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What do Investors Look for in a Business Plan?: A Comparison of the Investment Criteria of Bankers, Venture Capitalists and Business Angels


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Most potential funders wish to see a business plan as a first step in deciding whether or not to invest. However, much of the literature on how to write a business plan fails to emphasize that different types of funder look at business plans from different perspectives. Using a real time methodology this article highlights the different investment criteria of bankers, venture capital fund managers and business angels. Bankers stress the financial aspects of the proposal and give little emphasis to market, entrepreneur or other issues. As equity investors, venture capital fund managers and business angels have a very different approach, emphasizing both market and finance issues. Business angels give more emphasis than venture capital fund managers to the entrepreneur and ‘investor fit’ considerations. The implication for entrepreneurs is that they must customize their business plan according to whether they are seeking funding from a bank, venture capital fund or business angel.
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International Small Business Journal
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0266242604042377
2004 22: 227International Small Business Journal
Colin Mason and Matthew Stark
Criteria of Bankers, Venture Capitalists and Business Angels
What do Investors Look for in a Business Plan? : A Comparison of the Investment
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What do Investors Look for in a
Business Plan?
A Comparison of the Investment Criteria of
Bankers, Venture Capitalists and Business Angels
University of Strathclyde, UK
Tenon Limited, UK
Most potential funders wish to see a business plan as a first step in deciding
whether or not to invest. However, much of the literature on how to write
a business plan fails to emphasize that different types of funder look at
business plans from different perspectives. Using a real time methodology
this article highlights the different investment criteria of bankers, venture
capital fund managers and business angels. Bankers stress the financial
aspects of the proposal and give little emphasis to market, entrepreneur or
other issues. As equity investors, venture capital fund managers and business
angels have a very different approach, emphasizing both market and finance
issues. Business angels give more emphasis than venture capital fund
managers to the entrepreneur and ‘investor fit’ considerations. The
implication for entrepreneurs is that they must customize their business plan
according to whether they are seeking funding from a bank, venture capital
fund or business angel.
KEYWORDS: banks; business angels; business plans; small business; venture
As Barrow et al. (2001: 6) note, ‘perhaps the most important step in launching
any new venture or expanding an existing one is the construction of a business
plan.’ Although a business plan has several purposes and target audiences, most
are produced in order to raise finance. Kuratko and Hodgetts (2001: 289) suggest
that ‘the business plan is the minimum document required by any financial
source.’ For example, more than three-quarters of business angels require a
business plan before they will consider investing (Mason and Harrison, 1996a).
International Small Business Journal
Copyright © 2004
SAGE Publications (London,
Thousand Oaks and New Delhi)
[DOI: 10.1177/0266242604042377]
Vol 22(3): 227–248
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The business plan is therefore the first – and possibly only – substantial contact
that a potential funder has with the entrepreneur (Shepherd and Douglas, 1999).
So, as Barrow et al. (2001: 11) note, ‘the business plan is the ticket of admission
giving the entrepreneur his [sic] first and often only chance to impress prospec-
tive sources of finance with the quality of the proposal.’ The decision by the
prospective funder whether to proceed beyond the initial reading of the business
plan to consider the proposal in more detail will therefore depend on the quality
of the business plan used to support the funding proposal.
Entrepreneurs have recourse to a large literature that describes the format and
structure of a business plan. However, much of this literature can be criticized
for either failing to draw the attention of readers to the different ways in which
bankers and venture capitalists interrogate business plans, the different questions
that they ask and the different types of information that they look for, or else for
not drawing out the implications of these differences for their readership.
The fundamental criticism of much of the literature on ‘how to’ write a
business plan is that it adopts a ‘one size fits all’ approach. For example, having
noted that the audience for a business plan might include suppliers, distributors,
major customers, the board of directors, outside consultants, banks and investors,
Tiffany and Peterson (1997: 12) go on to say that ‘. . . a well-written plan satisfies
all these groups ...’ (emphasis added). Even The Sunday Times Business Plan
Workbook (Barrow et al., 2001), one of the most successful UK books on how
to write a business plan, barely acknowledges that bankers and venture capitalists
have different perspectives on the business plan.
Some of this ‘how to’ literature is written from the perspective of one type of
audience – usually an equity investor (e.g. Looser and Schläpfer, 2001; Shepherd
and Douglas, 1999; Timmons, 1999). The criticism of this literature is that it
generally does not acknowledge that other types of funder (such as bankers) may
have different expectations concerning the style and content of business plans.
Only a small minority of authors explicitly recognize that different audiences
look at the business plan from different perspectives (e.g. Allen, 1999; Burns,
2001; Kuratko and Hodgetts, 2001; Smith and Smith, 2000; Vesper, 1996). For
example, Vesper (1996: 241) observes that ‘to some degree all . . . audiences will
care about central issues such as viability, potential profit, downside risk, likely
life cycle time and potential areas for dispute and for improvement. Beyond that,
however, different audiences will care about different details.’ Specifically, these
authors emphasize that bankers and equity investors (venture capitalists and
business angels) ‘have very different requirements’ (Kirby, 2002: 236). The criti-
cism of these works is that they mostly fail to draw out the implications of these
differences for the entrepreneur, and have nothing to say about how entrepre-
neurs should differentiate their business plan to suit the different needs and
requirements of bankers and equity investors.
Using a ‘real time’ methodology, the objective of this article is to highlight the
different ways in which bankers, venture capital fund managers (VCFMs) and
business angels (BAs) evaluate business plans, the questions that they ask, the
information which they take into account in making a funding decision and their
investment criteria. The findings provide entrepreneurs with much clearer
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guidance on how to customize their business plan according to the type of funder
that they propose to approach.
Literature Review
The Banker’s Lending Decision
Bankers face a situation of information asymmetry when assessing lending appli-
cations (Binks and Ennew, 1996, 1997). New businesses are the most informa-
tionally opaque on account of their lack of track record (Berger and Udell, 1998).
The information required to assess the competence and commitment of the
entrepreneur and the prospects for the business is either unavailable, uneco-
nomic to obtain or difficult to interpret. This creates two types of risk for the
banker (Parker, 2002). First, there is a risk of adverse selection – lending to busi-
nesses which subsequently fail (type one error) – or not lending to businesses
which go on to become successful, or have the potential to do so (type two error).
The low margins on small business lending encourage bankers to strive to
minimize type one errors.
Second, there is the risk of moral hazard. This arises
from the inability of banks to monitor entrepreneurs once a loan has been made
to ensure that they do not switch to riskier projects that would enrich them at the
expense of the bank, or reduce their effort. The consequence is that bankers
default to a capital gearing approach to lending (Binks and Ennew, 1996) in
which their lending decisions will emphasize financial considerations – margins,
cash flow forecasts, gearing ratios, asset management ratios and financial controls
(Burns, 2001) – and, in particular, the availability of collateral, rather than a full
evaluation of the proposed project. Storey (1994: 149) notes that ‘overall, bank
lending is only weakly related to the personal characteristics of new firm
founders.’ Avery et al. (1998: 1058) note that in the USA ‘loans with personal
commitments comprise a majority of small business loans measured in numbers
or dollar amounts.’ Taking collateral as security – which in the case of new busi-
nesses will be in the form of personal guarantees or personal collateral – is
attractive to bankers for two reasons. First, the willingness to offer collateral
signals the confidence of an entrepreneur in both his/her own abilities and also
in the likely success of the project. Second, taking collateral is thought to align
the interests of the entrepreneur with that of the banker. It therefore addresses
both the adverse selection problem at loan origination and the moral hazard
problem after the loan has been granted (Berger and Udell, 1998).
The capital gearing approach of bankers to lending decisions is highlighted in
a detailed study of banks and small businesses in Canada. Wynant and Hatch
(1991: 132) concluded from interviews with bank managers that ‘the primary
focus in a bank’s decision of a loan request is the degree of risk that the loan
represents for the bank . . . Two considerations are key in evaluating a firm’s risk-
iness: the company’s ability to generate sufficient cash flow to service the bank
loan and the presence of collateral security to ensure that the bank can recover
its funds from the liquidation of the business and/or personal assets if the business
fails.’ They go on to report that ‘most bankers claim that adequate collateral
backing is a necessary condition for any loan: once the account manager is
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satisfied that reasonable collateral is available, the evaluation of risks [then]
focuses on the company’s cash flow’ (Wynant and Hatch, 1991: 132–3). The
importance of collateral is further emphasized by Wynant and Hatch (1991) in
their analysis of credit files (the top item, present in 97.7% of files examined) and
reasons for formal and informal loan declines, with half of the loan applications
rejected because collateral is insufficient or unsuitable. Indeed, the reasons given
for rejecting loans were overwhelmingly finance-related. In only 18 per cent of
cases was inadequate management cited as the reason.
