Do You Need to Get Investor Ready to Raise Funding for Your Startup?



There is nothing worse than spending weeks and months working on your Startup, finally getting a meeting with that key potential investor and then blowing the meeting!


This can set you back and even sound the death knell for your Startup?

What if you don’t have the experience you need to raise capital successfully?

Do you know how to speak “Investor Speak”?

But, What if you could learn this in less than 2 hours?

The Entrepreneurs Guide to Startup Funding – Udemy Course written by John Colley, The Six Minute Strategist

Learn how to communicate your vision, prepare your business plan and financial model and, most importantly, learn the inside track on how to pitch investors!

Check out the Special Offer at the End of this Post!

What if you also got an Outline Business Plan, a Financial Plan Template and in addition, an Investor Readiness Checklist.

But how can you share this with your team?

Easy, download all the slides with the attached notes and take them through the course yourself, or better still, connect your computer in the “Board Room” and put the lectures up on the screen.

Couldn’t be easier!

Take a look at this brief video which summarises the course:


Overcome your Experience Deficit!

If you are raising capital, the chances are this is your first time and yet the people to whom you are pitching have done this dozens of times.

You need to overcome thisExperience Deficit and ensure that when you get your one shot at pitching them, you are professional, well organised and that you deliver a concise and relevant message.

Its hard enough to get funding; without the proper preparation, its nearly impossible!

I have advised dozens of start up companies and have distilled my experience to help you get Investor Ready!

I am sharing my experience with you to help you close the Experience Deficit!

Over 1,100 Students have subscribed to this Course!

Take a Look on Udemy –The Entrepreneurs Guide to Startup Funding – Udemy Course written by John Colley, The Six Minute Strategist – and take a look at how many students are learning NOW from this course!

What Other Students are Saying About this Course


“Useful and rich of new things for me

The course is a total guide for Entrepreneurs to Startup Funding. It is a cornucopia of information on how to find investors to start your own job. The course includes many details, business and financial plan templates. It covers every aspect of the subject. Thank you John Colley for sharing your knowledge”

“Every Startup Team Needs to Take This Course Sooner Rather than Later

John Colley lays it out clearly in this no-nonsense guide to getting funding from venture capitalists.  Watch this course long before it is time to start looking for financial help.”


Whether you are just starting out with an idea or have already drafted your business plan and pitch slides this program will help immensely. I was able to fine tune my business plan and turn it into something that has a clear, concise message. Cheers for the investor checklist and sample pitch slides.”

“The Voice of Experience

In this course, John has pulled together what can be a complex subject in a series of logical steps. He has clearly done this by virtue of his wide experience in this area, and it will be of immense help to all entrepreneurs looking to raise finance for their businesses. An excellent programme.”

“Excellent content and design”

“The Entrepreneurs Guide to Startup Funding

This course is very well structured and contains excellent information at each lecture. It is very practical and straightforward. I would recommend it.”

The Entrepreneurs Guide to Startup Funding – Udemy Course written by John Colley, The Six Minute Strategist

Get this Course with a great time limited Offer – 60% Off – Use Coupon Code “FUNDING39” or follow this link:

Good Luck with Your Startup!

Get Investor Ready Today with The Entrepreneurs Guide to Startup Funding – Udemy Course written by John Colley, The Six Minute Strategist




Small Business Growth? Its Time to Accelerate!

Small Business Growth - Its Time to Accelerate!


This week’s post is all about the GrowthAccelerator Programme which  English SMEs really cannot afford to ignore!



I recently attended a Seminar to learn about the programme and I have come away very enthusiastic about the Government/Private Enterprises Partnership.

Enthusiastic about a Government backed programme – that really is a FIRST for me!

Start by watching my introductory video…

What is GrowthAccelerator?

A simple question – Do you want to achieve 20% Growth Year on Year?

GrowthAccelerator is a programme designed to help your business become a high growth business.  Working with a nationwide group of experts, they create a unique programme tailored to the needs of your business.

Everything the programme does is focused on a single goal: Fast Growth!  This is why it requires a personalised approach and why the programme works with over 800 experts with a broad array of skills and experience.  Together, you can discover new insights into your business to enable you to accelerate your growth.

The objective of the programme is to double the size of your business in three years?

Are you up to that?

Are you ready to achieve your Business Ambition?

Are you ready to get a different perspective on your business?

Are you ready to focus on clear business objectives?

Does  your business Qualify?

It doesn’t matter what stage your business is at.

Can you answer “Yes” to these four questions?

  1. Are you determined to Grow?
  2. Is your Company registered in England at Companies House?
  3. Do you have less than 250 Employees?
  4. Do you have less than £40m Turnover

What does the Programme cover?

GrowthAccelerator focuses on four main areas:

  • Business Development (Coaching)
  • Access to Finance (Coaching)
  • Commercialisation of Innovation (Coaching)
  • Management and Leadership Development (Training – Matched Grants)

The Programme delivers a combination of one to one coaching and masterclasses.

In addition, there is the opportunity to get matched funding up to £2,000 per individual for Management and Leadership Development training.  This can involve anyone in your business in a senior managerial position and is not limited to Board Directors.

What if I don’t know what I need?

The GrowthAccelerator Programme focuses on 10 core business areas:

  • Business Strategy
  • Cash
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Leadership
  • Access to Finance
  • Innovation
  • People and Staff
  • Operations
  • Sustainability
  • Change Management

In the initial phase, Programme Managers work with you to establish what you and your business needs and then draws from the network of over 800 experts to match your business requirement with the right expert for you.

Business Development

The GrowthAccelerator Programme provides bespoke business development and coaching and support from specialist growth experts.

The benefits to your business include:

  • Developing a clear growth strategy aligned to your particular needs
  • One to One Coaching
  • Masterclasses
  • Support to ensure your growth plan is adopted and implemented
  • Tailored support to develop business capabilities

Focus areas include: sales, marketing, access to finance, innovation, operations, change management, recruitment and logistics.

Access to Finance

Getting access to finance is a critical area for growth companies and in todays market, can be harder than ever.

The programme helps you to ensure that your are properly organised and prepared when you seek finance and that you are made aware of the alternative forms and sources from which additional capital can be raised.

The Benefits include:

  • A comprehensive assessment of your business’ suitability and potential for raising finance
  • The development of the necessary building blocks required for attracting investment

One to One Coaching and Masterclasses to help your make your business “Funding Ready”

Commercialise Innovation

Innovation is a diverse and complex subject. If your business is developing new products and services are you creating scalable, repeatable process and systems to enable you to achieve the growth you are capable of?  Do you have a business model which ensures that your innovation leads to increases in sales and profits?

If you are making investment in innovation, are you taking the necessary steps to protect your intellectual property also known as “IP”?  This part of the GrowthAccellerator programme helps your business to build and maintain a culture of innovation.

The benefits to your business include:

  • Learning to commercialise ideas
  • Develop innovation strategies
  • Generate profitable IP
  • Leverage partnerships with financial organisations to source advice and funding for innovation projects

The programme provides one to one coaching and a series of masterclasses to help you commercialise your IP.

What does it cost?

GrowthAccelerator is a partnership between Private Enterprise and Government which means that the service is kept affordable.  With the Government investing with you in your business, the commercial cost is considerably reduced.  What you pay is directly in proportion to the size of your business.

  • 1-4 Employees = £600
  • 5-49 Employees = £1,500
  • 50-249 Employees = £3,000
  • In addition, a VAT charge of £700 is payable as HMRC attributes a value of £3,500 to the programme.  If you are registered for VAT you can obviously include this in your VAT returns.  If you are not VAT registered and you cannot claim it back you should view this as part of the cost of the programme.

How Can I Find Out More? GrowthAccelerator Challenge!

Find out if you could benefit from the GrowthAccelerator Programme.  Follow this link to select one of 10 Topics and see if you can answer “Yes” to all Six Questions. If you can’t then your Business might benefit from the GrowthAccelerator Programme and you should call me.

Take the Next Step…Take the GrowthAccelerator Six Question Challenge


If you would like to speak with me directly, please call me on 07813 672 612 or email me john[at]jbdcolley[dot]com to arrange a time for a call.


