Thursday, November 9, 2017

Startupalooza Makes a Porno? Results from the September Startupalooza



Startupalooza Makes a Porno? Not exactly but we had some fun!
Thanks to pointed questions from our panel of Angles, what started out as a presentation for nice-looking, if pricey laptop chair, turned into a risqué romp
 This spring-loaded recliner is more that a stationary rocking chair that lets you work in added comfort, it is a piece of furniture that, shall we say, takes your laptop to another level.
Make that two laptops.
Just to be sure, one of our panelists, Investor, Sandy Wollman from Westchester Angels,  put it to the test with a little help from the co-founder, Lisa Kaczmarek.
Guess – who turned out to be a winner?



 Winner of the National Business Investment Forum Prize worth $3,500
Archer Bowchair
Lisa Kaczmarekladykaz@bowchair.com412-944-6555Leveraging over 30 years of custom "one off" fabrication experience, Kaczmarek Composites was formed in late 2016.  Our passion is the combining of dissimilar materials into cohesive works of functional art.  Whether joining carbon fiber with aluminum or wood with steel, each component brings unique strengths and weaknesses which must be respected in order to create a lasting piece of luxury furniture.  We are a small, rapidly growing custom furniture maker located in Pittsburgh, PA.  
All of our products are American made from environmentally responsible, locally sourced raw materials whenever possible.   
Comment: A show stopping demo that turned this profitable custom furniture maker with a pricey chair into a potential mass market darling.

Runner Up – Winner of the Nessa Group Consulting Prize worth $1,000
Medsender
Zain Qayyum, zain@medsender.com            
Medsender enables Doctors to digitally send and receive health records from ANY EMR system. Individual practitioners can have Medsender setup within 2 minutes and instantly begin HIPAA compliant communications.        
Comment: This simple solution to a big problem is making inroads. It seems almost too good to be true and given the highly regulated space just needs a little more buy-in to tip the investor balance.    
                                                                                                             
Special Mentions
Gooroo 
Scott Lee scott@gooroo.com 917-868-2947 
Gooroo is the Airbnb for tutors where students can easily look through 1000+ certified tutor profiles and book instantly. Check the tutor╒s schedule, read a blurb about their educational background, look through student reviews, and view their hourly rate. It's personalized education for the masses - done digitally.
Comment: A well executed delivery about a company with revenues. The competitive environment and the customer churn gave some investors pause.

Vtry Inc. 
Comment: Very interesting technology for virtual tryout in 3D. The competitive environment, concern over the business model and need for additional applications were the concerns. 

Deepak Agarwal dagarwal@desiclik.com516-495-3374 
A vertical e-commerce marketplace meet the demand of 3m Indians in the US and others with unique products of India. 
Comment: Well executive business in a niche market. It needs to point to a bigger universe in order to be fundable past the strategic players and stakeholders in this community.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Startupalooza Startup, Kubient gets $250,000

AdTech startup Kubient's Paul Roberts stops by our booth to show off his $250,000 check from our Startupalooza judge Ben Jen of Ben Jen Holdings.

Startupalooza opens in L.A. at Expert Dojo in Santa Monica, Dec. 4th and Silicon Valley, Dec. 5th.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Grit or Gold? How to Make Your Startup Shine


From The Book: Are You Fundable? To find out more about the way Investors think you can get our book Are You Fundable? on Amazon Amazon, Kindle or directly from our site areyoufundable.com.


Like minerals or metals, no two business sectors have the same inherent value. Some are gold and some are gravel but if you understand how Investors rank these companies you could turn this around.

While the crowd will always be attracted to the next shiny thing, most money is made on reliable, boring and often unappealing businesses.

Remember that mining gold can be prohibitively expensive while digging up gravel is cheap and is used every day and everywhere.

Although gold will always get more attention than grit, there are many ways to make your gravel look like gold to Investors.
So if you don’t have gold learn how to make your gravel look like it - usually by showing that you can make profits with much lower risk and startup costs.

Here are some ways to do this:

1. Is Your Industry Offering Support or Sales?
The no. 1 attraction to investors is growth - dramatic growth. So no matter how ugly the industry, if your business increases sales or any kind of business activity - especially if it enables business growth that would not otherwise occur - you may have gold.