The capital gearing approach of bankers to lending decisions is further demon-
strated by Deakins and Hussain (1994) in a study in the West Midlands region of
England that involved obtaining the reaction of 30 bankers to a proposal from a
start-up business that was seeking funding. The assessment of the bankers was
dominated by financial considerations whereas management capability was
largely discounted. Moreover, those bankers who said that they would offer a
loan would only do so if collateral was available. A replication of this study in
Scotland by Fletcher (1995) using the same proposal confirmed the dominance
of financial information and criteria in bankers’ lending decisions.
This leads to the following hypothesis:
H1: bankers’ funding decisions will be dominated by financial considerations
and they will give little consideration to entrepreneurial capabilities or the
characteristics of the opportunity.
The Venture Capital Fund Manager’s Investment Decision
VCFMs and BAs also encounter information asymmetry problems when evalu-
ating investment opportunities. However, as equity providers, they might be
expected to adopt very different approaches to their funding decision. VCFMs
and BAs are investing for capital gain and, in contrast to the banker, they share
in the success of the businesses that they invest in. Unlike the banker, their invest-
ment is also fully exposed in the event that the business fails. A further risk is
that their investment will be illiquid if the business does not achieve significant
growth. Accordingly, VCFMs and BAs might be expected to place greatest
emphasis on the capability of the management team, the product/service and the
The most consistent finding from studies of VCFM decision-making is the
importance that is placed on the ability of management. This includes manage-
ment skill, quality of management, characteristics of the management team and
the management team’s track record. Other criteria which VCFMs report that
they take into account when assessing a new venture proposal are the character-
istics of the market/industry, environmental threats to the business, the level of
competition and the degree of product differentiation (Shepherd and Zacharakis,
1999). For example, MacMillan et al. (1985) conclude that the quality of the
entrepreneur ultimately determines the investment decision, notably a thorough
familiarity with the industry/market, leadership capability and the ability to
evaluate and handle risks. Muzyka et al. (1996) also conclude that management
team considerations dominate the investment decision. However, other studies –
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while confirming the importance of the entrepreneurial team – suggest that other
factors are also significant in the VCFM’s investment decision, notably product
characteristics (proprietary features, competitive advantage, potential to achieve
strong market position), market characteristics (significant growth, limited
competition) and returns (potential for high returns, clear exit opportunity)
(Fried and Hisrich, 1994; Manigart et al., 1997; Sweeting, 1991). Indeed, while
not underrating the crucial importance of having a competent management team
in place, Sweeting (1991: 619) nevertheless suggests that VCFMs may be
prepared to invest in situations where weaknesses in management were recog-
nized but the business concept was otherwise sound: ‘this was associated with
venture capitalists who tended to be proactive in their style and had a belief that
they could attract good managers to the businesses in which they chose to invest.
There is also agreement in the literature that the financial aspects of the proposal
are generally of limited importance at the initial screening stage, but assume
importance at the second stage in the decision-making process (Fried and
Hisrich, 1994; Manigart et al., 1997).
This leads to the following hypothesis:
H2: VCFMs will also be concerned with financial issues but in addition will
give considerable emphasis to the entrepreneurial team and market
The Business Angel’s Investment Decision
BAs might be expected to adopt an approach to investment decision-making that
is similar, although not identical, to that of VCFMs. There are several aspects
where differences might be expected to arise. First, Fiet (1995a,b) suggests that
VCFMs will be more concerned with market risk – risk that is due to unforeseen
competitive conditions affecting the size, growth and accessibility to the market
– whereas BAs will be more concerned with agency risk – risk that is caused by
the separate and possibly divergent interests of entrepreneurs (agents) and
investors (principals). These differences are related to the types of risk that BAs
and VCFMs believe they are most competent to control. Venture capital fund
managers have learned how to protect themselves from agency risk by using
stringent boilerplate contractual provisions that allow them to replace an entre-
preneur who underperforms, is guilty of misconduct or is found to be incom-
petent. However, market risk is less controllable through ex post contracting.
Business angels, in contrast, attach more importance to agency risk. There are
four reasons for this:
Most angels have limited deal flow and therefore lack comparative data to
evaluate market risk.
Angels do not have the same level of resources as venture capital funds to
both collect and analyse (costly) market-related information (Fiet, 1995b).
Van Osnabrugge (2000) confirms that venture capital fund managers
conduct significantly more due diligence than business angels.
The contracts between angels and entrepreneurs tend to be simple and
informal, making it harder for them to enforce sanctions.
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Many business angels have prior industry experience themselves and there-
fore feel quite capable of assessing the market risks and so view the entre-
preneur as the most potentially damaging contingency (Fiet, 1995a).
The implication, according to Van Osnabrugge (2000), is that VCFMs will seek
to reduce their risks at the pre-investment stage by means of careful screening,
due diligence and contracting. BAs, in contrast, will place greater emphasis on
ex post investment involvement as a means of reducing risk. In terms of invest-
ment decision-making, Fiet (1995b: 557) suggests that ‘ . . . business angels may
rely on the entrepreneur to evaluate market risk for them . . . [This] would allow
a business angel to specialise in evaluating whether or not the entrepreneur
understands the deal and whether or not the entrepreneur can be relied upon as
a venture manager, even if they as investors do not have enough market infor-
mation to understand it completely. That is, business angels can specialise in
evaluating agency risk while relying upon the entrepreneur to manage market
The limited empirical evidence available on how BAs make their investment
decisions provides mixed support for this argument. Based on evidence from
focus groups with BAs, Haines et al. (2003: 30) conclude that the people in the
project is the most critical factor in a BAs decision to invest: ‘many investors said
that they would be spending considerable time with these people so it is import-
ant that the people be the right ones for the job and be individuals with whom
the investors would like to spend some time.’ Thus, they look for people who are
honest, exhibit a strong work ethic, understand what it takes to make the business
succeed, have invested in their business, and have a realistic notion of how to
value the business. In contrast, their earlier study (Feeney et al., 1999) found that
BAs consider both the attributes of the business and the attributes of the entre-
preneurs when deciding to invest in a proposal. They note that investors’ percep-
tions of poor management is the primary deal killer. However, management
ability, although important, is not the primary factor that attracts investors to a
deal. Rather, investors place greatest emphasis on the growth potential of the
opportunity and the entrepreneur(s)’ capability to realize that potential. Mason
and Rogers (1996, 1997) have also found that BAs give greater emphasis to
market considerations than to the entrepreneur at the initial screening stage.
Mason and Harrison’s (1996b) exploration of deals that were rejected by an
investment syndicate found that market-related issues were the most significant-
deal killer, followed by entrepreneur-related considerations in second place.
A second difference is that although VCFMs and BAs both emphasize the
importance of the entrepreneur/entrepreneurial team, they stress different
aspects (Van Osnabrugge and Robinson, 2000). In particular, because BAs are
looking to take a more hands-on role in their investee businesses than are
VCFMs, they place greater importance on the ‘chemistry’ between themselves
and the entrepreneur. This also means that BAs are less deterred by gaps in the
management team because they can contribute missing expertise through their
own involvement. Indeed, as noted above, the opportunity for involvement in the
entrepreneurial process is one of the motivations of BAs. VCFMs, in contrast,
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regard the need for hands-on involvement as a cost. Thus, the opportunity to
contribute is an important consideration for BAs, both because it is part of the
‘return’ that they look for, and also because they think that their involvement can
contribute to the success of their investee businesses. Indeed, in the Haines et al.
(2003) study the non-financial value that a BA can bring to a project is the third
most important factor in the decision to invest (after the people and market
potential for the product/service).
A third difference between VCFMs and BAs is that VCFMs will be expected
to give greater emphasis to financial returns. VCFMs are returns-driven. Their
primary objective is to deliver high returns to the outside investors (limited
partners) whose funds they manage. BAs, on the other hand, are investing their
own money, and although capital gain is their dominant motivation, other
considerations include satisfaction and enjoyment from playing a role in the
entrepreneurial process, ‘hot buttons’ and, in some cases, altruism (Mason and
Harrison, 1994, 2002; Van Osnabrugge and Robinson, 2000; Wetzel, 1981). These
differences in the investment motivations of VCFMs and BAs will also be
reflected in the emphasis that they give to growth potential, with VCFMs placing
greater emphasis on investing in businesses with the potential to become signifi-
cant global players.
