I was intrgued to see old Henry's take on the current state of the markets. Read...
Last year, I wrote about the fall of the public markets in Money Magnet. At the time, my publisher asked me to tone it down as she could not see Wall Street ever losing value!
I was surprised to see that The Economist has a sense of humour during these dark days but this is a good game to play. I got it from Jeff Watson.
Check it out:
We have passed the agricultural, industrial, and information ages and we've entered the conceptual age. The three As—abundance, automation, and Asia—ushered in this new era.
In the same way that machines have replaced our bodies in certain kinds of jobs, software is replacing our left brains by doing sequential, logical work.
And that brings us to Asia, to where that work is being shipped.
In Asia you have tens of millions of people who can do routine tasks like write computer code. Routine is work you can reduce to a spreadsheet, to a script, to a formula, to a series of steps that has the right answer.
Daniel Pink has written A Whole New Mind about this change and how it applies to the companies we create. "This is great book to tell you where to invest your private equity fund money," says Jacoline Loewen , author of Money Magnet and a partner in the private equity company of Loewen & Partners. "Every manufacturer in Ontario should read it to know what to do."
He tells us that his generation's parents told their children, "Become an accountant, a lawyer, or an engineer; that will give you a solid foothold in the middle class."
But these jobs are now being sent overseas. So in order to make it today, you have to do work that's hard to outsource, hard to automate. To play an interview with Daniel Pink, press on link below:
Taleb talks about Capitalism 2 where instead of relying on public markets to make money, people will now revert back to private money.
This is exactly what I said in Money Magnet, where I predicted the end of the public markets as the main model for creating value. Private equity is money which goes into companies directly from one human to another human who look eachother in the eye at least once every few months and who work together to build value in the business.
Beats the ATM machine style of investing in the public markets.
About Kipling: He had lost his dearly loved son in World War One, and a precious daughter some years earlier. He was a drained man in 1919, and England, which he identified with so intensely, was a drained nation. With all this as background, the general opinion is that The Gods of the Copybook Headings is a clinging to old-fashioned common sense by a man deeply in need of something to cling to....
As many do again just on 90 years later.
Where Does Your Deal Fit?
Ask your venture capitalist where your company investment would be placed in their fund horizon. If your company is first in, then you have more time (five years) to make money before being required to pay back the full amount. If you are last in, the time for the VC to get out will be closer.
It also depends when you meet with the VCs and at which stage they are with their fund. If they have already filled up most of their fund, they will be very choosy about the last two companies. If they have just obtained the cash, then they will be feeling more generous. After the investment, find out who will handle your file. Will it be the same person who did the due diligence and who spent time getting to know your business? That person will have an emotional attachment. If a new guy is handling your file, there will be far less commitment.
The VC is a high-risk, high-return animal. Three out of ten companies in their fund will drive their fund’s return. If you are in that portfolio and your business is struggling, expect some pressure from the VCs. They want winners as these are their bread and butter. VCs make money for people who make them money. There are usually ten years in their life cycle: the first five years are used to seed your business and the remaining five are used to harvest the investment. The VCs must get out. They are not there to fund you into retirement.
Your business plan is much like a resume and it’s the ticket that will get you to the next stage: a face-to-face meeting. Attracting money to your business will be easier if you show your vision of the business and how you plan to execute it. You can make yourself far more attractive to investors if you have a merger possibility on the radar that you can name.
“It's the people, not the product, that investors are most interested in,” says Ilske Treurnicht, MArs. “And first impressions are important. Be active and interested without being arrogant. A banking or VC relationship typically lasts four to eight years, so investors tend to look for people they like and believe they'll get along with. Also, they do want people who are prepared.”
"How people present themselves to investors says very loudly how that business owner presents their product to their customers.
