“Syl’s Stance: How Entrepreneurs Succeed at Venture Capital Conferences”

The annual cycle of venture capital conferences are again underway, setting the stage for entrepreneurs and investors to seek capital financing. However, gaining the most ROI from a venture conference requires an overall strategy, great preparation and tactical maneuvering throughout the VC conference cycle – namely, from the application and coaching preparation through the entire event day – and beyond.

For those seriously seeking investment from angels, venture capitalists or strategic investors be SUPER prepared and do so well in advance. This includes your team, your product demo, your ‘Investor Ready Business Plan’, and your intro ‘elevator’ pitch (30 seconds to 1 minute).  You need a firm and compelling ‘total investment opportunity story’ that permeates your people, your presentations, and your promotions. All players must be singing the same song and on their A+ game. Be on message and in key across all formal presentations, table discussions, hallway chats and cocktail reception conversations. This is ‘show time ‘folks at every touch point…all day…with everyone – from the moment you arrive in the parking lot until you drive away from the venue. With excellent preparation you will relax and tell your story with confidence.  The day is about moving onward and upward. And importantly, follow up with a thank you to all you meet, an invitation to connect; and be set to immediately send your venture capitalist (VC) presentation deck and your concise ‘Investor Ready Business Plan’ to qualified prospective investors.

For those testing the waters, I recommend you go as an attendee first, read the room, understand the dynamics of the day, make face-to-face connections and gather contact information –most especially from investors, as well as with services providers, who often server as influencers. Consider the best technologies, products, markets, teams and investment stories that gain the best attention, awards and interest from investors. Learn from them – both from their successes and failures. With this first hand intelligence and with the right advisors you, and your team, will be able to become ‘investor ready’ for your own ‘show time’ at the next venture capital conference.

Be well,
Syl

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and interim executive. Syl  has empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle. He has assisted in raising $300 million of capital financing to date. Learn more and connect with Syl at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php

Syl’s Stance: How Leaders Stand Out in Doldrum Market

Business leaders at all levels have an opportunity to rethink and engage everyone in your ecosystem for the good. Here are five areas to consider and to act upon.

1. Give more care to your existing customers. Anticipate. Call. Visit. Find out what would help them in this economic environment and find ways to help on a business or personal basis.

2. Give more care to your employees. Help them develop new skills as individuals and groups. Listen to their ideas. Consider new service lines or product lines. Find ways to improve customer experience, product quality and profitability by making smart, low cost or no cost innovations with a group effort – nurturing camaraderie and moral along the way.

3. Take time to reflect on your own situation – from a business and personal standpoint. How might I improve in terms of setting goals, aligning my team, managing my priorities and time, and fostering a ‘to innovate’ culture? Where might I give energy for self development for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual improvement?

4. Consider employees family situations, including extended family needs in these rough economic times, as well as those of key suppliers and customers. Are there ways to help people? Live your values and contribute as a member of the social communities which touch your people, product or ecosystem.

5. Consider how you might reposition your product, service or company. Are there ways to outflank or stand above your competition? You might use some resources to do some competitive intelligence. Or consider following specific persons through social media or connecting more in business networking circles. Share insights and suggestions. Strengthen the relationships outside of the sales context.

By such intentional efforts to sharpen and care for yourself, your employees and other stakeholders in your business and personal ecosystem you will build value and meaning for all.

Be well,
Syl

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and interim executive. Syl  has empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle. Learn more and connect with Syl at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php

“Syl’s Stance: Embrace Social Business Dialogue to Care for Customers”

I recommend social media for businesses as part of an integrated and coordinated communication and customer engagement program that encompasses all channels. Start small and evolve carefully – this is not about PR nor bombarding audiences with a new “social media’ tool. Instead, evolve and tweak your voice, as well as your level and type of engagement. Consider different expectations over time. Success metrics should also evolve – namely, awareness, interest, engagement, retention, new prospect/lead acquisition and then sales. Embrace the new digital community square as a necessary opportunity to share knowledge, provide help and get to know and respond to your customers in real time.

