Category Archives: big money

ENGINEERING YOUR PITCH

jockey-and-horse-t-ms-officeInsights from the Cornerstone Angel Meeting

by Stephanie Wiegel

Angel investment deals aren’t made on the spot as the TV show Shark Tank suggests. Instead, entrepreneurs are excused from the meeting after delivering their pitches. If you’re vying for early investment money, what’s said behind these closed doors can make or break a deal. Continue reading

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BILLION DOLLAR UNICORNS

Kenneth M. Freeman

The world seems captivated by the growing number of unicorns – private companies theoretically worth more than $1 billion based on their latest round of funding. There are now more than 100 unicorns, led by Uber with a valuation of $66 billion.

unicorn-from-ms-office

If you were an early investor in any of these $billion+ gems, you’re winning big!  But what about investors who got in on the latest fundraising rounds?  Are the bragging rights of an expensive unicorn deal worth losing money on your investment?

The traditional venture capital investment formula is to select promising ventures early, while valuations are still low. Selecting several young businesses adds diversification and improves the likelihood that one or more will become a success.

While many unicorns have achieved notable marketplace success and will undoubtedly survive and thrive, their current valuations strain credulity, leaving late-round investors vulnerable to substantial losses. How likely is a big win when the venture is already valued at $10 or $20 or even $50 billion?

Uber’s annual revenue run rate is expected to exceed $10 billion by year-end. They retain 20% or $2 billion, which, with many markets left to conquer, is impressive.  But do these numbers justify a valuation of $66 billion? Remember, a future value of less than $66 billion for Uber will mean a financial loss for their latest investors.

Airbnb’s 2015 revenues are estimated at $675 million and projected to reach $2 billion by 2020.  Their latest investment round puts their worth at $30 billion. 2014 revenues were estimated at $900 million for Square and $600 million for Palantir. These companies aren’t likely to go away. But do these numbers justify valuations of $5 billion for Square and $25 billion for Palantir?  Is Snapchat (with still negligible revenues) really worth $22 billion?

Many venture capital investors say traditional valuation methodology – the net present value of projected future discounted cash flows – is impractical for venture capital.  They suggest that venture capital valuations rely on perceived potential along with passionate commitment and a dose of hope.

But valuations at early stages appear to implicitly reflect traditional valuation logic.  They recognize the riches of potential success, albeit impossible to quantify precisely, while discounting those values sharply to reflect low success odds and inherent risk.

The problem with unicorns’ soaring valuations is that they seem to assume the stars are perfectly aligned and everything will go right.  That rarely happens.  Yes, it largely did for Microsoft, Google and Facebook, three huge winners over the past 40 years.  But how many of those are there?  Even Apple had to survive near disaster before its remarkable success.

What if governmental regulations block portions of Uber’s or Airbnb’s planned expansion?  What if Uber drivers are ultimately ruled to be employees rather than independent contractors, changing the company’s fundamental economics?  The risks are even greater for unicorns with more limited revenues today (and most with large losses).

We at VCapital, are not interested in ventures already valued at $1 billion+, where a return of 10 or 20 times investment is far too unlikely.  Gambling in Las Vegas might be a better bet.

We believe in the historical venture capital success formula, focusing on early fundraising rounds – after venture potential is qualified through angel/seed funding but before valuations escalate wildly.  For early stage investments in ventures valued at $5 or $10 or $20 million, while most fail, success could mean an exit valuation in the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.  A few of the ventures we’ve supported over 30 years have even exceeded valuations of $1 billion, but you can’t count on that.

This has worked well for our team over three decades.  While the VC industry’s average venture success rate (i.e. achieving any positive return on investment) is about 20%, through rigorous due diligence our success rate has averaged 37%, and our investors’ annualized returns have averaged well above industry norms.  Delivering an attractive return to investors requires a few exits at 10, 20 or more times the initial investment to offset the 63% that come in as modest winners or complete loses.

So why are later-stage valuations soaring to stratospheric heights?  We think it’s due to FOMO—Fear of Missing Out.  Getting in on a unicorn round is great for bragging rights, but for late-stage investors, getting out with a profit may be tough. We’re betting FOMO results in lots of loudly bursting unicorn bubbles.

We’re not concerned about a repeat of 2000’s broad dotcom bubble, which devastated the finances of millions of Americans, since today’s soaring valuations belong to companies that are still private. Their investors are primarily institutions and ultra-wealthy individuals who can weather the risk, so impact will be contained.

We are concerned, though, that a series of loud unicorn bubble bursts could cool the flow of investment dollars feeding life-changing innovation.  That would be unfortunate, since conditions for tech-enabled start-ups have never been better. It would also be unfortunate for the 8 million+ accredited investors (defined by the SEC as having net worth of $1 million+ excluding primary residence or ongoing annual income over $200,000), who finally – thanks to the JOBS Act – have access to professionally managed venture capital investing.

