Investments: Ways to finance your business

  • self-financed, organic growth
  • FFF
  • Angel Investors
  • VC
  • public offerin

I would suggest for you to develop your business "on the side" until it is profitable and try to continue growing it organically. If you do so, you know your business is healthy and you don't need to take on investors that could potentially be detrimental to the long-term health of your business. It is often the case with professional investors like VC firms who focus on short-term “exit strategies” which might not be aligned with your goals.

Sometimes growing the company organically is impossible, especially if your business requires an investment in the infrastructure, or human resources. Before we proceed explain various types of investments, I'd like to add a word of advise; if you are a "business person" and try to develop a technology-based company, do not sub-contract engineers, find a tech-savvy partner, otherwise your failure is almost certain.

When you decide that you have to get some extra cash you could resolve to FFF, or your family, friends and fools. It is very important that you make it clear to them that money they are giving you are a loan as odds are that you will loose them and you will have to figure out the way to repay. You can offer equity to them, but that is generally not a good idea. Don't take the route of going to FFF lightly, many businesses fail and your investors might not care why it failed, but think that you failed them.

The third option is to find “angel investors” most of the time they are wealthy individuals who are not investing professionally, but would like “a piece of the pie” in your venture, or emerging market in general. This option is usually good, as long as investors consider from the start the investment as most likely a loss and stay off-hands as far as the management is concerned, especially if they are not experts in the field. Angel investors invest usually a small amount of money in range of $15K to $250K, this is usually called a "seed investment", or round A investment, depending on amount. In some cases they maybe very successful businessmen and have ability to "open doors" via their personal connections. Seed investment is used for creating a proof-of-concept, round A investment for developing the initial product.
  • having good VC company might be a great asset in several areas
  • opens the doors for new entrepreneurs to established businesses
  • provides management advise
  • provides legal advise
  • provides large amounts of cash when growth cannot be handled organicall

Having said that, taking money from VC implies that you will report to them every decision, that your business will be expected to provide 10x return on investment and that you might be replaced as a leader of your own company when it grows bigger. To receive VC money you will be most likely asked to move to one of the technology centers such as Silicon Valley, Boston or Austin areas. Taking VC money is usually called round A investment if no previous money was taken, or round B, etc. if you had prior investments. The VC companies are usually not interested in investing less than $2 million dollars, they are also investing in 10 to 20 companies at the time and expect only one of them to succeed, if you are not the lucky one your future might be very uncertain.

Company size & culture

When you decide to develop your company you have some important choices to make, many people measure the success by how much revenues the company brings and how many people work for them. After working in couple of very large corporations I developed certain level of dislike to politics and bureaucracy, I also like to know personally people I work with and treat them as a family with whom I choose to spend most of my waking hours. Over the years, the lifestyle became very important to me too; I am realizing that opportunities for me to ski the slopes, climb the mountains and dive the reefs will get scarcer and scarcer, therefore I am in need to build a company that can proclaim a “ski day”, or a “field trip” without worrying about investors, partners or hundreds of employee.
It is widely known that small teams can accomplish greater things than big, slow and committee-driven companies. It may sound not ambitious, but my ambition is to build a smallest-possible company with a handful of friends that makes plenty of money without a need of big human overhead.

New rules for voice calls

  • People generally don’t like calls without prior notification
  • Respect peoples’ time at work, make appointment for the call
  • Respect peoples’ personal time, don’t call unless you are welcome
  • Calls from people other than friends and family are often ignored
  • Get on my Facebook, or contact list to be recognized
  • Do not leave voice mails, hardly anyone listen to these
  • Send your name, contact info and bio over the email prior to the call, don’t give me 5 minute “Hello, my name is… “

Android in cars

“For now, OnStar is the leader. It has 6 million users, more than 4 million of whom pay an average of $240 a year. Add in the mobile-phone minutes from Verizon (HYPERLINK ""VZ) that OnStar resells, and the GM unit logs more than $1 billion a year in revenue, with double-digit profit margins. Its staff of 2,200 agents answers 99.7 percent of emergency calls within a second, faster than police 911 agents, OnStar says. During GM’s bankruptcy, OnStar was valued between $2 billion and $4 billion.”

Psychology Of Tablet in Meetings

In my career as a consultant, even being a software-engineer, I was teaching my fellow junior consultants not to have an open laptops while in clients meetings. Psychologically, it was much better to have a nice medium-size notebook such as Moleskin and a quality pen and to listen attentively to the client while taking notes, even if that was a poor courtesy. Putting a laptop between yourself and client and typing on is a borderline, or even outright, offensive, unless you can touch-type and look the client straight in the eyes. With the advent of tablet you can take notes, but as long as the display is visible to the person that you talk to, it is very acceptable.

