First off CEO of Smart Crowdfunding Shane Liddel explains important factors in having a successful campaign. Then we here a live pitch for the X-Stand, and Monica Selby talks about Nashville Faith and Work Summit.
San Francisco angel investor of the year Manny Fernandez explains new things happening in the world of equity crowdfunding, why he founded Dreamfunded, and even offers to help startup founders with resources they need to raise capital!
Listen to the podcast then checkout DreamFunded.Com to learn more about new ways to raise capital!
Angel investor Tatyana Gray explains shifts in the investment world, and shares different things that turn off investors to founders and ways to impress them.
Lightning Round Answers:
- Can you share one of your personal habits that you believe contributes to your success? Find some “me” time every day. Can be exercise, reading, taking a bath, watching TV, etc.
- Do you have a favorite Internet resource or app that you can share with our listeners? The Full Ratchet Podcast by Nick Moran and Successful Pitch Podcast with John Livesay
- What book would you recommend to people with a Serious Startup? 6 Months to 6 Figures by Peter Voogd and Startup Wealth by Josh Maher
In this pitch episode David Wilson pitches their amazing new product the Jamblaster, that allows play music with others live in sync remotely, record pro quality audio, broadcast video performances, teach/take online lessons & more! You can even do live Youtube broadcasts with multiple camera angles, all through Jamblaster.
Check out their campaign here after listening to the pitch!
In this special Thanksgiving episode Shane Liddell CEO of Smart Crowdfunding tell his story helping 100’s of startups have successful campaigns, and Kenn Palm, CEO of Pilgrim Consulting talks about entrepreneurship, investing, and how clickable prototypes are essential for tech startups.
Raising capital is ridiculously complicated and incredibly frustrating.
Anyone who has gone through it will tell you this. Heck, investors admit it. Thank you SEC for finally allowing equity crowdfunding. Fingers crossed you won’t over regulate it, and make that insanely complicated as well.
Before going into the 4 things I’m currently annoyed about, let me preface this with the following: I have built 5 companies without a dime of investor capital, been an investor myself, been a vendor for investors, and have personal relationships with quite a few angel investors. I have voiced all of these frustrations on a regular basis to them.
I also don’t want this rant to appear to be from someone who is mad about being turned down for investment. While I’m using personal experiences for examples, I have witnessed these and others happen to quite a few startups. My frustration with this is what led me to invest time and personal capital in several companies over the last 3 years.
Annoyance Number 1 – Needing To Making Up Projected Revenue Numbers
A while back I went on a road show for a venture I was involved in. We had a finished product, revenue, had bootstrapped it well beyond the need for seed capital, and were ready for scale.
We put together a fantastic deck, pitch videos, and the ROI projections were very reasonable. With our revenue model we literally needed .001% of our target market to be a $20 million company with a 75% profit margin. Recurring revenue model, and that .001% equaled about 6,500 customers. So not a massive undertaking to reach the initial goals.
After the first pitch, the head of the investment group pulled me aside and recommended that I increase my revenue projects and said:
Fudge the numbers and make it look ridiculously attractive, it doesn’t matter if you’re lying.
I was marginally stunned about this and thought he was joking. Nope. Dead serious.
Now I was faced with both a business and moral dilemma, do I lie on the front end and hope an investor will bite, while also setting myself up for backlash with unreasonable projections, or do I stick with reality and pray someone will invest.
I went with option 2 and let’s just say it didn’t turn out well. We got to watch companies that needed significantly more capital to get started, had lower profit margins, and had much longer timelines for ROI successfully raise money. All while we weren’t able to close the round.
Annoyance Number 2 – Not Listening To Your Answers
This one really fired me up.
At the first stop on the road show, a concern was raised when I outlined the industries we wanted to target. Several investors thought we wanted to go after 6 markets simultaneously. I clarified to them that wasn’t the case. We just wanted to showcase that the opportunity of scale was reasonable, and that we were thinking big picture.
However, to avoid that being a roadblock in the future we made pitch modifications to account for it. Both in the deck itself and during the pitch, a very strong caveat was issued that Industry A was the one we were targeting, the others weren’t going to be touched until well down the line.
Come Q&A time after the pitch, the question was asked if we were going to go after all these markets at the same time. Answer again – not anytime soon. Down the road. Only after dominating the first one.
Fast forward to the answer on the ask. No.
Key objection. You guys want to go after to many markets to fast.
