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7 Things My First Date Taught Me About Raising Capital

About how I felt on my first date

Ahh yes, butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, emotions at the tipping point with apprehension, and way too much cheap cologne. As you are waiting in the foyer you think to yourself, “I’ve been in this situation before, but where?”, and then it clicks; “Oh no! Its like I’m reliving my first date all over again!”. Just as soon as that frightening epiphany shatters any thread of confidence that remained, the doors open and you recognize the hurried and intimidating face from the LinkedIn photo of your first prospective investor.

Speaking from my own experience, this narrative accurately describes my first investor meeting. I was in way over my head, hadn’t prepared myself correctly, and was sick with apprehension. Luckily, the investor was kind enough to give us feedback on our presentation and agreed to a follow up appointment. If only dating worked out that way!

First dates are famously amongst the most awkward moments in all of our lives and one that we are usually grateful not to have to relive. The reason? Because it is almost certainly a failure of epic proportions. But as entrepreneurs, we know and are frequently reminded to learn from our failures, fail fast, and apply what we have learned.

So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of the seven things my first date taught me about raising capital.

 

1. Be Prepared

No, I don’t mean using your Dad’s aftershave, getting a rose, and practicing your into over and over in front of a mirror. However, what I mean by be prepared follows the same principle. While smelling like Brut and having a rose in hand may not hurt your chances at getting a follow up meeting, it will not get you any closer.

Prepare yourself by knowing the problem your business solves, how it solves it, what its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are, and how it is going to make you and the investor money. Know your market back to front, and perhaps most importantly KNOW YOUR INVESTOR! Be honest, you facebook stalked did your homework on your first date, so why not do the same with the person who may very well fund your venture?

2. Don’t Over Prepare

Wait a second, didn’t I just spend 2 minutes of your time talking about the importance of preparation? Yes, but as with all things, moderation is key. The truth is, you can never be completely prepared for what may happen on your first date or the many questions your investor may have. Don’t let an obsession with preparation turn you into a data vocalizing robot, and most importantly, be ok with the fact that you are not prepared to answer everything and that you may have to get back to your investor on a certain question.

3. Be Yourself

Building off of item number two is the always important motherly reminder to “be yourself”. In dating, the pressure to be somebody you’re not is almost impossible to ignore, but it is even more difficult when meeting with investors who have ten times the experience you have, and chances are, they could do a better job at building your business than you.

But listen to your mother! Be yourself, because relationships, like investment partnerships, are taxing, long, and bring out your true character. More importantly, however, is the fact that decisions, yes, even large scale financial decisions, are made on emotion and instinct. If you are hiding your true character, you make it impossible to connect on an emotional and instinctual level.

4. Its Not Rocket Science

Adding to number three, investment isn’t rocket science. The pressure to make your first date like you is as sure a backfire plan as any, and many times we forget that relationships are forged when two people simply like each other enough to share their life with each other.

While you may not be sharing all aspects of your life with your investor, you will be intimately involved in all things relating to even the most minuscule and complex issues of your business. While some of these issues may be complicated and over your head, it is important to remember from the get go that you won’t be working on any complex issues together if you haven’t first taken the time to get to know and mutually respect each other. So relax! Initially, forming a relationship with an investor is done the same way as any other relationship.

5. Don’t Rush It

We are all guilty of this, especially in the hormone filled world of dating. Planning what color the nursery will be for your child when working up the courage to say hi to the person you want to date might be a little much, and is sure to make you a nervous and twisted mess.

When first reaching out to an investor, rather than asking them if they would like to invest, ask to take them out to lunch or have coffee. Get to know them, find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are now, and where they plan to be down the road. Not only will you learn from what they have to say, but you will also get a solid idea of whether you want to establish a relationship with this person.

You would never propose marriage before going on a date, and so it is with investment relationships. Take your time, and let things evolve naturally.

6. Think Long Term

Although it may seem that I am contradicting my earlier point, let me remind you that the body cannot go where the mind has not already gone. If while on your first date your date mentions that he/she has occasional violent fits of rage and has 25 cats that he/she calls her children and dresses up in themed Holiday costumes, you may want to reconsider the outcome of the relationship; unless you like violence and cats. If that be the case, then Eureka!

My point is, we should always be paying attention to the present in relationships and analyzing whether the current trajectory is in line with our ideals. We would never get married to somebody we dislike, and similarly, we should never establish an investment relationship with somebody we don’t like. Live in the present with your eyes cast towards the future, and don’t be afraid to cut things off early. Remember, fail fast.

7. Follow Up

Finally, perhaps the most important point. Let’s say you just had the first date of your life. You share the same interests, didn’t drool on yourself, and your date didn’t snort when they laughed. The last thing you would want to do is to drop your date off without agreeing to see each other again soon. If you do, you may end up texting later that night, and we all know where that can lead…

Where was I? Right, following up.

