The first step of building your network of referrals

Referral implies recommendation. We will only refer opportunities to someone that we endorse and recommend. While we know referral and recommendation about ourselves are important to our career or business, have we done the same to the people we trust?

Imagine, when we have resigned from our job, we would usually request a reference letter from our employer. But have we ever thought of writing a reference letter for our employer? If the answer is no, why? Obviously, it’s because we are not told to do so. And it looks weird to do so as no one else is doing such thing.

But people on Amazon, Taobao or Airbnb are doing this. The sellers and buyers on these platforms are rating and commenting about each other. It’s because these platforms know the importance of this rating system to their success, and hence they have spent considerable effort to design, promote and educate their platform which incentivise the users to provide rating.

If we want to build a network of referral, we need to act proactively to promote the giver mindset. Users need to see the visualized and quantified aspects of how the recommendations and referrals they have made are contributing to the community and how this contributions would become their self-actualization.

FRN - Referral Community
Start your network of referrals by making recommendations

Making quality referrals may need some skills. But making recommendations is rather easy. There are various kinds of connections you can write recommendations for regardless to your level of experiences. So, start to build your network of referral by making recommendations about other people who you want them to succeed.

Unsplash Startup Glasses Documents

再談未來股權簡單協議

(Chinese version will be added in the future.)

要了解未來股權簡單協議 (Simple Agreement for Future Equity, “SAFE”),大家要先大概了解一下初創融資,因為事情其實都是逐步演變出來。

估值大家都買過股票吧?正常大家買公司的股票,會看公司的估值多少錢,或許會用巿盈率 (PE),或許會用巿賬率 (PB),又或者會看股息率,諸如此類。但初創公司呢?莫說它們大部份沒有盈利,連經營現金流都未有,甚至只有一個 idea 的階段,又當如何估值呢?所以一般天使輪或種子輪的融資,直接地用發新股的方式是不現實的。所以這個階段的融資,一般是以可換股票據 (Convertible Notes,”CN”) 來完成。就是先是債權,日後可以按預先協議好的估值來轉換為股票。一開始時融資就是借款,有到期日,有利息,投資者先以債主的身份收利息,並享受作為債權持有人的優先索償地位,到項目發展到一定階段,能較可靠地估值,或根據一些協議好的條款,CN 持有人就可以將 CN 轉換為股權,由債權持有人變為股東。

因為它提供的便利,CN 就成為了初創融資的主流方式。

但隨著初創融資越來越盛行,開始有人認為 CN 都不是最方便的初創融資方法。主要原因是,CN 條款的複雜性,並非一般投資者或初創能自行應付,若委托律師,律師費可能已要幾十萬,相對一般才幾百萬的初創融資規模,幾十萬的律師費的比例實在太高。另外,CN 的複雜性及連帶的後果 (例如作為債權持有人,可以對借款人清盤,但這真的是各持份者的初衷嗎?) 令 CN 的談判需要用很長時間,若涉及眾多潛在投資者,所需的時間就更會以倍數上升,創始人耗費大量精力於談判條款細節,又是否大家所樂見?

曾孵化 Dropbox、Airbnb 及 Stripe 等著名獨角獸的初創加速器 Y-Combinator (“YC”) 就此提出了一個疑問 – 在初創融資階段,是否真的有必要討論這諸多細節?到真的進行千萬級別的股權融資時,自然就會委托專業人士來搞定條款,何需在種子輪或天使輪時浪費這些精力?若初創在股權融資前就失敗了,天使投資人拿著字典厚的條款又有何用?所以 YC 草擬了只有幾頁的 SAFE,用來取代 CN,希望簡化初創融資的談判過程。以 SAFE 的精神,雙方最重要需要談的只有兩樣,就是投資金額,及估值上限 (Valuation Cap),越高的估值上限,日後能轉換到的股票數目就越少,這令初創能在不同階段訂立不同的估值上限,例如只有 idea 的時候,及已做了原型的時候,就應該有不同的估值上限,因為前者比後者的風險高,若在 idea 階段就夠膽投的投資人,就應享受更低的估值上限,這樣分段地按不同條款達成融資的做法,就是 YC 創辦人、矽谷著名天使投資者 Paul Graham 所說的「高分辨率融資」(high resolution fundrasiing)。

高分辨率融資,就是我們 Forbole 選擇使用 SAFE 的主要原因,自去年 10 月開始至今,我們完成 4 個不同估值上限的 SAFE 的小規模天使融資。而我們作為香港土生土長的初創,亦很樂意引入 SAFE 這種融資方式,因為我們都希望令香港初創環境變得更好。

目前無論是英語還是華語世界,對 SAFE 的討論都很有限。你在網絡上能找到的討論 SAFE 的文章,來來去去都是那幾個來源,負評主要是圍繞另一著名天使投資人 Fred Wilson 的質疑,他尤其質疑高分辨率融資帶來的問題。但我個人認為,其他文章引用 Fred Wilson 的看法來投射於 SAFE 是斷章取義,Fred Wilson 的看法並非針對 SAFE,而是針對所有高分辨率融資帶來的問題,而我認為 Fred Wilson 指的問題,根本就跟高分辨率融資無關,而是跟溝通不足有關。我會在下一篇文章介紹 SAFE 的重點條款時,再分享有關看法。

Rachel Botsman Blockchain

Rachel Botsman on trust shift from institutions to strangers

Rachel has introduced a term “trust leap”, which happens when we take the risk to do something new or different, by demonstrating brilliant sharing economy ideas such as BlaBlaCar, Airbnb, Tinder and Uber. She also tried to explain briefly, in layman’s terms, what blockchain is and why it matters to today’s world that we have started trusting strangers instead of institutions.

Thanks to the revolutionary technology blockchain, trust is now evolving from institutional to distributed:

Rachel Botsman Blockchain

Rachel Botsman on Evolution of Trust

Rachel also explained this trust shift from institutions to strangers in this interview with Financial Review in which she said “We are at the start of one of the biggest trust revolutions in history,” and “it (institutional trust) wasn’t designed for an era where we think we are entitled to control everything, from how we get a ride to how we get a date, with a click, a swipe and a tap on our phones.”

Below example of how we use Airbnb’s service shows perfectly why distributed trust matters:

Rachel Botsman on Airbnb

You don’t want to ruin your reputation on Airbnb by making your host’s toilet messy. Do you?

 

 

Terence Lam
Co-Founder of
Forbole, a blockchain startup