(this one ended up being acquired later on – zero capital raised)
Annoyance Number 3 – Ignoring Low Risk Investments & Backing Small Market, Ludicrously Expensive Ones
This example is from a couple of years ago, and I’ve since seen quite a few similar ones.
A technology company I was a consultant for had an incredible opportunity to seize market share. By opportunity I mean a federal regulation had just been issued requiring the target market to buy this type of healthcare software or face a 5% gross revenue penalty.
84% of the market was currently controlled by 3 companies. Market research had returned 67% of potential customers were looking for alternatives to existing options, a giant list of competitive advantages, and all we were looking for was marketing capital to scale. Just over $1 million of personal capital by the founders had been invested to build, test, and prove market viability.
To generate $50 million a year in recurring revenue they would need to grab 2% market share.
This venture was immediately rebuffed by investors, while a company that needed $47 million and 5 years just to go to market was funded instantly. By instantly I mean commitment was made by multiple investors on the spot.
Now that wasn’t my cause of frustration. There are plenty of great ideas needing that amount of time and capital. What blew my mind was the entire potential market was $100 million. Even more mind boggling was a profit margin of only 20%. Mathematically it would be almost impossible to gain reasonable ROI, and the capital risk was huge.
(never raised of dollar of investment capital and is now doing $6 million a year)
Annoyance Number 4 – Easier To Raise Big Money Than Small
Angel investor or Venture Capitalist, I’ve never understood why you would want to risk larger sums of money than smaller ones. It really doesn’t make sense.
If you only expect 1 in 10 investments to provide ROI, then to me it’s logical to reduce the initial capital outlay, and if need be invest more down the line. That however isn’t how it’s done. Raising $500k is incredibly difficult, but needing several million opens a lot of doors.
As technology advances, outsourcing lowers cost, and ability to market test is growing tremendously. This has led to a reduction in the amount of capital needed to grow a company.
So with this being reality, why aren’t investors increasing the number of smaller gambles, rather than chasing the proverbial unicorns? To mix metaphors, why would you put all your eggs in one basket, when for the same capital risk you could have 10?
On the flip side, if you can’t justify needing huge investment, then you can’t raise it. This circles back around to my earlier annoyance in needing to make up numbers to justify investment.
Annoyance Number 5 – Needing A Full “Team”
CEO. CFO. CMO. CTO. COO. Plus a few other C** roles for good measure and why not add in 5 big name advisers and a few strategic partners.
This seems to be what investors are looking for these days, but if you’re looking for early stage investment capital it’s A) unlikely you’ve been able to secure all of these in anything other than name, and B) there are plenty of resources out there that can service these roles in the short-mid term and significantly reduce the amount of capital needed.
For example, there is a great company called Conserv here in Nashville that can offer you a CFO and accounting services all under one roof. But since they are a third party vendor, and not on your cap table, questions immediately arise about needing to fill that role.
If in the short-mid term you can remove the need for $300-400k in salaries by outsources different services, save equity options for the future, and in reality have access to additional resources for less expense, why is this seen by a lot of investors as a risk, versus a smart use of their money?
Hopefully this hasn’t been taken as a complete evisceration of investors.
There are plenty of forward thinking investors being very progressive in the risks they take. When it’s their money on the line, it’s ultimately their prerogative in what they invest in and how often. I know this on a very small scale with my investments compared to the “real” investors.
That said, I truly hope these kinds of issues can become mitigated in the future. The need for seed and scale capital is never ending, and the number of people willing to risk entrepreneurship is falling.
Without a significant rise in the number businesses starting and growing to replace the ones shutting down, our economic issues are going to continue to exacerbate.
So to investors reading this, please don’t hate me.
For entrepreneurs needing to raise capital, don’t let this rant cause trepidation.
You must approach entrepreneurship without fear, and be willing to accept rejection without losing your drive to succeed. You will experience ups and downs every day you are a business owner. It’s part of the responsibility.
Now get out there. Take risk. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Live the American Dream. We only have one life to live. Go make the most of it!
What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Seth shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.
For twenty years, Seth has been a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. He recently wrote the definitive guide to raising money at TheSecretOfRaisingMoney.com
- ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.’ – G. K. Chesterton click to tweet!
- Seth burst onto the scene with Turntable.fm, and then collapsed in a heap of failure. Listen to this story Fire Nation, it truly is a cautionary tale!
Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment
- Seth saw the magic that exists when you make someone feel good about an action.Crossfader is the result, and it’s taking the DJ world by storm!
- Crossfader: Listen to an instant dance party of mashups made in real-time by a global community of DJs.
