Financing for User acquisition and General Ad Spend
Acquiring users through digital advertising channels has become an essential growth strategy for the modern startup, especially for the B2C side of the market. However, with the ubiquity of these digital channels comes massive competition over eyeballs, and with that, ever-rising costs. High profile VC Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital aptly captures the mind boggling capital allocation and shaky unit economics of the digital ad spend craze in the firm’s 2018 annual letter: “When the VC industry invests capital into fast-growing startups today, the plurality, if not the majority, of invested capital will go into user acquisition and ad spending, for better or worse (usually worse). Startups spend almost 40 cents of every VC dollar on Google, Facebook, and Amazon.”
The absurdity of this data point—40 cents of each dollar of expensive venture funding spent on top digital channels—is hard to comprehend, yet if each $1 of ad spend generates $1.50 in sales, perhaps it’s justified. An ideal workaround to the “Facebook Ads piggybank in exchange for 25% of your company” conundrum would be to create a funding mechanism that eschews equity. Alternative financing providers have jumped into the digital ad spend party to do just that, and working capital hungry startups have heeded their call en masse. Clearbanc is a notable capital provider that offers “an alternative to selling valuable equity and control to VCs by offering capital based on new data sources traditional banks aren’t looking at.” After a review of sales metrics provided directly from Facebook Ads and Stripe dashboards, Clearbanc will make a lump sum cash offer to startups to be used on ad spend. Funds are then recouped via a fractional revenue share agreement until the loan is paid back, plus a discretionary fee. Clearbanc has funded over $100 million to 500 different companies in 2018. More importantly, this model allows working capital to be rapidly reinvested into a growth strategy that has been pre-vetted via real time sales data, theoretically de-risking the bet.
Until the digital ad spend feeding frenzy subsides, one has to imagine structuring non-dilutive financing for marketing budget-heavy startups will be an extremely popular option.
This Ex-NBA All Star May Just Have The No.1 Wine In The World
Former NBA All Star Yao Ming had his career cut short by injuries. But he’s rebounded, big time, with big scores off the court.
(LOL at these sports cliches…)
Ming founded Yao Family Wines in California’s Napa Valley in 2011. Which is not a major deal; lots of celebrities make mediocre wines that eventually drop off.
Anyway, back in 2015, Ming raised $2M on crowdfunding platform Crowdfunder to scale his own wine. Here’s how it looked back then, according to the Wall Street Journal:
With Beijing’s anti-corruption campaign sapping demand for expensive wines, Yao Family Wines, the biggest seller of high-end Californian wine in China by value, is shifting its focus from Chinese banquet tables to U.S. steak houses. Now 15% of the winery’s revenues come from the US, compared to almost zero at the beginning in late 2011. The company said it has managed to grow its sales in a tough environment, without giving more details.
And now, Ming’s wine—legitimately—is now one of the best in the world, with an approval rating of 95+ from the world’s single most influential wine critic, Robert Parker of The Wine Advocate.
Here’s what he wrote:
“I am aware of all the arguments that major celebrities lending their names to wines is generally a formula for mediocrity, but that is not the case with Yao Ming. These are high-class wines. The two Cabernets are actually brilliant, and the Reserve bottling ranks alongside just about anything made in Napa.”
Yao Ming making legitimate bid to become best athlete winemaker. This wine, which came out last month, got a 95+ from famed wine critic Robert Parker. Bottle costs $250. Sold in US & China. pic.twitter.com/yqDQSO9bxz
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) December 5, 2018
Another influential voice of wine the Wine Enthusiast went even further, awarding his wines 97 and 95 points respectively.
Check out his winery here.
Uber Goes Public And Immediately Loses Over $6B In Value
UBER just went public in the most anticipated IPO since Facebook went to Wall Street.
The ride-sharing company officially hit the New York Stock Exchange Friday, pricing its IPO at $45 a share, which put the ride-hailing company at $81B at 180M shares available—far below their initial $120B projection in their filings.
Uber ended the day at $41.60—down nearly 8% from its listing price, leading to a $6B+ valuation loss.
For perspective: Uber’s last private valuation was about $76B. It’s now worth $75.5B.
Uber’s not the only one crashing out the gate. Even though Lyft beat Uber to the IPO punch, since going public in March, Lyft has lost 29% of its value.
Uber’s been plagued by a number of issues, compounded by the fact that none of the tech unicorns are profitable yet. Uber, for instance, burned through $1B in Q1 alone.
“They waited too long to go public,” Former NYSE President Tom Farley said. “Some of the issues they had — I’ll call it culture — some of the issues they had with their culture would’ve been solved in a public market. You wouldn’t show up on a quarterly conference call every quarter and have three or four new stories like they were having for 18 straight months.”
Did Uber IPO too late?
Although early investors made out like straight BANDITS—just look at Lance Armstrong—investors in the later stage haven’t been as lucky.
“I mean, you look at all the money invested in Uber — 25 billion bucks,” Farley said. “Their pre-money valuation last night was [$]73 [billion]. This is a 2.8x investment.
“That’s great and all, but the initial investors got 10,000 times their money. So the recent people, they haven’t been making money. This is a company that has needed public discipline, this is a company that has needed a public currency, and it’s a company that should have gone public three or four years ago.”
Morgan Stanley Just Released Its List Of Top 10 Companies They’re Investing In
Morgan Stanley just announced the second cohort of its Multicultural Innovation Lab, an accelerator program for technology and technology-enabled start-ups in the post-seed to Series B funding rounds.
The program—now in its second year—targets companies with a multicultural or woman founder, co-founder, or any Chief (insert) Officer in charge of what it calls “innovative solutions across sectors.”
According to various studies, female founders, founders of color—and both—receive as little or less than 1% of venture capital funding—a gap Morgan Stanley says it wants to bridge.
“There is a compelling business case for investing in startups led by women and multicultural founders, yet, as found in our recent report, there is a large market inefficiency to accelerate businesses led by these founders,” Managing Director Alice Vilma says. “We are working to directly address this funding gap, one cohort at a time.”
With less than 3% admitted into the program, each startup will take a seat on its on floor inside Morgan Stanley’s global headquarters in Times Square, New York.
In addition, the companies funded receive pretty precious billboard space all over Times Square. It’s real fancy.
Here are the 10 companies that were selected: