Accelerating Startup Innovation Through Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding concept

Everyday I get pitched a new idea.

Choosing which to get involved in as a mentor, investor or connector is becoming easier as my personal network grows (many thanks LinkedIn) but more importantly because the ability to mitigate risk and prove viability quickly is becoming easier.

This is not to say that raising capital is becoming easier. For those of you who read “Open Letter To Angel Investors & VCs” you will understand where I’m going with this article.

In short, let’s quickly discuss new opportunities available to shorten the window of time needed to get seed stage capital, minimum viable product, and secure beta clients.

Crowdfunding Seed Stage Capital

Let’s face reality. Crowdfunding is the future, and if the SEC will ever get out of the way and allow equity crowdfunding to the masses, our current recession would be over in no time. In the meantime, while the regulators argue about how we can spend our money, let’s talk about leveraging this option to both raise initial seed capital to get proof of concept.

Putting together a great campaign is a skill in itself. It requires creative thought, excellent planning, significant time spent on PR strategy and connection with social media influencers. If you are able to put these pieces together with a great product or service, then communicate it well to the target demographic, it is reasonable you can get enough funding to build your proof of concept.

In the end, it boils down to your social media influence and public relations. If those two are accounted for, your chances of success are reasonable.

In the meantime, don’t forget to put as many things in place prior to the end of the campaign you will need to build the MVP. Whether that be vendors, manufacturers or advisers.

Building Minimum Viable Product

Now let’s assume your crowdfunding campaign was a success.

In the age of 3D printing, access to manufacturing globally and web/mobile development advancements, it never ceases to amaze me how so many startup founders REFUSE to quickly build an MVP (minimum viable product) and get to market.

If your campaign is a success, you have a potential customer base built in by default. Not only can you leverage the buzz created, you also have the ability to communicate with these potential customers and get their feedback on what they would like to see. Instead of hiding everything from them until launch, just ask questions.

It is better to make modifications prior to launch, than wait for the bombardment of feedback when you are slammed with customer service, fulfillment and the other headaches which come with company growth. Making pivots is a blunt reality in business. It is better to account for them as early as possible.

Leveraging Beta Clients

Growing your business requires getting an initial client base, whether you call them beta clients, early adopters or just plain customers.

By going the way of crowdfunding and heavy engagement with your backers, you have the opportunity to build a loyal customer base full of brand ambassadors. Not only is this vital to growing the company in the short term, in context of raising additional capital, being able to showcase a rapidly growing customer base enables proving market viability to investors.

While many investors shy away from crowdfunded projects in the early stages, this position is rapidly shifting as acceptance of crowd based idea validation expands. If you are able to prove how many backers have turned into ongoing customers, you now have an extremely valuable weapon at your disposal.

Accelerating Traditional Capital Raise

Since it realistically takes 6+ months to raise seed stage capital for 99% of startups, it makes sense to spend that same amount of time planning out your crowdfunding campaign with the next step goals as outlined above.

Not only does this enable you to be further down the road prior to raising traditional capital, you also have a much stronger position in equity negotiations and might not even need it. Investors are looking for proof of concept, minimum viable product, initial customer base and growing revenue. All of these are signals of risk mitigation on their investment.

By strategically leveraging crowdfunding, you have the opportunity to both accelerate growth of your company and the time spent raising additional capital. When risk is lowered, you will be amazed at how quickly the doors can open up.

This is just a top level of things to think about when planning your entrepreneurial journey in today’s world of opportunity. I would appreciate your feedback and ideas you can share with others getting ready to make the leap!

St. Louis-based PenPath Brings Data Directly to Writers

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“When does an artist or a dancer ever perform with the curtain closed?” Alex Cruz asks.

Never!

So, why–he wants to know–are writers’ analytics and social sharing data controlled by the publications they write for? Or, if you’re a blogger, why is it so hard to keep track of things like Google Analytics?

Cruz and his team in St. Louis are solving that problem with PenPath.

PenPath is a comprehensive dashboard that tracks all the relevant data for a given piece of content, regardless of platform or medium. It works just as well for YouTube as it does for Medium.

Rather than needing passwords and code, writers can just paste the url of their article into PenPath and quickly see all their social shares, traffic, and other important data. The site tracks each article by the hour, but you can adjust the settings to see how your shares track over time. You can also see who is sharing the content and engage with them over social media.