We believe that following the historical venture capital success formula will continue to generate attractive returns for investors who stay focused on pursuing strong ROI. In contrast, late-stage investors in pursuit of bragging rights to unicorn deals will increasingly find themselves under water.

Kenneth M. Freeman is the Strategic Marketing Advisor and Member of the Board at VCapital, LLC   http://www.vcapital.com/

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND

Image from MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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DRIVING VALUE WHEN FUNDING RUNS LOW

funding-tDavid Johnson

Overview

The funding environment for early stage startups has been shifting for some time, but as shifts accelerate, founders, executives, and investors should look to reassess their strategies to ensure that they remain optimal in a capital constrained environment. Q2 2016 saw the lowest rolling 12-month average deal flow for early stage investments since Q2 2013, this in spite of actual early stage dollars invested having increased by 127% over that period. Increasingly, early stage investors are looking to place fewer but more sizable bets on startups that are perceived as having the most promise. This can, and likely will, lead to a widening gulf between early stage startups that have a clear path to additional funding and those that may struggle to generate investor interest.

chart-1

Source: PwC/NVCA MoneyTree™ Report, Data: Thomson Reuters

This change is being driven by a number of factors, including venture capitalists hitting bandwidth limits (even for the most talented of multi-taskers, there are only so many investments one can effectively manage), maturation of certain investment theses (notably “Uber for X” models and consumer focused mobile apps), and the changing funding environment that has allowed early stage VCs to seek a level of market traction that in years past had only been expected of more mature startups. As a result of these changes, the business press is increasingly flooded with stories of well-funded startups failing, seemingly out of the blue, as anticipated follow-on funding rounds fail to materialize, and angel and VC investors pivot to focus on companies with a clear path to cash-flow breakeven. In this kind of funding environment, what is a startup entrepreneur to do?

funding

The good news is that, regardless of funding, the levers of sustainable value creation have not changed. Companies that provide differentiated, value-added goods and services to their clients are companies on a firm foundation. But every good strategy must take into account the resources available for that strategy’s execution, and as the early stage funding market shifts, startup leaders must take the time to objectively assess their current situation and look to chart an optimal path.

For those startup entrepreneurs concerned about the near-term future of their companies, assessing a company through the following three lenses can instill a disciplined, value creating mindset that is well suited to a shifting landscape:

 

  1. Cash Management. Too few startups understand the drivers of their company’s cash flows, and every report of well-funded startups abruptly failing without sufficient funds to cover employee payroll (a failing that could leave employers facing criminal charges) highlights this failing. Management should understand the near-term sources and uses of cash if there are no changes (“base case”), identify steps to conserve cash if needed, and have a clear sense of the amount of time the company has before the cash runs out.
  2. Business Model. While the effort to attain product market fit gets more press, developing and refining the correct business model is a key milestone for every successful venture. The ability to demonstrate a viable business model will significantly enhance the options of any startup.
  3. Goals. Are the current goals in-line with the company’s current cash situation and stage of business model development? A rule of thumb for liquidity constrained environments is to never count on new funders. If your current investors would be unwilling or unable to invest follow on amounts, plan accordingly.

 

Conclusion

Funding does not create good companies, but a lack of funding coupled with a persistent cash burn can kill any company. The key to avoiding this fate is acknowledging the possibility and taking steps to objectively assess, and if necessary modify, a strategy before it is too late.

 

About the Author David Johnson is a career change agent who has served as an advisor, board member, interim manager, investor and operator at organizations ranging in size from pre-revenue startups to Fortune 500 organizations. David is a frequent speaker and writer on the topics of value creation and performance improvement. He can be reached at david@abraxasgp.com or 312-505-7238.

Images courtesy David Johnson and MS Office

abraxas-logo

225 West Washington Street, Suite 2200, Chicago IL 60606 www.abraxasgp.com

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND – The Journal of the Heartland Angels

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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INVESTING: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE CASH

by Scott M. Anderson

Angel investing is influenced by many factors affecting the startup including: technology, unmet demand, scalability and, most important, the founding team. These and many other factors will have a critical impact on the success or failure of the investment. However, there is one common factor to them all: Cash. cash An investor and founder are in the elevator together. The investor says “Nice idea, how much capital do you need?” The founder says “$750K”. Investor says “Why $750K?” Founder says “We believe it’s the right amount based on other startups I’ve heard about.” Or she might say “It seems like the right amount based on the size of other angel investments.” Or she might say “It just seems like the right amount.”

Those responses are all wrong!!

A more appropriate response would be: “We’ll need $450K to fund losses the first two years, $250K to buy tooling and another $50K for inventory and other working capital needs.” After hearing this better response, the investor thinks: “As with most founders, I’m certain her numbers are worthless. However, this founder seems to have specific numbers which suggests she’s analyzed them and may be a good overseer of my invested money. I’m interested in her assumptions. I’d like to meet with her again.”

At a minimum, any founder must have a high level understanding of how much capital is needed and the reasons why. She must be prepared to communicate these reasons as part of her elevator speech. Similarly, each investor should ask for and expect an immediate response from the founder, which reflects her understanding of why the investment is needed.

