EP 28: Angel Investor Ivan Raiklin Talks Sharing Economy

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In this episode I have a great conversation with former green beret now angel investor Ivan Raiklin about why he started investing in sharing economy startups. We talk about their potential impact on the economy, different ways to gain traction, and he shares insights into how to rapidly expand your knowledge as a startup founder.

Special Episode: Smart Crowdfunding & Clickable Prototypes

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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.

Crowdfunding Pitch Show EP 2: BlindBox Comics

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We had another great show with BlindBox Comics founder Court Gebeau, and crowdfunding expert Darren Webb from Crowd Assist. Darren shared his expertise on how to have a successful campaign, and broke down some of the most important aspects of having a successful campaign.

Then we had an awesome pitch from Court on how he’s changing the way you buy comics, and how to get both awesome titles and custom covers! Make sure you check out his campaign on Kickstarter!

CrowdFunding Pitch Show Episode 1: Biometric Match

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We had an awesome premier episode of The Crowdfunding Pitch show on October 10th with the founders of Biometric Match coming on the show to pitch their startup.

Dal Ellinton, the founder has created an amazing platform leveraging bio-metric to enable users to determine how they match up with a potential date, person you want to hang out with or just see what you have in common with friends. The current standard is to answer long questionnaires to answer these questions, but Biometric Match is changing that process forever, rendering these long questionnaires a thing of the past, using emotion-based facial cue system powered by Affectiva.

They’re currently trying to raise $95,000 to go beyond beta and build out a more user friendly platform. Check out their crowdfunding campaign, and back this awesome new technology!

How Crashing A Trade Show Saved Helprace


Startups can greatly benefit from attending conferences, especially if they are fighting tooth and nail to build awareness. That’s what founder Gregory Koldirkaev had to resort to when he decided to take on Zendesk and Getsatisfaction with his own customer service platform, Helprace.

After getting a small investment a decade ago, a small group of software engineers were recruited to develop a knowledge-based software. In a year, the client base grew into the hundreds. Then came the market crash, reducing the team to virtually zero.This forced a pivot into the customer service software market. Enter the need to leverage trade shows to pitch the new value proposition and get clients. There was a little problem, however. Cash flow had ground to a halt and there was a $1000 in the bank.

It was time to make a gamble. One of the world’s top customer service conferences was approaching fast. Every minute lost sitting idly in the IT industry means digging your own grave, but with the cost to register as a visitor in the prestigious Atlantic City conference priced in the thousands, it was time to get creative!

How to crash the conference without paying those pesky fees?

Staring at potential failure of his startup, Gregory had a Eureka moment. He called and called the organizers, explaining how he was a tech entrepreneur and unable to afford the ticket. Luckily, he was able to squeeze out the guest invitation he so desperately needed. (If that doesn’t work for you, think of people you know who are exhibiting and ask them to get you a free pass.)

“After hearing the news, I began dissecting my visit right there and then,” laughs Gregory. “I realized I’m going to be around people who paid all that money, who were meant to be there.”

Make the Conference Work For You

Being on your feet and pitching your product for 10 hours straight will exhaust you, so get enough sleep and plan out every move the night before.

“I made sure to have my phone ready to show relevant videos or demos before I even walked up to the booth,” recalls Gregory. “It was a great way to refresh my memory and and recap relevant discussion material.”

Large trade shows can seem overwhelming, and you can waste a good chunk of your day wandering around without getting much done. Make sure to divide up your time between the exhibitors and leave a window at the end to visit the booths you might have missed.

So Was It Worth The Risk?

Gregory booked a flight from Chicago to Atlantic City. He checked into a cheap $40 motel room 30 minutes away (to save money, of course), and was in first when the doors opened.

When all was said and done, Gregory netted hundreds of high quality leads and networking prospects. This enabled Helprace to get going with the new model and has led to many great clients and growing success.

As startup founders we always have to be willing to push the envelope, take educated gambles and be willing to fail. We can’t always control the outcome, but we do have to be ready to seize opportunity when it comes our way!

In situations like this, I, for one, can’t think of a better way to invest $300. Can you?

What is Helprace anyway?

helpraceHelprace is an emerging provider of cloud-based customer service solutions. It consists of a helpdesk ticketing system, community and a knowledge base for end-users. Users can ask a question, share an idea, report a problem or give praise. This data is seamlessly integrated into the admin interface, and support agents can directly participate in conversations. Learn more at http://helprace.com


Overwatch Brings Video Gaming to Real Life Paintball

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I’m neither a big gamer nor avid paintball fan. I don’t love the graphic violence on video games, and paintball–well, those things hurt!