Analytics, of course, is a big market, and everyone’s trying to figure out how to get more metrics. There’s already great tools out there like Google Analytics, Chartbeat, Muckrack, and more. PenPath is entering a crowded field, but they think they’re offering something unique that will be valuable to content creators.

And, as a former freelancer myself, I think they’re right. It’s possible to hack together all the different features PenPath offers, but it’s not easy. You have to span multiple platforms, websites, and spreadsheets. PenPath’s solution is simple, and it provides a way to watch the competition as well as yourself.

This week is a big week for the PenPath team. Yesterday they kicked off their crowdfunding campaign over at new software crowdfunding site Ramen. Only backers through Ramen will have first access to the platform, essentially creating a beta pool for the startup.

Cruz and team will also be exhibiting at the Collision Conference in Las Vegas this week, after having attended Everywhere Else Tennessee just last week. (And we thought we were busy!)

Check out PenPath over on their website, but if you want early access to the Platform, don’t forget to support them on Ramen.

 

How to Have Success in Your Online Business

Learn to Have Success with Your Online Business
You wake up one morning and you have this brilliant idea. You want to start your own business.
You’ve seen other people have success, and you have the desire for the exact same thing. If you are passionate about the kinds of products you will sell to others, you can have a lot of success. While there are always obstacles throughout the journey, if you follow the right steps and take several tips and pointers from other online business owners, you can make a name for your business. A business that is successful as it is well planned and executed.
Why You Should Start an Online Business
In case you didn’t know, there are nearly 30 million online businesses across the globe. There is also a good reason that many businesses have taken the initiative to go online and start their business from there. One of the reasons is because of the exposure. If you have a business where you offer services or products to others, you can reach a huge audience. You are no longer just selling to the locals in your area. You can reach tons of unique demographics. Most importantly, you can sell to people worldwide. It is a major step forward from initially selling to a small group of people who live around the store.
How to Make The Most Of Your Business
One reason you get into creating an online business is to have success. Some of the most successful online businesses have used unique tactics to set themselves apart from the rest. Some of the tactics that you might want to consider include:
• Thinking outside of the box
• Offering something you know people will need or use
• Building your business through social media
There are a lot of original ideas that you can come up with. For example, if you’ve always been a fan of fashion and love messing around with different fabrics, you could ultimately create your own fashion line. You can start of small by making shirts with cool and funny phrases and sayings. Once you have somewhat of an idea on what you want to offer, you can get the opinion of potential customers, especially while using social media.
Social media is important to use because it is a way to keep you in the loop on what is now hot and trendy. It is also allows you to speak with people who are interested in the brand you are trying to make for your business. Discovering more about your business may entice them to want to make a purchase from your online store.
Deciding Which Social Media Platforms You Should Use
Some business owners question whether they are using the right social media platforms. There are plenty of options, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Some business owners have taken time to create videos of their products and services, develop discussion with their customers, and post those videos directly to their YouTube account. If you are selling homemade beauty products, tutorial videos could turn into a huge hit on YouTube, thus resulting in more visitors to your online store. Linking cool social media ideas with what you have to offer is one way to see a positive outcome from your social media interaction.
Because you can write short messages that relate to your business on Twitter, gaining followers and tweeting about current promotions and special with your online store could help you get more attention. Getting involved in any social media sites and keeping track of messages, comment, and other assorted feedback from people is simply important if you want to have success.
Avoid Giving Up On Your Goals
Set goals for yourself and stick with them. Work your best at trying to achieve them by the specific date that you gave yourself when you made the goal. There are times where you might feel frustrated. It’s always normal to feel a bit overwhelmed while doing something as huge as setting up an online store and running it as your primary business. However, the hard work and effort put into developing your business will turn into a great profit.
You can have a successful online business. Come up with ideas that you like and stick with them. It doesn’t matter what you want to offer to the public, whether you plan to create a clothing line of your own or develop apps that people can use on their smart phones. Bring your ideas to life and start selling them. Make sure to have a website where customers can shop so that the transactions are easier on them and yourself. Create social media profiles and keep them active, which means posting  up unique content and information on a nearly daily basis. Provide excellent customer service and  always remember to put the customers first.

 

A 1-Year-Old Magazine About Farming Is the Talk of the Media World

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Morbi augue risus, sodales nec orci vel, semper tincidunt tellus. Ut massa mauris, volutpat eu hendrerit ac, semper et magna. Phasellus at sem mi. Photo Credit: jmauerer

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Greek Startup Mageca Builds the First App Store for Interactive Apps

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What’s your startup called and what’s your big idea?

