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Category Archives: Funding

Is EU funding opportunities administration an art?

We had the chance to meet volunteers and experts from Youth Business Network, an active group of young people based in Komotini a city in the region of East Macedonia and Thrace, northeastern Greece but with a global vision and activity.  YBN , is a network  of young people active around the world aimed to contribute to competitiveness and regional growth through an entrepreneurial mind-set in the next generation. The potential partners in this endeavour include educational institutions, embassies in host countries, governments, private sector and individuals. It will be achieved by creating awareness, organising debates, providing opportunities for practical business start-ups and facilitating peer partnerships. Founder Nikolaos Kostopoulos says the organisation will be a platform from which to provide moral and directional support to young people as they foster the necessary business skills to pursue their goals.

To promote youth employment and entrepreneurship, the EU and its member countries work together to:

  • Address the concerns of young people in employment strategies
  • Invest in the skills employers look for
  • Develop career guidance and counselling services
  • Promote opportunities to work and train abroad
  • Support quality internships/apprenticeships
  • Improve childcare and shared family responsibilities
  • Encourage entrepreneurship

In order to achieve those aims EU is supporting young people with various grant to invest to their ideas.

The EU does provide some significant opportunities, but it does have quite strict rules and criteria, and will not be relevant to all organisations in these sectors.  However, there are many beneficiaries which have received significant funding from one or more of these sources for their projects and initiatives.  

Youth entrepreneurship is high on the EU political agenda as a tool to combat youth unemployment and social exclusion as well as stimulating innovation among young people:

Youth work and non-formal learning play an important role in developing the creative and innovative potential of young people including entrepreneurial skills. Youth policy and programmes at EU and national level support this:

Youth Business Network has recently organized a training course under Erasmus Plus+ sponsored by the Greek National Agency called ” How to Administrate EU Grants more effectively ”  that took place in Greece. During that training 25 young people had the chance to practise the following skills :

  • What does a European commission appointed proposal evaluator typically look for?
  • What you need to remember when filling out the application? DOs and DONTs
  • Writing a winning proposal, live demo, taking a case study of a typical EU grant application and his idea, a detailed step-by-step demonstration of how to write a proposal with high chances of winning

YBN is intended to assist grant beneficiaries in the implementation of their grant projects in financed from EC. This training  tries to provide practical information on the implementation and procedures related to financial management, reporting and accounting in line with EU financial regulation

One of the main beliefs that has been the acrual factor for the implementation of this project was that EU funds are used for direct access by a small circle of practitioners, though these grants are a real opportunity for the financing of all projects with a European dimension. Mastering Eu funding techniques ensures a valuable skill for your career and are essential for the development of your organization leverage.

Below you can find some observations participants have synopsised during this training course and they are useful not only for EU grants applications but from private donors-sponsors -investors :

The purpose of a proposal

● Ask for money ● Inspire donors ● Inform ● Share your vision ● Build a relationship ● Communicate your success Explain why your project is important and different. Focus on the future, not something you’ve already done. MANAGEMENT RELATIONS IDEATION



Final Advice

1. Proofread 2. Organize your proposal to make it easier to read . 3. Don’t include color, staples, fancy, bindings or special materials Researching foundations

● Identify nonprofit organizations that are similar to yours ● Conduct research using Foundation Center ( of European Foundation Center ( ● First contact those foundation that have similar interest ● You don’t need to be a great writer to write a great proposal 2

Become a better storyte

Make sure you write proposal (for a future need) , not a report or something that has already been accompished or founded.

For more information you can visit Youth Business Network’s website or stay up to date with their news through their official facebook page

Does a Bitcoin Weigh More Than a Gold Coin? Alternative Assets in Retirement Plans

The problem with being young and successful is that right now you’re, well, young and successful. However, that’s a situation which eventually takes care of itself. At some point most intelligent people come to that realization, and they start thinking about saving for retirement. The problem is that they start thinking about it a little too late. Most Americans never save enough of a nest egg to adequately supply their retirement needs. Even starting just a few years earlier with retirement investing could mean conservative differences in excess of a $100,000.


So you’re willing to put aside a few bucks for the coming rainy days, but the question still remains. Where should that money go? You could go the traditional route and just park it in a mutual fund. That’s a popular choice now with most people betting that the market and the funds will keep on delivering. Or you could go a completely different route. One of the more exciting alternatives in retirement investing is Self Direction. In Self Direction investors choose retirement assets that they understand (e.g. real estate or private business). The draw is that the profits can be higher and more consistent than typical market returns. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular alternative assets, and find out which ones make sense as a retirement investment.


