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Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

Every entrepreneur wants consistent monthly income to fuel their cash flow and business goals. However, between economic cycles and changing customer interests, that regular revenue may be hard to achieve.

I’ve talked with more and more small business owners lately who use a subscription business model. It involves offering monthly subscriptions for various products and services. Options for these subscriptions cover all kinds of items. Maybe you know someone who receives a subscription box filled with clothing or makeup. Perhaps you’ve tried making meals prepared by Blue Apron or you receive shaving supplies from Dollar Shave Club. Millions of people enjoy Netflix and Spotify for streaming. Other companies offer toys for kids and treat boxes for pets.

The subscription e-commerce industry generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. A 2018 McKinsey survey noted that nearly 60 percent of American consumers surveyed had multiple subscriptions. The monthly subscription economy doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. People love the time and money they save, as well as the excitement of personalization and convenience.

Besides attracting and retaining customers who want these benefits, there’s a significant advantage for subscription companies: recurring revenue. Instead of a one-time payment, monthly subscription businesses collect a monthly fee (or sometimes a year of fees in exchange for a lower monthly rate) before sending out the product or service.

This revenue model provides an upfront spike in cash flow along with a longer-term outlook for stable income. Moreover, you’ll get a better sense of product volume for inventory planning and management.

There is no time like the present to start a monthly subscription business to ride the lucrative wave. Here’s how to launch:

Decide on a subscription model type.

There are three main sub-models that can frame your monthly business within the subscription model. The curation model involves creating a personalized box for customers based on interests they share when they sign up. This might include sample-size versions of products related to a hobby or lifestyle.

The replenishment model is the one I use most often. It offers a regular stream of products the customer uses. For example, Amazon offers this under the name, “Subscribe and Save,” for many food items, cleaning supplies, vitamins, and more.

The access model provides a feeling of exclusivity for customers who get products and experiences not available to anyone without a subscription. Again, let’s reference Amazon. Its Prime program gives members special discounts, offers, and products not accessible to non-Prime members.

Consider a service-oriented subscription model.

You may be wondering how to find your niche. Consider a service-oriented skill set you have that could fit this approach. For example, if you specialize in graphic design, web development, or writing, consider this model for your monthly business.

In contrast to a monthly retainer model, a service-based subscription model provides upfront revenue while giving clients the opportunity to select a pricing tier with accompanying services that fit their needs.

Proceed like any business startup.

I’ve met many a startup founder that didn’t do the basics. Make sure you conduct research, determine a market need or interest, think about what the new product looks like, scope out any competition, and establish pricing.

Create a business plan that outlines your monthly business model, marketing plans, launch timeline, budget, and profitability forecast. Explore technology that helps automate the ordering, processing, and payment aspects of your subscription. I know entrepreneurs who use SaaS companies like Zuora or Zoho here. Also, study how other subscription brands have used marketing tools and platforms to launch and grow their business.

When you are ready to share your subscription business with your audience, consider a no-obligation trial. This entices people to try it on their terms and get excited to sign up for a longer period. In addition, make sure your website or social media promotion has a transparent subscription pricing guide that describes what customers receive at each pricing tier.

Taking all these steps prior to launch can set your monthly subscription business up for success. You want to know that you can attract customers and then deliver an exceptional experience so they maintain their subscriptions and spread the word.

Offer a recurring automatic payment method.

As part of establishing a successful subscription business, it’s ideal to offer old and new customers a way to select recurring automatic payments for their monthly subscription service. They can choose where to deduct the money from — a bank account or credit card.

This model works because it saves them from having to remember to make a payment each month. Instead, they can set up a payment method and comfortably receive the service on a regular basis.

By: John Boitnott

Source: Why You Should Try a Subscription Model for Your Business (and Some Tips on How to Do It)

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Societal Impact: Moving From “Nice-To-Consider” To “Business Imperative”

Over the past few years, societal impact has been growing as an area of interest for businesses. Business leaders, myself included, have voiced the belief that businesses should have a purpose beyond profits, and uphold a responsibility to society and the environment.

Although this school of thought is sometimes met with skepticism from those who doubt the commitment of businesses to do good, there is new research suggesting that businesses are actually taking significant action to improve their impact on society and the environment.

According to a new report from Deloitte Global, societal impact has become the most important factor organizations use to evaluate their annual performances, outranking financial performance and employee satisfaction. These findings are based on a survey of more than 2,000 C-suite executives across 19 countries. This shows a shift, even just from last year’s survey report, in which executives expressed uncertainty about how they could influence the direction of Industry 4.0 and its impact on society.

What is driving this change? There is no one answer. Almost half of executives surveyed (46 percent) reported that their efforts have been motivated by the quest to create new revenue streams, and a similar percentage said that initiatives that have a positive societal impact are necessary for sustaining or growing their businesses. An organization’s cultures and policies were also cited as motivation (43 percent).

External pressure continues to be a major driver as well. According to Deloitte Global’s series of inclusive growth surveys, some of this drive comes more from public sentiment, which is increasingly influencing business leaders’ decisions related to societal impact by encouraging them to reevaluate their strategies.

