Even Facebook likes private equity

Facebook is looking to raise money from 'God's gift to finance'....Private Equity.
"Facebook meets private equity firms to raise capital," reports the Dow Jones Newswires, 30 Apr 2009. Facebook has held a series of exploratory meetings with private equity firms on raising additional capital but the two sides are about $3bn (€2.2bn) apart on what the social networking website is worth, The New York Post reported, citing sources close to the situation.

Pitching to Raise Capital

“Do you know how many business owners stand in this room and fifteen minutes into the meeting, I still don’t know who the customer would be or what the product would do for them?” says Michael Della Fortuna, an investor in private companies.
“What don’t you like?”
“It’s the lack of a big, driving goal. Imagine if General Montgomery spent all his time discussing how war ships and planes were built - and their fire power - instead of getting on with the big picture for D-Day. It’s the same for entrepreneurs. They must show the vision of D-Day, the milestones to get Normandy done and what the results should be. Cost – reward. They must show they can use the left side of their brain to steer their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA).”
Michael takes a breath and continues. “It’s never the technology alone that gets money out of the customer’s wallet. Ask Beta, Eight Track tapes, Lotus Notes, and all those companies with the way-cool technology that overshot the customer’s need. If you spend your twenty minutes telling me about your technology, I can’t stand it! It means you’re just not CEO material.”
“You hate seeing pitches?”
“Nope, I just get bored out of my skull by people who have not taken the time to expand their skill set. Owners bogged down in their product are like finger nails down a blackboard.”
Crikey! No wonder business owners get intimidated by pitching to investors. It is why I tell company owners who are about to raise capital that pitching to the fund managers is fifteen minutes under a hot, hot spotlight. When you get before the investors with the big bucks, you may have been invited for an hour, but in reality you have just fifteen minutes to break through and get them wanting to know more. For those silver-tongued owners who can communicate their business situation effortlessly, they will attract the finance partners to take their company to the next level. For those lesser mortals (most business owners) they could learn a lot from Andy Warhol’s phrase “fifteen minutes of fame” when prepping for pitching.
Make no mistake, the initial pitch is a short time to explain your value and, quite frankly, this process annoys the heck out of owners who know their companies are solid performers with a good financial record. They bristle, “Can’t these guys just read the business plan and we can email the PowerPoint?”
Eeeer, no. Private equity investors put their money (and it is often their own cash) into management and the pitch is their first opportunity to assess the team. Put yourself in the place of these investors. Imagine that you must make an investment decision. How would you make your decision? Would you choose the owner who froths at the mouth about their fabulous technology that U of Waterloo admires? Then there’s the owner who is obviously a great manager but the product is iffy. Lastly, you meet the owner who talks in broad brush strokes about the technology, how it will translate into cash, but also how much your investment could earn you over the next five years. The entrepreneur who can communicate and is thinking about my investment gets my vote – n’est pas?
For many owners, it can come as a surprise the extent that quality of management influences the investors. Most fund managers will tell you they would rather put their money into the great management team with a B product, rather than the less than stellar team with the A product because leadership is what gets results.
One of my clients, Angella Hughes of Xogen, swept me up in her enthusiasm because of her ability to get across her business value. Angella said, “Water is a scarce resource, not here in Canada but across the world, and it is dwindling every year. We have a cheap way of purifying water.” Ok, got that and I know fund managers in the green sector would agree. She pitched a brief investment thesis in a few words that people can grasp. She understands that there is time to get to her technology and complex business model in the second half of the meeting, once the value has been established. If she spoke about her water purification technology too early, her science would only serve to numb the interest of her investor audience.
The best case scenario is to get plugged into advisors and investors who really know and love their industry before you decide to take on private equity. “Even if they aren’t looking for capital at that time,” says Robyn Lawrie Rutledge, an investor with TSG Consumer Partners. She advises, “When the time is right for both parties, there will be a relationship in place which will lead to a more streamlined process and a stronger partnership out of the gate.” You might not have to burn under that fifteen minute spotlight by then.
I don’t want to suggest that pitching is like taking in a Staples “Easy Button” and the fund mangers will punch it, writing you a fat check. Simple is never easy. Deep preparation is needed and those who do it, get the funding. The investment community is globally small and, by golly, if you treat the visit to any investor with the same forethought as a chat with a friend in the school parking lot – well, put it this way, you don’t deserve the money. If you are one of the many business owners not comfortable with the communication required to finesse a capital raise, for heaven’s sake hire a professional corporate finance expert. Or find yourself a partner who can communicate.
Jacoline B. Loewen is the author of Money Magnet and managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto. Jacoline works with the owners of companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at www.moneymagnetbook.ca.

