Shopping . . .
refers to the practice of presenting a company’s
business plan to several investors simultaneously (a.k.a.
"shopping the deal"). Many people advise companies against
presenting their business proposals to several potential investors at
the same time. It is bad form, they say, and makes venture capitalists
think the companies are not serious about working with them.
The fact is, however, that few entrepreneurs have the
time to let only one venture capitalist look at their investment
proposal. Most venture capitalists take six to eight weeks to conduct
their investigations and make investment decisions. At that rate, one
or two rejections can cripple a promising company if it pursues only
one investor at a time.
The better practice is to present the company’s
proposal to several carefully selected venture capitalists
simultaneously, explaining to each that the company is doing this
because it recognizes that venture capital firms often prefer to
invest with other firms and that time pressures require the company to
speak with a few select firms at the same time. Often, if an
entrepreneur asks, investors will suggest other investors to whom the
company can present its business plan.
Another good practice is to send an inquiry letter to
a larger number of venture investors. This letter should identify the
company, its business, the amount of money needed, and the way in
which the money will be used. After providing this information, the
letter can offer to send business plans to interested investors. Used
in a mailing to venture firms that have invested in the company’s
industry and stage of investment before, this process can help
management identify those investors who are currently funding
companies like theirs. This, in turn, allows management to concentrate
its efforts on investors who are interested and more likely to fund.
The following is the body of an inquiry letter that
was sent to a number of investors around the country. The investors
were selected based on their histories of funding companies in the
company’s industry. The letter generated significant interest and
led to serious funding negotiations.
We are seeking first-stage investment capital for
our business. Minimum investment requirements are $500,000 with a
comprehensive package totaling $2.5 to 3 million. We have been in
business for one year and can demonstrate rapid growth, achievement,
and potential. All of our operating subsidiaries are involved with
musical merchandise and high-tech electronic application to this
We are interested in taking our company public.
Our management team is very experienced and already in place. I have
enclosed an issue of Musical Merchandise Review (the trade
publication) that features our company. This will provide you with
some background information. We have made a significant impact on
our industry with our merchandising ability as well as our rapid
Please contact me personally if you are interested
in learning more about our firm.
Entrepreneurs should be flexible in their search for
funding and speak with lenders, individuals, family, friends,
relatives, and other sources in addition to venture firms. A common
mistake many entrepreneurs make when raising capital is limiting their
searches to one type of investor. Many believe (mistakenly) that if
they need capital, they must always get it from a venture capital
Another common mistake is to assume that one investor
will provide all of the debt and equity financing the company needs.
In fact, many venture capital investments involve more than one
investor. Many involve a separate lender who receives no equity for
To improve the odds of being funded, management can
separate its funding needs into debt and equity requirements and
approach lenders and equity investors at the same time, asking each to
commit to fund a portion of the company’s total financing needs.
Getting a commitment for part of a funding is often easier than
getting one for all of it. This is particularly true when each
investor’s commitment is contingent upon the company securing the
rest of the financing because each investor knows that his money will
not be committed until another investors agrees enough with his
positive assessment of the company to invest his money as well. Once
a company gets its first commitment using this approach, other
investors become easier to find and more inclined to join in. See:
Books, Venture Capitalists.