Raising Venture Capital? Before you do, take a look at my Course!

Optimized-Start Up Video 1 Getting Started.001


Are you raising Venture Capital?

If you are you might like to meet up with me and spend a couple of hours asking me lots of questions about the process and what you should do?


Yes, I know time is precious.

What if you could ask all those questions and not have to spend half a day coming up to London to meet with me?

Here is a brief introductory video…

You can find the Course here –

[Read more…]

Can You Bank TO the Future?

Can you bank to the future?

Can you Bank ON the Future?

Well, in this market, no one can.

However you can Bank TO the Future!

How is this possible?



Let me introduce the subject with this short video…

Simon Dixon has launched a UK Crowd Funding site – – which is seeking to increase the competition in the UK Banking Sector by making it possible for investors with capital to directly access Entrepreneurs and Early Stage businesses.

The real innovation here is that Investors can invest through both debt and equity, as well as make donations in return for non monetary perks, such as pre-orders of a new product.

What are the challenges?

Banks currently do not lend to small early stage companies.

Early Stage UK Venture Capitalists represent a small part of the market and most will not invest in businesses with less than £1m in revenues (although there are a few rare exceptions).

The Stock Market is not available to very small, early stage enterprises.

The Angel Market is very difficult to access other than through Angel Network Organisations and although they help early stage enterprises with the process, they need to be paid for their work and introductions which can be expensive, especially if a relatively small amount of money is being raised ie less than £100,000.

What is Crowd Funding?

Crowd Funding enables investors to invest small amounts of money in a range of investments, thereby diversifying their risk through a portfolio.

The Crowd Funding Loan enables investors to chose which companies their money is invested in and removes banks from their traditional role of taking in deposits on the one hand and making loans on the other.

It is also possible to donate to Crowd Funds to help create businesses for a non monetary perks and help young businesses get started.

Online platforms enable donors and investors to directly reach entrepreneurs and enable them to invest equity, lend money or support by donating money in return for non monetary “perks”, normally a pre-order of the product being made by the new business.

Other examples of Crowd Funding sites include Kickstarter, AngelList and Investedin.

There are two models. One in which the project has to raise the amount it states it needs within a stated time frame.  If the target is not achieved all monies are returned to the pledging investors.  The second model allows the projects to retain the money even if the target is not met.

Bank to the Future falls into the former category.

So what does Bank to the Future do?

The Online process enables entrepreneurs to initially Crowd Fund the finance required to start their business by raising equity.

There is the opportunity to donate money to projects in return for non monetary perks, such as pre-orders of new products and thereby assist the enterpreneur to start his business in a more socially responsible way.

Donating allows investors to increase their Social Capital through Bank to the Future. (Click to Tweet)

The Crowd Funding approach enables entrepreneurs and investors to work together on terms that all participants accept.  An investor cannot change the terms of a deal at the last minute to his advantage.

Later on as the business develops, the enterpreneur may have a better credit rating and be able to raise crowd funded loans from Bank to the Future Investors without having to surrender further equity.

What is the significance of the Crowd Funding Movement?

Since 2008 the difficulties small businesses have in raising capital or getting access to loans from banks have been widely debated.  At the same time the Government (both Labour and Coalition) have consistently taken the position that the SME sector, which accounts for 67% of jobs in the UK, is vital to the recovery of the economy as it has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

While the Small Business Sector has more than pulled its weight, it has continued to struggle to get access to the capital it needs to invest.

The internet has proven to be a highly disruptive force in many industries – think of iTunes and the Music industry and Amazon, initially with books and now just about every other product category in B2C retail market.  There is no reason why financial services should be immune and with the continued development of online, disruptive business models emerging, market inefficiencies and the status quo are constantly being challenged.

So is Bank to the Future the new future of Banking? (Click to Tweet)

Full disclosure: I have no financial arrangements of any kind with Bank to the Future.

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.


Thank you for joining the Conversation.


6MS Can you find me the Right Investor?

Listen to my latest phonecast

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.


Can you find me the Right Investor?

“Can you find me the right investor?”

“What are the chances of success?”

“What are the odds of finding an Investor for my Company?”


