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7.3: Startup Funding- Traditional Venture Funding

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    CJ Cornell

    Traditional Funding

    Usually has no added value to the venture other than cash Accredited investors investing as individuals or in groups Accredited individual investors who have significant investing experience and take active roles Institutional funding (managed by professional investors) Typical Range Less than $20,000 $150,000- Younger entrepreneurs lack sufficient self-funding or resources from friends. Requires evidence of market validation and traction; often requires “aggregating” small investments from many angels Requires evidence of market validation and traction.

    Super Angels are rare, but they can add significant value to a startup beyond money (connections, introductions, and significant help securing additional funding).

    Fund companies, not ideas. Requires significant commitment (an issue for student entrepreneurs)

    Venture Capital

    When it comes to funding entrepreneurial startups—especially high-tech, high-growth companies—most people think of venture capital. Take any modern, startup-to-billion dollar success story, and you’ll find that the company had significant investment, and help, from venture capitalists.

    The Venture Capital Industry

    Venture capital firms typically manage money on behalf of large institutions (e.g. pension funds, university endowments) and sometimes on behalf of corporations and extremely wealthy individuals. VC firms then try to identity and invest in high-growth companies that will transform the investment into windfall returns. Some quick facts:

    • VC fund sizes range from the small (under $150M), medium ($250M to $1B) to large (>$1B).
    • As a general rule of thumb, VCs know that 4 out of 5 of the companies they invest in will fail (i.e. not provide an acceptable ROI), so:
    • VCs need companies that are capable of (or have the potential) to generate 20, 50 or 100 times the original investment in 5-10 years.
    • VCs are looking for companies that can scale.

    During 2016[3], total invested: $59.3 Billion in 4,799 deals—broken down as follows:

    • Seed Stage: $2.07B in 1,428 deals
    • Early Stage: $10.48B in 1,272 deals
    • Expansion Stage: $20.65B in 985 deals
    • Later Stage: $20.84B in 429 deals

    The total invested—$59.3 Billion—is quite a large number—and that is just in one average year. But looking at the details we see:

    • VCs funded fewer than 1,500 seed stage companies (i.e., their first money in).
    • And even if you look at all of the “startups,” they only invested in 2,700 companies. Given the number of companies formed each year seeking funding, it doesn’t take much to figure out how rare attracting venture capital really is.
    Year Number of Deals (Traditional Media) Total Number of Deals
    2012 9 4,605
    2013 15 5,021
    2014 9 5,710
    2015 11 5,650
    2016 8 5,004
    2017 (Q1, Q2 only) 6 2,358

    VCs predominantly invest in Internet, mobile/telecom and software companies—both in the number of deals and the amount invested. Note that out of 4,799 total deals in 2016, only 8 of them were in media. Media received an infinitesimal amount–not even 1 percent–of the total dollars invested.

    Where VCs Invest (Regionally)[5][6]

    The top five regions for VC investment in 1Q 2017 were San Francisco, New York metro, Silicon Valley, New England, and the Southeast, according to a recent PwC MoneyTree Report. National Venture Capital Association and PitchBook Data[7] shows that more than half of the value of first-quarter VC deals was invested on the West Coast.

    Not surprisingly VCs invest within the top regional entrepreneurial ecosystems in the U.S. While not a hard rule, the prevailing wisdom is, if you want VC funding, prepare to move to Silicon Valley, New York, or Boston.

    How to Find VCs

    It’s easy to search the Web for venture capital firms—most belong to the NVCA (National Venture Capital Association)— And VC firms’ partners and associates can be found speaking at local venture/entrepreneur events, sitting on panels, blogging, or writing articles. Identifying VC firms and partner names is usually not that hard.

    In-Class Exercise

    Look up the top five venture capital firms and identify one of their partners in your region.

    But, as we’ll find with almost every kind of investor—the most common (and preferred) method of connecting to an venture capitalist (or angel investor) is through a personal introduction. Cold calls or unsolicited emails usually won’t get any response.

    The most common complaint among young entrepreneurs is that they don’t know anyone who would provide an introduction. But introductions to busy VCs aren’t impossible, even for brand-new entrepreneurs. Many VCs participate at local entrepreneurship events, panels, or contests and are fairly easy to meet. Entrepreneurs usually interact with other entrepreneurs, advisors, mentors, lawyers, accountants etc., all of whom may be able to provide an introduction—directly or indirectly—to a venture capitalist.

    How to Determine if VC Funding is Appropriate for your Company

    VCs generally like the following conditions for investing in a company.

    • Solving a clear market pain, problem (or opportunity)—the bigger the better
    • A strong team with clear track record—that can execute on the plan
    • An “unfair advantage” over potential competition
    • Demonstrating customer traction
    • Demonstrating market validation (product-market fit)
    • If your startup is weak on any of those conditions, either VC funding may night be the right path, or you need to demonstrate how you will address the weaknesses.

    Instructor Resource

    • Look up successful companies that got their initial, external, funding from angel investors vs. VCs. Discuss the origin stories of Google and / or Facebook.
    • Look at case studies where the presence of too much venture capital was cited as the cause of failure for a well-known venture. Examples include Webvan, Kozmo,, Flooz,, and others. Use this list[8] as a starting point.