A fourth difference is that there is some evidence to suggest that VCFMs will
place more emphasis on the financials and specifically are more likely to make
returns calculations (Dixon, 1991; Wright and Robbie, 1996). BAs are less likely
to perform such calculations and place less weight on financial projections, giving
greater emphasis to subjective factors and gut instinct (Van Osnabrugge and
Robinson, 2000). Indeed, some business angels are fairly cynical about the value
of financial projections, especially for new and recently started businesses
(Mason and Rogers, 1997).
Finally, Van Osnabrugge and Robinson (2000) suggest that VCFMs will have
a narrower investment focus than BAs. Certainly many venture capital funds
specialize in particular industry sectors. This is a means of coping with infor-
mation asymmetries. Specialist industry knowledge allows VCFMs to be better
able to evaluate the viability of investment proposals and thereby reduce their
risk. Hall and Hofer (1993) note that an important reason why VCFMs reject
proposals at the initial screening stage is because they do not fit the fund’s invest-
ment preferences. This contrasts with BAs who, according to Van Osnabrugge
and Robinson (2000: 149), are quite open-minded about the industry sector:
‘their main requirement appears to be that they understand the generic business,
rather than the sector. This understanding allows them to assess how they might
add their own general business knowledge and experience to the firm.’ However,
there is also some evidence to the contrary. From a VCFM perspective, Muzyka
et al. (1996) suggest that deals which offer a good management team and reason-
able financial and product-market characteristics will override fund investment
requirements. And from a business angel perspective, both Mason and Rogers
(1997) and Mason and Harrison (2002) suggest that most investors do have
clearly defined investment criteria which influence the type of businesses that
they will consider investing in, although these criteria may be relaxed in certain
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circumstances, notably where the entrepreneur/management team has high
credibility. These criteria include stage of business development, industry, tech-
nology and location. Mason and Rogers (1996, 1997) argue that these investment
criteria are generally related to what BAs understand as a result of their business
experience. Although there are exceptions, the approach of the majority of
business angels to minimizing risk is to have a limited investment focus in order
to leverage their experience and knowledge both to evaluate opportunities and
to add value to those opportunities that they invest in.
This discussion suggests that bankers, VCFMs and BAs will analyse funding
proposals in different ways. Specifically we propose the following hypotheses:
H3a: The approach of BAs will be closer to that of VCFMs than to bankers
because they are both investing for capital gain.
H3b: BAs will place greater emphasis than VCFMs on the entrepreneur/
entrepreneurial team.
H3c: BAs will give greater emphasis to the ‘fit’ of the business to their own
personal investment criteria.
H3d: BAs will give consideration to the opportunity for involvement in the
investee business.
The methodology used in this study is verbal protocol analysis, a technique which
involves respondents ‘thinking out loud’ as they perform a particular task, in this
case reviewing a potential funding opportunity. The technique has been used
successfully to examine the decision-making process of venture capitalists (Hall
and Hofer, 1993; Zacharakis and Meyer, 1995) and business angels (Mason and
Rogers, 1996, 1997) and has also been applied in a variety of other contexts (see
Ericsson and Simon, 1993). The verbalizations of respondents are tape-recorded,
transcribed and then content analysed by means of a coding scheme devised for
the specific research questions.
This methodology provides a more reliable and much richer understanding of
the decision-making process of funders and the criteria used to evaluate funding
opportunities than is possible from approaches that use questionnaires, surveys
and interviews to collect data on the self-reported decisions of VCFMs made in
the past (Shepherd and Zacharakis, 1999). Self-reported, retrospective data are
subject to conscious or unconscious errors associated with post hoc rationaliz-
ation and recall bias. There are also cognitive perceptual limitations, with
evidence that VCFMs have limited insights into their decision processes
(Zacharakis and Meyer, 1998; Shepherd, 1999). The consequence is that they
often overstate the number of criteria actually used, understate the most import-
ant criteria and overstate the least important criteria (Shepherd and Zacharakis,
1999). Hence, as Zacharakis and Meyer (1998: 72) note, ‘past studies provide a
laundry list of factors that may be biased in that they list a multitude of factors
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that have a relatively small influence on the decision.’ As a real-time experiment
that does not require VCFMs to introspect about their thought processes, verbal
protocol analysis sidesteps these recall, post hoc rationalization and cognitive
biases (Shepherd and Zacharakis, 1999).
Moreover, the funding decision is a multi-stage process (Feeney et al., 1999;
Haines et al., 2003) involving at least three distinct stages: initial screening,
detailed investigation and negotiation, and deal crafting. Although the same
considerations may be present at each stage their relative importance changes
during the course of the decision-making process (Riding et al., 1993). A further
limitation of questionnaire and interview surveys of decision-making is that they
do not differentiate between these different stages in the decision-making
process and as a consequence may produce misleading findings. Two real-time
studies of the investment decision-making of VCFMs which focused on the initial
screening stage suggest that, in contrast to the generalized studies reviewed
earlier, the entrepreneur is not the primary determinant, except where they are
at one or other end of the distribution (i.e. either very competent or very incom-
petent) (Hall and Hofer, 1993; Zacharakis and Meyer, 1995). Business strategy
and financial issues are also unimportant. Rather, the crucial considerations are
the potential of the product (does it meet a need?) and the long-term growth and
profitability of the industry.
In this study the focus is also on the initial screening stage – the stage when a
funder has become aware of an investment opportunity and considers it with a
view to obtaining sufficient initial impressions to decide whether it is worthy of
detailed consideration or should be rejected out of hand. A study of Canadian
business angels reported that they accepted just 6 per cent of the investment
opportunities for detailed consideration (Haines at al., 2003). Sweeting (1991)
found that VCFMs typically spent 10–15 minutes on the initial screening stage.
In Hall and Hofer’s (1993) study it was typically completed in less than six
minutes. In the case of business angels the median time devoted to screening was
just nine minutes (Mason and Rogers, 1997).
Nevertheless, verbal protocol analysis has some limitations. First, a frequency
count of ‘thought units’ is an imperfect indicator of the importance of a factor in
the final decision (Zacharakis and Meyer, 1995). No weightings are placed on the
responses to measure emphasis and the topics mentioned most frequently are not
necessarily those that have the ultimate influence on the decision. And neither
does it allow for different convincer patterns. In other words, people may repeat
something several times if they are unsure but say it only once if they are absol-
utely sure. Second, subjectivity is involved in coding, analysing and interpreting
the transcripts (Riquelme and Rickards, 1992). Third, some respondents may be
uncomfortable or self-conscious about thinking and speaking out loud which may
distort their thinking (e.g. resulting in excessive repetition of what they are
reading). Fourth, it is impossible to entirely remove the effect of the artificiality
of the situation. Fifth, from a practical point of view it ignores the role of the
source of funding opportunity, which is an important initial influence on the
investor’s attitude to the opportunity (Hall and Hofer, 1993).
However, Ericsson and Simon (1993) argue that verbal protocol analysis is a
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valuable method of analysing decision-making as long as the following criteria
are met:
the information reported must be the focus of attention;
the task is not highly routinized by habit;
there must be only a short time between performance and verbalization;
verbalization does not require excessive encoding;
reports are oral;
subjects are free from distraction;
instructions are clear;
completeness in reporting is encouraged.
These conditions are all met in this study.
The sample of funders comprised three bankers, three VCFMs and four BAs.
All were based in the south of England. The three bankers worked in the
Southampton offices of major clearing banks (Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds
TSB). Two of the VCFMs worked in the Southampton offices of major private
equity firms. The third VCFM was a partner in a small fund located in Winches-
ter. Two of the four business angels were based in Southampton with the others
based elsewhere in South East England. Two of them were identified through the
University of Southampton’s Enterprise Centre (both had invested in one of the
university’s spin-off companies), a third was identified through the internet and
the fourth was an acquaintance of this angel.
