Opening the Doors
FYI: From the editor
The venture-capital community has always been a fairly exclusive club, one whose environs the vast majority of entrepreneurs have had little hope of ever frequenting. Securing an invitation depended as much on whom you knew as on what you knew. In recent years, however, serious attempts have been made to democratize the club, and the three articles in this month's cover package touch on aspects of that trend.
In " Where the Money Is," Thea Singer writes about the mechanisms that are being created to integrate angel investing with traditional venture funding and thereby improve the flow of seed capital to companies in the earliest stages of development.
The VC community has also had trouble serving start-ups led by women. As D.M. Osborne notes in " A Network of Her Own," women-led companies received less than 5% of the roughly $36 billion invested last year by VCs. But the playing field is in the process of being leveled, thanks to a variety of new efforts -- from venture funds to venture fairs -- designed to provide support for women's start-ups.
Finally, there's our own modest attempt to make the VC realm a little more accessible. In " Terms of Endearment," Martha E. Mangelsdorf calls on three experienced deal makers to demystify the term sheet, that wondrous document through which venture capitalists lay out their offers to entrepreneurs. Even if you never expect to be blessed with the receipt of one, you should check out what the experts have to say about it -- if only for the sheer entertainment value of seeing how the game is being played.
I've noted before that fun has become a serious business concept lately -- no doubt because of the level of stress people are experiencing. If you're not having fun yet, turn at once to Leigh Buchanan's " Send in the Clowns."
Buchanan has a knack for sniffing out quirky business phenomena, and this time her nose led her to Chicago, where she found Second City Communications Inc., a for-profit offspring of the legendary improvisational comedy troupe the Second City, which brought us the likes of John Belushi, Bill Murray, and Martin Short. Over the past 10 years it has built a thriving business by getting people in corporations to take a look at the absurdities of at least some of the things they say and do. I guess that's what you call laughing all the way to the bank.
For the past two years Christopher Caggiano has been indefatigable in his reporting of the lengths to which companies have gone in their attempts to attract, recruit, and retain employees, and he continues his inquiry this month in " The Appeasement Trap." The labor shortage has reached such proportions that companies across the business landscape -- regardless of location or industry -- have been forced to respond.
But there's the rub. When such practices become standard fare in business, you can no longer use them to differentiate your company from the competition. So what else can you offer?
There may be no more difficult challenge in business than figuring out how to make the work of an organization meaningful from top to bottom. Doing it, however, may just be the most important job a CEO has.
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