Boston London New York

Results of 6th Annual Semaphore PE Industry Confidence Survey

 

Confidence at All Time High

Results of 6th Annual Semaphore PE Industry Confidence Survey

 

By Mark S. DiSalvo

Is irrational exuberance on the horizon?  Will the Merry-Go-Round ever stop? Can the Masters of the Universe continue to rule? Notwithstanding the recent February Dow swoon the 2014 Semaphore Confidence Survey suggests No, No and Yes.
Extraordinarily, 91% of our over 500 respondents were confident in their own businesses, fully 50% higher than a year ago. 94% were confident in themselves, an all-time high, growing from78% last year.  In contrast only 31% of respondents expressed confidence in the President with 49% stating a lack of confidence in him, significantly above last year’s 37% number. As miserable as that may be it is decidedly better than the leader of the other branch of government, Speaker John Boehner, who has an 11% favorable v 66% unfavorable rating. As dreadful a rating for sure but it is far better than Congress as an institution with 87% expressing no or little confidence in our elected officials and only 1% offering an expression of confidence in the House or Senate.
In contrast some 80%, nearly double last year’s 43%, remain confident in the PE/VC Industry, while 6% express confidence in the US economy and less than half at 22% enjoying confidence in the International economy. This is expressed in the near wild enthusiasm around expected deal number and size.  96% reported completing between 1 and 4 deals and a similar number expecting to do the same.  More surprisingly is that over a quarter of us completed more than six transactions and fully a third anticipate exceeding that plateau in 2014.  And the deal sizes are growing.  Across venture and PE the average initial investment size is expected to be 50% larger in 2014 than last year. 
So what will all this prospective deal effort be in? Health Care investing shot to top in expected activity, up from fourth. Enterprise Software got bumped to #2 and Energy oriented investing rocketed to third place and last year was not even in the top ten.  With Business Services ranked fourth in prospective deal making with Digital Media and Financial Services tied for 5th place. Agriculture investment broke the top ten for the first time and came in a close 6th.  Gaming was not only out of the money but also failed to make the top twenty. Social/Community Technology, On-line Consumer Retail and Food rounded out our top ten deal hopes.  
And where does all this enthusiasm and confident take us. 77% expect to earn more than they did in 2013 with only 6% expecting to earn less. This on top of the fact that 65% earned more last year than they did in 2012 and 23% reported earning less.
For the second year in a row my industry colleagues continue to see the prospect of more income, more deal flow and high confidence in themselves, their peers, and industry. This clear read comparing the raw highlight data from the 6th annual Semaphore Confidence Survey with last year’s results suggests that our industry remains on the rise.  Too much more enthusiasm and consequent riches and our seemingly hated colleagues in Congress might find it more politically palatable to eliminate capital gain rates on carry.
The distribution of respondents in the US remained nearly the same from past years - the top five were 29% California, 16% Massachusetts, 11% New York, 6% Connecticut and 5% Texas with only New Jersey dropping out of the mix (guess the GW Bridge traffic might have been too heavy to get our usual Garden State respondents to reply). DC 4% and Illinois came in at 3% and no other state represented more than 1%. Our US respondents had reasonable confidence in their state governments with 26% expressing confidence - at least in comparison to the US Congress.    
International responses were quite different.  We had our widest ever distribution of respondents with only the UK remaining on top with 37% of all international survey-takers with (10 points higher than last year) followed by  9% Canada, 7% China and 3% France rounding-out the top four just as they did the prior years. We received multiple respondents from Germany, the Philippines, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Ukraine, Viet Nam and single responses from14 other nations including our first ever from Bora Bora (must have been a PE partner on vacation!). International respondents had depressingly poor opinions of their governments with 5% expressing confidence in their countries leaders, down from 7% in 2013.   
The 563 of us who did reply this year, up from 470 last year, was over weighted by third party professional participants compared to past years.  The mix this year compared to the last year was VC (24% v 39% ), Buy-out pros (25% v 24%), Limited Partners (6% v 13%) operating executives (7% v 6%) and third party professional (38% v 18%). Hmmm…charting this back to the income responses, perhaps the continued increase in income levels is attributable to the transaction fees and expenses associated with our explosion of deal numbers and values.
Comments this year were more muted in tone than past years and can be viewed on the survey highlights link below. Perhaps the tight bandwidth contributed to the lack of wit expressed.   Here is one none-too-pleased respondent commenting on the survey itself:
            “Well done, like an overly charred steak forgotten on a summer BBQ grill. Terrible survey.”
I hate when that happens as I like my steak very rare.
Hope everyone’s expectations are indeed met in 2014.  See you next year.
To see the highlights of the results of the 2014 Semaphore Confidence Survey please click here.  If you want to do your own comparison, the 2013 Semaphore Confidence Survey results are here.
Mark S. DiSalvo is the President and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (www.sema4usa.com), a leading global professional services provider of troubled Private Equity and Venture Capital funds under management. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for six Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, is a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world. Semaphore's corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York, London and Dallas.