Mageca is the first app-store for interactive applications using 3D Sensors that recognize gesture, voice & vision. Our main goal is to create a web space where applications for a variety of uses can be found from the end-user. The latter can vary from a parent playing with its kids at their living room or a healthcare institute that needs a touchless solution for the sterilized environment of an operating room.

Mageca’s mission is to bring HCI technologies into people’s everyday life. We aim to become the reference point for Human Computer Interaction. We strongly feel that touchless technologies, gesture control & motion recognition enabled devices will become the next big thing regarding the way people interact with machines.

What’s the story behind your idea?

The marketplace aims to incentivize developers through offering them a space to promote their work while creating a community between sensors manufacturers, users and creators for the first time.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

We are a team of 3 enthusiastic entrepreneurs that came together 2 years ago. Antonis, is the founder of the company along with his 3 brothers that for the last 14 years have been working together for the last 14 years, building their company from scratch. It all started when they started the process of developing an application (using kinect) for their store- a virtual fitting room.Through this process we realized not only the great capabilities of the new technologies but the pain of users and developers that dont have a specific marketplace.

Galateia joined the team after she came back from London, having graduated from UCL with an Msc at TE Entrepreneurship, given her genuine interest in gesture- recognition technologies and experience working with startups at UK. Mariana, with an experience of 7 years in the retail industry and working as a costumer for the past 5 she is giving her valuable inputs regarding sales.

Our 2 great advisors: Savvas Georgiou, CTO at Daily Secret and Suneil Mishra, working with Primesense the past years are continuously helping with their contacts and deep knowledge of the industry we are operating in.

Where are you located, and what is the ecosystem like there?

Mageca is located in Greece, Athens. The start-ups scene has really exploded here over the last couple of years, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch. In 2013, Greek startups raised more than 55 million dollars in capital.

The country’s economy has been spiraling downwards for the last four years. That, has forced businesses and innovators to aim globally and think big.

Why now?

For Mageca, we believe that this is the ideal time & place to pursue our vision and embrace the opportunity arising around touchless technologies and be first movers in the industry.

What milestones have you reached?

Since we have been running the company since May 2013 we are proud to say that we have already reached significant milestones.

We have already established a network of 750 developers nationwide along with a base of registered users. Another major achievement is the support we have these 2 years from major companies operating in the industry. Microsoft, Intel, Tobii & Softkinetic are the companies providing us with developer’s kits for their new products, to review and use before their official launch.

Furthermore, we have managed to participate in worldwide events presenting our work, such is “TEDxAcademy”, “TEDxAUEB”, “Startup Turkey”, “Startup Berlin”, “Rising Ideas” and we were also sponsoring HackaNUI”. The past 3 months we were one of the winning startup companies participating in the biggest accelerator in Greece: “Cosmote Startup”.

What are your next milestones?

The goals we are aiming to achieve within the next 6 months is to secure a funding round that will enable us maintain the quality of application uploaded on site and further enhance the marketplace with new tools and services responding to the needs of our network of developers and sensors’ manufacturers. We are aiming to have 35 brand new applications uploaded on site within this period and extended customer base, including business clients such is hospitals and schools.

Our new redesigned website and appstore is about to be launched within May, with new apps and our blog with all the news and hot picks to keep an eye on around gesture recognition.

Where can people find out more?

We are always happy to get to know you!

You can reach us via

• Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mageca/566846519998879

• Twitter: @MagecaLabs

• E-mail: info@mageca.com

and of course through the website: http://www.mageca.com/

Flipoutz: The Family Aha Moment That Led to Shark Tank

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You’re on a trip. A family trip. And if you’re not a kid anymore, pretend you are one for a few minutes while reading this.

You’re sitting next to your older sister and younger brother, complaining and bickering to your parents about how the car’s too hot or that you’re hungry. The “I’m not touching you… I’m not touching you…” game is played, and it’s an all-around delightful time in the 8’ x 5’ x 4’ box that is your car.

Then Mom turns around and asks a seemingly simple question: “If you could have any toy in the entire world to play with right now [to occupy you enough to make you stop talking], what would it be?”

And so it happened that the Johnson family, in unison and more joyfully than ever, stumbled upon their first aha moment.

The oldest sister wanted self-expression. The middle sister: fashion and something to show off to friends. The youngest, the only boy of the three, something “cool” that he could trade. (For nostalgic value and anyone who remembers, he wanted something cooler than Neopets and Pokémon cards.)

