Venture Firms: "Closed for the holidays"

Since the great stock market crash of 2008, a number of entrepreneurs raising capital have asked me for advice on their financing.

My advice starts with my world view: Given the recent swings in the public markets and the uncertainties about the size of the global recession heading our way, venture capitalists won't be doing deals for the remainder of the year. 

Venture capitalists won't tell entrepreneurs that they have an invisible sign on the door that says: "Closed for the holidays."  But trust me, things are closed tight for the next three months (and perhaps longer). 

The venture capitalist thought process will go something like this:
  • Their current portfolio will start to need more attention as the ripple effect of slowing demand hits projections and revenue lines.
  • Moreover, their current portfolio may well require more funding and so venture firms will hoard cash for follow on financings.
  • With uncertainty about the overall economy and potential exits, venture firms will enter the "wait and see" mode on investments.

All these factors will contribute in the short run to a slowing of new investments.
So what's my advice for entrepreneurs?

Look closely at the assumptions underlying your business plan and the amount of capital you plan to raise. And get prepared to make do with less.

You're going to need to get your hands dirty in the gritty world of bootstrapping. 

In technology companies, this "bootstrap mentality" isn't that easy to come by. 

But in the land of scarce capital resources and easy sources of Series A funding, your business plan is simplified to the "cash flow one step."  (?) Get financing from customers in the form of revenues! 

Whatever your grand plans, you need to show revenue traction and capital efficiency.  Given the choice between growth and survival, make sure survival is taken care of first.  Then and only then will you be able to grow.

If this seems harsh, or not what you had in mind, then you, too, should close for the holidays.