Small Business Resource
- UE Boom: The 360˚ portable wireless speaker that drops bold, immersive sound in every direction. Rage, riot, party and play the music you love, out loud.
Best Business Book
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
If you’re part of an accelerator or startup, the SEC just granted you a new way to approach funding in 2014: the right to solicit a broader range of investors.
I wouldn’t jump the gun on this opportunity too quickly, though — there’s a bit of fine print to read first. For one thing, the new, relaxed rules on “general solicitation” are subject to change.
What You Need to Know About This SEC Change
In response to the JOBS Act, the SEC is now allowing startups to advertise their stock to investors. Many people believe this gives companies free rein to go after money — an assumption fueled by crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
In reality, you and your legal team have to take more precautions to ensure the buyers are accredited, which essentially means that they’re financially capable and know what they’re doing. If you don’t know a buyer, you must do the appropriate research to confirm the investor is accredited.
Besides researching the legality of an investor, startups and accelerators also have to work on their marketing strategies. To fully enjoy this new opportunity, founders must know how to attract the right investors and then reel them in with the right pitch.
Marketing to Investors
Here are three marketing tactics to help you find the right investors.
- Leverage the power of social networks. LinkedIn is a great place to start looking for potential investors. Try posting enticing information or even direct messaging some of your connections.
- Look into crowdfunding websites. Crowdfunding websites curate and position business concepts to a community of potential investors. If an investor is interested, his contact information is passed on to the startup. Research the crowdfunding sites that fit your industry best.
- Utilize community events. Community and public events are excellent ways to solicit interest in an exciting business opportunity. By getting exposure at contests, trade events, and other public displays, you can generate investor curiosity.
Pitching to a New Audience
Once you’ve garnered investor interest, the next step is creating the right pitch. Historically, pitch decks were targeted at investors who knew the company well. When marketing to a more general audience, you must work with a different set of assumptions.
Not all investors will understand the business, let alone the market opportunity. The pitch has to be broadened, well-supported, and designed to attract the right potential partner. Think of it as fishing: In a small pond with fewer species, you know exactly which type of bait to use. With a huge lake, you’re making an educated guess.
Crafting Your Pitch
To give you more than a shot in the dark, here are some guidelines to craft a successful pitch.
- Clearly show the potential for return. Investors are interested in how an investment can mature, earn a profit, and get them a nice multiple on exit. Explain how scalable the opportunity is, the size of your market, and how disruptive the product or service will be to this market. Most importantly, clearly explain how you plan to earn revenue.
- Don’t get caught up in “how it works.” Many entrepreneurs get caught up in the technical details when pitching their business ideas, but investors don’t care nearly as much about how something works as they do about the potential impact it will have on the market.
- Ensure you’re pitching the right investor. The wrong partners can be toxic. As you discuss your business idea with investors, consider whether or not they’re a good fit for your startup. Just because they have money doesn’t mean they’ll make good partners. (This goes beyond ensuring investors meet the criteria in the regulations.)
In addition to the guidelines above, the key is giving the investor confidence that you haven’t invented the numbers or the market opportunity. You want to convey that your prospects are very real in a way the investor can understand.
These newly relaxed rules don’t give you carte blanche, but by doing your homework, marketing to the right investors, and carefully considering each prospect, they could create a great opportunity for your business.
Alex Friedman is the co-founder and president of Ruckus [http://ruckusmarketing.com/], a full-service agency, tech partner, and accelerator that is devoted to helping businesses grow. At Ruckus, Alex has been at the forefront of developing technology for nearly a decade, advising entrepreneurs and growing brands and Fortune clients alike.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
I was one of the first people to dismiss the hoopla surrounding Mailbox, the wildly popular startup that provided what appeared to be a good alternative to iOS mail. They were able to get millions of people excited about the app by creating an exclusive sign up / invite list when you downloaded the app. When it was launch day you got to check your phone every few minutes to see how far you were away from getting one of the most overly hyped apps of all time.
Early on I thought I was the only person on earth who thought Mailbox sucked. I was quickly vindicated by fellow journalist Nicholas Carlson at Business Insider, who saw the same shortcomings of the Mailbox app for people who actually get and rely on email.
Luckily for me, shortly after the Mailbox dust settled (and they were acquired by DropBox), I met Andrew Eye at SXSW. Eye was showing off his new app, at the time called TaskBox. Now Taskbox was made for people that get a constant flow of email for work. You can see some of the reasons I love Taskbox, here.
