My idea was to provide a solution that would allow voting on key issues only using verification mechanisms that would help keep remote voting legitimate.
1. Created an FB business page to check interest. The page received over a 900 likes and comments in half a day of ads. It continues to receive interest to this day.
2. Immediately after gauging interest on FB, I created a prototype on Marvel. It showed how the app would function.
3. Then, I pitched it to a couple of investors in my circle, but none of them came back with a response. I am wondering why.
Also, since I can't build anything more than the marvel prototype myself, how should I do this next?
Because I thought this kind of a solution would revolutionize democracy and the way decisions are made. Instead of gauging sentiment using big data, governments or businesses could straightaway gauge people's understanding without having to worry about fake votes and so on.
How can I make this idea more attractive and where can I find investors who invest in this space?
Investing in any venture is not easy, in fact in these Covid-19 times it is exceedingly difficult. Before an investor invests in your idea, he/she will try to gauge the risk that your venture will be facing. Let us discuss these risks one by one and you will understand why there are no investors.
Risk: Many people do not properly understand the nature of ‘risk’. Risk per se is not dangerous; it is the consequences of what happens should the risk occur that might be. When given the choice between a high risk or a low risk occurrence, most take the low risk option; a few, possibly suspecting a trap, take the high risk option; only a small minority ask “risk of what?”, and of course they are right. The original question is fundamentally flawed, because it does not give any information about the consequences of the occurrences: but it very frequently catches people out. The factors that allow unpredictability to creep into an outcome are risks. Each risk has two components:
The likelihood of it happening, and
The impact it has should it happen
In a business environment, these are most easily distinguished by considering two simple situations. It is quite common in any business that from time to time human error will cause invoices to go out late. This is annoying and might cause some local difficulties, but it is unlikely to cripple the business. The risk is likely, but relatively trivial. On the other hand, it is very unlikely that a dishonest employee will remain undiscovered for long enough to embezzle a business-crippling sum of money, but it could (and sometimes does) happen. This risk is then unlikely, but major.
How is it simplest to assess these considerations when looking at risk?
Clearly the first step is to recognise what risks are threats. This is probably the easy bit to do. Business is all about recognising what might go wrong, assessing and pre-empting it with sensible actions. The major way to make an initial assessment of the risk factors in Business Angel Investment is enquiry: check it out. The term ‘Due Diligence’ can be used, but it is more often misused. It can be useful to consider two aspects of these enquiries: firstly, whether to invest, and secondly what is being invested in. This latter we will call ‘Legal Due Diligence’, and where an existing business is involved, you will obviously want to make rigorous and exhaustive checks into its status, shareholders, residence, the claims of its managers, tax, insurances, trading history, employment status, potential litigation and so forth. We will look at how far this needs to go in the section on Doing a Deal. But, this comes after you have decided that you are interested in investing in the first place: this decision, especially in a new or start-up business, is best and most efficiently done through simple enquiry. Find and ask someone independent of the business who knows the market, technology, product space, model, people, etc.
Clearly the rigour and extent of the enquiry process is up to each individual and situation. We will look at this in more detail after we have looked at the Business Plan and once, we’ve met the People. That is when the real digging starts.
Quantifying Risk: Traditionally, ‘risk’ is found by multiplying the likelihood of occurrence by the severity of impact. Unfortunately, this is less helpful than it might be because, while the mathematical product would be the same, the impact on a business of a ‘likely but trivial’ risk is actually quite different from that of an ‘unlikely but major’ risk. When considering any particular factor, you will need to decide whether it has more of a ‘likelihood’ or of a ‘severity’ character. Complex factors, like real life, will obviously have components of both, but the trick is to isolate particular factors into their simplest components, which are likely to influence just one dimension.