I am asked these questions all of the time as if finding investors for companies was like throwing darts at a dart board; if you hit the bull you get funding, Right?

Well not quite.  In this blog piece and the accompanying video, I will try to share with you some of the complexities in the funding process.  I want to try to demonstrate that building a systematic funnel is much better than throwing darts!

Lets start by looking at some statistics from Crunchbase.  This free online database lists over 100,000 companies and over 30,000 funding rounds.  Crunchbase also shows us that there have been literally thousands of Seed Rounds, Angel Rounds and Series A, B and C rounds.  Furthermore over 9,000 funding rounds are unattributed.

In our research over the past decade, we have identified over 1,200 investors in the UK and this dataset only has a small number of Angel and High Net Worth investors.  We are predominantly talking about funds, networks and family offices.

So where do you start?

In the video I walk through a series of factors that need to be taken into account when trying to select investors.

These include:

  • Investor Type
  • Sector
  • Stage
  • Funding Round
  • Deal Size
  • Risk
  • Geography
  • VC Portfolio
  • VC Specific Odds
  • Investment Criteria
  • Deal Criteria
  • Process
  • Documentation
  • Term Sheet
  • VC Deal Flow
  • Conflicting Interests

Unfortunately, finding the Right Investor involves kissing a lot of frogs!

I do not believe that there are any short cuts, they take too long!

I hope you find the video useful and if you want to know more or to discuss any issues I bring up, you can email me at jbdcolley[at]aol[dot]com or contact me through the blog.

You can also download the slide deck from Slideshare at

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.


Is Venture Capital the most inefficient Capital Market in the World?

If it was as difficult to buy and sell on the Stock Exchange as it is to raise Venture Capital, investors would call it more than a technical glitch!

Why is it so difficult? If you look carefully,  there is no shortage of capital seeking investments.  Furthermore, there are literally thousands of companies seeking funding from Venture Capital investors.  And yet finding the right investor, pitching a deal, working the process of committees, due diligence and documentation, takes months and has no guarantee of success!

It is difficult to assess the level of failed deals.  I have heard estimates that 90% of funding deals <$500k fail and 75% of those below $2m fail too.  This suggests to me that friends and families are more than doing their bit to create employment in the North America and Europe by supporting these companies when the VC market fails them.

I want to discuss why this market is so inefficient and to see whether there is anything that either side can do to improve the situation.

Lets look at the situation from the side of the Venture Capitalists.

Once a VC raises a 10 year fund, say $100m, they look to deploy this in the first three to five years of the fund.  Therefore these funds are looking to get $20m a year out of the door and into companies.

The team to do this may have as many as 10 people in it.  Don’t get too excited by this.  Two of these will be Partners, two more experienced Deal Executors, a couple more are less experienced “bag carriers”, sorry, I mean Analysts.  The remainder will be Administration, Marketing and someone to answer the phones and write letters.  This means that most of the deals that come in unsolicited, get reviewed initially by probably the two Analysts.

This is the first reason that you have to write a good investment summary!

A typical firm will see around 500-600 business plans/summaries in a year.  This is around 40-50 a month, around 10 a week (20 days a month even if they are 15 hour days!).  The same firm is likely to do up to 5 deals a year, one every two months!

Look at it another way, the fund will want to make 20-25 investments in their $100 million fund, over 5 years, its 4-5 deals a year.

So your chances of getting funding from any single investor is around 1%.  Unfortunately, if you see 100 VCs, your chances improve somewhat but not to 100%.

I think that VCs should try to be more specific about their investment criteria on the website, but of course, ultimately this is not in their interest as they want to see as broad a deal flow as possible, in case they miss the next Facebook!

What can you do to improve these odds? Well, lets look at it from the Company’s perspective. 

There are thousands of funds out there but you need to short list the funds who might have a theoretical investment interest in your business and these are the main initial criteria:

Geography: the earlier the stage the more localised the geography so find where their nearest office is located

Stage of Development of the Company: in Venture Capital, Seed, Early, Series A, B, C, D, E, F, Growth, late Stage

Deal Types: in Private Equity; there are a whole range from Generalist to Specialist (e.g. Turnarounds, Public to Private, Buy and Build), but I am going to keep focused on the VC market here where the investors primarily focus on the Stage of Development of the company.

