Monday, August 3, 2015

Greek shares nosedive; Obama unveils 'biggest' clean energy plan; Five things to know about pitch meeetings

1 Greek shares nosedive (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The full extent of the damage caused by the Greek crisis was laid bare when the first day of stock market trading after five weeks of economic paralysis saw shares lose a sixth of their value.

Bank stocks bore the brunt of a wave of pent-up selling that eclipsed anything seen in the past three decades on the Athens stock market, with three of the leading Greek financial institutions losing the maximum 30% permitted in a single day’s trading.

The plunge in the stock market came as the first snapshot of the economy during the period when Greece teetered on the brink of leaving the single currency showed the manufacturing sector coming to a virtual halt last month. With the banks shut, confidence shattered and firms unable to secure supplies from abroad, Greek industry endured tougher conditions than during the worst of the global financial crisis in 2008-09.

The Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) fell from 46.9 in June to 30.2 in July, the weakest since data for Greece was first collected in 1999 and well below its previous low of 37.2 points reached in early 2012. Any reading below 50 indicates that activity is contracting rather than expanding.

Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at consultancy Capital Economics, said the scale of the damage to the economy caused by the crisis and the imposition of capital controls “looks set to be worse than most forecasters, including ourselves, had envisaged”.

Greece’s problems failed to prevent most other eurozone countries from enjoying a continued pick up in manufacturing activity last month. Every other country apart from France experienced industrial expansion, although the final eurozone PMI of 52.4 was down slightly on June’s 52.5

2 Obama unveils ‘biggest’ clean energy plan (BBC) US President Barack Obama has unveiled what he called "the biggest, most important step we have ever taken" in tackling climate change. The aim of the revised Clean Power Plan is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from US power stations by nearly a third within 15 years.

The measures will place significant emphasis on wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources. However, opponents in the energy industry have vowed to fight the plan. Those opponents say Mr Obama has declared "a war on coal". Power plants fired by coal provide more than a third of the US electricity supply.

The revised plan will aim to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 32% by 2030, compared with 2005 levels. "We are the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change, and the last generation to be able to do something about it," Mr Obama said. He likened the plan to taking 166 million cars off the road in terms of environmental impact. He called taking a stand against climate change a "moral obligation".

3 Five things to know about pitch meetings (William Hsu in San Francisco Chronicle) I’ve had a number of crazy investor meetings over the course of my career, and each of these extreme cases has yielded some valuable insights of what to do, and more importantly, what not to do, when raising venture capital.

A. Dancing seals: Perhaps the most memorable investor meeting I ever had was when the founders showed up wearing dancing seal suits. They thought that this tactic would be the best way to attract attention and be memorable. They certainly achieved their goal on that front, and I have to give them credit for creative marketing but creativity points only get you so far. I did not invest.

B. Burn baby, burn:  We have had multiple entrepreneurs ask if we will burn pitch materials or sign confidentiality agreements, even before meetings start. While I understand the fear that someone will “steal” a precious idea, these requests speak to one of the biggest problems I see over and over again in pitch meetings: Entrepreneurs often think that the idea they have is everything. The idea is about 1 percent of the project. The other 99 percent is having the knowledge to run and follow through with a business.

C. Stalkers: There is a fine line between persistence and stalking. Being persistent about a pitch is often necessary, and even admirable. Stalking is neither, and entrepreneurs who hope to get anywhere with investors need to navigate that line carefully. When founders have crossed this line in the past, we are polite and tell them to be patient.

D. Time and place: If you do happen to encounter an investor you would like to meet with in an unconventional setting (vacation, bathroom or restaurant, to name a few), then at the very most, ask for a more formal meeting where a pitch is more appropriate and welcome.

E. 'Moral' support: About one out of every 50 meetings, a founder brings his or her significant other in with them. This person often has no ties to the business. Despite this, they will still answer questions and speak for the entrepreneur. From my side of the table, this gives the impression that the entrepreneur can’t even handle a pitch meeting. If they can’t handle a pitch meeting, how will they handle running a business? Bringing a significant other shows unpreparedness and a lack of confidence. 

At the end of the day, the most important factor in a VC meeting is to be well-prepared, with a strong idea, pitch and case for how your team can execute on your vision. When it comes down to it, what we are looking for is rather simple and does not require panda suits or stalking. Entrepreneurs’ goal should be to convince investors of your competence (and sanity), and these crazy tactics often have the opposite effect.

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