Purpose in action

When it comes to societal impact, businesses are beginning to put actions behind their words. Seventy-three percent of surveyed CXOs report having changed or developed products or services in the past year to generate positive societal impact. What’s more, 53 percent say they successfully generated new revenue streams from these socially conscious offerings.

While some leaders have started to see profits from positive societal goods and services, there is disagreement over the question of whether initiatives meant to benefit society also benefit bottom lines. Fifty-two percent see societal initiatives as generally reducing profitability; 48 percent said that such initiatives boost the bottom line.

Despite these concerns, leaders report a commitment to initiatives that benefit society.  There’s probably a short term vs longer term element in this regarding the sustainability of business which may have influenced the answers.

Strategically integrated

Beyond products, services, and new revenue streams, leaders are integrating societal impact into their core strategies. Executives say they have been particularly effective preparing for the impact that Industry 4.0 solutions will have on society. They’re also building external partnerships and joint ventures, and strengthening ecosystem relationships to make a greater impact.

Whether driven by finding new sources of revenue, or the need to respond to external pressures, businesses across all industries seem to be moving towards improving their societal impact. It is heartening to see that leaders are incorporating these considerations into their strategies, as well as operations. When societal impact is seen to be an integral part of a business’s makeup, the most meaningful results can be achieved.

To learn more read, “Success Personified in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Four Leadership Personas for an Era of Change and Uncertainty.”

David Cruickshank was elected into the role of Chairman of Deloitte’s global organization, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, in June 2015 having served on its Global Board for eight years from 2007. Prior to this, he was Chairman of the UK member firm from 2007-2015. He is a Chartered Accountant and a graduate in business and economics from the University of Edinburgh. David is co-chair of the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative and a Board Member of the Social Progress Imperative.

Source: Societal Impact: Moving From “Nice-To-Consider” To “Business Imperative”

Today, many firms are active on social media, but not all of them are experiencing transformational change and return on investment. Why do some businesses succeed, while others fail? Join us for a fireside chat on why Social Business has become too important to delegate completely to a junior social marketing team and why going forward, CEOs, CMOs, management teams, and boards must personally own and drive Social Business strategy and re-architect traditional business models and client engagement models.

Fireside chat with Clara Shih, CEO and Co-Founder, Hearsay Social and Kristin Lemkau, CMO, JPMorgan Chase.

 

5 Things Wealthy People Invest Their Money Into

I never had access to money during my childhood, or even as I grew into a teenager and young adult. Both of my parents lived paycheck-to-paycheck and struggled with debt, so that’s really all I knew.

As a result, I was never really exposed to the investing world, nor did I learn to think of entrepreneurship as a viable career option. My parents were busy trying to keep the lights on and food on the table — the thought of having extra money to invest and build wealth would have been completely foreign to them.

Eventually though, I got my first introduction to the concepts behind investing and building wealth. I majored in finance in college, learned about mutual funds and ETFs, and found out how the stock market really works.

As I began my career as a financial advisor and transitioned to entrepreneurship, I was always looking for ways to increase my base of knowledge. I read books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Crush It: Why NOW is the Time to Cash In On Your Passion by Gary Vaynerchuk. However, books like these didn’t teach me how to invest my money. Instead, they taught me how to invest in myself and my personal growth.

5 “Non-Investment” Investments Rich People Learn to Make

The thing is, these are areas where rich people really do invest time and time again. That’s because they know something most people don’t — they know that growing wealth is about more than throwing money into the stock market, becoming an entrepreneur, or taking big risks to fund a promising startup.

Building wealth is just as much about becoming the best version of yourself, staying in constant learning mode, and building a network of like-minded people who can help you reach your goals.

Want to know exactly what I’m talking about? Here are some of the most common non-financial investments rich people love to make:

Accelerated Learning

Most rich people read a lot of books written by people who inspire them in some way or have unique experience to share. I’ve always been a big reader too, diving into books like The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and The Millionaire Messenger by Brendon Burchard.

Reading is such a smart and inexpensive way to fill some of your free time and increase your knowledge, which is something the wealthy already know. If reading a few hours per week could help you stay mentally sharp while you learn new things, why wouldn’t you make that decision over and over?

But there are other ways to accelerate learning that don’t involve reading or books. You can also take online courses in topics that relate to your career. As an example, I’ve personally taken courses on YouTube marketing, productivity, search engine optimization, and affiliate marketing.

Going to conferences to learn new skills from others in your field is also a smart move rich people make. FinCon is a conference for financial bloggers I attend each year that I can attribute making millions of dollars from — mostly from meeting brands, learning new skills, and networking with my peers.

Personal Coaching

Personal coaching is another smart investment rich people make when they know they need some help reaching their potential. Morgan Ranstrom, who is a financial planner in Minneapolis, Minnesota, told me he wholeheartedly suggests a high-quality coaching program for anyone who needs help taking that next step in their business.

Ranstrom has worked with various life and business coaches that have helped him understand his values and clarify his goals, become a published author, and maximize his impact as a professional and business owner.

