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Top VCs reveal what they want to hear in a startup pitch — and what you should avoid saying

entrepreneurship pitch
The secrets are out.
Hiraman/Getty Images
  • Successful entrepreneurship often starts with a compelling investor pitch.
  • We compiled insights from venture capitalists on what they’re hoping to hear from you.
  • For example: Hold your ground on important issues and demonstrate your path to execution.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.=

Venture capitalists want to be convinced.

Ask David Rose, and he’ll tell you VCs wouldn’t be hearing your pitch in the first place if they weren’t interested in investing. Rose runs Gust, a digital platform for early-stage entrepreneurs and investors, and Rose Tech Ventures, an angel investment fund and incubator.

He said investors are just hoping you’ll give them a compelling argument for why they should partner with you.

We asked Rose, plus a series of other successful investors (listed below), what persuades them to sign on — and what leaves them skeptical. Below, we’ve compiled their best advice, on everything from building a pitch deck to writing a thank-you note.

Show how your product will benefit people

Estes previously told Business Insider’s Lydia Ramsey that biotech investors want to know how a new tool will fit into the current standard of care. “The biggest mistake I see is when someone spends more time talking about how a product would affect the market than they do talking about how it would affect the disease it’s designed to treat,” Estes said.

The same is true for any investor, who wants to know how your business will make people’s lives easier.

Don’t be cocky

In an interview with Business Insider’s Becky Peterson, Munichiello pointed to Stewart Butterfield, founder and CEO of Slack, as an example of an entrepreneur who didn’t pretend he had all the answers. (GV invested in Slack in 2014 as part of a $120 million round that valued the company at $1.12 billion, Peterson reported.)

“Stewart’s conversation with me wasn’t about all of the reasons why Slack was awesome,” Munichiello said. “It was, ‘Here’s how I think about the business. And you may think about it in a different way.’ And ‘Here are the metrics that I use to measure the business. How do you think about the business?'”

Hold your ground on the issues that matter most

“Entrepreneurs can, and should, articulate deal breakers to their prospective investors,” Selverian wrote on Business Insider. “If there’s something that’s important to you and your business, don’t compromise. As long as the entrepreneur’s reasoning is justified, many investors will be impressed by the vision and leadership conveyed through deal breakers.”

Read more: A CEO who launched her company 14 years ago says too many founders have it all backward

Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher.
Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch

Show that you can sell your idea

“One of the critical tests that I try to run when I’m sitting across from a founder is: Can you sell me your idea?” Kutcher said at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2018. If not, he worries about the company’s future.

“If you can’t sell me, how are you going to sell your first hire, your second hire, your third hire?” Kutcher said.

Demonstrate your path to execution

At Business Insider’s Startup 2012 conference, Sachar said she needs to believe the entrepreneur can turn their idea into a successful business.

“If you can’t execute, you don’t have a company,” she said. “A lot of people have ideas.”

Read more: The glitz of ‘entrepreneurship porn’ leads startup founders to make fatal business mistakes. Here’s how to avoid them

Tell investors how you plan to expand

Duggal previously told Business Insider every pitch deck should include a five-year growth plan.

Duggal added that she wants to see the costs of building your product or service, the potential profit “on a unit basis,” and how that changes at scale. In other words, she said, “As your business grows, do the margins get better?”

Prepare a detailed appendix in addition to the deck

Your deck should be simple and straightforward. During the pitch meeting, Selverian recommends having a detailed appendix that will answer any questions that come up.

Anu Duggal
Anu Duggal.
Getty/Noam Galai

Address the potential competition

One common mistake Duggal sees in pitch decks is “not addressing competition or figuring out the market landscape.”

She added, “When we think about investing in a company, we want to understand — that’s great that you have an interesting idea or you spotted something that has the potential to be an exciting business — but we also want to understand what is already in the market.”

Propose an action plan in a thank-you note

In your follow-up note after the pitch meeting, McGinnis said, “propose concrete next steps for them to react to — amorphous communication conveys amorphous management.” Reiterate specifically what you’re asking for, and ask whether there are other people you should meet who the investors can introduce you to.

You can also create FOMO by letting them know when another VC has already agreed to invest.

Determine whether you need to raise capital in the first place

If you’re bringing in a maximum of $1 million a year in revenue, “it may be a great, wonderful, much-needed business,” Rose said. “You may enjoy it and support your family.” But he emphasized, “the economics are just such that there is no way that you can get an investment from me at any reasonable number for that to make economic sense.”

This is because outside investors expect outsize returns on their money, often a large multiple of what they put in. And if there’s a low-millions ceiling on the revenue your startup can generate or eventual exit price, there’s not much incentive for a venture capitalist to write you a check.

