Friday, November 30, 2012

Start-Up Business Problems

Starting a business can be exhilarating and wildly fulfilling. However, it can be quite complicated, and may challenge you in ways you had not imagined. Knowing the challenges and problems you may encounter in your start-up can help you to prepare for the unexpected, and possibly help avoid common pitfalls.

Money Problems

The majority of small businesses that fail do so because of lack of cash. A 2004 U.S. Bank study said that 79 percent of small business failures cited “starting out with too little money” as one of the reasons for the business downfall. Often, this is because owners borrow based on their ideas of a successful business, instead of borrowing for a worst-case scenario. A start-up business owner needs to be optimistic, but often is too optimistic about seeing profits. Without adequate cash flow, slow sales or a downturn in the market can end the business before it has a chance to gain momentum.

Poor Marketing

A common problem for new business start-ups is to hurry into elaborate print advertisements and radio commercials without knowing the target market and researching other market data. The costs associated with marketing and advertising can be expensive. If a business does not know who its target market is, then it may be a waste of money to print these ads that may contain incorrect messaging or have them appear placed in publications that don’t reach the company’s target market.

Managing Work and Home

A business start-up requires a tremendous time commitment and a strong will. Add to this the financial stress of a fledgling business. Start-up business owners often have problems balancing the overwhelming demands of the company with the needs of a family. If the stress of the workplace spreads into the home, the business owner may feel pressure around the clock.

Trying to Do It Alone

A common problem for most entrepreneurs is the belief that they can handle all of the start-up’s operations by themselves. It may be a cost-effective way to run the business, but operating the entire business on your own may not be a wise decision or the best use of your time. Many small-business start-ups may not require full-time employees. But it's a good idea to have at least two teammates, a lawyer and an accountant, ready to help. With experienced, reliable assistance, you can avoid other common business mistakes. When it is time to hire staff, be careful in your choices. Employees are a crucial component in the success of your business.

Poorly Priced Products, Services

Why Startups Fail

I was asked to be the keynote speaker at last week’s Creative Media Days Fail Conference in Ghent, Belgium after writing Why Startups Fail: And How Yours Can Succeed.

The goal of the conference was to discuss why startups fail and how they can succeed. The conference was part of a series of tech and media events sponsored by major media companies and governments in Europe.

Some eight of ten new businesses fail in the first three years. So knowing the difference between a big market and a good market and what makes a product truly great is critical. I first wrote about this theme in 2008. Brad Feld, Dave McClure and others weighed in on the highly controversial post.

As a serial entrepreneur and advisor, I’ve seen first-hand what makes some ventures succeed and others go sideways or fail. Here’s the video from the conference. The Why Startups Fail slides are available on SlideShare.

In this talk I also share a bit about my experience training for and doing an Ironman and the similarities and differences in doing a startup.

18 Entrepreneurs Share Their Top 20 Tips

So much noise in the world. So much chatter.

Most of it sounds like the adults speaking on Charlie Brown: “mwa mwa-mwa mwa mwa”

But sometimes between all the mumbo-jumbo comes ear piercing wisdom. Yes — pure unfiltered advice in search of a landing pad in the brain of startup entrepreneurs.

And so my question when having an audience of rock star entrepreneurs is always this:

“If I were a 20 year old just starting my first business; and you could give me only one piece of advice or wisdom; what would it be?”

Having landed smack dab in the middle of a ton of smart, well heeled entrepreneurs at a recent live event in Scottsdale, Arizona — I asked my question.

Low and behold, 18 entrepreneurs fired off 20 bits of wickedly good advice for all of us.

Let the wisdom begin…

1.) The Power of Connections

“Network! Make connections and keep a record on each person you meet. Ask for their advice and help. Keep in touch with them along the way and build your network before you need it! Quality relationships are the keys to the kingdom.” – Clare Dreyer

2.) Focus, Focus and Focus

Focus on ONE NICHE! And become the expert guru in that niche with your brand. Don’t get greedy! It’s the reason most quit by spreading themselves too thin.” – George Shepherd

3.) You Will Fail at Times

“Look forward to failure. This is how you learn to succeed. There is plenty of time to get it right —  so go ahead and just do it — and get it wrong.” – Graham Phoenix

4.) Let Your Passion Drive You

Budgeting for entrepreneurs

In the early stages of a new business, entrepreneurs do not pay much attention to budgets.