After spending some time with Eye at SXSW, we were one of the first media outlets that he called when they announced they had merged with Boxer, the latest startup created by Xoogler Jason Shellen, founder of Brizzy and his even newer latest thing, The Secret Agency. They quickly combined features and in June relaunched as Boxer.
Yesterday they announced that they had raised a $3 million dollar seed round led by Sutter Hill Ventures. In addition to having an excellent feature set, Boxer cites their open integration platform and existing integrations with Box, DropBox, LinkedIn and Facebook as keys to their future.
“As mobile devices have become our primary means of receiving and reading email, users have become increasingly frustrated with the primitive experiences provided by stock email apps,” Eye said in a statement. “Now, with the backing from Sutter Hill Ventures, Boxer can continue to execute on our strategy of extending the mobile mail experiencewith relevant third party information and interactions.”
Boxer has assembled a worldclass executive team and advisory board filled with proven entrepreneurs and industry veterans. Originally founded in 2012 by CEO Andrew Eye (former COO Ciphent Inc. 500 #16) and CTO Adam Cianfichi, Boxer added VP of Engineering Ian Ragsdale (former CTO at email startups OtherInbox and Skylist) and VP of Product Timothy Sullivan, (former mobile product lead at Zynga) in 2013.
“Mobile devices have changed the way we work, however the mobile inbox remains much the same as it was earlier this decade,” said Sam Pullara, Managing Director at Sutter Hill Ventures.“Boxer was an attractive investment opportunity because it opens the inbox to third party innovation, and a new era of mobile productivity.”
The Austin based startup launched out of the Capital Factory, which is led by Josh Baer, a pioneer in the world of email.
Download Boxer for yourself here, and find out why it really just works.
On Friday Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office, in conjunction with Built In Chicago, announced that 19 startup and technology companies in Chicago’s Tech Sector raised a collective $265 million dollars in Q3 2013. This is an amazing testament to the success of Chicago’s startup and technology ecosystem.
“Capital investments like these in Chicago’s growing companies are solid proof that what is happening for our technology sector will have a lasting and substantial effect on Chicago’s economy,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These companies are creating jobs and the technologies they are developing will shape the future of the city’s economic landscape. I am proud of their success and I look forward to working with all of these companies as they continue to grow.”
The biggest raisers were Network Merchants with $100 million, Cleversafe with $55 million, and Avant Credit with $20 million. Additionally, the breadth and depth of Chicago’s growing digital economy was evident in this fiscal quarter with nearly 40 startups receiving funding, 19 of those raising more than $1 million or more. 44 new startups came online.
Matt Moog, founder and chairman of Built in Chicago added, “The growth of funding and new digital technology startups being created combined with the breakout growth of companies founded in the recent past is helping fuel a job creation boom in the digital sector. And there is more to come. We are seeing the benefits of a culture of innovation and risk taking.”
Last week, Built In Chicago released the Top 100 Digital Companies report on the Chicago technology sector, which had some outstanding news for Chicago’s digital technology sector. In 2012 367 startups launched– that is one new startup every 24 hours in Chicago (up from one every two days in 2011). The total employment in the tech sector ballooned to over 40,000 people, up more than 20 percent from the previous year. And more than 1,500 technology companies now call Chicago home.
The diversity of Chicago’s technology companies is also notable. No sector of the digital economy occupies more than 33 percent, ensuring that all five major sectors (software, ecommerce, agency, consumer web, and b2b web) have a significant share of the digital market. Additionally, 90 percent of the technology companies in Chicago are now more than 5 years old, meaning that there is a level of maturity in the companies as they move into the next stage of their development.
Chicago is preparing for Chicago Ideas Week next week, which will bring together entrepreneurial speakers, innovators, and thought leaders from across the country to Chicago for a week of amazing discussions, talks, lectures, hacking and more. You can find out more about Chicago Ideas Week here.
Back in May we ran a story on Steve “Cyanogen” Kondik, the Android developer behind the Cyanogen Mod operating system that runs, and improves, the Android operating system. The popular “rom” has millions of users who root their Android device to run the open sourced software.
After creating the initial Cyanogenmod, the project became a community effort with several developers working on future releases of the firmware that when installed, allows users to take advantage of many of the benefits Google has in the Android Operating system.
Android’s biggest manufacturer, Samsung, took notice of Kondik and his work with Cyanogenmod. Kondik moved from his Pittsburgh roots to Seattle to work on Samsung’s Android team.
