Tag: Entrepreneurs


Crowdfunding and the Digital Shareholder

Andrew A. Schwartz is an Associate Professor at University of Colorado Law School. This post is based on Professor Schwartz’s recent article published in The Minnesota Law Review, available here.

After several years of delay, Internet-based securities crowdfunding is finally poised to go live this year thanks to the SEC’s recent issuance of Regulation Crowdfunding. Through crowdfunding, people of modest means will for the first time be legally authorized to make investments that are currently offered exclusively to “accredited” (wealthy) investors. This democratization of entrepreneurial finance sounds great in theory, but will it work in practice? Will non-accredited investors really buy unregistered securities in speculative startups, over the Internet, with only the barest form of disclosure? The conventional wisdom among most legal scholars is, basically, no. In their view, securities crowdfunding is doomed to failure for myriad reasons, including fraud, [1] costs, [2] dilution, [3] adverse selection, [4] opportunism, [5] and more. [6]

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Corporate Control and Idiosyncratic Vision

Zohar Goshen is the Alfred W. Bressler Professor of Law, Columbia Law School and Professor of Law at Ono Academic College. Assaf Hamdani is the Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz Professor of Corporate Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This post is based on an article authored by Professor Goshen and Professor Hamdani.

Prominent technology firms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, Yelp, and Alibaba have gone public with the controversial dual-class structure to allow their controlling shareholders to preserve their indefinite, uncontestable control over the corporation. Similarly, in the concentrated ownership structure, a person or entity—the controlling shareholder—holds an effective majority of the firm’s voting and equity rights to preserve control. Indeed, most public corporations around the world have controlling shareholders, and concentrated ownership has a significant presence in the United States as well. Unlike diversified minority shareholders, a controlling shareholder bears the extra costs of being largely undiversified and illiquid. Why, then, does she insist on holding a control block?

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Angels and Venture Capitalists: A Match Made in Heaven?

Thomas Hellmann is Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford University. This post is based on two recent articles authored by Mr. Hellmann, Veikko Thiel, Assistant Professor of Business Economics at Queen’s University; Paul Schure, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Victoria; and Dan Vo, Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia. Related research from the Program on Corporate Governance includes Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups, by Jesse Fried and Brian Broughman (discussed on the Forum here) and Delaware Law as Lingua Franca: Evidence from VC-Backed Startups, by Jesse FriedBrian Broughman, and Darian Ibrahim (discussed on the Forum here).

Are angel investors and venture capitalists friends or foes? Are they synergistic partners in the process of funding entrepreneurial value creation? Or are they distinct funding mechanisms where entrepreneurs have to decide which camp they want to be part of? In a series of two recent papers (Friends or Foes? The Interrelationship between Angel and Venture Capital Markets; and Angels and Venture Capitalists: Substitutes or Complements?), we examine these questions both from a theoretical [1] and an empirical [2] perspective.

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Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation

The following post comes to us from Thomas Chemmanur, Professor of Finance at Boston College; Elena Loutskina of the Finance Area at the University of Virginia; and Xuan Tian of the Finance Department at Indiana University.

There is no doubt that innovation is a critical driver of a nation’s long-term economic growth and competitive advantage. The question lies, however, in identifying the optimal organizational form for nurturing innovation. While corporate research laboratories account for two-thirds of all U.S. research, it is not obvious that these innovation incubators are more efficient than independent investors such as venture capitalists. In our paper, Corporate Venture Capital, Value Creation, and Innovation, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we explore this question by comparing the innovation productivity of entrepreneurial firms backed by corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) and independent venture capitalists (IVCs).

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Silicon Valley Venture Survey: First Quarter 2014

The following post comes to us from Barry J. Kramer, partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP and is based on a Fenwick publication by Mr. Kramer and Michael J. Patrick; the full publication, including detailed results and valuation data, is available here.

We analyzed the terms of 156 venture financings closed in the first quarter of 2014 by companies headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Overview of Fenwick & West Results

Valuation results in 1Q14 were very strong.

  • Up rounds exceeded down rounds 76% to 8% with 16% flat. The 68 point difference between up and down rounds was the largest since 2Q07, when the spread was 70 points
  • The Fenwick & West Venture Capital Barometer™ showed an average price increase of 85%, a significant increase from 57% in 4Q13.
  • The median price increase of financings in 1Q14 was 52%, a significant increase from 27% in 4Q13 and the highest amount since we began calculating medians in 2004.
  • Software and internet/digital media continued to be the strongest industry sectors, with life science, cleantech and hardware lagging but showing respectable results. The percentage of all financings that are for software companies has trended up in recent years, hitting 45% in this quarter.
  • The use of senior liquidation preference fell for the third quarter in a row, an indication of companies having leverage in negotiations with investors.

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The Changing Regulatory Landscape for Angel Investing

Keith F. Higgins is Director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Mr. Higgins’ remarks at the 2014 Angel Capital Association Summit; the full text is available here. The views expressed in this post are those of Mr. Higgins and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commissioners, or the Staff.