The natural solution to all three: a bracelet and token-like coins, of course.

An uncle in the family, who also doubled as a patent attorney, was pitched the idea and, after a little research, gave them two distinct things:

  1. the go-ahead (that nobody else was doing what they wanted to do), and
  2. their second aha moment.

“That was it,” said the middle sister, Lachlan Johnson, now a freshman at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. “That was all we needed.”

And so they began: first, by ‘coining’ the name Flipoutz, and, before long, making appearances at every convention and trade show that would let under-18 year olds on the exhibition floor.flipoutz2

Their individually decorated coins that fit snuggly inside silicon bracelets could be traded and tracked all around the world, a feature that eventually landed them a Season 2 appearance on the ever-so-popular Shark Tank.

Shortly after Shark Tank, they sold the company, and the Johnson family children joined the ranks of minors who have experienced a feat few adults three and four times their age have.

Full-time college and high school students now, Lachlan and her little brother, Jake, have since started another company, Joxie, which was, of course, spawned from an aha moment of its own. This time it was with bow ties, though, in a brand they’re calling Beaux Up: “What if you could personalize your bow tie – however and whenever you wanted to?”

Though they don’t have a product line out yet, you should be expecting to see it in stores sometime within the next several months. In the meantime you can follow @Flipoutz and visit them online at their online store. And stay tuned for a follow up article detailing Beaux Up’s creative process.

Tyler Sondag is a startup connoisseur with a hand in anything and everything you could imagine. Hailing from the ever-developing Northwest Mississippi, an alum of Saint Louis University and currently a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri, one of his main missions in life is to get and keep young people engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Follow him on Twitter: @MrSondag.

Flashnotes Helps Students Study–And Make Money

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If you’re the smart kid in class, it’s time to stop doing everyone’s studying for free.

Flashnotes.com is a peer-to-peer marketplace for college notes and study guides. Students post their guides on the platform, and each sells for around $10.

Started by Mike Matousek during his senior year at Kent State, the company has grown quickly in the last few years.

In February they closed a $3.6 million Series A led by Stage 1 Ventures.

And, yes, you really can make money selling  your notes online. According to the leaderboard on the Flashnotes homepage, Tony2050 from Florida State has pulled in almost &12,000 so far. That’s better than your average part time job!

Check out our Q&A with Mike below:

1) What’s your startup called?

Flashnotes.com is a Boston-based startup that is becoming an influential leader in the higher ed tech space.

2) What’s your big idea and how does it work?

Flashnotes.com is the student-to-student study materials marketplace. The online platform allows college students to buy and sell course specific study materials — study guides,notes, flashcards, video tutorials, and live video help. My company is on a mission to provide college students with the two things they need most – more money & better grades. Our Pays2Study™ approach empowers smart college students to make money from their own study material, while helping other students study smarter to get better grades.

At Flashnotes.com,  we want to create an environment that allows college students to have access to the information they need to be successful in their courses. Currently, 42% of college students drop out and it’s often because they are falling behind. Flashnotes.com is on a mission to provide these students with the materials they need to get over that hump by serving content in a variety of forms.

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

I founded Flashnotes.com in 2010, when I was a senior at Kent State University. My idea for the company came when I was taking a statistics class that many of my classmates struggled with. The course came naturally to me, and it wasn’t long before students were hunting me down for my study guides and notes. Soon after, Flashnotes.com was born, and is now used by college students at universities and colleges across the country.

4) Who are the founders?

As mentioned previously, I founded Flashnotes.com while I was a senior at Kent State University.

5) Where are you located?

Flashnotes.com is located in Boston’s Faneuil Hall marketplace.

6) What’s the startup scene like there?

Boston’s innovation economy is thriving, and it really is a hub for technology startups and young entrepreneurs. In recent years, an entire Innovation District has emerged along the South Boston Waterfront, and with so many local colleges and universities, there’s no shortage of talent for the city’s burgeoning community of web and technology startups.

7) What milestones have you reached?

In the last year, Flashnotes.com has seen rapid adoption at colleges and universities across the country with a 175% growth in users. In the last two months we also raised $3.6 million in Series A venture funding and acquired Moolaguides, an online study materials marketplace with a strong user base in Florida.

8) What are your next milestones?

This year, Flashnotes.com is focused on expansion to additional colleges and universities across the U.S. We’re also looking to empower students with registered disabilities with our online marketplace and are actively looking to work with universities’ disability offices to offset program costs, increase note-taker retention throughout the semester, and enable these students to have access to critical course material. 

