When an entrepreneur says, "I need to go out and get venture capital," what does that really mean? In one sense, 'venture capital' could be defined as any type of financing for an early stage company. But entrepreneurs who believe that they need to go out and contact Venture Capital Firms for their capital needs, can be starting down a long and frustrating path. Article continued below.
Many of these firms are not terribly interested in seed stage or pure start-up companies, preferring to jump on board when the company has achieved a certain number of milestones in product development and securing customers for the product. And no amount of persuasion by the entrepreneur can get the Venture Capital Firm's partners to deviate from their investment focus.
So who does assist the usually cash strapped start-up entrepreneur?
Wealthy individuals, often termed angel investors, are by far the most important source of equity capital for early-stage companies. Typically, these individuals have been successful entrepreneurs themselves, and as such have a keen understanding of the trials and tribulations of building a company. In the ideal situation, an angel investor, or a group of angels, can provide much more than financing for an entrepreneur: the angels can often bring organizational, technical, marketing, and financial expertise. And of critical importance, the angels often have valuable contacts with potential customers, vendors, and even sources of capital for the next stage in the company's development.
Angels vary widely in their investment experience and their approach to working with companies they invest in. Some invest only in companies related to there area of expertise; in other words, an angel who built and sold an enterprise software company would look for other enterprise software companies. In general, however, angels are willing to consider investments in a broad range of companies: high-tech, traditional or "old economy" companies, distribution, manufacturing, service.
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