What Does it Take to IPO?

According to Heidi Huntsman, partner at UV Partners, who spoke yesterday at the Mountain West Venture Group lunch, the average length of time between initial funding and a company’s IPO is now over 5 years (it used to be as low as 3 years), and the average level of funding raised by company’s that have an IPO is now $90 million.

The pre-IPO company I know best, MyFamily.com, almost exactly matches the average IPO profile that Heidi gave. Its first angel investment round was in July 1998 and its first venture funding was December 1998. It has raised a total of $90.5 million in the 5 1/2 years since its first VC round. It has a great management team, growing revenue, and strong profits.

The IPO market is still looking primarily for strong companies. Alibris pulled its IPO last month due to lack of interest. It lost $5 million last year on revenue of $45 million.

Nanotech at BYU

Steve Jurvetson has an interview on Always-On where he stated that the 18 investments they have made in nanotechnology have all come from universities or government-funded research. The cost of doing nanotech research is enormous. So I suppose if I want to get involved in nanotechnology, I should look in my own backyard first, at BYU. A patent attorney of mine just told me about a BYU professor involved in nanotechnology. I went online and found more than one, Bret Hess and Robert Davis, among them.

Angel Investors in Utah

I’m studying the definitive work on ‘>Angel Investing by two Harvard Business School professors. One of the primary points of the book is that the contribution of angels to entrepreneurship is highly underrated. VCs seem to get all the press. But the book claims that “Business angels fund thirty to forty times more ventures each year than venture capitalists.

VCs tend to fund larger deals and angels tend to fund smaller, earlier stage deals.

I’d like to see Utah generate more early stage angel investing. But how does an entrepreneur find angels in Utah? The only organized angel investing group in Utah that I know of is the Utah Angels, and they are very sophisticated investors and seem to shy away from early stage and seed-round deals.

Someone needs to create a database or mailing list of other potential angels (the HBS book calls them “virgin angels”) and start informing them about potential investment opportunities and the benefits of becoming a business angel. I’m building a page listing utah investors, including both angels and VC funds.

Searching vFinance.com’s angel database in Utah I found the following. (vFinance charges $1-2 per record to display contact information for these angels.)

Angels in Utah by Net Worth

  • 9 over $100 million
  • 13 over $50 million
  • 22 over $25 million
  • 43 over $10 million
  • 65 over $5 million
  • 85 over $3 million
  • 146 over $1 million

After BYU’s web site competition last night, John Richards (a member of both Utah Angels and UVEF) and I talked last night about the need for an early stage angel group that doesn’t just passively invest in Utah start-ups but also actively mentors and guides the company towards future rounds that will include venture capital financing. I’d love to participate in the formation of a new angel group that really focuses on seed stage, management team formation and active mentoring. We could call it the Angel Mentors Group. If you are interested in participating, please let me know.

Ask Jeeves: Tukaroo

Ask Jeeves purchase of Tukaroo gives it local software for searching desktop files and email, similar to X1 and to Google’s Puffin (code-name) project. Terra Lycos has the HotBot deskbar already. It appears that several major search engines will have local search before Microsoft releases

Nanotechnology Investing

Implementing tried and true internet marketing and development strategies for our portfolio companies continues to generate traffic, revenue and market presence. It’s rewarding when search engine, affiliate, and email marketing strategies work over and over again. But it’s also a bit predictable and just ever-so-slightly boring to keep doing the same things (howbeit successfully) again and again. I’ve felt for some time that I need to gear up for the next big wave, the next new technology that can challenge my imagination and creativity.

In some ways GPS and RFID technologies are fueling my imagination, but there is an even bigger wave that will challenge my learning capabilities to a far greater degree: it’s the Nanotechnology Wave.

I have never studied physics and haven’t had math since calculus in high school. I also had AP Chemistry and AP Biology and barely passed both AP tests. I’ve actually never cared all that much for the science of physical things.

But nanotechnology is like combining everything I love about research and imagination and information technology with physics. It seems more information-based and less physical than any science I’ve previously encountered.

I spent $300 on nanotechnology books last week and am starting to dive in. I almost made it to the MIT/Stanford/Berkeley Nanotech Forum meeting held at Stanford University last week, which featured Vinod Khosla from Kleiner Perkins talking about investing in nanotech.

I’m absolutely, completely out of my league here and I know next to nothing about this field, but the wonderment of knowing almost nothing about something that has the potential to change the world in the next two decades as much as the internet has changed the world in the last decade, and maybe more, is too much for me to resist.

I had never had a business or computer class when I started my first CD-ROM publishing company in 1990, and knew very little about the technology behind the internet when we started Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com.

So with no assets but curiousity, I’m determined to find a way to get into the nanotechnology space. Not because that’s where the money is; but because it has the “change the world” potential that has always attracted me to any field.

I tried to register nanonano.com, thinking that was a very clever play on the phrase Robin Williams made popular as Mork, but alas, someone thought of it first.

My favorite nanotech idea so far is the “purple liquid electronics” molecule that Nanosolar (Palo Alto) says could turn all roofs into less expensive solar panels. I think a world where people are able to generate much of their own energy will be a far safer and less interdependent world. There are dozens of other world changing ideas that I am stumbling across.

Meanwhile, don’t worry about me getting too caught up in the Nanotech hype or maybe even the upcoming Nanotech bubble. I’ll definitely keep myself grounded with all my internet companies. :)

Gotta run and do some quantum physics homework.