This is the best early stage investment climate I expect to see in my lifetime

The current economic crisis is causing pain in nearly every sector of the global economy, with more to come. The public markets will likely continue to slide as the long-term implications for jobs and consumption are fully priced-in and additional buckets of poorly-priced risk (like unsecured consumer credit CDOs) start to topple over like the mortgage business already has.

But when people ask me how I’m feeling about our prospects here at Founders Co-op it’s hard to suppress my optimism just for decorum’s sake. Truth be told, I don’t think we’ll ever see an early-stage investment climate as strong as this one again in my lifetime. Here are just a few reasons why:

  1. Entrepreneurs are getting busy.
    Major economic downturns cause people to look inward and think about their life choices. Risk averse people tend to hunker down in their (seemingly) secure corporate jobs. But entrepreneurs with a passion to create (and not just a desire to get rich) are even more likely to make the leap, knowing they’ll be happier and more fulfilled as founders even if it means sailing into the wind.
  2. Angels are putting their wallets away.
    Most angels invest out of their personal bottom lines, rather than from a pool of committed funds. As those bottom lines shrink, many angels are closing up their checkbooks and waiting for the turnaround. As with the mortgage business, the end of easy money in early-stage investing will mean better deal quality and a return to risk-appropriate pricing and terms.
  3. Bootstrapping is cool again.
    We’ve always loved scrappy entrepreneurs who run lean shops and make breakeven their guiding light (not big traffic numbers and sparkly headlines). But after a long cycle of Web 2.0 “go big or go home” investing, even the big VC shops are now singing the praises of bootstrapping. Efficient use of capital can be a powerful ROI multiplier.
  4. All bad things come to an end.
    Building real companies takes time, and even the worst economic downturns don’t last forever. If we spend the next few years betting on the right entrepreneurs, striking fair deal terms and helping them grow their way to breakeven (and beyond) in this tough economic climate, we’re going to look around one day to find ourselves co-owners of some very strong and well-managed companies that are poised to capitalize on a resurgent economy just as it begins to heat up again.

As Americans and global citizens, we are all in for the roughest economic ride of our lives, one that no amount of fiscal stimulus will heal. I am genuinely concerned for the well-being of the poor and middle-class in our country, and for the millions of retirees whose nest eggs have been decimated by the ongoing collapse in asset values. But for anyone with capital and an appetite for risk, the current crisis represents the opportunity of a lifetime. Don’t miss it.