Financial forecasts that estimate revenues and expenses are part of the business planning process.  But these are really just estimates, since so much is unknown about what will actually happen as the business begins to grow.  Because of this, it is impossible to develop accurate budgets.  Managing cash flow is a week-to-week or even day-to-day challenge that is a reaction to what bills need to get paid first based on what revenues have come in the door.

Budgets are based on history and experience in the business.  Budgets also require that a business has stable and predictable revenues.  So for most new businesses, the lack of any financial history and too much uncertainty about the future means that creating a budget is really not plausible

But over time, if all goes well, the revenues of the business will become more stable and predictable.  When this happens, it is a good time to start implementing the budgeting process.

While setting budgets may seem like a relatively simple process, it can profoundly impact on the culture of an entrepreneurial firm.

The culture in a start-up business is defined by the process of exploring and developing the business model that will bring the business success.  The culture tends to be based on informality and adaptability.  The early stages of most new ventures can best be described as “controlled chaos.”

Here’s how to build a red hot business-to-business startup

Things have become a lot more interesting now for B2B entrepreneurs. With the consumerization trend gaining speed, SaaS and cloud B2B companies look more like consumer startups: They’re exciting, customer-focused — and for the victors, translates into big money. As a result, investors are flocking to B2B-focused startups capable of disrupting the IT landscape, attracted by increasingly large IPOs and buyouts (Yammer, for example, which was recently acquired for over $1 billion by Microsoft, or Workday, with a current market cap of $8 billion).

However, despite the similarities, B2B-oriented startups have to contend with challenges that consumer-focused startups just don’t face. These include:

  •     Building products with the security, scalability and performance that businesses require.
  •     Facing high recruiting and retention costs for engineers and sales people.
  •     Convincing customers their products or services will enable them to save more while gaining a competitive edge.
  •     Re-assuring business customers that the startup will be around for the long haul.

Here are my three fundamental tips for startups, which are based on the lessons I have learned during my career.
Spend big on engineers

Long before a company can even dream of customers (and revenue), it has to spend — and spend big. It needs to hire an army of highly expert developers who understand business needs and are proficient at building modern, B2B-hardened platforms and apps that meet stringent corporate demands. This level of skill and experience isn’t easy to find, and those who possess these know their worth.

Competition to hire these engineers capable of building scalable apps and platforms is especially fierce in the San Francisco Bay area, where startups go head-to-head against behemoths like Twitter, Google and Facebook. Because of that local competition, a number of  companies prefer to recruit from other technology centers such as Austin, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., which offer substantial talent pools of  talented engineers.

Personally, I prefer to recruit from my home country, the Czech Republic, which boasts a good combination of technical talent and business acumen.

And one more point: It’s been my experience that the best way to entice talented developers is with the promise of incredibly interesting projects in a successful company. After all, great engineers — like great artists — want their work to be seen.

Read More:

The 3 Pieces of Startup Advice That Actually Matter

I’ll tell you something that no one told me when I started up: somehow, putting up your own shingle also means putting up a sign that you’re open to advice. All sorts of people start offering their words of wisdom — experienced executives, college students, and even people who’ve never actually done anything with that good business idea they won’t tell you about, because you’ll steal it.

While people generally do mean well, their advice often misses the mark. Here are three bits of advice that I’ve received or incorporated that have never led me wrong:

  •     Build from your strengths. In today’s fast-paced and crowded market, being good simply isn’t good enough. Rather than building a business that will have you cap out at “good,” take the time to assess your team’s core capabilities and build from what you can be truly great at. It’ll galvanize your team and your market, and give you early momentum so that you won’t get by merely being good. Every business mistake I’ve made can be traced back to not getting our business out of the comfort zone of our strengths.
  •     Fanatically focus on your customers. Your business really isn’t about you; it’s about how you provide a solution to your customers that is worth paying for. Growth comes from serving more customers better, and the fastest way to get there is to get to know the conversation going on in your customers’ heads. Note: This doesn’t mean that your customer is always right, but it does let you know what your customer needs and values are so that you can determine how and where you’re going to serve them best.