    Angel Funding

    For earlier stage startups, angel investors are the more likely alternative to VC funding.

    Some metrics for angel funding for the year 2016:[9]

    • A total of 64,380 entrepreneurial ventures received angel funding,
    • from 297,880 active investors,
    • for a total of $21.3 billion,
    • with an average deal size of $330,185.

    How to Find Angels

    Given the number of angel investors (or potential angels) out there, finding an angel is a lot easier than finding a venture capitalist.

    In his popular blog “Startup Professionals” blogger, advisor and angel investor Martin Zwilling offers some concise advice for finding and engaging with angel investors:[10]

    • Angels invest in people, more often than they invest in ideas. That means they need to know you, or someone they trust who does know you (warm introduction). For credibility, they need to know you BEFORE you are asking for money.
    • Angel investors are people too. Investors expect you to understand their motivation, respect their time, and show your integrity in all actions. They probably won’t respond well to high-pressure sales tactics, information overload, or bribes.
    • Angels like to “touch and feel” their investments, so they are generally only interested in local opportunities. It won’t help your case or your workload to do an email blast and follow-up with 250,000 members around the world.
    • But angel investing is risky and time consuming—so more and more, angels are pooling their money and joining groups.

    Angel Groups

    In 2016, direct investments reported from U.S. angel groups more than doubled from the year prior:[11]

    • The median size of investment (where angel groups co-invest with other investors) in first-round deals was $950,000.
    • Groups located in the Northeast make roughly 7 percent of their investments outside of their region, while California groups make 43 percent of their investments outside their state. Having access to the necessary resources and tools is crucial for the success of angel groups looking to invest outside of their region.
    • California accounted for 30 percent of all angel-funded early stage deals in 2016, followed by the Southeast, New York, and the Northeast, all of which hovered around 10 percent. Angel groups invested in software (34.3 percent), health care (17.3 percent), B2B (13.0 percent), Internet and mobile (11.2 percent), and B2C (10.3 percent). No other industry or sector generated more than a 2 percent share in funded deals.

    The most active angel groups with multiple locations or networks included Keiretsu Forum, Tech Coast Angels, Investors Circle, Golden Seeds, and Astia Angels.

    Resources for Finding Angel Groups:

    • Gust [12](formerly AngelSoft)
      This is perhaps the most widely used source of information on angel investor groups. Gust claims to have facilitated over $1 billion of investments in 500,000 startups to date, via connection through their platform to over 70,000 angel investors in 190 countries.
    • AngelList [13]
      AngelList has featured over three million businesses for potential investors in a format that is, effectively, a social network for entrepreneurs and angels. They claim to have already raised over $560 million for 1,400 startups, primarily in the U.S. and Europe. In addition, they serve as a jobs available site for 24,000 startups.
    • Keiretsu Forum[14]
      This site claims to be the world’s largest single angel investor network, with 2,500 accredited investor members throughout 52 chapters on three continents. Since its founding in 2000, its members have invested over $800 million dollars in over 800 companies in technology, consumer products, health care and life sciences, real estate, and other segments with high-growth potential.
    • USA Angel Investment Network [15]
      This group claims to be the largest angel investment community in the world. They have already raised $300 million for startups in the U.S. and across the world.
      The reach is very broad, with a network has 30 branches extending to 80 different countries. They have over 785,000 registered members with 140,000 investors and 650,000 entrepreneurs.
    • Angel Capital Association (ACA) [16]
      The ACA is the angel industry alliance, which now includes a directory to more than 240 angel groups and 13,000 individual angels across North America. ACA member angel groups represent more than 10,000 accredited investors and are funding approximately 800 new companies each year, and managing an ongoing portfolio of more than 5,000 companies throughout North America.

    Angel Funding

    Angels invest in far more early stage companies than venture capitalists. And while the average investment is approximately $330,000 (for individual angels) and $950,000 for groups—angels often invest as low as $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000—making them a very attractive source of funding for early stage ventures.


    CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. He is the author of the best-selling book: The Age of Metapreneurship—A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship [24] and the upcoming book: The Startup Brain Trust—A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Experts that Help them Become Great. Reach him on Twitter at @cjcornell.

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    2. Bill Payne, “The Funding Gap,” Gust Blog, December 6, 2011, ↵
    3. “PwC Moneytree Report 2016 Final,” PwC, ↵
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    17. CJ Cornell, “8 Simple Rules of Angel Investing,”, ↵
    18. Brad Feld, "Term Sheet Series Wrap Up," Feld Thoughts, August 2005, ↵
    19. “Angel Investing: Term Sheet Economics,” Women Invest, March 25, 2013, ↵
    20. “VC Nomenclature and the Investor Spiral,” Fortune, May 16, 2011, ↵
    21. “How to Read a Term Sheet,” Hyde Park Angels, July 21, 2015, ↵
    22. The Most Active Corporate VCs in Q1/Q2 2016,” Plug and Play, November 14, 2016, ↵
    23. Todd Miller, "Term Sheets: The Definitive Guide," Capshare blog, ↵
    24. Cornell, CJ, The Age of Metapreneurship, (Phoenix: Venture Point Press, 2017). ↵

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