Topics: market diligence, troubled funds, Venture Capital, equity, investment, venture funds, technology, private equity funds, Semaphore, Venture Capital, funds under management, general partners, limited partners, turnaround, LP, private equity

Does Steve Jobs Matter (to Apple Shareholders)?

Next week, Apple will announce its first earnings since Steve Jobs stepped down from his role as CEO of Apple on January 15, 2011 due to health reasons. So far, the market has taken a wait and see attitude as to what it means for the company. After a relentless rise where the stock has more than tripled over the last 2 years, it has been trading in a narrow range for the last 2 months. The market is undoubtedly waiting for the next earnings report and the future guidance that comes with it to reassure them that Apple will be okay without him. Or, to confirm their fears that it won’t.

Often the market overreacts to news like this. In the end, one person rarely makes a critical difference in a company as large as Apple. But this case may be an exception. Read on to hear why…and what the implications are for other companies.

To understand Steve Jobs and his unique position, first, let’s consider the cases of some of the other technology visionaries. Starting a world-changing company is a very, very difficult feat and in our view, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Jeff Bezos and a few more deserve the billions that they have earned.

Yet, without diminishing their accomplishments in any way, greatness does not come from genius alone. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a compelling case that timing is equally as critical to creating mega-success. Bill Gates was fortunate to have been ready when the PC was born, Jeff Bezos when the Internet first took off, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page as the Internet’s growth was making it too unwieldy for first generation search technologies to handle.

Strengthening Gladwell’s case is the fact that there are very, very few cases where companies, despite the presence of the same visionary founders, are able to replicate their initial success within an order of magnitude (or maybe even two orders).

Google is a great example. Google has probably tried harder than any other company to create new transformational innovations outside of its core business. Yet despite all the investment they’ve made in Google Mail, Google Docs, Google Books, Android, and countless other products, Google is still a one product company. Over 96% of their revenue in 2010 came from Internet advertising.  The only part of the business where they have achieved leadership outside of search is YouTube, which they bought.

Microsoft is a similar story. Practically all of the company’s success can still be tied to having DOS chosen as OS of the IBM PC. In 2010, the company earned over 73% of its operating profit from the sales of the Windows OS and Office Suite. If you include the contribution of the Backoffice tools (SQL Server, Sharepoint, Exchange, etc.), which could easily be considered extensions of the Windows Server OS, that percentage goes up to 93%. Everything else – Xbox, Windows Live, Bing, MSN, etc. – contributes just 7% of the operating profit.

This brings us back to Steve Jobs and Apple. What makes Steve Jobs truly unique is that he has done it more than once on a grand scale – In 1984 with the Mac, 1995 with Pixar, 2005 with iTunes, and 2007 with the iPhone.  My belief is that there are many individuals who can take what Steve Jobs has already created and take it forward. Assuming the company picks the right CEO to replace him, Apple should continue to soar on the strength of what Steve Jobs has already done. What is at risk is the next innovation that could take the company to new heights.