No Perfect Time to Start a Business

KEVIN COLLERAN: Many potential entrepreneurs never actually follow their dream of entrepreneurship because they get stuck waiting for the perfect time or circumstances to start their business. And then a dream deferred becomes a dream denied.

The truth? There truly is no uniformly perfect time. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and perfect timing is as unique as the entrepreneur and his or her idea. Some entrepreneurs get started during or directly after school while others wait until they have years of business experience working for somebody else. Others do something entirely different.

From my experience there are two types of entrepreneurs:

1. Those who have the desire to start their own company but don’t have the specific business idea; and

2. Those who have a burning passion to solve a recognized problem and realize that they are the best ones to do it.

I believe that the second type of entrepreneur has a better chance to succeed.

The first, the one with the desire to start a business but is not passionate about a specific market need, runs the risk of rushing into an opportunity for the sake of quickly getting down to business.

Rarely is this first business opportunity the successful engagement of their dream…and therefore the risks of starting a business can be greater.

The first questions an entrepreneur needs to answer are: Am I sure that I have what it takes to start a company that is created to solve a specific, critical business problem about which I am passionate? Moreover, is there a clear need for this business to be started and is there good reason why I am the right one to solve this problem?

Want Venture Capital Funding? Here's How

Winning venture capital funding is increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs. As Professor David Brophy of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business told me in a recent Forbes interview, the number of venture capital funds has shrunk by half since the recession. With heightened competition, founders are increasingly required to demonstrate actual results before a VC will commit. “There’s a much higher burden, a winnowing process with companies,” says Jeffrey Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners, who is the author of Mastering the VC Game: A Venture Capital Insider Reveals How to Get From Start-up to IPO on Your Terms.

But there’s also an upside to that higher bar: “If you can come out of this clutter, there’s an incredible lift for those companies that do distinguish themselves,” he says. Citing recent industry success stories like Dropbox and Airbnb, Bussgang says it’s “a classic network effect dynamic…distinguishing yourself is so unique that when you do it, so much value aggregates to the winner.” Those companies are more likely to be rewarded with major funding that enables them to rapidly grow. “What we’re doing differently,” Bussgang says of his firm and the industry in general, “is putting out less money in initial checks, but you see bigger money in scaled companies. Once a company hits and starts scaling, they’re raising $30 million, $50 million, $100 million, and that never would have happened [in the past] in a pre-IPO setting. It’s a big new trend in the last five years.”

Less funding for early stage ventures isn’t simply risk aversion on the part of VCs, says Bussgang; on the contrary, he says, it’s a smarter way to do business, aided by today’s lower technology costs (startups can often get by without expensive infrastructure) and the Lean Startup ethos of launching fast, getting data, and pivoting quickly where necessary. “If a great entrepreneur is pursuing something that’s a bad idea, you don’t want to tie up $10 million and three years of their life,” says Bussgang. “Instead, try it out for a year, spend $2 million, and if it doesn’t work, free up the capital and free up the entrepreneur, and let them go do something better. I think it’s a very positive phenomenon.”

So what makes for a successful entrepreneur in today’s high-stakes environment?

Are new entrepreneurial ideas keeping you from getting things done?

My mind is literally overrun with all kinds of ideas all the time. My to do list is filled mostly of personal projects. I’ve started countless spiral notebooks of business ideas and have filled them with research.

I wake up in the middle of the night just to write down ideas. I can’t even enjoy watching business-based television shows that focus on improving a business (a la “Restaurant Impossible” and “Undercover Boss“) anymore without getting up to get a pad and paper and writing down my own ideas.

I couldn’t be happier working 12-14-16 hour days when I spend much of that time working on developing these ideas. I even often stop working on client work when an idea pops into my head to do a little bit of Googling about it. I tend to find myself saying “oh, I can work on that client project this weekend” then taking most of the rest of the day to start planning out a new idea.