Out of all the alternative assets, gold has definitely received the most extensive marketing campaign.Numerous companies have trumpeted their gold investment platforms as the best alternative to the stock market, but is gold really worth the hype? In actuality gold is a commodity like any other and its price follows the standard laws of supply and demand. Currently gold is riding a huge wave, but there are no guarantees that the wave will continue. With the somewhat chaotic nature of single asset prices in general, a prudent investor would not want to bet his/her entire retirement fund on gold alone. Gold, though, does have one unique feature that makes it attractive as a retirement investment. Namely, you can hold the physical gold and take it with you if the situation ever calls for it. Not allplatforms allow for physical possession, but those that do allow gold to function as a kind of insurance policy. Presumably gold will retain a large percentage of its value at any given time, and, more importantly, in any given location. That renders it a highly portable store of wealth.

Real Estate

Real estate has always been the classic venue for those who want to branch out on their own. It comes in a variety of forms, and it seems that rehabs and flips have captured the minds of today’s investors. However, flipping is not necessarily the best retirement investment. A successful flip requires real estate knowledge as to which properties are the most suitable, as well as how much it really takes to do a proper rehab job. Novices jump in, but then find themselves in trouble when they’re stuck with a property that doesn’t sell.  This approach could knock out your retirement fund before it even gets off the ground.  For most investors, a more conservative approach is in order. In real estate terms, conservative means foregoing the big deal and instead securing a small but steady stream of income. This can happen with a rental. Many retirement investors have found long term success by placing their funds in a single or multifamily rental. With the help of a qualified real estate agent, you should be able to find a rentable property that will provide your funds with a steadystream of retirement income.


Bitcoin is the first fully digital currency that has achieved some degree of general acceptance. It’s also one of the hot alternative flavors of the day. The question, though, still remains: is it a good retirement investment? For the answer to this, let’s take a lesson from the medical world. When a new pharmaceutical is released to the general public, it has already gone through extensive FDA safety testing. Still, many doctors recommend waiting a few years before taking it. The reason for this delay is that even with all the testing, the long term effects in real world scenarios have not yet been determined. This idea also holds true for new investment assets. When something as new and revolutionary as Bitcoin comes around, it might potentially be very profitable, but the long term stability is not yet known. As a retirement investor its best not to place your retirement solely in unproven assets. If you’re the adventurous kind, then take the plunge with some of your funds, but leave the majority of them to safer investments.

Alternative assets can definitely provide higher returns than a standard mutual fund, but caution should always be your first response. The best thing to do is choose a reputable financial firm  that offers alternative investment options. Next up, get educated. Choose an asset that appeals to your investment sensibility, research it fully, and then make a sensible judgment with all of the facts.

Cara Price is a caffeine based life form who ardently believes in the convergence of technology, communication, and art to help businesses thrive. She is currently working as a content and communication specialist for Broad Financial, a leading custodian of enhanced retirement platforms. She loves people, Pinterest, and the written word, and she can be contacted via

Offshore companies in USA

To set up an offshore companyor relocate your existing business overseas is a crucial step toward internationalizing yourself and your assets. Search for “offshore company” and you’ll find thousands of websites promising a quick company formation in Panama or the British Virgin Islands, with a range of other “benefits” for the jurisdiction in question.

There is a current misconception that offshore business is about evading taxes and hiding money from the government, which is certainly not the case.

There are 100% legitimate ways to structure your business interests overseas and realize significant benefits from an asset protection standpoint — as well as tax-standpoint.

Want an example? The last few years Google has cut its taxes by $3.1 billion in totally legitimate ways.

You too can do this.

Some say this is unethical and cheating, but not surprisingly, those who say this are most often not the same people as those who create value in society. If you’ve found your way to this page, chances are strong that you’re a value creator and want to keep more of the money you get back as a result of creating value.

Tax Advantages With Offshore Business

First of all, you don’t have to start a company offshore to save on taxes — just moving out of the US is a terrific first step. As a US expat, the first $91,500 in overseas income is tax exempt, meaning if you live outside the US you don’t have to pay any taxes at all on the first $91,500 of foreign sourced income (you still have to file your tax report though).