How does the founder determine what she needs? And how does the investor determine if the investment amount is right? A cash projection will meet the needs of both parties. An analysis of the startup’s cash inflows and outflows will confirm the company’s investment needs. At a high level, the cash projection is easily calculated as net profits + capital expenditures + required working capital (such as inventory stocking required to achieve sales). More complex business models would require a more in‐depth treatment.

The investor met with the founder again and received the following projected Income Statement (in $000s). table-1 Let’s examine these numbers to see if they confirm the founder’s response in the elevator:

  1. First 2 years of losses of $450K. The loss in year 1 is $242K and the loss in year 2 is $208K. These sum to total losses of $450K. RESPONSE IS CONFIRMED.
  2. Tooling cost of $250K. The Capital Expenditures (CAPX) in year 1 is $250K and $0 thereafter. RESPONSE IS CONFIRMED.
  3. Working Capital needs of $50K. The working capital is required to be $20K and $30K for years 1 & 2, respectively, totaling $50K. RESPONSE IS CONFIRMED.

The founder has provided numbers at the meeting which agree with those she cited. That’s good. The founder would lose all credibility if they did not support her elevator speech. But, has the startup asked for enough at $750K? Let’s examine a projection of the cash in the startup’s bank account. With an investment of $750K in year 1, the following is a projection of the startup’s cash in the bank: table-2 The cash bank balance is projected not to be negative at the end of any year over the projection period and the total financing received exceeds the total cash out, so an investment of $750K would be adequate based on the earnings performance projected by the Income Statement. However, the large cash balance of $238K at the end of year 1 suggests that the timing needs of the startup may not match the investment. In fact, the investor would rather invest the excess cash of $238K in year 1 for a different investment which would pay off within 12 months. Such an alternative investment would enable the investor to realize a financial return on the excess cash while still fulfilling his total commitment of $750K to the startup. Following this thinking, if the investment were made in two installments versus one, the following projected cash balance results: table-3 A two installment investment better matches the startup’s need since no excess cash exists at any time during the financing period. The investor would suggest to the founder that the $750K investment should be made in two installments: $512K in year 1 and $238K in year 2. An investor’s diligence process should be stepwise: a layer of information is requested, and provided by the company. Additional information is requested and provided, until the investor is completely clear about the startup’s execution strategy.

From the founder’s perspective during the diligence process, it’s critical that each diligence level be consistent with all prior levels. In our example, the founder responded in the elevator with a high level description of why she needed $750K. That was diligence level one. The projected Income Statement, CAPX and working capital projection provided by the startup was diligence level two. Fortunately for the investor and the founder, the level two diligence substantiated the information established in the elevator.

My recommendation to the investor for this startup is that the next diligence layer should focus on the detail behind the rows on the Income Statement. Examples include: with sales, which customer(s) will account for 80% of the sales in the projected years? For cost of sales, what are its major components? What explains the increase in gross margin percentage from year 1 to year 3? For the expense row, what are the major expenses and what explains the increase in year 2?

Responses to each of these inquiries will have a direct impact on the cash projection. A complete diligence discussion is beyond the scope of this article. However, the diligence process would continue until the investor is satisfied with the strategy and underlying assumptions. Throughout the process, focus must be maintained on the cash projection to understand how the diligence analysis will impact the amount and timing of the anticipated investment.

Scott M. Anderson is a principal at Anderson Financial Services, LLC and has been performing cash projections for decades as an investment banker, a workout specialist and, recently, as an advisor to investors and startups. He can be reached at scott@andersonfsllc.com.

Image from MS Office

This article appeared in NEWS FROM HEARTLAND

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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TRUMPED

donald-trump-tby John Jonelis

Political outsider elected president! Nationwide shock! Emotions run wild! Markets in turmoil! Worst riots since Orson Wells’ WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast!

Loop Lonagan watches the mayhem on television. People on the streets shout lewd obscenities—carry hate signs—crawl over cars—destroy businesses—throw bricks at police. “Da theater o’ dee absurd,” Lonagan mutters, “Did deeze folks even vote?”

He continues his impromptu soliloquy. “Why don’t deeze malcontents all move t’ Greece?” Ah, Greece—where socialism is in full bloom and the weather is gorgeous. “Maybe President Elect Trump will offer free one-way luxury cruises to da Mediterranean and make da Greeks pay for it.” Lonagan figures that will make everybody happy.  But then he reflects that Greece is bankrupt. Socialism didn’t work there.

riots-washington-times

European-style Riots in Chicago – [The Washington Times]

The riots disturb Lonagan because he now sees a political party that generates looters. His own! “Hmmf!”  It shames him. He’s embarrassed for the European decadence of his people. This is not our way. Americans don’t throw temper tantrums after elections. We vote. We accept what happens. We come together. These are principles Lonagan grew up believing.

