Friday, January 12, 2007

Venture Capital or playing the Champions League

I am sorry for those of you which are not football fans and may not understand the title of today´s blog. For 3 years mmChannel has followed what it is consider a normal path for a Spanish small company, what we call playing the national championship – “La Liga”

A company that started with a little bit of funding from the founders, have some focus on the segment/sector it wanted to play at (mobility) but did everything that come about in order to survive (AKA many small projects nicely helping you to pay the bills), a moment of having to focused to really being able to grow and attack bigger customers (kind of playing to intertoto to see if you qualified for the UEFA cup) and a moment in which you get the focus right, have a couple of nice players´ signing that do a very nice first season (a couple of new executives that really hit the ground running, a big couple of wins (2 very good and exciting new clients) and you qualify for the UEFA. But when the champagne and the celebration´s night is over you wake up the next morning and do some numbers: making the stadium bigger to comply with the regulations (aka buying more hardware to host), have to renew some of your star players and get some new ones (keep offering good value to your star executives and more developers to take care of new developments), start thinking about next year traveling all around Europe and you realized that although you may negotiate a good deal with the TV (aka revenue share with your existing customers), money will take a while to come but even more importantly if you don´t want this to be just a one season phenomenon just need a good and solid sponsor. In fact you want to dream of playing the Champions and why not winning it one day

Net Net we have managed to be in a good position with a self financing model but in order to dream about being an international player we need capital so we can invest to grow faster and bigger. The answer is obvious we need to talk with VCs

For those of you living in the States VC is almost a day2day phenomenon but in Europe where VCs have been much more Private Equity and Management Buy Outs, there are not that many players and the industry is not that sophisticated. So the search has started and it is tricky. We can not deploy all the management team´s time to this because there are still chances that we will not get funding at the end and then we need to have our company running on the current model and just be happy playing la Liga and remembering that we did make it once. Nevertheless we know that the earliest we get the funding and the better the selection of the right partner, the faster we can benefit and try to exploit what we consider our 18 months window of opportunity

So here we are. We have developed a good and concise presentation pitch/teaser. We have discussed, evaluated and agreed on an aggressive independent (self financing) scenario which could let VCs understand the firmness of our current business and we have spent already a good number of hours meeting friends, partners, networkers to get to the right people. After 2 months in this process, things are running well but not as fast as entrepreneurs will like (may say as we expected and forecasted and prepared ourselves to go through) and the moment of truth is coming up. We have already a couple of rounds with some VCs that seem to be ahead of the game and we are entering the second round

To continue with my soccer comparison, we did the right preseason before the UEFA cup, we have passed 2 rounds and doing well in our weekly Liga and we are getting close to the Champions position. Nevertheless still a lot of games to go and we can just continue playing well and dreaming

NOTE FOR NON SOCCER/FOOTBALL FANS: La Liga is the Spanish National Football Championship. It is played October through May (usually every weekend) and there are 20 teams. Every year the first four get the right to play the Champions the following year against the best European teams (Each country has 2-4 representatives depending on the overall rakings based on average previous 5 years performance of all clubs from that country in European competitions – Spain leads this rankings and is one of the 4 countries to qualify 4 of their teams) . The Champions is played during the same months, on weekdays and after the first 2 rounds the eliminatory format is acquired. Coming back to la Liga the teams qualified between 5 and 8 get to play the UEFA cup (similar to the Champions for “worse” qualified teams) and the last 3 go to division II and get replaced by the first 3 in that year division II championship

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