Make Your Home Business More Successful With These Great Tips!

Most people have thought about being their own boss and running their own business. It probably has gone through your head as well. There are few rewards similar to being able to set a schedule and make all the decisions. Want to know more? Read on.

You need a post office box for business mail. Avoid using your home address when posting online. This will help protect the identities of you and your family.

Create a business plan before you open your home business. This will help you think through everything you need to do to achieve your goals. You can find examples and templates for a variety of business plan styles online. These documents also allow you to troubleshoot ahead of time as you consider the type of problems you may encounter.

Utilize social networking to the best of your abilities and then some. If you aren’t using social networking within your home business, you are losing out on a great communication method that is used by countless businesses today. Social networking improves your communication, visibility, and even your reputation within the target group you have chosen.

Keep excellent records for your home business. Starting an entirely separate checking account for your business will help you keep track of your balance, expenditures and any patterns in income or loss. This is also a great way to avoid trouble in the future, should your business be audited at any point.

Ensure success of your business in its earliest stages by working to keep overhead costs as low as possible, especially if you are working with limited funds. Look for ways to minimize costs up front; one easy way to do this is to focus more on the tools needed to get the job done rather than splurging on expensive new office furniture and fancy desktop gadgets.

Spare yourself major legal and accounting headaches by opening and maintaining a separate checking and savings account for your business. Keeping your business finances apart from your own makes it considerably more efficient to keep track of business revenues and expenses and is also more convenient around tax time every year.

When it comes to home business it is essential to make a space for your business that is separate from your everyday life. This very important because in order to get down to business and concentrate fully on your business you need to have a completely separate work environment.

Write your way to a home based business. If you enjoy writing, and have plenty to say consider a business in article marketing. You can make money by writing content for the internet. You can write at your own pace and market your skills anywhere you want. There is huge potential in article marketing.

If you have a home business, you want to make sure you claim a matching domain name right away. Getting your domain name registered as soon as you can helps to ensure that you will get it before someone else does. This is important to make sure your customers find you, and not a different business when they do a search for you online.

Determine what your budget should be and stick to it. One thing that causes new business to fail is not making or not sticking to a budget. The cost of running a business can add up quickly so make your decisions carefully and track every penny you spend and account for it in your budget plans.

Investigate the suppliers of all the products your home business offers and make sure that you can stand behind them 100%. It is poor business practice to associate with companies whose policies do not agree with you. If you have to tell a dissatisfied customer, “I don’t like it either but it’s the rule,” you will likely lose the customer permanently.

Find the right name for your home business. Have a marketing agency help you if necessary. Your name should evoke the service or products you offer and encourage your customers to trust you and remember you. Think about different names and ask for people’s opinions. Put a copyright on your business name.

When in doubt, speak with a professional accountant or business adviser before you consider writing off certain items and services related to your home business taxes. The government has very specific regulations defining write offs, and the penalties for writing inappropriate items off on your tax returns can be very costly.

A great tip for your home business is to find creative ways to spread the word about your company in the community by holding free workshops or seminars. This is a great way to spread your knowledge, help the local community, and hopefully capture the attention of future customers.

Putting the needs of your customers first is one of the best ways to be successful in your home business, regardless of your chosen niche. Your business’ success lies squarely on your shoulders. Do not stop learning how to operate a successful home business. Soon, your business will thrive.

East Bay, Berkeley VC and Angel Roundtable, November 2, 2015

Interested in meeting early-stage Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists in the Bay Area? Then join FundingPost at The Batchery for an evening focused on Early-Stage Venture Investing, Monday, November 2, 2015.

The Batchery is a Berkeley-based global incubator for seed-stage startups ready to go from idea to launch at lightning speed. We are a community of 50 veteran investors and advisors committed to providing you with ideas, insights and networks, as well as the best in office space, tools and partnerships for entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, around the US, and internationally.

FundingPost has hosted 340+ sold-out venture events in 22 cities over the past 14 years.

