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Heading to San Francisco for first BarCampBank of the Year

I’m packing my things to be ready Wednesday morning when I fly to San Francisco. Next week-end there will be BarCampBank San Francisco, first BarCampBank of the year, and quite an unsual event because of the wealth of startups that will be represented there: Wesabe, Mint, Zoppa, Zecco, just to name a few who confirmed their presence here, and I hope a lot more will drop-in to join the mind-shaking debates we can anticipate.

I will use the opportunity to discuss with all the brilliant people there a couple of projects I’m currently working on:

1) creating a virtual incubator for FI-startups

In the spirit of P2PVenture, I think there is an opportunity to create a virtual space where entrepreneurs, professionals and investors can mingle and co-develop projects up to the point where some of the professionals can join the project and investors finance it

2) creating a FI angel investors network

One of the components of the previous space could be a virtual angel investors club dedicated to the FI-business. I’m thinking of maybe setting up such a club in a near future

3) organizing a FundCamp FinTech

While launching FundCamp is one of the main action of P2PVenture.org right now. I’m also thinking of organizing a FundCamp dedicated to FinTech. I also see this as an opportunity to boot-strap the 2 previous points.

4) setting up a FinTech venture fund

This is a rather longer term project. There are not so many venture funds dedicated to FinTech and I believe there could be an opportunity to offer real value along the money a dedicated FinTech venture fund would invest in FI-startups.

As you see, quite a lot of things to discuss and get feedback on. Hopefully, critical mass could be assembled on a couple of these subjects and we could see something taking off in a not too distant future.

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BarCampBanks all over the USA

Long time, no posts. I have indeed been quite absent from this blog for a while. For my excuse, I have been quite busy working on FundCamp and in particular FundCamp France 2008 (FR). But I have here a particular occasion to come back and post some exciting news: BarCampBanks are going to be organized in San Francisco March 29 and in New England Apr 5; there’s also an event that should be happening in Dallas in June. How exciting!!! I hope that Europe is going to have its lot and that the session in London is going to happen soon, so that my 2008 travel budget does not go through the roof.

Jim Bruene from NetBanker was first to release the news. Jesse Robbins has just posted the announcement on Radar O’Reilly. I’m excited to meet both of them soon on one of these BarCampBanks (full disclosure, I have a firm flight reservation for SFO March 26). I’m also excited to meet all the barcampbankers and fi-startups there. If you can, I think it would be worth coming to any of these events.

FundCamp France 2008: the first FundCamp ever

 I have not been updated my blog for a long time and guess what, mainly because of my last post. In this post, I was annoucing that we launched FundCamp, an initiative to let people share processes and tools for organizing seed acceleration contests. Since then, I have been quite busy actually organizing FundCamp France 2008, the first FundCamp ever.

 FundCamp France 2008 will happen on the week of march 17, 2008. 20 projects will be preselected to spend an intense week of exchanges and coaching in Paris. At the end of the week, a dozen of French business angels will select 5 or more projects to which a funding of 25k € for 10% in equity will be offered. The business angels will then coach the winning projects for the next 6 months in order to reach a funding round by the end of year 2008.

 The annoucement is surely only a small step and we’ll still have a lot to do – and wish for – to make FundCamp France 2008 a success. But I think this is already a good sign that so many people got involved and took risks to launch this initiative and I’d like to take these few moments just to enjoy this sign that maybe things can change when enough people try to change them.

We launched FundCamp

FundCamp logo

We just launched FundCamp. FundCamp has been inspired by Seedcamp, an initiative created by Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni seeking to fund companies on a pan-European scale through a selection process culminating with a week of gathering/selection that took place in London on Sept. 3 for their first edition. But, in the tradition of BarCamp, FundCamp wants to go one step beyond and setup a community driven, open and freely replicable model. Anyone, anywhere in the world will be able to use, adapt and contribute to the process model and tools we wish to put in place.