When I went to McGill University, a slice of pizza at Gertrude’s on a Friday would be my one treat – otherwise I lived on peanut butter, tuna sandwiches, and beans on toast (yes, I like bread). I rarely bought a pre-made meal, which is why I was jolted by a blog written in response to Karen Selick, a lawyer with Reynolds O'Brien, LLP., who commented on Food Banks. This student was horrified at the thought of another student not being able to buy a cafeteria item. What’s wrong, I wondered, with the cheaper option of packing a cheese sandwich and an apple for lunch?
The end goal of helping the poor is desirable, but the debate rages around “how” we give.
The Food Bank style of charity – giving to ease symptoms – is not to be confused with venture giving – philanthropy – which targets the underpinnings of society, asks why poverty occurs, and seeks to level access to opportunities.
Andrew says, “It’s private companies like CYBF who taught me the skills to be an independent business owner by providing me with $1,000 a month for a year and giving me a mentor. CYBF insisted that I write business plans, make financial projections, and answer questions about the revenues and strategy of my business. By transferring their entrepreneurial skills, CYBF encouraged my passion for music into a business. I won the sound contract for a Sprite commercial and now I have my own studio – King Squire Audio. Of the 20 people in my CYBF program, more than half are now hiring other people. The cost – $240,000 – is peanuts compared to what the government is spending on big conglomerates.”
Andrew agrees with Selick, that “how” skills or resources are given increase the impact of levelling the playing field. “The CYBF model should be exploited as it is entrepreneurs who are running the program. Letting government ‘do the giving’ would be inefficient. It was private business people who taught me how to raise money and who gave me the right ideas about the tough world of business and this came through CYBF.”
The Food Bank is well meaning with its belief in the redistribution of wealth, but I believe in the redistribution of skills to people like Andrew Squire, who has shed his dreadlock image and projects a quiet confidence. The Food Bank tips the pendulum toward socialism. I nudge the pendulum toward free enterprise. The totality of resources is never sufficient to meet all goals at the same time. Life is dialectic – private enterprise versus public duty. But effective giving is something we can all have the courage and honesty to face.
Jacoline Loewen is a financial advisor for companies seeking capital, as well as a corporate strategy expert, lecturer, and writer with three published books. the latest is Money Magnet: How to attract investors to your business.
VCs don’t invest in technology or markets, they invest in people.
If the people stuff goes wrong, it’s hell. They put you through due diligence while at the same time trying to find out what kind of person you are.
When you pitch in, it’s a sociological experiment to see what makes you tick and whether you will be co-operative or will crack.
Probably the most powerful action you can take is to find a referral to a partner in the business. It’s a bit like dating. If someone they trust refers you to a VC, they will take your call. "The question I get asked the most is how to find investors," says Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet. "Owners are better of having a company like Loewen & Partners find them a suitable investor."
Warning: Bad phone manners are an immediate red flag. The VC knows they are entering into a seven-year relationship and they will not waste time with someone who rankles. If they can’t see themselves married to you, it’s a quick, “thank you but no thanks.”
“Often companies we like do not have EBIDTA or revenues, so we cannot use these tools as value markers.” Instead, Peter Carrescia of VenGrowth Capital Management Inc. says, his team values businesses with:
• High barriers to entry;
• The capability of rapid revenue growth;
• An analysis of what will happen in the market over the next three years;
• Identification of the Number One Issue to overcome;
• The perfect intersection of company, services/products and cycle in the market.
The whole business of investing is complex and wrought with chaos. A very big difference when investing in IT compared to other businesses is that the VCs know that eventually it all comes down to the team involved. Tech VCs can perform the complex science of due diligence, research the market and call past clients, but the only valid metadata worth drilling into is the people. The art of predicting winning people is much harder. Investing in a practiced team is a good indicator of success, but it is still an art.