So when your fantastic first meeting is coming to a close with your prospective investor, DO NOT forget to set a follow up appointment. When conversing, keep track of to-do items on your end or questions to find an answer to and tell your investor that you will have those things taken care of by next week and that you would love to go over those with them at that point.

 

Don’t Worry, You Got This

So if you could take one thing from this, it would be to relax and realize that you have been doing this your whole life. From your first friend on the playground, to your first date, to your first investor. All of these relationships are established on the simple fact that two or more people find it enjoyable/beneficial to associate together. So relax, put your trust in your preparation and enjoy making a new relationship that will provide you the capital you need to make your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed this informative, entertaining guest post from my friend Jonathan Lee, CEO of Hotlap.co. He has put in extensive time working with investors to get the Hotlap.co app in the works. He’s a gentleman so he didn’t mention this in his article, but Hotlap.co is one of the top competitors in the Vesto competition to win $100K. If you enjoyed this article please take a second to vote Hotlap.co through this link, Vote Hotlap.co,to help him out!Voting ends June 21, 2013. Below is a video that explains their mission.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Are You Buying A Stigmatized Home?

 

Hello everyone, Chris neighbors here and this is my blog post on stigmatized properties. So what is a stigmatized property? According to realestatewebmasters.com it is:

  • while the exact legal definition varies by state and country, typically it is construed to be where something has taken place on a property (such as the death of one of the occupants in a traumatic or notorious fashion) such that it has affected the value of the property.

This topic is something I’ve always wondered about. I can’t imagine anyone would want to buy a home where a gruesome event has occurred. I remember asking people about this topic, people that had no idea what they were talking about, and generally they told me stigmatized properties had to be disclose. As it turns out they were wrong. Every state has a different set of laws on the matter. As hard as I tried I couldn’t find a list that gives every state’s laws. Instead I found mixed information about random states. Here is what I found:

South Dakota is the only state that requires all stigmatized property issues to be disclosed.

Alaska requires this as well, but only for 12 months after the event took place.

The states that require stigmatized property information to be disclosed only when the buyer asks are: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

In California these events must be disclosed if they have happened within the last 3 years.

Tennessee and Florida don’t require any disclosure on these issues.

While it’s difficult to get a list of all the different state laws and definitions it has been made clear to me that you can’t expect sellers to hand the information over willingly. My advice for any perspective home buyer that cares about these issues is to always ask about it and do your own research. A great way to find out is to talk to the neighbors (that is how most people find out anyways). In this case just ask them before you purchase the home. In smaller towns this information should be easy to find, but larger cities will present more of a problem. In many cases ignorance might be bliss. A warning sign that the house might have has a shady past is it might be that the house is being sold really cheap with not a whole lot wrong with it. They have done studies that in large cities these properties, on average, sell for 3% less than comparable properties. In small towns, where the devastation lingers, the reduction can be a lot more significant.

I know that I would definitely want to know about any unfortunate history that took place in a house I was living in. that being said, I also believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt you (most the time). Have any of you thought about this topic before? Would you mind buying a house with a rocky past? If you were to sell one do you think you would willingly disclose?

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Charge Your Way to an Extended Warranty

Costco: They have decent prices and products; it’s the home of Kirkland and they give out free samples. It’s a great store. It’s thanks to Costco that I have this blog post. You see, Costco used to refund everything as long as you bought the product from them. It didn’t matter what the condition of the product was or if I came back used. You could have bought it years ago and they would still refund it no questions asked. Well, awhile back they decided to change their policy. They are no longer the exchanging machine they used to be. Since I lost that buffer, I needed to come up with another way to get an extended warranty. I wasn’t going to pay for one because I always feel I’m getting ripped off when I do. If the warranty costs as much as the product I don’t see the benefit.  I did some research, and It turns out making my purchases with a credit card solves my problem.

Now there are a million different types of credit cards so I’m not going to go through specific ones. Everything I go over will be generalities that you can look for when choosing a card; However, I can give you some hints to push you in the right direction. If you want a credit card to help supply a warranty on your purchases look for ones that are considered premium cards. They will usually have names with the word gold or platinum in it. These types of cards generally have the best warranty opportunities. In some cases they will even double your warranty period.

OK, so you bought something with your platinum card and it broke. Now what do you do? Credit card companies will require you to send them an estimate, the original receipt, and your credit card statement. Once you submit this to them they should send you the money to either get the original item fixed or for you to buy a new one.

If you’re thinking “hey Chris this all sounds great, but why do they do this?” The answer is simple. They want your business. Credit card companies know that if you are buying something that requires a warranty it’s probably fairly expensive. Their hopes are that you won’t pay your card off right away. That’s why it’s so important to you do. If the credit card companies want you to do one thing you should do the other.

