10,000+ Business Plans Later

Over the last three months, I have watched Keiretsu Forum founder, Randy Williams, sit through and attentively listen to numerous business plans pitched by CEOs. Often these CEOs would be serial entrepreneurs, passionate leaders who believed that their company was the best idea they had formulated in their life. It was amazing to see Randy Williams diligently listen, provide feedback and resources. The most successful companies received valuable connections to the largest angel investors. This company would then have to pass the toughest deal screening and due diligence process that they had probably ever been subjected to. During this time, I continued to wonder, “How can one person sit through same presentation 4 to 5 times so diligently?” As a matter of fact, Randy Williams has sat through 10,000+ presentations in the last 10 years!

The wealth of knowledge generated from this hard work has to be monumental. It has even inspired me to go great lengths just to hear Randy speak. On one such day, I drove 180 miles round trip! It was completely worth it just to hear Williams share his knowledge from the 10,000+ business plan presentations he has witnessed. Here is my attempt to share his learnings with a broader audience.

Every entrepreneur starts a venture to fill a gap. The Keiretsu Forum was created in order to fill in the gap which was the lack of disciplined expertise in angel investment. This dedication and discipline is found in action. Who in the world can attend every single forum presentation in 10 years other than the very disciplined team of Randy Williams and Max Shapiro?

It is about return on involvement. Redefining and reinventing the concept of ROI is an absolutely fantastic concept invented and perfected at Keiretsu Forum. It takes a lot of passion and dedication to be the leader of Keiretsu forum, or to be the leader of any company that an entrepreneur is fostering. Leaders who are focused on return on involvement create value beyond the traditional return on investment.

Now, as an angel investor myself, I have learned that many of my fellow Keiretsu members have successfully made money. Many lost money as well, but this generally occurred when the entrepreneurs they were working with did not reach out for help. Humility is the key to removing every barrier to success. Over time, we angel investors have become smarter. At Keiretsu, the members look for the following characteristics in entrepreneurs:

1. Ethics
2. Trust
3. Credibility
4. Historic performance
5. Humble, confident and self-effacing
6. Listener

After 10 years of investing, it simply keeps getting better with a recent exit resulting in 40x return to our investor members.  The magic is created with a recipe of mixing ingredients such as closely tracking validation points and having a strong moral compass. Every deal changes on a weekly basis. Iterations in business plans are dependent on how you react to changes. We are betting on people and everybody is helping each other. At Keiretsu, you can fail and still receive help. Randy Williams has shared this part of his presentation with Max Shapiro who has a keen eye for entrepreneurs with a good moral compass. His ability to recognize whether or not “the jockey” is a good person who will listen to others, learn from his/her mistakes and be willing to make changes is key. All of these characteristics become very important to angel investors, and in turn, whether or not a company will get funding and “make-it” or fail.

The world is looking at Silicon Valley angels. The world is looking at Keiretsu Forum to take angel investment worldwide. Keiretsu Forum has already built 25 chapters that bridge the world back to us here in Silicon Valley. It is time for a global strategy. Recent investment Savara used this network extremely well by raising $7million in funding from Keiretsu members worldwide. We angel investors have indeed become smarter by guiding leaders, sharing our communal intelligence and facilitating global capital formation.

Keiretsu Forum not only invests but also helps entrepreneurs prepare for what lies ahead. The Keiretsu Academy can teach the necessary life skills of being a CEO at a startup, and with successful results! Here are just a few of the lessons that are taught:

1. How to structure the deal
2. Accounting
3. Sales and marketing
4. Valuation and exit strategy
5. Creating (and delivering) the perfect pitch
6. Protecting intellectual property
7. Managing growth with little or no capital

This is the time for the proliferation of angel groups while VCs are closing their doors. If you are a tier three VC and not hitting the numbers, you will be on the curb. Crowd funding is a great platform for donation. But at Keiretsu, if you meet your milestones, then we will assist you more via our extensive global network. At Keiretsu, 10,000+ business plans later, it feels like the journey has only just begun.

Monali Jain is product management leader with 17 years of leadership experience with technology companies including Paypal, eBay, Interwoven. She had completed executive education from Harvard Business School, MBA from Santa Clara University and Bachelor of Computer Engineering from University of Mumbai.