive to use equity to fund assets. Equity should not be put in a loan book. We’ll fund the loan book.”

Image Credits: Architect Capital founder James Sagan / Architect Capital

Architect’s goal is to provide “tailored and less dilutive funding,” especially to companies that produce repeatable revenues, such as SaaS and subscription businesses. 

Sagan said he first discovered the strategy in 2015 when he was working for a multifamily office that was lending against a bunch of traditional assets.

“A colleague and good friend of mine started a business and raised some equity and venture debt, but he couldn’t find the asset-specific financing for the receivables he was generating,” Sagan recalls. “He was lending to small businesses and needed asset-specific financing against those receivables.”

Venture debt doesn’t really work for receivables-based lending because venture debt shops typically are underwriting assets, or rather, underwriting the quality of the investors in the company, Sagan believes.

“So we really tailor our underwriting towards those assets themselves right and those assets range from unsecured consumer receivables to secure small business receivables to real estate,” he told TechCrunch. “Essentially, we’re providing an additional instrument for asset-heavy businesses that will allow them to scale in a way that venture debt will not.”

Architect’s LPs are mostly large institutions, as opposed to traditional high net worth individuals. The firm’s average check size will land at around $10 million to $15 million.

“Our portfolio allocation is more concentrated in general,” Sagan said. “We expect to grow our AUM (assets under management) pretty precipitously.”

Architect Capital has invested in six companies since inception, including PayJoy, a company that delivers consumer financing and smartphone technology to customers in emerging markets; Forum Brands, a U.S.-based e-commerce marketplace aggregator; and ADDI, a fintech that aims to give Colombian consumers access to fair and affordable credit through point-of-sale-financing that recently raised $65 million.

#architect-capital, #corporate-finance, #e-commerce, #ecommerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #funding, #latin-america, #money, #private-equity, #real-estate, #saas, #san-francisco, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #united-states, #venture-capital, #venture-debt

Opting for a debt round can take you from Series A startup to Series B unicorn

Debt is a tool, and like any other — be it a hammer or handsaw — it’s extremely valuable when used skillfully but can cause a lot of pain when mismanaged. Fortunately, this is a story about how it can go right.

At the beginning of 2020, my company, Quantum Metric, was on a tremendous growth curve. We couldn’t have been more excited — and then COVID hit. Suddenly, everything was up in the air. Customer behavior quickly began to reflect the uncertainty we all felt, and my team wasn’t immune to it, either. Like most, we sweated through the first few months of the pandemic.

If companies want to preserve equity, debt can be an advantageous choice.

On the one hand, we felt it might be our time to shine, as digital solutions rose to the surface even in industries that were previously slow to adopt them (think banking and airlines). On the other, companies were trying to lock up as much cash as they could, as fast as they could. What if our customers weren’t able to pay us?

One thing became crystal clear: We needed cash, too. First and foremost, we needed it to protect the company against the income loss we anticipated from customers who were having an especially tough time — namely, those who relied on in-person business as a major revenue source.

Second, we needed cash in order to scale. As the weeks following the initial shelter-in-place orders ticked by, the rush toward digital grew exponentially, and opportunities to secure new customers started piling up. A solution to our money problems, perhaps? Not so fast — it was a classic case of needing to spend in order to make.

Most startups face this dilemma at some point. Some face it continuously. We needed a way to funnel capital into growth and manage to stay cash strong, which was important for another reason: As we headed downstream toward a Series B funding round, we were hesitant to devalue the company (and employee shares) any more than was absolutely necessary.

“There are no solutions, there are only trade-offs,” Thomas Sowell wrote about politics. It’s no different in business. We knew that for Quantum Metric to succeed, we had to give up something in the future in order to get what we needed in the short term. Choosing a debt round as a younger company ran the risk of cash-flow misalignment down the road, but in the same vein, an equity round might have made subsequent funding rounds more challenging.

Whatever we did, we had to do fast, and we had to do it in a chaotic venture capital environment (that may be an understatement). In some meetings, it felt as if VC money had dried up completely. In others, record deals were being made. Startups were bypassing IPOs and going public via SPACs and direct listings. Factoring in the amount of hype that was permeating the market (something I’ve never been a fan of), the “wise” decision felt elusive. As you know from the headline of this piece, though, we chose debt, and it paid off.

The benefits of choosing debt over equity

There ended up being two “layers” of benefits to our debt round. The benefits of the first layer correspond directly with the goals I mentioned above; we got the cash we needed in order to expand — which meant investing in our team, product, marketing and infrastructure — and avoided diluting the company’s value for existing shareholders in the process.

#column, #corporate-finance, #debt, #ec-column, #ec-how-to, #entrepreneurship, #private-equity, #quantum-metric, #startups, #tc, #venture-debt