One VC victory at a time

Steve Kirsch is a pro at raising VC (venture capital) funding. He lists a star-studded cast of investors for his latest venture, an e-commerce software and services company called Propel, which includes Marc Andreessen, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the private investment firm of Michael Dell, MSD Capital -- to name a few.

Although he's been to the well many times as the founder and CEO of successful technology companies, including Infoseek (acquired by The Walt Disney Co.) and Frame Technology (acquired by Adobe Systems and Mouse Systems), he had to work hard to find money for Propel.

"We asked for a pretty high valuation, and a lot of people said they were interested but didn't want to invest at that price," Kirsch says.

The venture capitalists who participated in Propel were not necessarily people with whom Kirsch had worked before, but his track record made a difference. "The fact that each company I founded has been able to achieve a market cap that has been 10 times the previous one has helped," Kirsch says.

One key Kirsch has uncovered during years of entrepreneurship is to hone his company's story carefully before taking it to the VC market: He runs the presentation by his team, gets feedback, and goes through the process several times.

"Keep your presentation short and simple," Kirsch says, adding you should include "your goals and key milestones, what your positioning is for the company, what your strategy is, your head-count plan, your revenue plan, and key challenges." Beyond that, Kirsch says it is important not to get discouraged.

"It can often take longer than you think it does, or than you think it should," Kirsch says. "It's tough to get the first person to commit, but once you get the first person, you'll find it gets a lot easier."

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