“For individuals looking to break through to the next level of success, I highly recommend investing in a coach,” he says.

Personally, I can say that coaching changed my life. I signed up for a program called Strategic Coach after being in business for five years, and this program helped me triple my revenue over the next three years.

The thing that scares most people off about coaching is that it’s not free; in fact, some coaching programs cost thousands of dollars. But wealthy people know the investment can be well worth it, which is why they’re more than willing to dive in.

Mentorship

Mentorship can also be huge, particularly as you are learning the ropes in your field. One of the best mentors I had was the first financial advisor that hired me. He was a million-dollar producer and had almost a decade of experience under his belt. I immediately gained access to his knowledge since his office was just next door and, believe me, I learned as much as I could.

Todd Herman, author of The Alter Ego Effect, shares in his book how he mentored under the top mindset coach in his industry when he couldn’t really afford it. He lived in a Motel 6 for almost a month to make the program fit in his budget though. Why? Because he knew this investment was crucial for his career. And, guess what? He was right.

Over the last year, I’ve participated in mentoring with Dr. Josh Axe, an entrepreneur who has built a $100 million health and wellness company. Just seeing how he runs his business and his personal life have been instrumental to my own personal growth.

The bottom line: Seek out people who are where you want to be, ask them to mentor you or sign up for their mentorship programs , and you can absolutely accomplish your goals faster.

Mastermind Groups

It’s frequently said that Dave Ramsey was in a mastermind group called the Young Eagles when he first started his business. Entrepreneurs such as Aaron Walker and Dan Miller were also in the group, and they leaned on another for advice and mentorship to get where they are today. Ramit Sethi, bestselling author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is in a mastermind group with Derek Halpern from Social Triggers.com and other successful entrepreneurs.

I also lead a mastermind group for men. Believe it or not, one of our members has been able to increase his recurring annual revenue over $300,000 because of advice he has received.

These are just a few examples of masterminds that have worked but trust me when I say most of the wealthy elite participate in some sort of mastermind group or club.

Mastermind groups are insanely helpful because they let you bounce business ideas off other entrepreneurs who may think differently than you but still have your best interests at heart. And sometimes, it’s a small piece of advice or a single statement that can make all the difference in your own business goals — and your life.

Building Relationships

When it comes to the top tiers of the business world, there’s one saying that’s almost always true:

“It’s not always what you know, but who you know.”

According to Alex Whitehouse of Whitehouse Wealth Management, successful people forge relationships that catapult their careers.

“The right connections can help land better jobs, accelerate promotions, or start lucrative businesses,” he says.

But it’s not about cheesy networking events. To get the most value, focus on meeting people at professional conferences, mastermind groups, and high-quality membership communities, says Whitehouse.

This is a strategy most successful people know — meet other people who you admire and build a relationship that is beneficial for everyone.

But, there’s a catch — and this is important. When you meet someone new who could potentially help you in your business, you can’t just come out of the gate asking for favors. I personally believe in the VBA method — or “Value Before the Ask.” This means making sure you provide value before asking a favor from anyone.

In other words, make sure you’re doing your share of the work to make the relationship a win for everyone. If you try to build relationships with other entrepreneurs just so you can ride their coattails, you’ll be kicked to the curb before you know it.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

 

I am a certified financial planner, author, blogger, and Iraqi combat veteran. I’m best known for my blogs GoodFinancialCents.com and LifeInsurancebyJeff.com and my book, Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in Your Future. I escaped a path of financial destruction by being a college drop out and having over $20,000 of credit card debt to eventually become a self-made millionaire. My mission is help GenX’ers achieve financial freedom through strong money habits and unleashing their entrepreneurial spirit. My work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Reuters and Fox Business.

Source: 5 Things Wealthy People Invest Their Money Into

Warren Buffett is the godfather of modern-day investing. For nearly 50 years, Buffett has run Berkshire Hathaway, which owns over 60 companies, like Geico and Dairy Queen, plus minority stakes in Apple, Coca-Cola, and many others. His $82.5 billion fortune makes him the third richest person in the world. And he’s vowed to give nearly all of it away. The Oracle of Omaha is here to talk about what shaped his investment strategy and how to master today’s market. I’m Andy Serwer. Welcome to a special edition of “Influencers” from Omaha, Nebraska. It’s my pleasure to welcome Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. Warren, welcome. WARREN BUFFETT: Thanks for coming. ANDY SERWER: So let’s start off and talk about the economy a little bit. And obviously, we’ve been on a good long run here. WARREN BUFFETT: A very long run. ANDY SERWER: And does that surprise you? And what would be the signs that you would look for to see that things were winding down? WARREN BUFFETT: Well, I look at a lot of figures just in connection with our businesses. I like to get numbers. So I’m getting reports in weekly in some businesses, but that doesn’t tell me what the economy’s going to six months from now or three months from now. It tells me what’s going on now with our businesses. And it really doesn’t make any difference in what I do today in terms of buying stocks or buying businesses what those numbers tell me. They’re interesting, but they’re not guides to me. For more of Warren Buffett’s interview with Andy Serwer

click; https://finance.yahoo.com/news/influe…

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More Selloff Strategies: Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ Recap

When investors encounter tough days in the stock market, they need a game plan for how to respond, Jim Cramer told his Mad Money viewers Friday. That means knowing what type of selloff you’re dealing with and how best to navigate it. Fortunately, history can be your guide in identifying those inevitable moments of weakness and keep you from panicking.

