Entrepreneur

By: Ken Kousky, BlueWater Angels and Krista Tuomi, American University

Federal and state governments are beginning to recognize the important role that startups play in job creation. (A recent article by Neumark, Wall, and Zhang notes that they account for almost 20 percent of gross job creation.) For these startups, early stage financing is increasingly necessary given the shortened product life cycle - businesses can only succeed by moving rapidly from ideas to product distribution.  Banks do not provide this type of funding; family and friends rarely have enough; and the public stock market is only an option for established firms. The 2014 Joint Small Business Credit Survey Report emphasizes this. In particular, it finds that the majority of small firms (under $1 million in annual revenues) and startups (under 5 years in business) are unable to secure any credit. (The average approval rate from all sources was only 38%). Not surprisingly, lack of credit availability was the top listed challenge for startups in 2014.

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

Carmine Gallo, author of “Talk Like TED”, calls ideas “the currency of the 21st century.” It’s true that consistently refining and taking action on relevant ideas leads to business innovations and scientific breakthroughs.

For entrepreneurs with an innovative business concept, the process of refining a big idea and taking relevant action includes the ability to synthesize input from a wide range of sources. Input from too many sources can leave you feeling as though there are a hundred voices whispering in your head, muddying your refinement process and making it harder, not easier, to make decisions and take action. Making sense of this varied input requires having a framework for filtering and evaluating those voices.  Here are three framework components to consider.

By: Christopher Mirabile, ACA Board and Launchpad Venture Group

This post originally appeared on Inc.com

Most people are pretty confused about what crowdfunding is and is not. Here are the ten key concepts entrepreneurs and investors need to understand.

1. Product crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding are really different.

Most people still confuse them. Product crowdfunding is done on sites like Kickstarterand Indiegogo. It allows you to finance innovation directly, at the product level; contributors pre-purchase products or simply donate. Conversely, with equity crowdfunding investors take stock ownership in the company making the product, which is very different and quite a bit more complicated. Equity crowdfunding is not yet fully democratized for ordinary investors, but sites like AngelList and WeFunder allow larger (accredited) investors to do it.

By: Elizabeth Usovicz, General Manager of Transaction Commons, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."

Asked to explain his investment philosophy to a group of entrepreneurs, the founding partner of an investment fund put it this way: “There are only two things I care about: Can you make product, and can you sell product?”  If you’re the founder of a startup, you know first-hand that sales drive revenue, and revenue drives both investment and growth. How good are your sales skills?

All sales are the result of creating a connection with the buyer, and the best salespeople are adept at developing meaningful business relationships with their prospects. Here are some essentials to developing relationships like a sales pro.

By: Christopher Mirabile, ACA Board and Launchpad Venture Group

This post originally appeared on ScratchPaper.

Competent entrepreneurs can explain their company in terms of what the product does. Good entrepreneurs can explain their company in terms of their customer and their market. Fundedentrepreneurs can pitch their company in terms that an investor can relate to.

For most entrepreneurs, it’s not easy or intuitive to put the investor version of the story together. They can talk a blue streak about the product, the customer, maybe the market. But they cannot pitch the business as a good investment in a way the investor can quickly grab onto.

Turns out, there is an easy formula that works nearly universally. The key to this formula is that it covers all the required subjects, but strings them together into a coherent and engaging narrative flow. Once you grok the formula, it all kind of clicks and you suddenly understand what it is you are trying to convey. From then on, it’s easy.

By: Doug Doan, founder of ACA member Hivers and Strivers, an angel investment group that invests exclusively in companies started by military veterans. ACA is supporting the celebration of National Veterans Small Business Week with a Veterans Syndication Event on November 12 in Boston.

An important fact about American veterans is also the least reported and understood.  Our Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard veterans are turning into superb entrepreneurs and are unusually successful starting and running new business enterprises.  Surprised?  You shouldn’t be. Many military vets use the very skills, leadership, and drive learned the hard way from service in wartime to build and run great companies.  Let’s call it Post Traumatic Growth or PTG. 

Companies such as Ridescout, founded by two West Point grads and combat leaders, brought the drive, determination, and fierce execution skill skills learned in the Army. They have been so successful in opening up a new market, their company was recently gobbled up by Daimler Benz, with a nice return for the angels involved.

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