So what lesson should you take from Steve Jobs, Google, and Microsoft? The answer: Unless you have a Steve Jobs on your staff (not just a Bill Gates or Sergey Brin) you can't count on 'The Next Big Idea' to fuel your growth. Even if you do everything right, there is just too much uncertainty. Instead, what you should focus on is maximizing the opportunity you have. While Microsoft and Google may not have created a second transformational innovation, they made the most of the businesses they were in. They deeply understood their markets and competitors, strategically expanded into adjacent areas, made smart acquisitions, found new channels, expanded globally, and capitalized on new technologies.

In our Corporate Growth Planning practice, we work with executive teams on creating strategies to grow revenue 3x, 5x or more. While there are rarely shortages of good ideas, companies often struggle in sorting through and prioritizing them. In our experience, there seems to be a natural human reaction to pursue the 'Next Big Thing', especially in entrepreneurial companies. The real challenge is creating a disciplined and fact-based process that leverages all of the growth avenues available, not just the brightest shiniest objects.

This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.

Topics: technology, market diligence, due diligence, Corporate Growth Planning

The Real Jeopardy Story

Blog 2 of 3 in the Due Diligence Often Discovers Discrepancies series.

As I said in my previous Watson blog earlier this week, Watson, a computer built by IBM, faced off against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the two greatest Jeopardy players of all time and trounced them.  In a two day match, Watson earned $77,174 to Ken Jennings' $24,000 and Brad Rutter's $21,600. While the results seem to show that the human race's crown as Jeopardy masters has been passed, a deeper analysis of the facts tell a different story.  I have no doubt that one day a computer will be Jeopardy champion, but that day isn't today. What you saw wasn't a fair match among opponents but rather something that was closer to an infomercial demonstration where the product produces "too good to be true" results based on a tilted playing field.

Now back to the game...In Jeopardy, you're not allowed to push the buzzer right away. You have to wait until Alex finishes reading the question.  At that point, a light goes off and then you can ring in to answer.  If you try and anticipate the light and ring in too early, you are locked out for a quarter second, meaning that there is next to no chance to win the buzzer race. This is where Watson's unfair advantage comes in.  If during the period Alex is reading the question, Watson comes up with an answer that it thinks is right (based on my observation, that would be an answer that it has scored as having an 80% or more probability), it can ring in just 10 milliseconds after the light goes off - enabling it beat the human contestants, with their mere mortal reflexes, to the buzzer every time.  So, even when the human contestants know the answers, Watson gets all of the points. The Jeopardy results didn't accurately reflect Watson's question answering ability, they reflected the combination of its question-answering ability plus its superhuman reflexes.

So how would Watson have fared if it had to rely on just its question-answering ability?  To answer that question, we analyzed the results of Game 2 of the two-game series (Ideally we would have analyzed both games, but since we only TIVO'ed Game 2 and the match isn't available online, it'll have to do). In Game 2, the three contestants scored as follows:

-                Watson: $41,413

-              Ken Jennings: $19,200

-              Brad Rutter: $11,200

 However, final scores aren't necessarily a good measure of how each player fared. They are highly dependent on how players bet in the Final Jeopardy, who gets Daily Doubles and how much they bet on Daily Doubles. Taking out Final Jeopardy and Daily Doubles, the players scored as follows:

-                Watson: $25,200

-              Ken Jennings: $14,600

-              Brad Rutter: $5,600

In watching the game, it was pretty easy to tell when Ken Jennings wanted to ring in but was beaten to the buzzer by Watson.  He held the buzzer chest high and you could see when he pressed the trigger and lost. Since Brad Rutter kept his buzzer below the podium, it wasn't possible to tell when he tried to ring in.  But, the data from Ken Jennings is enough to figure out the impact of reflexes.  Of Watson's $25,200, $19,200, all but $6,000 worth, was won on questions where Ken Jennings tried to ring in.  Had Watson and Ken had equal reflexes, it stands to reason that Ken would have buzzed in first in half those cases.  Adjusting for reflexes (including the possibility that Ken would have rung in first and gotten it wrong, hurting him instead of helping him) would add $9,088 to Ken's score and taken off $9,344 from Watson, giving revised scores for those two players of:

-                Watson: $15,856

-              Ken Jennings: $23,688

Since both Watson and Ken Jennings got the Final Jeopardy question right, instead of losing, Ken would have had a sizable victory over Watson.  In conclusion, we’ll end this post with our own game of Jeopardy.

