Top 10 Startup Financing Takeaways from Investors Michelle Goldberg and Andy Sack

First of all, the terms “downturn” and “recession” don’t do justice to the current climate, says early-stage tech investor Andy Sack. As he puts it, “This is the seminal event of our lifetimes. This is our World War II. I guarantee I’ll be talking to my grandchildren about the Depression of 2009-10: ‘Make sure you save.'”

Sack was speaking at the MIT Enterprise Forum Venture Lab event in downtown Seattle last night. He was joined by Michelle Jacobson Goldberg, a partner at Bellevue, WA-based Ignition Partners who is on the board of Mpire (maker of Widgetbucks), Visible Technologies, and SEOmoz. The room was packed with scores of entrepreneurs looking for financing advice. “It’s ugly out there, and raising money has never been f-ing harder,” Sack told them.

What’s interesting is that both Ignition and Founder’s Co-op, Sack’s seed-stage fund with Chris DeVore, have made investments in the past 90 days. Founder’s Co-op has made bets on Frugal Mechanic; LookStat, an analytics and workflow-automation startup focused on the microstock photography industry (this was news to me); and a new smartphone company that hasn’t been announced yet. Meanwhile, Ignition announced earlier this week that it has led a $10 million investment in Silicon Valley-based Zenprise, a mobile-management software firm.

Goldberg and Sack spoke for about an hour on their perspective as investors, what startups need to know to get funded these days, and what the hot (and not so hot) areas of investment are. Here’s my top 10 list of takeaways:

10. Valuations are way down. “Anything that’s early, if you used to raise $3 million, you might raise $1 million now,” Sack says. And count on a similar calculation for the valuation, he adds.

9. Investors are seeing more pitches than ever. “There’s been an incredible amount of deal flow,” Goldberg says. To which Sack adds, “Deals are getting done, but more slowly and with a higher bar…Deals getting done really have to resonate with a customer base.”

8. Your next financing is your last. “Everyone wants to see your break-even plan,” says Sack. “Financing risk is higher than technology risk.” And Goldberg adds, “Take the money … Next Page »

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Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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