He pats his bull terrier, Clamps. The dog lets out a long satisfied sigh while Lonagan takes a stiff slug of scotch. “You never worry ‘bout dis kinda stuff, do you Clamps old buddy?” In this election, with a choice between the crass and the criminal, Lonagan never expected a good outcome. In his view, which he loudly stated to everyone that would listen, “Anybody with half a brain knows we’s gonna get one o’ two things—Cleopatra II or Nebuchadnezzar III. I dunno which is worse. So why all da fuss?”

trump-obama

Improbable White House Briefing – [Associated Press]

As a practical man, Lonagan figures the real game is to do well no matter who is in office. On the night of the election—during all the hyper uncertainty—when index futures were tanking big time—Lonagan capitalized on the unexpected.  He went Long all he could during the after-hours session on slim capital and crazy margin, using all the leverage he could muster. Now, during the riots, he’s cashing out of those positions to the tune of millions. But what if—

A small tug at his sleeve and he suddenly remembers his duties as a babysitter. He shuts off the TV and takes Jim Kren’s little girl into his arms.

“G’night Uncle Loop”, she says, wrapping her arms around his neck, “I love you,”

“I—uh,” he squeezes out the difficult words, “I love you too, Angelica.  Lemme tuck you in.”

And when he sets her on her feet, she bursts out, “And tell me a bedtime story!”

“I dunno, Princess. Last time yer papa grilled me fer an hour—”

“But I want to hear what happens to the Dragon Lady and the Big Bad Duck.”

He stares at her good and hard. Precocious little tike. “No, babe, it don’t seem right to—”

“Please, Uncle Loop. PLEEEEEZE!”

Lonagan wipes a hand across his jaw. It’s nine o’clock. Mama and papa are out. He’s supposed to use his judgement in emergencies like this. “Okay, Princess.” He can hardly believe what he hears himself saying. “We’ll do anudder chapter o’ da Dragon Lady ‘n’ da Big Bad Duck.”

Angelica claps her hands and jumps in place, her long curls bouncing on her shoulders. “Thank you, Uncle Loop!”

“Go brush yer teeth er somethin.’ I’ll be right up.”

She calls out, “Clamps!” The enormous bull terrier bounds up the stairs after her.

57661370ca0ff_image

Crazy Political Campaign – [Associated Press]

Lonagan goes over the images of this absurd campaign and pours himself three more fat fingers of scotch. He’s playing with dynamite and curses his lousy imagination—using hardcore news to create a bedtime story—stupid, just stupid. Chicago-style political intrigue on the national stage is a tough lesson for anybody. It’s the wrong material for a youngster. Maybe it’s child abuse. He wishes he never told her that story, but he did and now she wants the rest of it.

He pours more scotch. Maybe, just possibly—if he sticks to the script and keeps the whole thing in a child’s world—it might all turn out fine. All the Lonagans love happy endings. Plunking down his empty whiskey glass, he checks his watch. Five minutes. Showtime. And keep it clean!

Upstairs, Angelica is curled up with Clamps, rubbing the dog’s ears. The animal squeezes its eyes closed in ecstasy and rumbles a soft, deep rhythmic growl. He’s the only dog Lonagan knows that can purr.

clamps

Clamps is at Peace – [John Jonelis]

After pulling the covers over those two, he settles his rump on the foot of the bed. “Okay Princess, lemme catch up on da story. Best I can remember, yer at school, it’s recess, ‘n’ yer gonna play soccer. It’s da Jackasses—I mean da Donkeys vs. da Elephants. You’se is picked fer da Elephant team, right?”

She nods.

“Da best player is da Dragon Lady ‘n’ da whole Donkey team treats her like some kinda queen. I mean she’s got skill. She’s got clout. She’s got her team all hand-picked and organized. She’s got—whadayacallit—a ground game. And she cheats—oh yeah, she cheats—big time. That’s called politics. That’s Civics lesson 101. Am I givin’ ya da straight goods?”

“Yes, Uncle Loop.”

“Okay then. So we already know her plan with da Duck.  He’s s’posed t’ start a big fight. Then he’s s’posed t’ take his regulation soccer ball ‘n’ summa da best players on yer team with ‘im. Then they’s s’posed t’ go off t’ play with some udder kids. So yer team loses.  That’s called splittin’ da ticket. That’s Civics 201. I think dat’s da way I told it last time.”

Angelica blurts, “I know, I know! That Dragon and Duck! They planned this whole mess together! And now my team doesn’t stand a chance!”

Lonagan grins. “Okay, so ya got basic conspiracy theory all figured out now. Yer learnin’ fast. That’s Civics 301. But da Dragon’s smart and mean, see? Maybe cunning’s a better word. There’s deeper waters goin’ on here. Way deeper. Now she rolls out her REAL plan.”

The girl knits her brows while scratching the thick short fur on Clamp’s neck. “I don’t understand.”

