Saturday, April 9, 2011

Report: Entrepreneur iEvening

VC Panel led by:  
Stephen Brotman, GSA Venture Partners  
Mike Segal, Joshua Capital
John Ason, Angel Investor
Frank Garland, Investor
Dorothy Price Hill, Mid-Market Capital  

The Entrepreneurs: Fahim Mahir, Allan Pincus, Tanjila Islam, Farhan Memon, Steve Naidich, Richard Radoccia & Alan Brody  - Photo by Seitu Oronde
Herrick, Feinstein, LLP hosted the now quarterly event for Start-Ups at their fine auditorium on 32nd & Park. All attendees are invited to the Entrepreneur workshop beforehand - this is unique forum variously titled: "The Pivot Workshop" the "Positioning Panel" or even just the "Start-Up Shop." The purpose is to get your peers to give you completely unbiased feedback on how your plan is perceived. It is the skill of the facilitator to help you understand the following: are you hiding your real idea (much more common than you'd think) are you seen as investible and what can you do about that? Most of all, since businessplans change, can you identify the "Soul of your idea?" When you have to reposition a plan for different kinds of investors - this is what you need to know. It is also a place where execs can throw their resume into the panel and see how entrepreneurs would reinvent them.

Some of the issues that came up were:  

· How would you increase value for a world news digest (find high value readers such as investor or government analysts)?

· Math site for kids - will parents respond to claims of a superior algorithm, or do the kids need to be lured somehow?

· When it came to the pitching, the feedback we elicit from our panel of four judges is often worth its weight in gold - even at today's commodity prices. Not all the startups will get the gold but hearing from in the investors can totally change the life of their plans. Just listening in can help you go for the gold!

Steve Naidich & winner, Farhan Memon - Photo by Seitu Oronde
The Winner of the Start-Up evening gets a meeting with investors and a ticket to the high-value Private Equity Forum at the Yale Club in May. Last weeks winner was Farhan Memon of WikiOrgCharts - a site that combines the best features of LinkedIn and Jigsaw by using a core database and crowdsourcing to fill in all the organization linkages between government and corporate personnel. It's a great resource but I'd probably not want to see Al Qaida using it either!


The other Start-ups were:
TigerTrade presented by Tanjila Islam, who made an impressive presentation on a world trade site that offered to do what Ali Baba does - but for South East Asia which is now competing as a lower cost alternative to China. The challenge, for often foreign-averse investors, is convincing them of the value of this marketplace.

The Language Chef, polylinguist Robert Auidi's site is based on the theory that you only want to learn a foreign language so you can understand their menu. The judges didn't bite.

GigBlast Ed Johnson's site came with a room-rousing presentation and a warm recognition from the judges of the value professionals have in developing a career presence online. Making this a scalable business is another challenge though.

John Rogers, Alan Brody & Steven Greene  - Photo by Seitu Oronde
ClipboardMD is one of those services of the future for the medical world - all your incoming data is entered through their notepad and patients lives are eased while doctors profoundly improve their ability to get reimbursed by the insurance companies. The issue is adoption and competition. Will doctors pay for this? (Clipboard already claims to have too many customers.) How do you avoid the 500-pound gorillas?

CarNova - this is a car buyer referral site that promises to offer better info for the buyer in order to attract a high price per lead from the dealer. Judges were interested but the money was sought for marketing: Adword arbitrage, linking, advertising and so on.  Check my upcoming "Prayerbook for Entrepreneurs" for tip #26 VCs hate to invest in marketing.

eGenomics, Inc Steve Naidich made a great presentation on identifying the problem - locating the origin of nasty hospital bacterial breakouts. But, from an investors point of view it came undone for lacking a cure itself. While the identifying the source is worthwhile and hospitals might pay for it - the real money is in an eradication product. That would put a bug in VC ears!

ComfortMouse by Allan Pincus is a product that has identified a problem - people with serious hand issues who cannot use a regular mouse. The solution, however, is not exactly a sight for sore eyes. While it is true there is money in custom fit and medically prescribed solutions, investors hate products that require gatekeepers and reimbursement. But at $500 a pop people might prefer iPads and motion sensitive technologies. Perhaps 10 years ago, at the height of PC adoption. Now we're all mobile.
Joy Wai with investor, John Ason   - Photo by Seitu Oronde

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The Next iEvening
May 19 - iBreakfast/iEvening NJ presents Mayor Cory Booker
June 14 - visit www.ibreakfast.com
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