Financial Development: Revenues: Pre or Post revenue.  Take it from me, pre-revenue investment from VCs in Europe is very difficult to raise, in the more sophisticated, mature and larger US market it is easier.

Profitability: Profits: Cash flow positive, breakeven, profitable?  VCs are not investing to take early stage, product risk.  They are looking to invest in companies once the questions – Can the product sell?  Is there a problem for which this is a solution? – have been answered.

Size of Investment; this genuinely varies: for VCs you expect them to at least invest £500k or $500k but all have minima.  There is a logic to this.  It is very difficult for a small team to manage a large portfolio with lots of small investments and from a portfolio theory perspective, a VC wants to make a limited number of reasonably sized bets in its investee companies.

Sector: the VCs will very often have specific sector and sub-sector preferences

Management; make sure you have a strong, successful (previous successful start up track record in the same sector is a distinct advantage) team.

Management, Management, Management: See the paragraph above in case you missed it. This really is one of the most critical factors.  The VC is essentially backing the team to successfully execute the business plan and weak management teams don’t get backed.

Market Size: the bigger the potential market the better.  Often a management team makes the mistake of trying to define a micro market to show how they can quickly become number one.  This is a mistake.  It is much better to have a small share of a huge market, than a large share of a small market

Competition: there is always competition.  If you have not found it you don’t know your market and claims that there is no competition is a telling sign to a VC that the Management team is not on its game.

Returns: VCs are fundamentally looking for a 10x return so their in price, the pre-money valuation and the expectations of any future funding rounds are important to them and you can expect them to negotiate.

Hot Trends:  this is the one that you do not find on their website.  I always ask VCs what is “hot” for them at the moment.  This gives me really valuable information about their appetite for certain types of companies and enables me to bring deals to the VCs which they are more likely going to want to engage with.  As you know, fashions and fads change and so do these – about every six months.

Once you have honed your long list to a couple of hundred potential investors, you now need to find a way to approach them.  I am not a great believer in filling in online forms.  As you can see from the discussion above, the attention span of a VC team is challenged to say the least!  An approach from some one who knows them or a mutual contact who knows them is the best chance of getting past the the initial filtering process.

A really good way to find how to do this is Linkedin.  If you are not already using it, you should definitely start building your network today.

Be prepared to contact between 50 and 200 VC investors (in Europe), I would suggest that in the US the number os probably between 30 and 100.  This means several calls, emails, follow up and a lot of persistence.

The initial negative responses come in quickly.  Give the VCs initially a week to 10 days to process the summary internally and hopefully get some initial interest from a few of them.

After this initial period, put in follow up calls to make sure your approach has not already hit File 13 (thats the round metal receptacle under the desk of the analyst).

If you get an initial meeting with a VC, well done!

Now you only have three to six months of haggling in front of you.

Lets go back and look further at how inefficient this market really is.

From a numbers perspective, there are thousands of investment events every year but this still remains a small proportion of the businesses seeking funding.

I do want to be fair. 

Many of these companies are either not good enough or ready for investment and there are good reasons why they do not get funded. However, without a mentor, an experienced adviser or investor, it can be very difficult for these businesses to learn why they have not been successful.

There is the same quality issue for the Venture Capitalists who can spot an under prepared business from a mile away in a fog at midnight.  Make sure your collateral – Executive Summary, Business Plan, Financial Model, Management Presentation and Elevator pitch is as good as it can be.  I often hear VCs complain about the scarcity of good quality deals.

The summary of all this is that management teams can spend months seeking investment while still trying to build their businesses, a very distracting and time consuming process.

There are moves a foot to create online investor exchanges for VCs, similar to AngelList which (as its name suggest) is focused on the Angel market.  There are considerable regulatory hurdles to this although steps are being taken, particularly in the US, to address these.

Six Minute Strategist Start Up Course – Is this for you?

Are you struggling to get your Start-Up Started?

Do you need to learn more about Business and Financial Plans

Do you need to learn how to pitch to investors?

