Tag Archives: Founder

Do You Need To Rely on Venture Capital Funding? Three Questions

Interview with Charles Bellavia, CEO, ElectraDrive

Situation: High tech entrepreneurs frequently see venture capital funding as a quick route to enabling their ventures. However VC funding is highly variable by tech sector and company cash needs, and few companies are ever funded. Do you need to rely on VC funding and what are the alternatives?

Advice from Charles Bellavia:

  • The first question to ask is what you want from VCs. In the past they brought both contacts and funding. Now, generally, they just bring funding. So ask three questions.
  • Can you fund the company out of your own pocket?
    • Far more companies are funded by founders, friends and families than by VCs. However self-funding demands conditions.
    • Cofounders should have alternate income sources so that they can operate without salaries for periods of time.
    • Watch the life stages of start-up cofounders. Avoid joining a start-up when your kids need your attention, especially during their teen years. Can you forgo regular income if you are paying for college? If an annual 2-week summer vacation is important, don’t join a start-up.
  •  What is the minimum funding needed for the company?
    • What funding do you need just to prove your technology and generate cash?
    • Focus is key. People will suggest variations. You have to know your path and whether variations will help or distract.
    • Stay with your core idea and think in terms of product generations. Build fitting variations into future plans if they will delay initial launch.
  •  How do you keep project workers motivated?
    • Plan for turnover. Know who is key to the project, and where you need back-ups.
    • Start-up life is all consuming. When the picture on the wall is crooked, everyone jumps to straighten it out.
    • Have fun and make it fun. This needn’t be expensive, like parking lot pot-luck barbeques with a CD deck and music.
    • Be generous with simple, low cost recognition. Acknowledge employees for who they are and where they came from. This is especially important when you have diverse employees and builds camaraderie. One company has pot luck lunches and employees are asked to bring their national dish; the food is wonderful and helps employees to appreciate one another.

You can contact Charles Bellavia at cfb@electradrive.net

Key Words: Funding, Venture Capital, VC, Bootstrap, Self-fund, Friends, Family, Income, Salary, Founder, Life Stage, Focus, Core, Iteration, Turnover, Fun, Recognition

How Do You Fire a Founder? Three Suggestions

Situation: A founder of a company also heads business development. This person had no prior experience in business development, and no other skills to offer the business. Over the last two years he has generated only a fraction of his salary in new or additional business. The CEO has concluded that it is time to hire a business development professional; however, the Board is reluctant to act. What are the steps that you would take to let a founder go?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Because the individual in question is an owner, the situation is delicate. Staff relationships are involved as well as morale. Therefore, it is essential that you create a convincing case for replacing the individual and show that this is the best for the business. Don’t rush the process. However, once you’ve built a solid case for what needs to be done, act expeditiously.
  • Start by evaluating and documenting what the individual is doing to develop new business.
    • Count customer connects per day. Set a baseline expectation and measure against this.
    • Look at the pipeline. Historically what does your new business funnel look like – contacts, presentations, evaluations, closes. How does this individual’s pipeline stack up?
    • What are his business advancement and close ratios? How do these compare with industry standards?
  • For the individual: Demonstrate that his performance is penalizing his own return as an owner. Create a spreadsheet that shows:
    • The current situation, and his return as a shareholder from current results, versus
    • Hiring two effective business development people, and how this could change his return.
    • Show the individual a graceful way out – one that works for him.
  • For the Board: if the current direction is negative, create a model that shows your current direction and the break even implications. Present this analysis to the Board to show that the company needs a change.

Key Words: Business Development, Founder, Principal, Experience, Performance, Replace, Document, Pipeline, Return, Model, Trend