Startupalooza/iBreakfast.com is the monthly gathering of Digital Media Executives, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Media.
We meet with industry Rock Stars, dine on Big Ideas and help Start-Ups raise Millions. In New York, New Jersey, DC, Boston and Los Angeles.
Everyone has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth. Mike Tyson
The real lesson of this imaginative retreat, Survive and Thrive last weekend at Club Getawayin Kent, CT is that if you want to thrive – showing that you can survive is the real challenge.
This is what investors look for and this is what speakers like Jesse Itzkey (co-founder of Marquis Jets and the guy who got to marry Spanks’ Sarah Blakely), Kevin Harrington (former Infomercial King who had to reinvent himself in the post TV world) and and author Susie Carter (a millionaire former hairdresser) had to say.
Sometimes this is about changing your idea precisely because you got knocked out of the ring! When that happens – whatever you were left with after the KO, whatever looked it was working, is what really matters. This is truly how most entrepreneurs realized they were really Entrepreneurs and went on to make millions.
That is also what we tried to do at the Pitch Contest finale on Sunday and what my company, Startupalooza does every months in major cities in the northeast – with our pitching contests and workshops. The winner, NY-based Bellhop – a ridehailing aggregator along the lines of Kayak, truly came through it all
This imaginative first-time Retreat combined, upbeat conferences, group challenges, super networking, great dining and fun partying. It was like a cruise ship on land for cool people who own the future but still know how to dance and make karaoke come alive!
Most interesting was just how diverse and international the Entrepreneurs, mentors and Investors were.
Turning a No to Yes: Winning over Investors After First Punch.
While there were a lot of winners, there were others who have work to do. That’s normal - there are very few startups that are ready for investors out of the gate.
There are many great lessons to be learned: The first is to find out if the investors even look at your segment, if not, give them a very brief idea and ask for a referral. They usually will, even if it is to get you off their backs.
It they are interested in your segment and the answer is “no”, or the dangling “maybe” keep in mind that you can always go back to them but only if you have news, such as:
1.You listened to what they said, and implementing it has improved the company this way.
2.You have more buy-in: customers, revenue, new investors.
3.You have pivoted – and it seems to be working. What do you think?
Your True Idea: It’s Not the Punch – It’s How You Get Up
Most Entrepreneurs and Investors have taken a hit, and it’s usually a KO. So getting the punch is normal - it’s what you do after it.
If you are a real entrepreneur, it’s where you find your true idea, your true market or just your real hook for Investors. It is so important that Investors will hit you with it just to find out if you have stress-tested the idea and whether you have a Plan B and C, just in case your assumptions go wrong, the market implodes, or real customers just don’t love you like you say.
This helps you find your true role. So who are you – seller, technician, visionary? When you know that, you know who to partner with or hire to fill the gap. Maybe you don’t like to sell then find the partner who can – though engineers who do the best they can often get a lot of credit for trying. If you’re not a programmer show that you know enough to manage and even fix if the site crashes or upgrades need to be done in a hurry.
This challenge also helps you find your true market value – working companies have comparables (similar funding companies) - ideas and possibilities are whatever Investors feel is fair and that’s usually low.
B Students Rule
Most of our successful entrepreneurs and speakers were not great students or often not even college grads, they were great doers who wound up hiring the experts. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have an MBA – it just means that degrees don't start businesses, scrappy risk takers do. So what ever it is that you do you have to know that you can jump overboard with it and stay afloat and still get to shore.
NY Times did an interesting depth piece on the battle between London’s
Black Cabs and Uber. Unlike other face-offs where the legal Taxis are a mostly entry
level job for immigrants, London Cabbies
are a true craft profession. In order to qualify, they have to study every route
combination in a very complicated city for about 3 years. After passing a long
series of grueling tests, they are said to have “The Knowledge.”There is even evidence that acquiring this
mapping information expands the brain.
Then, along come GPS and Uber and all that “Knowledge”
plus the street hailing monopoly was upended. Moreover, the people who have the
“Knowledge” tend to be white and
local (growing up in the terroire gave them the obvious advantage) while Uber
drivers tend to be foreign-born and brown.
The Times piece is mostly concerned with the xenophobia and
racism of many of the Cabbies vs the
struggle of the Uber immigrants and
it’s relation to Brexit.
