After decades of venture capital investment, growth and exit, the traditional focus areas of venture capital (such as IT, web and software) have developed strong entrepreneurial ecosystems. A high percentage of start-ups in these traditional areas come to market with one or more experienced entrepreneurs or with a strong and active network of investors/advisors who have “been there, done that.” They know what it takes to raise capital and to build a great fast-growing business. Cleantech companies, however, are much more likely to be led by first-time entrepreneurs who often struggle to create an ecosystem of experience people around them.
As a venture capitalist, I review hundreds of business plans each year and physically meet with roughly a hundred entrepreneurs seeking capital. I have the advantage of doing this through the eyes of someone who has been on the other side of the table, having raised venture capital for my own start-up before becoming a VC. And while there are certainly numerous exceptions, there are themes I see across cleantech start-ups that are not specific to their technology or market but which nonetheless impede their ability to raise capital. Here is the top five…
- Technology is necessary, but not sufficient.
- Your 50-page business plan is a waste of time.
- A real advisory board isn’t just a list of cool names.
- 25% gross margins and growth to $20M in seven years aren’t exciting
- Last, but by no means least…raising capital is a social sport.
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