Prajeeth Balasubramaniam, founder, general partner and managing director of Blue Ocean Ventures tells us what Sri Lankan startups need to know when looking for advice and raising capital.
Q: What is Blue Ocean Ventures all about?
We created Blue Ocean Ventures a BOI approved VC to provide mentorship and seed funding to entrepreneurs who want to launch and accelerate their businesses and build market leading local and global businesses from Sri Lanka. BOV along with other co-founders created the The Lankan Angel Network. LAN is a network of highly motivated and dedicated Sri Lankan investors who have committed to fund and mentor high growth early stage Sri Lankan ventures. LAN not only provides mentorship and funding but also, streamlined deal flow and structured guidance for the investors until exit. LAN is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs. Today we have over 50 members who meet once a month to assist young entrepreneurs. A project by Blue Ocean Ventures and the Indian Angel Network, Venture Engine the first of its kind in Sri Lanka is aimed at creating a platform for Sri Lankan Entrepreneurs to accelerate their business to the next level via access to potential investors and development of stronger business plans.
Q: What does a new business need to do to appeal to you as an investor?
The entrepreneurs must have the following:
- A business plan
- Market research
- An equity report
- A projected growth rate
- Presentation statements
We will be looking for the following in all startups
- Uniqueness of product or service offered
- Marketability of product or services offered
- Good financial forecast
We will also evaluate the entrepreneurs
- Willingness to take risks
- Marketing, negotiating, selling skills (communication)
- Financial know-how
- Self motivation
- Positive attitude
The business plan should have the following:
Overview: Where you provide information such as Entrepreneur’s Name, Venture’s Name, Industry, Business summary, Venture stage (Concept only / Product in development /Prototype ready / Full product ready / Current Revenue line) and Investment required.
Introduction: Take the reader through a description of the larger space you are operating in, highlighting the gaps and opportunities, the market leaders, the size & scalability etc. and then, in brief, introduce your proposition. The reader must be able to appreciate your knowledge of your space and where your proposition sits within the larger context of that space.
Value Proposition: Present your business model and its USPs (including any IP and other entry barriers you may be creating), the specific market & geography segments you will be addressing, etc. Highlight any validation you may have done that supports your proposition.
The reader must be able to clearly relate your proposition and business model to the opportunity. Sales strategy, your technical/ product/ delivery model: Present your infrastructure, your key partnerships, customers, etc. Also, introduce your key team members, emphasizing their academic and working experience that is relevant to your business. The reader must be able to assess, and get comfortable with, your ability to implement your plans.
Competitive Analysis: Explain the direct/ indirect competitors (National and international) and contrast the offerings. Run the investors through venture’s differentiators. Risks and Mitigation Strategies: Explain the risks with your business plan and qualify the same, if you can.
Financials in USD: In a table summarise your past years’ revenues and profits and project the same for the next three years. Also, state the funding you have received to date (whether VC, family, etc) and what funding your’re now seeking and by when. If you have a forward projection of your funding requirements, state the same. If known, state your valuation expectations for the immediate funding round as, also, any expectations you may have from your VC / Investors.
The Entrepreneur(s): Provide some information about yourself and your team (if you already have one in place). Therein a select number of submissions that meet certain criteria will be shortlisted by an expert team of investors. These chosen few will be granted the once in a lifetime prospect to fine tune their business plan through a series of one-on-one mentoring sessions and workshops, both with successful local and international businessman and venture capitalists. Culminating with a final presentation to a panel, the top three business plan will be selected and awarded prizes at the Finale. The viable busines’s will get funded. Benefits to Participants:
- Access to Mentoring by leading entrepreneurs & venture capitalists (VCs).
- Opportunity to pitch Business Concept to leading investors and VC’s.
- Opportunity to tie up with investors and VC’s outside the scope of the event – Media Exposure for all selected participants.
- Start Up gifts for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place plans.
Q: Do you look for ideas, products or new technology?
Unique ideas ( product/service) or companies looking to expand in the sunshine industries.
Q: What should one pitch in 2 minutes?
In two minutes, unique selling proposition (USP) and the market. If investors are interested, they will spend more time getting to know you.
Q: Should one protect business ideas and intellectual property when seeking investment?
Many have the same idea, its all about how quick one is to execute. With us execution becomes faster.
Q: What do you think of the things the government has looked at doing to help technology startups, such as Enterprise Zones, for example?
I am not aware, but would like to see the government help the start-ups for the first year by subsidizing in some way. Creating IT zones are good but that doesn’t mean it would encourage creation of stratus, it provides a better working environment. One of the way a government could help is certainly make sure that the taxes, and liberalizations are in such an environment that would be simple and easy to begin.
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