Stocks finished down Friday, as Donald Trump’s recent threat to levy 10% tariffs on an additional $300 billion of Chinese imports overshadowed the latest U.S. jobs data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which hit a session low of 334 points, finished down 98 points, or 0.37%, to 26,485. The S&P 500, which saw its worst week of the year, fell 0.73% and the Nasdaq dropped 1.32%. The Dow had its second worst week of the year as it fell 2.6%.

Cramer told his viewers that the U.S. stock markets have only seen two truly horrendous selloffs since he began trading in 1979. Those were the Black Monday crash in October 1987 and the rolling crash of the financial crisis from 2007 through 2009. But while both of these declines saw huge losses, they were in fact very different.

Many investors don’t remember Black Monday, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 22% in a single day. Even fewer remember that the market lost 10% during the week prior, and continued its losses on the Tuesday after. While it wasn’t known at the time, this crash was mechanical in nature, caused by a futures market that overwhelmed the ability to process the flood of transactions. In the confusion, buyers stepped aside and prices plunged.

The carnage wasn’t stemmed until the Federal Reserve stepped in with promises of extra liquidity. But in the end, the economy was strong. There was nothing wrong with the underlying companies, the market just stopped working. That’s why it only took 16 months to recover to their pre-crash levels.

Investors witnessed similar mechanical meltdowns in the so-called “flash crash” of 2010 and its twin in 2015. On May 6, 2010 at precisely 2:32 p.m. Eastern, the futures markets again overwhelmed the markets, only this time machines were doing most of the trading. The crash lasted for a total of 36 minutes, during which time the Dow plunged 1,000 points from near the 10,000 level.

In August of 2015, another flash crash occurred at the open, with the Dow again falling 1,000 points in the blink of an eye. In the confusion, traders couldn’t tell which prices were real and which ones were pure fantasy. Only those with strong stomachs risked trading at the heart of the decline, but those traders were rewarded handsomely.

In all of these cases, Cramer said, the machinery of the markets was broken. Even the circuit breakers put in place after 1987 were not able to stem the declines and in fact, did very little to even slow them down. But for those investors who were able to recognize what was actually happening, these declines were a once- (well, twice-) in-a-lifetime gift.

Cramer and the AAP team are making three more trades as they reposition on this week’s selloff, including Burlington Stores, (BURLGet Report) and Home Depot (HDGet Report) . Find out what they’re telling their investment club members and get in on the conversation with a free trial subscription to Action Alerts Plus.

The Great Recession

The Great Recession was a totally different animal. The market began falling in October 2007, but didn’t bottom until March 2009, almost two years later. Afterwards, it took until March of 2013, four years later, for the markets to get back to even. Cramer said this kind of decline is the most dangerous, but fortunately, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, only occurring every 80 years or so.

The Great Recession was caused by the Fed raising interest rates 17 times in lock step, trying to cool an already cooling economy. The recession could have been avoided had the Fed done their homework and actually talked to CEOs, as Cramer did at the time.

Cramer recalled talking to the CEOs of banks, all of whom told him that defaults on mortgages were on the rise in a fashion none of them had seen before. Cramer’s famous “They know nothing” rant on CNBC stemmed from those conversations, as the Fed did nothing until the first banks began to collapse. The market fell 40% before finally finding its footing.

How can investors identify this type of devastating decline? Cramer said investors can ask whether the economy is on a solid footing. Is business declining? Is employment falling? Are interest rates still rising even as cracks are appearing? If big companies are unable to pay their bills, the problem could be a lot deeper than you think.

On Real Money, Cramer keys in on the companies and CEOs he knows best. Get more of his insights with a free trial subscription to Real Money.

Today’s Market

Today’s market is not like 2007, however, Cramer said. Business is stronger, our banking system is stronger and there’s still time for the Fed to take their foot off the brakes and wait for more data before proceeding.

So you’ve just spotted a mechanical breakdown in the market, what should you buy? Cramer said he’s always been a fan of accidental high-yielders, companies whose dividend yield is spiking because their share prices are falling with the broader averages.

He said that these stocks are always among the first to rebound, as their dividends help protect them. He advised always buying in wide scales as the market declines. That way, if the rebound is swift, you’ll still make a little money, but if it’s a larger, multiday sell off, you’ll make even more.

Cramer reminded viewers that when the Fed is cutting interest rates, almost every market dip is a buying opportunity. But when it’s raising rates, things get tricky. Not every rate hike causes a crash, however, only ones that push rates high enough to break the economy.

During these times, it’s important to remember that stocks aren’t the only investment class out there. You can also invest in gold, bonds or real estate to stay diversified.

