The GFC and the VC – Prepared for funding?

The GFC and the VC

Research for my book, “Don’t get Funded” is underway. Naturally I have started with a few conclusions pre-formed. Couldn’t help it. The book is based on 50 interviews with the eminence grise of the investment world. Of course, I know what they will say, so it’s just a question of having a thirty-minute confirmatory chat.

Mrs C, professionally trained in research matters, tut-tutted, wrung her hands and pointed out the likely errors of non-discovery inherent in preconceptions. Quietly she directed me to another framework – it’s an ology of some description and encourages the researcher to start hypothesis-free and build a world-view by observing society from the perspective of the subject of the study. Interesting thought.

Mrs C’s good at ‘calm and quiet’ which is why she makes a pretty effective coach. Her ology is pretty damn good too: it led me to unearth a number of valuable insights.

Today’s gem comes from Chris the VC who asserted that the ‘08 GFC was one of the best things that happened to entrepreneurship.

Really! Did I hear that right?

Being in the business of raising money during that arduous period, it seemed to me a strange stance. As an entrepreneur, sourcing any sort of funding between ‘08 and ‘12 was ridiculously difficult and plain horrid; most VCs padlocked the bank account, threw away the keys, ran for the hills and waited for the storm to blow through.

And most worthy, un-funded businesses either died or were swallowed whole by rapacious US tech firms who relocated them to the West Coast where (seemingly) they do it properly. In 2012 I was threatened by an investor with a move to Texas and dangled a tantalising NASA contract. Couldn’t wait to get on the plane with Mrs C and work with some of the best brains on the planet. In the end we didn’t but that’s an interesting story for another day.

Back to the “08 was good for you” assertion. The comment arose around the matter of the flight to quality of investment propositions in recent years. You see, my perception, and many others, was that most pitches for funding were pretty inadequate and have remained so. As it turns out, there are pockets of excellence, in fact quite a few.

Here’s the theory: pre-08 in the era of plenty, the serious talent went directly and unhesitatingly to the City, where rewards were high, risks negligible and fun in abundant supply. 08 proved a watershed. No more jobs for life, a war on evil bonuses and noisy banker bashing.

As a direct result, the brightest and the best zero-ed in on the entrepreneurial tech scene. Adaptable, ferociously quick, keen to make a difference, they have transformed the sector. The lead indicator is an upswing in the quality of propositions seen by Chris and his VC peers, which in turn has led to an increase in their propensity to invest. The outcome? A positively vibrant conveyor belt of properly funded, lasting businesses that will enhance our lives and which would never otherwise have seen the light of day. Or as another member of my family observes, “Watch your backs, oldies. You have no idea what’s coming.”

So thanks to Mrs C’s ology, it’s been an interesting journey of discovery: no doubt there’s more to come.


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