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guy kawasaki’s hit parade

the top 10 lies of entrepreneurs and other lists for startups

page four of five | previous page 

the top 10 principles of business development

          Speech number four is about BizDev.  How many of you do business development for your companies?  Okay.  I hope I can shed some light on the process.  Maybe you can instruct me on doing BizDev even better.  Here are the Top 10 things I’ve learned about it.


Ensure that the middle and bottom like the deal.

Most BizDev deals blow up because the middle and the bottom of the company don't like the deal.  Most of it is done with a press conference by two egomaniac CEOs who don't know each other and saw the press release the night before.  They're coming together to announce this great partnership, and you know what?  Those kinds of partnerships always blow up.  The key for BizDev is not that the egomaniac CEOs like the deal, it is that the middle and the bottom¾the engineers, the product managers, the people who really do the work¾those are the people who have to like the deal.  The CEOs come and go; they have a short attention span.  The CEOs are dumb.  The middle and the bottom is where real work is done, and that's how you have to make BizDev work.


Build from strength, not to cover weakness.

Most BizDev is done to cover weakness.  We have a weakness, you have a weakness, two plus two can equal four. Well, usually, two plus two equals three because you're highlighting each other's weaknesses instead of highlighting each other's strengths.

          I'll give you a very practical example.  When I was at Apple, we did a deal with DEC.  Apple had a weakness with no telecom and no datacom strategy.  DEC had a weakness with no personal computers.  We were doing a deal together to cover each other's respective weaknesses instead of highlighting each other’s respective strengths.  That deal blew up.  One reason it blew up was because the middle and bottom of each company didn't like each other.  We thought the people at DEC were a bunch of dinosaurs in the mainframe and minicomputer business; the people at DEC thought that we were sitting out in Cupertino in beanbag chairs with our Birkenstocks drinking white wine.  Much of that is true, actually.

          The key is that when you want to do great BizDev, two plus two has to equal five.  Highlight strengths; don't do it to cover weaknesses.  Two strong companies make strengths even stronger, not two weak companies trying to cover each other's butts.



Find a champion.

BizDev's champions are not CEOs, not the people at the top.  They are product managers, secretaries, administrative aides, those kinds of people.  They are not people with highfalutin’ titles.  You need to find that champion.  This champion is an evangelist; this champion sees the alliance as a way to make the world a better place.  That's the key.  Find a champion, and it's never, ever the CEO.  If you are told that the CEO is championing your cause, that is a warning sign. Find someone lower in the organization to be your champion.


Cut win/win deals.

No matter how tempting it is to cut a win/lose deal, always cut a win/win deal, especially if you're the gorilla.  Many gorillas feel that they have so much power that they can stick it to a company in a partnership.  Never do that.  If you don't cut a win/win deal, it will blow up.  I don't care how strong a gorilla you are, if you're sticking it to your partner, your partner will find another gorilla.


Find a lawyer who wants to do business.

You need to find a lawyer because lawyers are going to cut deals and they're going to okay deals, but you need to find a lawyer who wants to do business, not prevent it.  Most lawyers want to prevent business.  They view themselves as the adult supervision in the company.  You need to find a very specific kind of lawyer who loves to do deals.  These are very rare lawyers.


Establish the right legal framework.

Having found the right lawyer, you need to establish the right legal framework in which that lawyer operates.  Here it is.  Say to that lawyer, “This is what I want to do; now keep me out of jail.”  Don't ask the lawyer, “Can I do this?”  Say, “This is what I'm going to do; now make it legal.”  That's the right perspective for BizDev.  


Put an “out” clause in the deal.

This goes back to the theory of cutting win/win deals.  You put an out clause in the deal so that after 90 days, if things don't work out, you can just tear up the contract and walk away.  Many companies are afraid to put in an out clause.  They feel that they've negotiated such great terms that they want to have this thing automatically renew every year in perpetuity since it's such a good deal.  When you do that, you set too much pressure upon the agreement.  Put an out clause in the deal as a pressure valve that releases problems.  I believe that if you have an out clause in the deal, people are more likely to aggressively make the deal work because they know that if it doesn't, we can blow it up very easily.  If you don't have an out clause in the deal, you're very hesitant to do aggressive things because you're always worried that you’re going to get stuck in it.  Put in an out clause and that will make for longer lasting deals, not shorter ones.



Explain it to a woman.

This is very tricky for me to explain.  I get in trouble with it all the time, but I truly believe this.  When you come up with a BizDev idea, you need to explain it to a woman.  The word is woman, not spouse.  There's a big difference because spouse includes men.  You need to explain it to a woman because, I believe, women have much better judgment.

          The problem with men doing BizDev is that deep in our DNA for millions of years we have believed that we need to kill things.  We cannot go out and kill things anymore, at least not people, so BizDev is the most logical expression of that hostility.  Deep in our DNA we have this ROM that says to go out and cut deals because we're men, and that leads to very stupid deals.  Whenever you come up with a BizDev idea, explain it to a woman because women have better judgment.  They'll tell you if a deal is good or not.  Asking a man is wasting time; explain it to a woman.


Don’t expect people to do something you wouldn’t do.

The ninth thing is never to expect people to do something you, yourself, would not do.  I keep harping on this thing that even if you're the gorilla and you can enforce a win/lose deal with no out clause, don't do it.  If you wouldn't do something, don't expect other people to do it.  It will blow up.


Don’t form an alliance with people who . . .