So go out there and find the right card for you. Just remember Pay it off every month!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Get Financial Aid- Tips on Filling out the FAFSA

 

Filling out the FAFSA is a crucial part for most students’ financial aid packet. If filled out properly it can offer you everything you need to get through school. I have put together five tips that I think are especially important to consider when filling out the FAFSA.

First, it’s important to remember that the FAFSA is free. There are many sites out there that will try to charge to fill it out. Some will even offer help in exchange for help filling it out. None of those sites are necessary. To fill the FAFSA out for free go to the website  FAFSA.ED.GOV.

Tip number two for filling out the FAFSA is to do it in a timely manner. You are able to start filling it out on January 1st of every year. If you wait until you and your parents get your tax returns back you will be making a huge mistake. Generally they give funds on a first come first serve basis. When you first fill it out you can enter estimates into the form. Once you get your tax return back you can go back to the website and make it accurate. An important thing to mention is to keep you and your parent’s pin numbers. You will need these numbers every year. I personally write mine down in multiple places so I won’t lose it. If you do lose it you’ll just be wasting time waiting to get a new one. Also, make sure it is complete and accurate. If it’s accurate, most information can carry over for the next year which means it’s easier to fill out.

Tip number three is not to mention any retirement assets or home equity on your form. They don’t care about this money. If you count it as income they will offer you less financial aid. They will ask you about second homes and real estate investments which you have to disclose. Also, make sure you don’t mention any household possessions as assets because that will shirk the amount of aid you receive.

The last tip for filling out the FAFSA is to make sure you choose wisely when deciding which parent’s tax information you use. In the ideal situation it would be the parent that makes the least amount of money. That being said, you are supposed to put down the parent that you live with the most throughout the year. You must enter your parent’s tax information until you are 24 years old (and that is by January 1st of the year in question) even if your parents don’t give you any aid. The exceptions to this rule are: if you are married, if you have a child, or if your parents are deceased.

If you receive a lot of financial aid most schools will do an audit on your taxes. That is why it’s important to give them everything they require while not offering up any extras.

For a recap here are the 4 tips:

1)    Make sure it’s free

2)    Fill it out ASAP

3)    Don’t disclose things you consider assets but they don’t

4)    Choose the right parent

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tips to Save Money on Meals While Traveling

Hello Everyone, Chris neighbors here and I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Ireland. Ireland was great, but the trip really made me realize how expensive food is when you aren’t at home. Generally I’ve always been the type of person that eats out a lot when I’m on vacation. I didn’t take me long to realize that food is a HUGE travel expense, and that I needed to come up with ways to keep that expense to a minimum. Here is a list of 3 tactics I chose to use to save money on food while traveling:

The first on is easy enough. I packed a lunch. I’ve always viewed eating out while on vacation as a form of entertainment. I never wanted to cook because that wasn’t fun. There always seemed to be something exciting about trying a new restaurant, but in order to save money I needed to change my mindset. There is nothing wrong with a packed lunch. While we were in Ireland we bought a couple of hot teas in a café one day, and while we were there we decided that we might as well eat our packed lunch. Shortly after starting, we noticed a table of older women staring at us. They then began to chit chat about how embarrassing it must be to bring your own lunch somewhere.  We kind of thought it was funny, but I still don’t understand why bringing a lunch is something to be ashamed of. I know that if you don’t have a refrigerator or ice chest it can be difficult to pack lunches. My suggestion would be to either buy a cheap Styrofoam ice chest, use an ice bucket from the hotel room, or don’t buy food that needs to be kept cold (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches)!

My second tip for saving money on food while traveling is to use a hotel with a free breakfast. A free meal is huge bonus! The few times we had to eat out in Ireland I felt like I lost a piece of myself knowing we spent around 40-50 Euros per meal (4 people). The best part about a hotel that provides a breakfast is that you can take extra stuff for a free lunch! I know a lot of people might think this looks tacky, but I personally don’t see a problem with it. Those breakfast buffets usually offer bread, cheese, and meat. Why not make a sandwich for latter. Heck, maybe you can even grab some fruit or yogurt. Then you would only have to worry about dinner!

My third tip for saving money on food while traveling is to consider getting a hotel room with a kitchen. It is generally more expensive, but the money you save on food could outweigh the costs. Some things to consider are: How many people are with you and will you actually cook. It might be more beneficial for 4 or 5 mouths to have a kitchen rather than one, and if you won’t actually use it then it’s a waste of money.

My last tip for saving money on food while traveling is to bring snacks with you. If you don’t get a free breakfast from your hotel (or if you aren’t staying in a hotel) bring some packets of oatmeal. Most places will have hot water available to prepare them. You should also bring things like power bars. They will keep you full and could easily substitute a meal if you get the right kind. Not to mention all these things a relatively small so they should be easy to travel with. I know that the snacks we brought to Ireland saved me money many times.