Canadians watch the US bear market rally

With such a large part of Canada's GDP dependent on the American economy's health, I find private equity investing is being held hostage to he stats south of our border. As of this moment, the USA general market is still only showing a bear market rally.
The benchmark index had three instances of testing the 875-877 resistance area. The index tried again this week and traded as high as 871 on Friday but fell just short of a real test of last week's close. This area appears to be a strong resistance level and Americans need to see more strength in the coming week(s) to rise above this important level and lead the way higher.

Posted by Jacoline Loewen, Loewen & Partners and author of Money Magnet.

Housing Prices Still Falling to Correct Value




Top 7 Questions of Private Equity

What are the top 7 Questions Investors want to know about your business? Once you read this, cover them in Your Business Plan!
By Jacoline Loewen.
Most business plans are dull and, frankly, too crafted and full of motherhood statements such as market leader. Well what does it all mean and will it honestly set your potential investor on fire? Most probably not. Here are the top seven questions an investor will be wanting you to answer. So get your story written up in a dynamic business plan:
1. What's the opportunity?
It's not enough to say you've spotted a problem and a way to fix it. Investors despise those marketing studies that say "this market is expected to grow 250% a year for the next 10 years, and if we can capture just 1.7% of the market, we'll all be multi-billionaires." Instead, you need to show how your approach will work better than any previous attempts to exploit the opportunity, and how you'll make money doing so.
2. What’s your competitive advantage?
Don’t get put off by the jargon – it simply means what does your business do well. As Woody Allen said, you only have to be five minutes ahead of the competition. Maybe you have management team with a distinct skill set that a rival company couldn't easily match. Investors probably won't be impressed if you claim your advantage is having a head start on the competition — not unless you have a barrier to entry, such as a patentable product or process that would make it hard for new rivals to imitate your offering.
3. What’s your big vision?
If you are planning to be the big boy in all of Mississauga, don’t count on getting funding. If you are wanting to go international, there are consulting firms who will help your set up channels to access markets elsewhere. Show this big thinking capacity.
4. What is the secret of your future sales success?
Investors know that selling is a special talent, and one that many young companies don't have on board. They'd love to hear that you have a rainmaker on your team, or a proven sales technique that can easily be taught to others. Or perhaps you have signed on with a top sales firm who will represent your product to the USA market.
5. What have you learned from the competition?
The more specific your answer, the better. For instance, "competitor X impresses us by being so systematic in asking new customers what they like and dislike about its service. We plan to take that idea a step further by responding immediately to customer dislikes." Also, consider what is the worst thing your competition could do to your business and address this.
6. How will you use the funds you raise?
Buy a Porsche? I don’t think so! Investors are more concerned than ever that their money be spent in ways that most directly generate revenue and profits. They'd rather hear you itemize how you'll use it to hire three more salespeople and develop sales support literature than on product innovation research.
7. What are the risk factors?
Your realism in this area will reassure investors. If it's likely that competition in your industry will intensify over the next six months, then tell them you expect this to happen and explain how you plan to respond.
Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

Private Equity Myth #5: Private equity investors are only interested in your exit strategy.

When a private equity firm invests in your company, they do expect to exit their investment within the next five to seven years. Since the firm has limited partners who expect liquidity at some point, they can't hold their investment forever. However, this doesn't mean that your company will have to sell your company or take it public. Alternatives might include recapping the company with bank debt, swapping out one investor with a new private equity investor, or raising capital from a strategic partner.
In any event, your private equity partner has a vested interest in growing your company over the next several years up to the exit event. Their goal during this period is the same as yours: to increase the value of your company by expanding the business.
Focus on what's important, put the myths to rest
Whether to take on private equity is a complex decision, requiring in-depth analysis of your personal and business goals, the market environment, and the financing options available. Focusing on these important considerations -- rather than on common misperceptions -- will help you make the right decision. It's time to put the myths to rest.