But, both pastimes are obviously very popular, and players of both are often not just participants but avid fans.

One of those avid fans is Josh Moody, who realized that real life paintball and airsoft could be greatly enhanced by the features of online combat games. So, he created Overwatch, a smartphone app that incorporates GPS, Bluetooth, and other technologies to provide a more digital experience to real life.

Josh gave me a quick education in gaming and what Overwatch can do to enhance real life games. Check out our chat below.

1) What does your company do?

Overwatch brings the futuristic technology of combat video games to real-life games of paintball, airsoft, and laser tag.  See the location of teammates and opponents through an overview of the entire playing field, communicate with teammates via voice chat, and activate perks and unlocks to gain an edge on the opposition during any game—all through your iOS or Android device.

2) Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

The company was founded by Joe Saumweber, Michael Paladino, and me.  Joe and Michael are the owners of RevUnit, an independent software development firm based in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Joe has an extensive background in digital and mobile strategy, large enterprise solutions, and consumer facing applications.  Michael has over ten years of experience in software development and developer management across web, mobile, and social platforms.  As for me, I am a self-taught programmer and web designer, with experience designing and building electronic hardware.  While I am only eighteen and have not had years and years of experience like my co-founders, I pride myself on being able to learn quickly and constantly improve.

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

Three years ago, just as most teenage guys are, I was an avid gamer.  Specifically, I played quite a bit of “first-person shooter” games—titles such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.  While I enjoyed gaming on my console, I also enjoyed playing airsoft and paintball with friends.

—Most people are familiar with paintball but not airsoft.  To explain, airsoft is a similar game, but with much smaller, plastic BB projectiles instead of paintballs.  Airsoft guns also provide a much more realistic, tactical feel and experience.—

Interested in both the digital and real-life versions of combat gaming, I realized a substantial gap between the two.  None of the features of combat video games were present in real-life combat gaming, and thus, the Overwatch concept was born.  Using the Overwatch app and hardware, gamers now have real-time GPS radar to track the location of teammates and opponents on the playing field, bluetooth voice chat to communicate with one another at all times, and even perks and unlocks that provide special abilities (such as Radar Jam).  All of this and more is displayed right on the user’s smartphone, mounted directly in front of them, during any airsoft, paintball, or laser tag match.  Overwatch is interactive gaming in its truest sense.

4) How as being part of the ARK Challenge helpful for your startup?

Without the ARK Challenge, Overwatch would not be where it is today.  Not only did the ARK provide the funds our company needed to start up, it also provided invaluable mentorship and advice from experienced entrepreneurs, and the knowledge necessary to continue onward even after the 14-week competition had concluded.  I am incredibly grateful for each person who worked to make the ARK Challenge the great program that it is, and hope to see many more companies emerge from it.

5) What milestones have you reached, and what are you working on next?

From our founding, we’ve built the Overwatch app from the ground up for both iOS and Android, as well as designed the perfect hardware to incorporate a player’s smartphone into gameplay while providing adequate protection for the device.  At the close of the ARK Challenge, Overwatch secured a partnership with the largest airsoft manufacturer in the world to ensure that our products have a strong presence in both online and retail stores worldwide.  The iOS app is complete and will be submitted to the app store in the coming weeks, while the Android version is soon to follow.  As for the hardware, the armband, essentially a running band for your forearm, will be available in the coming months.  The rail mount, similar to the heartbeat sensor in Call of Duty, will be available later this year.

6) Where can folks find out more?

To find out more, we encourage people to visit OverwatchApp.com and sign up for our email updates.  If anyone has any additional questions after checking out the Overwatch website, feel free to email me at: josh@overwatchapp.com

Online Retailers Can Now Access Better Data With MineWhat

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It wasn’t that long ago that people couldn’t conceive of buying anything over the computer. Besides the limited technology, we mostly used cash instead of debit cards and were often gun shy about giving our credit card numbers to strangers.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and it’s tough to find someone who doesn’t shop online. (Even my mother made her first online purchase this past Christmas.) It’s estimated by some that online retail sales will reach $370 billion by 2017.

Obviously, with such a large and growing market, entrepreneurs are rushing to cash in. Online retail is increasingly viable and, even with logistics and inventory, is cheaper than opening a brick and mortar location.

