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Frontier Capital – Learnin’s from the ol’ West

June 29, 2009 4 comments
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and Congress of ...
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Traditionally, the Venture Capital industry has taken its lead from the West. Sure there are fine firms up and down the US and beyond, but think of venture capital and it’s hard not to imagine Google’s garage or a sarcastic VC cutting through some poor entrepreneur’s far-fetched American dream (or, if it’s 1999, funding it).

Now that probes into the services that 3rd party marketing firms and placement agents offer are causing some concern, VCs need to wise-up on the marketing of their own funds. And it’s not going to be easy.

I’ve written before on certain similarities between the actions of some in the fundraising industry and of those in the Wild West. I wasn’t too complimentary, but I wonder what we can learn from the Ol’ West? Here are some quick pointers:

Firstly, if you can, it’s important to show some kind of track history. After all…

It’s better to be a has-been than a never-was.

But track history isn’t everything, of course; it might have been easy raising your last fund in ’06: You delivered 30%+ IRR and most of the LPs were reckoning on funding their commitments with distribution in any case. But, in 2009, if you can’t show how your teams delivered those returns, you’re sure gonna hear this an awful lot:

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance

And honesty really is the best policy; let’s hear it for bad news, told well. The amount of DD LPs are putting in these days means that it is going to be increasingly difficult to exercise that special sort of creativity that some VCs are rumoured to be indulging in with the valuations of some slightly wonky Chinese portfolio companies. Much better to open the books and tell the story of what happened and what was learned.

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

Of course, one of the most important skills is getting an upfront read on who might be ready to commit and who is still waiting before making new commitments. It’s like they used to say:

Never slap a man who’s chewin’ tobacco.

So:

  1. Show what you have done
  2. Show how you did it
  3. Don’t just tell the good news
  4. Wait for the right time to tell it

If you get all that licked, you might stand half a chance!

I’ll tail off now..:

Never miss a good chance to shut up.

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Insert your own Apax Partners fundraising gag here…

June 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Martin Halusa, chief of Apax, chef de brigade

Martin Halusa, chief of Apax, chef de brigade

It’s not always good news when your private equity backers descend on your offices at short notice…and it doesn’t always bode well when the “party” includes the worldwide CEO. Of course, nothing says “this is the good kind of party” like a silly hat, and the visit was received with extremely good humour, even if Apax was demanding money…

The Apax team had brought with them a crate of sandwiches, which they were looking to flog to the excited and hungry denizens of IE Consulting towers and our cohorts at Unquote” for the benefit of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the poorly lads and lasses it serves.

Well done Apax for putting in some personal effort to raise money for such a good cause. Not so well done on the quality of the sandwiches…I’m looking forward to Bridgepoint trying the same thing…

Fairly ropey tuna sandwich made by APAX partners

Fairly ropey tuna sandwich made by APAX partners