Take a look at my brief Video…

Now go and check out the Course at

Can you tell your PEs from your VCs? Part 4







In the first three parts of this series, I have covered:

  • The different types of Venture Capital and Private Equity firms
  • Their investment Criteria
  • How to approach them
  • What they are looking for, and
  • Six reasons why business plans are rejected

In this the fourth and final part of the series, I am going to discuss the Characteristics of the Financial Plan and Six Ways Investors make Money out of their Investee Companies.

Characteristics of the Financial Plan

As mentioned in my previous post, investors are seeking a three to five year plan and this should be done on a monthly basis.  Try to make sure that you have clear input, working and out put areas.  The statements will need to have a fully integrated Profit and Loss Account, Cash Flow and Balance Sheet.

Your assumptions areas should be clearly labeled, I try to use green cells as input areas.  The assumptions should be easy to manipulate and should focus on the key business drivers.  If you don’t know what these are to start with, don’t worry, this will soon become apparent as you move through the modelling process.  It is important that you can use this for testing different outlooks or “Scenarios”.  This will also help you to find out which drivers your business is most sensitive to and this should enable you to re-consider some of your strategic planning.

The investors will use the data to model their sources and uses and structuring assumptions.  This involves building in the financing structure and its costs in order to model their returns scenarios.  As each investor does this in a different way, I do not recommend attempting to do this work for them.  Don’t forget though that the business will need to be able to sustain any financing structure and meet any minimum ratios or covenants set by providers of finance, including banks.

How do Investors Create Value and Make Money?

This is not rocket science.  The investor has an in-price on the date of investment, the business generates value during the period of ownership and the investor gets a return of capital on sale.  The sum of these, the first being negative (and the interim period may also have some negative cash flows) and, hopefully, a positive end result.  Lets see how this might be achieved in a little more detail.

1. Valuation Multiple Arbitrage

In simple terms, the investor buys at a lower multiple of profits than it sells at.  The Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation is the profit line most investors focus on.  This is the line in the profit and loss account which is independent of the balance sheet structure (Interest, Depreciation and Amortisation) and independent of tax.  This is also known at EBITDA.

If the investor buys a company at 5x EBITDA and sells at 8x EBITDA, it will make a profit equal to 3x EBITDA.

The ability to do this depends not only on the attractiveness of the company but also market conditions.  Depending where in the business cycle the purchase and sale events take place, this can either work for or work against the investor.  As a result, investors are very cautious about opportunities where this is the cited method of creating value.

2. Making the Business More Profitable

If you cannot improve the multiple, improve the other variable, EBITDA.

How can this be achieved.  You can look at your financial model and work it out for your self.  Here are some examples.

  • Increase revenues by selling more
  • Increase revenues by putting up prices
  • Increase prices to increase gross margins
  • Reduce cost of sales to increase gross margins
  • Reduce fixed costs
  • Reduce variable costs
  • Reduce central costs

These are all actions within the control of the management and are therefore more attractive to investors.  This is a good reason why investors put so much store in the quality of the management team and its ability to deliver.

3. Cash Flow

This is a critical part of any deal and, if you are in any doubt, cash and profit are very different things.  If you are not sure why check out my blog post on this here.

One of the ways that investors reduce their in cost is to reduce the direct cost to themselves, the Equity Cheque, by raising some of the purchase price from a third party, normally a bank in the form of debt.  Historically, Private Equity houses have been able to raise 3x-4x EBITDA in debt from banks.  Today, if they can get it, the range is more likely to be 1x-2x.  This is certainly true for deals under £100m. For the much larger deals these ratios might be a little higher in todays market.

During their ownership of the business, they need the company to generate cash to pay the interest on this debt and to repay the capital.  In an ideal situation, over a three to five year period, the business will generate enough cash to pay all the debt back.  If this happens there is extra value left at the sale of the company which will accrue to the shareholders of the company.  How this is divided does depend on the financial structuring of the deal.  DO NOT ASSUME that it will be shared equally.

How do you improve cash flow?

  • Increase the profitability of the company
  • Improve the efficiency of the business’s working capital – again see my previous blog post here to understand how this works.  Essentially, you need to understand what is a source of cash and what is a use of cash.
  • Control capital and operational expenditure
  • Sell surplus business assets (property is a good example)
  • Dispose of loss making parts of the business, the earlier this is done in the process the better as it reduces a drain on cash flow.