The key reason why the biggest leveraged buyout ever was killed was that it
didn't live up to a "solvency opinion" -- a declaration by auditor KPMG that the
company would have been solvent after the takeover loaded it with billions in
Posted by Anastassia Kobeleva
Last night I was at the RBC Women Entrepreneur of the Year awards and Diane Francis of The National Post was there and also commented frequently on the tough days we are facing. There was a ripple of agreement through the room of 2,000 female entrepreneurs. The Publisher of Profit magazine brought some light to all this gloom and doom telling us about research that recessions and depressions first begin to lift in the SME sector. Our target market - Loewen & Partners, that is - is the SME with revenues of $10M+ and it’s true that there is private equity investment dollars available.
It’s time for another game of Crack the Whip with Kevin O’Leary at the head and the entrepreneur at the end.
And we were not disappointed as the Dragons’ Den show opened with Elke presenting her Lump O’ Coal, a Christmas stocking stuffer. Robert Herjavec thought it was cute but as Elke brought out her red Lump O’ Coal for Valentine’s, and so on, Arlene saw the flaw - Elke really had a single product for the investment opportunity.
There is only one thing that bothers Kevin—SKUs!
We’ve covered the topic of SKUs (Stock Keeping Unit) before with past Dragons’ Den presentations; Kevin means that the cost of managing and delivering single unit orders will eat up the profits. Think shirts: If you only had one design of shirt, you can see why delivering orders of one shirt to many stores would not be cost effective. To scale up, a company needs a wider range of products to pack for each client, otherwise you will be SKUed. And with that, Kevin skewered the deal, saying, “Deep in your heart, Elke, you know Lump O’ Coal will be a lump of you-know-what.”
Arlene tried to reason with Elke and said with a calming smile, “Cut through the harsh criticism (I’m really sorry you have to listen to Kevin) and hear the very good advice (Kevin is not such a ‘nothing burger’, he does teach at an important Business School).”
What Arlene was trying to explain is that an equity investor needs to make returns of above 20%, but by no means is Elke in a bad business. A single, seasonal product will simply not attract investors like the Dragons, and she would be better off getting debt financing or a government loan from the EDC. Quite rightly, Jim Treliving also respectfully advised that the company was a nice cottage industry and to keep it that way.
Single SKU companies can work and we saw this with a previous presenter – Sue and her Omega Tree Stand – who did well after fizzling at Dragons’ Den. Getting exposure on the show resulted in orders coming to Sue—landing her Canadian Tire and big-box stores high volume orders.
That doesn’t change the fact that for venture capital, the Dragons made the right decision, but thanks to Dragons’ Den, Sue got the free marketing exposure to get her phone ringing.
W. Brett Wilson, who is more used to coal as a source of energy, squinted in his tough guy way and rasped, “But why would anyone buy a lump of coal?”
Being of Scottish descent, I know that the Lump O’ Coal comes from the tradition of having a tall, dark stranger with a piece of coal for your fireplace be the first to cross the threshold in the New Year (Fabio look-a-likes being particularly popular with the ladies of the house.)
But I digress.
Let’s get back to Robert Herjavec, he of the matching tie and handkerchief sets, with his agreeable—almost rakish—way of chatting with entrepreneurs. It’s evident that Kevin doesn’t want to be any entrepreneur’s Facebook friend, but Robert’s warmth will soothe entrepreneurs, getting them to relax. But it was not enough to calm the nerves of the laid-off auto worker team, Jason and Leigh, as they presented their wall calendar. Arlene, being a single mum of four children herself, knows what it is like to co-ordinate family and commiserated that a shared wall calendar sounded good but, like some Nanny 911 ideas, hard to follow through.
Indeed, Kevin wished he could fire his family for their slacker ways over schedules.
When unpacking what went wrong afterwards with Dianne Buchner, the Den’s insightful host who adds helpful hints, Jason said the presentation was not good enough.
Ouchey! I wondered if Jason’s wife, who did the lion’s share of the presentation, was thinking, “Buddy—you’re not getting any for the next month!