While this is certainly an issue, I would like focus on the business story
because it was mostly overlooked and there is clearly a worldwide lesson in
This is much more than a taxi tale……
(Note: in my student days I drove a London radio taxi known
as a minicab - a fascinating experience that arguably gives me a unique
perspective since I am now a Startup maven.)
Like most disruptor stories, there is a precedent but one
that is only really understood in retrospect.
precedent is London’s Minicabs. Beginning in the 50’s,
renegade cabbies used postwar Motorola
radios to skirt hailing laws with a dial-a-cab service. This was controversial and initially, hounded
by the law. Cabbies obviously hated
them but, over time, coexisted. After all, Cabbies
often refuse fares, favoring inner London and short rides over suburban trips since
meter flips make the most money and they fear returning empty. They were even known
to throw passengers out of their cabs for whatever reason they chose.
On the other hand, once established, minicabs, didn’t
evolve much either. Radios got better but they couldn’t
get the impulse or hailing passengers away from black cabs. Instead, individual
drivers became notorious for “blagging”
- illegally hustling for fares outside clubs, bars, bus stops etc. So, other
than running ads with easy-to-remember phone no.’s minicabs never figured
out how to leverage cellphones as a hailing device.
Enter Travis Kallaneck
– a techie and not a cabbie – who stumbled upon a giant opportunity in the
marketplace. Result: worldwide disruption!
But there is clearly more to this than just a clever app. Eventually,
the full story of his rise from organizer of struggling black cabs to the king
of the gig economy will emerge. However, from the simple outlines of its story and
my own experience of the tough world he conquered I can best compare him with a
primitive military genius who developed a new weapon and then adapted in a ruthless
way to confront a world of brutal competition: Shaka Zulu.
Taxis are all about owning territory and they are generally
a monopoly backed by local authorities. There are many places where taxis
engage in open turf warfare and that was beforeUber. It is entirely possible that Kallaneck’s magic app had already
existed in some other form, but whoever had it lacked his militant instincts.
Shaka Zulu was a
renegade warrior who invented a new spear who went on to change the face of African
warfare, creating one of the largest empires on the continent. The key is not
just that he had a better weapon but that he understood how to change tactics, training,
strategy, use a total war concept called uMfekane
and even introduced a fundamentally sexist motivational system based on the
accumulation of brides according to conquest. Despite this, he even had women
What both Kallaneck
and Shaka confronted was an
established way of life and a protected class with entrenched rights. In
London, the Cabbies happen to be the
tribal royalty. In a very class-conscious country these Cockney Kings, unlike
the landed gentry, actually earned their status and they let you know it. For
this reason, minicabbers may have resented them but they also admired them – probably
more so than the ‘toffs.
However, like most entrenched thinking which includes landed
gentry and professionals of all kinds, they rested on their privileges and felt
free to ignore progress. They refused credit cards for the obvious advantages
of earning pure cash and avoided radio or app-hailing devices. They also continued
to pick and choose their fares.
Technology, on the other hand, is inherently attracted to the
upending of these privileges. Just as Shaka
figured out how to disarm his opponents, Kallaneck
developed programs to disarm the authorities and the taxi industry’s
sense of protection. Shaka added a
hook to his new shield, which enabled him whisk away his opponent’s
protection, leaving a wide open target for his shorter stabbing spear.
With Uber, it was
the public that really sank in the spear because they got a much better deal
What the public realized - as they will with most protected
groups – that they exist in opposition to the public’s
actual needs and the law was probably rigged by them for their own
For this reason, protected groups of all kinds should study
this for what it is. It is not just a story about a bunch of Luddite cabbies,
but one of a well-qualified business group hiding behind a legally protected
shield – only to find that, once lifted, however momentarily – it is really not
supported by the public.
The true message here is, this is as likely to happen with
doctors, lawyers, unions – even police – as it is with toll clerks, paper
shufflers, middle managers, truck drivers and entrenched classes of any kind.
Their only protection is to rethink what jobs, knowledge and
professions really are and innovate in line with the public interest.
The sad truth is, when stripped of their shields, most protected
groups are revealed for what they are: a drag on competition and a barrier to
progress. Or as Adam Smith once
noted in The Wealth of Nations: “People
of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but
the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some
contrivance to raise prices.”