Tablets and Slate Computers

Tablet are becoming the next personal browsing device. With the success of iPad and a nice follow up from Android and Windows, it is certain that most of the people will find desktops less necessary. With ability to pair wireless bluetooth keyboard to most tablets the following groups of people may not need computers at all
  • sales people
  • business managers
  • most of the students
  • stay-at-home parents
  • casual gamers

People who still will need computers are
  • developers
  • graphics artists
  • hardcore gamers

Future Trends in Mobile: Transition into Mobile

In Japan and in USA the large section of population has moved from desktop browsing to laptops and now to mobile phones. In not so distant future most of the following will be done on mobile:

- reading emails
- reading news via dedicated applications
- reading eBooks
- Web browsing**
- posts to Twitter
- updating Facebook and other social media*
- instant messaging
- contact and calendar management
- document management*

* If Facebook and Google Docs improve their native apps which as of May 28, 2011 are substandard to say the least.
** Mobile Web browsers have to be able to keep up with HTML5 & CSS support in Google Chrome which is leading the way at this time.

Self-promoting your book

- use social media as outlined in “How Can I Build Online Legitimacy?”
- It is only a part of the effort to write a book, the major work will be in promoting it, very often publishers will as you about your own strategy of promoting your work and if you don’t have any, they may not want to publish you.

Daily routine for a writer

- keep quick notes of your idea, since they come in least convenient times like while driving you may need to cary voice recorder
- take notes of all conversations, shows and books
- when pressed on time, write a skeleton chapter and come back later to refine it
- I have seen very successful authors writing daily amount as a single chapter, usually couple pages in length
- many podcast authors write 30 minutes worth of audio per week
- remember that “Writing is re-writing” as Mark Twain said.

Why author might choose a mobile application?

Author might choose a mobile application in addition to publishing an eBook on Amazon, or with Barnes & Noble because application allows for:
  • ability to display up to 3 customized splash screens
  • ability to adjust how much of the content readers can share over social networks
  • provide in-app purchases of other books, or future chapters, or sections
  • ability to have “about author” page with contact information
  • ability to follow Twitter, etc., stream from within the application
  • ability to post comments with the built-in hashtag
  • ability to email the author

eBook Tools and Formats

The eBook can be written with any text editor however in the final version it will be consumed as HTML, PDF, ePub, or Kindle Mobi format.
Today, most of the authors still use word processors like Microsoft Word, or Apple Pages. More specialized editors include StoryMill and Storyist.
- Microsoft Word: generic word processor, currently the most commonly used tool. Ability to download book templates.
- Apple Pages: good generic word  processor with PDF and ePub export.
- StoryMill: a good tool to write a script, however it lacks export to ePub functionality
- Storyist: a good tool to write a script with ePub export functionality, but no PDF export.   

Pros and Cons of self-publishing.
Self-publishing can be very attractive if you are:
- first time author
- addressing a narrow niche of interest
- have a strong following outside of the main stream media
- limited budget
Publishing with a main stream publishing house makes sense when:
- you are a bestselling author
- you write on main-stream topics e.g. romantic novels
- you need help with marketing, but you are not good social marketer
- you want a recognition that comes with a hardcover edition of your book
- you want to publish large “coffee table” format album

Are eBooks a New Form of Journalism?

Regardless of being an avid print book lover, I switched to reading eBooks using Barnes & Noble Android Nook and I love the experience much better than the paper. You can carry several books with you, you can share quotes with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The cost of eBooks is also lower than for paper editions. Right now the author can write a book and publish it as soon as he or she is ready, no more writing for months to publishers and getting dozens of rejections. Publishing is free, can be very profitable (70% of sales). I have been working in magazine publishing for many years, the editors often change the original text to fit their magazine’s needs. If you have something smart to share, write an eBook and get published today, don’t wait!

QR and bar-code scanners

  • QR codes as infinite real estate
  • different QR codes in-store and outside

QR codes allow a small label to have infinite real estate. The QR code should point to different content in-store and outside. Inside the store you might show your customer a video about the product, product comparisons, customer reviews and ratings. Outside of the store you may show purchase location availability and directions of use depending if user is shopping, or looking for help.

From the coffee package QR code you can learn the following:

The product information, for example coffee’s origin, eco-friendliness, fair-trade policies, country and environmental data of where it was grown. The product comparison: listing of comparative products, pros and cons of each. Complementary products: for example cups, coffee grinders, table clothes, etc. Other language translations. Ability to add to favorites, rain-check list, TO-DO items, etc. Coupons - the high end retailers do not use discount coupons, a lot of companies has been using coupons to promote customer loyalty companies like Groupon dilute brand loyalty and can be detrimental to retailer coupons should be offered outside the store, once in-store there is no incentive for retailer.

Uki's Google Java Technology blog