There is a great deal of ambiguity in investing and each Dragon has their style. One Dragon might love your product but another one not be remotely interested. Throughout this season, the rookie Dragon, W. Brett Wilson, has been the shining light for entrepreneurs, coming through to invest in people he sees are trying their best or with a unique product. Likewise, we see Kevin O’Leary invest with his strict set of rules which, luckily, he teaches us.
We saw Brett do a handshake deal for a million dollars with a green energy technology entrepreneur, the big prerogative being IF Magnacoaster passes through the due diligence process and does what the entrepreneur says it does. Then Brett returns to Moxy Trades with a reduced offer, and clinches that deal. Finally, Brett and Arlene both shake hands with the First Memories Photobook team. After all, new mums can never have enough pictures of their baby snuggle-muffins.
What happened? Two words.
Clearly, Brett is a Dragon ready to invest and I love the “Kaching, Kaching” noises inserted every time there’s a handshake.
Finally, up comes a magic show, Illusions Dinner Theatre - would Brett sign up another entertainment act? Would we see more of Big Jim’s smooth dance moves which rival the Four Tops? To the bemusement of all, Robert volunteered for the magic act. Whoa! Robert, what were you thinking? By that stage, had the entrepreneur, Don, already sensed the deal was not happening? He could have been planning a horse’s head under Kevin O’Leary’s bed. Now you’re going to let him stick knives in your head?
Repeat: Knives and Dragons are a dangerous mixture—especially when the entrepreneur may be unhappy with the “no investment” decision.
Again, the Dragons enjoyed Don’s talent show but real estate financing is not the typical type of deal that equity investors do. As Big Jim advised, “It was a great show but cabaret acts last twenty months. Get to a bigger place, like Vegas, and don’t get saddled with real estate.”
And that’s all folks.
I’m sure you will agree that Dragons’ Den has succeeded in pulling back the curtain of mystery to reveal what are the features of a business every entrepreneur must be able to discuss with a potential investor. The Den is a gateway into how to be a great entrepreneur and, if you watch the whole season on the website, it’s an MBA course in Entrepreneurship 101—minus the school fees. Many of the presenters asking for investment dollars in the Den are Creative Achievers—people who do not fit the traditional management career track, who take risks and who change the world a little or a lot. Probably all of the Dragons fall into this category. None of this season’s presenters need bother with an MBA, and with Dragons’ Den giving many a jump start, they will be phenomenal.
Kudos to CBC for creating the Dragons’ Den website with the Forum where fans can blog. I think it has elevated the level of transparency and trust – a boost for the CBC brand. Also, the updates on companies from the show as they begin to blossom with a little help from their Dragon investors, is proving to be a terrific platform for Canadian enterprise. We can find out more about EcoTraction, for instance, which reminds me to buy the eco-salt for my doggy’s paws, as well as anything sporting the Dragons’ Den logo. The CBC showcases how an investor might work for your company by cross-selling products. Quicksnap goes to Afghanistan with CDs of a Canadian country singer who also wears Hillberg and Berk jewellery. Here you see three products, two from Dragons’ Den, being cross-marketed in a compelling way.
Watching the video of Quicksnap in Afghanistan though, with the enthusiastic Afghanistan gentleman enjoying the music, was the best Christmas present for me this year, bringing tears to my eyes. That is the true heart of business.
Before I get too schmaltzy, better close.
Dragons’ Den is my (and I suspect for a lot of you too) weekly passion. Now, as the season draws to a close, what are we going to do? Here’s an idea—the CBC has taken a leaf out of the play book of Gene Simmons’ success with KISS, by marketing the band of Dragons. I recommend wearing your favourite Dragon T-shirt to do your grocery shopping on a Saturday morning; it will probably improve your dating odds. Can you see it now—Arlene bumps into Big Jim in the tofu aisle.
I’ve said it before but even Kevin will agree Dragons’ Den is a great use of our tax payer moneeeeeeeey.
See you on January 11th.
