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The COVID Small Business Boom

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The Commerce Department said on Thursday, July 15, 2021, that business applications reached a seasonally adjusted 448,553 in June, 2021. In total, Americans have started 6,714,318 new businesses since the pandemic began last March, which is an all-time record.

According to Julia Pollak, an economist with ZipRecruiter, COVID created a very unique set of circumstances that made ideal conditions for people to start a business.

  • Many people were laid off on furlough and suddenly had time, but they didn’t have time that they needed to use to spend desperately searching for work because they also got a little bit of fiscal support. So there are many people who took that stimulus check and decided to take their $1,000 and use it to start a business.
  • Also, starting a business now is really fast and really cheap. You can register your business for just a few hundred dollars. And a lot of these companies are really little. It’s like a little store on Amazon or on Etsy. The startup costs for these businesses are super-low, so a stimulus check for $1,000 can make it happen in a way that it couldn’t have even 10 years ago.

If you are ready to start your business, contact us and let’s discuss the right path for you.

What Angel Investors Prefer

At Your Startup Guru, we fundraise for a wide range of clients from a broad spectrum of industries including restaurants, software as a service (SaaS), to fintech and more seeking capital ranging from $10,000 to over $10 million.

We get capital from a wide range of sources including private equity, banks, credit unions, government economic development authorities, angel investors, and more.

However, not all industries get the same attention. For example, according to a recent report based on an analysis of 2,492 transactions across 2,444 companies all completed in 2019, angel investors are more likely to prefer certain industries and deal structure type (e.g. convertible note).

Selected portions from the report below:

Industry

The 2019 data revealed a first-time decline in the information technology/software segment as a percentage of total transactions relative to other investment segments (2019/2018) — 29% of the investments (2019) were in info tech,
compared with 38.6% (2018). Yet Information Technology still remains the dominant segment for angels.

Consumer Products / Services sector saw significant growth, up from 18.2% (2018) to 25.75%.

If Healthcare and Biotech were combined, they would comprise 21% (2019) of transactions versus 18% (2018). We added Biotech as a discreet sector to track in 2019, but for comparison sake, you can observe that even without Biotech, the Healthcare segment continues to be a major category for angels.

We also noted an increase in Financial Services’ Fin Tech in 2019, which was too small in 2018 to warrant its own category. In 2019 companies in this sector participated in 3.55% of all transactions. The Energy sector also rose to over 3% with a few related Environmental companies included.

And for this year, we found enough companies to warrant adding Ag Tech (1.2%) as a separate category and clearly growing. While Info Tech and Software is still the leading category for angel investing, but by a much smaller margin than in the past, we also acknowledge that Info Tech / Software is often a necessary core component of many other sector investments.

Deal Structure Type

While we continue to see the use of SAFE notes they are a minor percentage of all Seed transactions at 4.7%. The primary structures were 51% Convertible Notes and almost 41% Priced Preferred. SAFE’s are not reported in our data as frequently as we hear them discussed amongst early stage entrepreneurs.

Series A transactions were (as expected) Preferred Stock 86% of the time, with 12% standard Convertible Notes associated with a Series A, typically a bridge to Series A, but distinctly beyond Seed stage.

We did find SAFEs were most frequently used in Mid-Atlantic Region at 12%. The Mid-Atlantic use of SAFEs may be heavily influenced by US Federal DOE, NSF, NIH, and other grant money which does not permit debt as a liability while grant funds are in use, hence early stage companies who do not wish to price their round are opting for SAFE notes.

California was #2 in SAFE usage at 10%, influenced by California incubators and possibly by science companies vying for Federal grant funds.


There are considerable pre-money valuation and round size discrepancies when it comes to the various demographics of entrepreneurs that highlights a disturbing flaw in the angle investment community but that goes beyond the scope of this blog post.

Pandemic led to U.S. housing boom, reduced credit card debt, New York Fed says

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Photo by Adam Kontor on Pexels.com

Last month, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York released their quarterly report on Household Debt and Credit for the fourth quarter of 2020.

Although the ravages of the pandemic are still massive and widespread, there were some glimmers of a silver lining. Some takeaways being:

  • The coronavirus pandemic changed the way U.S. consumers use credit, as lower interest rates spurred a boom in home buying and refinancing and virus-related shutdowns led to a drop in credit card use and an increase in paying off debt, according to a report released on Wednesday by the New York Federal Reserve.
  • Home buying and refinancing took off last year after the Federal Reserve slashed its key overnight interest rate to near zero to fight the economic fallout from the pandemic, leading to lower mortgage rates. A massive shift to working and learning from home also bolstered the housing market, as some families searched for properties with more living space.
  • Credit card balances increased by $12 billion in the fourth quarter but balances were still $108 billion lower from a year earlier – the largest yearly decline since the report was launched in 1999.
  • In total, all household debt not related to housing – including credit card debt, auto loans, student loans, and other debts – increased by $37 billion during the fourth quarter but was still below pre-pandemic levels seen at the end of 2019.

