With millions of startup ventures seeking trillions of dollars in capital, getting inside the mind of the entrepreneur can mitigate a lot of risk. But how beyond the standard background check, the de rigeur in-person meetings, and basic due diligence can investors be relatively sure they are investing in the right person?
The Entrepreneurial Finance Lab believes it has the answer. Begun as a project at Harvard's Center for International Development, EFL has developed computer-based questions relating to character, abilities and attitude to identify high potential, low-risk entrepreneurs. EFL's score allows lenders to control risk, gives investors higher returns, and helps trainers make a greater impact.
After receiving a grant from Google, EFL became an independent organization two years ago and now operates in 23 countries and has analyzed thousands of entrepreneurs.
EFL largely operates in the developing world because, it says, developing countries have a large number of informal, low-growth microenterprises and some large firms, but relatively few small and medium size enterprises, or SMEs. "In developed economies, formal SMEs account for around 57% of total employment, but only account for 18% of employment in low income countries. This gap is called the 'missing middle.'" Indeed, this missing middle accounts for a global shortfall of 1.8 billion jobs. Bridging the job gap would create huge impact on the local, as well as global economies.
According to EFL and other research data from the World Bank, SMEs have high returns to capital, yet the main providers of capital -- commercial banks, microfinance institutions, and private investors -- face a key barrier in taking advantage of this opportunity: how to identify high-potential, low-risk entrepreneurs in a low transaction-cost way and with little available information. "Training programs, business incubators, and other support services face similar challenges in targeting their services," EFL notes.
The challenge, however, creates a big opportunity for EFL. It's a great idea.
I'm not sure how comfortable I am with putting entrepreneurs in a lab or having them lie down on a couch before in order for them to get funding, but getting inside their heads can and does help reduce the risk of investment loss.
To be sure, EFL doesn't force shrink sessions or shuffle people into labs like mice. Rather, it utilizes a "proprietary psychometric application process" that assesses attitude, outlook, ability, business acumen and character. These traits, EFL says, identify high potential, credit worthy entrepreneurs.
Check out how it works at www.eflgobal.com
Take the test to see if you have got what it takes to be a good entrepreneur. Or use it to see if you've invested in the right person.