At our next event, the panel of investors will focus on Early-Stage Venture Investing: How to meet investors, pitch them, and what it really takes to get them to write you a check! We will be discussing trends in Early-Stage Investing, hot sectors, sectors that these Angels and VCs look at, things that are most important to them when they are considering an Investment, the best and worst things an entrepreneur can do to get their attention, additional advice for entrepreneurs, and, of course, the best ways to reach these and other Investors. There will be plenty of time for networking with the Investor panelists, both before the panel & after the panel at the Cocktail Party!

25 companies will be selected to pitch to the panel of investors. The Investors will vote and the winner will get meetings with the Investors and get semi-finalist status at FundingPost SXSW in Austin on March 13 2016!

Register today, as this event will sell-out and seating is limited!

2036 Bancroft Way,
Berkeley, CA94704
November 2, 2015, 6pm-9pm
Sponsored By: Greenberg Traurig
, Pura Vida Tequila
, The Batchery



Venture Capital and Angel Investor Events

Getting Started With Angel Investing

What it is: Angel investors might be professionals such as doctors or lawyers, former business associates — or better yet, seasoned entrepreneurs interested in helping out the next generation. What matters is that they are wealthy and willing to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in your business in return for a piece of the action.

How it works: Generally, the angels need to meet the Securities Exchange Commission’s (SEC) definition of accredited investors. They each need to have a net worth of at least $1 million and make $200,000 a year (or $300,000 a year jointly with a spouse).

Angel investors give you money. You sell them equity in the company, filing the investment raise with the SEC. Angel investments commonly run around $600,000. Most investments rounds also involve multiple investors, thanks to the proliferations of angel groups.

Related: What Angel Investors Want Now

Upside: Angel investments can be perfect for businesses that are established enough that they are beyond the startup phase, but are still early enough in the game that they need capital to develop a product or fund a marketing strategy.

Many businesses receiving angel investments already have some revenue, but they need some cash to kick the enterprise to the next level. Not only can an angel investor provide this, but he or she might become an important mentor. Because their money is on the line, they will be highly motivated to see your business succeed.

Downside: You could be giving away anywhere from 10 to more than 50 percent of your business. On top of that, there’s always the risk that your investors will decide that you are the business’ greatest obstacle to success, and you could get fired from the company you created.

Angel investors, like venture capitalists, also like to see an end game down the road that will allow them to pocket their winnings, whether it is a public offering or your business getting acquired by another company. You might have to give up running your enterprise before you’re done having fun with it.

Related: 5 Worst Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Pitching Angel Investors

How to get it: It used to be that angel investors were wealthy people the business owner knew. Or they might be veteran entrepreneurs who were discovered through old-fashioned networking at the local Chamber of Commerce, the area Small Business Development Center, or a trusted banker, lawyer or accountant.

These days, though, angel groups are proliferating, offering plenty of mentoring and coaching on top of the money provided.

The Overland, Kan.-based Angel Capital Association (ACA) has an online listing of angel groups that are members in good standing, as well as organizations affiliated with the ACA.

Other websites to check out include AngelList and MicroVentures.

How to Be an Angel Investor

When we sold our startup in 1998 I thought one day I’d do some angel investing. Seven years later I still hadn’t started. I put it off because it seemed mysterious and complicated. It turns out to be easier than I expected, and also more interesting.

The part I thought was hard, the mechanics of investing, really isn’t. You give a startup money and they give you stock. You’ll probably get either preferred stock, which means stock with extra rights like getting your money back first in a sale, or convertible debt, which means (on paper) you’re lending the company money, and the debt converts to stock at the next sufficiently big funding round. [1]

There are sometimes minor tactical advantages to using one or the other. The paperwork for convertible debt is simpler. But really it doesn’t matter much which you use. Don’t spend much time worrying about the details of deal terms, especially when you first start angel investing. That’s not how you win at this game. When you hear people talking about a successful angel investor, they’re not saying “He got a 4x liquidation preference.” They’re saying “He invested in Google.”

That’s how you win: by investing in the right startups. That is so much more important than anything else that I worry I’m misleading you by even talking about other things.