Gold: Examples of Sales Enablers or Boosters:

 Door Opener - If your business enables companies to enter markets they previously couldn’t reach.

 Sales Booster - When companies that were local can now go global or that could only sell in one category can now sell in more. This is especially good if these are high-growth low-competition categories.

 Sales Platform - Investors are most interested in platforms that allow others to bring the value and then you get to take a cut (think: stock market, auctions etc.)

2. Sizzle or Snooze: Businesses that Will Put Investors to Sleep - or not.

You may love what you are doing and think it's the most important thing in the world. Investors will almost always see it differently. The good news is that if you understand this and think creatively, you may be able to turn that around.

Grit - Examples of businesses Investors don’t love - but which you can still turn around. 

If your business plan is based around the following, be aware that they may sleep-inducing triggers for investors:

 HR, customer or corporate support. These are expenses and not sales growth inducers. They are hard to measure and often managed by gatekeepers with limited budgets and murky agendas.

- Possible solutions: if you can show these really make a difference or have happy returning customers, then say so up front - it could make a difference! Otherwise, you always want to frame a new paradigm in the industry and claim to have a platform that other players will have to use to enable overall growth.

• Government agencies of any kind
Possible solutions:  If you have special access of some kind. Contracts or something along those lines, you have a chance. Otherwise only investors who know that specific branch of government will be interested. They are just too many gatekeepers with murky agenda to interest Investors.

• FDA Trials
- Anything that requires money for trials is a no-no for general Investors. Specialized Investors might be interested but only if they have experience in the area.
Possible solutions: Find areas to prove the idea that don’t face these upfront barriers. Sometimes it is a game or an overseas market. Find it.

• Education
Possible solutions:  There are some known areas of value here - such as SAT and GRE’s and so on. Anything that “cuts the fat belly” of the industry by more than 70% might be of interest to investors but they generally have to be specialized or experienced in Education. For most investors there are just too many gatekeepers with murky agenda to interest them.

• Ad supported Media
- If your business plan just assumes it will be supported by advertising - and you have never been in the business of selling ads - then you may be in trouble. Ad networks don’t pay that well, and ads generally don’t sell by themselves. You need a sales force to handle customers who are generally hard and fickle. The only want to get around this is to show that you can sell or that for some compelling reason you have partners that deliver sales. Better yet, your idea is so good that at least 10% of your users are willing to pay a subscription fee.

• Value is in the Data
- In an era when hackers can steal credit card info from Equifax of download the CIA’s list of most active spies, your amazing data just doesn’t seem so valuable any more. However, if your tool or platform enables others to extract data - which you also get to keep - then you might have something. Real-time actionable data is different though. That is like fresh fish - and people will always prize that. You just have to show the investors who your fish buyer is.
           

From: Are You Fundable?
Order the Book Are You Fundable?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Is Your Startup Gravel or Gold? How to Make it Shine, Regardless.


From The Book: Are You Fundable? To find out more about the way Investors think you can get our book Are You Fundable? on Amazon Amazon, Kindle or directly from our site areyoufundable.com.


Like minerals or metals, no two business sectors have the same inherent value. Some are gold and some are gravel but if you understand how Investors rank these companies you could turn this around.

Remember that mining gold can be prohibitively expensive while digging up gravel is cheap and is used every day and everywhere.

Although gold will always get more attention than gravel, there are many ways to make your gravel look like gold to Investors.

Remember that while the crowd will always be attracted to the next shiny thing, most money is made on reliable, boring and often unappealing businesses.

So if you don’t have gold learn how to make your gravel look like it - usually by showing that you can make profits with much lower risk and startup costs.

Here are some ways to do this:

1. Is Your Industry Support or Sales?
The no. 1 attraction to investors is growth - dramatic growth. So no matter how ugly the industry, if your business increases sales or any kind of business activity - especially if it enables business growth that would not otherwise occur - you may have gold.

Gold: Examples of Sales Enablers or Boosters:

 Door Opener - If your business enables companies to enter marekts they previously couldn’t reach.

 Sales Booster - When companies that were local can now go global or that could only sell in one category can now sell in more. This is especially good if these are high-growth low-competition categories.

 Sales Platform - Investors are most interested in platforms that allow others to bring the value and then you get to take a cut (think: stock market, auctions etc.)