It’s Not Just the Fed

The Fed isn’t the only reason why the market declines, and Cramer ended the show with a list of the other common culprits.

The first sell-off culprit are margin calls. Too often, money managers borrow more money than they can afford and when their bets turn south, they are forced to sell positions to raise money. We saw this happen in early 2018 when traders were betting against market volatility by shorting the VIX. When volatility returned, these traders lost a fortune and the whole market suffered.

There are also international reasons for the market to sell off, including crises in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Mexico, among others. Cramer said in these cases, it’s important to ask whether your portfolio will actually be impacted by these events. Usually, the answer is no.

Then there’s the IPO market. Stocks play by the laws of supply and demand after all, so when tons of new IPOs are hitting the markets, money managers often have to sell something in order to buy them. Declines can also stem form multiple earnings shortfalls as well as, yes, political rhetoric coming from Washington.

Cramer said many of these declines happen over multiple days. The key is to watch if the selling ends by 2:45 p.m. Eastern. If so, it may be safe to buy. But if not, there will likely be more selling the following day and it will pay to be patient.

By:

Search Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” trading recommendations using our exclusive “Mad Money” Stock Screener.

To watch replays of Cramer’s video segments, visit the Mad Money page on CNBC.

To sign up for Jim Cramer’s free Booyah! newsletter with all of his latest articles and videos please click here.

Source: More Selloff Strategies: Cramer’s ‘Mad Money’ Recap

 

He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

Sid Sijbrandij knows a thing or two about building, scaling and even walking away from companies. His current venture is doing over $100 million in revenue and is valued at over $1 billion.

Originally from the Netherlands, Sid Sijbrandiij is now the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s unicorns that is powering the web through developers worldwide. It’s not his first startup rodeo either.

Sid Sijbrandij recently appeared on the DealMakers podcast. During the exclusive interview, he shared his entrepreneurial journey, the process of finding cofounders, bootstrapping versus raising millions, his addiction to fast-growth startups, and many more topics.

Seizing Opportunities

Sid Sijbrandi seems to have always had a gift for spotting business opportunities.

During high school, he studied applied physics and management science. He chose a kind of program that blends the benefits of an M.B.A., with getting good at several engineering disciplines.

In his first year at college, he also started his first company.

The idea came from a fellow Ph.D. student that had made an infrared receiver you could use to skip to the next song on your computer (the only thing that played an MP3 song at the time). He started buying these infrared receivers from him and selling them in the U.S. You’d send him an envelope of dollar bills, and he would then send you a printed circuit board.

Ultimately, his two cofounders didn’t agree on growth plans concerning hiring more people. Sid wanted to hire faster, so he didn’t have to spend as much time on it, while his cofounders wanted to optimize for free cash flow. They ended up parting ways amicably.

The Two Most important Things for Launching with Cofounders

Sid has experienced several startups and says his two big takeaways when it comes to cofounding a company are:

1) To be smart with the shares

2) To be sure you and your cofounders are aligned in vision

For example, automatically making everyone an equal cofounder, even if they come in way later in that process, can be a mistake.

Sid says it is important that shares “are aligned with their contribution to the company. It’s very important if you start a company to have vesting of your shares as well.”

This helps avoid the free rides, because if someone leaves with all the equity, then people that need to invest like VCs are going to be like, “Why am I investing for just 50% remaining of the business.”

In the Netherlands, Sid didn’t find the goal of local companies to grow really fast. If you do want to grow a company really fast, he says it is beneficial to be somewhere like the Bay Area, where everyone just assumes that is the goal.

Not just your cofounder, but also your accounts person and your lawyer, and everybody else requires the growth mindset.

Passion for Growth

After graduation, Sid spent a few months at IBM and could have stayed there. He had an interest in strategy consulting, as well as building a recreational submarine.

He made a balanced scorecard of all the different ways to make that decision. One of the criteria being, “Is this a good story to tell in a bar?” He showed his dad who said it was a ridiculous way to decide on your career but was very supportive either way.

So, he called someone interested in a submarine venture. His pitch was, “Look, you should really hire me because I have a job offer from IBM. Otherwise, I’ll start working there, and we both don’t want that.” He got the job.

He built the first onboard computer for the submarine. Today, U-Boat Worx is one of the biggest builders of recreational submarines. If you go on a cruise, and they have a submarine, it’s likely from U-Boat Worx.

Still, after five years, it just wasn’t growing at a pace that kept Sid interested. He then went on to do a part-time stint on an innovation project with the government as a civil servant.

During this time, he really got to know himself, and how fast-growing companies with a continuous string of problems to be solved were what kept him interested.

Funding Your Startup

After starting and selling app store Appappeal, Sid turned open-source software GitLab into a fast-growing venture that is on its way to an IPO in 2020.

He took the proceeds from his previous venture, doubled it in bitcoin, and began bootstrapping GitLab.com.

Sid got the first few hundred signups through an article posted on Hacker News. Then together with his cofounder applied and got into Y Combinator. The race to demo day, where they would present in front of top tier investors, was on.