Mechanics

Angel investors often syndicate deals, which means they join together to invest on the same terms. In a syndicate there is usually a “lead” investor who negotiates the terms with the startup. But not always: sometimes the startup cobbles together a syndicate of investors who approach them independently, and the startup’s lawyer supplies the paperwork.

The easiest way to get started in angel investing is to find a friend who already does it, and try to get included in his syndicates. Then all you have to do is write checks.

Don’t feel like you have to join a syndicate, though. It’s not that hard to do it yourself. You can just use the standard series AA documents Wilson Sonsini and Y Combinator published online. You should of course have your lawyer review everything. Both you and the startup should have lawyers. But the lawyers don’t have to create the agreement from scratch. [2]

When you negotiate terms with a startup, there are two numbers you care about: how much money you’re putting in, and the valuation of the company. The valuation determines how much stock you get. If you put $50,000 into a company at a pre-money valuation of $1 million, then the post-money valuation is $1.05 million, and you get .05/1.05, or 4.76% of the company’s stock.

If the company raises more money later, the new investor will take a chunk of the company away from all the existing shareholders just as you did. If in the next round they sell 10% of the company to a new investor, your 4.76% will be reduced to 4.28%.

That’s ok. Dilution is normal. What saves you from being mistreated in future rounds, usually, is that you’re in the same boat as the founders. They can’t dilute you without diluting themselves just as much. And they won’t dilute themselves unless they end up net ahead. So in theory, each further round of investment leaves you with a smaller share of an even more valuable company, till after several more rounds you end up with .5% of the company at the point where it IPOs, and you are very happy because your $50,000 has become $5 million. [3]

The agreement by which you invest should have provisions that let you contribute to future rounds to maintain your percentage. So it’s your choice whether you get diluted. [4] If the company does really well, you eventually will, because eventually the valuations will get so high it’s not worth it for you.

How much does an angel invest? That varies enormously, from $10,000 to hundreds of thousands or in rare cases even millions. The upper bound is obviously the total amount the founders want to raise. The lower bound is 5-10% of the total or $10,000, whichever is greater. A typical angel round these days might be $150,000 raised from 5 people.

Valuations don’t vary as much. For angel rounds it’s rare to see a valuation lower than half a million or higher than 4 or 5 million. 4 million is starting to be VC territory.

How do you decide what valuation to offer? If you’re part of a round led by someone else, that problem is solved for you. But what if you’re investing by yourself? There’s no real answer. There is no rational way to value an early stage startup. The valuation reflects nothing more than the strength of the company’s bargaining position. If they really want you, either because they desperately need money, or you’re someone who can help them a lot, they’ll let you invest at a low valuation. If they don’t need you, it will be higher. So guess. The startup may not have any more idea what the number should be than you do. [5]

Ultimately it doesn’t matter much. When angels make a lot of money from a deal, it’s not because they invested at a valuation of $1.5 million instead of $3 million. It’s because the company was really successful.

I can’t emphasize that too much. Don’t get hung up on mechanics or deal terms. What you should spend your time thinking about is whether the company is good.

(Similarly, founders also should not get hung up on deal terms, but should spend their time thinking about how to make the company good.)

There’s a second less obvious component of an angel investment: how much you’re expected to help the startup. Like the amount you invest, this can vary a lot. You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to; you could simply be a source of money. Or you can become a de facto employee of the company. Just make sure that you and the startup agree in advance about roughly how much you’ll do for them.

Really hot companies sometimes have high standards for angels. The ones everyone wants to invest in practically audition investors, and only take money from people who are famous and/or will work hard for them. But don’t feel like you have to put in a lot of time or you won’t get to invest in any good startups. There is a surprising lack of correlation between how hot a deal a startup is and how well it ends up doing. Lots of hot startups will end up failing, and lots of startups no one likes will end up succeeding. And the latter are so desperate for money that they’ll take it from anyone at a low valuation. [6]

Picking Winners

It would be nice to be able to pick those out, wouldn’t it? The part of angel investing that has most effect on your returns, picking the right companies, is also the hardest. So you should practically ignore (or more precisely, archive, in the Gmail sense) everything I’ve told you so far. You may need to refer to it at some point, but it is not the central issue.