Each of these funders was asked to review three business proposals that were
seeking funding in the presence of one of the authors. Two of the proposals were
taken from Venture Capital Report (VCR) and the third was taken from the
Business Angels Bureau (BAB) (now Investor Champions). Both organizations
are business angel networks which circulate details of investment opportunities
to their subscribers – these are mostly business angels but also include some
venture capital funds and corporate investors. The proposals were as follows:
an internet training company providing on-line, e-learning, tutor-supported
management courses, based in London and seeking up to £300,000 of start-
up funding (from BAB);
•a branded restaurant concept based on a successful Chinese model, with
one outlet in Oxford, seeking £500,000 to open two new outlets in its first
phase of expansion (from VCR);
•a provider of test laboratory facilities using its own patented equipment to
test and compare absorbent disposable products, based in North West
England, seeking £380,000 (out of a total funding requirement of £500,000)
for early stage expansion (from VCR).
The information on each opportunity is provided in summary form: three pages
in the case of the BAB opportunity and five pages for the VCR opportunities.
Each opportunity provides information on the following topics: concept/product;
market; competition; management team; financial summary.
The selection of the proposals was influenced by two considerations. First, it
was thought to be desirable to provide respondents with a diverse range of
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opportunities to consider in order to militate against the possibility that any of
them had narrow sectoral preferences. Second, and much harder to fully address,
was the need to select investment opportunities that would appeal equally to
bankers, VCFMs and BAs. Given that they were sourced from business angel
networks, all three opportunities could be regarded as being equity deals rather
than loan deals. On the other hand, the restaurant business could be seen as a
loan rather than a credit deal on account of its property basis. A further issue
was the amount of finance sought, to ensure that the size of investment would
not be too small to be a VCFM deal nor too big for the typical BA.
Respondents were asked to read each opportunity in the same way that they
would normally read an investment proposal but verbalize their thoughts as they
did so. The instruction that they were given was to say out loud the thoughts that
came into their mind. Respondents were not required to provide any expla-
nations or verbal descriptions (Ericsson and Simon, 1993). The second-named
author was present as each respondent performed this task and reminded respon-
dents to think out loud if they lapsed into silence for more than 15 seconds. Their
thoughts were tape-recorded and subsequently a complete transcript was made
for each respondent’s consideration of each investment opportunity, giving a
total sample of 30 transcripts. These verbatim transcripts were then broken down
into short phrases, or ‘thought segments’ – that is, phrases and sentences that are
independent thought units – to permit analysis. These thought units were then
coded into one of nine categories relating to different types of investment criteria
(Table 1). From this analysis it is possible to identify which aspects of the
proposal are most and least important to the funder.
There was a high degree of consensus among the funders on their overall assess-
ment of the three proposals. Only one funder, a business angel, would consider
further the internet training company. Similarly, one funder, a different business
angel, would consider further the restaurant business. However, six of the
funders – all three of the bankers, two of the VCFMs and one of the business
angels – would consider further the laboratory testing company (Table 2). Thus,
there is a very high level of consistency among the bankers: none would consider
lending to either the internet training company or the restaurant chain but all
three were positive about the laboratory testing company. This is likely to reflect
the structured approach used by bankers to make lending decisions that is
increasingly standardized between banks. There was also a high level of consist-
ency among the VCFMs. All three VCFMs rejected both the internet training
company and the restaurant chain. However, the laboratory testing company
passed the initial screening of two of the VCFMs. In contrast, there was no
consensus among the BAs in terms of their reactions to the proposals. Two of
them rejected all three opportunities, one was favourably disposed to the internet
training company and the final BA would investigate the restaurant chain and
the laboratory testing company in more detail (Table 2).
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Investment Criteria: A Comparative Analysis
The verbal protocol analysis for each type of funder is shown in Table 3. As
anticipated, the approach of the bankers contrasts sharply with that of VCFMs
and BAs. Bankers place considerable emphasis on the financial aspects of the
proposals. These account for over half (55%) of all their ‘thought units’, more
than twice the emphasis which VCFMs and BAs give to financial issues. For
example, banker 2 reacted to the restaurant chain by observing that ‘the owner
has 40% to plough in which is a good sign’ but then went on to comment that ‘I
would need to check the profits against the industry benchmark.’ In the case of
the lab testing company this banker noted that ‘they have fixed assets of £700,000
which is a strong positive because it gives us security.’ The market (12%) and the
entrepreneur (9%) are both of secondary importance to the bankers, and they
give virtually no emphasis to the strategy, operations, product or business plan.
As one of the bankers noted, ‘we look at the finances, and as long as it meets
certain criteria that’s all we can ask.’ Thus, hypothesis 1, which states that
International Small Business Journal 22(3)
Table 1. Classification of Thought Segments in the Protocols: Evaluation Criteria
Investment Criteria Description
1. Entrepreneur/Management The background, experience and track-record of the
Team entrepreneur, their personal qualities (e.g. commitment,
enthusiasm) and the range of skills/functions of the
management team
2. Strategy The overall concept and strategy of the business
3. Operations (practicalities How the business is organized to produce and deliver the
of the business functioning) product (i.e. issues associated with the production
4. Product/Service The nature of the product/service, in terms of its concept,
uniqueness, distinctiveness and innovativeness. It also
includes the quality, standards and performance,
appearance, styling and aesthetic appeal, and ergonomics,
function and flexibility of the product/service
5. Market The potential and growth of the market, demonstrated
market need, level/nature of competition and barriers to
6. Financial Considerations This includes three aspects: (i) the financial structure of the
business (e.g. costs and pricing, revenue stream financial
projections), (ii) the value of the equity/worth of business,
and (iii) the likely rate of return and exit route possibilities
7. Investor Fit This includes two elements: (i) the relationship between the
investor’s background, skills and knowledge of the industry,
market, technology, etc. and the investment opportunity,
and (ii) the investor’s preferences (i.e. is this an industry,
market, etc. that the investor wants to be in?)
8. Business Plan The whole package/plan
9. Other Comments on any aspects of the business which cannot be
coded in any other category
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‘bankers’ funding decisions will be dominated by financial considerations and
they will give little consideration to entrepreneurial capabilities or the charac-
teristics of the opportunity’ is supported.
VCFMs have a very different approach to investment appraisal. They give
greatest emphasis to market issues (22%) and financial issues (21%), which
receive approximately equal weighting in terms of thought units. Two further
criteria – the entrepreneur (12%) and strategy (11%) – are of secondary import-
ance. This conflicts with the conclusions of post hoc studies which typically find
that the entrepreneur is the most important factor, but confirms the findings of
other verbal protocol studies by Hall and Hofer (1993) and Zacharakis and
Meyer (1995) that the entrepreneur is not the primary determinant at the initial
screening stage. Hypothesis 2, which states that ‘VCFMs will also be concerned
with financial issues but in addition will give considerable emphasis to the entre-
preneurial team and market characteristics’ is therefore also supported.
Mason & Stark: A Comparison of Investment Criteria
Table 2. Overall Assessment of the Funding Proposals: By Type of Funder and Proposal
Bank 1 Bank 2 Bank 3 VC 1 VC 2 VC 3 BA 1 BA 2 BA 3 BA 4
Internet  
Restaurant 
Lab Testing √√ 
Key: = reject; = consider in more detail
Table 3. Verbal Protocol Frequency Counts
Funding Criterion % of Thought Units (averaged by type of funder)
Banker (n = 3) Venture Capital Fund Business Angel
Manager (n = 3) (n = 4)
Entrepreneur 9.0 12.0 16.8
Strategy 5.7 11.0 2.0
Operations 4.3 4.7 3.8
Product 2.7 6.7 5.5
Market 12.3 22.0 19.8
Finance 55.3 21.3 22.5
Investor Fit 0 1.0 13.5
Business Plan 2.7 6.7 4.8
Other 8.0 14.7 11.8
To tal 100 100 100
Notes: Each respondent reviewed three funding opportunities. Percentages do not add up to
100 because of rounding.
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BAs, like VCFMs, emphasize financial and market issues (22% and 21%
respectively). They also give marginally greater emphasis to the entrepreneur
(17%) than VCFMs do. Indeed, the methodology may well have under-
emphasized the importance that angels give to the people behind the business.
Business angel 3 commented that ‘when you invest in a company you are invest-
ing I should think 80 per cent in the people. Not only have we got to feel right
about the idea, but you have to have people who we are convinced . . . know what
they are about.’ Business angel 1 commented as follows: ‘We are always looking
at . . . people. If the people know what they are doing we might back them. It is
people driven.’ He then went on to say that,
It’s not their track record. I’m not interested in the CVs. It is the personalities of the
people concerned, because ultimately you are backing people . . . The business model
must make sense, but it is very easy to make a business model that works. Are the
people going to be able to sell the product? It’s the smell of the people. The intangible
feeling that this person has what it takes to be a success. Hard work, vision, judgement
together in a mix . . . Start-ups have to be about self-motivated people. You need
people who can motivate themselves to kick down the doors to get customers. It takes
a certain type of person to do that. You also need to like the people. They are the sort
of people you could be good friends with. If you don’t like them you aren’t going to
be able to work with them and that’s because we work a hands on approach.
