Is Growth the Best Measure of Startup Success?

Startup Growth & Traction
Growth gets a lot of attention in the startup world. A lot of attention. If you Google “startup growth“, you’ll find a plethora of articles, blog posts and tools all suggesting that growth is the most important measure of your startup.

Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, asserts that “The only essential thing is growth“.

In some sense, this attention is well-deserved. But it is often misunderstood and taken out of context.

Growth is, of course, important. Growth is a telling measure of your product/service’s popularity; and, as such, strong growth metrics are invaluable when you’re trying to raise money from investors.

But growth can, and often does, flatter to deceive. And this is something both entrepreneurs and investors should be wary of.

Entrepreneurs need to be careful because “…many founders hurt their companies by focusing on growth too soon“. This is what Sam Altman, the founder of Loopt and President of Y Combinator, wrote in a recent article on the topic of growth.

His reasoning is simple: if you focus too much on early growth and not on actually building a product people love, then at some stage you will encounter the leaky bucket problem where the customers you worked hard to onboard, leave in droves ne’er to return!

But, if you focus on building a great product then you will have better customer retention and, as a result, growth should become increasingly easy as word-of-mouth spreads.

Consider the example of AirBnB who worked and iterated for years before they got the product just right; and then it spread like wildfire because people loved it.

Equally, investors need to be careful because there are often more telling metrics indicating the potential for success of a particular company. An app, for example, may have achieved 100,000 downloads in its first week, but if 95,000 of those users had stopped using the app by the second week, then the impressive early growth suddenly appears deceptive.

So there we have it. Growth should always be important, but it is also important that entrepreneurs and investors espouse a more nuanced attitude to it than believing it to be the ultimate measure of potential and success.

Angel Investment vs Venture Capital – Which would you choose?

VC's vs Angels
This morning I read a great post by Venture Spring. Venture Spring is a hugely well respected ‘venture development’ company which “helps Fortune 500 companies innovate like startups” according to their company mantra. The article is about the differences between venture capital funding and funding from angel investors.

Startups are often all too eager to take one option over the other based on their own preconceptions. It’s important to realise that one may be more suited to one type of startup over another (and vice versa. So, understanding the points of difference could be crucial to the way in which you approach your fundraise; and how your company ends up being run down the line. So it’ll be worth your while familiarising yourself with the key points…

You can read the full article on their site here. (It’s a 5-10 min read).

Or, I’ve summarised the key differences for you here and (added in a few that they missed!):

Angel Investors:
– are private individuals investing their own money
– can make quick decisions regarding investment
– can be flexible in the amount they invest
– can provide expertise, contacts and support as well as capital
– can feel personally attached to your business
– can be as hands-off or hands-on as you require
– can qualify for tax breaks like SEIS and EIS
– do not have to be given board positions

Venture Capital Firms:
– are whole companies that invest in startups
– are run by professional investors investing money from corporations, individuals, funds and foundations
– take board positions and have a strong say in how the company is managed and grown going forward
– invest much larger amounts than angel investors
– do not usually invest at seed stage
– generally invest not less than £1million
– take a longer time to make investment decisions and broker deals

What’s your take on the issue? Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter

Success Story: Data Science marketplace Pivigo secures investment following rapid growth

Pivigo (http://www.pivigo.com/), a data science marketplace and training provider based in London, has announced the successful closing of its funding round with investment secured from high profile consortia including Angel Academe, Craigie Capital, Dubai-based Dunamis Ventures Ltd and London Co-Investment Fund, the Mayor of London’s early stage business fund.

Angel Investment Network is delighted to have made a significant contribution to this success story through its introduction of Dunamis Ventures Ltd.

You can view the full press release on the Pivigo blog here

Now that they are fully funded, they are well placed “to reach a much larger audience, help connect more people with each other and work with companies to gain value from data…” as Founder and CEO, Kim Nilsson, puts it.

We can’t wait to see the progress they make!

Proposal Tip of the Week

Some very exciting news in this morning about one of the companies we raised money for last year. BIG news! Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to disclose anything yet, so will have to announce when permitted in a later post…so watch this space.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve all been on tenterhooks waiting for the second in my series of 52 quick proposal tips. The wait is over…

Tip #2 “What Itch do you Scratch?”

Last week’s tip recommended grabbing investors’ attention by starting your pitch/proposal with your company’s most impressive achievement or traction metric to date. But what next?