Then it hit me: I was letting my entrepreneurial spirit overpower my current business operations. Ever since I realized that I was spending more time on my ideas than on my current client work, it kind of freaked me out a bit. My ideas were keeping me from taking care of my business obligations in the present. I was so excited and so eager to start a new entrepreneurial endeavor that I was pushing away things that were making me money right now.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was probably not alone. I believe that most self-employed individuals (myself included) have this creativeness and unique view when it comes to making a living. This freedom to create and build things we are passionate about and the uniqueness of our situation and our thought processes are the things that got us into our current self-employed lifestyle to begin with, the one that makes us excited to get out of bed in the morning.

We tend to use our past experiences starting and running our own entrepreneurial success(es) to want to relive that excitement all over again with the ideas we have spinning around in our heads. However, it is completely possible, and I believe very common, to let these ideas and that prospect of excitement overrun our current businesses and projects, which can get us into a heap of trouble if we aren’t careful.

Up until recently, I was very much guilty of letting my ideas seep into the working hours I established for myself for my current business. I often started working on client work later and later into the day and found reasons to stop sooner and sooner so that I could develop my ideas. I found myself trailing off during my work by opening a new tab in my browser and doing “a few quick” searches that turned into an hour’s worth of time.

Are you guilty of letting your ideas take over?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Do Older Or Younger Entrepreneurs Have The Greater Advantage?

A recent conversation with a young entrepreneur—followed by a closer look at some recent data—got me thinking. When it comes to starting a new business, who has the greater advantage? The 25-year-old upstart or the seasoned 52-year-old entrepreneur?

Forbes contributor Liz Kammel gives some interesting perspective in her recent article Start A Company When You’re 25–Not When You’re 52. Liz points out that the younger entrepreneur may have the greater advantage in many respects – 

1) you’re already fairly poor, 
2) energy and motivation will never be higher, and 
3) you have no fear about challenging the “status quo.” All great points. However, Liz cautions that if a young founder’s company succeeds in qualifying for a large Series A or B round of funding, the VC will most likely replace the entrepreneur with a more seasoned executive.

Consider this finding as well – The Kauffman Ewing Institute posted recent data on how 5,000 start-ups launched in 2004 have fared over time. The report says “firms surviving through 2008 were much more likely than firms that exited over the period to have primary owners older than age 45.”

Of the 5,000 start-ups in the study, 48 percent were started by founders who were 45 or older. However, a full 64 percent of the surviving companies were headed by entrepreneurs in the 45-and-up group. This is a fairly surprising result. Said the Kauffman report: “Previous industry experience and start-up experience had less impact on firm survival prospects than did owner age.”

In a recent interview with US News, Dennis Ceru, an Adjunct professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass, also noted that older people not only have a great deal of business experience, they also tend to have more financial resources than younger entrepreneurs.


8 Financial Tips To Reduce Startup Risks

The number one issue business owners face is limited access to capital. When starting a business, money problems can definitely shut things down. To help you manage your money and reduce the risks associated with starting a business, we asked financial planners and entrepreneurs to share their tips and success strategies with you. Here’s what the experts had to say…

What financial measures can entrepreneurs take to reduce their startup risks?

1. “Have at least one year’s worth of expenses in the bank before you start your business-period. This cash in the bank acts as a shock absorber when things don’t go according to plan. Golden rule number 2-make sure your spouse/partner knows exactly where you are financially each month during your 1st year in business. You can accomplish this by holding 30 minute financial review meetings. Your spouse/partner need not be an accountant or even understand numbers that well. More importantly, it’s a way of holding yourself accountable. Without this check and balance system, many new entrepreneurs go into denial mode, hide the bad news as long as possible and inevitably this ends in disaster.” -Mark Zaifman, Spiritus Financial Planning, Inc.