The central issue is picking the right startups. What “Make something people want” is for startups, “Pick the right startups” is for investors. Combined they yield “Pick the startups that will make something people want.”

How do you do that? It’s not as simple as picking startups that are already making something wildly popular. By then it’s too late for angels. VCs will already be onto them. As an angel, you have to pick startups before they’ve got a hit—either because they’ve made something great but users don’t realize it yet, like Google early on, or because they’re still an iteration or two away from the big hit, like Paypal when they were making software for transferring money between PDAs.

To be a good angel investor, you have to be a good judge of potential. That’s what it comes down to. VCs can be fast followers. Most of them don’t try to predict what will win. They just try to notice quickly when something already is winning. But angels have to be able to predict. [7]

One interesting consequence of this fact is that there are a lot of people out there who have never even made an angel investment and yet are already better angel investors than they realize. Someone who doesn’t know the first thing about the mechanics of venture funding but knows what a successful startup founder looks like is actually far ahead of someone who knows termsheets inside out, but thinks “hacker” means someone who breaks into computers. If you can recognize good startup founders by empathizing with them—if you both resonate at the same frequency—then you may already be a better startup picker than the median professional VC. [8]

Paul Buchheit, for example, started angel investing about a year after me, and he was pretty much immediately as good as me at picking startups. My extra year of experience was rounding error compared to our ability to empathize with founders.

What makes a good founder? If there were a word that meant the opposite of hapless, that would be the one. Bad founders seem hapless. They may be smart, or not, but somehow events overwhelm them and they get discouraged and give up. Good founders make things happen the way they want. Which is not to say they force things to happen in a predefined way. Good founders have a healthy respect for reality. But they are relentlessly resourceful. That’s the closest I can get to the opposite of hapless. You want to fund people who are relentlessly resourceful.

Notice we started out talking about things, and now we’re talking about people. There is an ongoing debate between investors which is more important, the people, or the idea—or more precisely, the market. Some, like Ron Conway, say it’s the people—that the idea will change, but the people are the foundation of the company. Whereas Marc Andreessen says he’d back ok founders in a hot market over great founders in a bad one. [9]

These two positions are not so far apart as they seem, because good people find good markets. Bill Gates would probably have ended up pretty rich even if IBM hadn’t happened to drop the PC standard in his lap.

I’ve thought a lot about the disagreement between the investors who prefer to bet on people and those who prefer to bet on markets. It’s kind of surprising that it even exists. You’d expect opinions to have converged more.

But I think I’ve figured out what’s going on. The three most prominent people I know who favor markets are Marc, Jawed Karim, and Joe Kraus. And all three of them, in their own startups, basically flew into a thermal: they hit a market growing so fast that it was all they could do to keep up with it. That kind of experience is hard to ignore. Plus I think they underestimate themselves: they think back to how easy it felt to ride that huge thermal upward, and they think “anyone could have done it.” But that isn’t true; they are not ordinary people.

So as an angel investor I think you want to go with Ron Conway and bet on people. Thermals happen, yes, but no one can predict them—not even the founders, and certainly not you as an investor. And only good people can ride the thermals if they hit them anyway.

Deal Flow

Of course the question of how to choose startups presumes you have startups to choose between. How do you find them? This is yet another problem that gets solved for you by syndicates. If you tag along on a friend’s investments, you don’t have to find startups.

The problem is not finding startups, exactly, but finding a stream of reasonably high quality ones. The traditional way to do this is through contacts. If you’re friends with a lot of investors and founders, they’ll send deals your way. The Valley basically runs on referrals. And once you start to become known as reliable, useful investor, people will refer lots of deals to you. I certainly will.

There’s also a newer way to find startups, which is to come to events like Y Combinator’s Demo Day, where a batch of newly created startups presents to investors all at once. We have two Demo Days a year, one in March and one in August. These are basically mass referrals.

But events like Demo Day only account for a fraction of matches between startups and investors. The personal referral is still the most common route. So if you want to hear about new startups, the best way to do it is to get lots of referrals.