Compressing their three-month plan into just two weeks, the GitLab team had a highly successful demo day, landing Ashton Kutcher as an investor.

There was so much interest in their seed round, they rolled right into the Series A financing round. They’ve since followed that up with a B, C and D financing rounds, raising a total of $158 million at $1.1 billion valuation.

Today, some of their investors include Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, August Capital, ICONIQ Capital, 500 Startups, and Sound Ventures to name a few. It doesn’t get much better than that as a hyper-growth startup.

In order to do this, Sid and his team had to master storytelling. This is being able to capture the essence of the business in 15 to 20 slides. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.

Embracing The Remote Work

Sid states they “don’t do in person.“ At Gitlab they encourage having meetings with webcam. They believe there’s something to see in the other person even if it is via video.

To put this into perspective, every day, employees have a company call, and it’s a thing you do with a limited set of people. In this regard, there are about 20 in each group, and they just hangout.

During the group calls there are all types of topics discussed that vary from movies to magazines. Topics are not necessarily work-related.

Sid and his team very much believe that their company is more than just, “Hey your work…”

As part of Gitlab‘s culture, the social interaction plays a key role and they have a lot of ways in which they facilitate this inside the company. Even if this happens remotely.

M&A Made Simple

Recently Sid and GitLab have been very active when it comes to acquisitions on the buy-side. That includes Gitorious in 2015, Gitter in 2017 and Gemnasium in 2018.

When it comes to acquiring companies, they’ve made the process incredibly simple, and are actively looking for more companies to buy.

In this regard, they like to acquire teams that have built a product before. Preferably a team that made a great product, but didn’t get distribution. Especially because typically they shut their existing product down.

To make things easier, they have an acquisition offer page. It even includes a calculator, so you can go online and calculate how much they’re offering.

Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:

  • When to pull the plug on your startup
  • The advantages of SAFE notes for raising money
  • How GitLab does meetings and culture around the globe
  • Why they pay based on where team members live
  • Tips for recruiting top engineers
  • Why you should read the GitLab handbook

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a serial entrepreneur and the author of the The Art of Startup Fundraising. With a foreword by ‘Shark Tank‘ star Barbara Corcoran, and published by John Wiley

Source: He Built A $1 Billion Business Where All 700 Employees Work Remotely

Yields Up To 9.9% That Rich Guys Don’t Want You To Know About

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Not yet as rich as you always wanted to be? Don’t worry, because today we’re going to dial you in for some “rich guy” dividend favorites that’ll pay you up to 9.9% every year.

Private equity is a lucrative and secretive world. It’s often limited to accredited investors, which means these funds require you to have $200,000 or more in annual income to qualify.

If you’re living on dividends alone, this might be challenging. Fortunately, there are some private equity plays that you can buy just like individual stocks. They trade for as cheap as $12 per share and they’ll pay you dividends from 8.8% to 9.9% along the way:

Contrarian Outlook

Contrarian Outlook

Private equity (PE)—funds that can invest in the equity and debt of privately held companies, which we typically can’t get our hands on—is generally touted as outperforming the stock market.

The American Investment Council, which advocates for private investment, points out that research from the 1990s and early 2000s showed that “private equity outperformed public markets by 3 to 4 percent each year,” and a 2019 paper investigating more recent “vintage years” finds that “that private equity continues to generate returns that are 2 to 3 percent above the returns of public markets.”

The downside? Privately held private equity firms aren’t exactly easy to tap, and you typically need to have seven digits to get in.

But here’s a back door that you and I can access. We can buy PE-esque investments just like regular stocks with a single-click! The trick is handful of little-known publicly traded companies called business development companies (BDCs).

Congress created BDCs in the 1980s to spur investment in America’s small and midsize businesses, the same way they created REITs in the ‘60s to help mom ‘n’ pop investors tap the real estate markets. And like REITs, BDCs get a generous tax break—if they dole out 90% or more of their profits as dividends to you and me.

Thus, business development companies not only let us access a big pool of investments you and I otherwise couldn’t otherwise dream of accessing, but also deliver sky-high yields that are among the highest you can find in the stock market. The caveat, of course, is that they do come with heightened risk, and not all BDCs are gems.

Today, I’ll show you three notable BDCs—yielding between 8.8% and 9.9%—that should be on your radar screen.

PennantPark Floating Rate Capital (PFLT)

Dividend Yield: 9.7%

Let’s start out with a yield juggernaut: PennantPark Floating Rate Capital (PFLT), which will get investors awfully close to a double-digit yield at current prices.

PennantPark provides access to middle market direct lending with, as the name implies, a heavy focus on floating-rate loans, though it’ll invest anywhere across the capital structure (senior secured debt, subordinated debt and others).

Its primary target is private equity sponsor-backed companies with $10 million to $50 million in EBITDA. It avoids capex-heavy businesses, as well as fickle industries such as fashion and restaurants, but it still has plenty of sectors to play with. Portfolio companies include the like of primary-clinic operator Cano Health, marketing services provider InfoGroup, and WalkerEdison, whose furniture can be found online via companies such as Amazon.com (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Home Depot (HD).

