03 April 2007

Your Money or Your Life?

When is the right time and at what is the right valuation to seek outside funding? Founders and entrepreneurs constantly quip that the world (that is everyone outside of their four walls) does not understand their true valuation. Obviously, they know something that everyone else doesn't. (But do they?) And as such, entrepreneurs often wait, sometimes too late, to raise funds.

Sometimes waiting is exactly the right thing to do. If the product is not yet complete, the value proposition for the outside world has not yet been proven, or if the claims the company is making are just not yet credible to the financial community, this can be the appropriate move - assuming the company has the wherewithall to survive. But founders and entrepreneurs should be wary of continuing to push that rock by themselves for a bit too long and the implications that their "slow" pace of progress will have on their competitive strength.

Sometimes getting to market first is just not enough! The market is strewn with dead companies who introduced the next great thing to the market, only to bowled over by a better heeled competitor who follows in their path. Getting there first is part of the battle, having the resources to execute, to capture market and mind share, is a critical hurdle that must be overcome to be a commercial success.

The savvy entrepreneur should understand that having the appropriate resources at just the right time (no earlier - but certainly no later) is critical for maximizing the value of their opportunity. If your product or service is ready to be launched, but you delay due to perceived poor valuations, you may in fact be giving up much more value to the market than the lower-than-expected valuation costs you. If you miss a market opportunity, or enable a competitor to impinge upon your market space, or create noise or confusion in the market, you may just find that you have diminished the value of your creation beyond repair.

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