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The Pegasus Startup: Flying Over VCs on the Wings of Profits

The unicorn movement in Silicon Valley has been a great run, with startups plowing mountains of willing capital into audacious products that are changing the world. [ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): https://ctt.ac/eWeJG ] Airbnb, Uber and Slack have revolutionized travel, transportation and work forever. It took tens of billions of capital, but … Continue reading The Pegasus Startup: Flying Over VCs on the Wings of Profits

The post The Pegasus Startup: Flying Over VCs on the Wings of Profits appeared first on Jason Calacanis.

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The unicorn movement in Silicon Valley has been a great run, with startups plowing mountains of willing capital into audacious products that are changing the world.

[ Click to Tweet (can edit before sending): https://ctt.ac/eWeJG ]

Airbnb, Uber and Slack have revolutionized travel, transportation and work forever. It took tens of billions of capital, but I predict each of these companies will become worth 10x their current market caps in the next decade or two.

However, a new species has taken flight in Silicon Valley, and we’ve been lucky enough to have invested in four of the six we’ve encountered. This new species is called a Pegasus.

A Pegasus startup is one that is so profitable that it is able to use its profits to soar so high, that it skips multiple rounds of funding.

Unicorns are Still Fine

Now don’t get me wrong, unicorns are just fine. Any company that can hit $100m in revenue and a billion dollar valuation is a great bet for early investors and employees.

If the dead money in bonds and bank accounts want to get to work making huge bets, I’m all for it. Folks betting $5-$10b to get a startup to 100 million addicted paying customers are making a wise bet.

It’s a fine use of capital if those 100 million users return $5 a month in profits for years to come (see Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc), and if they inspire hundreds of millions of more users to try the product.

I get that deploying billions of dollars makes most civilians confused, and it sure terrifies the old guard and public markets at times, but anyone familiar with high-stakes poker and investing with a decade-long time horizon — like I and other startup investors — is unfazed.

So Why the Pegasus?

I don’t know exactly why we’ve seen four exceptional startups in our portfolio take this route, Dyn.com, Calm.com, Superhuman and Fitbod, but as the kids say, “I’m here for it.”

We put $378,000 into Calm.com back in April 2014 and we own around 5% of the company (after selling a small percentage of our position in “idiot insurance”). Calm had $10,000 a month in revenue when we invested and have reported revenue of $7m in 2016, $20m in 2017, $80m in 2018 and an estimate of $150m in 2019.

What people don’t know is what happened between 2014 and 2018, which is that the founders put their heads down and didn’t raise any significant capital. They just poured profits into their growth, team and product — and it worked.

Their first round with venture investors was at ~$250m valuation and the second was at $1b.

No Seed Extension, No Series A, No Series B … straight to what most would consider a Series C financing.

Dyn.com, My First Pegasus

Back in 2012 I was contacted by Kyle York of Dyn.com in New Hampshire to join their board. They were fans of the podcast and wanted marketing support from a hustler, so they pinged me (Kyle wrote a blog post about it: https://dyn.com/blog/true-board-story-the-email-that-landed-jason-calacanis/).

I did a double take when they told me they were ramping from $4m to $35m in revenue, with a massive profit margin, but had not yet raised a round of funding. I joined the board and in 2016 they sold to Oracle.

Again, the skipped multiple, dilutive rounds of funding.

The team had built a simple product, charged a fair price, were frugal as f@#$k — and poured every penny back into the product.

Since the company was in New Hampshire, it was outside of the venture-industrial complex, and it grew wings and soared to massive heights because, well, it had to.

I never thought I would ever see another company like that again, but I have.

Superhuman is a bit quiet about its fundraising and revenue performance, but since you’ve likely heard about the magic of the product and only read about its last round of financing with my pal David Ulevitch at a16z, you can be sure it took the Pegasus route.

Fitbod came to our accelerator with $3,000 a month of revenue, and we’ve invested $399,000 into it over two investments, putting us at around ~7% ownership … but they haven’t raised since!

At LAUNCH Festival Sydney, they disclosed they had hit $800k+ a month in revenue — and they haven’t raised a penny since.

My pal Brian Alvey, who coached me on the book [ https://www.angelthebook.com/] and edited this piece with me, reminded me that Kickstarter raised a $10m round back in 2009 and has never raised from VCs again — perhaps making it the first Peagsus (anyone else got examples?).

[ Oh yeah, follow Brian on the Twitter, he’s the got the best quips: http://twitter.com/brianalvey ]

How to Be a Pegasus

It’s fairly simple if you want to be a Pegasus, I can describe it in five tight bullet points:

  1. Have a modestly paid, small team that produces an extraordinary product (easy!).
  2. Charge from day one and pour those profits into growth.
  3. Focus on four things: team, product, customer feedback and growth.
  4. Triple revenue year-over-year.
  5. Ignore any ovation from an investor who doesn’t have the twitter handle @jason

It’s really that simple.

