So I have a site that will accept subscriptions the first quarter of 2011. I have been developing this product over the past year and it is almost complete. I would like to use the VC money to help market, for hosting costs, and so that I can bring on additional people for other roles I need.
I am concerned about losing control of my company and possibly getting fired from my own company due to any political antics (see TechCrunch article ). If I took on VC money, I figure I can limit this possibility by doing as much of the heavy lifting prior to seeking outside money. So that I can maintain majority equity within the company.
The question is, "How much equity would a VC company take for a mid-stage start-up company?". Also, how much leverage would I have given that I could technically not use any VC money at all, but progress would be much slower.
"How much equity would a VC company take for a mid-stage start-up company?"You're going at it backwards. How much equity is taken depends on the size of the investment, and the pre-money valuation. The size of the investment depends on the plan for growth, i.e. your pitch.
I am concerned about losing control of my companyAll VC investment require "losing control" to a certain degree. If nothing else, you must accept that the company becomes 100% professional, and highly/exclusively growth focused. If you don't completely agree with this, then don't take VC investment.
If I took on VC money, I figure I can limit this possibility [loosing control] by doing as much of the heavy lifting prior to seeking outside money.Yes, true. Be mindful of what VCs define as progress. If the area doesn't really have technology risk (job boards would seem to have little or no tech risk to me), then actually building the thing may be less progress than you think. VCs may be more interested in why there is a market for your offering, and what competitive advantages you have against the existing solutions. Jason Cohen, the co-host here, has a nice overview of this.
So that I can maintain majority equity within the company.Even if you maintain majority equity, VCs probably will require a certain amount of control, fx. via board seats, shareholder's agreements, etc. The more amateurish you seem, there more you seem locked up on "control" and not on growth, the more control VCs will want.
I've raised investment capital before. One thing to consider is that most investors are going to want to invest enough to gain a 10-40% equity stake. My experience is most VCs want about 25-40% for it to be worth their time, but I'm sure there are exceptions.
As for leverage, keep in mind that as a founder you will hold common stock and VCs will hold preferred stock which will give them a handful of rights (they can vary a lot - it just depends on what you work out) even though they are minority stake holders.
Are you actually 'mid-stage'? In online recruitment - which is hardly an uncontested space - I'd be looking for evidence that you have built strong relationships with one or more of:
If you don't have those, your urgent need is for those relationships - perhaps through a business angel with a background in recruitment or in human resource management.
There are important problems to be solved in the recruitment space. A site that added new and serious value to the qualification process (both ways - employees qualifying prospective employers, employers qualifying applicants) could break through. But unless I'm missing something, you're offering a very similar feature set to a bunch of workflow-simplifying job sites. It's going to be very hard to show VC-able returns.
A few considerations.
First, you are talking about "VC money". But, looking at your website, it seems like your website is still in beta; so unless you have already customers and revenue (or you're already a successful entrepreneur), just forget about VC money. You have to look for business angels, and you are lucky because quite a few of them are on this forum.
There's a good interview to Naval of AngelList where he says what business angels look for, but I can't find the link now. From the top of my mind, that's the prioritised list of things you need to have to appeal a potential investor
With these criteria in mind, look and your product and try to understand if that's the right time to find investors, or if you need to work more on getting traction.
Finally (best piece of advice :) ), just go talk with business angels. VCs can be quite difficult to reach, but business angels generally aren't. There are many respected business angels who are absolutely open to meet with anybody with an idea/product and advise you. OnStartups is awesome but nothing beats discussing these details with them and having their honest feedback.