In our data-driven world, the growth of a market also means the need for better and better analytics.

Fayetteville, AR-based MineWhat is poised to provide specialized eCommerce analytics for online retailers..

With a quick install, e-tailers can access a wide array of data that goes far beyond pageviews. MineWhat allows merchants to see what products shoppers look at, what brands sell well together, what products should be showcased, and a ton more data-junkie goodness.

Check out our interview with MineWhat CEO Janakiram Ganesan below.

1) What does your company do?

Think of MineWhat as a platform that enables online retailers to ask questions of their data and get answers to them as well. We help online stores pick the right merchandise whether it’s for marketing campaigns, product strategy, landing pages and more.

2) Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

MineWhat was founded by Pavan Kumar and Janakiram Ganesan.

Pavan spent some time writing code at various huge product firms before starting out as an entrepreneur. MineWhat is is his second startup venture. He likes scalability related problems, data management on the web and is an avid tech enthusiast.

MineWhat is my second startup as well. I’ve worked on machine learning related problems over the years. Of late I’ve been more interested in marketing, building businesses and tech evangelism

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

The initial idea behind MineWhat came out of the Indian eCommerce boom during 2010 – 2011.

eCommerce seemed like a really interesting thing to jump into. Friends of ours had started out building eCommerce stores of their own and we thought we’d rather do something that will help online stores instead of building another one.

4) How as being part of the ARK Challenge helpful for your startup?

The ARK Challenge really helped us refine the product idea. The mentors were awesome, getting to leverage their network and using their product feedback was of great help.

5) What milestones have you reached, and what are you working on next?

We’ve begun our sales push now, we are averaging over two signups a week. Most of what we will be focusing on from here on will be how to acquire and retain more customers.

6) Where can folks find out more?

They can head over to our website or onto any of our social media pages




Fotor Makes Photo Editing Fun–Not Overwhelming


Photo editing platform Fotor is part of a crowded field of Photoshop competitors. The software, which has been around since 2012, is fun and easy-to-use. I edited that picture above of the awesome Nicole Glaros during her Everywhere Else keynote using the platform. It was super easy, even for  a novice like me.

Fotor has all the basic features of any editing software. They also just added a new feature called Social Media Cover Maker, which helps you easily create covers for all your major social media accounts.

Check out our Q&A with Fotor below and head over to try it out for yourself.

What is Fotor?

Fotor is a set of image processing tools that allows everyday users to edit photos in an easy and intuitive way.

Brand Story

Fotor was launched in May of 2012 and has from the very beginning brought powerful, easy to use photo editing tools into the hands of anyone and everyone with an internet connection. Utilizing cloud computing to provide a suite of image processing tools ranging from basic cropping to HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing, Fotor has made professional-level photo editing accessible to everyday users through a clean, intuitive interface and workflow. Fotor strives to provide the highest quality tools in the most accessible manner and continues to pursue this goal with each new product and version release.


Make photo-editing tools accessible to everyday users through a fun and easy to use interface.

Words we like:

  • Easy-to-use
  • Multiplatform
  • Easy
  • Fast
  • Intuitive
  • Fun

Words we don’t like:

  • Complicated
  • Difficult
  • Overwhelming
  • Serious

Who are our users?

There are hundreds of thousands of Fotor users spread across the globe. To continue to grow we have to understand our current users and think about how to reach new ones. With the rapid spread of cellphone cameras worldwide and the desire to share experiences with friends and family, the number of people we could reach has grown exponentially. Always think about how we could help our users have a better experience and most importantly, how our users want to edit their photos.

Our users are non-professionals, they love taking photos and are creative but are intimidated by technical language and complicated software. They want a clean, visually welcoming and accessible website. They want easy to use and easy to understand tools while at the same time being open to new possibilities. They want happy, fun imagery. They might come to our site to create a collage but might stay and find stickers or our portrait editing tools. Our users want to share their creations with friends and family. Our users want to be inspired and make unique creations that represent who they are and who they aspire to be. We empower our users to rediscover their inner artist in a fun and engaging way.

How to Price Your Prototype for Early Adopters

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Vasu Kulkarni, CEO of Krossover, explains one surprising strategy for pricing your prototype — charging early adopters for your product, so that they see the value in it long term. Other ideas include:

  • Offer discounts in return for endorsements
  • Give out your product for specific trial periods

For more tips, watch the entire video above.