Job losses in the United States are the early cough of the venerable cold Canada will catch soon enough. Unemployment statistics out of the U.S. released last weak showed jobs are being shed across the whole economy and at a faster rate than expected. Big, infectious coughs, blowing up over the Adirondacks and into our backdoor.
Sure, it's tough times out there and the banks are not helping.
Currently the government is reaching out to the business community to find out if the banks are lending as they are claiming. I was contacted by the Canadian Venture Capital Association (CVCA) to add in our experiences over the past few months as Loewen & Partners places deals.
The banks are stuck between a rock and a hard place. This is not a sub prime crisis – it’s now a credit crisis.
Apparently, the banks are showing the government figures and reports that they are lending - they even had an 11% growth in lending this last month.
When you dig a bit deeper though, and ask if this is new lending or established lines of credit being drawn, the real picture emerges.
Business owners who are established clients are pulling down their lines of credit and tucking it under the mattress. That is not new lending on the books.
Loewen & Partners met with RBC this week and it was refreshing. RBC is doing something counter intuitive to all the other banks. They told us, "We want to lend." They say they are open for business.
As one of the account managers told me, “People remember how you treat them in the tough times.” RBC will probably scoop up some clients for life in this next year with this strategy and it will build a rock solid brand, one customer at a time. Smart work, RBC.
I received a hand written note penned by one of Loewen & Partners’ clients thanking me for getting their company into the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
The company owner, Patrick Bermingham, wrote that he was amazed to win in his category, manufacturing. His company, Bermingham Construction, has received a great deal of recognition since, he tells me, from clients and that the award was also a huge moral boast for his employees.
Bermingham recently decided to move his company up a notch and with Loewen & Partners' corporate finance assistance, bring in private equity partners, C. A. Bancorp. This has not been easy sailing to get employees to buy in or even the owner, Patrick Bermingham. To win an award as prestigious as Entrepreneur of the Year helps ease the situation and reminds everyone that the business is doing very, very well. But it does take work for which Loewen & Partners did not get paid to do.
So will I do something extra that I do not get paid for again for Patrick?
At Loewen & Partners, we are using the marketing plan video as the base for doing our plan for next year.
Again, after the Uno letdown, Brett Wilson is left alone holding the bag to finance a great product, Ecotraction, and finally, this is getting noticed by the newspaper journalists. Mary Teresa Bitti, Financial Post writes, "all five (Dragons) agreed to put up a combined $500,000 for a 25% stake." They blame their change of heart on the market collapse.
That's a convenient excuse.
There are two types of investors: those that do it for a living and those who have made it, and invest their own money. The Dragons are supposed to be in the later category. Surely, they can afford $75,000 each on a product with guaranteed sales? Or maybe not?
I have a spread sheet tracking deals declared and deals done. Email me if you want a copy to see how much these Dragons are actually putting into our Canadian entrepreneurs. CBC should be asking Arelene Dickinson and Brett Wilson if they have any buddies who want to be Dragons and kick out the others who don't cough up the dough.
Here’s a challenge for all of CBC's Dragons' Den armchair investors. You have been riveted by these intelligently selective Dragons sifting over the business ventures brought into the Den. Now it’s time to swivel your armchairs away from the entrepreneurs, towards the Dragons.
First up, let’s do a little of our own “Due Diligence.”
If you pull up the CBC Dragons’ Den website and find Trent Kitsch’s record of past episodes, he helpfully lists the dollar value of the deals made and the Dragons who committed capital, making it easy to jot down the investment record of each Dragon. Since Trent’s blog only goes up to Episode 8, I may be missing a deal here or there, but I think there’s enough to chew on the interesting statistics.
I invite you to examine the Dragons’ Score Card (at the top of this blog) where next to each Dragon’s name, you will find the number of deals done and, as Robert Herjavec likes to say, “money put at risk”.
So chaps, how’s the investing going?
From my calculations, our Dragons from Alberta are demonstrating why they are the “have” province and Ontario is the “have not”. W. Brett Wilson and Arlene Dickinson committed to 18 deals and $3.2 million in investments.