Jacoline Loewen is a partner at Loewen & Partners, Toronto, Ontario, Canada office, a private equity and venture capital firm. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or jacoline at loewenpartners.com or http://www.loewenpartners.com


Private Equity Myth #4: Taking venture capital means you lose control of your company

If you take on a minority investment, you can continue to control your company -- making all operating decisions and having the ultimate say over strategic issues. Selling less than half of your company leaves you in charge, while providing liquidity to you and other early shareholders.
Just remember though, that more work goes into your company the more ownership you give over to investment partners. You will get more heavy lifting, the higher the percentage the investors own.
In the book Money Magnet, by J. Loewen, there is a chapter devoted to this topic.

Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

Private Equity Myth #3: Private equity investors don't add value because they haven't been in an operating role.

Most entrepreneurs have ample experience with operating issues. In fact, that's one of the main reasons private equity investors should not try to micromanage portfolio companies.
However, they can add value by challenging management to think outside the box.
Investors who have backed many different companies at rapid growth stages can recognize patterns that may not be obvious to the management team. They may have a network of relationships that can also assist companies in recruiting talent at the board and management level. They can often help companies explore strategic partnerships with other firms.
Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

Private Equity Myth #2: Valuations are the only consideration

Valuation is certainly an important consideration since you want to get a fair price when you sell your company. However, it's equally important to partner with an investor who shares your goals and who will work with you to achieve them.
When you focus exclusively on valuation, you risk ending up with a partner who doesn't understand your company, your growth strategies, or your industry.
Let's say, for example, that you sell your company to an investor whose expectations for your business are unrealistically high. You may obtain a good price for your company, but that relationship is likely to sour as the business fails to meet the investor's expectations. On the other hand, an investor with a more nuanced understanding of your company would work with you to increase its value in a realistic and sustainable way.

Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet, shares her insights on attracting investors. Ms. Loewen works in Toronto, Ontario.
Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

Myth #1: Private equity is a win-lose game

First myth to check out is that the investors win, entrepreneurs lose.
According to this myth, private investors somehow make off with the value of your company -- perhaps buying at a too-low price and cutting you out of the eventual rewards that you'd earn from going public or selling to another company. Remember, though, that private equity investors only make money if the value of your company appreciates -- and, in most cases, the entrepreneur retains a substantial interest in the business. After all, it's in their best interest to help you grow your company and increase its value. Almost by definition, if the investor wins, the entrepreneur wins.
Moreover, a private equity investment provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to diversify their assets. You receive cash for part of your share in the company, which you can spend or invest as you see fit. As a result, you immediately reduce your exposure to events at a single company, in a single industry -- and can access cash that you may need for retirement, college tuition, or major purchases.
Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

J Loewen is the author of Money Magnet: Attract Investors to Your Business and is a partner with Loewen & Partners, working with business owners to raise capital and restructure finances.

The Five Myths of Private Equity

Misperceptions about private equity can prevent an entrepreneur from making a rational decision about taking on outside investors. There are five common misperceptions and I am going to spend the next week discussing why entrepreneurs should be wary of them.
As venture capital and private equity continue to make news headlines, entrepreneurs may find it challenging to distinguish fact from fiction.
- Do investors win at the expense of entrepreneurs? Are investors out to wrest control from management?
- Is an investor's sole focus on the final liquidity event?
Without question, misperceptions can prevent an entrepreneur from making rational, fact-based decisions. During my 20 years working with business owners, I have come to identify what I call "The Five Myths of Private Equity."

Jacoline Loewen is the author of Money Magnet: How to Attract Investors to Your Business and her book can be found at http://www.moneymagnetbook.ca





Myths of Private Equity

Focus on what's important, put the myths to rest
Whether to take on private equity is a complex decision, requiring in-depth analysis of your personal and business goals, the market environment, and the financing options available. Focusing on these important considerations -- rather than on common misperceptions -- will help you make the right decision. It's time to put the myths to rest.
Jacoline B. Loewen is a managing director at Loewen & Partners, a private equity and venture capital firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Loewen & Partners works with the owners of growing, privately held companies to access capital. Jacoline can be reached at 416 961 0862 or Jacoline at loewenpartners.com.