“Sure ya do, kid. Da Duck’s a big bully and he’s got dis huge ego, see? C’mon, you know that. Ever’body knows that. So, da Dragon taunts ‘im. Mocks yer team. Calls you a buncha morons. Says she can cheat all she wants. Who’s gonna find out? Yer all trash—nobody’s gonna believe ya. How d’ya feel about that, Princess?”

“I’m just so mad!”

“Okay, so after all da yellin’ ‘n’ pushin’ around, da Duck gets mad too. Now he turns against da Dragon. He’s gonna fight her now, insteada doin what they cooked up beforehand. He’s too proud t’ quit da team after all da abuse she spits out, so bein’ da biggest, he takes over. And da Dragon Lady is smilin’ da whole time. Ever see dat smile? It’s enough t’ zap yer spine outa joint.”

new-normal

Clinton’s prepares to smile – [The New York Times]

Angelica sits straight in bed. “But Uncle Loop, that means the Dragon has to play against the Duck. That doesn’t make sense. She would never plan it that way.”

“Ah, Princess, lay back ‘n’ relax.” He tucks the covers under her chin. “Doncha see? She WANTS t’ play against da Duck. She figures he’s her easiest opponent ’cause allota his team won’t play so hard for ‘im.  I mean, plenty o’ kids don’t like dis guy so much.  He’s her handpicked patsy. Has been since day one. She’s so sure she can beat ‘im, it tastes like candy. Ever’body says she can’t lose. She already watched him bust up da udder team ‘n’ now she’s ready fer da killshot. Pick yer opponent.  That’s Civics 401.”

Angelica squeezes out a tear. “So my team loses anyway? This is an awful bedtime story!” 

“Don’t cry, Princess.  Stop ‘n’ think! da Dragon’s got a buncha great big weaknesses. Mosta da kids don’t like her so much neither.  And she don’t see what’s about t’ happen ’cause she’s—whadayacallit—a nar-sisist-sisist-sisit.”

“A narcissist?”

Cute kid. “Yeah, what you said there. She’s selfish ‘n’ she’s ruthless.  She ain’t got no idea how udder people feel. She don’t like ’em.  She don’t understand ‘em. She don’t care about ‘em. All she cares about is herself.  It’s gonna bite ‘er big time. She’s got dis big master plan, but da more complex da plan, da more chances fer a mistake.  Somethin’ unexpected always happens.  Da Dragon’s set herself up fer a big fall.”

The girl just stares at him

“Doncha get it?  Same kinda thing happens in all competitions.  Like when ya play pinochle with yer folks.” 

“What’s that, Uncle Loop?”

Lonagan shakes his head.  Kren always boasted about the way his little girl played.  “Just a card game, kid.  Allota times da udder side thinks dey hold all da cards.  Then comes da big shock.”

“I don’t understand.”

 “Look Angel, every hand o’ pinochle’s got a different set o’ special cards, see?  They’s da most powerful ones ‘n’ ever’body’s gotta keep track o’ dem real careful-like.  Sometimes, da udder players don’t do that so good ‘n’ you snap down one o’ deeze big fat cards.  You just trumped da udder side!  Let’s get back to soccer.”

“What trump card does my team have, Uncle Loop?”

“Ah, you figured it out!  You got outrage, anger, drive, determination–stuff like dat!” He throws his arms out in a broad gesture.

Clamps lets out a powerful bark and Angelica strokes the animal’s massive head.  “Everybody is so angry.”

“No, take a look over there, sweetheart. Her team’s all smiles.  They’s so sure.  They just know they’s gonna win.  They’s—whadayacall—overconfident.  It’s da players on yer team is steamin’ mad.  They’s breathin’ smoke.  So what happens when people get all pumped up like that?”

She sniffs. “They fight?”

“Bingo! I seen it happen again and again in sport after sport.  They fight like wildfire!  Ever’body gives a hunert ‘n’ twenty percent.  They win da game!  A surprise victory!  A major turnover!  Somethin’ nobody expects!”

“So you mean that my team wins?”

“Yeah, Princess, you win!  Den da recess bell rings ‘n’ it’s back t’ class.   Look, ya gotta get some sleep, so listen up—lemme give ya da moral o’ da story. Sh— I mean stuff happens. Stuff nobody expects. So’s when you’se is growin’ up, learn t’ expect what nobody expects. Dat’s where ya find success.  Ya get it?”

She nods silently.

“Ya don’t look sleepy yet. Anudder story, maybe?”

She shakes her head no, and hugs Clamps tighter.

trump-in-whitehouse-ap

Dazed Trump tours the White House after Briefing – [Associated Press]

 

Lonagan closes Angelica’s door and sits on the stairs. For months he’s heard stupid quote after stupid quote from The Donald. Now the guy’s president elect. So he searches his phone for some quotes from Hillary and comes across a nasty collection that shocks him.