BAs are also the only type of funder to give any emphasis to investor fit
considerations (14%). Because BAs are investing their own money and so are
not answerable to anyone else they can hold personal (and often idiosyncratic)
investment criteria. The attitudes of each of the angels who participated in the
study to the investment proposals were strongly influenced by their backgrounds
and experience. First, restricting their investments to situations in which they had
some prior knowledge was a way of minimizing investment risk. As angel 4
commented, ‘the more unknowns that you can take out, the less risk you are
running. If you have been involved in this business, or have a particular interest
in something, this can help.’ Angel 3 noted that ‘I’d rather invest in something I
know more about’ and rejected the lab testing company because ‘I don’t really
understand the market.’ Second, angels want ‘exciting’ investments. Angel 1
rejected the internet training company because ‘it wouldn’t interest me at all.
Mostly, I think because I find the area boring.’ He went on to develop this point:
there is always the motivation to make money, but equally the other big motivation is
to have fun . . . I came out of IT – it has to be IT or technology with some weird and
wacky interest and there is nothing weird and wacky about this . . . Basically it’s rather
boring and I would not fund it. That really is irrespective of the return.
Similarly angel 2 would only be attracted by an opportunity that ‘had a bit of
emotion in it’.
Hypothesis 3a, that ‘the approach of BAs will be closer to that of VCFMs than
to bankers because they are investing for capital gain’ therefore receives support.
There was also marginal support for hypothesis 3b, that ‘BAs will place greater
emphasis than VCFMs on the entrepreneur/entrepreneurial team’. However,
following Fiet (1995a,b), it might have been expected that BAs would weigh
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entrepreneurial issues higher than market issues. This was not the case. Hypoth-
esis 3c, ‘that BAs will give greater emphasis to the “fit” of the business to their
own personal investment criteria’ is also supported. Finally, hypothesis 3d, that
‘BAs will also give consideration to the opportunity for involvement in the
investee business’, could not be supported because of a lack of data, with too few
comments on scope for involvement for them to be separately categorized; they
are included within the residual category. Although the angels made some
comments about being hands on investors there was no evidence that their
attitude to any particular investment was shaped by the opportunity to play a
hands on role, or the nature of this role. This is contrary to the findings of other
studies (Haines et al., 2003; Mason and Rogers, 1996, 1997).
The findings of this article must be treated with caution. In particular, because of
the artificiality of the situation it is likely that some of the proposals were
considered by respondents whereas, in a real world situation they would have
been rapidly dismissed because of their sector.
It is also based on a small sample,
comprising just 10 funders and 30 protocols. With these caveats, we can draw
three main conclusions from this study. First, the results do confirm the basic
hypothesis of the article that different types of funder analyse proposals differ-
ently, have different funding criteria and place emphasis on different kinds of
information. This conclusion therefore challenges the tenor of much of the litera-
ture on how to write a business plan which implies, often by omission, that
different types of funder look at business plans in broadly the same way. The
findings from this study indicate that bankers are particularly distinctive in their
approach. Hence, the statement by Burns (2001: 340) that ‘bankers are likely to
be interested in similar things to the providers of equity finance, albeit with
different emphasis’ is incorrect. There are fewer contrasts between VCFMs and
BAs: nevertheless, the article has highlighted some important differences in their
approaches. As noted in the introduction, some texts on business plans have
alluded to differences in the approach of different types of funder. However, this
is the first study to demonstrate the extent and nature of these differences.
Moreover, whereas such texts generally only make a distinction between bankers
and equity investors, this study has demonstrated that there are also differences
in the approaches of VCFMs and BAs.
Second, contrary to Deakins and Hussain (1994), bankers exhibited consist-
ency, not only in their approach, but also in their decision. This may well reflect
the development of standardized approaches by the banks. With the caveat that
this conclusion is based on small numbers, it does raise the question whether it
is worthwhile for an entrepreneur who has been turned down by one bank to
spend time approaching other banks. Conversely, BAs have the least consistency
in either approach or outcomes, reflecting the great heterogeneity in the angel
population and the personalized nature of their investment criteria. The attitude
of business angels to any investment proposal is very much shaped by whether it
is an industry or market that they know anything about. Thus, an entrepreneur
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who is seeking angel financing should be advised to be persistent in their search
for an investor.
Third, from a methodological perspective, this study’s findings concerning the
investment criteria of VCFMs reinforce concerns about the reliability of the
conclusions of previous studies that have used ‘conventional’ questionnaires,
surveys and interviews which require respondents to self-describe their decision-
making. In contrast with these post hoc studies, but confirming other studies
using real time methodologies (verbal protocol analysis, conjoint analysis), the
entrepreneur is not the most important consideration (Shepherd and Zacharakis,
1999). There are three reasons why real time methodologies, such as the
approach used in this study, provide a better understanding of how funders make
financing decisions. First, they overcome the inherent problems of retrospective
reports (e.g. bias, incomplete recall). Second, real time methods overcome the
poor grasp that investors have about their own decision-making processes
(Zacharakis and Meyer, 1998). Third, conventional post hoc methodologies do
not differentiate between the different stages in the decision-making process.
However, the weightings that investors give to different criteria change between
stages in the investment process. Using verbal protocol analysis, this study has
been able to identify the considerations of funders at the initial screening stage.
As a consequence, this article gives entrepreneurs a much more accurate and
reliable guide to the investment criteria of funders than conventional post hoc
studies which generate ‘laundry lists’ of criteria, and which tend to be reproduced
in text books on how to write business plans.
Finally, in terms of its practical applications, the central message of the article
is that different funders will look for different types of information in a business
plan, have different expectations about what information should be included and
will interrogate the business plan in different ways. Their decision on whether to
proceed will also be based on different weightings of criteria. Entrepreneurs (and
their advisers) therefore need to be aware of the need to customize their funding
proposal according to whether they are seeking bank funding, approaching
venture capital funds or seeking finance from business angels. The primary
concern of the banker is the risk that the loan will not be repaid. Accordingly,
the banker is most interested in the finances of the business (margins, cash flow)
in order to judge whether the business can service the debt, and whether assets
are available from either the business or the entrepreneur to secure the loan in
the event that the business fails. A business plan that is to be used to approach
a bank for a loan must therefore contain sufficient information for a banker to
make this assessment and to indicate how the loan will be repaid in the event that
the business performs below expectations (Smith and Smith, 2000). It is normal
practice for bankers to compare the financial information in a business plan
against industry averages. It is therefore essential that any significant deviations
are explained in the plan.
VCFMs and BAs give less consideration to such financial information. Never-
theless, they expect the business plan to contain such information and will spend
some time looking at the figures. However, their main concerns relate to the
growth potential of the business and the potential returns that they might expect.
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Accordingly, they are focused on the market – its size, growth, level of
competition – and want to know what is the customer benefit or what problem
is being solved (Looser and Schläpfer, 2001). Financial information is also very
important, although for different reasons to that of the banker. Equity investors
look at the numbers to assess potential valuation, likely level of profitability,
amount of funding that is required now and in the future and what the money
will be used for. However, there are at least two significant differences in the
approach of VCFMs and BAs. First, although the capability of the management
team to seize the opportunity that has been identified is an important consider-
ation for both, because business angels are hands on investors they place more
emphasis on personal relationship issues. Second, whereas VCFMs are exclus-
ively oriented to the financial returns, business angels are also seeking a psychic
income in the form of interest and fun. Thus, whereas a business plan targeted
at a VCFM needs to contain the ‘steak’, one that is aimed at business angels
needs to contain both ‘steak’ and ‘sizzle’. It is therefore important that the plan
should attempt to engage potential angel investors on an emotional level.
We are grateful to Jonathan Levie and Lesley Hetherington for their comments on an
earlier version of this article that was presented at the 2002 ISBA conference in Brighton,
13–15 November 2002.
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COLIN MASON is Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Hunter Centre for
Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. His research is
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concerned with entrepreneurship and venture capital, particularly in the context
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impact of small business policy, and venture capital. He is founder and co-editor of
Venture Capital: An International Journal of Entrepreneurial Finance (Routledge).