PennantPark typically leans toward the low-risk but low-reward end of the BDC spectrum, which historically has served it just fine. However, the BDC’s last earnings report raised some credit-quality concerns. The company reported that four of its portfolio companies were on “non-accrual,” which essentially happens when a payment is more than a month overdue, or there’s some other concern about a company’s ability to make a payment.

The BDC was subsequently nailed in May on the news. That has me wary. And the floating-rate nature of its loans, while attractive during periods of rising rates, isn’t a significant advantage right now.

New Mountain Finance

Dividend Yield: 9.9%

New Mountain Finance (NMFC) targets companies middle-market companies, too, investing between $10 million to $50 million across the debt spectrum in businesses that generate annual EBITDA between $10 million and $200 million.

NMFC likes to say that it invests in “defensive growth” industries. It’s a silly, contradictory term, sure. But the qualities it covets in its portfolio companies are, in fact, pretty attractive: high barriers to competitive entry, recurring revenue, strong free cash flow and niche market dominance.

To be fair, New Mountain, like PennantPark, is heavily weighted toward floating-rate loans, which make up 93% of the portfolio. But NMFC is a few steps in the right direction. Its credit quality is stellar – only eight portfolio companies have gone on non-accrual since inception in 2008, and there were no new non-accruals over this past quarter. Better still, the company is a bastion of consistency when it comes to covering its healthy dividend with net interest income (a core measure of profitability for BDCs).

New Mountain, which trades at only a sliver of a premium to its net asset value right now, still should be fine in the current environment. Keep this BDC in mind should the Fed’s hawks ever take over again.

Ares Capital (ARCC)

Dividend Yield: 8.8%

Ares Capital (ARCC) is a slightly more modest yielder compared to the previous two picks, and you likely won’t snag it for a significant discount. But that’s OK—ARCC is worth a small premium.

I’ve beat the drum on ARCC a few times, including in February 2019, but also going back more than two years, in January 2017. I said at the time that the company’s investment spread, as well as a $3.4 billion merger with American Capital, “should benefit ARCC in just about any market environment,” and that “in short, ARCC is going places.”

Ares Capital, Wall Street’s largest BDC, invests primarily in first and second lien loans and mezzanine debt of middle-market companies. A high priority is placed on “market-leading companies with identifiable growth prospects that can generate significant cash flow.” Its portfolio of roughly 345 companies touches numerous sectors, including business services, food and beverage, healthcare, IT and light manufacturing.

Ares’ core earnings and net realized gains have exceeded dividends every year since 2011, by increasingly wide margins. In fact, the company’s operational performance has been so robust that it has hiked its payout twice since this time last year.

Bottom line: ARCC is a standout in what typically is a difficult industry to invest in.

However, I’m not sure I’d commit capital to this stock right now. Given its recent run up, I’d like to see a pullback for a lower risk entry point.

Brett Owens is chief investment strategist for Contrarian Outlook. For more great income ideas, click here for his latest report How To Live Off $500,000 Forever: 9 Diversified Plays For 7%+ Income.

Disclosure: none

I graduated from Cornell University and soon thereafter left Corporate America permanently at age 26 to co-found two successful SaaS (Software as a Service) companies.

Source: Yields Up To 9.9% That Rich Guys Don’t Want You To Know About

Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

Following the news that Chevron had agreed to pay a nearly 40% premium to acquire Anadarko Petroleum, investors quickly bid up the shares of other potential acquisition targets.

As I argued in the previous article, I believe the Permian was the key to the Anadarko acquisition, but there are plenty of other targets in the region. There are also several companies with the capability of making acquisitions.

In recent years, the few mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas industry have been largely focused on the Permian Basin. The supermajor integrated oil and gas companies have been increasingly making forays into the Permian.

In addition to Chevron’s new acquisition, in 2017 ExxonMobil paid $6.6 billion to acquire Permian acreage from the Bass family of Fort Worth, Texas. ExxonMobil also spent $41 billion in 2009 to acquire XTO, which has a major presence in the Permian.

Permian Players

Today major acreage holders in the Permian Basin include the supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as Occidental, Apache and Concho Resources. Occidental, in fact, reportedly attempted to acquire Anadarko prior to Chevron sealing the deal. But Occidental may now find itself in the crosshairs of a bigger player looking to shore up their Permian portfolio.

But there are many other major producers in the region, including ConocoPhillips, EOG Resources, Pioneer Natural Resources, Noble Energy, Devon Energy, and Diamondback Energy. Smaller producers in the region include WPX Energy, Parsley Energy, Cimarex Energy, Callon Petroleum, Centennial Resource Development, Jagged Peak Energy and Laredo Petroleum.

Let’s first take a look at the largest companies operating in the Permian according to enterprise value. This metric is preferred over market capitalization, because it includes a company’s debt. In the case of a potential acquisition, the acquiring company would be responsible for this debt in addition to the purchase price. Hence, it is a more comprehensive representation of a company’s market value.