All this is purely subjective. Every risk factor you assess will be done subjectively, upon considered reflection and preferably after discussion with other informed people. The more anyone does the analysis, the better and more reliably consistent will become his judgments. It’s a bit like learning the violin: horrible at first, but with practice it can become deceptively simple. This matrix is not intended to give specious rigour to the results of the analysis, but simply to provide a framework with which to think about risks and their impacts. By providing such a framework, you reflect upon what are the basic risk factors and influences, and arrive at a decision about the nature, likelihood and severity of the risk. Then at any rate you have something constructive to work with when deciding what to do about it. We use this matrix to help assess the five identified business risk factors: Vision; Stage; Business Model (Finance Operations Resources Market); People (Character Experience Capability Knowledge); and Motivation. Each of these is analysed subjectively but consistently and given a score out of ten based upon both the written plan and the competence of the management. To work out the total risk, we simply multiply the assessed risks together. This is combined and weighed against the potential Rewards, which are calculated separately using several different approaches. Thus, if we assess the five risk factors as being 10/10, 9/10, 10/10, 7/10 and 4/10 we combine them into an overall riskiness of 10 × 9 × 10 × 7 × 4 divided by 10 × 10 × 10 × 10 × 10, which is 25,200/100,000 or around 1 in 4 (given the inherent subjectivity and vagueness of the values involved, it’s always worth rounding to a simple number). It is also worth noting at this point that while multiplying the risk factors together makes sense, it also makes it exceedingly difficult to come up with winners, just like the real world. For example, a 50-50 chance may not be too bad: give it 5/10. But multiplying together 5 risk factors all of which are 5/10 gives us a result of 3125/100000, or about 1 in 30. That is like backing an outsider at Aintree. So later on, in assessing the various business risks, we are looking for eight’s nines and tens out of ten, with the occasional four or five allowed, but just the one unless you really know what you’re doing. Secondly another important note is that the matrix is asymmetric. This is because, as we have said, risk factors are asymmetric: the recognition, assessment, and management of a ‘likely but trivial’ risk differ in quality from those of an ‘unlikely but major’ one. This does not mean that the latter cannot be coped with, merely that they must be accurately assessed. Understanding what to do with which risks is the key to success. In practice the process of balancing ‘likely but trivial’ risks against ‘unlikely but major’ ones can be exceedingly difficult, and we look at Risk Management later.
The Business Plan: It’s worth making a quick note to clarify one essential point: a business model is often easily confused with the management’s ability to implement it. The model is ‘management independent’, it is a matter of theory: is it elegant? Should it work? Are they making life difficult for themselves? How competent would they need to be to implement it, or do they depend on ‘magic moments’? Have they remembered they can only recruit people, not Superheroes? It is important to understand what the Business Plan is for. A professionally written and structured Business Plan should, of course, describe as accurately as possible the business opportunity and potential outcome, incorporating a clear summary of how the outcome is to be achieved against what odds. But it was written specifically to attract you, the Business Angel, or at least it should have been if it is to succeed. Can they say it simply and with clarity? As Winston Churchill famously said: ‘I am going to have to make a long speech tonight because I’ve not had time to write a short one’
There should be an elevator pitch to point you in the right general direction, and a brief executive summary to give you a first pass at understanding the business. If there isn’t, it implies that the author may not really understand what he is doing. Can you tell who wrote the plan? The entrepreneur, or an adviser? Who owns the ideas? Is it a plan or a wish list?
Was the plan written as a strategy for the writer, to give him a road map? Are the principals knowledgeable? Or do they come across as ‘winging it’? And what is the audience it was written for? A bank, management peers, funders, or whom? Each audience has a significantly different requirement of a business, and a well written and targeted document will appeal specifically to exactly that audience. The implication of this is that a poorly targeted document again reflects badly on the author, and the reader has to be concerned about whether the author really understands what sort of funding he is trying to get, and what he is really trying to do. Great entrepreneurs don’t have to be great writers, so when you read a business plan it may be a mess. Yet even so there may be something in it that you can see has the essence of a brilliant opportunity. But if reading through it is hard work, clearly the author either has significant communication difficulties, or is too entwined with the technology, or both. Is it meant to be something to make money from, or to build the entrepreneur’s ego? It all boils down to whether at first run through you think whether or not there’s a chance you could make money out of it. How do you rate the assumptions they have used to build their Financial Model? What are the Uncertainties? And will others also make money out of it? If so, then the secondary but incredibly important issue is if you think you could work with these people?
The Business Plan: Vision Risk: Vision is what gets you going. If there’s not much Vision, you’re not excited so you won’t invest (unless maybe the entrepreneur is your nephew). So Vision has to score very highly, by definition. There have been millions of ambitious business plans, and one or two have come about. Microsoft started by envisioning ‘a PC on every desk’. Did that sound ambitious then? Think of Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Skype…. Does the business you are looking at have good growth potential? Does it fly? If they can excite you there is a chance, they might excite a customer: how are the hairs on the back of your neck? What are they trying to achieve? Where are they going and how are they going to get there: how realistic is it? The realisation of Vision can be a problem: is it a Vision or a Dream? If you get Vision wrong, you will be starting again from scratch, but it’s difficult to see how Vision could be misjudged. Does it plan to grab the world, or not?