2. Learn how to read your financial statements. “One of the biggest mistakes that business owners make is spending money chasing customers and sales instead of learning how to read their financials and make their business cash flow positive. The number one thing they need to do is know what their cash flow is at all times and the second is to calculate their breakeven. It is critical to know what day of the month they breakeven, stop paying everyone else and start paying themselves.” -Rhondalynn Korokak, Imagineering Unlimited

3. “Nothing is more important than revenue. If you have to make a choice on where to spend money always default to activities that directly relate to an increase in sales. If no one is coming through the front door it does not matter that you repainted the walls. Also, do not spend money until the money is in the bank. No matter how “guaranteed” a deal is, never assume it is closed until the contract is signed and the money has been paid. A lot of things can go wrong between a “yes” until the bill is paid. Although it can be hard, avoid spending the money on upgrades until you are sure that you have received payment.” -Jeff Bogensberger, SOCO Games

4. “The number one reason for failure is undercapitalization.

Do Entrepreneurs Need Work-Life Balance?

Entrepreneurs always talk about the work-life balance, and how to achieve it. As a woman, I have so much respect for those women out there who are successful mothers and entrepreneurs. I mean, being in a happy and healthy marriage is difficult enough. Couple that with raising children and running business? That seems nearly impossible to me. Perhaps that’s why so many women I know choose one over the other.

What We Sacrifice

To build a company from the ground up requires tremendous focus, drive and commitment. For me, it took precedence over the mundane things in life – like coming home early enough to make dinner for my husband, or being “present” while my blackberry was buzzing away with important emails (that of course I had to check immediately!). For the last few years, my business came before my personal life. When we went on vacation, I spent half the time on my laptop and phone, and the other half wondering what I could be accomplishing if I was working. When I made plans with family or friends,  I often bailed last minute because I was either working or too exhausted. When I spent time with my husband, it was usually because I connived him into coming with me to some networking or social event. And starting a family? Unquestionable until I accomplished X, Y and Z.

The irony is, before we got married, my husband and I constantly argued about having kids. I wanted kids right away, while he wanted to wait a few years. Boy, did we argue about it. But as soon as we got married and started our company, the tables suddenly turned. In fact, if my husband ever brought it up, I’d remind him of all the things we need to still accomplish beforehand. Eventually we stopped talking about it. My husband knew that growing the business and building my real estate portfolio were more important to me than anything else.

The Rude Awakening

Keys to Successful Venture Capital Investing: Due Diligence

 What are the Basic Items to Look for in a Business Proposition?

There are six critical components to look for in this first stage of evaluation.

1. The Numbers Should Be Properly Presented

Everybody in the investment business lives and dies by “the numbers.” This means that the investor cannot proceed without accurate figures on a company’s past performance. Anything less than accurate and detailed (and in most cases, certified financial statements) will lead the investor into a business risk that is probably not worth the business opportunity. To repeat—no investor should make an investment without accurate historical figures.

In addition, current financial statements are an absolute must. All too often, investors are given financial statements that are ancient history. The older numbers do not reflect how the company is doing at that current moment. You should not accept any statements older than two months. Make sure the entrepreneur gives you current (either monthly or quarterly) interim financial statements, or don’t invest. Any entrepreneur who sends you poorly prepared or stale financial statements does not deserve financing.

Another thing to look for is the entrepreneur’s knowledge of the financials. You must make sure that your entrepreneur is able to explain the numbers in detail. If that cannot be done, it is a sure sign that the entrepreneur does not live and die by the numbers and, therefore, will be a poor match for you. As an investor, you must live and die by the numbers.

If an entrepreneur cannot produce accurate financial projections, he or she should hire an accountant to prepare them. However, even if hiring an accountant, the entrepreneur should still know most of the numbers by memory if he or she intends to live and die by the numbers. If you ask the entrepreneur about the financials and the answer is, “These financials were put together by my accountant and I cannot tell you why certain projections do certain things,” the small business person does not understand the numbers. This is a clear sign that you will have problems in the future unless a new member of the team is brought in to handle that side of the business.

Continue Reading:

6 Secrets to a Successful Start-up

How do you know if your company will succeed? Venture capitalists give their perspectives on traits that define the best start-ups.