MATTHEW STARK is a trainee chartered accountant with Tenon Limited and is
based at the company’s Chandlers Ford, Hampshire office. He graduated from the
Department of Geography, University of Southampton in 2001. This article is
based on his research dissertation, which he undertook under the supervision of
Colin Mason. [email: Matthew.]
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Que cherchent les investisseurs dans un plan de développement?
Comparaison des critères d’investissement des banquiers, des spécialistes du
capital risque et des business angels – Colin Mason
University of Strathclyde, Royaume-Uni
Matthew Stark
Tenon Limited, Royaume-Uni
La plupart des financeurs potentiels souhaitent considérer un plan de développement
comme une première étape lorsqu’ils décident ou non d’investir. Toutefois, une grande
partie de la littérature sur la façon de rédiger un plan de développement manque de
souligner que des types de financeur différents examinent les plans de développement
de points de vue différents. Faisant appel à une méthodologie en temps réel, cet article met
en lumière les critères d’investissement différents des banquiers, des gestionnaires de
fonds capital risque et des business angels. Les banquiers insistent sur les aspects financiers
de la proposition et mettent peu l’accent sur les questions liées aux marchés, aux
entrepreneurs ou autres questions. En tant qu’investisseurs capital-actions, les
gestionnaires de fonds capital risque et les business angels ont une approche très différente,
mettant l’accent sur les questions liées aux marchés et à la finance. Les business angels
mettent plus l’accent que les gestionnaires de fonds capital risque sur les
considérations liées aux entrepreneurs et à « l’adéquation des investissements par rapport
aux investisseurs ». L’implication pour les entrepreneurs est qu’ils doivent personnaliser
leur plan de développement selon qu’ils cherchent à obtenir un financement auprès d’une
banque, d’un fonds capital risque ou d’un business angel.
Mots clés: banques; business angel; plans de développement; petite entreprise; capital
¿Qué esperan los inversores de un plan de actividades empresariales?
Una comparación de los criterios de inversión de los bancos, gestores de capitales
de riesgo y promotores – Colin Mason
Universidad de Strathclyde, RU
Matthew Stark
Tenon Limited, RU
Para la mayoría de los financiadores potenciales la primera medida a tomar es examinar el
plan de actividades antes de decidirse a invertir. No obstante, gran parte de la información
sobre la preparación de un plan de actividades no da importancia al hecho de que los tipos
diferentes de financiadores consideran los planes de actividades desde un punto de vista
diferente. Empleando una metodología en tiempo real, este artículo destaca los criterios
diferentes de los bancos, gestores de capitales de riesgo y promotores. Los banco hacen
hincapié en los aspectos financieros de la proposición y dan poca importancia al mercado,
al empresario o a otros asuntos. Como inversores en capital social, los gestores de capitales
de riesgo y los promotores tienen un enfoque muy diferente dando igual importancia al
Mason & Stark: A Comparison of Investment Criteria
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mercado y a los asuntos financieros. Los promotores dan más importancia a los factores de
la compatibilidad del empresario con el inversor que los gestores de capitales de riesgo. La
inferencia para los empresarios es que al buscar financiación tienen que adaptar su plan de
actividades a las exigencias del banco, del gestor de capital de riesgo o del promotor, según
el caso. .
Palabras claves: bancos; promotores; plan de actividades; pequeñas empresas; capital de
Auf welche Punkte achten Investoren bei einem Geschäftsplan?
Ein Vergleich der Investitionskriterien von Bankiers, Risikokapitalgebern und
Finanzierern bzw. sog. Business Angels – Colin Mason
Universität von Strathclyde, GB
Matthew Stark
Tenon Limited, GB
Der Großteil interessierter Geldgeber wird als ersten Schritt zur Entscheidung
hinsichtlich einer Investition einen Geschäftsplan sehen wollen. Die vorhandene Literatur
über die Art und Weise, wie man einen Geschäftsplan erstellt, vermittelt jedoch sehr
selten, dass Geldgeber verschiedenen Typs Geschäftspläne aus unterschiedlicher Perspek-
tive betrachten. Unter Einsatz einer Echtzeit-Methodik veranschaulicht dieser Beitrag die
verschiedenen Investitionskriterien von Bankiers, Risikokapitalgebern und Finanzierern
bzw. sog. ‘Business Angels’. Bankiers konzentrieren sich auf die finanziellen Aspekte
eines Plans und schenken dem Markt, dem Unternehmer bzw. anderen Gesichtspunkten
wenig Aufmerksamkeit. Als Kapitalinvestoren haben Risikokapitalfondsverwalter und
‘Business Angels’ eine grundlegend andere Vorgehensweise, bei der sowohl marktbezo-
gene als auch finanzielle Gesichtspunkte betont werden. Im Gegensatz zu Risikokapital-
fondsverwaltern konzentrieren sich ‘Business Angels’ mehr auf den Unternehmer und die
Erwägungen bezüglich der Geeignetheit für den Investor. Hieraus ergibt sich für
Unternehmer, dass sie ihren Geschäftsplan speziell danach ausrichten müssen, ob sie sich
für ihre Finanzierung an eine Bank, einen Risikokapitalfonds oder an einen ‘Business
Angel’ wenden.
Schlagwörter: Banken; ‘Business Angels’ (Finanzierer); Geschäftspläne; mittelständische
Unternehmen; Risikokapital
International Small Business Journal 22(3)
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... La littérature met en évidence que les investisseurs s'appuient principalement sur l'originalité du projet, l'attractivité du marché, le profil du fondateur ou de l'équipe de direction, ou encore les perspectives de sorties de l'investissement (Mason et Stark, 2004 Les investisseurs ont donc recours à des sources externes pour évaluer le projet, et notamment à travers leurs réseaux (Lin, 1999;Mason et Harrison, 1997). Pour ces investisseurs, leur réseau est généralement considéré comme une meilleure source d'information sur la qualité du projet et de l'entrepreneur, ce qui leur permet de réduire les risques liés à l'asymétrie d'information qui peut caractériser la relation entre l'investisseur et le porteur de projet. ...
... Cette étude est une première étape à la compréhension de l'utilité du CF dans « l'après campagne », élément encore très peu étudié à l'heure actuelle. Mason, 1992;Hellmann et Puri, 2002;Madill et al., 2005;Mason et Harrison, 2002;Mason et Stark, 2004;Van Osnabrugge, 2000). ...
... Une première hypothèse est ainsi posée : H1 : L'atteinte ou le dépassement de l'objectif initial de financement à l'issue de la campagne augmente les chances d'obtention de financements complémentaires.Les recherches consacrées aux critères de décision d'investissement des BA et des CI mettent en exergue l'importance pour ces derniers de bien appréhender le marché potentiel d'une entreprise. L'étude deMason et Stark (2004) montre que la connaissance du marché apparait comme un critère majeur dans leur prise de décision. L'analyse du discours de différents BA et CI interrogés dans l'étude révèle que la fréquence d'apparition de cette thématique a quasiment le même poids que les thématiques relatives aux aspects financiers de l'investissement.Lehner et al. (2015) mettent en évidence, à partir de différents entretiens avec des start-ups financées par CF, que ce mode de financement est un excellent test avant la mise sur le marché du produit ; test sur l'acceptation et la « légitimité » du produit par la foule. ...