Read the full report here.

Economics of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day Shoppers Plan to Spend $21.8B in 2021

In 2021, about half of  U.S. adults plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend a total of $21.8 billion, down from $27.4 billion in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).23 But 2020 was a record year, and the 2021 anticipated spend is still the second highest since the NRF first published its annual Valentine’s Day spending survey in 2009. 

Read more about the economics of Valentine’s Day here.

Pabst Blue Ribbon: Why hipsters found a beer that was cool before it was cool

Hipster and Pabst Blue Ribbon - Your Startup Guru
Hipster and Pabst Blue Ribbon

Pabst Blue Ribbon’s (or PBR) rise and fall is a story of a market finding a product — unfortunately, it 170 years for it to happen. PBR has been around for 170 years but only in 2008 enjoyed a 6 year boom in popularity (outside of a brief moment in the 1970s). If hipsters were around 170 years ago, it wouldn’t have taken one hundred seventy years for PBR to find popularity.

It is better to find an under-served market and create a product/service for them than wait for a market to find your product/service.

Hipsters are known for following the latest trends and fashions, while eschewing things regarded as being within the cultural mainstream. Hence the term, “I was into __________ before it was cool.”

So why did hipsters like PBR? To put it simply, it was “retro chic”, anti-mainstream, and with many people still trying to recover from an economic recession, Pabst Blue Ribbon’s low price point was an attractive option. This brings us to a tool in marketing used to find customer groups — psychographic segmentation.

What is Psychographic Segmentation for Business?

Psychographic segmentation is used in market research as a way to divide consumers into sub-groups based on shared psychological characteristics, including subconscious or conscious beliefs, motivations, and priorities to explain and predict consumer behavior. Any dimension can be used to segment a group of consumers such as style, variety, availability, price, etc.

Hipsters avoided things that were popular and some of them were not price sensitive so they were willing to consider a range of beers that occupied a certain psychographic zone.

Psychographic segmentation of hipster beer consumption - Your Startup Guru
Psychographic segmentation of hipster beer consumption

As PBR’s popularity grew, it was departing from the zone of consideration – the region of price and popularity where hipsters were willing purchase from. Also, as hipsterism became more mainstream, the association of PBR with hipsters caused a self-fueling downward cycle.

Shift in Pabst Blue Ribbon popularity caused hipster abandonment - Your Startup Guru
Shift in Pabst Blue Ribbon popularity caused hipster abandonment

How to Use Psychographic Segmentation for Business?

Since you don’t have over one hundred fifty years for your product or service to be found by a market, it is better to find an under-served market and create a product/service for them than wait for a market to find your product/service. You can read about more businesses that found a need and filled that need.

Your Startup Guru used psychographic analysis to differentiate our client’s brand from that of their competitors yet stay true to their envisioned identity:

swimsuit brand psychographic differentiation - Your Startup Guru
Swimsuit brand psychographic differentiation

How to Do Market Research for Business?

There are many sources at your disposal to gain a deeper insight into who your customers are and segments within that market.

  • Ask potential customers: Surveying is a form of primary market research. Ask them how they use their product, what they like/dislike about it. How long they have used it, is it expensive, how does it make them feel, etc. These questions will give you valuable insight on the psychology of the user.
  • Pose as a customer and visit your competitor’s store/website. Learn how they do what they do. See what they do well, what they can improve on. Sometimes employees are very happy to share details you cannot find anywhere else.
  • Industry and market research companies such as IBISWorld, Pew Research Center, Audience Overlap Tool, Statista are loaded with great information. The downside is that they can be expensive. Less expensive options include the SBA’s Office of Entrepreneurship, US Census data, and older reports/white papers.
  • Industry and trade publications for your particular sector are also a great source of information. Some are free while some require memberships.

So What Should Pabst Blue Ribbon Do?

Given that hipsterism is on the way out, a brand extension with Pabst [pick your color] Ribbon which is guerilla marketed to a new niche market segment such as Yuccies: Young Urban Creatives (that are a slice of Gen Y) with product placement on their YouTube channels is a viability…or wait another +100 years.


Contact us today to get started on market research that will help pinpoint your target market.

Make the right choice

Money is extraordinarily tight for most people right now so starting a business is a pipe dream that has been put on hold indefinitely. However, you can make the choice and do the many things you can do with little or no money to continue to make incremental progress.

One of the most important yet least expensive things you can do is gain knowledge. Research into who your customers are, who your competitors are, what it costs to launch, who can supply raw materials for your product, etc. is relatively inexpensive with a simple online search but a critical. Research is an important task because it also tells you if your idea is feasible. A feasibility study is done to consider the various aspects of a business to see if it is a viable undertaking. Very briefly, feasibility studies are curtailed business plan-like documents where you outline your product/service, the business model, your competitors and your customers, expected revenues/expenses/startup costs. A well done feasibility study can save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in sunk costs.