9) Where can people find out more?

To find out more information about Flashnotes.com, readers can visit our website at www.flashnotes.com, like us on Facebook,  or follow us on Twitter, @Flashnotes.

Chimpmint Takes on Buffer, Feedly, and All Those Other Guys

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Those of us in the tech world know all about social media marketing and finding and sharing content online. We know that it’s good for our brands and reputations, and a lot of us think carefully about how we want to handle social media.

incontent3Your average small business? Maybe, but maybe not. And without some level of social media savvy, they can get lost in the crowd.

That’s where Chimpmint comes in. They’re looking to curate and share content for small businesses who don’t necessarily have the time or motivation to learn social media marketing. There are plenty of tools that do what they do, but Chimpmint is honing in on the customers who will be overwhelmed by the more popular tools.

They face a few challenges, though. Most significantly, marketing to small businesses–and convincing them they need this–could prove difficult. The companies they’re talking about can often be averse to the Internet in general, much less social media.

Also, you know, Buffer, Feedly…

Check out Chimpmint’s Q&A below. Then hop over and let them know what you think.

What is the name of your startup?

Chimpmint Content Curating & Sharing

What’s your big idea?

If traditional marketing is land and social media is the ocean, then many startups, small businesses, and personal brands are lost at sea.
Every brand, at one point or another, has the same two core problems when it comes to social media marketing:

  1.     I don’t know what to post on social media to build my follower base and to engage with them.
  2.    I don’t have the time to post.

So how does Chimpmint help? To solve the first problem, we search, find, and present related content to that brand. Doesn’t matter what you sell, if you have a brand, then we have quality articles, images, and videos  that relates to what your brand. To solve the second problem, Chimpmint helps you share efficiently. Already in our first release, we’ve gotten great feedback on the simplicity of our scheduling feature. And like an infomercial, it gets better! Our next upgrade is coming soon and it’ll will be a game changer. We plan to make social media management as relevant to a business owner as checking an email.

What’s the story behind your idea?

Once upon a time, about 11 months ago, my partner Maurice Prosper and I were working in the web development. One of our early clients, Stacy, owned a small furniture store. To our surprise, just a month after finishing Stacy’s new website, she left us a message stating her dissatisfaction.

What was wrong? The website worked like a well oiled machine.

So we asked Stacy. She told us she feels the site isn’t worth the cost since the traffic to the site stayed the same.  So we started our search on Google for a product that can drive traffic to Stacy’s website with social media. Right away, we knew it had to be simple, because Stacy didn’t want to learn social media marketing, and preferably a ‘Smart Software’ that educated users while getting the job done. Unfortunately, we never found this magical software. That’s when we had our “aha moment”.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

Maurice Prosper and Michael Tibebu. We met in Mr. Thomas’s history class in high school. Good ‘ole times.

Where are you based?

Chimpmint is based out of Austin, Texas but we service any and all businesses since we provide our services via the internet.

How are you different from the competition? Buffer comes to mind…

We simplified our software while being able to improve efficiency. Our competitors see the demand but see only one layer of the problem. As stated in Question[1], just a scheduling feature isn’t going to cut it for Stacy the store owner. Neither is a bare content aggregate. Chimpmint is the only web application that solves both those problems, while keeping simplicity of the product for our user’s learning curve and user experience.

What milestones have you reached so far?

We just celebrated our 3 month anniversary. That being said, since then we’ve gotten users on Chimpmint giving us great feedback and advice. We’ve legitimatized our online brand @Chimpmint with well over 400 followers. All of which we’ve attained by using our own product. Our blog (blog.chimpmint.com) returning readers. We also showcased at South by South West in Austin, Texas in front of thousands of tech lovers and investors.

What are your next milestones?

Chimpmint next milestone is to reach our goal of signing up our first 1000 businesses. We still have spots open. Sign up at www.chimpmint.com we wont disappoint.

Where can people find out more?

People can find out more about Chimpmint by emailing hello@chimpmint.com.

They can also reach us via our feedback button located on the bottom right corner on www.chimpmint.com

Our first 1000 businesses get a year long free subscription to Chimpmint. Don’t miss out guys, it’s a good time to register at www.chimpmint.com.