Nous analysons le rôle, les caractéristiques, et les enjeux de l’Equity-Crowdfunding quant à sa capacité à permettre aux entreprises financées par ce biais d’obtenir des financements lors de prochaines levées de fonds.Ce nouveau mode de financement des jeunes entreprises en phase de démarrage permet à un large public, à travers l’inscription sur une plateforme internet dédiée, de financer des projets entrepreneuriaux divers en contrepartie d’une part du capital de l’entreprise financée. Le caractère récent de ce nouveau mode de financement, impliquant une multitude d’acteurs dans le processus de financement, soulèvent de nombreuses interrogations.L’objet de ce travail doctoral est d’analyser les différentes composantes de l’Equity-Crowfunding susceptibles de favoriser l’obtention de financements ultérieurs.En nous inscrivant d’une part dans le cadre de la théorie de l’agence, et d’autre part dans celui de la dépendance aux ressources, ainsi que ceux du signal et de la légitimité, nous cherchons à identifier la manière dont ce nouvel acteur « Seed Capital » peut jouer pleinement son rôle au sein de la chaîne de financement des jeunes entreprises, à savoir contribuer à sa croissance tout en maintenant des objectifs de rentabilité de l’investissement.A travers une revue détaillée du financement des jeunes entreprises en phase de démarrage et des caractéristiques principales de l’Equity-Crowdfunding, puis par la mise en œuvre de trois études, mobilisant différentes théories ainsi que des méthodologies quantitatives et qualitatives variées, nous mettons en évidence plusieurs éléments permettant d’attester d’une certaine efficacité de l’Equity-Crowdfunding à contribuer au financement de nouvelles levées de fonds.Cependant, nous attirons également l’attention sur les faiblesses qui peuvent émaner du processus de financement par Equity-Crowdfunding, et en particulier sur le rôle de la plateforme d’Equity-Crowdfunding, pouvant être vue comme un intermédiaire financier entre le dirigeant (généralement fondateur) et une multitude d’actionnaires. En effet, une certaine méfiance semble émaner de la part d’investisseurs potentiels lors de nouvelles levées de fonds, soulevant la question de la capacité de ce nouveau mode de financement à devenir un acteur majeur du soutien au développement des jeunes entreprises.
... Beim and Lévesque (2004) suggested that VCs consider a wide range of criteria during the valuation process, including the quality of business management, product uniqueness, market opportunity, and the potential for increasing the value of the ventures. The criteria that influence the decision-making of VCs can be categorized into five groups: (1) characteristics of the entrepreneurial team, such as management skills and experience (Hsu, 2007;Miloud et al., 2012); (2) characteristics of the products, such as their newness and completeness (Macmillan et al., 1985); (3) market/industry characteristics, such as market growth and market size for products (Mason & Stark, 2004;Zutshi et al., 1999); (4) financial characteristics, such as expected returns and payback periods for invested funds (Muzyka et al., 1996); and (5) additional criteria, such as deal factors, network effects and geographical location (Boocock & Woods, 1997;Miloud et al., 2012). ...
... However, there are some contradictory results. Mason and Stark (2004) compare the importance of decision-making criteria by dividing investors into VCs, bank experts, and angels in the south of England. The results of the study show that VCs give a low ranking to the characteristics of entrepreneurs in decision making and concluded that they placed greater emphasis on market characteristics and financial considerations. ...
Full-text available
This article tries to find when the experience plays a key role in investment decisions by venture capitalists (VCs) investment decisions. First, we analyze the relative importance of the decision-making criteria that VCs have in mind. Then, the relationship between uncertainty and entrepreneurs’ experience is investigated. The conjoint analysis and the multiple regression analysis model are applied to sets of hypothetical scenarios to assess the relative importance of the decision-making criteria of the 263 South Korean VCs. VCs generally value entrepreneurs’ education and industry experience in making the investment decision. However, when uncertainty is very high, the newness of the product is high and the completeness of the product is low, VCs focus on entrepreneurs’ managerial experience of entrepreneurs. These findings indicate that environmental uncertainty changes the relative importance of the VC investment criteria. Our research enhances the understanding of how VCs chose to invest, thus helping start-up companies receive VC funding and, ultimately, fostering the growth of high-risk–high-return companies.
... The majority of the empirical research examining signaling to early-stage equity investors has treated the firm as a signal sender. Many prospective early-stage equity investors require some form of business summary as a first step in deciding whether or not an opportunity should advance to the next investment phase (Mason and Stark 2004). This information about a new venture is used to assess the venture's overall growth potential and potential for high returns through exit (Wallmeroth, Wirtz, and Groh 2018;Carpentier and Suret 2015) and its legitimacy (Plummer, Allison, and Connelly 2016;Becker-Blease and Sohl 2015) prior to conducting more thorough due diligence (Brush, Edelman, and Manolova 2012;Doblinger, Surana, and Anadon 2019;Hoenig and Henkel 2015). ...
... The first stream of research focused on the human and non-human capital of the entrepreneurs. The former includes educational background, management experience, technical experience, and other human capital (Mason and Stark 2004;Patzelt, Knyphausen-Aufse, and Fischer 2009;Wang 2016), while the latter includes the expected market returns of the business plan, the expectation of profitability, and others. The second stream examined the characteristics of investors and investment institutions influencing venture capital acquisition. ...
Recent advances in entrepreneurial investment decisions research implied that early-stage investment decisions, given their extreme uncertainty and unpredictability, were results of investors’ intuition processes. In other words, investors manage the high risks of early-stage investment decisions by finding justifications of future value against risk in the invested entrepreneurial projects. Although some studies have discussed the decision-making process of mid- and late-stage venture capital, there is still a lack of discussion on the early-stage investment decision-making mechanism. In this paper, we draw on regulatory fit theory to theorize how the fit of regulatory focus between investor and entrepreneur could lead to the investor’s early-stage investment decisions in terms of investment amount and speed. Across three experimental studies, we found empirical support for our proposed model. Specifically, investors who have similar regulatory focus with the entrepreneurs are more likely to invest a larger amount of funds at a faster speed. We further found that investor’s sense of rightness mediates the relationship between regulatory fit and investment decision, and investor’s previous investment experience plays a moderating role.
... However, it has decreased to less developed with lower centrality, becoming an emerging or disappearing theme. This theme highlights the different criteria used by banks, venture capitalists, or business angels to finance small businesses (Mason and Stark, 2004). It also includes the determinants of capital structure and financing decisions of small and medium-sized enterprises (Abor and Biekpe, 2009). ...
Full-text available
One of the main limitations of entrepreneurship is access to finance, especially in the early stages. Over the years, new sources of finance have evolved to respond to this need and provide new options for entrepreneurs. Using a bibliometric analysis, this paper examines the evolution of the academic literature and analyses the relationship between entrepreneurship and alternative financing over three periods of time (1975-1999, 2000-2010, and 2011-2020). This work aims to provide a clearer view of the evolution of this relationship and identifies current trends and future lines of research. The data were obtained from the Web of Science (WOS) database and systematized using SciMAT software. Results show that venture capital and business angels have become the main financing sources for entrepreneurs, being the most studied from different approaches, especially since 2000. Incubators in universities and research centers, corporate governance, and development of this type of financing in emerging countries are emerging as potential areas for further research in this field.
... Duxbury et al. (1996) described a personality profile of angel investors with an internal locus of control, high needs for achievement, dominance, and autonomy. In addition, Mason and Stark (2004) mentioned psychological differences of angel investors compared with other types of investors, angel investors have stronger motivation of involvement to acquire "satisfaction and enjoyment from playing a role in the entrepreneurial process, " to be altruistic at times, and to give greater emphasis to subjective factors and gut instinct. Later studies on angel investors focused on their decision-making process, pointing out the use of heuristics, gut feel, and motivational clues as important machanisms (Maxwell et al., 2011;Harrison et al., 2015;Huang and Pearce, 2015;Cardon et al., 2017). ...
Full-text available
Amid great uncertainty along with the possibility of huge returns, venture investment decisions are both technical and artistic. Past studies have paid much attention to the influences of objective factors on venture investment. However, subjective factors have been relatively ignored. As a salient psychological mechanism, temporal focus is of great importance for venture capitalists when making their investment decisions. This study performed content analysis to investigate how temporal focus at the organizational level affects investment decisions of venture capital (VC) firms. The results revealed that VCs with higher level of long-term orientation prefer to invest in less popular industries and ventures in the expansion period. Meanwhile, they are less likely to invest in very new start-ups. Moreover, long-term oriented VCs tend to re-invest in start-ups in their portfolios instead of just shooting once on numerous single start-ups. However, the author did not find any support on preferences of VCs for ventures with high level of human capital.
... Team characteristics are seen as the signal of how a team is suited to a business idea and how it is reliable and capable of successfully pursuing an entrepreneurial opportunity. Previous research scrutinizing the factors that affect the decisions of equity investors emphasizes the role of team-related characteristics in the selection process [8][9][10][11][12]. However, how certain teamrelated factors signal the quality and appropriateness of a startup, and how they are interpreted by accelerators has not been scrutinized well in the literature. ...
