Tonight I attended an interesting panel discussion that featured three Bay Area venture capitalists discussing the impact that today’s recession based economic conditions are having for startups and their fund raising processes. Two things from this discussion jumped out at me.
The first being that all three of the VCs agreed that if you can bootstrap your company and or drive to profitability with taking very little money, then do it! This isn’t what you would expect to hear from a VC, but when you consider that most VCs are “businesses” that are structured to do large deals, this makes sense. Smaller business opportunities exist all around us that could be grown to a $10M-$50M exit. Most VC’s can’t invest the time into those opportunities when these entrepreneurs are looking for under $500k of investment. Those are the deals that a few dedicated entrepreneurs could bootstrap and grow by staying focused and end up with a very nice payout with the majority going to the entrepreneurs.
The other topic that jumped out at me (but by no means surprised me, I agree with it) is that fact that most entrepreneurs or managers in startups and small companies don’t dream of taking their company public anymore. There is so much overhead and pain involved with being a public company today with regulations, requirements, and value being driven by those who don’t focus on long term fundamentals of a company that it isn’t really worth it unless you are large enough or have a unique and defensible enough value proposition. Add on top of this the increased public distrust and angst toward senior executives of public companies that the reasons for being an executive in a public company are far out weighed by the headaches involved.
On that same thread, I find it amazing how some very large companies who are sitting on Billions of dollars of cash are completely abusing their employees right now in order to increase their stock price. I have heard some scary stories as of late that take cost cutting to new highs and lows, and employees are having to take some of these cost cutting measures directly to their bottom line. It’s one thing when the company is fighting for it’s survival, but another when the company is sitting on Billions in cash and has growing revenues. The reason for this in my opinion is that stock prices currently are not being valued based upon the fundamentals of the company. Yet the senior executives of a public company can’t follow their best business sense to do what’s right toward their employees and customers because they have to cow tow to wall street analysis and fund managers who are are influencing their stock priced based on the macro economic situation.
Who wants to be a public company CEO in this climate?
(Though with the right company, right now is the time to invest with these artificially deflated stock values…)