  • Clinton on voters: “Look, the average Democrat voter is just plain stupid. They’re easy to manipulate. That’s the easy part.” [Read it on Tumbler]
  • Clinton on voters: “… you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? They’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it.” [Read it in the New York Times]
  • Clinton on Benghazi: “What difference at this point does it make?” [You saw it on television]

As Lonagan reads more of her words, the invective gets strikingly shrill and profane. Finally he pockets his phone. He refuses to think any more about the foul stench pouring out of Cleopatra’s mouth.

hil-face-1024x682

Clinton cursing – [Tumbler]

Maybe the country got lucky, maybe not. Lonagan doesn’t know such things.  He believes that every politician, without exception, is a self-serving bastard.  Maybe that’s all we can expect, but at this point, he wishes with all his heart that President Elect Nebuchadnezzar eats his bitter greens and becomes the leader this country needs so badly.

The opinions of Mr. Lonagan and his wild conspiracy theory are not endorsed by the management.  Mr. Kren has been made aware of possible turmoil planted in the mind of his young child.

Read Part 1:

“THE DRAGON LADY AND THE BIG BAD DUCK”

 

Photo credits: Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Times, Tumbler, John Jonelis

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under big money, chicago, Conflict, Entrepreneurship and Politics, investor, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, the chicago machine

NO GOAT

no-goat-500by John Jonelis

This thing still replays in my mind. And the news is everywhere!

“The last real American sports story—the story of the team that couldn’t and seemingly never would—is gone for good… [Rick Morrissey – Sun Times] Now I watch in shocked delight as the Cub’s sleeping bats come alive! A leadoff home run…

“…ending more than a century of flops, futility and frustration.”   [Ronald Blum – Associated Press] …now more runs—a lot more runs, but way too many innings left to go…

The Cubs won their last title way back in 1908 “At the time, Theodore Roosevelt was president, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states, and the first Ford Model T car was two weeks old.”  [Ronald Blum – Associated Press] …I hear our first baseman, Rizzo, caught in the dugout on an open mike, saying, “I can’t control myself. I’m an emotional wreck.”

“The longest championship drought for any continuously operating pro team in North America – nay, the world…we never truly thought this would happen. We joked about not seeing the Cubs win it all in our lifetimes. We said that with grins when we were young. We reached middle age, and we said it with blank faces. We grew old, and it curled off our lips like, yes, a curse.” [Rick Telander – Northwest Herald]

Yup, that about sums it up for me. A hundred and eight years! Why should anything change today vs. the Cleveland Indians? Somehow the Cubs will find a way to lose this thing.

Baseball from MS Word T2

The Replay

Again, the events of the game run through my mind. “No, Maddon, no!”   Why yank Hendricks when he’s on a roll? He can pitch himself out of trouble.  At least let him finish the inning. After that, you’ve got nearly enough pitchers to use one for each out. Even Jake can take a batter or two. But the manager doesn’t hear me. In goes Lester. The guy’s got the numbers but this ain’t his night.

Out comes Chapman, the one-inning wonder-closer, who hurls the ball at 105 mph, now pressed into way too many innings for way too many games.  Before long, he’s pouring sweat, his face in anguish. “Take him out! Can’t you tell he’s out of gas?” He hurls the next pitch and the Cubs blow the final three-run lead with two outs in the eighth. When he reaches the dugout, he weeps. And the same cynical, “Maybe next year,” settles in my mind.

Now the 10th inning. The rain delay. The Indians intentionally walk Rizzo. The batter shortens his swing. “In a situation where some of his teammates would have swung for the outer reaches…Zobrist settled for making contact.” [William Graves – Associated Press] The rally! The win! Ben immediately points skyward, giving God the glory, but they award him the MVP of the World Series.

Eight to Seven—every run counts! The game of a lifetime! “…something that no one alive has ever seen happen before.” [Rick Telander – Northwest Herald] I watch the after-game mayhem, the unbounded joy, as if in a trance. The team carries the retiring catcher, Ross, off the field! I’m numb—stunned—and it hasn’t all sunk in.

Now the parade! Where is Sianis’ goat?

ron_santo_autograph

Heros

So I grow up with both the Cubs and Sox, collecting their trading cards, arguing over which team is best. But Ron Santo and Ernie Banks are my heros. Those guys are the top of the heap. I’m eight years old when Santo visits my Cub Scout troop and I shake his hand in awe.

But those two guys never make it to the post season during their careers. Now they’re both dead and in the Hall of Fame. Maybe this game is played out by Dexter, Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Russell, Zobrist, Baez, Heyward, Contreras, Ross, Montero… But for me, this win is all about those two heros from my childhood.

