09:46 | 12.11.15 | Interviews | exclusive 16845

Roger Strauch: Armenians must learn how to present themselves to investors

Yerevan will host a seminar on how to present a business plan to the investors on November 17-19.

It will be conducted by experienced venture capitalists in Silicon Valley Roger Strauch and Ronald Weissman who had raised funds for company foundation and directed it to make them competitive for over a decade. 

Itel.am talked to one of the spokesmen of the seminar- Roger Strauch, who is the CEO of California based The Roda Group Venture Company. The company offers entrepreneurs environment, resources and support to start a business and technology development. He is also one of the advisors to Grantus Ventures.

- Mr. Strauch, it’s been a decade since you have been doing investments and charity projects in Armenia. What solutions do you plan to give during the seminar?

- I have noticed a significant increase in the capacity of high-tech business community. I have been a professional early stage technology investor for 20 years. 

I think that we are approaching an exciting inflection point for Armenian intra and entrepreneurs – you are beginning to successfully develop and market your own intellectual property to the global marketplace.  PicsArt and Joomag are excellent examples of this talent and capability.  I predict there will many more promising companies in the years ahead. 

The environment in Yerevan is world class competitive - excellent engineers and teamwork, a pleasant and productive work environment, and attractive labor expenses. 

I believe talent will choose to build companies in Armenia rather than America or Europe because it makes business sense to do so.

But Armenians do not yet know how to talk to people like me.  They do not know to present their business ideas to investors, in our language, in a manner that we require to make investment decisions. Armenians believe that the problem is that that there are not enough investors available to listen to new ideas. In my opinion this is not the primary issue.  You need to know how pitch us and to understand what we look for in such opportunities. This will help you secure pitch opportunities and will increase the chance that you earn investment funding.

Ron (edit.- Ronald Weissman) and I want to mentor ambitious, smart business “winners”  to properly introduce their business concepts to sophisticated, early stage investors .

-What is your experience in working with entrepreneurs in Armenia?  What are their strengths and weaknesses?

- I have mentored many dozens of entrepreneurs in Armenia.  I am privileged to be an advisor to PicsArt.  I co-founded Icon Communications, the country’s first wireless broadband ISP. Armenian talent is quickly approaching world class in mobile app technology development and online and social media marketing.  Armenians need to understand how to more efficiently secure and spend capital to launch and grow their businesses.   Armenians need to ensure that their ideas are not “me too” concepts but have substantive competitive advantages in the markets they address.

- The audience of the workshop will include not only entrepreneurs but also CEOs of large innovative companies. Would you share your thoughts on entrepreneurship and the ways Armenian companies can benefit from it?

- All of the world’s medium and large companies would like to retain their best people and to harness there innovative ideas for new products and services that are synergistic with current businesses. But these companies and their entrepreneurs need to know how to present and evaluate these opportunities.  There is a way to do so.  And it is similar to the evaluation of a startup for early stage financing. 

Except that a large company has so much more to offer a new business  in addition to capital – brand recognition and trust, sales resources, manufacturing capability, office  and lab space, for example.

- Mr. Strauch, as Armenian businesses seek to attract funding, should they focus on local investors or foreign capital?

- Great question!  Both! As Armenians get confidence that their compatriots are capable of creating great companies and earning attractive liquidity opportunities they will start investing in Armenian companies.  And traditional venture capital is always looking for the next “big thing”.

VCs realize that these deals could well come from outside Silicon Valley or, for that matter, outside the US.  Armenian companies are already attracting capital from top notch American VC’s.  But they have to know how to speak the language of the venture pitch, and how to describe the business plan of the new project.

- What advice would you give to aspiring Armenian entrepreneurs?

- Don’t sleep.  Choose large market opportunities.  Create a product or service that engages and creates a community of millions of users or a product or service that is worth a lot of money to the customer. Focus on product quality, ease of use and user satisfaction.  Understand the competitive landscape thoroughly.  Every dollar you spend must create value. 

Narine Daneghyan talked to Roger Strauch