However, the real tax advantage from running an offshore company as a US citizen doesn’t come from direct tax savings. It comes from tax deferment, meaning you postpone the payment of taxes into the future. If you run a business overseas and reinvest profits within the company you can defer taxes indefinitely.

Let’s say you have a profitable company overseas. Now imagine that instead of paying taxes on your profits every year you can reinvest that capital in your offshore company every year for 30 years, and only pay taxes if you decide to sell the company after 30 years. Being able to reinvest your capital tax free combined with the power of compound interest makes this a truly exceptional opportunity.

Offshore Internet Business: Incorporating A Truly Global Business

It is a great idea to structure your business overseas, especially one that’s online-based. If you incorporate your foreign business properly, it provides a legal way to defer tax payments (similar to an IRA), as well as enabling much reduced liability.

An online business has no limits as to how and where it can do business, so why should you let your business be limited by a jurisdiction that is based on the old, geographically limited model?

Starting an offshore online business is a great way to build streams of income outside of your home country. Why would you want to have income streams outside of your country? Well, when inflation runs rampant in a country, having an income stream overseas in a stronger currency can potentially be a lifesaver. If hyperinflation would find its way to your country, which is a real risk with central banks all around the world is printing new money 24/7, earning only a small part of your income in a different country is invaluable.

An internet business based overseas, coupled with an offshore bank account, is the perfect medium through which you can do this.

Offshore Company Formation: Ins and Outs

There are dozens of jurisdictions, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and the British Virgin Islands that offer a great business environment with fully legal tax benefits.

The most important thing that you MUST do is ask for advice from a qualified tax attorney (someone who understands international tax law) in your home country. Additionally, learn enough to understand the benefits of particular offshore jurisdictions.

After you’ve done your due diligence, it’s possible to go through the whole incorporation process online in most jurisdictions, and you can often set up your offshore company in as little as a few days. You often start the process with registering a company name and sending in the right documentation. The next step, after incorporation, is often to open a bank account or merchant account for your business.


Want to learn more about this jurisdiction?

Send us an inquiry


Non-resident US LLCs still maintain popularity on the market, for example as offshore holding companies or for international trading. If you want to expand your business to the United States, whether to run an internet-store for US based clients or open an art gallery in the Chicago area, an onshore resident structure must be established. US companies that partially conduct business in the United States turn to be a beneficial trading vehicle with liable presence in USA and US bank account. Moreover,  upon smart structuring non-US source income will not be subject to US federal tax.

One must distinguish non-resident LLCs and resident LLC:

Non-resident LLCs:

  • Have non-resident owners
  • Have non-US source income
  • The US federal income tax is avoided
  • File Report of Foreign bank and financial accounts (FBAR) and/or other reports if required, for example The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)
  • Unlikely to open US bank account

Resident LLCs:

  • May have non-resident owners
  • Fully or partially conduct business in USA – have US clients, venders, etc.
  • Pay federal income tax on US-source income
  • Maintain bookkeeping as per US accounting standards
  • Can open US bank account.

If you wish to set-up a resident structure with US bank account, please provide us answers to the questions in „Popular Applications” sections.


Non-resident LLC companies can be used as tax-transparent entities for holding and international trading purposes. Although it must be noted that it is becoming more and more challenging to open a bank account for those.

Resident LLC features advantages of territorial taxation whereas only US-source income is taxed after deducting of administration expenses.

We can assist in setting-up your presence in the United States. To obtain an initial, free of charge consultation on your set-up requirements, it is essential we receive your answers to the following questions:

  • What is the nature of the operations?
  • Does the Company plan to have employees, maintain inventory or / and occupy a facility in the US?
  • How does the Company plan to sell into the US?
  • In which country or countries do the shareholders reside?
  • What country / countries does the company currently operate in?
  • What is the company’s long and short term plan for cash profits generated in the US?
  • If a business plan with financial projections exist, please provide a copy

We provide the following services for US onshore companies:

  • Formation of a legal entity. Typically such entities are formed in the state of Delaware
  • Establishing a bank account and merchant account (no visit required)
  • Preparation of a shareholder agreement (if required)
  • Implementation of the US foreign structure
  • Preparation of US Corporate tax returns (annually)
  • Bookkeeping services for US company



Non-resident LLCs that have non-resident partners and trade purely outside the US generally are not required to file federal or state income tax return. Although abbreviated reports may be required in some states, for example Maryland. As well particular IRS reports for non-resident entities such as FBAR (if bank account balance exceeds USD10,000 at anytime) and/or The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

We can assist overseas clients in obtaining tax id numbers (Employer Identification Number), and in preparing and filing annual trading accounts for any type of US LLC structure – trading solely outside of the US, trading in US or hybrid LLCs that have both US and worldwide income.
Companies that are set-up as resident entities and conduct business in United States are subject to US federal tax and must file US tax returns.


