The presentation entitled "R.I.P Good Times", presented by Sequoia Capital to over 100 CEOs last week, warned of grim times ahead and gave rather dramatic advice. It hit me over the head like a mallet, as it did many others.
But my friend and board member Mike Crill was quick to remind the companies he works with who the audience was for this presentation -- multimillion dollar VC-backed companies, primarily in the Bay Area -- and gave his own advice in a blog post aptly titled "To Better Days". In it he correctly points out that early-stage companies operating on or raising angel rounds under $1MM will find their circumstances different than venture-backed firms or late stage companies, and provides some advice.
Investors are going to look for deals with traction. If you can’t demo your product, go get a job or go back to school. The competition for angel dollars is going to be too tight for you this year. If you can sell your product, then sell. You’ll find more success in selling product than selling shares.
He points out three timeframes working against the CEO raising angel money this year:
- Market stability -- we're in a timeframe of extreme market instability, which is apt to continue through the end of the year.
- Election year -- Bush is a short-timer. He's got senioritis. He's far less apt to bend over backwards in the last three months of presidency to rise to the occasion and fix the economy, than to just pass it on to the next guy.
- Recovery cycle -- I'm not sure anyone predicts a rapid recovery. Get used to it.
I think the main point Mike makes is that while Sequoia made an effort to tell their portfolio companies to "get scrappy", those of us not VC-backed are already scrappy. (Not that it's meant to make us feel better, but ...) Our world is different. We're not sitting on several million dollars and executing a Go Big or Go Home strategy.
While you should just read his post, his advice is roughly as follows:
- If your product is selling, focus on execution.
- Focus on smaller rounds, and accomplish key objectives. Set your targets low and oversubscribe if you have that option.
- Lay off any B and C players on your dev team. Sell what you have. Build v2.0 another day.
- If the market is being less receptive to marketing, reduce your marketing costs. Focus on ROI.