Private venture investing or private company investment, as it also known, can be a risky business. In order to get the most out of your investment, you should have a comprehensive understanding of this type of investment
It is important to know as much as possible about the private company you are investing in, since there are so many risks involved. A private investor can suffer considerable losses, and you should evaluate a private company investment carefully before deciding to put money into it. There are certain points you should bear in mind before making your private venture investment decision. You should be clear about your investment goals, and see whether they are viable with regard to the investment opportunity you are considering. Consider your expected reward for investing in a private venture and estimate your ROI. The risks involved should also be carefully studied to see whether the returns you will get are worth the risk you will be taking with your money.
It is a good idea to keep a written record of your investment goals so that you can continuously review performance in relation to your investment objectives. And be careful not to get tempted by apparently attractive opportunities – investigate a venture thoroughly before you invest in it. Another important aspect to consider when you are planning to invest in a private venture is the person who is selling the opportunity to you. Do they have a vested interest?
Never get pressurised into making an investment. The promoter, in his eagerness to earn a commission could well attempt to force you into a decision, but it is best to beware of opportunities that do not, by virtue of their quality, sell themselves. Be wary if the promoter does not allow you to contact other investors or prospective investors. Do ensure that you go through the business plan of the venture you are considering for investment. The plan should be one that has been well drawn up, and is comprehensive and practical.
A short summary of the business plan as a whole
Information about the history and past performance of the venture
When you invest in a private company, you will find plenty of information online and from other sources, which will help you identify and recognise the elements of a good business plan that has the potential for healthy returns on your investment. It is of vital importance to study the team who is running the business you are planning to invest in. Some information will be available in the business plan presented, but this area should be gone into in great detail.
Who are the people who will be putting the business plan into practice?
Management is a key factor when it comes to the success or failure of a business venture. You must know as much as possible about the people involved in the enterprise – a professional’s assistance may be sought in this regard. The organisation’s structure is another area to which you should devote attention when you are deciding on a particular private venture investment. Different kinds of private ventures, such as partnerships, limited companies, joint ventures and so on, offer different investment scenarios. The factors involved in each kind of venture should be studied carefully and applied when you are making a decision on a private venture investment.
There are also certain things you should bear in mind while studying the legal structure of the venture. Investment should be done through a subscription form – it isn’t a good idea to merely give a promoter a cheque to pay for your investment. The form should be perused by a lawyer and a financial expert before you go through with the investment. Using an escrow account or a lawyer’s trust account can help prevent fraud. Be very clear about the scenario that will develop if insufficient capital is raised – will your investment be returned? Will your money be stuck in a venture that does not have enough capital to go forward? Will you have to add more money to protect your earlier investment? These are things you should know before you make your private venture investment.
The ownership of the business and the control of its operations is another area that needs to be looked into when you are making a private venture investment decision. Generally, the entrepreneur who initiates the venture is the one in charge of operations, but when problems occur, the investor can question the way things are being run. Sometimes investors take over, in order to protect their investment. Companies are usually managed by a board of directors which safeguards the interest of the investor.
The usual practice is for the entrepreneur to get a share in equity, but different organisations do things in different ways, and the investor should understand the procedures and rules regarding responsibility and management of the business enterprise. Start-up ventures generally offer the entrepreneur less equity, as compared to an established enterprise, since the chances of success are less sure with the former type of business. Entrepreneurs often have a small amount of equity to start with, which increases when the venture starts generating profits.
To what extent the entrepreneur has invested financially in the venture
When you invest in a private venture, details about ownership are generally mentioned in a Unanimous Shareholders Agreement, a document that lays down the rules with regard to problems that arise in this regard. A professional can help you understand the implications of the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement.
You also need to think about your liquidity strategy. How quickly can you get your money back out from the venture if you need it. While entrepreneurs tend to put the profits they earn from the business back into it, an investor would generally want the capital back once the venture is up and running, and generating healthy returns. Investors prefer their investment to be liquid to some degree for various reasons, and you should find out what the scenario is with the private venture you are considering for investment.
Find out when you will get your capital back (this may mentioned in the Unanimous Shareholders Agreement) and what happens when an investor wants to dissociate himself from the venture, and is replaced by another one. You must ensure that your interests are safeguarded in this regard. Understanding the financial picture of the enterprise you are going to invest in is of vital importance when you are deciding whether to invest or not. Both historical and projected financial information should be studied, and the facts checked. Detailed financial information will help you assess the risk involved, and to develop a value analysis to understand the potential for returns on your investment.
Reports from external auditors can provide you with a lot of helpful information. If you are not familiar with the implications of financial facts, get an expert to help you understand what financial statements and audit reports mean, and how your investment is affected.
The final step before you make a private venture investment is getting a due diligence review done, with analyses by financial and legal professionals, so that every item of information is available to you. This kind of review often reveals important details that need to be considered before you invest.
In any case you should always get a second opinion from an expert to help you evaluate the private venture investment opportunity accurately. The questions here are ones you should ask to minimise the risks involved in your investment. Understand the answers to these questions clearly before you make your investment decision; they will help you make the right choice, even without an investment professional’s help.