Category: Man vs. Machine  

$1,000 Clue: As of February 16, 2011, although not the fastest to the buzzer, these biological beings were still the best at answering Jeopardy questions.

Question: What are Humans?

Look for our next blog and the final on this series where our partner and colleague Jon Klein of The Topline Strategy Group explores what he feels are the three top objections.

This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.

Topics: diligence, market diligence, due diligence

Due Diligence Often Discovers Discrepancies

Our partner and colleague Jon Klein of The Topline Strategy Group explores one very public example.

Earlier last month, Watson, a computer built by IBM, faced off against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the two greatest Jeopardy players of all time and trounced them.  Or was it rigged?

First we'll look at the Watson backstory.  When the project was approved, management explicitly required that the technology could be commercialized.  Back in the 1990's IBM invested heavily in a project that resulted in Deep Blue, a chess playing phenomenon that went on to beat the best human player, Gary Kasparov.  While the company won bragging rights, it turned out that there were no commercial applications for the technology.  IBM didn't want to make that mistake again. When Watson was approved, it was done so with the belief that its question answering technology could be applied to many fields including healthcare, as an expert diagnostic assistant to help doctors, and retail, as a next-generation recommendation engine.

 Over the years, I have seen many mind blowing demonstrations of gee-whiz technologies that never achieved commercial success.  Each time investors got frustrated with the progress of the business, the management team would cook up another demo which promised that a breakthrough was just around the corner...and in the process, relieved the investors of several million more dollars. The most egregious cases are the ones that have created some of the most high profile public flops (think the Apple Newton). My analysis is that IBM execs just witnessed one of the best gee-whiz demos of all time and before they sink in any more money, they should have independent market and technology due diligence performed on Watson’s commercial prospects. The critical question they need to answer is:  Can this generalized question-answering technology actually provide enough value over the purpose-build expert systems that already exist in fields like medicine to justify its cost? It’s a question that the Watson team cannot answer. They have too much personally invested in the program to come up with any answer other than ‘Yes’.

Look for our next blog coming soon where we'll get to know how the game was rigged in Watson's favor.

                        __________________________________________

This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.

Topics: diligence, market diligence, due diligence

A New BOSS Comes to Town

Hello,

We have all had a new boss in our life.  This is an announcement concerning a different sort of BOSS.  We here at Semaphore are excited to let you know more about our Business Operations/Strategy Service and the addition of David Friend, M.D., MBA as part of our advisory team.  Let us know how we can help – and say “hello Friend”.

Every now and then it’s healthy to get a new boss - someone who can lead a previously moribund operation. A person not weighted down with institutional memory and tired culture.  A person who can not only articulate a vision but is not freighted with excuses as to why a goal has not and cannot be reached.  Rather a person who understands and has the skills to get you across the success line.  Such success can only be achieved with the insights of senior, knowledgeable and committed leadership.  Success is determined by process and the unique skills of the person leading the effort.

 That is why Semaphore’s Business Operation/Strategy Service (BOSS) is expanding.  “We are thrilled to announce that David Friend, MD, MBA is joining our advisory team,” announced Semaphore CEO Mark S. DiSalvo. “David brings years of sterling hands-on and real-world practitioner skills to our already robust practice assisting companies and funds in our strategic/operational business advisory practice,” he noted.