BMO hires leveraged lender

Andy Willis has a great blog in The Globe & Mail. Here he is talking about how the wagons are beginning to circle:
BMO Capital Markets is getting ready for the return of private equity funds by hiring an experienced leveraged finance expert in its New York office.
Eric Luftig, a veteran of GE Capital Markers and CIBC World Markets, joined the U.S. investment banking arm of Bank of Montreal as a managing director. The Manhattan-based executive is now responsible for debt and equity private placements in BMO's leveraged finance group.
Bank of Montreal is one of several former mid-tier players in U.S. private equity to upgrade its talent at a time when most Wall Street firms are cutting head count. The credit crunch has trimmed the ranks of lenders to private equity funds, while improving the terms on which loans get made. That makes this sector far more attractive to Bank of Montreal and domestic rivals such as Royal Bank of Canada, which has also added expertise in this area.
“Eric's experience in private placements, including 20 years of solid deals, complements our team's overall mandate as we look to broaden our lead role participation in the leveraged financing arena,” said Jim Moglia, New York-based executive managing director and co-head of the BMO Capital Markets' leveraged finance group. This team deals in both leveraged loans and high yield bond financings.

The Big Dreams Private Equity Favours

For all of you who need some inspiration, here is a great story sent to me by Elliott Bay, founder of the kids' camp - Real Programming 4 Kids:
In 1883, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. However bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea.
It just could not be done.
It was not practical.
It had never been done before.
Roebling could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time and he knew deep in his heart that it could be done. He just had to share the dream with someone else. After much discussion and persuasion he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built.Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.
The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.
"We told them so."
"Crazy men and their crazy dreams."
"It`s foolish to chase wild visions."
Everyone had a negative comment to make and felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever.He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment.
It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife.
He touched his wife's arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do. It seemed foolish but the project was under way again.For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife's arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man's indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances. It is also a tribute to the engineers and their team work, and to their faith in a man who was considered mad by half the world. It stands too as a tangible monument to the love and devotion of his wife who for 13 long years patiently decoded the messages of her husband and told the engineers what to do.Perhaps this is one of the best examples of a never-say-die attitude that overcomes a terrible physical handicap and achieves an impossible goal.
This is the type of person that private equity seeks - a strong sense of wonder at what is possible and someone who perseveres to finish the project. Quite a story.
Sent to Jacoline Loewen, author of Money Magnet by Elliott Bay M.Sc. (Mathematics)President, Real Programming 4 Kids
Toll Free: 1-877-307-3456
Toronto: 416-469-9676

How Bear Markets Turn


This current market is great for technical analysts who are too often ignored. Looking at the market currently, any clues are welcome.
Take a look at this interesting slide show of the past century of market data. You will quickly see how it illustrates that technical analysts do have a very useful role.
Henry Blodgett has posted the slide show on trends of bear markets.

Bear Market Bounce?


The concern is that this bear rally is just around optimism and wishful thinking rather than reality. Also, the blogs are full of worries that no one will invest in the public market ever again.
In the long overview of public markets, there is a small window where they make a strong profit before they do self correct.
There are cycles.
Private equity investors are also impacted as the market affects their company revenues too. We are all connected in this complex financial system.
Technically, it is yet too early to call out a bottom formation since the intermediate trendline is still downward sloping and must be broken to move higher. Until we see a clear reversal of this trend, the charts suggest a bear market rally that needs additional momentum to break the bearish trendline and form a true reversal. A break above 850 on the S&P500 and a subsequent re-attempt of the previous double top around 877 should give impetus to such a trend reversal.
In the meantime, call a client and keep moving forward.


Managing private equity portfolios in the downturn

I am posting notes taken by Shailen Chande at the last CVCA conference. This is the up date on managing private equity portfolios.

Portfolio company management:
- Critical to proactively manage portfolio company performance through a downturn - increased focus on dashboard reporting and managing expectations
- Cash flow "Quick Hits": Dial back growth; Focus on streamlining direct costs as opposed to SG&A; Aggressively manage working capital
- Very rarely are cuts too deep - need to react to current environment quickly and prepare for the worst - revisit downside case

There you have it and Shailen Chande can be reached at Shailen Chande at hotmail.com

What is new with valuations and structuring of transactions?

