Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Friends and Family, Angels and VCs

Today I met with a friend who is starting an e-commerce company, and he needs $100,000 to get his site launched, attain some users and demonstrate metrics and traction. From there, he plans to seek angel or venture capital funding. Well, at the beginning of our conversation, he thought about speaking with some "super angels" now and has in fact done so. His observation was that the "super angels" (Jeff Clavier, Mike Maples, Ron Conway) have moved "up market" just as venture capitalists have of late. Translation: they are doing (relatively) later stage deals and putting more money to work in those deals.

My advice to my friend is the same as it would be for anyone similarly situated. Seeking friends and family for a company in need of $100,000 is the only way to start. To my friend's credit, he has done that and is half way to his goal. For the last $50K, he and I brainstormed about angels who don't necessarily have funds per se but are active and who have an interest in/passion for e-commerce deals. Finding such people can be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Frankly, that's where your lawyers, other service providers and friends who are plugged into the angel/venture capital ecosystem can be incredibly helpful. I also suggested that my friend use LinkedIn to find alumni of some successful companies in the e-commerce space i.e., Junglee, Amazon, et al. If you're an active LinkedIn user, it can be an incredibly powerful way to find people whom you want to meet.

Once my friend has some data and has confirmed that his idea has merit i.e., users, a model that is starting to show some color, going to super angels or venture capital firms with a penchant for early-stage e-commerce deals will be the right path forward. Just be sure to conduct diligence on everyone you take money from because you can bet your investors will be doing that on you.


Robin said...

Great point about doing due diligence on your angels. My very first investor told me at our second meeting "Are you having me checked out?" I thought my inquiries had been discreet -- I had asked an investigative reporter I knew to get the info secretly (this was pre-internet) --and worried I had botched the deal. Arthur (investor) then told me it was smart to check him out, he always wondered why more founders didn't do so, and wrote a check.

Lara said...

Robin, I am always surprised when entrepreneurs don't check out their VCs and/or angels. However, that's incredibly common. People assume the money guys have all of the power, and that's not true!