 “Joining Semaphore’s Team allows me to bring diagnostic, operational and mentoring skills earned by decades of turning around troubled entities and accelerating success in working but stagnant companies,” noted Dr. Friend.  “As a trained physician and experienced turn-around CEO I can assure, along with my Semaphore colleagues, true and real change management in tying strategic clarity to sustained operational success, “ promised the long time work-out executive.

The Semaphore BOSS practice provides senior resources to assess recommend and mentor technology companies in the “Zone of Irrelevance “(ZOI). 

Dr. Friend has most recently served as CEO of The Palladium Group providing global strategy education and consultancy to world-class entities from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America.  He previously worked as a turnaround executive with Alverez and Marsal as Managing Director of Healthcare Restructuring and Watson Wyatt Worldwide as Division Chief Executive where he helped guide the business through its successful IPO. He was also COO at High Voltage Engineering and serves on a variety of boards and advisory committees as a qualified Audit Committee Chair.

The BOSS program augments the well known Semaphore Technology Diligence and Market Diligence Practices that offer investors and companies independent verification and validation of products, systems and markets.  Crispin Miller, Technology and Market Practice Leader said “we are excited to have David join our advisory practice team offering vital resources to PE portfolios, owner-run companies and other private, public or non-profit institutions.”

The BOSS practice will focus on companies that have entered the “Zone of Irrelevance” (ZOI).  These are typically companies who have launched, have customers and revenue but have plateaued.  

For many companies hitting this plateau after initial revenue means death.  The ZOI is an all too frequent malady and a difficult thing to avoid.  Very few venture backed companies reach their potential when they fall into the ZOI.   These are the companies who generally have revenue of under $5 million and have not figured out how to get to $20m+ (or companies in the $10m range trying to get to $50m).  Companies challenged by ZOI may have a variety of problems that are directly addressed by a combination of strategic thinking and tactical action.  “At this point employing BOSS affords the prospect of fulfilling the founder’s dreams and an investor’s expectation,” said Dr. Friend.

The BOSS practice provides senior resources to assess, recommend, mentor and/or pitch in with hands-on expertise with companies in the ZOI.  The key points addressed are the ability to link strategy, operations, finance, people and revenue attainment.

David B. Friend, MD, MBA, Business Operations/Strategy Service Practice, can be reached at 781- 296 -6300,  Dfriendmd@sema4usa.com.

Crispin Miller is the head of the Diligence Practice (cmiller@sema4usa.com) at Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (www.sema4usa.com), a leading global professional services provider of Technology and Marketing diligence, and Private Equity funds-under-management services.  The Semaphore Business Operations/Strategy Service (BOSS) complements both of its other advisory practices.  Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for seven Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world.  Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York and London.

Topics: private equity funds, technology diligence, market diligence, operations, Business Operations, Strategy Services, BOSS, business advisory

Hogs-Head of Marketing had by all

Posted by Cris Miller on Wednesday, October 13, 2010 @ 9:30AM 

Marketing Due Diligence

Last Thursday there was a Happening…Monsters of Pork… at Petit Robert as part of a spectacular program of market oriented seminars and symposia under the brand Future M.  The pork party was a real experience.  I had been to the location before for quite an elegant lunch.  The restaurant has changed hands, not quite as fancy, more bistro than formal dining.  There were 100s of people and to this grizzled veteran they all appeared under 15…well maybe under 30.  Most of the folks I talked to did not know why they were there, other than to be part of a happening.  And it was that. Every half an hour, in a separate room, they packed patrons in and dissected a pig.  Knives and cleavers flew while hog-heads fell, ribs retrieved and internal organs separated.  A bit of food was passed and quickly disappeared, although generous vodka drinks were served, so no one seemed to mind.  I missed the pulled pork as it did not show up in the hour and a half I was there.  A great time was had by all.   The Miller rating for a Boston “happening scene” - 90.  The Miller rating for leads/new business – 0 (but you never know).  Who knows, maybe I’ll kill a wild bore someday and will have learned plenty.  For sure, there was nothing boring about this event.  Thanks BzzAgent.