That was fine before globalization but increasingly, an
absurd relic. By blocking progress, like taking credit cards or developing
their own apps and refusing fares, Cabbies
ensured the popular support for Uber
– which now faces its own disruptors like Lyft
and Via. Likewise, unions, doctors,
lawyers and other professionals are increasingly competing on a world market where
claiming a divine right merely forces the public’s search for viable
alternatives – now made easier by the Internet.
There will always be people willing to pay a premium for
better service but forcing the acceptance of non-progress is just a racket
doomed by technology and globalization. Trade groups need to get the message
and swap their protectionism for innovation or they will find themselves
marching along with the taxi drivers.
This app is makes it possible to remember people, your conversations and location and then add value to to your contact list.
Comment: While this is a unique addition to the LinkedIn economy, that has revenue, it could be knocked off by the big players. SO it all comes down to marketng and execution, which this team seems to have the passion for.
Founded to reduce patient times for every person in the world, the Patient is in is a real time, HIPAA-compliant messaging app for Apple Watch and Siri Endorsed by DC doctors https://ThePatientIsI... zaid@PatientIsIn.com
Comment: Promising real time patient managing system with some support from Apple. Valuation a little too rich, though.
We are a digital community that connects pet owners to pet-friendly people, products, and services.
Comment: A good mobile aggregation of services for pet lovers. Big market potential but competitive space and relies on sellingsmall pet dealers who can be hard to reach n numbers. Execution and momentum key.
A peer-to-peer household item lending site.
Comment: While the timing may be right for a household effects “shared economy” solution, this may want a more descriptive name and a few good items that everyone wants to share and not really own,in order to really take off.
Comment: A rare new company that has discovered a vast new market – accurate local boating weather. But execution before big players get interested is the key question given the new device requirements.
Aquinas Training Makes Mobile & VR Software for Management Training. We solve the key failing of all training programs - retention. By sending mobile notifications, and tying these to compelling experiences, including our AquinasVR mobile virtual reality experience, companies can ensure employees retain and apply their training.
Comment: While “Ed-Tech” has a narrow band of potential investors this improved pitch won some fans.
VKTRY Gear manufactures and markets innovative Sports Tech that helps athletes run faster, jump higher and stay healthier. VK Performance Insoles are made from aerospace-grade carbon fiber from heel to toe. New independent test results show that VK Insoles increaseathletic explosiveness by +9.6%.
Comment: In a class of its own due to current funding a list of impressive sports team clients, this orthotic sole promises to add a new level of performance to athletes who use their feet. With great profit margins, income and an professional presentation they show great prospects. The only question is can its sell to everyone and what other products can it expand into?
MobileStrain is a mobile marketplace for medical marijuana patients. It's a web and mobile app that allows patients to view menus, place orders, make purchases and request delivery from local dispensaries.
Comment: Jasmine scored big in the QA when he responded to tough questions with steady aplomb. Her home delivery service for accredited medical users in a burgeoning new industry was eyecatching, but scale and competition are still two lurking questions.
Nomsly provides nutritious and delicious packed lunches for kids, ordered online and shipped directly to their homes. By helping parents provide healthy and fun meals easily, we enable kids to build healthy eating habits for life.
Comment: Delivering healthy food to schoolbound kids looks like a great idea. The margins are good but scale and competition come to mind as did questions of whether there ought to a “Mom” in the business. Nevertheless, they presented well and showed adaptability.
Creating Computer Aided 3D Parts for high resolution precision printing and ultra data compression for internet sales.
Comment: What could be more boring than bolt threads? Dale is the precision thread maestro in 3D printing and there is probably real money in a business that is all about need. He just needs a savvy business partner to help him unthread it…..
Why The Robot Conversation is all Wrong! The
problem with discussions about AI and robots is they talk about
replacing your current job. While that may be true, the real issue is
what jobs they enable? The
future is not so much about improving the past - important as that is -
as about discovering new possibilities since that's where the growth
is. While robots sound scary and exotic, we actually do have a past era where we had robots - of a sort. We can learn plenty about human behavior from that. Robots Eat Your Lunch? A
lot of the talk is about robots eating our lunch and how we will need
to offer a Guaranteed Minimum Wage to all these sorry people who will be
displaced. The past however, tells us a different story.