Step five is optionally mandatory, so if you are building a Pegasus I’m here to help, and by help I mean having you on the podcast, keynoting our events and cooking you a 14-hour brisket when you stay in the “Travis Kalanick Suite” at our place when you’re in town.

Just email me at jason@calacanis.com and let’s put $500,000 into your bank account and then start the process of ignoring all other investors until we hit $10m in revenue.

The Value of Being a Pegasus

This is going to be fairly obvious to anyone in the industry, but to state it explicitly for new founders and civilians, there are two major benefits:

  1. For every round of financing you skip, you save 10-20% dilution. If you skip 2-3 rounds of financing this could double your ownership at an exit.
  2. You never have to stop working on your product to do a fundraising tour.

If you’re an elite founder with an elite team, and you have the ability to focus, I highly recommend this strategy. If you come up against rabid competitors, sure, take the big money and go to war — just try and do it after you hit $5-10m in yearly revenue.

Epilogue: Beware the Dark Pegasus

It’s been reported, in a spectacular scoop by my pal Amir at the awesome The Information (not fake news), that a company called Toptal raised $1.5m on a convertible note and then never converted that note into equity because it was a Pegasus with a whisper number of $200m in revenue.

The founder, Taso Du Val, also allegedly screwed his employees and co-founder out of their equity by never converting his LLC into a C corp and creating stock.

This is a huge violation of the explicit covenant of startups: “we all lose a decade of our lives trying, or we get fabulously rich together.”

Toptal is the Dark Pegasus, the worst of all animals … a creature so evil and filled with greed that not only do they want to preserve their cap table, they want to do so by screwing everyone they can — including their own family (aka, investors, employees).

I spoke with Amir (http://y2u.be/2SyGZfObj2E) about Toptal, as well as with an employee who got screwed out of $2-$10m in my estimate (http://bit.ly/2m2bY0I) and I blew a fuse in the middle of the episode (sorry, I don’t do that often … in public).

So, welcome to the magical land of startups … filled with packs of Unicorns, which we call a “blessing,” and now a half-dozen Pegasi flying above.

Best
@jason

PS – LAUNCH SCALE, October 7-8 in SF, is free for founders; $500 if you want to come to lunch with me and the team or if you work for a bigger company, law firm, etc. It’s a killer event designed to help founders grow their startups. http://launchscale.net/tickets

PPS – We are looking for a host city for LAUNCH Festival in 2020 through 2023 (four-year deal). The event has been in Sydney for the last two years and we’ve loved it, and might stay another four years but we agreed to open up the process. It’s $500,000 a year to underwrite the entire event, which has thousands of founders attending for free. We do this at breakeven in order to help founders grow their startups. If you’re interested (Berlin? Tokyo? Spain? Brazil? Rome? Austin? Miami? Nashville?), fill out this form and let’s have coffee. [https://host.launchfestival.com] In Sydney we ended up investing in five startups over two years, so we poured $500,000 back into the ecosystem (win! win!).

Some great Podcast Episodes you might have missed:

E967: Jeff from Twilio back on pod for the 3rd time. https://youtu.be/2Q86UjKU4uI
E962: Finally got Sophia from Girlboss.com on the pod. https://youtu.be/pg0Ifx1TFAw
E963: My Greek brother from Cameo.com, which is on fire, was on. https://youtu.be/ldxf2QiVlwc
E939: Unicorn founder Melanie Perkins of Canva.
https://youtu.be/8TBSg79Gf0M
E901: SendGrid.com CEO Sameer Dholakia on the podcast after selling to Twilio. https://youtu.be/PcWs4WnWFvU

Also, I gave a talk at Mark Suster’s Upfront Summit to discuss thesyndicate.com, which has invested $40.8m in 103 deals — including our first deal: Calm.com. https://youtu.be/YQa6vD9KG9Q

Source: https://calacanis.com/2019/09/09/the-pegasus-startup-flying-over-vcs-on-the-wings-of-profits/

Private Equity

Lorax Capital Partners pulls in $142m for its sophomore fund

Lorax Capital Partners has pulled in $142m for its sophomore fund and has named Apex Group to supply administration and corporate services.

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Lorax Capital Partners has pulled in $142m for its sophomore fund and has named Apex Group to supply administration and corporate services.

The fund, LCP II, has a target size of $250m and will focus on midcap companies in Egypt that are focusing on local consumption and production as well as financial inclusion.

Lorax will also back companies that are looking to expand regionally.

The investor aims to implement high-quality governance and environmental and social practices within portfolio companies and help them increase their value creation.