The main thing to keep in mind with all these tips is that you have to be willing to sacrifice the joy some of us might get from eating out to save money. If you’re willing to make that choice your bank account will stay that much fuller.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Colleges Have It All Wrong – Three Years To A Bachelor’s Degree

It’s about time; colleges are starting to realize their attendance rates will drop if they keep sending their students into the world with huge amounts of debt. Now that they are acknowledging this, what’s their plan of action? An article I read from USAToday.com says that colleges are starting to introduce the three year bachelor degree program to save on loans. On the surface this sounds like a logical idea. If students spend a shorter amount of time in college it should save them money. I personally think this is misguided.

Does a three year bachelor degree require the same amount of classes as a four year degree? I’m assuming the answer is yes otherwise everyone would want a three year degree. If that’s the case then they’re basically just giving their students a busier work load (please follow my logic):

1-Instead of 4 classes a semester they will take 5 or 6 (which isn’t anything new for devoted students).

2-Now we need to look at tuition. Every college has a ton of fees, but the most expensive fee is the cost of classes. If students still have to take the same amount of classes they really won’t be saving that much money.

3-Lastly we need to consider why people take out student loans. Generally it’s because they don’t have money for college. In order to save up money many students work and go to school. If their workload increases they will no longer have time to work. That in turn will lead to needing more loans. What this all comes down to is that we will have really busy students that may end up taking out even more student loans because they don’t have time to work. Not to mention the students being tired and stressed out all the time which could cost more money as lack of sleep causes poor financial decisions (nights out, fast food, etc.).

I know we all want a way for students to be able to go to college and not acquire a mountain of debt. That would be great, but the debt isn’t the problem. The lack of “good” jobs for college graduates is. If most graduates could find a decent job, paying down their student loans wouldn’t be as big of a deal. Schools need to address this issue by better preparing their students for what comes next. College shouldn’t be about grades, but about what their students actually learn. Maybe they received an A on their test, but can they actually apply it in real life a month from now? If we expect the companies to completely train all their employees why would they pay more to hire a college graduate? I’ve always been told that a college degree mostly shows that the graduate can actually stick with something and follow it through, and that they aren’t afraid of working hard. If that’s true then I want to know why it costs students so much to prove that to an employer! Isn’t that what probation periods are for? By focusing on student loans colleges aren’t actually fixing the main problem.

As a side note, if we want our students to take out less loans we need to do a better job explaining to them the responsibility of having them. Right now we tell our kids that student loans are OK as long as they finish school, but I can’t help but feel that that attitude is wrong. We should explain them in a way that shows that they are just like any other kind of debt. I think that this should be done in the beginning of high school. If it’s done freshman year they will have time to save money for college if they decided they don’t want to use student loans. I know that most high school students won’t take it seriously, but the sooner they are confronted with the issue the longer it will have to sink in as being important. When I started to take out loans it never seemed like I would actually have to pay them back. I mean I knew I would have to, but it seemed like so far away that it didn’t matter. I know an early introduction, combined with the attitude that student loans weren’t a good thing, would have helped me out a lot.

As college becomes an expectation for more and more people, student loans will continue to rise. Some colleges are taking action to try and “lower” costs by offering a three year bachelor degree. I personally think this is going to be as helpful as a jacket in 100 degree heat. I’m curious to know how all of you feel about this issue. Is a three year degree a good thing, or is it a tool colleges want to use to make themselves look better? Are we all ignoring the real issues (which are the job market and college curriculum)?

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Do Cash Back Websites Work?

Sometimes it amazes me the ways we can save money. Sometimes it’s a lot of work (like couponing) and other times it’s really easy. I was turned on to a website called TopCashBack.com, and they make it easy for us all to save a little money. Most offers are around a 10% savings (they do vary). This site is especially good for people that travel, and it’s also good for people that like to shop online. I’ll have to admit that I was a little skeptical at first. You always hear about ways to save money that end up being a scam, and I try to avoid those at all costs. Sometimes I might even miss a good deal because I’m worried about being tricked. A trustworthy source of mine has used the TopCashBack services, and they had no problems (I’ll be using it soon).

Here’s how it works. You go to TopCashBack.com and register. You look through the stores they have deals with (there are over 2,000), and you click on their website. Once you buy something it will recognize how you got to their website. The store gives TopCashBack a fee for the referral. In turn they give that fee back to you. They are able to do this because they make all their profits from advertising. In the end it works out really well. Also, not all the stores are crappy online stores. They services places like Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and hotel chains. Have any of you used a cash back site like this before, or do you know of a better one?

If you would like to get there easily to check it out Click Here.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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