This past Wednesday, our current due diligence effort was terminated when the company under due diligence announced that they had accepted funding from another source. This makes the third such effort this year that has been terminated and the twelfth time it has happened since AIM Group was started 4 ½ years ago. That may seem like a lot, but when you consider AIM Group has initiated 54 such efforts, that comes out to a termination rate of 22%.
So, why are some due diligence efforts unsuccessful? First, let’s remember that AIM Group receives 30 to 50 applications per month. When one of those applicants is selected each month, Clay and I have committed about four or five hours to reviewing the application and interacting with the management team. Once selected for due diligence, we currently average about 140-150 hours of research by the due diligence team. We find out a lot about the applicant during that 150 hours that you just can’t discover in 4 or 5 hours during application processing.
Reasons for terminating a due diligence vary all over the place. The most common, and definitely the most frustrating, is when the company under due diligence finds funding from another source. This has happened to AIM Group four times out of our twelve terminated due diligence efforts. In every case, the new funding source was a wealthy individual angel investor. These investors are usually not familiar with the current market and often are willing to pay much more than current market value.
Other AIM Group due diligence terminations were the result of a bad technology review by a subject matter expert; too small of target market; disagreements over the term sheet; and the failure of the company to raise the minimum level of funding required to close. Probably the most interesting termination was the result of due diligence team getting concerned about the “volatility of the CEO” and his/her ability to get along with other management team members.
At the end of every due diligence effort, the due diligence team votes whether to allow the company to present to the network. A simple majority vote is required to approve for presentation. The most unusual vote ended in a tie. Since a majority vote of the due diligence team is required to approve for presentation, the company was not approved. Interestingly enough, Clay and I vote differently —- and I was on the losing end of the vote!
While it almost always saddens and frustrates me to see a company fail due diligence and not be approved for presentation, I also think it is a healthy sign that our process has structure and discipline. Yes, we may not have a presentation two or three months out of the year, but in the long run, I believe our investment portfolio is better off. We do not want to invest in bad technology, small markets, volatile CEOs, or over pay.