It's every entrepreneur's most pressing question: Is this company going to make it?

All companies need to have the basics: a solid business model, a viable market, and a brilliant product or service. But the most important-- and unpredictable-- indicator of success is the entrepreneur. Do you have what it takes?

Despite the popularity of 25-year-old Internet entrepreneurs, there’s no one template that guarantees greatness, says Rory O’Driscoll, a managing director with San Francisco-based Scale Venture Partners. "I've seen a 25-year-old serial entrepreneur run great a company and I’ve seen a 45-year-old with no entrepreneurial experience also run a great company," he says. "But there are certainly commonalities between those whose companies are successful."

Here, O’Driscoll and some of his colleagues in the venture capital world share their perspectives on the less tangible elements of start-up success.

1. Be flexible. Always. This encompasses both flexibility in your business goals and personal flexibility, which some entrepreneurs find harder to achieve. Could your company pivot easily if necessary? Could you adjust to new circumstances? More importantly, are you willing to alter your personal start-up dream if it doesn't match reality?

"Most business ideas fail,” says Bryan Roberts, a partner in the Palo Alto-based venture capital firm Venrock. "The successful companies are the ones that can take that initial idea and morph it one, two, or three times into a better version."

Understanding venture capitalists

Here are five simple tenets to consider.

1.    Be Okay with No.

Insiders call it the elegant turndown. When a VC can decline a deal and end the meeting with the entrepreneur still feeling good, the elegant turndown has been achieved. The VC will rarely want to go through the lengthy process of educating the entrepreneur on why the deal doesn’t work for them. As a result, they often say things like “Our allocation for your sector is complete”, “Call me when you reach $X level of sales” or “Call me when you find a lead investor”. The real reason is rarely revealed because it will only lead to an argument and simply wastes time. Just move on.

2.    Understand their focus and that they can help you.

Most VCs have a specific target investee of a particular sector or stage of growth. Don’t pitch them if you don’t fit their investment criteria which is usually detailed on their website. Also, don’t think that you can convince them to invest outside of their criteria. The VCs are investing money that was entrusted to them by institutions and pension funds based on a funding model which restricts their investment activity. So if they fund IT, don’t bother pitching your medical device. The right VC for you is well experienced and connected in your sector. The right VC will work on your business with you. Don’t target just the cash, target cash that comes from hands that can help move the company forward.

3.    Understand their fund cycle.

The age of their fund is also critically important. Take a look through their new releases. When did they launch their fund? If it was more than six years ago, that fund is not relevant to you. Venture funds typically operate on a 10 year term. VCs generally target exits of four to seven years post investment. A fund that is now more than six years old is no longer doing new deals. At most, they will do follow-on rounds in their current portfolio companies. At this time however the VC will likely be trying to raise the next fund. If this is the case, they will start forming a watch-list of companies for the next fund which could open as early as year seven or eight of the previous fund.

4.    Understand their workload.

Why Big Questions And Bad Decisions Make Better Entrepreneurs

“Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.”

This quote from an unknown author might be the most apt description of my life as an entrepreneur. Some decisions will change your life, but only if you ask the right questions.

In 2007 I was faced with one of those decisions — what to do with my life. I was finishing my masters degree in Management of Innovation and Business Development at Copenhagen Business School. The economy was bullish, industry was growing and graduates were in high demand. Like many of my peers, I got a steady influx of news about recruiting events and even a few interview requests too. At the same time, there was my study-mate Gus.

Gus and I spent many nights enthusiastically discussing different startup ideas, which always lead me to the same perplexing question: “should I get a job, or should I start a company?”

I sought advice from friends and family, but informing my decision became a public opinion poll that made my head spin. The problem was, depending on who I asked, I would get a different answer. When I talked to my mom the answer was (obviously): “take the job, Kasper,” while some of my college friends would urge me to follow the startup dream.