TapShield Launches New Products to Keep Everyone Safe–From College Kids to Executives

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Today Orlando-based TapShield announced the release of an enterprise-grade platform that improves safety across college campuses and for global companies. The system essentially turns your smartphone into a “personal mobile safety device,” keeping you connected with safety officials and loved ones.

Let’s take college campuses.

incontent3We’re all familiar with the blue poles placed around campus, supposedly to call campus security if you feel threatened. But, in a real emergency, who has time to run to the blue pole, dial the 10 digit number, and explain the situation–all while fending off an attacker?

No one.

Instead TapShield connects campus security with every device that downloads the app. When a someone calls in, security can immediately dispatch thanks to GPS technology and other relevant caller information. According to the company, this improves response times by as much as 47%.

TapShield has been tested at the University of Florida for the last 6 months.

“The TapShield solution is easy to use and allows our dispatchers to quickly view GPS location and key caller information so emergency reporting is fast and efficient,” said Chief Linda Stump of the University of Florida Police Department. “I believe this helps our department provide pervasive security in a way which resonates with our students.”

It’s not just for emergencies, though. Features like Entourage alerts contacts when you’ve left  one place. If you haven’t arrived to your destination in a reasonable time, contacts are alerted again so they can check on you.

My favorite feature might be Yank, which–when activated–sends a silent alarm to authorities if the headphones are pulled from your phone.

TapShield doesn’t want to only focus on personal emergencies, though. They’re thinking big.

For example, during the Boston marathon bombings last year, many people weren’t able to let their loved ones or companies know they were okay because cell service was packed.

“If CNN has breaking news about a global terror threat, TapShield lets businesses know which one of their executives or traveling employees might be in that area,” said Jordan Johnson, TapShield CEO. “TapShield facilitates a real-time, two-way communication with employees anywhere in the world using devices they already own.”

The challenge for TapShield might be the dreaded feature creep. In my interview with Johnson, the list of features was so long it was hard to keep them straight or figure out what exactly TapShield was looking to do. There was always one more thing to talk about.

Maybe this will work in TapShield’s favor. With so many use cases, the system could gain widespread adoption as people use it in different ways. Or, all the options could be overwhelming, and people could choose not to use it at all. The trick, of course, is selling it to campuses and corporations.

With more campuses on board, and corporations seeking them out, TapShield might have that one covered.

How Incorporation Can Help a Startup

stock1Startup founders face many questions during the process of turning their dreams into a viable, money-earning business. One of the most important questions that must be addressed in the process involves the legal structure of the company. Business owners need to decide whether or not to incorporate their business.

Types of Corporations

No two business models are exactly the same. For this reason, there are several types of corporation structures to accommodate every owner’s needs. The IRS allows businesses to choose to be taxed as either a “C corporation” or an “S corporation,” according to LegalZoom.  Both structures have their benefits and disadvantages.

The S corporation structure is popular with many small-business owners because it has only one level of tax. Companies in this structure pass corporate income, deductions, losses and credits to their shareholders for federal tax purposes, according to the IRS. When setting up an S corporation, business owners should check with their state to understand what the exact requirements are.

Another common type of corporate taxation structure recognized by the IRS is the C-corporation. This structure is somewhat similar to an S corporation. However, there are also some significant differences. The most important difference between the two is that C corporations are subject to double taxes. This means that not only are the company’s shareholders responsible for paying taxes, but the company is as well. In this structure, the shareholders are responsible for taxes on the company’s dividends. At the same time, a business in this structure must pay taxes on its net income. As with S corporations, business owners looking to form a C corporation should consult and understand their state’s requirements to do so.

Benefits of Corporations

Determining the legal structure of your business is an important step to take when turning your dreams into a reality. There are several types of corporations recognized by the IRS, and the benefits of setting up one of these structures are almost endless.

There are five reasons why small businesses should incorporate. Perhaps the most significant is that a corporation protects the entrepreneur’s personal assets if debts or legal judgments are claimed against the business, according to E.J. Dealy of Fox Business. In essence, becoming a corporation allows for business owners to thrive while protecting their own assets in the event of an unfortunate incident.

Another major benefit of becoming incorporated is the increased exposure. When a business is first starting out the number one task is to attract customers and stand out above the crowd. One way to do that is by incorporating your business. As an incorporated entity, it may become easier to attract the clients and vendors needed to help your company succeed.

Becoming an incorporated business not only affects the present status of the company, but it may also impact its future. Taking the steps to incorporate ensures that the business can remain open in the event of major changes.