Businesses that Will Put Investors to Sleep.

You may love what you are doing and think it's the most important thing in the world. Investors will almost always see it differently. The good news is that if you understand this and think creatively, you may be able to turn it around.

Gravel - Examples of businesses Investors don’t love - but which you can still turn around. 

If your business plan is based around the following, be aware that they may sleep-inducing triggers for investors:

 HR, customer or corporate support. These are expenses and not sales growth inducers. They are hard to measure and often managed by gatekeepers with limited budgets and murky agendas.

- Possible solutions: if you can show these really make a difference or have happy returning customers, then say so up front - it could make a difference! Otherwise, you always want to frame a new paradigm in the industry and claim to have a platform that other players will have to use to enable overall growth.

• Government agencies of any kind.
Possible solutions:  If you have special access of some kind. Contracts or something along those lines, you have a chance. Otherwise only investors who know that specific branch of government will be interested. They are just too many gatekeepers with murky agenda to interest Investors.

• FDA Trials
- Anything that requires money for trials is a no-no for general Investors. Specialized Investors might be interested but only if they have experience in the area.
Possible solutions: Find areas to prove the idea that don’t face these upfront barriers. Sometimes it is a game or an overseas market. Find it.

• Education
Possible solutions:  There are some known areas of value here - such as SAT and GRE’s and so on. Anything that “cuts the fat belly” of the industry by more than 70% might be of interest to investors but they generally have to be specialized or experienced in Education. For most investors there are just too many gatekeepers with murky agenda to interest them.

• Ad supported Media
- If your business plan just assumes it will be supported by advertising - and you have never been in the business of selling ads - then you may be in trouble. Ad networks don’t pay that well, and ads generally don’t sell by themselves. You need a sales force to handle customers who are generally hard and fickle. The only want to get around this is to show that you can sell or that for some compelling reason you have partners that deliver sales. Better yet, your idea is so good that at least 10% of your users are willing to pay a subscription fee.

• Value is in the Data
- In an era when hackers can steal credit card info from Equifax of download the CIA’s list of most active spies, your amazing data just doesn’t seem so valuable any more. However, if your tool or platform enables others to extract data - which you also get to keep - then you might have something. Real-time actionable data is different though. That is like fresh fish - and people will always prize that. You just have to show the investors who your fish buyer is.



           

From: Are You Fundable?
Order the Book Are You Fundable?

10 Steps to Getting Funded - from the book: Are You Fundable?


From The Book: Are You Fundable?
To find out more about the way Investors think you can get our book Are You Fundable? on Amazon Amazon, Kindle or directly from our site areyoufundable.com.

To give you an idea of what you need to get in front of investors consider the 10 Steps to Funding:


Nov. 2: Pitch & Raise up to $5.4 Million 

1. Know yourself
– Understand your product or idea and why you should be the one to make it work
2. Know your sector
– Understand the market and how investors see it
3. Know your Investor
– Know what have they invested in before and why
4. Know your Opener and Closer
– Find out which key words get Investors' attention. Find out how to close them

5. Know your gameplan
What's your customer acquisition plan, its cost and the sales strategy?

6. Know your plan B (and C)
– Or, How to turn a No into a Yes. Very few Investors believe that the company will proceed exactly as you say. It might even fail. So what alternative pans and do you have it ready to go.

7. Know your numbers
– Know your costs, your margins, your burn rate or overhead. Most of all - look like you will be a good steward of someone else’s money!

8. Know your tech
– You’ve got to be conversant with your technology and sound like you know how to pass it on if your developer leaves in a huff. 

9. Know your team
– Show who's on board and why - but not too much background! 

10. Know Your Exit
– Who’s going to buy you. Why, how much and tell us about genuinely comparable deals.

From: Are You Fundable?
Order the Book Are You Fundable?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Survive & Thrive – What We Learned at this Innovative Retreat


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 Getaway in 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. Thats 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: Its Not the Punch – Its How You Get Up
Most Entrepreneurs and Investors have taken a hit, and its usually a KO. So getting the punch is normal - its what you do after it.

If you are a real entrepreneur, its 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 dont 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 dont 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 youre 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 thats 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 doesnt mean you shouldnt 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.


Alan Brody is the founder of Startupalooza, a seed investor and author of Are You Fundable?