In other words, your company may be a “lifestyle startup,” which doesn’t require venture capital and probably won’t ever be worth $1 billion.

david rose
David Rose.
Fortier Public Relations

Wait to raise capital until you have proof of concept

An entrepreneur’s pitch is a “combination of science and faith,” said McGinnis — but you want to stay more on the side of science than faith.

McGinnis often sees founders who don’t have any proof their idea is viable. You’d be wise to keep your day job and acquire customers and data before you ask a VC for money.

Read more: Keep your day job, move slowly, and don’t worry about building a unicorn: A New York ‘startup school’ eschews everything Silicon Valley ever preached

Meet your ‘B list’ investors first

Start with the “B team,” McGinnis said, i.e., the VCs who would be nice to have but aren’t your first choice. Get feedback from them so you’re more than prepared when you meet the VCs you’re really targeting.

Show why you — not just your business — are worth investing in

Remember that you’re pitching yourself, Rose said — not just your business plan. “You bet on the jockey, not the horse.”

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10 things in tech you need to know today

hasan minhaj white house correspondents dinner
Hasan Minhaj.
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Wednesday.

  1. A leaked internal survey from Uber shows that employees feel positive about the way the culture is changing, but also that they feel underpaid compared to peers. Just 40% felt they had fair compensation compared to other firms.
  2. Netflix removed an episode from its comedy show, “The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj”, from Saudi Arabia after the kingdom complained. The episode had been critical of Saudi Arabia.
  3. Convincing, artificially generated “deepfakes” are increasingly used to humiliate women by superimposing their faces into pornographic settings. Victims and abuse experts have warned such computer-generated videos are disproportionately weaponised against women.
  4. Netflix has poached its new CFO from Activision Blizzard according to Reuters. Spencer Neumann is expected to start his new role at Netflix in early 2019.
  5. Bill Gates is the latest high-profile executive affected by president Trump’s trade battle with China. Policy changes mean that his nuclear energy project, TerraPower, is scrambling for a new partner and a place to run a pilot.
  6. Experts have criticised Facebook’s opaque way of flagging potential suicide risks, saying they may cause further harm. The company calls the police to flag suicide threats, but experts said it isn’t always clear that its methods are accurate or safe.
  7. Dell has returned to the stock market after five years as a public company. Wall Street valued shares at $34 billion.
  8. Chinese ride-hailing firm Didi-Chuxing is expanding into financial services to diversify beyond its core business. The company will offer crowdfunding and lending nationwide across China.
  9. Chinese apps dominate the Indian internet, accounting for 44 of the top 100 apps. Familiar names like TikTok rank alongside newer players such as social content platforms Helo and SHAREit.
  10. Volkswagen is reportedly preparing to write off its $300 million investment in Gett. Gett, initially marketed as a rival to Uber, has failed to gain much ground against the competition.

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Amazon now sells nearly a dozen Echo devices, but there’s only one you really need to buy

Echo dot
Amazon exec Dave Limp with the redesigned Echo Dot.
Getty/Stephen Brashear

Opinion banner

  • Amazon currently offers a wide array of Echo smart speakers.
  • While there are plenty of excellent and expensive options to choose from, there’s only one Amazon Echo most people really need: the Amazon Echo Dot.
  • The Echo Dot only costs $50, but it looks great and can do everything the other Echo devices can do.
  • Here are three reasons to choose the Echo Dot.

Back in September, Amazon unveiled a truckload of new Echo devices.

There was an Echo for your car, an Echo subwoofer, an Echo microwave, and an Echo Clock. Plus, Amazon revealed redesigned versions of the more mainstream Echo Show, Dot, and Plus.

There are now so many Echo devices, it’s almost impossible to count them — and seemingly even harder to pick the right one for you.

But even though Amazon makes plenty of solid Echo devices to choose from, there is actually one option that will suit most people just fine: the Echo Dot. It may seem like the most basic option in Amazon’s lineup, but there are plenty of reasons to buy the Dot over some of the fancier options.

Here’s why the Echo Dot is the only Echo you really need:

1. The price

1. The price Avery Hartmans

The Echo Dot only costs $50, and Amazon frequently offers promotions on it — for Black Friday, for instance, Amazon was selling the Dot for $24, and for the holidays, it’s on sale for $30.

Compared to Amazon’s other devices, the Dot is crazy-cheap. The standard Echo is $100 (although it’s on sale for $70 right now), the Echo Spot is $130, and the Echo Plus is $150. But there’s no reason to spend that much when you can get a Dot for as lost as $24.

2. The design

2. The design Avery Hartmans

Amazon changed the look of the Dot when it introduced the new model earlier this fall.

The original Dot was a hard, plastic device that had the overall look and feel of hockey puck. But the new Dot adopted the fabric exterior of the standard Echo, giving it a fuzzier, cozier look.

