Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This is next

Well, it's official - according to Guy Kawasaki, I only add $250K to a start-up's value now that I have received my MBA (I'm assuming I still get to keep my engineer value).  After 3 years, I graduated from the Langone Program at Stern!

In addition, as of yesterday, I started as an intern screening new deals for an early stage tech investor (I still don't know the blogging policy, so I'll defer names until I know it's okay).  This transition from the operating side to the investing side has obviously been a goal for quite some time, so hopefully this is just the first step in my next career.  With this transition, I am going to try and abstract the lessons I am learning about investing in new companies. 

The first of these lessons is that the best way to learn how to write any kind of document is to read a lot of them.  In school, I saw my own case writing improve dramatically after I read dozens of case assignments as a TA.  As an entrepreneur, I know that when I wrote my plan, every word was precious, and every statistic in the plan was captivating.  However, after reading dozens of plans, I know that there are paragraphs or even sections that cause most readers' eyes to glaze over.  Most of these relate the painstaking process that was used to derive a market size or valuation.

A good approach is to find others with business plans in related, but not identical fields, and read as many of them as you can.  Whenever you find yourself skimming or even skipping over a section in their plan, highlight it.  Then, go back and find the corresponding sections in your own plan.  Most probably, you'll find one sentence that you really want to convey out of the section.  Keep that one sentence.  If you must keep the rest, reference an appendix, where you move the rest of the statistics, methodology, assumptions, etc.

This has two benefits - 1)  It lets readers focus on your results, and only dig into the methodology if the results interest them and 2) As you find out more, and have to tweak the numbers, it makes it easier to find them all and keep your plan consistent.