Topics: diligence, market diligence, due diligence

Board Knowledge and Perspective

Posted by Cris Miller on Thursday, September 23, 2010 @ 10:45PM 

I field calls from GPs and CEOs all the time.  Invariably they are doing a deal, whether investment or acquisition, and need either verification that the technology and/or markets targeted are real or a product exists and someone wishes to buy it in the future.  Less often we get calls from Board of Directors.  Those calls are less exact as to what the caller requires.  A lot of it is because the Board member making the call carefully ensures that they have not lost confidence in the CEO (even if that is not the case) and are fulfilling independent diligence on the company itself, the markets or an acquisition opportunity.  

A while ago we had a call for help from the Board of Directors of a growth stage technology company.   After discussion, it was evident there was agreement that the firm needed to conduct both technology and market due diligence for their company.  Initially the request was for a technology review to determine the viability of commercializing the core platform technology upon which two successful products had been built. 

The CEO was a technology wizard while the Board was comprised of non-technologists and retired business people.  After Semaphore’s chief technologist had reviewed the platform product’s architecture, patent and documentation, we had a review session with the CEO.  The discussion immediately dropped into techno-jargon only the brightest geeks could comprehend and appreciate.  The conclusion was that the product was adequate for internal use but was deficient in form and substance for outside consumption.

The CEO reviewed the findings with the Board who had market/business questions about the size of the market for such a product, the competition for such a product and the value of the product.  Our market research/strategy group took the baton and came back with some interesting results that were presented directly to the Board.  It was intuitively obvious to the casual observer that:

  1. The product in its current condition was a non-starter
  2. The market for the product if it were “cleaned up” would have 5 world class competitors and 10 mid-market competitors
  3. The product in its new state would be woefully deficient in features, so much so  that its value would be difficult to sell at any price
  4. The effort should be scuttled

The lesson learned here was in order to get the correct answers, the Board needed to be educated to the best of its understanding.  To accomplish that education, independent technical and market due diligence was necessary.  The readily available technical answer alone was not sufficient since the product could have been improved.  It took the market diligence, in concert with an agreed technology product plan, to make the business case not to proceed with the questioned direction. 

Crispin Miller is the head of the Diligence Practice at Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (www.sema4usa.com), a leading global professional services provider of Technology and Marketing diligence, and Private Equity funds-under-management services.  Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for seven Private Equity and Venture Capital funds, a New Markets Tax Credit lender and advises General and Limited Partners as well as corporations around the world. Semaphore’s corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York and London.

Topics: Semaphore, diligence, technology, technology diligence, market diligence, Technology Assessment, due diligence, investment

3 of 4 - The Most Important Thing You Don’t Know About Market Due Diligence Continued:

Posted by Jon Klein of The Topline Strategy Group on Thursday, June 17, 2010 @ 10:00AM

Blog Series 3 of 4

Pipeline Interviews: The Missing Piece

 

At this point, you may be thinking, "The analysis addressed the overall market size, the potential penetration of the market, and the company's likely share. Shouldn't that be enough?" Actually, it isn't. The typical due diligence process is based on the critical assumption that the accounts that have purchased a solution from the company or its competitors are fundamentally the same as accounts that have not yet purchased. Given enough time, the non-buyers will eventually buy a solution if it has a strong value proposition.

But what if that assumption is wrong? What if the accounts who haven't bought are somehow fundamentally different than the ones that already have purchased in a way that isn't obvious from segmentation factors like size or industry? If that is the case, then ‘I haven't purchased yet' becomes ‘I'm never going to purchase' and the market is far smaller than calculated. And, if the market is smaller than you calculated, the company may never reach its revenue projections.

 

Pipeline Interviews: Interviews with Accounts that Fell Out of the Pipeline without Making any Purchase

 

 

So how do you sort out whether or not you have an ‘I'm never going to purchase' problem? The answer is through Pipeline Interviews. Only prospects that have had sales interaction with the company but decided not to purchase anything can answer this question. They know whether their decision not to buy is primarily a timing issue or is due to something more fundamental.