I agree that we need a safety net for the victims of disruption, I
think the idea of giving people money for nothing is corrosive and
I think there is a better way. A much better way.
enough the idea comes from a book I read about the slave trade in
Barbados where sugar, slavery and the first wave of "new money" came to
fact, you could say that sugar and slavery was the dotcom billionaire
bonanza of 1644. There are schools, libraries and mansions in London and
Oxford that come from this slave/sugar money.
The book I am referring to is Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart, a stunning read!
Roll Your Own Robot
slavery model is more relevant than the industrialization specter
because a coming generation of low-cost robots will be more affordable
than industrial machinery in the same way slaves were in their time.
Displaced workers should have the option to use that money to buy a
robot or invest in robot workers, just as the early colonizers of
Barbados were able to do with slaves.
(I also think we owe the desecendents of slaves, reparations - not a check necessarily, but
something like a Marshall Plan for Africa and the Inner City. That is
another story of course, and I am only stating this for the record so
the PC mob doesn’t crucify me for using the abominable slave phenomenon
as my guide.)
makes the slave trade so interesting is that once upon a time, there
were all kinds of slaves and mostly white. They generally came in the
form of indentured workers and even then, the term itself derives from
word, Slav. These workiers weren’t well treated but the
demands of general work weren't that critical and so it was a faintly
humane labor system. Barbados used these people, sometimes Irish or
often the poor and criminal from Britain, as general laborers and tobacco workers.
Robots Are Nothing Until They Mean Money
was only when the islands discovered sugar that slavery really took off
and Africa became the biggest player in the system. Sugar was
incredibly hard work and pale Europeans were completely unsuited for it.
Sugar is also addictive in its way and the demand for it exploded
there was a need for cane labor and within a few decades, hundreds of
thousands of sorry Africans were abducted and brought to the tiny island
of Barbados where they were generally worked to death within about 3 - 5
as important, semi-civilized Brits quickly and seamlessly devolved into
monsters who managed their slaves with terror and barbarous
ruthlessness. The Nazis might actually have been kinder to the Jews than
these landowners were to their slaves. This was tolerated for about 200
years because there was just no better way to make sugar. Even freed
slaves who could afford it, were likely to own slaves!
was even a kind of slaveowner geekiness - planters made it a point to
have slaves do ever possible form of menial work for them - including
dressing, washing and holding their chamber pots for them.
matters with our robots however, is that, until you have a real need,
predictions are just fluff that will disappear the moment a real need -
and a market - appears.
So Last War
who talk about robots eating our lunch and so on are really discussing
the last war. It is like saying in 1899, that the automobile will make
it easy for famers to get to church on Sunday and go shopping, when the
real advance was mechanized farming with gas-driven engines.
robots that displace drivers or mid-level clerks aren’t the real story.
The real story is transportation experts using robots to do stuff they
never dreamed of in the past. Instead of driving a taxi why not manage a
fleet of 10 robot transporters. These will ferry people all day long to
work and shopping. They will carry partygoers to their soirees and
drunks back to their homes at night.
Similarly, clerks can let robots do their clerical work while their people skills are suddenly in higher demand.
Most of all, we are going to find higher level things to do once we populate our workplace with enslavedrobots. We will burn them out. They will need programming, fixing and replacement - all human work.
The Displaced Know The True Value
of all, they will be best managed and most usefully employed by people
who actually know the business they were displaced from - only now, they
can do more thanks to their high tech slaves.
much of the "give people something for nothing" school underestimates
the value and creativity of working people. They are not idiots, they
will know what to do with robots - given the chance. Taking the
socialist view of just giving away money just doesn’t tap this kind of human motivation.
Where, Oh Where Did The Digital Divide Go?
about it this way. Do you remember the so-called digital divide? That
was when poor people just couldn't afford computers and that only rich
people could enjoy its benefits. So what happened to it?
Once the Internet came along, supposedly poor people found computers. They made money online. The did stuff or got stuff for free. With increased demand, the price of computing dropped drastically and even wound being cheaper than TVs.
imagine if society had given poor people money for NOT having
computers. That would have been ridiculous and indeed most would have
used the momey - if they didn’t squander it - on buying a computer
anyway, justso they could take advantage of the internet.
The New Slavery
So the real question is not what to give displaced workers but what would they do if they owned a slave/robot?
believe they would consume these robots just like their ancestors did
with slaves and then invent new businesses that can harvest great uses
Putting It To Work Now
If we were smart, we would begin the contest of ideas now - what would future workers do if they were their own slave?