Belize offshore company formation 

Delaware offshore company formation 



Belize offshore guide

Belize has become one of the most prominent locations for companies and wealthy individuals who are seeking a premier offshore tax haven. The country offers numerous financial advantages for entrepreneurs, corporations, and private investors alike. With favorable banking laws, very accommodating international financial treaties, desirable tax rates, and our assistance, your new business will flourish in Belize. For those in need of offshore tax relief, Belize has become the foremost alternative.

Belize, formerly a British Colony, is the only country in Central America with English as its official language. Nestled in the Yucatan peninsula, Belize is merely 200 miles south of beautiful Cancun in Mexico, and less than 100 miles east of the famous Tikal Ruins of Guatemala. Belize is an independent country that has enjoyed a history of peace and tranquility, unlike the other countries of the region. Located on the Caribbean seaboard of Central America Belize has an area of approximately 9,000 square miles; 174 miles at its longest point by 68 miles at its widest point. The total population is estimated at just over 275,000 with the major commercial center being Belize City with a population of 90,000. Much of the population of Belize is ethnically diverse including descendants of the original Mayan culture and various mixtures of Mestizo, Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Middle Eastern and East Indians. Belize is an easy 2 hours flight from major American cities such as Miami, Houston and New Orleans, and offers several flights daily to and from Miami, Houston and New Orleans via American, Continental or TACA Airlines. In addition, there are regular flights from Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador. The climate is sub-tropical with an average temperature of 80F.


Belize has a long history of peace, stability and democracy. It became a British Crown Colony in 1862 and achieved its independence in 1981. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations and the Non Aligned-Movement.

The political system is based on the British Westminster model with Queen Elizabeth II being represented by a Belizean Governor General. Executive authority is exercised by the cabinet under the leadership of the Prime Minister, the Head of State and is subject to approval by a 29-member House of Representatives elected by universal adult suffrage every five years, in addition there is an 8-member Senate with the majority appointed on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

There are two main political parties, and in the most recent election in August 2003. the government remained the People’s United Party after five years of rule prior in 1998 elections. Both parties are committed to the economic development of the country.


Belize Supreme CourtThe law of Belize is derived from English Common Law supplemented by local legislation. The court system is also similar to that in England and contract and commercial law is based on the English law model. Belize is not a signatory to any agreement with other sovereign nations that would interfere with the confidentiality and the security of the Offshore Business environment.


The local currency is the Belize dollar which is tied to the US dollar with fixed exchange rate of BZ$2.00 = US$1 .00. This exchange rate has existed since May 1976.

Belize presently has one Offshore Bank, namely, Provident Bank and Trust of Belize. Additionally there are five commercial banks, The Belize Bank Ltd., First Caribbean International Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, The Alliance Bank, and Atlantic Bank Ltd. The commercial banks are regulated by the Central Bank in accordance with the provisions of a Banking Act.


The Phillip S.W. Goldson International Airport near Belize City provides daily services through five international carriers to the United States and Central America.

Telephone, telex and telefax communications to and from Belize are excellent and direct telephone dialing facilities are available in addition to internet and email services. A satellite earth station at the capital Belmopan provides high quality telecommunication service throughout the world. International courier services for express delivery are well established.


English is the official and spoken language but with many also speaking Spanish. Belize has a literacy factor of over 90%.


Belize is a very reputable offshore jurisdiction, that has gained momentum in recent years for its inexpensive and quick, yet effective and protective, offshore IBCs. Belize is a Central American country, with a robust offshore environment, with English being its official language. Belize is very well accustomed to setting up offshore companies and trusts, and you are in good hands to start a business in Belize. The banks in Belize are very willing to offer merchant account solutions, meaning you can charge your customers credit cards.

FAST: Belize has a very quick incorporation process. Your offshore IBC can be set up in a matter of hours.

NO TAX: Under the Article 130 of the Belize IBC Act, Belize IBCs pay NO TAX in Belize, with only a few simple pre-conditions, including that no business is conducted IN Belize by the IBC.

NO REPORTING: Belize IBCs are free from any reporting requirements.

