Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mobile fund raising in the Valley

I can't consider myself an expert on fund raising, but I spent enough time driving up and down Sand Hill in all these years to have picked up a few signs. Last week, at the Sofcon conference, someone asked me to give suggestions to entrepreneurs, trying to raise money in the Valley with a mobile idea. I gave the following answers, thinking out loud as usual. Many people contacted me after the speech and asked me to put the ideas together in a post. Here it is.
  1. NO CARRIERS. Forget the mobile operators. VCs have put enough money in companies that tried to sell to carriers and failed. They won't do it again. Your business model must go around the carrier. Be off-deck. Base it on the assumption that the carriers will become a dumb pipe. It is happening for real. This is the best time in the history of mobile to start a company doing mobile applications because the gateway is about to disappear. Build with the assumption that users will have a data plan and an IP on the phone. Sell to consumers, ISPs or Portals (and even Enterprises). Not carriers. VCs will listen.
  2. GO IPHONE. I know Nokia has 40% of the mobile market, but there is no Nokia phone around here. Zip. If you have a mobile idea, show it on an iPhone. I know Nokia produces all the iPhones in the world today in four days. Still, we have none here. The iPhone is the cool device. VCs are starting to carry it around with their BlackBerry. If they don't, their wives and kids have an iPhone. Don't blame the VC. Investing early in a company is an emotional affair. It has very little to do with reality. You can't get emotional on something, if you can't try it or can't have anyone around you trying it. If you have to go super-consumer, go with a Motorola RAZR V3xx. But do not expect wows.
  3. GO NOW. This is the right time. Do not wait a few months because money is getting tight. Mobile is super-hot. Cash is still out there. The financial crisis is going to dry out VC interest in early deals pretty fast. You have a good window before summer, with the launch of the iPhone competitors (pre-June) and the new iPhone (June). Buzz will be there. Your business plan might be slightly better in September but it might be too late. Do not wait...