ernie_banks_autograph

Quick Comparisons – Chicago Teams

  • The Bears won nine championships: 1921 as the Chicago Staleys, and then in 1932, 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, and 1963. They didn’t win for another 22 years—the glorious 1985 Superbowl. That was 31 years ago, but who can forget?
  • The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup six times: 1934, 1938 and 1961, then after a 49-year dry run, they triumphed spectacularly in three recent contests—2010, 2013, 2015. If one were to chart their history like a stock or futures contract, a momemtum trader might suggest the semiannual pattern indicates they’re due again this year. On the other hand, a technical trader may see a triple top, similar to a security that’s reached its ultimate peak. But I’m hoping for another win this year.
  • The Bulls won six NBA championships but not until the 1990’s when Michael Jordan woke them from their slumber. With him they pulled it off in 1991, ’92 and ’93. Then Jordan retired, tried baseball for a couple years, and the team went back to sleep. When he returned, they won in 1996, ’97 and ‘98. Two three-peats in eight years. Since then they’ve slept soundly for a good 18 years.
  • The White Sox won the World Series three times. Eleven years ago, in 2005, they thrilled Chicago, sweeping the series in four straight games—their first championship since 1917 and 1906, bringing back baseball honor to Chicago after an 88-year dry spell.
  • The Cubs also won the World Series three times—back-to-back in 1907 and 1908, but not again till this year. 108 years!

Yet amazingly, the Cubs enjoy an enormous national fan base. On this, the seventh game of the World Series, enough Cub fans show up in Cleveland to make it seem like a home game. StubHub sells seats behind the dugout for $10K each. Yes, this is the Cubs—one of Chicago’s oldest startups.

 

Image Credits:

“No Goat” by John Jonelis, MS Office

Baseball Cards from Baseball Almanac

 

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com

Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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IN YOUR FACE RISK

by John Jonelis

“Oh, you’re an angel investor! Isn’t that risky?” I hear such drivel all the time. Are people afraid of outsized returns? Or perhaps they don’t understand risk, don’t know how to measure it, or how to take control of it. Yet all that is quite easily done and it’s a real charge to play the game using a Monte Carlo simulation (MC). I’ll show what’s likely to happen if you follow three simple rules. Then I’ll break one rule—just a little bit—and we’ll use the simulator to see what happens.

fear-color

Rules of the Game

Rule #1 – Diversification and the Law of Large Numbers—This is the only free ride in the investment world. Invest in as many dissimilar companies as possible.

The portfolio technique known as the Efficient Frontier suggests you indulge in alternative investments to the tune of 10% of your overall portfolio to maximize return and minimize risk—that’s right, both! Angel investment is definitely in the alternative camp, so restrict your fun to 10%. No more! It’s true—angels are like anybody else. They also own stocks and bonds, futures and options, currency spreads and real estate, antique cars and art collections.

Rule #2 – Identical Minimum Sum—Nobody knows whether a company will succeed or fail. Nobody. Even the best, most experienced, wisest, most savvy investors can’t tell. So out of your alternative portfolio, invest the identical minimum sum in each and every deal—no more, no less—no exceptions! Make it as small as you can. 2% is a good number to shoot for. Ideally, with profits taken along the way, you’ll eventually own 50 to 100 companies!

Rule #3 – Join an Angel Group—Contrary to public opinion, most investors aren’t multi-millionaires. An angel group allows you to invest small sums in concert with others in the group, and coincidentally, it makes it possible to obey Rules #1 and #2.

I also assume that a personal research staff isn’t in your budget. A good angel group solves that problem by splitting the workload among its members according to their particular expertise. A strong group will accelerate your learning curve. The trust and camaraderie you build with other members makes angel investing a real joy. My own experience as a member of Heartland Angels has broadened my horizons and given me so much more than I could ever contribute.

It’s not a rule, but read the book ANGEL INVESTING by David Rose. You’ll be glad you did.

dice

Beware

If you don’t like to help companies grow from raw idea to industry leader; if you aren’t willing to participate in the fascinating and often perplexing details of a new business venture; if you can’t stand people; if you’re afraid—then invest in a mutual fund or put your money in gold coins and count them every day, just for something to do.

 

Picture Your Risk

I’m visually oriented. To paint the picture of risk, I use a Monte Carlo engine. MC is a sophisticated and arcane statistical tool that any child can use. If you’re a spreadsheet whiz, you can set it up yourself. I downloaded a program called Equity Monaco that makes it easy to enter investment outcomes, and analyze results.

NOTE: If you find yourself gazing at a bunch of confusing readouts with a vacant stare, read my paper, ALTERNATE HISTORIES. It’s written in plain language. It’s short. You’ll be an expert in no time.

angel

How Angels Make Money

Angel investing is long term—3-10 years. But like any investment class, you’ll cash out of one deal and put that money in another. It’s a continuing cycle. It’s also a homerun strategy. Can a homerun strategy be a winning strategy? Let’s run the numbers and see.

First, we need a data set of ordinary, average, run-of-the-mill trade results. Turns out, the Kauffman Foundation keeps statistics and publishes them.

Here’s the bottom line, according to Kauffman, 38.1% of startups grow and get acquired by a larger company, at which point all the investors throw a party! 11% become lifestyle businesses. These may provide a nice living for the employees but it takes the investors a really long time to cash out. 50.9% of companies go belly-up. Of those, 0.9% just disappear!

startups

Actual Angel Returns

Let’s keep this simple. From the investor’s perspective, all the returns from Kauffman’s wealth of past data boil down to five distinct outcomes. I express these as multiples of cash invested. (“10x” is a return of 10 times your investment.) Then I list the probability of each outcome.

return-vs-probability

Return as a multiple of investment vs. probability

Kauffman Foundation

 

Using these numbers, and applying our rules, it’s simple to build a simulated portfolio that represents likely outcomes.