4. Deal Structuring

One of the ways that investors make money is by structuring the terms of the deal in their favour.  Think about the shareholding structure as a pie and the % of share ownership as slices of the pie.  When the company is sold the proceeds are divided between the shareholders depending on their ownership percentage.  Right?  Yes but only if there is one class of shares.

Investors will typically introduce preference shares, different classes of shares with different rights, convertible debt, interest yield costs and redemption premia to name but a few.  This means that the ranking of the return of capital to the parties can be slanted in their favour and typically they will try to ensure that they get their original capital back ahead of the original shareholders

5. Management “Sweet Equity”

This is the carrot part of the exercise.  In a Management Buyout, the management team typically will not have much capital of their own or a significant stake in the business.  The Management Sweet Equity enables the management team to purchase a disprortionately large percentage of the equity, typically between 15% and 25% between the whole team.  This strongly incentivises the team to be successful and aligns the interest of the management team with that of the investor.  If the deal is very successful the Management team can make many multiples of their original investment.

6. Shareholder Agreements

One of the weapons that investor include in their armoury to help them to make money is the shareholder agreement.  This sets out the rules of the game and essentially puts the investor in control of many if not all of the key business decisions and vetos over a whole range of business decisions, regardless of the % level of their shareholding.  In fact, if they are minority investors this document is even more important.  In extremis, if the business is not doing well, the investor is able to remove the executive team and appoint their own and this includes any founders.  The agreement will also regulate the rights and value of the executive team and their shareholding if they are dismissed.

I hope you have found this series to be both helpful and informative.  Do check out my offer to Start Up Companies below.  If you have any questions send me an email or leave me a comment below.

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.


Can you tell your PEs from your VCs? Part 3


In the first two parts of this series, I have discussed how to tell the different types of Venture Capital and Private Equity firms apart.

In this, Part 3, I will discuss how to approach VCs, what they are looking for in an investment and Six reasons why Business Plans are rejected.

Approaching Investors

Assuming you have now identified your short list of investors from the hundreds out there, here are some key questions to ask yourself.

  1. How should I prepare my business information to make it attractive and digestible to the investor?
  2. What do investors expect to see in a Business Plan?
  3. What can we do to ensure that our deal gets attention within the firm?
  4. What sort of deal are we promoting and what is the best way to structure the financing of the deal which will give existing shareholders the best chance of making a high return while still being attractive to the investors?
  5. What sort of deal terms are investors likely to put forward and how are these likely to compare or vary between investors?
  6. Can we handle these negotiations on our own or should we find someone to help us manage this process?

What are Investors looking for?

Management Teams

Investors invest in strong and credible management teams backed by a strong business plan (focused on a strong business proposition).  Remember that if Investors see 500 to 1000 plans a year (and they do) but they only do 5 to 10 deals a year, your odds are no better than 100-1 against.

A Clear Business Plan

The management team need to put together a strong, well laid out and comprehensive business plan which will be easy to read, clear, concise and compelling.  The whole management team must be involved in the preparation of the plan and know it backwards.  This ownership is key to being able to communicate the plan to investors with credibility.

Realistic and Honest

The plan should be realistic not optimistic.  At the same time don’t do yourself down too much and expect the investors to run downside scenarios against you.  Understand your market and its size, be realistic about the strengths and risks posed by your competitors.  Be honest and straightforward, don’t leave skeletons in the cupboard.  If due diligence subsequently reveals unexpected information, your potential investor will walk away.

A Compelling Business Case

Your plan should put forward a compelling business case for investment in your business.  You are competing with other potential deals here and your case must convince the investors that yours is the deal they want to do.

Three to Five Years

The Business plan should scope the current business but prepare a financial plan going out at least three and preferably five years.  I always recommend that you prepare a financial model on a 5 year monthly basis.  It is easier to summarise this into annual periods than to try to reverse engineer an annual plan into 12 monthly segments.

In operational terms you should be detailed about your plans for the first 24 months.  Don’t forget you are explaining where you are now, where you want to get to and the route from here to there.

50 Page Document

I will provide check list outlining the detailed structure of the financial plan in the Six Minute Strategist PRO when it launches but in essence you should be aiming to produce a word document of up to 50 pages.  The financial model can be bound separately, if you print it out.  Any bulky data sets should also be confined to the back of the document in apendicies.

Executive Summary

The front of the document should contain an executive summary which I always recommend you write once you have written the main plan.  I have never understood how someone expects to summarise a document that has not yet been written.  This part of the document must sell the deal as it is likely that this is the only part most of your audience will read initially when trying to select which deals to look at more closely.

Understand your Audience

Try to understand your audience.  Investors want to make a good return on their investment and minimise their risk of not getting their money back.  It can help to talk to management teams from their portfolio companies if you can reach out to them to better understand the style and approach of a particular house.

Six Reasons Business Plans are Rejected

  1. The presentation is vague, not well researched, verbose, non specific.  Use short punchy specific sentences – like this one.
  2. There are factual errors or mistakes in the financials
  3. There are specific omissions – possibly hiding negatives – which are not addressed honestly.  When preparing a SWOT analysis, make sure you are candid about the weaknesses and threats!
  4. The financial model is too optimistic – avoid hockey stick scenarios.
  5. There are too many uncertainties and risks associated with the plan.  These may be factors outside of the control of the management
  6. The returns are too low.  As a rule of thumb, Venture Investors are looking for 5x to 10x returns on early stage deals.  Private Equity investors seek to double their money in three years and treble it in five.  This equates approximately to an IRR of 30%, but remember cash multiples are key, IRRs can be flattered, particularly over shorter time scales.

In the final Part of this series, I will discuss the characteristics of a good financial plan and Six ways investors make money out of deals.

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.


Can you tell your PEs from your VCs? Part 2


In the first Part of this series I examined the  different types of Venture Capital and Private Equity firms.

In Part 2 I am going to discuss the factors which make up their investment criteria.


So, having worked out the type and stage of deal you want to organise, what else do you have to think about?

Size of Funds

It is important to find out the size of the current fund that the investor firm is currently working with.  This dictates the next two factors.  As a rule of thumb, take the fund size and divide by 20.  This will give you an idea of the ideal size of “equity check” that the fund would like to be investing.  I say “Equity Check” because the investment can be increased by syndication with other investors, mezzanine and debt finance.

Minimum Investment

This is the minimum equity check.  If your deal is small than this, you are talking to the wrong investor.

Maximum Investment

There will be a limit to how much an investor will want to commit to a single deal.  Again as a rule of thumb, divide the fund size by 10 as most funds will have a formal limit preventing them from investing more than 10% of the fund in a single company.

Fund Life Cycle

This is important.  Funds typically have a 10 year life span.  In the first four years the investors work hard to invest the fund. In years 5-7 they will co-invest but probably not invest in new deals.  The final three years are years of harvest, selling the companies they have invested in and returning money to their investors.  You can see from this why these investors aim to invest in a company for three to five years.


This of course is critical.  A Cleantech fund is not going to invest in a manufacturing business.  Find out what the investors sector preferences are.


Funds nearly always specify which countries they set out to invest in.  This may sometimes be couched in vague language, asking for “operations in the UK”.  Often UK funds specify that the company must be headquartered and incorporated in the UK.

Office Locations

On the face of it this is not a major issue but investors do not like to invest in companies where the operations are a long way away.  Again as a rule of thumb, the smaller the company and the earlier the stage, proximity is a distinct advantage.  For a major Leveraged Buyout, distance is less of an issue.


Finally, you might have lined everything up but now you need to approach the investor.  It is a distinct advantage to either know someone or to get a warm introduction to the firm.  I have spent many years cultivating contacts in VC and PE firms for this reason.  That having been said, if you have a great track record and a brilliant business opportunity, they are not going to turn you away.

In the next part of this four part series, I will discuss the approach to investors, what they are looking for and 6 reasons why Business Plans are rejected.

What Next?

Take a look at my FREE video Tutorial “How to Turn Your Great Idea into a Business” which is all about Starting a Business and Raising Capital.