Everyone has their own set of biases and requirements when it comes to evaluating business opportunities. I have mine and often state them publically when meeting with companies I am considering a future interaction. My criteria for engagement are the same whether my participation is as an investor, Director, advisor, or operating member. I believe that everyone uses the same criteria. People may state them or weight them differently, but all diligence and evaluative processes examine the company relative to these 3 key characteristics; 1) exciting technology, 2) great people, and 3) potential for future payoff. All of my evaluative processes follow these 3 characteristics in this exact order.
Future employees, investors, or potential business partners may describe my factors in different terms. They all will have some means of evaluating you and your company relative to them. The better you can relate your business to the traits, the better the odds they may decide to interact with your company.
I have reached a stage of loving technology and finding excitement in new and novel inventions. It is exciting to review a technology and learn a new field. The technology must be original and novel and never copycat or me too. I must see plans toward monetizing the technology and converting products into a sustainable business. I also love to see products that improve people’s lives in some unique way. With this bias, my common statement is my first priority is “I have to LOVE the technology.”
I often joke that my resume states I will not work with NASTY personalities. Actually, I say that in a more vulgar manner, but you get the message. Working with people on a day-to-day basis and having close contact with frequent idea exchanges or instructions can be stressful. Working with individuals that will not listen or behave like jerks reduces the enjoyment factor of working with a great technology. Why waste my time working with people that are incompetent, opinionated, obnoxious, and/or will not listen? My stated objective is very clear with every company; “This Company must be successful and I will do everything I can to help.”
This brings me to the final factor that is the last on my list, but it may be first on many others’ lists. I expect to see a payday some place down the road. I do not mean a paycheck, but a real big payday. Working with early stage companies usually means working for some period at RISK; this means not getting a paycheck. The reward must be worth the effort and include compensating me for the risk component plus the lost income component. I expect to have an ultimate reward being a large appreciation in my equity coupled with a liquidity event that takes place in my lifetime! After all, “I am not in this business for religious reasons.”