Continuing with the CRM for Law Firms example, it turns out that approximately 30% of law firms with over 100 people have a fundamentally different selling model than one that is supported by a CRM. Examples include firms who primarily serve consumers and those that focus on a very narrow subspecialty and act as a subcontractor to general practices. These types of firms will never buy a CRM system since it doesn't fit their business.

In this case, the market turns out to be about 70% as large as calculated using traditional methods.   We have conducted numerous due diligence projects over the years where the market turned out to be a fraction of the size originally believed, including:

  • A company providing translation management software where the real market turned out to be only 10% of the original target: $1B+ companies with 25% or more of their sales overseas. Many industries, such as aviation, do business solely in English everywhere, regardless of local language and do not need translation. Others, such as packaged goods companies, develop custom materials in each market and do not need translation either.
  • A company providing software simulations for training repair technicians on maintaining products found that the real market was only 25% of the original target: $500M+ companies that provide low and medium tech equipment such as lawn mowers, pumps, and oil field equipment. Because the process of repairing each product is unique, a separate simulation is required for each product. For the cost of a simulation to outweigh its benefits, the product either has to have very large sales (over $100M/year) or a very long lifecycle (10+ years). The Pipeline Interviews revealed that most companies did not have a single product with sufficient sales (they had a wide range of smaller products) or a long enough lifecycle to make a simulation economical.

                  _______________________________________________________

This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.

To read the full White Paper, please go to Semaphore News and click on the May 3, 2010 link titled - White Paper - Market Due Diligence

Topics: diligence, technology, technology diligence, market diligence, due diligence, Pipeline Interviews

1 of 4 - The Most Important Thing You Don't Know About Market Due Diligence

Posted by Jon Klein of The Topline Strategy Group on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 @ 9:00AM 

Blog Series: 1 of 4

When it comes to venture capital and growth equity investments, the bottom line is the top line. If a company can grow its revenue, then odds are it will generate a strong return for its investors. Market due diligence is a key component of determining the growth prospects, and therefore the return prospects, of an investment. However, the tried and true methods of market due diligence typically leave out one of the most important elements of measuring the opportunity - Pipeline Interviews.

In our experience, Pipeline Interviews - interviews with accounts that fell out of the pipeline without making a purchase - are rarely conducted during a market due diligence effort.  However, they provide vital insight into the true market potential of the company, a perspective that cannot be gained elsewhere. To understand why, we have created a series of blogs to explore the subject.  Next time we will  by looking at what is typically included in a market due diligence effort.

                   _________________________________________________________ 

This article was contributed by Jon Klein. Jon is the founder and general partner of The Topline Strategy Group, a strategy consulting and market research firm specializing in emerging technologies. Jon brings a unique blend of strategy consulting and hands on operating experience to The Topline Strategy Group and works closely with Semaphore on a variety of engagements.

To read the full White Paper, please go to Semaphore News and click on the May 3, 2010 link titled - White Paper - Market Due Diligence

Topics: diligence, market diligence, Venture Capital, due diligence, growth equity investments, Pipeline Interviews

Morning Person Lament: The Upside of the New Down

Posted by Mark DiSalvo on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 @ 12:41 PM 

I'm a morning person.  No, not the kind you are thinking.  The type that goes to bed at 2:30 or 3:00 AM.  You won't find me at a power breakfast at a fancy hotel at 6:30 AM as I'll be making breakfast for my 12 yr old daughter Celia and then jumping, OK, reluctantly climbing onto the treadmill.

My colleagues at Semaphore know that I will handle any evening event or red-eye required travel with abandon but asking me to be presentably lucid in the morning is an effort.  Nonetheless, I accepted an invitation to speak at a recent T-Cubed seminar to discuss VC consolidation.  Wheeling slowly down Rt. 93 and 95 (the roads are a lot emptier in the evening) grinding to the Foley Hoag Emerging Enterprise Center, I reflected on the VC industry.  All too often we at Semaphore in our funds-under- management practice see the worst - disengaged, incompetent sometimes outright criminal General Partners as we take over trouble Venture and Private Equity funds. On the other hand, it is pretty small proportion and many outstanding GPs work assiduously, engaging Semaphore for diligence on people, process, markets, strategy and technology to help make the right decisions.  