The Business Plan: Stage Risk: David Berkus is one of the original Californian Business Angels and is renowned for his thoughtful and practical contributions to Business Angel thinking. He has written several books on the subject and devised his own method for making rough valuations of early stage businesses. We use his logic as the basis for estimating early stage risk. Consider the main Business Risk factors – Vision, Model, Operations, Resources and Finance – and allocate a ‘stage value’ to each: how mature, developed, proven? Or still just a good idea? As a useful rule-of-thumb, consider these estimates for the various Risk factors as guides and use them to derive a number for Stage Risk as a mark out of 10. And if you do not think the answer quite hits your mark, change it: it’s only meant to help. Stage is what it is: if it is exceedingly early, you know it’s riskier. Factor it in, of course, but do not discard on Stage alone. It is important, but not essential: if you have excellent Motivated People with good Vision and a Model that is realistic and simple, and doesn’t rely on re-educating the world, you can cope with a low Stage score on Risk, especially if you are going to be closely involved.
The Business Plan: Model Risk
If their Vision sits comfortably and potentially realisably in the Marketplace, we move on to the four pillars of the business Model:
A. Sales and Markets: what is to be sold and to whom
B. Operations: how is it to be organised
C. Resources: what are needed to achieve all this; and,
D. Finances: what money and information are needed to keep the rest on track
A. Model Risk: Sales and Markets: This is the most basic consideration of all: without a market, there is no business. How big is the market? How mature is it, and with what potential? Does the entrepreneur demonstrate that he really understands it?
B. Model Risk: Operations: If the sales and marketing model is believable, once they’ve captured the demand can they deliver it in a way that makes sense? Are the Operations in line with and sensitive to the planned growth? Is the administration thought through, at sensible salary levels? Do they look effective and efficient, and how competent would management and staff need to be for it all to work smoothly? Have they remembered to allow for errors frailties and imperfections? If there are any requirements for regulatory compliance, have they been thought through definitively? What controls and systems are proposed? Are there any showstoppers?
C. Model Risk: Resources: Have they got the right amount of – whatever! – to make it work? Without wasting cash on over supply, yet without being under-resourced. Enough of the right people in the right places? Enough physical space, both for people and for things? Transport, logistics? Information? Technical? Intellectual? What skills resources and relationships does management already have? We’re not looking here at the entrepreneurial flair of the Principals, you haven’t met them yet and we cover that under People Risk, but we are looking at whether you can tell if they appreciate the sheer management issues of resource availability and allocation, and can cope. Have they ever been through the pain barriers of, for example, recruitment and providing training? Do they know what it takes? Or, somewhere in the middle of the plan, do they say they will recruit a sales force, and from that point on sales increase exponentially? What are the potential problems and disasters? Are there enough resources to cope with the unforeseen? If not, there will be a very high chance of an unplanned future rights issue, and in this case be prepared to say ‘no’ on the principle of ‘good money after bad’.
D. Model Risk: Finances: This pulls together everything in the model that you’ve looked at. How sensible is it? This is not just about the obvious question, is there enough? It is about whether there are any key dependencies or drivers, and are there any major weaknesses? Do the principals understand finances and who needs what when, for if they don’t how can you trust your funds to their stewardship? Does it read as if they own their plan, or as if the numbers are an added afterthought? What assumptions are they basing their projections on, and do they seem sensible, realistic? Are the financials complete, and have they included their own assessment of sensitivities? It is worth noting that 99% of plans never achieve projections, mainly because the vast majority of plans assume that everything goes perfectly without hindrance, rather than that they will have to operate in the real world. We have identified 16 independent variable assumptions that contribute to a Business Model, each of which is ‘Uncertain’. The following parameters all have values which, if relevant in the Plan, must be assumed by the Principals and are built into the assumptions used in forecasting their business model financials. Each of these is, give or take, a variable, some more than others. Some may be more within the control of management than others, whilst variations in others might require management to be responsive and flexible. But each of the following can potentially vary in ways that will have major impact upon the business model and forecasts, and all the potential variations must be factored in.
People Risk: Before we examine the details, just think for a moment about the overall picture. People are who will get the Vision from plan to reality, who convert the business model into bank balance. They are key. People must score very highly. And if they’re not Motivated, you haven’t got a hope. But bear in mind that, as we shall see later, Motivation has two aspects: their Motivation before they meet you, then their Motivation after the deal….So far, all we’ve seen in the Business Plan is theory: maybe good, maybe less so. Even if it’s the greatest, it’s still theory. And People is the most important risk factor of all, the means by and through which all else becomes reality, or not.