I have more from Shailen Chande who attended the CVCA conference. Here is what Shailen has to say about Valuation & Structuring transactions:
- Valuation of Canadian PE deals never reached the heights of their US counterparts - many Canadian sponsors sat on the bench and leverage levels were relatively prudent.
- For the most part, there is not widespread acceptance of the "new world" amongst sellers - deals getting done are when sellers are distressed.
- Lack of transaction comps post Fall 2007, significantly deteriorating current trading and lack of visibility through 2009 make valuation incredibly difficult - greater emphasis on diligence.
- To mitigate valuation concerns, recent transactions have seen a greater emphasis on earn outs and vendor take backs - trend will likely continue.
- Most interesting opportunities have a restructuring angle - need to structure for the downside case.

By the way, you can reach Shailen at Shailen Chande at hotmail.com.

Two ways of looking at things

There are always two ways to see a situation.
Take this economy, for example.
My friend Andy Fireman, an Angel investor involved in interesting companies, picked up my day with this comment:
"We need to think of this economy as perhaps the best opportunity we will ever see in our lives. The question is: how do we capitalize on this. Interesting story I heard ... Joe Kennedy Sr was worth only $4 mil in 1929 ... But by 1933 he was worth $180 mil. For him, the Great Depression was a golden opportunity.
So, how do we turn this economy into an opportunity?"

Thanks, Andy. I love positive people.

How do you know who can help you to raise capital?

If an investment banker can't provide the following, DON'T HIRE THEM:
1. Experience and knowledge of innovative financing structures to maximize client value (by proof of past clients)
2. Direct relationships and established contacts with a breadth of private equity funds - ability to present a deal and know the funds will listen.
3. Produce an extremely high quality financial model and written report in a manner that will attract fund managers.
4. Prepare some 75% of the due diligence material material required by a fund - save the client the time and effort
And most importantly:
5. Be capable and experienced enough to negotiate the best terms for the client with the fund. Fund managers negotiate financing deals for a living, whereas most entrepreneurs negotiate a major financing once or twice in a lifetime. A good I-banker evens the scales.


Hope that helps!

CVCA's PD session on Deal and Valuation trends

I received a summary of the latest CVCA event from Shailen Chande. It's worth a peak:
Market overview:
- PE deal activity has been crippled by significant expectation gaps between buyers and sellers and a lack of financing
- Current baseline LBO structure for a "middle of the fairway" business - EV: 5.0-6.0x EBITDA; Total debt: 2.0-2.5x EBITDA
- Shift towards smaller deals - Larger US sponsors are looking at equity tickets in the region of US$200m
- 2009 has seen positive inflows into leveraged loan and high yield funds marking a potential return to mainstream lending
- Increasing number of GP's are returning LP commitments and/or reworking terms - fundraising market is limited, although there is demand for distressed/turnaround funds
- Increasing number of mid market US sponsors looking North to Canadian carve outs and/or distressed situations
- 2007/2008 funds will make for some of the best vintages given unprecedented buying opportunities

Is anyone getting any money?

I see Jeff Frost is asking on the Venture Capital forum on Linkedin if there is any money being loaned or invested. Here in Canada, our banks have moved onto the list of top largest banks in the world which really is quite remarkable. When you fly across the country, most of it seems unoccupied! Also, we only have six cities with a population over a million while China has 100 cities with 1 million plus people.
So to get back to the question -is anyone putting money into companies?
Yes.
First up the government is handing out sugar plums to early stage companies. But since our banks are very conservative - as they should be we have come to appreciate - it has made room for a very healthy private equity fund industry.
If you have a business generating over $10M in revenues, you are of interest to a private equity fund in your field of expertise. Old style manufacturers, do not despair, as you are of interest too.
Last night, Loewen & Partners had a board meeting with one of our clients who is doing very well with global clients. Two years ago, when we first met, it was not a pretty picture. What happened? We matched the owner with a private equity fund who bought a 35% stake in the business. They also pushed him to do the strategic changes he had always meant to do. We raised capital - over $15M for the company and they had revenues of $35M and a downward trend. So you can see that there are possibilities where your Canadian banker may not wish to go.
The smiles around the table make private equity a great business.