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Friday, August 29, 2008

The lighter side of raising money

Raising venture capital is an essential prerequisite to many tech startup business plans. While some companies — usually software or services — can bootstrap off of savings or credit cards, companies with high R&D or manufacturing costs need a sizable cash hoard before they see first revenues (let alone profits).

In teaching about VC, my favorite tool has been the documentary Startup.com. Although about a New York-based startup called GovWorks.com, the presentations and negotiations with Kleiner Perkins, General Atlantic and Highland Capital illustrate the broader issues faced by tech startups raising money.

A friend, serial (i.e. chronic) tech entrepreneur Doug Klein, recommended The VC, a comic strip from the dot-com era. The strip rang true: as an entrepreneur during this period, Doug swears he lived each of these vignettes at some point during their fund-raising efforts.

The comics take the point of view that the actions of VCs are funny. Some of these are painful funny, as in the VC is going to flush us because he can’t buy a clue. Most of them are about laughing at (rather than with) the VCs in some way, shape or form.

All 52 strips from 1997-2000 are online at TheVC.com Business school professors (and public speakers) have been using Dilbert cartoons for a decade to lighten up discussions of project management, managers and (more generally) corporate bureaucracies. This site is a source of illustrations for one aspect of tech startups.

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