Our first application of the model will be for a FundCamp France, organizing a selection, development and funding process for French startups. We plan to use a platform for supporting this initiative and a prototype is currently being built here. Everyone is invited to help organizing the event, participate as a mentor, contribute to the development of the platform,…, come up with any idea to foster entrepreneurship through this novel approach.

If anyone is considering organizing a FundCamp anywhere, please do not hesitate to share your thoughts on our wiki. We’ll see if we can build critical mass to bootstrap the process where you are. As we move forward, we will keep posting our progress and findings.

LendingClub secures $10M in Series A

LendingClub just announced that it secured a Series A round of $10M from Canaan Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. Seems like things are really accelerating and VCs are pouring more and more money in new financial startups.

 We spotted LendingClub at BarCampBank a while back and put them on our Bank & Finance Watch site. Seems like we are going to live a rapid increase in the number of startups we’ll follow on our site and witness more and more funding for a selection of these.

FriendsClear is launching

FriendsClear is a new personal finance startup founded by Jean-Christophe Capelli, Nicolas Guillaume and Anthony de Anfrasio. In the new tradition of Web 2.0 startups (think Wesabe’s “Wheaties for your Wallet” for one glorious example, but many others as well), FriendsClear starts its public life under the form of a blog. Jean-Christophe is a good friend and one of the co-founders of BarCampBank. So what makes FriendsClear unique – beyond the tons of experience accumulated in its founding team – is that FriendsClear can be considered as the first startup incubated within BarCampBank borne to life. I wish all the success it deserves to FriendsClear and hope that this single child status will soon disappear with the arrival of many other siblings.

Should I give an arm and a leg to the VCs?

Bringing VCs on board can be an emotional (and sometimes traumatic) experience. It always seems that you’re giving a lot for what seems little in return: cash. Using simple maths may prove a powerful tool to set some context before taking the dreadful decision of accepting foreigners’ money. In this case, we can rely on the notion of discount rate to shed some light to the debate.

 Let’s first take the theoritical case of a startup doing a seed round of €500k on Year 1, a first round of €2M on Year 2, a second round of €6M on Year 3, a mezzanine round of €2M on Year 4 and a brilliant exit of €30M on Year 5. If VCs use a discount rate of 50% to define the shares they want with a target exit of €30M, they’ll dilute you from 100% ownership to 91.5% after seed-round, 71% after first round, 39% after second round (ouch!) and leaving you 35.1% ownership of the company after mezzanine round (where we keeped a 50% rate for the sake of simplicity). So you’ll end up with €10.5M in Year 5.

Not bad! But wouldn’t have you been better not taking VCs’ money and maybe take 10 years to exit with 100% of the final €30M? This is where using discount rate can bring some rationale to the decision. Let’s forget all the details of the different rounds that were there just to set the stage for: am I better owning 35% of the exit value in Year 5 or owning the entire exit value in Year 10? This is where it all depends on your own discount rate. If your own way to assume the discount you apply on years between 5 and 10 is below 23.3%, then you should go all on your own and shoot for the big prize; just be prepared for a long, long trip. If it is above 23.3%, then settle for the “quick” route and pocket the %35.1 percent faster (still 5 years).

 When we compare this 23.3% with the 50% of the VCs, it could seem obvious that the decision should be: pocket the money on Year 5 and then,..become a VC. In fact, the 50% holds only for specific projects: The successful ones. VCs invest in a portfolio of projects and as the old saying goes: Out of 10 invesment, 5 go down the drain, 2 become zombies (projects with no exits), 2 give back less than what was disbursed and only 1 is a superstar offering the famous 50% or above. All in all, a fund is very happy if it can provide an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) above 12%. So you could assume that you’re finally better off keeping your investment in your own startup and make it blossom at a rate superior to 23.3%. But remember that your investment is tied to one “single” project, and that the risk is exactly what is making the transition from a discount rate to an IRR.

In fact, from an option point of view, it is always very positive to get cash out sooner than latter. What the little example illustrated was just that faster exits are actually made possible by the cash that the VCs bring in: this provides the acceleration needed to reach more rapidly the way out.

So when taking the decision, remember the paradox: Giving an arm and a leg can help me run faster.