LEGAL: A Belize IBC is for all legal purposes a separate legal person, and possesses the same commercial rights and powers as a natural person.

SAFE: Belize has an outstanding record of peace, democracy and stability. The country has not been involved into any conflicts or civil disturbances.

PRIVACY: Belize does not disclose its banking or fiscal information under any information-exchange agreements to any foreign parties on grounds of suspected tax evasion. Client confidentiality is robustly enshrined in the Belizean corporate and business legislation.

SECURE: In terms of potential risk of information disclosure to foreign governments (including the U.S.), Belize is arguably the most secure and confidential offshore jurisdiction.

CONVENIENCE: Belize is the only country in Central and South America having English as the official language.

LLC: Belize LLCs were recently passed into law. LLCs are similar to IBCs, except they have membership interest, rather than shareholder stock.

Some Benefits Afforded To Those Who Set Up Belize IBCs

 Complete anonymity and privacy for your Belize IBC.
 Outside of U.S. court jurisdiction.
 Perfect for protecting liquid assets, such as investment portfolios or cash.
 Ideal for business owners who want to operate offshore businesses.
 Ideal solution for protection of high risk assets.
 Perfect for merchant accounts and credit card processing.
 Perfect for someone wanting to purchase investments not available to US citizens.
 One year of service of a registered agent and registered office.
 Preparation, filing and execution of the ‘Memorandum of Association’ with the Registrar of Companies in Belize.
 An operating agreement prepared by asset protection legal representatives..


Application form is submitted with the IBC preferred name.
Corporation documents may be in any language. The company name shall include the word(s): Limited, Corporation, Incorporated, an equivalent, or an abbreviation thereof. Additionally, details of the beneficial directors and shareholders must be included such as nationality, country of residence, address, and profession. Other details, such as a professional recommendation or reference are also required.

Due Diligence Documents

The following must be prepared for each and every beneficial director and shareholder:

 Scanned and notarized copy of the passport or country issued ID card, notarized or certified by a lawyer, notary public, or banker.
 An original proof of residence showing the name and address of the individual is required. Can be a utility bill, telephone bill, or credit card bill, which is dated within the last three months.
 An original letter of introduction is required. This letter can be from a bank, lawyer, accountant or similar profession.


Is registration of the IBC private?
Yes, there is no way that another person or government can search for your entity.

Is there any tax on Belize IBCs?
No. Belize IBCs are exempt from any taxes.

What if there is a nominee director, can they go to the bank and say “I’m an owner of this company?”
For a number of reasons, the answer is no. The director is not an owner of the IBC…the shareholders own the IBC. A nominee director does not need to be given any power, and will not be granted any power unless specifically authorized by the shareholders.
All the signatures of the shareholders are needed to open a bank account.
No funds can be added or taken out without the consent of all shareholders, or in other words, the signatory on the account.
Unless you are a signatory on the account (which the nominee director can not do) then you cannot access the account, and the bank will not even talk to you.
In essence, you need the signature of all of the shareholders to alter the account, or to create the power for one person to alter the account.

Can my funds be frozen or seized by my government?
No. Belize company law has specific provisions to ignore any proceeding in any court outside of Belize.

Are there any exchange controls in Belize?
No. Funds move freely in and out.


Why offshore?

Offshore company formation is generally much easier than onshore incorporation, due to lax legislation and business-friendly regulation. You can have your company in as little as a couple of days from payment to your offshore service provider (OSP).

This article is by no means exhaustive.

There are a few things you need to consider before start your offshore company:

What company form do you need?
How many persons will be involved in the company?
Which offshore jurisdiction is the best?
What extra services do you need? Offshore bank account, nominees?
Offshore Company Legal Form

The first two questions go closely together.
Companies formed in the most popular offshore jurisdictions, in particular Belize, Seychelles, BVI, and Anguilla, are IBCs, which is short for International Business Company. They are called BCs in BVI, but there is virtually no difference between an IBC and an BC.

IBC – International Business Company

An IBC is very similar to a private limited company in that it has a board of directors, shares, and a share capital, but the shares cannot be publicly traded.

IBCs are characterized by many if not all of these features:


The choice among numerous offshore jurisdictions and various company types can be complicated. Each offshore financial center and entity type carries its own set of advantages, benefits and possible trade-offs. In this article, we will attempt to simplify the selection process and explain some of the fundamental characteristics of offshore companies. 

