Michael Arrington may believe there are no black entrepreneurs, but Kesha Cash and Josh Mailman could introduce him to a few. Cash and Mailman are the founders of Jalia Ventures, an early stage venture fund that has reviewed 175 social enterprise business plans submitted by entrepreneurs of color and funded three of them to the tune of $750,000. Jalia is poised to make three more investments in the next few months. Its goal is to form a “demonstration portfolio” of 8-10 companies run by entrepreneurs of color, largely in the New York City area, by 2013.
Want your social venture to be one of them? Cash offered Inc.com’s Neela Pal these five tips on how you can successfully secure your next round of expansion capital, from Jalia or anyone else.
1. Have good support for your valuation, and understand how much money you need to raise for your next phase of growth. Entrepreneurs often fail to realize how big an effort it is to raise money, and think of it as a distraction from the business. In fact, there is no business without the money. It's important to raise the appropriate amount of capital to reach significant milestones. We look at the run our capital will give a company and when they will need their next round of capital. Our $250-500K investment is enough capital without being too much capital. It is intended to take a company over their next hurdle, where they will be attractive to a larger investor.
2. Show proof of concept. Jalia is looking for revenue-generating companies that we can help grow by giving them access to our network and technical assistance. We require at least one-half million in annual revenue, or a plan that will take the business into the revenue phase within 12-18 months with pipeline and contracts in place. We don’t fund the R&D portion of a business; there are other funds for that. Jalia will help the entrepreneur prepare for larger investment capital, including mentally preparing them for scale. Our goal is to prove this model out, that with the right support these businesses have the potential to become great companies.
3. Be open to feedback. Entrepreneurs are usually stubborn people and growing a business requires listening to feedback, collaborating, and leveraging resources. New entrepreneurs often feel a need to control every aspect of the business. It's very difficult to grow this way. Because the companies we invest in are early stage and we’re so small, it’s really about Jalia entering into a partnership with the business. We spend on average six months getting to know the entrepreneur before we make an investment. We are flexible in terms of how we get our capital back and make a return.
4. Have cash in the bank. A number of companies we speak to have bootstrapped their businesses and are savvy at getting by with very little money in the bank. Some have great demand for their products and services but do not have enough cash to hire staff and increase capacity to meet this demand. These businesses are often not making enough money to secure a loan and the founders are afraid of selling too much equity. However, if the company is close to running out of cash, this places it in a vulnerable position when fundraising.
5. Show a genuine commitment to social change and to using business as a tool. The thing that Josh and I probably connect the most on is good energy from people. At this early stage, an entrepreneur and their business are an unknown. At Jalia, we are looking for people we believe in, who will work with us as a team member and take our feedback and advice, and who have a sincere passion about social change. We put a lot of effort into meeting people, connecting with people, and telling them our story.