Term sheets and legal fees

Despite the existence of standardized term sheets from the NVCA legal fees continue to be a major cost of raising early stage capital. I always recommend getting one of the biggest and best law firms as your counsel during your fund raise, because legal mistakes can really hurt you and your startup. But good attorneys are very expensive. Remember that the venture capitalist will also have an expensive lawyer helping his/her fund with the investment, and they will ask you to pay for their lawyer too. So, when you get the term sheet from your investor you need to:

Make sure you cap your investor’s legal fees

It is typical that an investor ask for you reimburse their legal fees. However, many investors kindly forget to put the typical second sentence behind this provision in the initial term sheet that they give you. That sentence is something like “reasonable fees in the amount of up to $25,000 to Investor’s counsel.” You have ever right to cap the fees, and the typical cap is $20k to $25k.

I really wish there was an easier way to raise small amounts of capital, say less than $1 million, without expensive lawyers. But I have yet to find a really fair way to do this, and because the stakes are very high it makes sense for both sides of the negotiation to have good representation. I guess legal fees will always be part of a fund raise. I know I’ve complained about legal fees before, and will likely continue to do so…

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Microsite marketing strategy

Anyone seen a microsite marketing strategy get pulled off effectively?

Both for my position as head of marketing at Pixily and also on my own for fun I’ve launched a few microsites recently. I’m trying to find examples of how this has been successfully, because I’m pretty much making it up on the fly as I go here. The two sites I’ve launched already are:

Document Scanning Service

documentscanningservice.com is live and is for – you guessed it – document scanning services!  Pixily has already had some sales through this site for our bulk scanning service. Does anyone have opinions on how closely tied to the main company’s brand a microsite should be?

Smart Grid

I’m using Smartgridapp.com reference place for some of the information available on the smart grid, mainly from government reports that are thick and a pain to read. As I’m getting up to speed on the smart grid, it will be a place I record what I’m learning. Anyone have any suggestions on good reports on the grid, energy usage or other topics that I need to be aware of?

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Boston seed fund Founder Collective launches

Following up my post from yesterday on exciting seed funding developments in Boston, The Founders Collective is officially launched. At least, their web site is now up. I know they have been attending various tech networking events recently and the word was already out that they had money to invest.

More seed funds for Boston = better

Boston needs more very early stage investors, and this fund looks like it will help fill a very critical fund raising gap. From their stated positioning on their web site, it looks like they will actually address the biggest hole facing the Boston technology investment scene:

Two guys and a dog. Unless one of the three is Bill Gates, it’s hard to get funded here in the North East.  Believe me – I know from both sides of the table now. New England VCs (and many of the local angel groups) love supporting previously successful CEOs and founders, but are slower to pull the trigger on unproven talent. If the Founders Collective is really willing to step up and fund new startup talent this could be a real boon to the local tech scene.

Is this the new early stage VC model? Most of these partners have real, full time jobs as founders/leaders of their own companies. Doing the math, there is no way a $40 million fund could support this many traditional VC partners salaries w/o the expectation that the next fund(s) would be much larger. Since the Founders Collective states that they want to keep the fund size small, the expectation must be that most of them keep their day job. Since I am now all too aware of what it’s like to work at a very early stage startup, I should probably say “day and night job.” How are they going to be able to do this? It’s going to be a ton of work, but I hope that they are successful.

How many new investments can they reasonably make in a short period of time? I wonder how much involvement the full-time CEO partners will be able to make. Will it be a consensus driven fund, where each partner needs to agree to a new investment, or can a single partner push the funding button? I’ve got so many questions on how this will actually work. It’s quite exciting.

They also state that most of their investors are successful entrepreneurs who are hoping to be involved in mentoring the fund’s startups. This would be awesome. Every entrepreneurial community needs this sort of knowledge and experience sharing.

I wish the team at the Founders Collective good luck and hope that they are able to get some great companies going!

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TechStars seed funding program returning to Boston

There was some great news this past week for the New England startup scene – TechStars recommitted to another season in Cambridge and The Founder Collective officially announced that they’ve got a $40 million fund to make early stage/seed stage investments in New York and New England. I’ll talk about the Founders Collective tomorrow, today I’m going to focus on TechStars.

TechStars is coming back to Boston!

I was lucky enough to participate in TechStars Boston this past summer. It is a great way to launch an internet company, with solid mentors, great media exposure and a super-crappy office filled to the brim with passionate + smart technology entrepreneurs.

I can’t emphasize enough how great the mentors were for the TechStars program. The companies that had the best experiences at TechStars were the ones that took advantage of the one-on-one time that different mentors offered. These mentors were people who have successfully built real technology businesses. They opened doors for the entrepreneurs by introducing them to distribution partners, technology experts, journalists, etc. They provided strategic and operational advice. They beta alpha tested the heck out of the companies’ products. You can’t get this level of mentorship anywhere else that I’ve seen – not from a venture fund, not from a school – no where.

My advice is to apply to the program if you are a young, first time entrepreneur who has a grea idea and the ability to get it going fast, for not a lot of cash. TechStars is accepting applications now, so get on it. Remember that they are looking for you to show traction with your business during the application process, so set developmental (and if possible customer acquisition) deadlines over the next few months, mention this in your application and hit them.

One of the greatest things about TechStars being in Boston is that it brings talent in from other parts of the country. TechStars recruits from everywhere, and some of the great entrepreneurs from this past summer’s program has stuck around.

The change from the summer to the spring doesn’t really surprise me, but I do wonder if this will cut out some potential student founded companies from the program. Boston does have great entrepreneurial-driven cultures at places like MIT, Babson and other schools. It will be hard for some of these students to commit to full time company-founding during the spring if they are supposed to be in school. I guess they could potentially take a leave but this is cutting it pretty close to the spring for some registrars’ offices I bet.

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Cool WSJ article on LaunchCapital

Congrats to LaunchCapital, a local early stage seed fund, for being recently highlighted in the WSJ. I’ve know of LaunchCapital for the past couple of years, and they are truly doing something new – small seed round fundings plus a new tiny venture debt fund. I think this shows the nimbleness of the early stage investor base, and am both optimistic and hopeful that new fund models like Launch will succeed.

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