Before you meet them, check into the people’s background. What evidence can you find here that will help them drive the business forward? What is their track record? Do you think they could pull it off? Does it look as though they could make it happen, turn the plan into Bank Balance? Can they scale up satisfactorily, do you think they have thought it all through? Or are there any indications that when the going gets tough, they will abandon ship? Alternatively, will anything change if it all does work? Be aware that in the process of growing to attract a purchaser, the business also becomes increasingly attractive as a lifestyle for the management. This can be the graveyard of Business Angel investing, and the cause of many a Boardroom battle. You have decided to meet them because you like the plan: now you need to get them to try to explain it verbally from their viewpoint. Do they really understand what they’re selling, which is a share of their business and not ‘widgets’? To get across the right message you need to ensure that they really understand that you want to bring more to the table than your money and that you are seeking to back them and not their idea. Do they rely on a formal presentation, or can they adlib? Get them to talk about and around what they’re trying to do without too much interruption. This is your chance to let them make or break themselves. Once they’ve had a good run through, test them: ask the awkward questions; question their assumptions; question their credentials. What’s their secret ingredient, the one that will enable them to succeed in the teeth of the competition? And always listen closely to the answers: how flexible is their approach? Can they cope easily with challenge? Will they work closely with you, or insist on doing their own thing exclusively? Can they learn, or do they already know best? Pick out something to ask them about, it does not matter what, and see if they understand the plan. Even if they manage to persuade you that the plan is achievable, are they the people to achieve it? Will they be able to live up to the expectations they have built up in you?
Motivation Risk: Are you ideally looking for an opportunity where highly competent management are driving forward a low risk business? Don’t expect too much of a rough ride, or phenomenal returns. And do not expect to see many opportunities like that either! There are several aspects to an individual’s motivation that need to be analysed and thought through, but principally you need to distinguish motivation before the deal from that after the deal. And having met and understood them, then make a judgement about what the latter will be if you can. Before the deal, examine what they have already sacrificed for the Business. Is it their ‘baby’? Will they be able to let some of it go? Do some personal digging by getting up very early and taking a quiet look at who arrives at their office when. If you phone out of hours, who answers? Are the entrepreneurs’ personal and family goals in line with the business’s aspirations? Do they come across as exit or lifestyle oriented? Do they come across as greedy or needy for higher salary and benefits than you feel justified at this stage of the business? They still must live, but they can take benefits from the cash profits at the same time as you: when they come in. What do they stand to lose if they fail to deliver? It is especially important that the entrepreneur’s commitment to success is underpinned by fear of failure: whatever their absolute contribution, it should be relatively substantial, and they should have nowhere else to run. Be aware that a frequent issue for fund seekers is the fear that an investor is wishing to take control of their ‘baby’. How much of what will belong to whom? Do they feel they get to keep enough, or maybe you think they might even keep too much if they become insufficiently driven? Who is going to run the company? Who is making money for whom? A final consideration when considering motivation is a phenomenon called ‘Risk homeostasis’. This implies that an individual has an inbuilt level of acceptable risk which feels comfortable, and this varies between individuals. When the level of acceptable risk in one part of the individual’s life changes, this tends to mean that there will be a corresponding and inverse change in acceptable risk elsewhere. This clearly has implications for deal structure and how it might affect management motivation. Many studies have shown that those who value the future more highly have lower accident rates and take fewer risks than those who discount the value of the future. They also find that there need to be direct incentives for people to behave in a more risk-aware way.
After the deal, will the critical objectives of the team remain aligned with those of the Investor? Negotiating and finalising the terms of any deal will have a major influence on how you assess the motivation of the Principals, so the final judgment has to be made later, but for now you still have to crystallise your thoughts. Make an assessment of the principal’s financial commitment and motivation as seen and on the deal terms you would like, and score Motivation out of ten. You may well have to review this after you have done the deal, but it’s the best you can do for now. If it’s easier to visualise the ‘before the deal’ figure separately from the ‘after’ figure, try scoring them individually and multiply them together. Motivation just must be high. Please keep this score: the ‘Motivation’ score contributes the fifth and last bit of the five ‘risk’ bits of ‘risk-reward’. Multiply all the risks together to get at a ‘number out of 100,000’ and simplify it to arrive at your final score for Risk: ‘1/r’. The first meeting is finished. You should sum up and give the entrepreneur your ‘score’. If it is not for you, tell them now. If it might be for you, tell them what happens next, and by when. Agree the date of the next meeting, and what they will need to have done by then to keep your interest.
Your plan is no doubt great, but the investors must perceive it that way as well to put their money into it.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call: https://clarity.fm/joy-brotonath