Full-text available
Accelerators are specially designed entrepreneurship programs that enable startups to scale up at a fast pace through mentoring, intense consulting, training, and provision of access to business networks. To cope with the challenges of the entrepreneurial process and to access resources to achieve a quick scale-up, sustainability startups need a great deal of support from intermediary organizations. In this study, we examined 7358 social-sustainability startups and 2671 environmental-sustainability startups to understand the factors that influence the probability of a sustainability startup being selected by accelerators. Our main research question was whether previous funding (in the form of equity funding or philanthropic support) received by sustainability startups affects the selection decisions of accelerators. We also investigated how team-related characteristics such as work experience diversity, female startup teams, a team’s passion or commitment, and entrepreneurial experience influence the chances of startups being selected by accelerators. Our data were drawn from the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), which was cocreated by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and Emory University. The data have been collected from entrepreneurs around the world since 2013. The wave we used included a dataset covering the years 2013–2019. Our results indicate that for both social-sustainability and environmental-sustainability startups, the amount of previous equity funding and philanthropic support received from external funding providers is of critical importance for the startup to be selected by accelerators. We also found that previous funding mediates the relationship between various team-related characteristics and the probability of a startup being selected by accelerators.
The first communication an entrepreneur often has with a potential investor is submitting a one-page executive summary for consideration. Subsequently, the potential investor—or investment group—chooses which venture ideas, from submitted summaries, to further consider by inviting a pitch deck and/or an actual business pitch (either in-person or virtual). This investment funnel is competitive and, accordingly, anything we—as scholars—can share with entrepreneurs seeking advice about how to optimize that initial executive summary to increase chances of getting to the pitch would be immensely valuable. Unfortunately, scant research has focused on this opportunity introduction stage and there is precious little we can prescribe for entrepreneurs seeking investment. To address this, we developed four executive summaries, which varied only in the type of capital mentioned. We found that executive summaries that mentioned human capital more prominently were viewed as more cognitively legitimate and as deserving of a higher opportunity recognition valuation. Put succinctly, consistent with our theorizing findings from our Open Science Framework pre-registered experiment (N = 367), and our qualitative follow-up study, showed that human capital signals have a greater positive influence on potential investors’ decisions relative to social capital, intellectual capital, and financial capital. We discuss the practical and theory-based implications of this novel insight and include prescriptive recommendations for entrepreneurs.
The management team is one of the most important characteristics of a startup in the investment evaluation process. Several authors summarized and categorized the investment decision criteria concluding that the entrepreneur/team is one of the most important factors. For startupers, it is important to understand the key competencies of the management team required for a successful proposal for venture capital investment, but the empirical analysis and findings of this area have strong limitations. We defined the most important team competencies based on the literature and defined a coding system of the characteristics of the team along with several aspects and quantitatively analyzed them on the Hungarian television show called “Cápák Között” (Among Sharks). In this show, investors listen to pitches of startup entrepreneurs who seek equity investment and, after questioning the entrepreneurs, decide whether they want to invest in the company or not. In our study, we made the first step to code the most important characteristics of the management team and test the methodology of real investment decisions. We have to consider that the investors’ preferences could differ in normal business circumstances outside the TV show; however, in the show the investors made real investments in the selected companies using their own money. It is always hard when we want to analyze factors connected to personal attributes. Through this study, we made tangible some subjective factors of startup teams based on the investors’ feedback. The findings of this chapter provide a new methodology for other researchers to study the personal investment criteria.
Full-text available
The Investment appraisal and valuation process of venture capitalists includes Information gathering, the assessment of risk and required return, and the choice of a valuation method. This process is empirically studied in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. The Importance of different information sources is equal in the four countries, except that the French venture capitalists Place more emphasis on personal references and the track record of the entrepreneur. The required return is lowest in the Netherlands and Belgium for every development stage of a company, and highest in the UK. The most widely used valuation method in the UK is the multiplication of past or future earnings with some price-earnings ratio. In the Netherlands and Belgium it is the discounting of future cash flows, and in France it is the book value of the net worth.
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DR. COLIN MASON IS READER IN ECONOMIC Geography, University of Southampton, England, and Richard Harrison is Professor of Management Development at the Ulster Business School, University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. Despite the rapid growth of studies of the informal venture capital market, knowledge of why 'business angels' reject investment opportunities remains highly generalised. In contrast with the investor focus of previous studies, this study adopts a dealspecific perspective by examining a sample of 35 investment opportunities that were considered and subsequently rejected by Metrogroup, a private investor syndicate in the United Kingdom. The paper refines and extends knowledge of 'why angels say no' in three respects. First, most investment opportunities are rejected for just one or two reasons. Second, the most common reasons for rejecting investment opportunities are associated with the entrepreneur/management team, market and marketing factors, and financial factors; a flawed or incomplete marketing strategy and flawed or incomplete financial projections are particularly significant deal killers, especially at the initial review stage. Third, with some specific exceptions, deals rejected at the initial review stage tend to be on the basis of the cumulation of a number of deficiencies rather than for a single reason.
This extensively revised edition of this popular text deals with the problems and issues facing entrepreneurs and small business today. It now includes: a number of new contributions from leading experts, including new chapters on Venture Capital, Uncertainty, Innovation and Management and Small Firms Policy in Europe; a greater emphasis on the use of case studies to illustrate material; and a number of new exercises and assignments. The text will be of interest to both undergraduate and postgraduate students of business and entrepreneurship as well as to people who run or work for small businesses.
Researchers studying the decision-making behaviors of venture capitalists should be aware of potential biases and errors associated with self-reported data, especially in light of this study's findings that venture capitalists exhibit limited introspection into the policies they "use" to assess likely profitability. Venture capitalists have a tendency to overstate the least important criteria and understate the most important criteria compared to their "in use" decision policies. This study will increase awareness of the gap between venture capitalists' "in use" and "espoused" decision policies and therefore encourage caution in generalizing "espoused" policies to venture capitalists' actual decisions.
This paper reports an empirical study of Canadian informal “angel” investors. A key contribution is the development of a portrait of the decision making of these angels as well as a framework which was successful in structuring this decision making. Angels are well educated and experienced as investors. They tend to hold other full time jobs. They invest in new growth-oriented businesses, usually at the earliest stages of business development. They report a shortage of investment-ready businesses in which the principals are willing to partner with experienced investor-mentors. Investors learn about opportunities mostly from business associates. Evaluation tends to be informal, although some investors have extensive sets of due diligence materials. The key dimensions of investable business opportunities are the market potential of the business, the capability of the principals to commercialize the service or product, and the opportunity for investors to make substantive non-financial contributions to the firm.
The risk analysis of small business propositions is characterized by uncertainty and asymmetric information, producing problems of moral hazard and adverse selection for the banks and liquidity constraints for entrepreneurs. Decision making is based on information supplied and the application of different criteria. Concerns the relative importance of different criteria and whether the right criteria are being used to assess small firm ventures by banking institutions, and reports the results of research carried out into the importance of different criteria used in risk assessment by bank officers. Finds a high degree of variability in the approach by different bank officers and a bias towards financial information. The findings have marketing implications. Risk assessment cannot be divorced from the nature of the relationship with the small business customer. Investment in improving techniques of risk assessment increases profitability for the bank and improves marketing opportunities through the development of a long-term working relationship.
Decision making is central to the ability of venture capitalists to predict those new ventures likely to succeed, yet most studies into their decision making use post-hoc methodologies that may generate biased results. People are poor at introspection and often suffer from recall and post-hoc rationalization biases among others. Therefore, researchers should consider using real-time methods that eliminate many of these biases. One such method is conjoint analysis. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the potential that conjoint analysis has to: (1) improve the validity of prior research into VCs' decision making; and (2) act as a catalyst for adopting conceptual tools from other disciplines that can be tested empirically. Both these functions have the purpose of increasing one's insight into the assessment policies of VCs.
This paper provides an analysis of the acceptance and rejection criteria of private investors using formal qualitative analysis. The findings indicate that private investors view the overall business opportunity and the principals of the company as key criteria in the decision-making process. Active and occasional investors differ somewhat in the emphases that they place on particular criteria. Perhaps the single most important finding, however, is that the reasons that prompt investors to reject opportunities are not simply the converse of reasons that prompt them to invest.
This paper aims to add to the understanding of venture capitalists' investment decision-making behaviour by providing evidence relating to the general policies they adopt in their approaches to due diligence, valuation methods, benchmark rates of return and adjustments for risk. The evidence shows that in order to address potential adverse selection problems, venture capitalists use a wide range of accounting and non-accounting information and techniques relating to the specific factors concerning a particular investment. Unpublished accounting information and subjective information are important. Significant differences emerge in the approaches to valuation and use of accounting information for valuation purposes between types of venture capitalist, according both to their stage of investment focus and whether they were captive or independent.