I have included the integrated supermajors that could have the ability to make major acquisitions, three of the larger exploration and production companies (which could make an acquisition or be a target themselves), and Anadarko for comparison. All data were retrieved from the S&P Capital IQ database.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for major oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • EV – Enterprise value at the close on April 12, 2019 in billions of U.S. dollars
  • EBITDA – TTM earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization in billions of U.S. dollars
  • TTM – Trailing 12 months
  • FCF – Free cash flow in billions of U.S. dollars
  • Debt – Net debt at the end of the previous fiscal quarter
  • 2018 Res – Total proved oil and gas reserves in billion barrels of oil equivalent at year-end 2018
  • EV/Res – The value of the company divided by its proved reserves

Potential Buyers

Based on their size and debt metrics, ExxonMobil and Chevron still appear to be the most capable of pulling off a major deal. Shell has been moving in the direction of becoming a natural gas company, and has already made major capital expenditures in this area in recent years. Further, in 2016 they made their own major acquisition — a $70 billion deal for BG Group.  Meanwhile, Total hasn’t shown much interest in the Permian.

BP may not have an appetite for an acquisition as it continues to be weighed down by its obligations from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As an aside, the continued fallout from that disaster has also resulted in BP having the cheapest reserves on the books by far of any company listed in the table. Also note that the EV/Res metric for integrated supermajors isn’t directly comparable to pure oil producers like Anadarko, as the former also have midstream and refining assets.

ConocoPhillips appears to be the most attractive target for an acquisition from a pure valuation perspective, but as the largest pure oil company it would be a large bite for even ExxonMobil. With respect to making an acquisition, ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance stated earlier this year that the company isn’t feeling any pressure to do so.

Occidental also falls into the category of potentially making an acquisition or of being acquired. On a relative basis, they are more expensive than ConocoPhillips, but on an absolute basis the price would be more manageable.

What about smaller players like Parsley, WPX Energy, or Cimarex Energy? Based on the price movement following the announcement of the Chevron-Anadarko deal, investors are clearly betting that more deals will follow. Below are some of the metrics of potential acquisition targets (with Anadarko for comparison), including some of the large players listed in the previous table:

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Metrics for smaller oil companies operating in the Permian Basin.

Robert Rapier

  • 1-Day Change – Change in share price on April 12, 2019, the day the Chevron-Anadarko deal was announced

Note that the double-digit gains of both Pioneer Natural Resources and Parley Energy imply that investors believe they could be next on the acquisition list. Parsley looks attractively priced according to its enterprise value and total reserves. Several other companies stand out, such as Devon Energy and Cimarex, although all of these companies outspent their cash flow in 2018. An acquisition by one of the larger players could give them the efficiencies and economies of scale to rectify that.

Another name on the list that stands out is Diamondback Energy, which has long been one of my favorite Permian Basin oil companies. Diamondback has been an outstanding performer in recent years, but now looks to be the most richly valued according to several metrics following its 2018 acquisition of Energen.

The biggest challenge with the smaller players is that they may not have enough reserves to really move the profit needle for the biggest players. Laredo Petroleum’s 200+ million barrels of oil and gas reserves might not be sufficiently appealing to ExxonMobil, which had 24 billion barrels of reserves at the end of 2018. But it could be appealing to a company like EOG Resources, which closed the year with 2.8 billion barrels of reserves.

Ultimately, price and valuation are only part of the equation. Anadarko wasn’t the cheapest acquisition target for Chevron, but Chevron liked the synergies of Anadarko’s locations. Thus, every major operator in the Permian is more likely to acquire companies whose properties are adjacent to their own. A deeper dive thus becomes an exercise in not only value, but in studying maps of the Permian producers — large and small.

Robert Rapier has over 25 years of experience in the energy industry as an engineer and an investor. Follow him on Twitter @rrapier or at Investing Daily.

Robert Rapier is a chemical engineer in the energy industry. Robert has 25 years of international engineering experience in the chemicals, oil and gas, and renewable ene…

Source: Which Company Could Be The Next Permian Basin Acquisition Target?

DoorDash Is Now Worth Nearly As Much As Grubhub After $400 Million Funding Infusion

Investor appetite in food delivery companies is growing, notwithstanding a rash of customer complaints about how these startups pay contract workers. On Thursday, DoorDash announced it had raised another $400 million in a Series F funding round led by Temasek and Dragoneer Investment Group. The cash infusion brings DoorDash’s total capital raised to $1.4 billion, of which $978 million came from funding rounds in the last year.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bizcarson/2019/02/21/doordash-funding-400-million-grubhub-7-billion-valuation/#3df12b267e10

Betting The Company… And Winning

In July 2016, the biggest thing in security was ransomware. Several major ransomware attacks had made headlines in the preceding months, with healthcare hit particularly hard. This was in the early days, before ransomware like WannaCry and NotPetya would take down organizations on a global scale, but even so it was taking up a lot of real estate on security blogs and tech websites.

Source: Betting The Company… And Winning

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