Offshore Company is a company registered for the purpose of operating outside the country of its incorporation and/or the place of residence of its principals: directors, shareholders and beneficial owners. Offshore companies offer a number of legal and tax benefits, including but not limited to low (or 0%) taxation in their home jurisdiction, anonymity for legitimate purposes and asset protection.

Similar to other businesses, offshore companies may enter into contracts, open bank accounts (including offshore accounts), buy and sell various goods and services and own property. A typical offshore company is known as an Offshore IBC (international business company). IBCs do not pay taxes in the place of registration but must also carry on business outside of their home jurisdictions.

There are 5 main criteria that we have outlined for identifying the best offshore tax havens. These are 1) incorporation and renewal costs 2) popularity 3) reputation 4) processing times and 5) proximity to offshore banking facilities.

Incorporation costs and other business fees are often the main decision criteria when it comes to identifying the best offshore jurisdiction. Offshore incorporationis often chosen for the overall lower costs of doing business; hence these fees play such an important role in the selection process.

Another important factor is popularity. The most popular jurisdictions are often the ones that have the best combination of all criteria; hence many choose to incorporate there. At the same time, there are hidden jewels or new jurisdictions such as Anguilla that are on par with other popular jurisdictions.

Reputation is another characteristic and is similar to popularity. At the same time, it reflects jurisdiction’s standing with the professional business community, various government agencies and international banks. It demonstrates the quality of relevant corporate laws and legislatures, the existence of the business infrastructure and country’s stability.

Processing times, including time to complete the offshore company formationprocess and issue various corporate documents, are another important factor. Some jurisdictions can promptly register companies, while others can quickly issue and deliver original documents. Processing times depend on the effectiveness of the local government agencies and registered agents.

Another important consideration is the proximity to offshore banking facilities. Some tax havens have a well-developed banking system, with banks offering a variety of financial services, including online banking, offshore debit and credit cards, merchant accounts and a brokerage facility.




Below, we present the decision criteria for identifying the best offshore companies in various tax havens.

Low Incorporation Costs:
1. Seychelles IBC
2. Belize IBC
3. Anguilla IBC

1. BVI Business Company
2. Panama Corporation
3. Belize IBC

1. Hong Kong Limited Company
2. BVI Business Company (BC)
3. Anguilla IBC

Processing times:
1. Nevis Corporation (or LLC)
2. Anguilla IBC (or LLC)
3. Seychelles IBC

Proximity to offshore banking:
1. Belize IBC
2. Seychelles IBC
3. Anguilla IBC

Combination of all factors:
1. Belize Offshore Company
2. BVI Offshore Company
3. Seychelles Offshore Company
4. Anguilla Offshore Company




Based on our experience and feedback from our clients, we identify Belize as the best place to incorporate when all relevant factors are considered. Belize has a sound banking system, relatively low incorporation and renewal fees and is popular with many retail clients and professional incorporators alike.

BVI is another pick, coming 2nd in our list. It is still one of the most reputable and most popular jurisdictions. Seychelles as one of the most affordable offshore places to incorporate is another pick. Anguilla is a new promising jurisdiction that occupies a 4th place in our list.

For further information don’t hesitate to contact author by email

Having a plan for your business plan

No business plan survives first contact with a customer.
—Steve Blank, Silicon Valley–based retired serial entrepreneur.

After conjuring up a brilliant business idea, I would immediately start writing a business plan. Like a skilled magician, I could make a marvelous business plan appear before your eyes in just a few days. It would be complete with colorful graphs, in-depth market research, and detailed financials. The plan would be ready to execute. And I was sure it had as many pages as possible. Why? I once heard an investor say that he only considers investing in companies with plans that make a thump when you drop them on a table. After years of practical business experience, I realized that I didn’t make a good magician and  I was only fooling myself. Now I know better.

Experience has taught me that when I get a new business idea, working on the business plan is one of the last things to do. The three crucial steps I follow before even thinking of writing a business plan will work for you, too. First, examine the competitive landscape to see what companies are already there.What do they do poorly? What can you do differently to create a competitive advantage? Second, discuss the idea with potential customers, asking basic questions that determine how much they would value your product or service, which is perhaps the most important preliminary step to writing the business plan. Third, develop a sketch or basic prototype of the product. If it’s a service, map out vital steps and describe customer experiences.

