Growth hacking is now a mainstream term in tech circles, particularly those that are consumer-focused. Growth hacking definitions abound, but generally emphasize a data driven, creative and flexibly opportunistic approach to customer acquisition. Many would argue that growth hacking is simply a new term for an old concept – marketing. While the functions, tools and skills require for growth hacking may be essentially the same as “marketing”, the psychology and mission of growth hacking feel totally different to me. When I hear “marketing”, I think soft, fuzzy, ambiguous, and cost center. When I hear “growth hacking”, I think maniacal focus on growth, scrappy, data driven, tech/tool savvy, and…
Last week I participated in a panel discussion at Denver University organized by Maclyn (Mac) Clouse. Mac is a long-time educator and supporter Denver’s entrepreneurial community. I was joined by Peter Adams, Executive Director of the Rockies Venture Club. Mac’s setup for the discussion was “dangerous” because he offered both Peter and I the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes (thankfully without slides) about the angel, venture capital and growth equity investing landscape. No-one who knows me would ever give me that air time…
Peter led off and did an great job talking about the angel investing landscape and the do’s and don’ts of approaching angel investors. Peter is the co-author of Venture Capital
I’m seeing more and more growth equity financings come to market with an over-sized component of the financing allocated to existing shareholder liquidity. I’ve seen enough of these transactions to consider it as a trend and to wonder what is motivating it.
Founder Liquidity in Context
Whereas liquidity isn’t typically a feature of venture financings, it is often – but not always – a feature of growth equity financings. A modicum of liquidity for key management team members or founders can act as lubricant for a growth equity investment, particularly where the management team founded and has successfully bootstrapped a successful business.
I just wrapped one of those calls where I had the opportunity to give advice to an entrepreneur that runs counter to my short-term interests. In this case, it is a story of a first-time entrepreneur who has built a $7 million revenue business and is wrestling with the decision whether to take growth capital or sell the business. He owns the vast majority of the company and he has a fair offer from a strategic buyer that emerged during the course of his exploring financing alternatives.
After meeting yesterday (our third meeting or so), I committed to outlining how a growth equity investor would structure an investment transaction for his business.
Restrictive covenants are standard features of venture capital, growth equity and private equity transactions although each investor type has its own standards. Restrictive covenants are the actions a company cannot take without investor approval. A short list of typical restrictive covenants includes:
When an investment passes our first-screen at Meritage Funds, the first deep-dive we typically do is on the unit economics of the business. Unit economics are the fundamental financial building blocks of a business. If you can pin down the unit economics, you can determine contribution margins, break-even points and perform ROI calculations all of which can help to determine whether a Company’s economic engine works. Without an understanding of unit economics, predicting whether a business can be profitable in the long-term is all guess-work.
Growth equity is increasingly being recognized as an investing discipline that is separate and distinct from venture capital. That being the case, how does one distinguish between a venture capitalist and a growth equity investor. In my mind, growth equity investors are hedgehogs; venture capitalists are foxes. Allow me to explain.
Earlier this week, I participated in a panel discussion organized by Holland & Hart, a Denver-based law firm that has a strong practice area working with entrepreneurial growth-stage businesses. The topic of the panel was “After the Honeymoon”, focusing on investor/entrepreneur relationship dynamics in the critical period following the closing of an investment or acquisition transaction. Also on the panel with me were Matt Hicks of Excellere Partners and Flint Seaton, CFO of Accellos, an Accel-KKR backed business.
Today, my Partners and I at Meritage Funds announced that we’ve established a new platform in the data center colocation market. Headquartered in Seattle, WA, Digital Fortress operates nearly 50,000 square feet of data center colocation space, focused on delivering high-power density installations to enterprise customers. A Meritage Funds blog post announcing the investment has much more on our thesis and goals for the investment.
Some businesses are designed – maybe even destined – to be owner operated. Industry parlance often refers to these businesses as lifestyle businesses. Wikipedia has a nice definition. They are typically small, profitable, generate cash and enable their owner-operator to sustain a well-above average lifestyle. In some circumstances, they may even make their owner-operator filthy rich over time.
Some people may think that the term lifestyle business is an insult. I couldn’t disagree more. Being the owner-operator of a lifestyle business should be a source of pride; a badge of honor.