Business is in the next stage of digital evolution. In just 16 years we have moved from the static brochure-like websites to eCommerce ordering, online bank transactions and digital customer service (CRM) as the norm. Now we have entered the age of ‘digital dialogues’ – two-way, real time conversations, where the voice of the consumer and customer are even more important than the voice of business. Businesses no longer have to research or focus on groups in a contrived environment. We now have the means, and a mandate, to know and personalize our offerings and care for those whose needs we are in business to serve. Let us all embrace Social Business as a dialogue to better care and serve our customers.

Be well,
Syl

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and interim executive. Syl  has empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle. Learn more and connect with Syl at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php

“Syl’s Stance: Forget Employment, Be an Entrepreneur”

The old model of ‘study to be a technocrat, graduate, then work as an employee’ is gone, and likely not to return. It emerged, peaked and ebbed over the last 100 years. Yet our education, personal planning and government policies are stuck in the irrelevant 1950s/1960s model. History shows us that all economic models evolve and many disappear. The game is new people!

The guiding principles for today’s environment in my view are: ‘grow your own’, ‘eat/keep what you hunt’, and ‘passive income rules’. This is why people are well off to consider to create and own their own business. Available pathways to viable economic health today include entrepreneurship, network marketing and stock ownership. Of course, success requires due diligence, constant learning, self development, ‘smart work’ and progressive results.  And for your financial peace ‘spend much less than your total income’. And the bonus is that when you earn more than what you spend, you have capacity and can choose the joy of sharing with others and paying it forward.

Be well,
Syl

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and interim executive. Syl  has empowered hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle. Learn more and connect with Syl at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php

Top 7 Benefits of a Business Plan

Many wonder why a business plan? Well, here are the Top 7 benefits in my view:

1) Forces you to summarize the business model

2) Establishes goals, direction, gaps and action plans

3) Forces alignment

4) Establishes performance metrics and accountabilities

5) Helps prioritize budgets and hiring decisions

6) Creates core content that can be repurposed for VC presentation deck, prospectus and sales collateral

7) All serious businesses have a business plan whether it is de-facto or intentionally stated.

More: Most customers, investors and other stakeholders will demand to see a business plan – on paper and/or permeating your business.

Many corporations do a three year planning cycle with annual updates.

Most investors require five year financials – which need justification with a business plan.

Now better get on with it to update your business plan!

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and interim executive who delivers venture accelerator solutions, He has assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle and helped to raise  $300 million of capital. Learn more about Syl and connect with him at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php.

Do VCs Have Money to Invest? Usually Not!

One of the more perplexing aspects of venture building is figuring out how to finance your technology and company. A common mistake is assuming that Venture Capitalists (VCs) have money to invest in your venture when you need them. The reality is that VCs at most times have no money available to invest in any new venture. Intrigued? Then read on.

While many entrepreneurs strive to connect with VCs, it is really somewhat of a waste of time in most cases. That is, unless you understand the inner workings of the ‘VC world’, selectively choose the right VC and have good timing.

All private equity funds, including venture capital funds, are run in a similar pattern. They raise money for their fund, invest in companies, wait a while, and then exit those companies for the purpose of trying to make a bundle of money. Each fund has a portfolio of typically 10 to 15 companies with an investment time horizon of about 10 years. Success is measured on the entire portfolio’s performance.

The fund raising period and the initial few years of investment are quite frenzied. This is when the pipeline is built, term sheets signed, due diligence conducted and expectations are high. Then comes the hard work and the wait. Earliest exits are during years 3 to 5, and these are often winners. Years 5 to 8 are when the majority of invested companies are exited and then the laggards after years 8 through 10 (or longer). Of course some sectors have much longer horizons – like pharmaceuticals; while some investor approaches have exits based on milestones much earlier in the technology commercialization or business development  stage.

