What kinds of deals do private investors really like? Robert Gaston, author of Finding Private Venture Capital for Your Firm (John Wiley & Sons, 1989, $49.95), says, "It's easier to talk about the things that turn them off." Based on his research into the investment preferences of wealthy individuals (sometimes called "angels") and his experience as the founder of Seed Capital Network, a Knoxville, Tenn., service that brings entrepreneurs in need of money together with people who have it (see "Coast-to-Coast Angels," this column, September, [Article link]), Gaston offers these no-no's:
1. Lack of commitment. Don't expect investors to commit capital if you're not prepared to assume substantial risk yourself. "When the entrepreneur is putting in little or nothing of his own money, you have problems," says Gaston.
2. Too far away. Around two-thirds of all matches Gaston hears about are local, defined by investors as no more than a day's drive away.
3. Slow growth. Mom-and-pops and businesses growing at less than 15% to 20% a year, says Gaston, usually aren't attractive to private investors. The big worry is that they won't get their money out.
4. Low return. You should be able to show investors how they can earn returns of at least 20% annually. "You can do almost that well in the stock market," he says.* * *