The best way to get lots of referrals is to invest in startups. No matter how smart and nice you seem, insiders will be reluctant to send you referrals until you’ve proven yourself by doing a couple investments. Some smart, nice guys turn out to be flaky, high-maintenance investors. But once you prove yourself as a good investor, the deal flow, as they call it, will increase rapidly in both quality and quantity. At the extreme, for someone like Ron Conway, it is basically identical with the deal flow of the whole Valley.

So if you want to invest seriously, the way to get started is to bootstrap yourself off your existing connections, be a good investor in the startups you meet that way, and eventually you’ll start a chain reaction. Good investors are rare, even in Silicon Valley. There probably aren’t more than a couple hundred serious angels in the whole Valley, and yet they’re probably the single most important ingredient in making the Valley what it is. Angels are the limiting reagent in startup formation.

If there are only a couple hundred serious angels in the Valley, then by deciding to become one you could single-handedly make the pipeline for startups in Silicon Valley significantly wider. That is kind of mind-blowing.

Being Good

How do you be a good angel investor? The first thing you need is to be decisive. When we talk to founders about good and bad investors, one of the ways we describe the good ones is to say “he writes checks.” That doesn’t mean the investor says yes to everyone. Far from it. It means he makes up his mind quickly, and follows through. You may be thinking, how hard could that be? You’ll see when you try it. It follows from the nature of angel investing that the decisions are hard. You have to guess early, at the stage when the most promising ideas still seem counterintuitive, because if they were obviously good, VCs would already have funded them.

Suppose it’s 1998. You come across a startup founded by a couple grad students. They say they’re going to work on Internet search. There are already a bunch of big public companies doing search. How can these grad students possibly compete with them? And does search even matter anyway? All the search engines are trying to get people to start calling them “portals” instead. Why would you want to invest in a startup run by a couple of nobodies who are trying to compete with large, aggressive companies in an area they themselves have declared passe? And yet the grad students seem pretty smart. What do you do?

There’s a hack for being decisive when you’re inexperienced: ratchet down the size of your investment till it’s an amount you wouldn’t care too much about losing. For every rich person (you probably shouldn’t try angel investing unless you think of yourself as rich) there’s some amount that would be painless, though annoying, to lose. Till you feel comfortable investing, don’t invest more than that per startup.

For example, if you have $5 million in investable assets, it would probably be painless (though annoying) to lose $15,000. That’s less than .3% of your net worth. So start by making 3 or 4 $15,000 investments. Nothing will teach you about angel investing like experience. Treat the first few as an educational expense. $60,000 is less than a lot of graduate programs. Plus you get equity.

What’s really uncool is to be strategically indecisive: to string founders along while trying to gather more information about the startup’s trajectory. [10] There’s always a temptation to do that, because you just have so little to go on, but you have to consciously resist it. In the long term it’s to your advantage to be good.

The other component of being a good angel investor is simply to be a good person. Angel investing is not a business where you make money by screwing people over. Startups create wealth, and creating wealth is not a zero sum game. No one has to lose for you to win. In fact, if you mistreat the founders you invest in, they’ll just get demoralized and the company will do worse. Plus your referrals will dry up. So I recommend being good.

The most successful angel investors I know are all basically good people. Once they invest in a company, all they want to do is help it. And they’ll help people they haven’t invested in too. When they do favors they don’t seem to keep track of them. It’s too much overhead. They just try to help everyone, and assume good things will flow back to them somehow. Empirically that seems to work.

BREAKING DOWN ‘ANGEL INVESTOR’

Angel investors give more favorable terms than other lenders, as they are usually investing in the person rather than the viability of the business. They are focused on helping the business succeed, rather than reaping a huge profit from their investment. Angel investors are essentially the exact opposite of a venture capitalist.

DEFINITION OF ‘ANGEL INVESTOR’

Angel investors give more favorable terms than other lenders, as they are usually investing in the person rather than the viability of the business. They are focused on helping the business succeed, rather than reaping a huge profit from their investment. Angel investors are essentially the exact opposite of a venture capitalist.