Sunday, November 20, 2005

Is local VC capable of evaluating the potential of an idea?

I might speak out of frustration, and I believe I am still logical and capable of reasoning. I had tried twice to apply for some minimum funding for two of my ideas from a local VC (Venture Capitalist) which aimed to spur the spawning of local entrepreneurs and to create more jobs for Malaysia, where I am rejected once and the other doesn’t sounds like good news to me.

My first idea is a simple and common idea to develop an enterprise software, which I believe had great business opportunity as I am in the industry; I understand the demand, competition and potential. I sent in my proposal and strategy, with detail explanation on how we might to be to capitalise on this product even tough existing competition already exist. There are already very expensive foreign products in the market which capitalise on large enterprise, and the high end market is saturated in recent years. These products are too expensive for the low end market (Small and Medium Business), thus a local made product would meet this demand perfectly as the adoption rate is picking up. Though there are some small local players, but I am capable of building it cheaper and better than them. I have the skill, domain knowledge and properly planning and strategy. The VC is not impressed with my idea, as they thought the idea is too common and not innovative (too many people had done it).

They reply made me jump to a conclusion, that their mantra is Creativity and Innovation. It seems like they have the Malaysia Boleh mentality, where they would only fund projects which had a localized theme, beneficial to local industry, using cutting-edge technology or a brilliant idea no one ever thought of before (or at least, they never heard about it before). They don’t seems to be able to evaluate the business potential of a product based on current market situation, where after all you are using a whole bunch of MBAs who never started a business before to evaluate potential entrepreneurs' proposal. They claim to have a panel of industry experts, but aren’t they wage-earner as well? They tend to focus on business idea which they think is unique or high-tech, rather than profitable ones. They mentality seems to be from the last generation, where you need a brilliant idea where no one had ever thought of before to make your millions. Nowadays, I think the better idea should be how to do it better and cheaper than others. I doesn’t matter how many strong players are there in the market, you could still storm the market with the right strategy. Google and Dell had proven it again and again, where old age giants can be taken down.

My second submission to them is sort of rejected as their reply is “We don’t fund portal project”. If it is so, why you don’t mentioned it before hand? You mean you don’t want to fund potential money making project because it is a portal? You mean all those portal and web services launch by Yahoo! And Google is not your cup of tea? You mean you had lost faith in Internet related services since the last dot BOMB? You mean the same bunch of MBAs still work in the organisation rejecting good business idea? You mean you won’t fund Job Street if they approach you guys many years ago (my business idea almost similar to Job Street, just that in different industry and focus)? You mean none of your investment is bearing fruit and you are still not learning? You meant you are wasting tax payers' money by funding projects you like?

There is a small chance I am being arrogant, as I still didn’t manage to prove that my idea actually works. I guess I shall proceed without their help, just to prove that I could be right. One day if I had succeeded and being interviewed in Time Magazine, I shall named the VC who turns down my proposal twice by giving me some lame excuses.


Najah said...

Hi D_Luaz,

In my previous job, I used to evaluate similar proposals so maybe I can offer some insight into how projects are offered funding. I'm not sure what level of funding you are seeking and which organisation you approached (considering there's only a handful of local VCs, I can probably hazard a guess), but in general, the criteria is similar, what varies is the degree of detail (and experience requirement) that you'd need to provide increases with the amount of money you're asking for. I was told by a seasoned VC that even if they give you money, they never give you the whole amount, and in some cases, going the VC way might be detrimental to a business' expansion.

Anyway, most projects are funded not just through the originality of the idea, but also the ability of the management team to carry through the project to commercialisation. I've seen heaps of portal projects and enterprise software projects that look great on paper, but comes up short when it comes to getting it past the technical stage. Funders in Malaysia are a pretty wary bunch, given the dot com bust that affected the whole world, and lots of good money has gone down the drain. Does it mean they'll never fund your idea? Not necessarily, it just means it's that much harder for you to get money from them. It all boils down to the proposal and from my experience, a lot of technopreneurs are great with the technical bits, but needs more guidance on beefing up the business side of document.

I've seen some pretty radical ideas get funded, from MMORPG to agro-tech stuff - things people would probably scoff at in the beginning but end up having great commercial potential. At the end of the day, funders like VCs, care about the bottom line and believe it or some, some if not most of them have some appreciation of what makes money or not.

So my advice is don't give up. Try to squeeze these guys for more details - comments like "we don't fund portal projects" aren't very constructive (VCs aren't very into developing new business, they're goal is to make money - not necessarily a good thing for the country, but that's the truth). Just beat down their doors to get better answers, pitch to a few ppl to get feedback, and don't forget to continue evolving. The guys over a TeAM (Technopreneur Assoc of Malaysia) are great at dispensing free advice and networking, and at least you'll realise that you're not alone when in your experience trying to get funding.

If you would like to discuss this further, you're more than welcome to contact me at njhnssr [at] yahoo [dot] com. I can introduce you to some friends who may be able to advise you further on this.

d_luaz said...

Thanks for the long and insightful reply. I am frustarted not becoz they rejected my ideas, but becoz they gave some lame excuses which is totally, LAME.

Perhaps there lack certain transparency here, as the VC don't quite bother explaining the reasons why they reject your idea and help you improve to meet their requirement. Probably too many people knocking their door begging for money.

I keep having the impression that they like high-profile-high-tech-high-hype kind of project, as most of my proposals are common ideas with feasible business potential, if done properly. My goal is to make money too, not come up with a big and innovative idea (a good idea and strategy, perhaps).

Anyway, I would try a few others way to sqeeze some money from them. Most important of all, I must try with or without their help, just to prove if I am right, or I am just an arrogant bastard who know nuts.