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.

The Art of the FollowUp: How to Be More Persuasive

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Entrepreneur and retired shirt wearer Jason SurfrApp, who is about to release a new book this month, knows a thing or two about how to turn a “no” into a “yes.”

He recommends thinking about how to get someone’s attention in a way that you wouldn’t ordinarily and stresses the importance of a great follow-up. While you don’t want to push the envelope or make that person annoyed, you might be surprised at how much they are willing to negotiate.

Watch the full video to get more helpful tips.

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.

Heroes2U Connects Celebrities, Charity, and You


1. What’s your startup called?

Heroes2u and our tagline is Memorable Conversations, Meaningful Causes, based in Columbus, Ohio.

2. What’s your big idea?

Video chats for charity – we host group video chats with high profile people to raise money and awareness for a cause they care about! We want to create a platform for the next generation of givers, that’s why we use the technology we use and sell $5 dollar tickets. The way it works is simple – first we identify a Hero who is someone that is passionate about a cause, has a story to share, and has an online community. We set up a campaign with the Hero – they pick the date and time to do a half hour video chat from anywhere with an internet connection/webcam and also where the money goes (they pick the charity). We then sell $5 dollar tickets on our website with $4 out of every $5 going to the cause being uplifted throughout the campaign. At the end of the campaign 30-40 days we pick 8 people randomly out of all the tickets and they get to be face to face with the person of their dreams, while everyone else who purchased a ticket gets to watch live and submit questions to our moderator and follow along on Twitter! We record all these chats and send out clips to the winners and the charity so everyone has their 5 minutes of fame with their Hero!

3. What’s the story behind your idea?

The story started when we were working on our last startup which used video to train people with fitness goals, so that’s where video over the internet came from. One day we were sitting and going through ideas and we thought what if you could video chat with celebrity x and people were telling us they’d pay to do that. So we thought ok why would the celebrity care to get in front of their computer for a half hour and chat with fans, and we realized how meaningful it could be if they were raising money and awareness for a cause they care about. A lot of them have their own foundations and causes they support so it made sense and we went out and raised an investment of 175k last June (2013) from Tony Wells and his family Foundation to make our dream a reality!

4. Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

I am one of the founders – John Weiler – 25 and one of my best friends is the other founder – Jeremy Meizlish 25. Jeremy graduated from Capital and studied English, and I attended Ohio State and studied Economics. We both knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs from a young age and started our first LLC in school, then got involved in a health and fitness video training over the internet start up and then left that to start this about 2 yrs ago.

5. Where are you located, and what’s the startup scene like there?

Columbus, Ohio and it’s a growing community – we have had tremendous support from Ohio State and their Technology and Commercialization Center and have attended the local Startup Weekend, and actually spoke at the last one here a few weeks ago.

6. What milestones have you reached?

We raised our initial investment in June of last year and since then we built and tested our platform, we did a private alpha in Quarter 4 of last year and held chats for free with several TEDx speakers. Earlier this year we launched our public beta in February and started raising money for charities and working with names like Jack Hanna, Country Music star Phil Vassar and several NFL players! We’ve now raised over 10k for charity in small money donations and are just starting! Our last chat had viewers in 23 states and the 8 winners were in 7 different states (none from Ohio) and the cause being a local Ohio based charity A Kid Again, getting national exposure was a big achievement for us!

7. What are your next milestones?

Our next milestones are to start working with even bigger names and causes, we have seen traction and want to start growing our pipeline of Heroes we work with! We have a lot of ideas in the pipeline in terms of product evolution and different phases to build out for the non profit partners we work with as well as our fans, but for now we want to keep things simple and scale what we have!

8. Where can people find out more?

People can check out any of our website heroes2u.com or our social media accounts to stay up to date – twitter @meetheroes or our YouTube/meetheroes or our Facebook/heroes2u or Instagram/heroes2u and read our blog at blog.heroes2u.com


Stitch Fix Founder Katrina Lake Has Some Advice for You


Katrina Lake’s friends used to kiddingly call her CEO/janitor. Today, her willingness to get her hands dirty is paying off.

katrina lake

Katrina Lake is passionate about helping women achieve everyday confidence. She founded Stitch Fix to help women everywhere discover and explore their style through a truly client-focused shopping experience. Prior to founding Stitch Fix, Katrina developed extensive experience at the intersection of fashion, retail, and technology. Katrina holds a B.S. in Economics from Stanford University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. Follow her @kmlake.