The importance of small businesses in America is unquestionable—they are the foundation of today’s economy and are responsible for many of the new jobs created each year in the United States. And angel investors play a vital role in the development of small businesses by nurturing them at their earliest, most vulnerable stages when they may have little more than the next great idea. For early stage entrepreneurs, angels often are the only ones willing to listen to their business pitch, provide advice, and put in that crucial infusion of capital that is needed to transform an idea into a thriving new business. Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Home Depot—these are just some of the titans of today’s corporate America that, at an earlier stage of their development, were first backed by angel investors. [1] Equally impressive are some of the statistics about the impact of angel investing—by one estimate, in the first half of 2013 alone, angels invested approximately $9.7 billion in over 28,000 ventures, with over 111,000 new jobs created as a result of these investments. [2]

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Silicon Valley Venture Survey—Third Quarter 2013

The following post comes to us from Barry J. Kramer, partner in the corporate and securities group at Fenwick & West LLP and is based on a Fenwick publication by Mr. Kramer and Michael J. Patrick; the full publication, including expanded detailed results and valuation data, is available here.

We analyzed the terms of venture financings for 128 companies headquartered in Silicon Valley that reported raising money in the third quarter of 2013.

Overview of Fenwick & West Results

Valuation results in 3Q13 showed a noticeable increase over 2Q13, including the greatest difference between up and down rounds in over six years. The software industry was especially strong, not only valuation-wise, but also in the number of deals.

Here are the more detailed results:

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Private Company Financing Trends for 1H 2013

The following post comes to us from Craig Sherman, partner focusing on corporate and securities law at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and first appeared in the firm’s Entrepreneurs Report.

In Q2 2013, up rounds (including several second-stage seed financings) as a percentage of total deals increased modestly compared with Q1 2013. While pre-money valuations remained strong for both venture-led and angel Series A deals that had closings in Q2, valuations of companies doing Series B and later rounds declined significantly. Median amounts raised increased modestly for angel-backed Series A deals but fell for venture-backed companies, while amounts raised increased for Series B deals, but fell for Series C and later rounds.

Deal terms remained broadly similar in 1H 2013 as compared with 2012, with a couple of notable exceptions. First, the use of uncapped participation rights in both up and down rounds continued to decline. Second, down rounds also saw a shift away from the use of senior liquidation preferences.

Up and Down Rounds

Up rounds represented 67% of all new financings in Q2 2013, an increase from 60% in Q1 2013 but still down markedly from the 76% figure for up rounds in Q4 2012. Similarly, down rounds as a percentage of total deals declined from 26% in Q1 2013 to 18% in Q2 2013, but were still higher than the 14% figure for Q4 2012. The percentage of flat rounds grew slightly, from 14% of all deals in Q1 2013 to 15% in Q2 2013.

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The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms

The following post comes to us from Alicia Robb, Senior Fellow with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and David Robinson, Professor of Finance at Duke University.

Understanding how capital markets affect the growth and survival of newly created firms is perhaps the central question of entrepreneurial finance. Yet, much of what we know about entrepreneurial finance comes from firms that are already established, have already received venture capital funding, or are on the verge of going public—the dearth of data on very-early-stage firms makes it difficult for researchers to look further back in firms’ life histories. Even data sets that are oriented toward small businesses do not allow us to measure systematically the decisions that firms make at their founding. This article uses a novel data set, the Kauffman Firm Survey (KFS), to study the behavior and decision-making of newly founded firms. As such, it provides a first-time glimpse into the capital structure decisions of nascent firms.

In our paper, The Capital Structure Decisions of New Firms, forthcoming in the Review of Financial Studies, we use the confidential, restricted-access version of the KFS, which tracks nearly 5,000 firms from their birth in 2004 through their early years of operation. Because the survey identifies firms at their founding and follows the cohort over time, recording growth, death, and any later funding events, it provides a rich picture of firms’ early fund-raising decisions.

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Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups

Jesse Fried is a Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Brian Broughman is an Associate Professor of Law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Venture capitalists (VCs) play a significant role in the financing of high-risk, technology-based business ventures. VC exits usually take one of three forms: an initial public offering (IPO) of a portfolio company’s shares, followed by the sale of the VC’s shares into the public market; a “trade sale” of the company to another firm; or dissolution and liquidation of the company.

Of these three types of exits, IPOs have received the most scrutiny. This attention is not surprising. IPO exits tend to involve the largest and most visible VC-backed firms. And, perhaps just as importantly, the IPO process triggers public-disclosure requirements under the securities laws, making data on IPO exits easily accessible to researchers.

But trade sales are actually much more common than IPOs and, in aggregate, are more financially important to VCs. Unlike IPOs, however, trade sales do not trigger the intense public-disclosure requirements of the securities laws; they take place in the shadows. Thus, although trade sales play a critical role in the venture capital cycle, relatively little is known about them.

In our paper, Carrots & Sticks: How VCs Induce Entrepreneurial Teams to Sell Startups recently made public on SSRN, Brian Broughman and I seek to shine more light on intra-firm dynamics around trade sales. In particular, we investigate how VCs induce the “entrepreneurial team” – the founder, other executives, and common shareholders – to go along with a trade sale that they might have an incentive to resist.

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