Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Chapter 3.2 "Interview"

Martin looked up and decided to return the conversation to business. "Gentleman, I'm not here to judge the merits of your software, but I'm afraid no one is going to fund you."

Jennifer looked at Martin with a bit of panic in her eyes. He nodded at her slowly with a look that said he knew what he was doing. Comb-over and his associates just sat there stunned.

"I won't deny that it's great fun to talk about the possibilities of a program that brings all things to all people. However innovative your code might be, you still don't have anything that even resembles a fundable company at this point.

"If we go public we could attract the talent and experience to do just that, could we not?" Comb-over asked incredulously.

"Ah, that's the rub. You can't just do an initial public offering and fill in the details later." Martin stood and walked over to the whiteboard. "Jennifer, if I may?"

"Lead the way, Mr. Dial."

"Right. Well, guys, here are the typical funding stages that a startup moves through over the course of its life. First we have seed financing. At this point, the venture is still in the idea formation stage and its product or service is not fully developed. That would be you guys, I'm thinking. The founder is given a small amount of capital to come up with a working prototype. Do you have a working prototype, by the way?"

"We have several modules of code built." said Comb-over. "So you're saying that we could get venture capital at this point?"

"No, VCs don't generally fund this stage. In most cases, the money has to come from the founder's own pocket or from family and friends. On rare occasions, you might get an angel investor to pony up.

"So if I can scrape up enough to get the prototype built, then what?"

"Then comes startup financing and first-stage financing. When the company is in business for a couple of years, VCs tend to get involved and you move on to second and third-stage financing, then on to bridge financing on finally on to the IPO. Very few companies reach the bridge and IPO stages. It all depends."

"I know this all seems very discouraging," said Jennifer. "But we're in the business of helping the right ventures get through it. If you'd like, my man Culper could take a look at your code and offer up his analysis."

"That would be good," said comb-over. "But without the VC funding, it sounds like we're dead before we even begin."

"VCs are like vampires," Martin replied. "They don't feed on the dead."