Who is your hero? 

My maternal grandmother, who moved here on her own from Japan without knowing a word of English, has always been an inspiration to me. She was unwilling to accept the status quo and pursued a vision of a better life for herself fearlessly.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

Before I founded Stitch Fix, I was working as a consultant in the retail and restaurant industries and I traveled a lot with colleagues. The best piece of advice I could give is when hiring people, consider whether or not you could enjoy spending 12 hours traveling with them. While I don’t travel with every person who works at Stitch Fix, it’s a great barometer to make sure that everyone we hire is someone we enjoy spending time with.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

We didn’t take a step back from the business and define our shared values and vision for the company as soon as we should have. Having a shared sense of self for the company helps provide more alignment around hiring practices, more consistency in how we serve our clients, and creates a feeling of shared purpose among employees.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

Every morning as I’m getting ready for my day I watch “Good Morning America” (guilty pleasure!). I also read WWD to get up to date on the latest retail news. I also try to squeeze in a run a few mornings a week, especially in the summer when it’s light outside.

What’s your best financial or cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Make sure to test your hypothesis/product/idea in a low-budget way before you invest more of your or another investor’s time and money. It’s tempting to pour all your money into an idea you can believe in, but it’s so important to test a concept to understand the potential traction with target customers.

When we were in the testing phases at Stitch Fix, we were purchasing inventory at retail and weren’t making any money off our clients, but we were able to validate the concept and demonstrate that women could really shop a certain way. It was helpful to show the feedback and traction from our testing as we began approaching investors for our round of seed funding. It was equally important to prove to myself that what we were doing was a worthy investment.

Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Take a vacation and unplug! Some of my best thoughts have come while I’ve been able to relax, and take some time and space away from the business.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

It’s hard to imagine that there will be one milestone in my life that really feels like I’ve achieved the pinnacle of success. While building Stitch Fix, I’ve experienced lots of wonderful mini-milestones that I enjoyed celebrating. When Stitch Fix was first starting out, my friends used to call me CEO/janitor. Now that I’ve been able to build an amazing team, there are fewer moments where I experience the extreme part of that high/low dynamic. But perhaps success is having many fewer moments of being janitor than CEO.

There’s nothing more rewarding than building a business where you directly see the value you create for your clients and get to see your business and your team grow.

Canadian Startup Raise Your Flag Connects Students With Post High School Jobs


Raise Your Flag 1

1) What’s your startup called?

Raise Your Flag

2) What’s your big idea?

Approximately 45% students in Canada and the US go to work as their primary post-secondary destination. These kids leave school feeling like they failed the system. What if we celebrated the school-to-work pathway the same way we celebrated opening a college acceptance letter?

Raise Your Flag helps work-bound students find a job that’s connected to a career path they’re excited about and helps them find companies that could hire them.

Raise Your Flag allows work-bound students to declare their post-secondary pathway and celebrate the possibilities.

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

For the past 8 years, I’ve been traveling speaking to high school students (over 750,000 to date) and wrote a book to help them make decisions about their post-secondary lives (http://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Own-Lunch-Epically/dp/1402297033)

3 years ago I was speaking at a conference for work-bound students. After my presentation a student named Michael came to introduce himself. Chin-quivering, he thanked me for being there and then told me that none of his friends or family knew he was at the conference. When I asked “why?”, he responded, “do you have any idea how embarrassing it is when all of your friends are opening college acceptance letters and you’re the loser in the corner not knowing what you’re doing with your life?”

Raise Your Flag is built for Michael and the MILLIONS of students just like him.

Michael deserves to be excited about his pathway.

4) Who are the founders?

Ryan Porter + Scott Walkinshaw

5) Where are you located?

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

6) What’s the startup scene like there?

Strong. We have some great companies up here doing great work and building companies that are changing the way things are done. Toronto was ranked world’s 8th Most Active Startup Scene: http://www.betakit.com/three-canadian-cities-ranked-top-20-most-active-startup-scenes-infographic/)

7) What milestones have you reached?

Accepted and completing JOLT accelerator program, v2.0 launch, confirmed our first major national employer partner (announcement coming soon), earning revenue.

8) What are your next milestones?

Announcement of more major partners, US expansion, hiring employees 1, 2 and 3 and raising a round of funding.

9) Where can people find out more?