Venture capital improves corporate governance

COMPANIES receiving venture capital backing are generally better at corporate governance when they list on the stock exchange than those that have not gone down the venture capital path, according to a study by the Australian School of Business.

Based on 11 years of research by Associate Professor Jo-Ann Suchard in association with the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, the study examined corporate governance at companies that had gone through an initial public offering.

It finds that listed companies with VC-backed boards have more independent directors and a higher percentage of independent directors with industry experience than non-VC companies that have gone to an IPO.

“It is established in international markets that venture capitalists add value through various types of activities beyond just giving money,” Suchard says.

Her research shows VC-backed firms have more independent directors. “These were not just non-executives, but directors who didn’t have any prior or existing relationship with the company, so they weren’t lawyers or bankers or accountants who had a prior working relationship,” she says.

Suchard says VCs use their networks to bring in specialist independent directors to help run companies, and therefore provide better corporate governance, which should help protect shareholder interests and contribute to better performance over time.

Luceille Outhred, chief executive of South Australian technology innovation group Digislide Holdings, says having VC backing has definitely helped her company achieve stronger corporate governance.

“We’ve gone through seed capital raising and angel raising, and each time we’ve gone through a different stage, as a natural consequence of the business growing but also as a necessity for raising additional capital at a higher level, our policies and procedures have tightened up,” she says.

“We always had a goal of listing on the ASX or the New York Stock Exchange, or Nasdaq, so we have constantly been upgrading our policies and our procedures, both operational and governance.


“Digislide has received about $12 million in venture capital funding and we would be in a position to lodge with ASIC for an ASX-listed company if we choose to do so, because all our policies are at the highest level and the implementation is at the highest level.”

Dr Katherine Woodthorpe, chief executive of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, says VC-backed companies are used to working with a board, whereas many other companies that list for the first time have not previously done so.

“A lot of companies think they don’t need a board in the earlier stages of being a company and so people are just not used to having a board,” Woodthorpe says.

“It is difficult, however, finding independent directors, particularly people who are interested in working with smaller technology companies, which are perceived as having higher risk.”

Ivan Kaye, director of BSI Australia, which provides venture capital funding through its Australian Distributed Incubator arm, says a condition of putting money into a company is that they move towards having the right structures in place.

“There are generally independent or non-executive board members put on by the VC.

“As a result of that, the shift from a private company to listing is smaller than with a company that hasn’t had VC backing.”

Mike Hershorn, director of Four Hats Capital, manager of the Nanyang Innovation Fund, says one of the first things to improve in the field of corporate governance is a company’s financial reporting.

“That’s really the first step, because if the board doesn’t have accurate financial reports it can’t work well to improve the company.”

VENTURE FORTH
* Companies with venture capital backing tend to have better corporate governance

* Independent directors have a stronger presence on the board

* The right governance structures are often a condition of VC funding

* Better governance brings better financial reporting

Source: The Australian, 28 Nov 2008

Coffee with 3 entrepreneurs at Geek Terminal

 

It is a beautiful Wednesday morning. Shen has invited Jeremy, Ridzuan and me for a coffee session at Geek Terminal. Each and every one of us chatted about anything under the sun. The most surprising thing we got to know from Jeremy is that Nokia had involved in many businesses in Finland. Nokia is a giant conglomerate someone like TATA in India. They used to sell car tires specifically designed for winter. (They had already sold their tires businesses. See link here)

 

So who are these entrepreneurs?

 

1. Shen, Founder/ Managing Director of Jorbb.com

 

Jorbb.com is Singapore’s newest site created expressly for non-executive jobs, for individuals seeking freelance, contract, part-time and casual employment. 

This innovative and uniquely interactive portal enables its users to not only post their resumes, but also photos, slideshows and video profiles.