One night I was sitting alone in my kitchen. A friend’s girlfriend had sublet me her apartment. She had for some inexplicable reason chosen to paint her kitchen walls a bright shade of pink. So, there I was, surrounded by this rosy hue and completely consumed by that nagging question: “what should I do with my life?”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Smart Grid VC Funding shows signs of life

After remaining flat in the past four quarters, VC investments in Q3 2012 saw a significant uptick. Smart grid venture capital (VC) funding showed some signs of life in Q3 2012 with $238 million in 12 deals. The rise in funding was mostly due to $136 million raised by, a security and home automation company.

VC funding in the last three quarters had been relatively weak (Q4 2011 - $66M in 10 deals, Q1 2012 – $62M in 10 deals, Q2 2012 - $66M in 9 deals), whereas VC funding even without the transaction exceeded $100 million this quarter.

“The funding deal and the acquisition of Vivint for $2.2 billion by Blackstone Group is part of a growing trend where home security companies have expanded into home automation,” said Raj Prabhu, Managing Partner at Mercom Capital Group.

We expect to see more transactions in this niche where security, cable and telecom companies expand their offerings to cover the whole ‘connected or digital’ home services which would include everything from communication and automation services to solar installations.”

• Q2 2010 - (Landis+Gyr $165M; OpenPeak $52M)
• Q3 2010 - (Trilliant $106M; Nexant $43M)
• Q4 2010 - (OPower - $50M; AlertMe $24M; Ice Energy $24M; Tendril $23M)
• Q3 2011 - (Six deals out of 10 in Q3 were for $10 million or more)
• Q3 2012 – ( $136M; GridPoint $23.3M)

Apart from Vivint and, other companies in the home security and home automation business include AlertMe, Intamax Systems, Control4, iControl Networks, Home Automation Inc., APX Alarm and Xanboo among others.

Source: Mercom Capital Group, llc, Oct 2012

France's search for its Small Business Act

"A shock of confidence" is what the report on the competitiveness of 65 pages cites. Louis Gallois,  Commissioner General for Investment, is turning in his report today Monday 5 November to Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's Socialist Prime Minister.  

Among the measures advocated by Louis Gallois, a 30 billion euro payroll tax cut and 20 other measures on competitiveness beyond costs. These should be announced by the Government on Tuesday. Mr. Gallois wants to go fast and defends the idea that employers and unions need to be involved in the recovery.

The report provides an overview of the state of the industry and the economy as a  French government
source considers "extremely worrying". Three figures illustrate the "stalled" French economy in "the decline in the share of industry in value added, from 18% in 2000 to 12.5% ​​in 2011, the market share of French exports decreased from 12.7 % in 2000 to 9.3% in 2011 and the balance of trade excluding energy, that swung 100% to negative numbers, from +25 billion euros in 2002 to -25 billion in 2012. "As defended for several months by the Medef, the country's Business Council regrouping all major companies, the 30 billion euros of tax cuts relate to both payroll taxes (up to 10 billion) and employer taxes (up to 20 billion). All wages up to 3.5 times the minimum wage would benefit from the reduction in contributions, which would be offset by an increase in CSG, VAT and other environmental taxes.

Sensitive to the stability of companies, the report suggests, as the economic newspaper Les Echos revealed Monday that the Government needs to commit "not to change five key investment incentives" during its 5-year term: the R&D investment tax credit, the Dutreil tax break on the ownership and sale of businesses, the territorial economic contribution, and tax incentives for start-ups and for investment in SMEs. 

Mr. Gallois' report also proposes to "condition State support to large corporations only if it is associated  with their ability to involve their suppliers and subcontractors." It recommends resuming research on shale gas and identifies three priorities for the General Commission for Investment: technology, health and life sciences, and cleantech for the transition to green energy.  

The report proposes to align the conditions of export credits and guarantees to "the highest level" found at our competitors. It also espouses the idea of creating a US-style Small Business Act for French SMEs. He also hoped that the taxation of life insurance contracts is in favor of those invested in equities.He also recommends that employees' representative are involved, "with a vote" on the boards of companies with more than 5000 employees. He proposes to double the number of work-study programs and to implement a continuing education program "attached to the person" and not to their company.

Translated to English from an article in Le Monde newspaper.