Tuesday, November 30, 2010

iEvening Entrepreneurs Report

Brian Cohen, NY Angels · William Reinisch, Paladin Capital · Mike Segal, Joshua Capital · Joseph Daniels, Hodgson Russ
Moderated by Alan Brody

The long-running iEvening is one of the Tri-State's most valuable working events for Entrepreneurs and now, Execs - it helps Entrepreneurs shape their business models while looking for funding and Executives reinvent themselves while seeking opportunities.

Alan Brody at Workshop
Last Tuesday's event was hosted by the Fordham Business School at Lincoln Center. The Entrepreneur's Workshop, which has been running for over 10 years was recently expanded to accommodates executives - although the workshop has always attracted Execs seeking renewed career opportunities through Start-Ups, they were never formally part of the program. Now they are.

The Workshop
In the technique we pioneered for a Bloomberg TV segment, members of the group are invited to give their 30 second pitch. By using the dynamics of the group, we quickly discover what those pitches really do and don't say about the company or executive which leads to some great discoveries. Entrepreneurs learn what gives their ideas "curbside appeal" and execs learn how to pivot their business experience in the same way a Start-Ups has to keep looking for the right way to connect to its market and its investors.

One Start-Up founder, which struggled to explain himself succinctly happened to mention a much catchier second company called Wazzup - the group response made it clear where the opportunity really lies. Another Exec, who had been helping Start-Ups shape their pitch was shown by the group how the same techniques could also apply in everyday sales situations, opening the door to a new kind of consulting practice. Other Start-Ups found that while analogies are a great way to describe a new company, they have to be the right analogy or they could also be misleading. An Exec from a Start-Up that went public discovered that even though he did not cash out like the principals, just by being part of an IPO he can claim membership in the sacred group of the Serial Entrepreneur who IPO'd - thereby boosting his value. (More about the secret hierarchy or Start-Ups in my upcoming book....!)
Joe Daniels, Hodgson Russ & Paul Wegener

Deal Structure Workshop
After the Workshop, Joe Daniels of Hodgson Russ gave an illuminating presentation of deal structure and the clear value in seeking good counsel while going through the various stages of creating the Start-Up. The ability to raise capital, retain ownership value and share stock with employees are highly dependent on the quality of advice at this early stage.

Entrepreneur Pitches
The pitches included some very promising companies. The winner, who will go on to attend the Private Equity Forum at the Yale club was Caleb Gandara of TuitionCast - a metasearch site for higher educational programs.
The panel of judges which included Brian Cohen of New York Angels, Bill Reinisch of Paladin Capital and Mike Segal of Joshua Capital listened to the following plans and advised the companies to sharpen their focus in a variety of ways.

Mike Segal, Brian Cohen & Bill Reinisch
MergeSkills (www.mergeskills.com) was advised to focus their value proposition relative to competitors like LinkedIn, eLance and Guru.

Conexus (www.nq.com) which adds marketing intelligence needs to evolve their offerings to advertisers.
Traversive, (www.traversive.com) which enables IT departments in small to medium size businesses to shop for providers, the judges thought they needed to focus on a more specific market niche.

Risk-AI (www.risk-ai.com) provided risk analysis tools for the hedge fund industry but appeared too small of a niche for investors looking for a minimum 10x growth.

The Panel in Action
Remote Stylist (www.remotestylist.com) suffered from a similar judgment - although the market is big and they loved the founder, Kelly Fallis, the site appeared too manually service-oriented to scale - what investors call a "lifestyle business."

LEO (www.kryonsystems.com) a surprise entrant by an Israeli company that turns point and click tutoring into a saveable feature to be shared by other users. Investors leery about the training business but intrigued by the functionality.

So what is an Entrepreneur to do: fix it, pivot their model or constructively deconstruct? How about growing it themselves organically through sales an partnerships? These are the issues every entrepreneur faces and we hope the iEvening and its collaborative environment helps them make them make the right decision.

About the Speakers 
Entrepreneurs - photos by Seitu Oronde
Brian Cohen is Vice Chairman of New York Angels is an investment group of 61 members.
Joseph Daniels is the chair of the Hodgson Russ' Emerging Companies & Venture Capital Practice Group.
Bill Reinisch runs Paladin Capital's New York office.
Mike Segal heads Joshua Capital
Alan Brody pioneered the Business Model Discovery Workshop for Bloomberg TV

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