A question that haunts founders and funders alike – profitability over growth, or vice-a-versa? Here’s my take on what most people would answer, “it depends.”Continue reading
An interesting phenomenon has been noticed in startup presentations over the past few weeks. Founders have come up with innovative ways of showing large numbers that have nothing to do with what counts as revenues to the startup.
Let me share a few examples with the explanations as provided.
- Gross Transactional Value: this the value of the transaction that is taking place because of the service provided by delivering the service. Therefore, a simple example would be that if a truck delivers 5 MT of steel the GTV is the value of the 5 MT of steel which has no correlation to the revenues of the trucking company since that is dependent on the route or no of kms
- AUM (Assets Under Management): the value of the videos that have been uploaded to sell to customers. This has no correlation to the revenues as they are made on a pay per click model. How the videos are being valued and by whom – I have honestly no idea
- MRP Sold: the sticker prices of the items that were sold. These were very different from actual revenues as there were coupons and discounts that were given. So, if I stick the price tag of a Mercedes on a Maruti the MRP sold would be ginormous but the actual number would be a fraction. These MRP’s are set by me so MRP sold is also in my hands. Do you feel fooled just yet?
Do founders really want to attract investors that are awed by such numbers? Of what use will those investors be who themselves don’t understand that these numbers are useless?
My sincere request to founders is to have the courage to tell me the real numbers. They may not be as awesome as the fluff metrics, but I’ll respect you for your honesty and I’ll work with you until your actual metrics look like the fluff metrics that your peers are showing me.
Just remember this immortal quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
As an angel investor and an individual who possesses a serious entrepreneurial streak I sit through atleast 150-200 business pitches in a month. As a fellow entrepreneur I am in awe of all entrepreneurs as they should be complimented and encouraged for having the guts to plunge into what is – the scariest and the most thrilling roller coaster ride of one’s life.
Their energy and belief don’t make it easy for us “angels” investors (who came up with that adjective?) but an entrepreneur should know that it is quite difficult to point out the flaws your business plan and to balance the criticism with an equal amount of positivity and encouragement so as to ensure that the entrepreneur is motivated to go back to the drawing board instead of jumping off a cliff (metaphorically!)
What I find particularly unnerving and confusing is how to deal with an entrepreneur once you have entrusted him/her with your hard earned money? You have placed your trust in the team and the idea but are you planting the seed in a greenhouse, where it requires your care and attention (and a pep talk)? Or in the forest where it has to fend for itself?
On the one you have a school of thought that suggests that angel investors take an activist role in the running of the company, revamping all procedures and plans and replacing them with the experience that they have collectively gained through running businesses of their own. The other school of thought suggests playing the role of mentor or even a helpline operator, giving the entrepreneur their own space and focussing on problem solving by focussing on the results instead of the methods employed to get there.
But which one is right? Whilst grappling with this conundrum I came across the following poem from Sabine Baring-Gould. The message conveyed in the poem is self-explanatory and it definitely inspires me to be a more open minded investor.
In my honest opinion, what got me to invest into the idea was the energy, zeal and the uniqueness of the entrepreneur and his/her idea – so why kill all of that by bringing my (or the lead investor’s) own company running methodology? I am not promoting giving the entrepreneur free reign and let the cattle run wild – but it does make me conclude that an angel investor(s) should decide with the entrepreneur on the KPIs/metrics that they want to track and then actively and periodically track those metrics and any statutory compliances. The investor should get involved in two scenarios – one when a metric starts to move away from the desirable range that was previously agreed to and second if the entrepreneur specifically reaches out for help.
But meanwhile if the entrepreneur is performing and meeting all his/her metrics and he/she wants to have a lasertag game at the office and start an incentive program that offers a cold beer to the staff on Monday evenings – I say go right ahead!
The Olive Tree
Said an ancient hermit bending
Half in prayer upon his knee,
‘Oil I need for midnight watching,
I desire an olive tree.’
Then he took a tender sapling,
Planted it before his cave,
Spread his trembling hands above it,
As his benison he gave.
But he thought, the rain it needeth,
That the root may drink and swell;
‘God! I pray Thee send Thy showers!’
So a gentle shower fell.
‘Lord! I ask for beams of summer
Cherishing this little child.”
Then the dripping clouds divided,
And the sun looked down and smiled.
‘Send it frost to brace its tissues,
O my God!’ the hermit cried.
Then the plant was bright and hoary,
But at evensong it died.
Went the hermit to a brother
Sitting in his rocky cell:
‘Thou an olive tree possessest;
How is this, my brother tell?’
‘I have planted one and prayed,
Now for sunshine, now for rain;
God hath granted each petition,
Yet my olive tree hath slain!’
Said the other, ‘I entrusted
To its God my little tree;
He who made knew what it needed
Better than a man like me.
Laid I on Him no conditions,
Fixed no ways and means; so I
Wonder not my olive thriveth,
Whilst thy olive tree did die.’
– Sabine Baring-Gould-