Let’s assume that 10% of your portfolio amounts to $50K. Your angel group’s minimum investment is 10K. That means you need to plunk down 10% of your stake per deal, rather than the recommended 2%. You’re undercapitalized! Your Identical Minimum Sum, is high.

What does that mean to you? You’ll participate in fewer trades than some rich slob. All other things being equal, your results will be less predictable. The rich get richer, etc. etc. But you’re young and aggressive. Let’s say you go ahead anyway.

Now create a list of outcomes, based on Kauffman’s stats.

how-deals-shake-out

Notice that you follow all three rules. You invest exactly the same amount each time. Using an angel group, you invest the smallest amount you can get away with, and you participate in as many attractive deals as you can.

 

The Face of Risk

We’re ready to run our simulations. Feed those numbers into your MC engine and let the computer do the work. (I apologize for omitting legends from the charts, but the numbers in my program are too tiny to read. Hey, these are actual screenshots from my software package. So permit me to clue you in:

  • The X axis is about 100 deals.
  • The Y axis runs from zero to almost $2,500,000.
  • All equity lines start at $50K—your alternative portfolio.

std-10-long

10 possible equity curves

Here’s an MC output of 10 runs from the set we just built. Each line is a distinct equity curve that represents your portfolio. All are possible. Notice that two of them go negative quickly and never recover. But the rest do quite well. This isn’t enough data to draw any valid conclusions. Let’s run more simulations, using the same data set.

std-30-long

30 possible equity curves

Here we have 30 equity curves. The projections are getting clearer. Let’s run a few more, using exactly the same data set.

std-100-long

100 possible equity curves

Ah! Here we go—100 outcomes. The variation is nice and tight. Kurtosis is evident in the plot—in other words, the most likely results cluster around the mean. Looks like a good experiment to me. Let’s use this one.

 

ANALYSIS

Analyzing these plots is amazingly intuitive. For this experiment, the equity lines all start at $50K—your portfolio. A few outcomes go negative, but most look quite promising. The luckiest investor walks home with $2,450,000. MC plots don’t necessarily follow a standard distribution, but the mean looks to be about $1,450,000. Let’s focus on that number.

If we achieve the mean, we’re looking at an average return of 28 times investment. Does 28x get your attention? It gets mine! It even raises suspicions about possible survivorship bias in Kauffman’s numbers. But these are the best statistics we have so we’ll go with them.

How much is 28x as an annual percent return? That depends on turnover of deal flow. The shorter the hold time, the larger the IRR. 3 years is better than 10.

By the way, you may be wondering which curve is yours. There’s no answer to that question. But since your portfolio is so small, you’re more likely to find yourself on the fringe. An investor that’s filthy rich and participates in many more deals, enjoys a more predictable outcome and probably lands close to the mean.

 

BREAKING THE RULES

Let’s find out what happens if we break just one rule. And who doesn’t do that? So you invest $100K in a really juicy deal. It’s the best prospect you’ve ever seen and you figure it’ll make you rich. This thing can’t miss! Hey, it’s just one investment—how much difference can it make? You have just violated the Identical Minimum Sum rule. I know. I made this mistake once.

We add it to our data set and run the simulation. For this, we increase your portfolio size and retain all the same trades from the last run. This is what the hotshots call sensitivity analysis.

undis-100-long

100 possible equity curves – breaking one rule

Whoa! Look at what that one lapse in discipline does to your projections! The mean is now flat—zero times return! Half the outcomes are negative. No, I don’t’ want to play in this sandbox.

Successful investing is primarily adherence to a solid set of rules. That’s called discipline. The goal of discipline is to keep the probabilities in your favor. Discipline defines success.

That doesn’t mean that a successful angel can get by without a good skillset. You need to exercise brilliant judgement. You must perform your due diligence. Knowledge and experience are huge. Always keep the human side in mind. And you need to follow-up. Watch your companies closely as they pivot and grow. I leave you with this thought:

david-rose-quote

Also read – ALTERNATE HISTORIES

 

John Jonelis is a writer, investor, fisherman, author of the novel,

THE GAMEMAKER’S FATHER, publisher of Chicago Venture Magazine, and editor of News From Heartland.

The term IDENTICAL MINIMUM SUM is from the author.

Thanks to David Rose and his book ANGEL INVESTING.

Statistics from the Kauffman Foundation.

MC plots from Equity Monaco by TickQuest.

Graphic courtesy MS Office.

DISCLAIMER – Do your own due diligence. It’s not my fault if you lose money.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Financial Markets, Heartland Angels, Information, Innovation, Invention, investor, new companies, risk in, vc, venture capital