Your Startup Guru offers price matching, discounted fees, and revenue sharing options to work with tight budgets. Contact us to get started on your feasibility study.

Make the right choice — do not go back to sleep and just dream.

Old school business model

I just saw a commercial for Rent-A-Center and thought to myself that their old school business model is nearly a half center ahead of the times.

Founded in 1974, Rent-A-Center is an American public furniture and electronics rent-to-own company based in Plano, Texas. The company was incorporated in 1986 and as of 2014 operates approximately 2,972 company-owned stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico, accounting for approximately 35% of the rent-to-own market in the United States based on store count.

A convergence of trends—including the Mari Kondo-sparked enthusiasm for cleaning out closets, increased concern over the impact of climate change, and a movement toward smaller, urban apartments—has made millennial consumers more conscious of how many items they’re accumulating.

Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman.

As you may know, companies are taking a similar business model and expanding it to other consumer sectors such as clothing and jewelry. This model has already been applied to transportation with Lyft/taxis/vehicle leasing and with housing with AirBnB/hotels/apartments and intellectual property with game rentals/public libraries. Entering into the fray are companies like Rent the Runway, which rents unlimited designer styles to subscribers and Fat Llama, which rents electronics (in the UK).

A convergence of trends—including the Mari Kondo-sparked enthusiasm for cleaning out closets, increased concern over the impact of climate change, and a movement toward smaller, urban apartments—has made millennial consumers more conscious of how many items they’re accumulating, according to Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman.

The spending habits of millennials, the largest single consumer group out there with 83.1 million (a full quarter of the U.S. population), was surveyed. The survey found that the main reason why they rent is to “test things before purchasing” at 57%. This makes sense with money being tight and space being limited, every purchase has to be scrutinized. The results of the survey are shown in the infographic below:

World Economic Forum: This is how millennials are fueling the rental economy

Old school brands such as Play it Again Sports and Rent-A-Center are riding the boom of the change in consumer sentiment and behavior. Rent-A-Center’s revenue grew $9M between 2018 and 2019 to $2.6B, operating income balloon an astounding $197M between 2018 and 2019 to $253M, helping net income to increase by $165M to $173M.

May sees jobs increase of 2.5 million

Courtesy of MarketWatch

Employment rose by 2.5 million in May and the jobless rate declined to 13.3%, according to data Friday from the Labor Department that was better than economists had been expecting and indicated that an economic turnaround could be close at hand.

Key takeaways:

  • Non-farm payrolls rose by 2.5 million in May and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%.
  • Wall Street estimates had been for a decline of 8.3 million and a jobless level of 19.5%, which would have been the worst since the Great Depression era.
  • Much of the gain came from those classified as temporary layoffs due to the coronavirus-related economic shutdown.
  • Leisure and hospitality represented almost half the jobs gained.

The country is not out of the clear yet, especially with a possible second wave expected, but this is some positive (even if temporary) news.

Adaptability is the most powerful trait

You have probably noticed the deluge of advertising that is targeted to the new reality of being at home. This is obviously a response to the global pandemic we are all being affected by. The following is a breakdown of what is happening and how your business can harness the post powerful trait: adaptability.

Adapt Through Marketing Strategy Marketing

Aired prior to the COVID-19 crisis but replayed recently Campbell’s realized that people are stockpiling canned food. Set to a wholesome and nostalgic soundtrack without pandering to panic buying, they capitalized on an opportunity to remind customers of a classic pairing. On a side note, the music choice was oddly relevant — Thank You For Being a Friend was the theme song to the ’80s sitcom The Golden Girls and the elderly are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Also, more people are telecommuting and are realizing their home computers might not be suitable for work so Dell aired a commercial for one of their newest laptops. Peloton, home office chairs, etc. are all advertising the benefits of being healthy and productive at home. Also, mental health app Talkspace, Delta Airlines offering free flights for medical volunteers, online education, bidets, and more are using this opportunity to advertise their products and services.

Adapt by Seizing the Opportunity

Adaptability Charles Darwin - Your Startup Guru
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

When disruptions happen, it is important to consider alternatives in order to adapt to the new environment. I have advised a new restaurant client to pivot their business model from a brick and mortar location to a commercial kitchen or food truck and adjusted their ad hoc financial projection model to reflect the pivot. Of course, depending on the stage of a business pivoting to a commercial kitchen or truck is not an option; which is why I always provide tailored consultations to each client.

Many people have a lot of downtime now with not having to go into work. It is a good time to take a break from watching the news and start mapping out the idea that you’ve been mulling. Who is your target market? Where will you be located? What are your startup costs? These are all questions you should know the answers to or be actively seeking if you are serious about taking the next step. If you do not know the answers or want a second opinion on, I always provide free consultation so send me an email. Afterwards, those pushup challenges on social media are also a good healthy distraction too from all the dire news.

These are better practices than gouging prices like that hand sanitizer guy.

sanitizer price gouging guy

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