And surprise, surprise – what do we have here? The lowest investor is the one with the most bluster. It’s dear old Mr. Kevin O’Leary. Well, well, well.
Jack Welsh, the leader who took General Electric (GE) to the top of the stock market, had a firm but simple rule: the bottom 10% performers of the work force got fired – every year!
Well, Kevin has been telling us all season that the market is cruel, so why shouldn’t the market bite down hard on a low investing Dragon? Why should it just be the presenters who have that unwanted feeling of hot adrenaline?
By the current rules, the Dragons are not under any obligation to spend a dime, but surely they should be under pressure? After all, in the real world, investors have their laws of the marketplace too. If they don’t invest, they obtain a low return on their capital, and if they are managing other people’s money and don’t have the ‘ovaries’ (or other body parts) to place it, that cash would be taken back rapidly.
If an investor does not commit dollars to companies, the only return they are making is on their original lump sum of capital and what’s the point of that? Kevin should know better than any as he runs a fund and, for sure, works within this rule. Right now, Kevin has the lowest record for investing capital and for that, to coin one of his favourite phrases, “he should be blowtorched out of existence.”
A common complaint by investors in the real world is that they don’t see good enough deals, and I suspect that the Dragons would say the same about the visitors to their Den, “They’re a little subprime, not likely to profit.”
Pardon me, but all sorts of idiotic things do well. The game Trivial Pursuit got turned down by hundreds of Angel investors who thought it was too dull. I still love mood rings, tiny troll dolls with pink hair, Billy Bee Honey but who would’ve invested in those things at their start? Even Barbie had its troubles getting launched.
That’s an excuse.
With the celebrity of the Dragons, many of the company products could gain some momentum. Surely, with several Dragons pitching in with their skills and rolodexes of global contacts, they could achieve something?
Ah…but Kevin would say he adds valuable entertainment which should be factored in to his score card.
Although, the Dragons’ Den is a display of Canadian entrepreneurship, it has to be watchable and it’s an added benefit that Kevin does an exceptional job of teaching. Our Canadian show is far superior to the British version because we are fortunate to have entrepreneurs with deep experience: Jim Treliving adds gravitas, Arlene Dickinson mixes in marketing sense, Brett Wilson brings formidable gunpowder, Robert Herjavec has spark and it is exciting to see Kevin grasp onto entrepreneurs and drag them flailing around the Den. People going on the show do realize there must be good ratings, but the fair swap is that there is a real cash opportunity too.
If it’s ratings the CBC needs, maybe one of the entrepreneurs could come back on the final show and say, “Kevin, you’re out!” push him shouting across a moat and as the draw bridge pulls up, a sofa-sized dragon could lunge at him.
Is it possible that he could even scream?
You have to admit, that would make great entertainment and since ratings are a factor in this materialistic, greedy, money-grubbing world of ours, a scene of a Dragon’s demise would be of enormous interest to more than a few viewers.
Which Dragon would you roast?
Right – so we are agreed then. Here are the new rules for the Dragons: lowest cash investor, you are the weakest Dragon. In Kevin’s words, “You’re a nothing burger”. You’re off the show!
Now, that’s entertainment.
“Thank heavens Paulson’s doing it,” says this leading investment banker, as we chatted at the St Andrew’s Ball, waiting for the next Scottish dance, Strip the Willow, to get going.
“He knows what he’s doing and this is a situation we have never seen before. He's not going to let Goldman Sachs go because it's the centre of capitalism. If that goes, the very essence of capitalism goes too.”
The banker went on to explain that in the USA, if a business person joins government, they get a once-in-a-life-time chance to sell off all of their business interests tax free. For Paulson, this was reportedly about $600M in tax free savings as he made the switch from Wall Street to the government. Apparently this is a great incentive to get top quality brains working for the government.
It does show you that even in melt downs, who you know and who likes you still counts.