Thursday, September 5, 2013

Angel Calc Revisited

Do you know when your young business venture is "fit" to attract angel investor financing?

There are many theories and rules of thumb about how angels investors seek their ROI targets. To understand their motivations and ROI targets, let's look at how they work and the risks they face when writing a check:

Experienced Angels are the real Angels you want to work with. Most work in groups to share the heavy burden of due diligence research required to invest intelligently. To vet deals they try to include scientists, engineers and management experts in different industries and technologies. They ask a lot of questions and then more questions and then proof and supporting documentation. They generally do not move fast but cover their bases well. When they invest they will stay involved and help the management team with seasoned advice and working their contacts to help your business succeed. These are true ANGELS to entrepreneurs.

A High Risk Game
Research by the Kaufman Foundation (KF) shows that Experienced and committed angels' returns are on average quite attractive at 2.6 times their investment in 3.5 years. That, however, is balanced by the sobering fact that on average 52% of investments are a total loss and only 10-19% are a home run. Successful deals need on average 7 years to exit.

In my early days in this "bloody contact sport" my mentors cautioned me that a good rule of thumb was to consider a very early stage deal only if I could see a potential to earn 30 times my investment in about 5 years. Later on I tried to reconcile the KF statistics, my experience and the very demanding ROI target I was advised.  Eventually I modeled that all factors can be reconciled if one presumes that the probability of success of a well researched deal is only about 10-12%.

From experience I believe that it is a reasonable and not overly pessimistic expectation considering that the typical early stage business reflects most of these characteristics: Little or no sales, limited proof of market, may have lab tested technology, but little or no production, no proof of scalability, little or no delivery and distribution experience. Moreover, any of the following may apply:  a. in "some other garage" a similar or better mousetrap may be ready to come to market, b. the management team may have or may develop unforeseeable weaknesses (e.g. sociopathy leading to financial embezzlement, personality incompatibilities, office love affairs, divorces, loss of key talent due to death, accident, distraction, etc. - Over 35 years I experienced all of them as causes of aborted successful businesses); c. "effective" IP protection may prove difficult to obtain, may be revoked if prior art appears unexpectedly (see my posts on patents), inadequate funds to protect owned patents, exposure to Patent Trolls;  d. government regulations that may prevent or delay market acceptance, unforeseen vested interests that may create insurmountable barriers to market acceptance.

All considered the 10-12% probability may even be optimistic, but it appears to be what angels use implicitly if not explicitly.  To balance this somewhat dark view, we play this game  for the few successes that give us the satisfaction of helping turn dreams into reality, sometimes making a difference in the world and perhaps history while making a ton of money (in only 10% of cases)

So, with all this in mind, below is AngelCalc (copyright Marco Messina 2007-2013). Its intent is to help you test if your business has sufficiently high growth and profitability potential in an industry with sufficiently high exit valuations to satisfy the requirements of experienced Angels.  This is generally unlikely unless you have a unique IP component, market dominance potential, very rapid scalability. If your business cannot meet the angels' criteria, your funding efforts will be better put elsewhere. F&F (friends and family) may be an alternative at least until the criteria may be met.

A different analysis that comes to the same 30X ROI target is found in the section What do angels target for returns?  at page 3 of this KF paper

AngelCalc - Calculating with Angels

This model attempts to explain the finance-ability of a business based on angel investors' required returns.

The prime objective is not to set a valuation, although it can be used to back into or to validate a valuation that investors could live with. Primarily, it seeks to determine whether the relationship among the following factors allows a viable solution that meets investors criteria.

There are two paths each with its own factors:

P/E-Multiple Valuation (as for a public company):
  1.  time horizon is 5 yrs, 
  2.  future EBITA,
  3.  future PE and market cap (from current comparables),
  4.  investor's average returns and required return,
  5.  the ASK needed to implement the plan
  6.  The % equity to give up for the ASK
Revenues Multiples Valuation (most often for M&A sale of the company)
  1.  Time horizon is 5 years
  2.  Revenues in year 5
  3.  Applicable multiplier for comparable companies sold
  4.  investor's average returns and required return,
  5.  the ASK needed to implement the plan
  6.  The % equity to give up for the ASK
With both valuation methods the implied probability of success is 12% because it reconciles the return multiple identified by the Kaufman Foundation research (2.6 times return in 3.5 years) with the rule of thumb often quoted of "30 times the investment".  It can be adjusted to reflect the maturity (de-risking) of the company (e.g. VCs who invest at later stages often target 10X or 38% probability of success)

See input instructions above

Questons or comments? I'd love to hear from you, particulalry if you disagree.

Good luck. May you be so lucky to find a REAL ANGEL.

Marco Messina
The Angel Pitch Guy