You’ve hit them first with some proof and validation, but now you need to make the explanation of your concept as concise as possible. Remember, you no doubt understand your business extremely well, but you cannot expect prospective investors to have the same level of understanding. So what’s the best way to articulate your concept clearly?

Generally, we encourage entrepreneurs submitting a proposal on Angel Investment Network to start with the problem. What real world problem do you solve? What itch do you scratch? What pain do you alleviate?

If I were the Founder of Uber when starting out, my proposal would start by setting out the problems that people who want a taxi face e.g. long waits, high fares, needing to have cash etc…

If you do this well, you will get investors nodding along as they begin to see the value of your concept as they relate it to their own lives.
That’s all for now. I’ll cover the next step next week…

Success Story: Reward Gateway acquires Yomp

Yomp • Engaging People • Rewarding Wellness from Yomp on Vimeo.

Yesterday Techcrunch posted an article announcing that Reward Gateway had acquired gamified health startup Yomp for an undisclosed figure. Techcrunch mention the £200k seed round that Yomp filled last year, but neglect to mention that £150k of that came through Angel Investment Network (the whole SEIS allowance) !

But that’s of little importance. Our investors are over the moon at such a rapid ROI. As you would be. The figure hasn’t been disclosed yet, but our £150k went in at a valuation of £1 million; and we’d expect someone of the calibre of Reward Gateway to be able to acquire for £3-5million. By that reckoning, our investors are getting a 3-5x multiple return in just over a year.

Fundraising Event Report: Last year’s successes encourage this year’s investors

Last Tuesday we held our first fundraising event of the year at the Olswang offices in Holborn. Treated to a complimentary feast of canapés and drinks on the top floor, investors enjoyed pitches from 7 of the hottest UK startups.

James Badgett, Founder of Angel Investment Network, opened the proceedings by calling to mind some of the notable successes from companies who pitched through us in 2015 as well as the general growth of our site.

Here’s an overview of what he said:

Our Website in 2015 – The Numbers
– Reached 450,000 registered entrepreneurs
– Reached 100,000 registered investors
– Averaged 1380 new proposal submitted each week by entrepreneurs
– Over 2 million proposal views
– 75,000+ connections made between investors and entrepreneurs looking for funding

Companies that Pitched in 2015 – Where are they now?

SuperAwesome, a child-safe marketing platform, completed a funding round with us at a valuation of $3million and subsequently completed a $7million raise at a valuation of $25million. They are now raising at a valuation of $70-100million. That’s a potential return for our investors of 20-30 times in a little over a year!

What3Words, an extraordinary piece of software that’s changing the world’s address system and for whom we filled the seed round, recently received $2million from Intel Capital. They also won the Innovation Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Acquisitions:
As covered in a previous blog post, Uncover were acquired by Velocity resulting in strong, quick returns for our investors.

Draper & Dash, a high-end business intelligence company with an absurdly impressive track record, and PASSNFLY, an innovative airport check-in application, are both under offers for acquisition.

After this introduction, it was fascinating to observe the investors sit forward in their seats and treat the latest cohort of entrepreneurs pitching to their undivided attention!

The future is certainly looking rosy for both investors and entrepreneurs…

Back-to-Basics: How to Start a Startup

Even though i’ve been in the startup business for a while now, when i stumbled across this infographic by Funders and Founders, it reminded me how useful it can be to glance back at the basics once in a while. In an increasingly fraught and complex world, it is not only extremely helpful, but also motivating to step back and see the workings of the bigger picture; to catch sight of the wood for the trees. Details are important; but occasionally we can get bogged down in them.

As every successful person ever will tell you – if you get the basics right, the rest will follow.

This is true even for the most seasoned of serial entrepreneurs. Especially as a number of the processes outlined in this simple infographic will remain crucial throughout the life of your startup, not just at the beginning. So whether you’re just starting out or a startup veteran, it’s worth casting your eyes over this one…

A Pocket Guide to How Investors Think

Understanding how investors think is an essential tool for every entrepreneur. Only when their thinking processes have been demystified can you attempt to negotiate with confidence.

This infographic, visualised from investor Paul Graham’s famous essay “The Hacker’s Guide to Investors” by Anna Vital from Funders and Founders, is your pocket guide to getting inside their heads.