To use a baseball analogy, the goal for the VC fund portfolio is to hit at least one home run, with the expectation that there will be a handful of singles and doubles. Walks will happen, but most feared are the fouls, or bad bets, that bring down the entire portfolio’s return. The goal for each invested company is 35% or higher ROI – depending on the fund.

So we can see that it is primarily in those first two to three years when a fund has money to invest. During that earlier period, initial investments are made, but also funds are committed or reserved for follow on investment rounds for the same portfolio companies. Thus, as a general rule, from year four onward (or 60-70% of the time), VCs have almost no money left to invest from a particular fund.

The lesson for entrepreneurs is first to be aware of the private equity investment lifecycle. Second, entrepreneurs should try to identify where a particular VC is in their lifecycle. This is not a simple task. One must read the news, ask around in networking circles and perhaps pose the question to the VC. Given the nature of the investment lifecycle the best times for entrepreneurs to connect with VC are when a VC is raising  its next fund or else in the first few years of the new fund. Of course always be cordial as VCs are always building their pipelines. Also, remember that the VC community is a small one and you never know when one VC might introduce you to another who is in the sweet spot of their investment lifecycle.

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture advisor and delivers venture accelerator solutions. He has assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle and helped to raise  $300 million of capital. Learn more about Syl and connect with him at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php.

Newsweek Print is Dead, Long Live Digital Media

This morning, The New York Times online edition announced: “Newsweek To Cease Print Publication at End of the Year”. Closing date 12/31/2012. This story led me down memory lane reflecting upon my relationships with Newsweek and the evolution to digital media. Was it my fault?

The world is a changin’.. I remember “Newsweek” was the only ‘textbook’ for my high school sophomore social studies class in the 1970s. I waited for it each week and read it on the bus and in class.  In 1997, when I started reading the Wall Street Journal online (for free) at my desk in a Fortune Global 1000 firm – others raised their eyebrows, with their fingers smudged with ink from the print edition. Today, our daily banking, shopping, dating, marrying, socializing as well as business procurement and church donations are all started or handled on the web. The digital revolution continues…and is proof that the “dot com” era succeeded …magnificently!

Many dot.com web 1.0 era businesses are flourishing today – including the big brands of eBay and Amazon, as well as many eBusinesses that my Scient/Razorfish colleagues designed and built – like MLB.com, Hotwire.com, LMVH.com and major banks’ online sites (probably yours). Other eCommerce and eProcurement transaction and digital sites that Scient built were acquired and integrated into other technology business platforms. For example, during web 1.0, I was involved at the launch of a Digital Print eProcurement Platform for a traditional printing company that was recently acquired by a VC backed company led by a Scient alumnus.

I remember in the late 1990s (internet ground zero) spending hours online with Time Warner media portal site to my great enjoyment. There was tremendous content across all their brands; but they did not know how to monetize their assets and keep user eyeballs sticking to their sites. Time Warner took down their branded sites and did the AOL deal – then dropped to the back of the pack. What a shame.

A similar thing happened to Newsweek  – namely “a decline in advertising and circulation” (aka users) led to its demise. What is regrettable is that Newsweek (Owned by the Washington Post until 2010) did not learn long ago from AOL’s missteps on the one hand, nor from the Wall Street Journal’s successful business model pivot to revenue on the other hand.

Today, online content reigns and customer stickiness, usability and subscriptions remain vital to success. With people’s addiction to real time…well, anything, personal updates and news must all be relevant, juicy, riveting…and yes, digital!

What is your perspective?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

© Strategy Dynamix, LLC All Rights Reserved

About the Author
Sylvester (Syl) Di Diego, Managing Partner, Strategy Dynamix, LLC is a venture accelerator and venture consultant who has assisted hundreds of entrepreneurs and investors to successfully navigate the venture growth lifecycle for digital, health and technology businesses. Learn more about Syl and connect with him at http://www.strategydynamix.com/aboutus/executives.php.

Note: For The New York Times online article “Newsweek To Cease Print Publication at End of Year” click here.