 

Website: http://Jorbb.com

 


 

2. Jeremy, Managing Director of Metaversum Asia Pte Ltd (Singapore)

 

Metaversum develops and operates the 3D online world Twinity. This visionary project mashes up the real with the virtual world. Members of the Twinity community enrich and expand their lives by integrating their real life into the virtual world. Twinity is set to launch this summer and is currently in private beta. Founded in July 2006, Metaversum is financed by leading venture capital firms and has offices in Berlin and Kiev.

 

Company Website: http://www.metaversum.com/

Twinity website: http://www.twinity.com/en

 

 

 

3. Ridzuan Ashim, co-founder of Widgeous

Officially incorporated in early 2008 by 2 individuals, Widgeous is in the business of creating a web technology-based solution for solving the problem of having too many isolated channels of communication. Keeping to philosophy of keeping things simple, the company has built a platform which allows people to keep a centralised repository of their contact information. With that, others who wish the contact the individual can now do so simply by specifying the individual’s Widgeous ID. Widgeous then helps to decide the most efficient method for delivering the message.

The platform is also an open platform that allows application developers to build applications that fully utilize their cross-channel capabilities.

Website: http://widgeo.us/

 

 


 

 

 (From Left) Neo, Jeremy, Shen, Ridzuan 

Sponsored Review: Feel the air of entrepreneurialism!

Feel lost in the job market? Lack of motivation? I believe these are some emotional struggles among young Singaporean. However in the midst of poor market condition, there always exist an opportunity. Successful entrepreneurs usually emerge during bad weather. Why not get yourself de-stressed and feel the air of entrepreneurialism with Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008?

Global Entrepreneurship Week (The Week) lasts from 17 to 23 Nov 2008. It is a celebration of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. The Week will bring together millions of young people across the globe through online and local activities and encourage them to think innovatively and unleash their ideas.

This is not an “All Talk, No Action” event. M.Y. FBI Holiday Camp, targeted at children (age 10-12), will required participants to think of creative ideas to sell their craft on 22nd November as a closing for the camp. All profits will go to a charity benefiting children which will be selected by the participants themselves.

Besides business educations for the young children, Youths-4 Charity Flea market is targeted at youths from Secondary Schools and ITE with a focus on social entrepreneurship. Youths-4 Charity Flea market is a competition. Each team will be required to produce items/ crafts for sale on the flea market. To make the competition more realistic, rental and interest will be imposed.

The Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008 is organised by ACE and NUS Enterprise. The sponsored review is provided by BLOG2u (http://blog2u.sg). If you wish to find out more information of the event, please visit the official site: http://www.entrepreneurshipweeksg.org

Entrepreneurship in Meltdown

 

A follow-up of Ridzuan’s email – “Keep it going. Don’t lose heart!” It is pretty clear that the market is filled with pessimism especially of the poor performance in the US retail sector. The retail sales in US declined to 1.2% in the month of September. (Read article here). It is pretty obvious that export-driven Asia economies will be badly affected as the demand of US falls.

 

In Ridzuan’s email, I understand the anxiety faced by many startups in Singapore as funding activities will be greatly reduced due to the US subprime crisis. The market sentiment has been worsened when Singapore government has announced that Singapore has entered into a technical recession. A technical recession refers to 2 consecutive quarters of contraction. (Read article here)

 

For those who are involved in a high burn-rate technology early-stage startup, it is going to possess a really big problem in your venture as many PE/VC are reducing their positions instead of investing more on new ventures. In fact, big MNCs are taking the opportunities to look for “bargain” in the market. M&A will still remain strong despite the global meltdown but that only benefits private companies which have reached a certain scale (Read article here). For those startups that are still in the infant stage, better know how to control your spending. Only the Fittest Survive! If the company can pull through the bad weather, the market will definitely value it differently.  

 

This blog post is not meant to discourage passionate people who are starting up. In fact, I admired people like Ridzuan and Kelvin for taking the path of an entrepreneur. Bad time doesn’t always mean problems. It possesses opportunities too. As mentioned by Ridzuan and Bernard, it is the best time to hire talented people since the big players have already reduced or froze hiring. 

 

If you haven’t read Ridzuan’s email, you can access from here.