The new design makes the Dot look not only more high-end, but more modern, too, and it should fit into your home’s decor better. Plus, the Dot’s small size means it fits well into nearly any space in your home — your bedside table, your kitchen counter, your bathroom…you name it.

3. The functionality

3. The functionality Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Perhaps the most important reason to choose the Echo Dot has more to do with what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside.

The version of Alexa that lives inside the Echo Dot is no better and no worse than the Alexa that lives inside the Echo and Echo Plus. The Echo Dot can still answer random questions, make shopping lists, let you know the status of your package, tell you the news and weather, and more. You’re not getting a subpar Alexa just because you buy the less expensive product.

The only area where the Dot may not measure up to other Echo devices is the audio quality. Amazon improved the speakers on the Dot compared to the previous generation, but due to its small size, the sound quality likely isn’t as good as a device like the Echo Plus.

However, the Echo Dot has an ace up its sleeve: It has a standard audio jack in the back, so you can plug in any full-sized speakers you happen to have lying around. You can still talk to Alexa via the Echo Dot, but the sound output will come through your sound system — meaning it’s a good, affordable way to make your existing stereo a little smarter.

That being said, if you’re in the market for high-end audio, and you don’t have your own speakers, don’t buy an Echo anyway. There are far better speakers out there for playing music, audiobooks, or podcasts.

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This chart reveals a growing problem for Apple — that ‘customers are getting less excited for each new generation of iPhone’

Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook
Getty/Justin Sullivan
  • New iPhone models haven’t sold out as quickly as they have in years past.
  • Citi analysts have used search trends to surmise that “customers are getting less excited for each new generation of iPhone.”

Apple launched the iPhone XR at 3 A.M. in the morning on Friday, and when morning came, nearly all of the models were still in stock, according to Macworld.

It’s a change for Apple, which usually requires customers to wake up in the early morning to put in a pre-order if they want the new iPhone on the first day. Lines outside Apple stores when the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max went on sale were smaller than they were in years past.

These data points can be taken as a sign that perhaps an iPhone launch doesn’t generate as much buzz as it used to.

That’s what analysts from Citi concluded in a note distributed earlier this week, based on Google searches.

“We observed there are significant spikes for web searches after the launch event each year. We also see the momentum has been decreasing over time,” the analysts wrote.

“We believe this indicates the market has been maturing, and customers are getting less excited for each new generation of iPhone,” they continued. “We suspect this is because of a slowdown in innovation and the saturation of iPhone in the addressable market.”

Their research can be summed up in this chart:

iPhone search trends Citi

There are a lot of reasons why search traffic might be decreasing year-over-year, and it doesn’t necessarily suggest that iPhone sales will sag. “We are not expecting a ‘Super Cycle,’ but we do believe sustainable single-digit unit growth of iPhone is achievable,” the Citi analysts write.

One issue might be that the overall smartphone market has matured. Apple’s big new features include water-resistance, a facial recognition scanner called Face ID, and a display that covers more of the front of the phone. But none of those banner features represent as much of a jump as iPhones from 4 or 5 years ago, when the camera was improving by leaps and bounds and the displays were getting much larger on an annual basis.

It’s also possible that these search trends were collected before the iPhone XR went on sale. The iPhone XR comes in a bunch of colors, and starting at $749, is expected to be the most popular new iPhone this cycle.

Regardless of why, there certainly does appear to be less buzz around new iPhone launches. Perhaps that’s why Apple is pouring so much money into research and development— to find the next big thing.

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Powerful Facebook investors just co-filed a proposal to take down Mark Zuckerberg as chairman

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and chairman.
  • Four powerful institutional Facebook investors have co-filed a shareholder proposal to split Mark Zuckerberg’s dual role as CEO and chairman.
  • The proposal was originally filed by the activist investor Trillium Asset Management and revealed by Business Insider in July, after Facebook’s brutal second-quarter earnings.
  • Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller, and Joe Torsella, the Pennsylvania state treasurer, are among those lending their support, giving significantly more weight to the governance-change demand.
  • But the chance of the proposal becoming a reality is slim. A similar proposal in 2017 was popular among independent investors but crushed because of Zuckerberg’s voting power.

Four powerful institutional Facebook investors have co-filed a shareholder proposal to take down Mark Zuckerberg as chairman following what they say was his “mishandling” of several scandals this year.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, Rhode Island State Treasurer Seth Magaziner, and Pennsylvania State Treasurer Joe Torsella are joining forces to pile the pressure on Zuckerberg.

They have put their names to a proposal, originally filed by the activist investor Trillium Asset Management, demanding that Facebook appoint an independent chairman. Business Insider first reported on the proposal in July.

Their support gives the demand significantly more weight, given that they control more than $1 billion in Facebook stock. It also points to an increasing base of support for sweeping governance change at Facebook.