Incorporated businesses have the opportunity to make use of tax deductions for normal business expenses. Whether the business is a flower shop or a photography studio, owners have the opportunity to deduct supplies and other necessary purchases from their taxes. There are 75 business-related expenses that companies may be able to deduct from their taxes, according to Mark J. Kohler writing for Entrepreneur.

Prior to submitting a tax return, business owners would benefit from combing through their business expenses with a certified public accountant. This should be done to ensure that no deductions are missed and that all deductions are legitimate.

The business world is constantly changing. The benefits of incorporating may be applied to a company that is currently operating under a sole proprietor status and wants to change to a corporation. They can also be applied to a corporation that is just in the process of forming for the first time.

The Next Step

Once business owners have chosen the corporation structure they wish to enter into and have considered its benefits, it is time to put their wishes on paper legally. There are many forms that need to be created, signed and filed during the process of forming a business for legal recognition. Some business owners may choose to file this paperwork on their own. If an owner prefers to have help with these documents, they may choose to use a service such as LegalZoom to complete the process for them.

Establishing the legal structure for a small business is important. The type of structure determines the types of protection afforded to business owners, both personally and professionally. Choosing to operate as either an S or C corporation can offer many benefits to both the owner of the company as well as its shareholders. These benefits can affect the company in the present and may also help preserve it for the future.

How to Enhance a Job Hunt Using Social Media

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Many job agencies are using social media for recruiters as a way of sourcing the most talented individuals. As such, it makes sense to get ahead of the game now, by following these simple steps in order to boost your online social media profile.

There are several super-smart ways in which you can enhance your job hunt through using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn:

Tell the World You’re Looking!

Start off by making announcements on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook that you are looking for a job. If possible, give details on precisely the kind of job you are after.

Network on Facebook

Carefully go through your list of friends on Facebook and don’t be afraid to reach out to people individually. That person might be able to get you work experience or even introduce you to their boss or a colleague who is hiring.

Check Your Privacy Settings

Ensure that you keep your private life private by selecting the ‘Friends only’ setting in your privacy settings on Facebook.

Check Out the Hiring Manager

Before submitting an application, look up your hiring manager on LinkedIn and try to find out as much information as possible about them. This will help you to better tailor your application to their wants and needs.

Add a Hyperlink to Your CV

In the contact details section on your CV, add in a hyperlink to both your LinkedIn profile and your Twitter handle. Doing so shows a potential employer that you are Internet savvy.

Make Connections Happen

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know! So find out the names of the people you need to be rubbing shoulders with and start following them on Twitter and retweeting their links. With any luck they should soon also be following you. Don’t forget to also add them or their company on LinkedIn.

Use Google to Your Advantage

You may wish to check what happens when you type your name into Google, as a potential employer is likely to carry out this basic check before offering you an interview. If you are less than pleased with the results, start using your LinkedIn profile as much as you possibly can. Doing so should bump your profile to the top of the search results for your name, hence an employer will look at this before anything else.

Get Involved on Twitter

Look out for chats focusing on the industry you work in and try to participate as actively as you can. Joining these conversations will help you to make contacts and to showcase your knowledge of the industry.

Ask for Advice via Social Media

Each of the networks mentioned are superb places in which to seek advice from recruitment agencies and other job-hunters. You can get loads of useful hints and tips by following career experts. By using these simple tips, you should be in a much stronger position to make the right connections online, thus greatly enhancing your chances of landing a suitable job.

Read more about networking online here.

Indiana’s Snappening Brings Event Planning to Your Phone

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event planning apps

 

Three-year-old Indianapolis company Snappening has launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $20,000. The company will use money from the flexible funding campaign to develop an app to go along with their current website.

In 2011, Crystal Grave agreed to help a friend plan her wedding. With plenty of experience in corporate event planning, she expected it to be no problem.

incontent3For Crystal, the process wasn’t too troubling, but she soon realized that an average consumer would find it impossibly hard to navigate. Without something as simple as a comprehensive database of venues, someone with no knowledge of the industry could waste days in research and still not find what they needed.

In answer to the problem, Crystal created Snappening.com. Focused mainly in Indiana (for now!) the site helps you find a venue and/or an event planner for any type of event.

As the company grows, a mobile app seems the next logical step. So, in coordination with Indiegogo’s International Women’s Day initiative, Crystal launched a crowdfunding campaign.

The mobile app will bring the same search engine users experience on the website. It will also help you locate venues nearby using the GPS on your phone and allow users to connect with several potential venues at once.

