Sometimes things just happen. But rarely do they happen without many antecedents. And rarely do we see the antecedents until after they happen.
I believe that Cloud Computing has followed this pattern. The obvious antecedents are Moore’s Law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law), the rapid drop in disk prices, the proliferation of virtualization, and the emergence of large, efficient datacenters. Much has been made of all of these factors.
One that isn’t mentioned is the network capacity required to move vast quantities of bandwidth required to move the huge amounts of data from customers to datacenters and between datacenters. The networks have a long lead time to install. And require vast sums of money. Think about digging very long trenches and laying fiber optic cables between cities. And then each of the cities need to be hooked up with fiber. This is outrageously expensive, especially when you consider that rights of way and approvals need to be acquired, etc.
Given that the lead time for installing these networks was decades and we didn’t know that cloud computing was going to be a key application, how did these networks get installed to be there when we needed them?
I think the best answer is bad business decisions. Wait
did I just say that? Cloud computing is a key technology for the future, so how can it be a bad business decision? At the time vast quantities of network infrastructure we being put in, the Internet was in its infancy and doubling in size every 90 days. Companies (like WorldCom, Global Crossing, and MCI) decided to install capacity at a fever pace. And then the bubble burst in 2001 and the companies had a ton of stranded capacity and many went out of business. But the capacity remained, and at lower cost basis when acquired out of bankruptcy. Sometimes decisions made for one reason in one era have massively positive consequences in another.
Should entrepreneurs be asked to pay angels and angel groups for the opportunity to present their business?
As the seed stage/angel asset class becomes more prominent and popular, this becomes an ever more frequent question. There was a blow up about a year ago when Jason Calacanis took on the Keiretsu Forum and the amount they charged early stage companies. Not much has changed, but the number of people trying to part the entrepreneurs from their money has done nothing but increase.
Let me start with my emotional answer. It is hard for me to understand why an entrepreneur who has quit their job, mortgaged their home, and gone “all in” on their startup should pay a bunch of rich people for the privilege of pitching their deal. It just seems wrong. And, from my point of view, not something I would do.
But, if I take an entrepreneur’s point of view, I need to raise money. It’s such a daunting task and many entrepreneurs really neither have the time nor resources to pull it off. So, unless I see an alternative, if someone offers me a path to raise money, I take it. If I have to pay $10-25k to raise my needed $500k, I probably take it. I don’t ask questions like:
- “Are the investors coming in aligned with our strategy?”
- “How many investors are in my deal?”
- “What impact do they have on my structure?”
- “Do the deal terms mesh with raising more money later?”
- And perhaps most importantly, “If I take this money, does it eliminate other sources, especially if I pay a fee to a broker?”
Experienced, professional angels have been through this lots. Groups like the Alliance of Angels don’t charge a fee for raising money for entrepreneurs. We help get deal terms that are fair to both entrepreneurs and investors, and allow for the necessary future financings (even when the plan says there won’t be any other financings).
It is hard to clean up the mess from a poorly constructed and overpriced financing. Most investors won’t do the clean up and instead will just pass on the deal.