Kondik posted a note on his Facebook page looking for developers in the Seattle area. We reached out to Kondik at the time, and told us he was working on a startup but couldn’t tell us what it was. Knowing that Cyanogen is the most popular “Rom” for Android, we were quite curious as to what could be so interesting that Kondik would quit that job at Samsung and get his feet wet in the startup world.
It was revealed last week that Kondik had teamed up with Kirt McMaster,a cofounder of Boost Mobile, to turn Cyanogenmod from a community based effort, happening in garages and basements across the globe, to an actual company where they could push out the latest features faster.
Kondik wrote on the company blog that McMaster had contacted him by email last year and they were able to secure venture capital meetings in December. Those meetings led to a $7 million dollar series A round led by Benchmark with RedPoint ventures also participating. A confidential source told us by phone that CyanogenMod had turned down other investors including Google Ventures.
Kondik is adamant that the community know that Cyanogenmod won’t fundamentally change, but rather get better. Now they won’t have to worry about raising money from the community for new servers or having to use day jobs to support their development.
With the $7 million dollars, CyanogenMod became CyanogenMod Inc. They also opened up offices in Seattle and Palo Alto. Kondik was also able to bring three long time members of the Cyanogen team to work for the company full time. Kondik first recruited Koushik “Koush” Dutta. They also brought Chris Soyars Head of Infrastructure and designer Dobie Wollert from Google.
We were tremendously excited to hear that a project that started out community based, and built up a huge following, was getting funded. But we were curious about how Cyanogenmod was going to make money. After all they just raised $7 million dollars from some of the biggest VC’s around; surely thode investors would want their money back. Also, Cyanogenmod itself is free and Kondik has already indicated it would stay that way.
We spoke with industry analyst Russell Holly over the weekend who assured us that the “ROM” or “OS” would remain free. Cyanogenmod is looking at hardware partnerships that they couldn’t get before because they weren’t a “real company,” and there should be news on their first hardware partnership in the coming week.
They will also work on other features outside the realm of their operating system that could become premium features. For the immediate future we can expect quicker, more thorough releases.
“Our mass market plan is for the second half of 2014, which will include services and third-party integration,” McMaster explained to Fortune.com. “We’ll begin to make money on services we can build and integrate in ways that Google or Apple (AAPL) don’t necessarily do for their own business reasons. We’re not beholden to any OEM or mobile operator.”
When we originally read that statement, we were curious as to the implications stemming from “Apple” being in McMaster’s statement. Holly told us that while we won’t see a “CyanogenMod” for Apple anytime soon, services that may link the two operating systems could be forthcoming. As a hypothetical example Holly brought up the fact that while great in their own systems, FaceTime and Google Hangout were incapable of talking with each other. A more streamlined messaging service may be something the new CyanogeMod takes on.
While that still paves no direct route to monetization, Cyanogemod seems to be in a much better predicament than several social startups that have ballooned to astronomical valuations and huge funding rounds without a solid plan for growth. Undoubtedly the investors will see their money back, in the meantime though, they have now funded a collective of some of the best mobile OS developers in the world.
Findo out more about Cyanogenmod here.
Just yesterday we reported on Mark Cuban’s two most recent investments. Now we have a third. Back in July we reported that Mark Cuban had backed Harvard startup Tivli, a company that brings live TV over the internet to college students. The company allows college students to view their live TV content over any connected device no matter where they are on campus.
Well Cuban is back at Harvard investing in another high growth potential startup, again in a totally different industry.
HourlyNerd, the Harvard startup, is the latest startup trying to connect MBA’s to work. The company says they have 900 MBA’s who are willing and ready to work for small businesses on an as needed basis. The service is ideal for “small businesses that want to access premier quality professionals at reasonable rates and on an ‘as needed’ basis,” HourlyNerd told the Boston Business Journal.
There are a lot of MBA graduates and MBA students that upon completion (or nearly completing their MBA) struggle trying to find the ideal long term placement for themselves. There have been a handful of startups that are trying to find ways to connect these MBA’s to work, be it extremely short term or on a project by project basis like DC based MBA Project Search which we profiled back in November.
In regards to HourlyNerd, Cuban said in a statement that the company “fills a need every entrepreneurial company faces,” and said he expects to use the service “heavily.” Cuban is investing rapidly in several startups that run across a variety of industries, often times outside of his direct scope.
Cuban led HourlyNerd’s $750,000 round with a reported investment of $450,000. The company was founded in a Harvard University course by Rob Biederman, Peter Maglathlin, Joe Miller, and Patrick Petitti.
The Business Journal notes that Accanto Partners and Connect Ventures also participated in the round.