Find Yourself a World of Investors

Need a VC with a certain je ne sais quoi? An international firm may fit the bill.

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When it comes to getting VC, the world is your oyster. "A lot of people do themselves a disservice by thinking locally, but financing is financing," says D.P. Venkatesh, co-founder and CEO of mPortal in McClean, Virginia.

Since 2000, Venkatesh, 41, has raised about $15 million for his wireless content business in three rounds of financing from Zurich, Switzerland-based Friedli Corporate Finance—and he expects annual revenue to reach eight figures for the first time in 2008. "It was easier to convince European investors of the value of what we were trying to do," he says. Why? Because European wireless content markets are more advanced and therefore more familiar with the product. That's a key reason to go abroad for financing, but another is availability.

It makes sense to look for financing in your geographic target markets, and many international VC funds are eager to invest in the U.S., notes Allison Leopold Tilley, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. According to a 2006 Deutsche Bank study, 38 percent of all European private equity investments are international. But it's about more than funding, Tilley says. "You want expertise, too." While U.S. funds often create strategic alliances, foreign investors get less involved and look longer term. You can get the best of both worlds by raising capital through geographically dispersed firms, Venkatesh says, thus expanding options for an eventual IPO.

When East Meets West
The biggest international investors are Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, but the Asian VC market—just like its consumer market—is growing fast. Here are some new places to look for funding.

China

Pro: Burning desire to be a global player, new middle class
Con: Communist country

India

Pro: Entrepreneurial, lots of seed capital for knowledge-based industries
Con: Regulations not quite aligned with the West's

Israel

Pro: Entrepreneurial, a global leader in startups, high-tech expertise, global connections
Con: You may need Israeli ties

Taiwan

Pro: Considered a leading global VC player
Con: Involvement here could affect your ambitions in China

—By Gail Dutton

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