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Venture capitalists: do entrepreneurs still need them?

money tree smallThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 11-April-2013 issue

Before World War 2, development capital was limited largely to wealthy individuals and families. It was only in 1946 that venture capital (VC) began to emerge. That year the first two VC companies, American Research and Development Corporation (ARDC) and JH Whitney & Company, were created in the US. Since then, entrepreneurs have pretty much depended on VCs to build high-growth businesses. But that could be changing. With the advent of crowd-funding and the dramatic drop in costs to launch an Internet start-up, do tech entrepreneurs still need VCs? Continue reading

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Is rapid growth bad for your business?

rapid growth graph tech bizThis article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 28-Feb-2013 issue

In 1999, the Webvan Group promised to transform the grocery shopping industry. Thanks to an über-successful IPO and other sources such as venture capitalists, it raised a staggering $1.2bn in start-up capital, rivalling big players like Amazon.com. Fast forward to 2001, when Webvan went bankrupt, barely 18 months later. The cause? It ran out of money.

How is this possible?

When investors inject capital into a business, they want a return on their money. And the expectation is that rapid growth will usually fuel this return. Americans even have an expression for fast-growing firms: “gazelles” are publicly traded companies that have grown at least 20% for each of the previous four years, kicking off with US$ 1m or more in sales.

But sometimes, growing too quickly can actually be bad for business. Continue reading


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Starting an internet business in South Africa? Be a copy-cat

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 31-Jan-2013 issue

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Starting and growing an internet business is hard. Even though the barriers to entry are dropping every day, the odds of success are still worryingly low. It is very difficult to predict what the market will like and what it won’t. Is there a way to increase our chances of success? Yes, it’s called the copy-cat strategy. Continue reading


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Why Budgets are Bad for Business

This article also appeared in Finweek Magazine in their 16-Aug-2012 issue

In my previous life in corporate, one of the biggest time-wasters was the budgeting process. We would write off three months preparing budgets for the next year. Invariably we tweaked last year’s numbers, added some inflation and extra for contingency, and there you had the new spend which you had to defend.

Why is this exercise destructive for your business?

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