By the way, when you are finally ready to write the business plan, make sure that you find professional help in areas that aren’t your expertise. If you don’t understand how to project cash flow for the next five years, don’t attempt it. Likewise, if you don’t know anything about marketing, which is likely the most important part of your plan, you shouldn’t be writing that section. A business plan should be a collaboration, not a solo endeavor. As a well-respected serial entrepreneur once told me, investors are skeptical of any business plan written by one person.

Even the academic world, known for resisting change, is reassessing the importance of the business plan. Candida Brush, chair of the entrepreneurship division and director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, put it best in a recent interview withEntrepreneur magazine:

Students come in here saying they want to write a business plan, but that’s the last thing they need to do. The only way to get to a point where you have a truly entrepreneurial idea is to use a creative approach. Observe. Reflect. Do mini experiments, as opposed to sitting in the library reading case studies. . . . And for us, even that plan is about the process, not creating a 50-page action plan. If you get married to a bad idea, a business plan means nothing.

Babson students are encouraged to do three feasibility studies before moving forward with an idea or writing a business plan. The studies are similar to the steps I mentioned above. More universities and entrepreneurs should adopt this approach.

In short, too much emphasis is still placed on writing a business plan when you have an idea. There is an epidemic of “Frankenplans,” business plans that are a sloppy amalgamation of various business plans or templates; having the document itself seems more important than the quality of the actual plan. Instead of rushing to finish the document, make sure you take the crucial preliminary steps before you begin writing. If done thoroughly, these steps make your business plan stronger and greatly improve your chances of success and funding.

“Wantrepreneurs Live On Hopium,” says NY Angels’ Chair Brian Cohen

“I love angel investing. I’ve been doing it since it was called ‘stupid investing’” said Brian Cohen, Chairman of the New York Angels, as he attempted to fill the information from his most recent book, What Every Angel Investor Wants You To Know: In Insider Reveals How To Raise Money For Your Billion-Dollar Idea, into his 20-minute keynote at the NY Founder Institute First Look Showcase of their latest class of startups.



The Founder Institute is an early-stage four-month accelerator program where participants are not required to quit their day jobs. FI has helped launch over 565 companies across 28 cities, 13 countries, and five continents – making it the world’s largest startup accelerator.

Cohen has been investing in startups in New York for 40 years, he said, preferring this coast to the other, as he sees New York entrepreneurs as being more willing to help each other.

“California has an alpha-dog mentality,” he maintained.

Some of our favorite sound bites/pearls of wisdom from the publisher (Information Week) turned publicist (TSI Communications) turned Angel Investor/Entrepreneur Mentor/Technology Marketing Strategist/Author:

“Do you know the difference between Angels and VCs? Angels spend their own money. VCs spend other people’s money.”

“M&A make up 90% of all exits. The average time for an exit is nine years.”

“There are 30,000 serious Angels in the US… which make your chances of getting funded 400:1 – and it’s getting worse.”

“VCs want to know how big is your market. They’re driven by large market potential. Period.”

“Ever hear the term ‘wantrepreneurs’? Wantrepreneurs live on hopium.”

“Don’t let ego, greed or fear be part of your business plan… When you’re pitching to investors, they don’t want to hear ‘I think’ or ‘I hope.’ They want to hear ‘revolutionary’ and ‘unique.’

“When you’re meeting with investors, use the time wisely. Ask them, ‘tell me who you wrote checks to and why.’ Investors don’t like to say ‘no,’ because they’re afraid of missing out on the next big thing. Get to ‘no’ as quickly as possible.”

For a full transcript. Oh, wait, there is no full transcript available. You’ll just have to read the book.

And now, your First Look at FI’s latest group of startups:

emozia is “revolutionizing the way we communicate emotion – in real time,” said founder Aleksandar Vukasinovic. Communicating emotion to our apps and devices is almost impossible. And that’s exactly what emozia is about. The company has developed technology that determines how you feel and empowers you to share that information with your friends, devices and apps. Imagine if Songza knew what kind of mood you were in – and could suggest music for it, or to counteract it. Uber is currently testing this technology.

Inkwell empowers authors to take control of the publishing process. Through crowd-funding, social tools, and a support network, authors can raise the funds they need to produce their books, and readers/supporters get a first look to see if they’d like to read more – and make it happen

HelpSource is a digital hub for behavioral health providers and consumers. According to co-founder Mavis Baird, People can get the help they need either online, or by reaching out nationally or locally. Revenue is derived through the company’s booking engine.