Through the mobile app, Snappening also wants to expand nationally and across vendor categories.

Event planning is a $6 billion/year industry, and that doesn’t really even cover the average party planner who is looking to plan a party or wedding. While there are tons of apps to help plan and prepare, nothing quite covers the niche Crystal and Snappening are shooting for. They’ve spent 3 years slowly building their presence in Indiana and gaining revenue through premium memberships and advertisements.

Now with a proven business model and lots of experience, they’ve put themselves in a good position to grow bigger and bigger. Check out their Indiegogo campaign and see what you think.

Packback Ramps Up Before Shark Tank Debut

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packback

Tomorrow Chicago-based Packback will face the sharks of ABC’s Shark Tank, looking for investment in their textbook rental company.

We talked about Packback last summer, after meeting them during Chicago Tech Week. The company–begun when the 3 founders were still in school at Illinois State–allows students to rent textbooks by the day, effectively cutting college costs by thousands of dollars.

incontent3What do the textbook publishers think about this? Because the system is effectively rent-to-own, the publishers are actually recouping revenue from the used textbook market, as all of Packback books are the newest version available.

The company is an active part of the Chicago tech scene. They incubated at 1871 before moving to new offices at Catapult Chicago with their growing team.

So, what does a tiny startup do to gear up for a big TV debut? In their own words:

The urgency of preparing for the episode has drawn our team closer than ever as we’ve taken our 2 month product roadmap and have condensed it into the next three weeks.  We’ve launched our new site with new features as we’re hoping to empower students to make more informed decisions when buying or selling books.  Our free sell tool allows students to compare textbook buy-back prices from popular online retailers to find the best offer and maximize their cashback.  Students use our real-time price comparison engine while buying books to ensure they find the lowest prices across the web, and of course our digital inventory of $3 to $5 digital textbook rentals has been growing every month as we continuously sign on publishers.

The recent 16 hour-straight days at the office have been taxing but it’s been awesome to see what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Our amazing cast of investors have been extremely supportive of our appearance and we’ve recently had the pleasure to have spent a lot of great time with our board of directors Mark Achler and Howard Tullman.

The frenzy is justified. According to some estimates, a spot on the show equals $4-5 million in free marketing. Products and apps on the show see a huge spike in traffic and interest any time their episode airs. It’s common for apps to hit the #1 spot in the app store within moments of their segment ending, especially if the sharks actually like the company.

And products the sharks don’t bite on? Even many of those go on to win big.

Either way, there’s no doubt Packback’s 16-hour days will be well worth it come tomorrow night.

GripeO Launches Web & Mobile App to Help You Complain Effectively

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customer complaint

A couple of years ago, my husband and I were planning a trip to New York City so he could run the NYC marathon. Thanks to his coaching job requiring him to be at a meet the day before the race, we didn’t get to make our normal trek 2 days early. We were going to be right up to the wire.

incontent3Then, early in the week of the race, Hurricane Sandy hit. Lots of back and forths between the mayor and New York Roadrunners Association, but the race was finally cancelled late Friday night, the day before we were supposed to leave.

“But, there was a hurricane in New York, maybe you heard about it,” my husband protested to the airlines as we asked for a refund.

I took to Twitter, complaining and hastagging the appropriate companies. Eventually, they did the right thing and refunded the cost of our flights. I’d like to say my complaints on Twitter did something to help that, but let’s be real. I was just one person complaining on Twitter that night.

New complaint platform GripeO is looking to change that.

Launched out of beta last week, GripeO lets customers post their customer service complaints on the platform, then notifies the companies that a customer has an issue. Businesses can verify with GripeO and take care of the problem right there.

Why not just continue to complain on Twitter?

“The effectiveness of complaint management on Twitter is vastly over rated for both consumer and business,” GripeO CEO Mike Klanac told me.

So, the make it better, GripeO allows customer to post their complaints on the site, but then share them socially so their friends see them, too. Customers can create a “meme” of the complaint, and the platform suggests hashtags and structure to help the complaint go viral.

No company wants that, y’all. Companies that choose to verify on the platform can avoid that awkwardness and potential PR issue by mediating with the customer right on the site.

While the company is not yet generating revenue, they plan to make money by selling leads, premium tools, and intelligent advertising. In their beta, they tested with 200 users and 4 companies, and they’ve currently signed up a few more big companies since launch.

GripeO is live now, so if you have a complaint you can check it out on their website.