The tenth thing is don't form an alliance with people who have two or more of the following four qualities.  Before I tell you these four qualities, understand that I know the difference between correlation and causation.  I really do.  But I'm telling you with 100% certainty that there is 100% correlation between lousy BizDev deals and people who have two or more of the following four qualities.  If you find yourself engaged in conversations for BizDev with these kinds of people do not do the deal:

  • drive a German car

  • have a goatee

  • use cologne

  • wear Armani

          If you find yourself dealing with someone who has two of these qualities, I'm telling you¾you think I'm kidding¾I'm telling you it will not work.  You laugh.  I'm telling you.

This is speech number four.  BizDev 101.


what’s a “venture capital investment bank?”

          I'm going to rip through five minutes of telling what you what does.  I'm going to give you the story because I'm not here for my health; I'm here to find deals.

          This is the problem we're trying to solve.  We believe that the venture capital business is inefficient.  There are three major causes of the inefficiency.  One is that the system is closed.  Most VCs will not read a business plan unless it comes to them from a CEO in their portfolio, a lawyer, an accountant or someone they already know. They use those people as proxies for screening.  This eliminates the entrepreneur who's just beginning and doesn't know these people or doesn't know how to get to a lawyer.  The system is closed, but I worked for Apple Computer where we believe in an open system¾other than licensing the operating system.  How do you get past the VC’s receptionist?  Well, will get you past the receptionist.  We are a trusted source of referrals for these institutions, and we read every business plan.  If you ask most VCs how many of the clients they funded came in over the transom, they will tell you one out of 25 a year, best case.  At, it's 50%.  We read 12,000 business plans a year.

          The second thing is that the venture capital business is regionalized.  Most VCs, to this day, want to do deals with companies that are within two hours' driving distance via Mercedes S-500.  If you are a Virginia-based entrepreneur and you want to raise Sand Hill money, good luck.  We can help do you that.  It's what we do.

          The third point is that it's too serial.  You meet with one VC, get rejected, go meet another VC, get rejected, go to the third, get rejected, etc.  We help you do it in parallel.  You're going to hit literally dozens of potential investors at once with us.  We try to make market efficiencies and do things in parallel for you.  Those are the problems we want to fix.

          This is our process.  First, we need to find you, which we do over the transom and through our Web site, as well as through our own sources of referrals.  Again, we read 12,000 business plans a year.  Then we fix you.  We work with you for six weeks hands-on.  We cover topics like executive recruiting, so Amy Vernetti is going to help you find the key people necessary for you to build your team.  We help with your business model; we prepare your road show presentation; we find you your first customers, your first partners.  We do all those things for you.  Then we fund you.  We do it in two ways, a shotgun approach to 2,500 entities and a rifle approach where we sit down with you and decide who's the ideal investor for you.  We pick from a pool of 2,500 VCs, corporations and angel investors.  Finally, we follow you post-funding.  We continue to work with you, frankly, because we're an equity holder and the purpose of is to have liquidity advance, not to own stock certificates that are worthless.  We keep on helping with new BizDev and customer relationships.  We also do follow-on investments since we would like to continue to have the equity position in you by putting more money into you.  That's our process.

          As a very quick overview, we're looking for startups in high-tech¾software, hardware, telecom, wireless, IT infrastructure and life sciences.

          These are the benefits we provide our clients.  First of all, access to capital.  Like I said, 2,500 potential investors.  We help you with your business model.  We do your recruiting for you.  We provide your first partnerships and your first customers.  If you want to get to Charles Schwab or E*Trade or Excite or Yahoo or Inktomi or Victoria's Secret or Harry & David, we have relationships with all these companies.  We can help you get in there as your first customers.  We also do your road show preparation and we provide interim management through our CEO/CFO-In-Residence program, or we can provide a CEO to help you get through the funding process.  We also help with your buzz and PR.  These are the fundamental services that we provide to clients.

          On the other side of the equation, we also have investors¾the 2,500 entities that look at our deals. Here is what we provide investors, in case you're an angel investor or a VC.  We take 12,000 deals down to 80; that's a service.  We're like DeBeers.  We have two tons of dirt in which to find one carat of diamonds, and, like DeBeers, we'd like to have a monopoly.  Some day I'll be indicted for that.  Let's hope it comes to that.  We enable an investor to create an entire network of investors around a particular company, so, if you want to invest in one company, we can help you find the directors and advisors and the corporations who also will invest in that company so you won't have to slug it out alone.  Finally, we provide additional bandwidth.  Some VC firms have a headhunter to help them with their portfolio.  We have four more headhunters who will help the headhunter and the company fill out their portfolio.  We increase the bandwidth of the investors who have invested in our clients.  Those are the benefits we offer investors.

          This is the “Steve Jobs reality distortion” slide that shows that we've done over 60 deals and helped companies raise more than $200 million in the past two years.  It's the tombstones of our clients, although “tombstones” have a whole new connotation recently.

 is not an angel matchmaking service; we are a venture capital investment bank.  Remember, “venture capital investment bank.”  These are the kinds of institutions that have invested in our companies, firms like  Samsung and Technology Crossover Ventures, Sony, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, NEA.  Roughly 65% of our deals are led by institutions as opposed to angels.

          The last thing I want to tell you in this ad is that we have a conference called “Bootcamp for Startups.”  In two days we cover topics including the process of raising venture capital, we review people's business models with a panel of experienced investors and CEOs, we have an hour-and-a-half session on how to properly pitch your company and we have a special session for woman about pitching companies including the special concerns of women as entrepreneurs.  We talk about exit paths and we also talk about how to create buzz and PR.  I don't think you could learn more about starting a high-tech firm in two days than by coming to Bootcamp.  I promise you that it will be time and money very well spent.

          And, with that, it's 9:22.  I have eight minutes to take questions.


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