September 30, 2008

Meet the FundingUniverse Posse: Joel Nielsen

Name: Joel Nielsen

Title: Venture Consultant

Joel consults with FundingUniverse’s entrepreneur clients and helps them plan and execute a fundraising strategy. He has assisted clients all over the country in diverse markets and industries.

Strong business acumen + personable disposition + mad ping pong skills = Joel.


What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in business?
I have a type A personality which means that I have a tendency to micro manage projects and people.  That all came to an end when I started graduate school.  In that environment it was physically and mentally impossible to control everything that needed to be completed in the time allotted.  Suddenly I had to depend on others to do their fair share and that required a lot of trust from me.  However, the experience was fantastic and through the process I learned that most people have amazing abilities if we give them the power and confidence to complete them.  As I get older, I have found that I have become more of a cheerleader and less a dictator and it has made all the difference

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
1. Trust but verify.  -Ronald Regan
2. Get it in writing.  -Every Lawyer I have ever met.

Where did you work before FundingUniverse?
I am the CEO of Patriot Corporate Enterprises LLC.  Before that I owned a finance firm in Salt Lake City for 15 years.

What drew you to FundingUniverse?
I was immediately impressed with CEO Brock Blake and my boss Frank Poulsen.  Both men are extremely smart, very innovative and trust me to do my thing.  Beyond them are fantastic sales agents, awesome IT talents and an environment where it is fun to come to work every morning.

How will you help FundingUniverse grow?
I believe that a good leader is a better follower so right now my job is to take my cues from Brock and Frank and be prepared to do anything that they ask of me.  In addition to that I am designing some programs that could drive some incredible revenue streams.

What’s your favorite things about FundingUniverse?
The incredible people who work here.  I also have a passion for small business and seriously enjoy watching them grow.  Everyday I wake up and get to help build other peoples dreams.

What has been the funniest moment at FundingUniverse?
There is a ping pong table at the office that gets a lot of use during the day.  Several ping pong balls have been destroyed since I’ve been here.  Someone finally went out and bought a whole bucket of them.  Who knew it could be such a stress reliever to pound a ping pong ball into your opponents face?

What has been the weirdest moment at FundingUniverse?
When I found my brand new $5.53 ping pong paddle destroyed.  I was crushed because it was the last one that Walmart had I was doing really well with it.  I have been on a losing streak ever since and I can’t help but wonder if it was a company conspiracy to destroy it.

Do you have a website or blog?
OK my PERSONAL blog is witandbanter.blogspot.com However, you should know that it is quite flippant as I try to extract the humor out of everyday things that happen to me.  In addition you will see that there are some tongue-in-cheek posts.




September 24, 2008

Borrowing Credibility

Would you loan money to this guy?  Neither would I.  Unfortunately this is how a lot of small business owners look when they go hunting for business capital.  The business may have an excellent product, wonderful sales projections and perfect pro forma’s and still not find a suitor.  CEO’s often scratch their head trying to figure out where they are going wrong.  The truth is they may be lacking credibility.

Investors are a skittish bunch by nature.  You would be too if you had been torched out of huge sums of money over the years.  For every home run an investor funds, they will likely tell you of 7-8 failures that have cost them a mint.

The commonality among winners and losers is how each started the process.  *cue Chariots of Fire music*  Both brought big hopes and ideas to the investors table.   With a burning desire deep within the soul, they knew without a doubt that they were going to be the next Microsoft.  All of them stood tall with hands on hips, overlooking their little fiefdom and dreamed BIG, sometimes pondering how they could run this juggernaut of an industry and still find time to fit the Oprah interview into the schedule.  Visions, yes actual REAL VISIONS of sugar plumbs danced in their heads!

The statistical reality is that only half of these companies will still be in business after five years.  So to counter this statistic, one of the elements that investors look for is your credibility.  If you are trying to start a business with your college roommate, forget it.  An investor isn’t interested in paying your “University of Hard Knocks” tuition… it’s VERY expensive  The simple fact is that there are too many established businesses available to investors, ones with historical performance, proven revenues and lots of traction.  So what can you and your roommate “Kegger” do to get some respect?  Form an advisory board.

A Board of Advisers offers a number of strategic advantages that include

*  Industry Experts who are serious about your success

*  Years of experience from Wiley veterans who have traversed your path before

*  An instant networking hub that can leverage and introduce strategic partners

*  A group of people to whom you must be accountable to

*  Instant credibility

Funding Universe suggests inviting the following qualified people into your inner circle.  An industry guru, accountant, lawyer, established businessman and a distribution/sales agent.  A diverse group of individuals such as these provide rich resources of knowledge, networking and growth opportunities. So if your business is struggling and you can’t seem to get the respect that you deserve, consider trading in your pocket protector and taped-horned-rim glasses for a board of advisers.  It just might get you funded!

Joel Nielsen is a Venture Consultant for Funding Universe and can be contacted at jnielsen@fundinguniverse.com




September 22, 2008

Other People’s Money

You should plan on doing well before doing good.

I know all of my recent posts have a “don’t to this” theme to them, but there are some common mistakes that I have seen that really make it difficult to get funded, besides, there are a lot of smarter people than me giving out all kinds of advice to entrepreneurs telling them what they should do. For now, I will continue to be the scold.

Robin HoodWould-be entrepreneurs tend to be shockingly optimistic. This is generally a good thing but it can lead to big mistakes if not tempered with a appreciation of reality. Case in point: Don’t put charitable giving into your business plan. A business plan needs to lead to the maximum possible return for the investor. This is already about the riskiest investment around and there really is no room for reducing returns even more. Elements that put any strain on returns that are not absolutely critical only increase risk. This necessitates that charity be separated from your start up plan. Do not tell your investors that you are going to spend their money to pay your janitors $20/hour or that your exit strategy is to give half of the company to a ministry serving unwed mothers or part of your plan is to do pro bono urban renewal with the start up capital. These are actual examples I have seen in my clients business plans just this summer.

The standard expectation will be that this type of work is done through the entrepreneurs as individuals and the investors as individuals. The company exists to maximize return for the shareholders who can do with it what they wish.

Any company’s customers should be better off because of its’ products. Many enterprises naturally benefit their communities in ways not directly related to their products. Business should by their very nature contribute to society (if you’re in a business and it doesn’t, get out now.) But early stage companies need to be focused on maximizing the return of their shareholders. The risks are too high to do anything else.

Also, here is the best “how to pitch” video I have yet seen and it’s from one of the members of the FundingUniverse investor network.