Get Funding or Go Lean?
Tonight was movie night at the Inc. 500|5000 conference. The film? Something Ventured, a documentary that explores the roots of what is now a trillion-dollar industry: Venture capitalism.
As attendees took their seats, Carl Schramm, president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Foundation, introduced the film by noting the recent decline of the venture capital industry.
"The model is broken," said Carl Schramm, president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Foundations. "VC, while important, is not the be-all and end-all." In five years, he added, venture capital firms have not seen a positive return.
Still, young CEOs and entrepreneurs spend a lot of time jockeying to get face-time with venture capitalists. Demo Days, which are held almost weekly now in cities across America, let start-ups pitch investors in three to five minute demonstrations. But does getting venture funding guarantee a fast-growing company? Absolutely not. In fact, only 14 percent of Inc. 500 companies are venture-backed.
On a table 20 feet from the movie screen, copies of Eric Ries' The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses were being handed out. Which I found ironic. Not that Ries doesn't believe in start-ups taking venture funding, but the concept of staying 'lean' indicates a bootstrapped approach to taking on capital. "Many lean start-ups are ambitious and are able to deploy large amounts of capital," Ries has written. "What differentiates them is their disciplined approach to determining when to spend money: after the fundamental elements of the business model have been empirically validated."
So what do you think? When should you take on funding, and when should you try to bootstrap without giving up a piece of your company? Let us know in the comments section below.