ENTREPRENEURSHIP GROWTH THROUGH ACQUISITION
On July 2017, I attended a conference held in Bogotá, Colombia about Entrepreneurship Growth through Acquisition. The entrepreneurship process was explained as approaching the viability stage, its emergence, its accelerated growth and illusory stability. It was highlighted that within the process, the implementation of innovation becomes more relevant after 3 or 4 years from the company's emergence, when entering into the accelerated growth stage.
Once the process was described, the conference's main theme focused on the characteristics of a Search Fund, defined as "a pool of capital raised to support the efforts of on or a pair of entrepreneurs in locating and acquiring a privately held company for the purpose of operating and growing it", according to the Stanford Business 2016 Search Fund Study. Supporting the efforts, implies locating a startup in a market previously known by the entrepreneur, given its experience or background, with sustainable knowledge to innovate, by launching new products or services, entering new markets or finding new resources or restructuring processes; avoiding the more risky initial phases of the entrepreneurship process, and leading to its management at the growth stage.
The reason this conference was held in Bogotá is because of the increasing tendency of this type of funds being offered in Colombia. According to the search fund community searchfunders.com, there are 22 listed Search Funds in Mexico, 11 listed in Brazil and 3 listed in Colombia. Browsing through the investment focus on some of these funds located in Colombia, they seek to acquire privately held businesses with revenues between US$4 and US$35 million.
The range in revenue of the startups generates operations with tickets that would achieve to repay the search capital, for it is necessary to spend between one or two years finding the adequate company and subsequently purchasing it. Otherwise, Principals would have to raise the initial capital to finance the search stage.
As an empirical researcher, I have found many public and private organizations providing open data that could streamline the search process while accelerating the Entrepreneurship Growth through Acquisition with social impact startups, fostering value creation in society through innovation. In Colombia, for instance, official government platform shares information on social projects which purpose is to make strategic decisions improving the living conditions of vulnerable population groups. Currently the platform has identified 14.658 organizations operating 3.352 projects in aggregate. Another non-profit organization has gathered approximately 900 social projects looking for opportunities to further strengthen their growth and have a greater impact within their communities. I actually shared my opinion on an article I wrote for a blog, in which I express my optimistic view about the ecosystem in Bogotá, due to various factors, such as the commitment of the Triple Helix of Development (Government-University-industry) with the whole cycle of the ecosystem (workshops, business plan formulation, network events, etc.). I have attended on a regular basis to events sponsored mostly by universities; therefore, I have come to know more than 700 organizations among startups, accelerators, governmental entities, investors, etc., and witnessed the way in which many of these startups have gained success for participating in such events by receiving feedback or mentoring services, leading to new connections and further visibility. Also there is an app that has identified more than 2.000 investment capital grants to support individuals and social development entities. Internationally, there are many platforms, such as global ecosystem map, with more than 60.000 registered startups; there are universities publishing on their web projects or startups founded by alumni. All these resources reduce the initial cost of searching a business model aligned to entrepreneurs capable to impact their communities with social initiatives.
In my opinion, the Search Funds model could grow in popularity by having more recent business school graduates raise search funds according to social conditions in their country, then innovating into new markets and graduate's profile. The value proposition of a Search Fund - besides its life cycle (Fundraising, Search, Acquisition, Operation and Financial Return)- it would be also to understand the graduate's profile and determine if he or she is able to set a path as an entrepreneur. Hence, an assessment of potential principals for startups should be considered as a core value proposition of the transaction.
In conclusion, indicators and numbers show that Colombia and the region have keen graduates with the ability to acquire a startup, rather than to work for a company or industry which would probably provide low wages due to the excess of qualified and non-qualified labor. Local entrepreneurs need to collaborate with international investors, who can in turn assist them as high-quality advisors further reducing operational risks, especially in the first 6 to 18 months post-acquisition. Recent studies published on a remarkable Colombian newspaper (Emprendimiento en cifras: Diario Portafolio www.portafolio.co), show that between 5% and 10% of startups bring about 80% of new jobs in Latin America every year; not to mention that Colombia takes 4th place in innovation amongst 44 countries in the world; however, when it comes to raising capital, Colombia occupies 38th position worldwide and 9th place overall in the region.