There have been five LPs to commit to Lorax’s new fund, so far.

Lorax Capital Partners director of operations Adnan Razzak said, ”We appointed Apex due to their strong reputation and ability to provide the all-inclusive fund administration, accounting and investor reporting services required across multiple jurisdictions.

“We have been particularly impressed with their ability to guide us through regulatory challenges and our decision to domicile the fund in the Netherlands. Our management team has an unmatched track record in sourcing, executing and managing transactions in Egypt and Apex’s support will enable us to focus on these core competencies.”

Founded in 2015, Lorax is an Egypt-focused private equity firm and over the past five years it has deployed around $175m into five companies.

Last year, Lorax aided Helios Investment Partners and Enterprise Fund with their purchase of a 96.6 per cent stake in agricultural seeds provider Misr Hytech Seed International.

Copyright © 2020 FinTech Global

Source: https://www.altassets.net/private-equity-news/by-news-type/fund-news/lorax-capital-partners-pulls-in-142m-for-its-sophomore-fund.html

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Private Equity

Lobby group for Black women urges firms to ‘go beyond solidarity statements’

The 300-strong group calls asset managers to build an anti-racist portfolio, divesting from companies that benefit from business models that perpetuate racial inequities

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Industry group Black Women in Asset Management has published an open letter calling on institutions to promote racial equity through their portfolios — and take action if companies they invest in do not.

The letter comes as the City took a hard look at racial diversity within its ranks over the summer this year.

“As Black women professionals in the asset management industry, we call on investment firms and institutional investors in our industry to go beyond solidarity statements and instead commit to action, activism, and accountability to dismantle the racial inequities plaguing society,” the letter, released on 26 October, reads.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of three police officers in the US on 25 May and the disproportionate impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on people from Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds triggered Black Lives Matter protests around the world, including in London and elsewhere across the UK.

In response, financial services firms and their executives made statements saying the sector could do better and promised to fight for a better society, although activists have said that actions speak louder than words.

BWAM, the industry organisation that counts 300 members, was founded in May 2019 by Jacqueline Taiwo, principal at TowerBrook Capital Partners, and Mariam Akanbi, senior legal counsel at ARCH Emerging Markets Partners.

“Dismantling systemic racism creates a more sustainable and equitable society. However, investment firms have been slow to see racism as a serious investment risk,” said Taiwo in a statement, explaining why the group decided to pen the letter.

The open letter makes five recommendations for investment firms and institutional investors. These include calling on firms to build an anti-racist portfolio, which would entail setting metrics to examine a company’s demonstrable commitment to racial diversity.

Following the research, the group subsequently urged asset managers to divest from companies that benefit from business models that perpetuate racial inequities or target vulnerable communities, citing examples like prison labour and immigration detention.

BWAM also highlights the necessity for communication of expectations to portfolio boards on considering racial implications on strategic decisions, pointing out that this is already the case on issues such as climate change.

Other recommendations include committing resources to encourage young Black women to work in finance as well as advocating for policy change both externally and internally.

“I believe BWAM’s recommendations provide a meaningful framework to bring about long overdue change in our industry,” said Adebanke Adeyemo, general counsel of Vantage Infrastructure and a member of BWAM’s impact committee, said in a statement.

“I am publicly endorsing this letter because I know that many of my peers may not feel empowered to do so. I have been there in my career and I understand it.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/lobby-group-for-black-women-urges-firms-to-go-beyond-solidarity-statements-20201026

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Private Equity

Dunkin’ reportedly in talks with PE-backed group to go private

The deal worth $8.8bn with Inspire Brands, owned by private equity firm Roark Capital, would delist the coffee and doughnuts chain

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Owner of Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings could buy company in deal worth $8.8bn

Dunkin’ Brands Group is reportedly in talks to go private in a sale to private equity-backed Inspire Brands.

The New York Times reported Sunday, 25 October, that Dunkin’, the parent company of the former Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins ice cream, could sell itself for $106.50 a share, a 20% premium over Friday’s closing price, for an implied market value of about $8.8bn. The Times said a deal could be announced as soon as today, 26 October.

Inspire Brands, which is backed by Roark Capital, owns a number of restaurant chains, including Arby’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sonic and Jimmy John’s.

In a statement to the Times, Dunkin’ confirmed that there have been preliminary talks over an acquisition, but a deal is not certain and neither side will comment further unless the transaction is finalized.

Dunkin’ Brands has more than 13,000 franchised Dunkin’ locations and about 8,000 Baskin-Robbins locations.

Write to Mike Murphy at AskNewswires@dowjones.com

From Dow Jones Newswires

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/dunkin-reportedly-in-talks-with-pe-backed-group-to-go-private-20201026

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