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    You Don’t Need VC to Succeed

    Business StrategySmall business finance expert Dileep Rao explains why some of the greatest companies never had a dime of investors’ money to get off the ground and grow — and how hard work, integrity, creativity, and an open mind can make up the difference.

    Depending on your point of view, this might be the worst time to start a small business. On the other hand, with creative business and financing strategies, it’s possible to be successful without one dime from Wall Street or Silicon Valley. At least that’s the viewpoint of Dileep Rao, a consultant and small business finance expert who teaches financing courses at the Carlson School of Management (University of Minnesota). To prove the fact that you don’t need VC funds to be successful, in his forthcoming book, Bootstrap to Billions, Rao chronicled the stories of several Minnesota entrepreneurs who started with nothing to build successful companies such as Best Buy, Aveda, Digital River, United Health Group, and Medtronics. He calls the companies in his book a “third category” of business: not small business, and not built through VC financing.

    This article originally appeared at OpenForum.com.


    Stephen G. Shank: Capella Education Company

    When Steve Shank was an undergraduate, he wanted to go to law school. But since he was awarded a fellowship, he used it to get a Masters in International Relations and Law. Then he was drafted and joined the military.

    After his stint in the military, Shank got his degree from Harvard Law School. When he graduated, he and his wife had two kids, and he wanted to avoid the hassle of the East Coast (the final straw was when he had to stand in line at a grocery store at midnight) and moved back to the Midwest where he grew up.

    He joined Dorsey & Whitney, one of the premier law firms in Minneapolis. But he found out that he was one of the oldest associates, so when he got the offer to become corporate counsel to a major toy manufacturer called Tonka Toys, he grabbed the opportunity.

    This soon led to him becoming CEO of Tonka at the age of 34. After an ill-timed acquisition, Tonka was sold and Shank had time on his hands.

    That is when he saw giant waves converge and came up with the concept of an online university for graduate education. This vision has now grown to a $260 million (sales) company with market valuation of about $1 billion.

    This is how he did it.

    This introduction is excerpted from Bootstrap to Billions: Proven Rules from Entrepreneurs who Built Great Companies from Scratch by Dr. Dileep Rao. Copying or reproduction in any format or medium without the prior express, written consent of the author is strictly prohibited.

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    For over 33 years, Dileep Rao has worked with entrepreneurs, managers and leaders in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Dr. Rao has been acclaimed as a venture development teacher and speaker because he combines impeccable academic qualifications with his own successful experience in business growth and development -- offering practical knowledge with lasting value for success.

    Based on his experience and his study of some of the world's great entrepreneurs, he shows entrepreneurs, managers, professionals, financiers and area development officials how to build businesses by focusing on what truly matters and is sustainable in the long-term. (more…)


    A columnist on entrepreneurial finance, Dileep Rao is a nationally acclaimed practitioner, advisor, author and communicator on new business development, business growth and financing businesses and ventures. He combines real-world experience in financing more than 450 firms and managing five companies as the V.P. (now director) of one of the U.S.' largest development finance institutions with advising governments (including the U.S. government), Fortune 1000 companies and entrepreneurs in new business development and financing. (more…)

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