At 7:15 AM a room alive with beaming chattering entrepreneurs and PE professionals greeted me at the event cosponsored by RSM McGladrey, Silicon Valley Bank and Foley Hoag.

70+ of my newest bright eyed and ebullient morning friends quickly gathered, coffee cups in hand and half eaten bagels aside and got down to a "down" discussion. There's not much fun in talking about Venture Capital industry consolidation.  I'll leave my fellow panelists to speak for themselves except to say that Michael Greeley of Flybridge and Alain Hanover of Navigator are decidedly morning people in the more traditional sense, being more awake than this correspondent, as they capably presented chilling facts about the steep drop off in fund commitment (both in numbers of General Partnerships funded and the aggregate amount of dollars committed) and cogently offered the gathered entrepreneurs personal experience and simply great advice on how to deal with the adverse conditions of the moment.

I stated that we should welcome the consolidation of the industry.  All too long I have seen General Partners who should not have been funded get funds. Companies that should not have been started were flooded with millions of dollars.  Fund and effort that was unsurprisingly unproductive and portfolios that offered no return to the well meaning but under-skilled entrepreneur, venture fund partners or Limited Partners providing the investment capital.  In embracing the situation it seemed to me, to surprisingly frequent nods from the audience attending, that we should celebrate the upside of the new down circumstance. 

It should never be encouraging to an entrepreneur that they have been turned down by, say 12 VC's but then had another 40 identified in which to speak and appeal for funds.  That is unhealthy and unproductive for all parties all around.  I argue that it is a better and ultimately more profitable circumstance that fewer funds with fewer partners and analysts (but more senior partners) talking with a smaller but more talented pool of entrepreneurs seeking funds is a better situation all around.

VC funding is not for everyone and once or twice a cycle it seems like everyone can get it. It's like when your brother-in-law the car mechanic starts dabbling in spec home construction or "flip" real estate you know the housing market will crash.  The discipline of fewer funds will improve the market for every one as the funded entrepreneurs will receive money from the most appropriate VC and receive the most attention possible from them to leverage each party's cash, sweat equity and intellectual contribution.

Oscar Jazdowski capably played ring leader at our forum and he ably challenged panelist and questioners alike. What I found is that early morning people really do get the worm - and the best advice.  Those 70 early risers walked away with, at least, some level of intellectual stimulation, a contact or two, lots of metrics and particular insight on how to be prepared for the best possible funding opportunity that they may deserve. 

Some learned, disappointingly, that VC funding was not for them or that they were wholly undeserving to receive funds. No one had ever told them that before.  While perhaps stung for a moment, they got to spend the rest of a sunny bright day reflecting and acting on how and what they should do to move forward  rather than waste precious time chasing VC dollars and delaying dreams that were unattainable.  They got liberation instead of money - and that may have been worth more that any millions of dollars they hoped to have received.  At least until the cycle turns again and the VC investing in this current economic trough provide great returns resulting in allocation increases by LPs.  Then we'll get back to the point where I'll have to get up again in a future decade and give the same talk.  I can handle it once every ten years or so.  Now if only we could have a forum that started at 10 PM?  I'll buy the last round.

Mark S. DiSalvo is the President and CEO of Sema4 Inc., dba Semaphore (http://www.sema4usa.com/), a leading global professional services provider of Private Equity funds-under-management and technology diligence services. Semaphore currently holds fiduciary obligations as General Partner for six Private Equity and Venture Capital funds and advises General and Limited Partners around the world. Semaphore's corporate offices are in Boston with principal offices in New York and London.

 

Topics: VC, Venture Capital, funds under management, general partners, private equity funds, diligence, limited partners, technology diligence, market diligence

Subscribe by Email

Most Popular Posts