Builder Buzz “is an online home improvement marketplace where contractors come to you – Snap, Post, Hire, Done!” explained founder Michael Lisovetsky. You post your project and can compare contractors by looking at their profiles, work history, and reviews from previous customers. You decide who to speak to and get quotes from. Of course, it’s also a great platform for contractors to find their next job.

Viewsafar Ok, so you have your big screen HDTV and it’s taking up a lot of real estate, considering that it’s most likely not on 24/7. Viewsafar co-founder Michael Su wants to change that, by providing ambient videos that can run in the background. Wish you were at the beach? Imagine being able to look at the rolling tides in the comfort of your home, and not having to deal with all of that bothersome sand getting all over the carpeting.

One + Love is a social networking app for the LGBTQ community, connecting users to local safe spaces, supportive online community, entertainment, and news. Get a map that takes you right to advocates, hotlines, hospitals, and LGBTQ-friendly organizations and businesses. You’re not alone; One + Love connects you.

Pathgather is an enterprise learning application that helps employees discover learning content, track their progress, and connect with coworkers around professional development. Employees learn more when they learn together. On Pathgather, employees share learning achievements, set public goals, and recommend helpful resources. The end result is a social learning environment that motivates and accelerates personal development – and workplace training.

For full coverage of startup events in New York, visit The Watch.

Funding Daily: Ten million bucks — who wore it better?

Two companies in the rather large roundup today raised $9 million (Apsalar and CareCloud) and two grabbed $10 million (Tastemade and Clusterix).

So we’re asking, who wore it better?

Tim Gunn, who writes a monthly who-wore-it-better column for some fashion rag or other, might say something like:

Apsalar paired the $9 million with a mobile ad product, but its 800 million users got the proportions all wrong. CloudCare focuses its $9 million on health technology, showing the value of careful editing when putting together a complicated look.

Or whatever. Let’s get it on!

Glam grabs $25M

Glam Media has raised an additional $25 million in a series F round of funding, VentureBeat has confirmed with sources familiar with the deal. Glam Media declined to comment on the funding. Glam Media has been planing to go public since 2011, and reportedly filed an IPO under the JOBS Act in secret back in February. (The regular IPO filing process is public record, while filing under the JOBS Act is not.) This new round isn’t huge, but it will help the company stay the course as it pursues a public offering, our sources say.

Seed Stage Valuation Guide

I find it strange that with all the VC and Angel blogs out there, nobody seems to explicitly talk about the single most interesting term in startup financing: Valuation.  Look no further than Chris Dixon’s blog for elucidation on such nuanced terms as founder vesting, convertible notes with caps, etc…but where do you go to find out how much you should expect to give up at various stages in your company’s development.  In the past week alone, I’ve regrettably passed on more than one deal because the valuation the founder was seeking was an order of magnitude off from what was appropriate, and frankly I am pissed.  I am pissed that the earliest “committers” to these rounds aren’t advising founders that they are pricing their rounds incorrectly.  Notice I am not saying I am pissed that the early committers aren’t doing a better job of negotiating.  It’s not about negotiation, it’s about pricing a round in a way that does not lead to adverse selection when a founder goes out to fill the rest of their round.

By definition, the investors with the best deal flow will have a higher bar on what they do and do not invest in, and will be less likely to pay 2x the appropriate valuation for a deal when there are 3 others they are looking at concurrently that are better bets from a risk reward standpoint.  Conversely, the “me too”, “here today, gone tomorrow” early stage investor who is clamoring to get into a deal with the big name angel who committed early and independent of valuation will gladly pay up to play, but is that really the best move for a founder?  Probably not.  The reason that I’m not willing to overpay for an inflated seed round has nothing to do with returns for our fund.  It’s not a math problem I’m trying to solve where I say at $3M premoney we’re going to make a lot of money, and at $5M premoney we’re not.  Rather, I view a founder’s attempt at closing on their first round of financing at an out of whack valuation as a warning sign of a more fundamentally dangerous datapoint: bad judgment.  Whether I bet at $3 or $5 doesn’t matter all that much, but whether I am betting on CEOs with good judgment vs bad is an extremely good predictor of our fund’s overall success.  If you are raising your first round of capital, you should be pricing your round at the valuation where the absolute best investors in the market will all be excited and willing to participate, not at the maximum price where you can find some investors to participate.  If you’re not sure what these numbers are, I thought I’d explicitly articulate some signposts.  This is by no means absolute, and the market changes month to month, but here’s how I’d be thinking about it by stage of development and setup: