"Glad I could offer some blog fodder and hopeful that as more of us cover these topics, quality improves. Presentation SUBSTANCE matters a great deal as indication of how an entrepreneur thinks." (my emphasis)
While I have mentioned before that financial models and business plans demonstrate how an entrepreneur thinks about his business, I think this point deserves further clarification. When an investor evaluates management they look for four key things in addition to trustworthiness:
- passion to succeed (and overcome obstacles) and strategic vision
- personal compatibility (can I work with this CEO/founder) and judgment
- analytical skills to properly understand the business and its performance metrics
- industry knowledge
Judgement, analytical skills and industry knowledge combined probably go a long way toward defining "how an entrepreneur thinks". (May need to add a dash of strategic thinking.)
Business plans and investor presentations are the first opportunity to demonstrate analytical skills and industry knowledge to an investor. However, most entrepreneurs present what they think is just enough to get to the next step with the investor rather than full blown, analytical thinking on industry, distribution alternatives and competition. The lack of this detail is part of the reason VCs have to spend so much time to confirm the size of the market opportunity. I also think many entrepreneurs fear that they will have nothing to say at subsequent meetings if they present a complete analysis at the first meeting or in the first document. Of course, the investor having to drag information out of you may raise questions about how you think about the industry, especially when the critical risk factor only surfaces two hours into the industry discussion.
Many, many entrepreneurs also fail to properly use their financial models to demonstrate analytical skills and industry knowledge. While not all investors will read a business plan, it is rare for a financial model to go unread. The financial model is an excellent place to make clear the business model. (For the distinction between a financial model and a business model see this post.) By properly developing the business model one makes clear the growth driver(s) and the pricing and sales/distribution strategy. The key assumptions that build up to provide this analytical clarity typically also use values which can be confirmed against industry norms (further demonstrating industry knowledge).
In my definition of business model I also included capital expenditure requirements and headcount plans. Capital expenditure requirements are an excellent way to demonstrate industry knowledge, especially in telecom, Web 2.0, mining (a recent prospect) and SAAS, to name a few industries. For example, if you are presumably going to scale your Web 2.0 business, how are you going to manage the increasing need for servers and database storage. A complete CAPEX plan would make this obvious and demonstrate both analytical thinking and industry knowledge. Detailing a headcount plan is one of the best ways to demonstrate how you think about the business and your logic. Putting in 5 "C" level executives or 10 sales people the day after funding says quite different things about how you think about growth strategy and capital efficiency.
If you follow this approach to your presentation or financial model for an investor, you will give Matt and his VC industry cohorts a lot of insight into how you think about your business. And, as I said in yesterday's post, give the investors the information they want.