If approved by investors — including Facebook’s management — at its annual shareholder meeting next year, Trillium’s proposal would require the company to appoint an independent chairman, breaking up Zuckerberg’s dual role as CEO and chairman.

A similar plan was put forward last year. Though 51% of independent investors voted in favor of that change, it was crushed as a result of Facebook’s dual-class share structure; Class B shares have 10 times the voting power of Class A shares, and Zuckerberg owns more than 75% of Facebook’s Class B stock.

That means he has more than half of the voting power at Facebook and therefore the ability to swat away investor proposals, making the chance that Trillium’s proposal becomes a reality slim.

A new chairman is essential to helping Facebook out of its ‘mess’

But unrest among investors is growing.

“We need Facebook’s insular boardroom to make a serious commitment to addressing real risks — reputational, regulatory, and the risk to our democracy — that impact the company,” Stringer said in a statement, adding, “An independent board chair is essential to moving Facebook forward from this mess, and to reestablish trust with Americans and investors alike.”

Magaziner said: “Without an independent board chair, the board’s oversight of the company remains inadequate, as evidenced by the recent mishandling of several controversies. Having an independent board chair … is in the best long-term interest of Facebook shareholders.”

Chris Wylie
Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on the Cambridge Analytica crisis.
Neil P. Mockford/Getty Images

Trillium’s proposal cites a series of scandals involving Facebook as the reason for a change, including the use of its platform to meddle in the 2016 US election, as well as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Trillium also mentioned last month’s Facebook data breach, which affected 30 million users, in an email to Business Insider. (You can read Trillium’s proposal in full here.)

Stringer and Frerichs have previously spoken to Business Insider and other news organizations about the need for an overhaul.

Together, the four manage $333.4 billion in state funds, including pensions and college-savings plans.

Stringer oversaw about $895 million worth of Facebook shares, while Frerichs had $35 million invested as of June — before the firm’s stock price cratered following its brutal second-quarter earnings in July. Trillium had $11 million of Facebook stock under its management.

Facebook declined to comment. It has previously said that removing Zuckerberg as chairman would cause “uncertainty, confusion, and inefficiency in board and management function.”

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Hackers stole millions of Facebook users’ highly sensitive data — and the FBI has asked it not to say who might be behind it

facebook ceo mark zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
  • Facebook says 30 million users were affected by the massive hack it first disclosed two weeks ago.
  • On Friday, the social-networking firm revealed more details about the attack — and said the FBI had asked it not to reveal who might be behind it.
  • Hackers accessed millions of victims’ highly sensitive personal data, including locations, relationship information, recent searches, and birthdates.

Thirty million people have been affected by a massive hack of Facebook, with the attackers gaining access to millions of victims’ highly sensitive personal data.

On Friday, Facebook provided more details about the attack that it first disclosed two weeks ago — and said the FBI had asked it not to discuss who might be behind the attack.

In its update, Facebook said that the company was cooperating with the American law-enforcement agency and that 30 million people were affected, down from its original estimate of 50 million. In the case of 14 million victims, the attackers gained access to a variety of data including locations, contact details, relationship status, and recent searches — highly sensitive data that could be used to facilitate identify theft.

It appears to be the worst hack in Facebook’s 14-year history.

The hackers were able to exploit vulnerabilities in Facebook’s code to get their hands on “access tokens” — essentially digital keys that give them full access to compromised users’ accounts — and then scraped users’ data.

“We’re cooperating with the FBI, which is actively investigating and asked us not to discuss who may be behind this attack,” the Facebook executive Guy Rosen wrote in a blog post.

“We now know that fewer people were impacted than we originally thought. Of the 50 million people whose access tokens we believed were affected, about 30 million actually had their tokens stolen.”

For 14 million victims, the attackers accessed a trove of user highly sensitive data, including gender, relationship status, religion, hometown, current city, birth date, devices used to log in, education, locations checked into, pages followed, recent searches, name, and contact details.

For another 15 million, the hackers accessed less information — only name and contact details.

And for 1 million affected users, the hackers did not access any information.

Users can check whether they were affected, and what information was accessed, by visiting Facebook’s help center.

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27 great apps you should download first for your new iPhone XS

iPhone XS and XS Max
The iPhone XS and XS Max.
Getty

You’ve managed to get your hands on a new iPhone XS or XS Max, and now you want cool apps to run on it.

The Tech Insider staff picked some of our favorite apps that show off the power of Apple’s new phones.

The list is focused on lesser-known software that we use and love; if you’re looking for the most commonly downloaded apps — think Facebook, Snapchat, Google Maps — Apple publishes a list.

Let’s check them out:   https://www.businessinsider.com/best-ios-apps-and-games-for-iphone-xs-2018-9

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