Startup Arkansas Launching Friday March 1st With Scott Case & Brad Feld

Startup Arkansas, Startup America, Scott Case, Brad FeldTis the season to launch Startup America Partnership regions. Monday we were in Atlanta for the kickoff of Startup Georgia with Scott Case and So So Def CEO & Founder Jermaine Dupri. Now Case along with Startup Community activist, investor and author Brad Feld are preparing for Startup Arkansas’ big launch on March 1st.

While Startup Bus regions across the country are double checking their busses, and checking their manifests, entrepreneurs throughout Arkansas will come together in Conway for an event called “Think Big Arkansas”.

The event kicks off bright and early at 9:00am with check-in starting at 8:30am. It’s being held at the Hendrix College Student Life & Technology Center.

Think Big Arkansas has a whole day of programming lined up including a startup alley exhibition area, a parade of startup ecosystem startups and partners, several sessions and of course Scott Case and Brad Feld. Case will be speaking at noon during lunch (bring $$ for Food Trucks and guided by Truckily) and Feld will be speaking at 6:30. He’ll also be signing copies of his book “Startup Communities”.

15 startups will be featured during the event in a startup alley, and demoing throughout. Kenny Tomlin from Rockfish and John James from Acumen will be speaking on starting up and the importance of serial entrepreneurship.

It’s not too late to register for this great event, click here.

Atlanta Startup Founders Tell Their Stories On “Why Atlanta”

Startup Georiga, Startup America, Startup Rally,,ScoutMob,Jermaine Dupri,Atlanta Startups founder Rob Kischuk speaks on “Why Atlanta” at Startup Rally/Startup Georgia Launch (photo: NMI 2013)

Can startups be built anywhere in the United States? That’s a question the Wall Street Journal Accelerator’s blog and the Huffington Post have recently asked. Between those two widely read publications and last weeks The Startup Conference, the answer is a resounding “Yes”. Just to reiterate that though, Atlanta’s startup community came out in full force Monday night to tell their stories in a “Startup Georgia Parade”.

There was no confetti, or marching bands, but the grand marshall, Scott Case (CEO of Startup America and founding CTO of was in his trademark red, white and blue Chuck Taylors.

Rather than 50 foot floats, the standing room only crowd at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta celebrated multi million dollar companies, entrepreneurs, founders and investors who’ve chosen to keep themselves, and their businesses in Atlanta.

Event organizer Scott Henderson, pointed out several times that, Monday’s event, dubbed “Startup Rally” was the largest assembly of startups and entrepreneurs since the International Cotton exposition, a 100 day exposition held in Atlanta 118 years ago (1895 for those that don’t want to do the math).

One of the first startup founders to speak was Rob Kischuk founder of He was quick to point out that just the previous week he was at with 1000 other entrepreneurs and startups, using that as testimony to the fact that startups can launch just about anywhere. Kischuk almost got emotional when talking about his decision to stay in Atlanta and that he would have it no other way.

He was lucky that major investor Mark Cuban, is all about raising startups where they are born. Kischuk also commented on how relationships built through Startup America, and specifically with Scott Case, helped engineer a relationship with Cuban that eventually led to a financing round. The introduction to Cuban was made at our co-founder Nick Tippmann’s Shark Tank party as part of Super Bowl festivities in 2012. (You see how fast that happened?)

Finally Kischuk recognized that many of the people in the room at Startup Rally, the influencers of the Atlanta startup community were instrumental in the success has had to date.

Find out more about here

Sig Mosley, Atlanta’s GodFather of early stage venture capital speaks at Startup Georgia Launch at Startup Rally (photo: NMI 2013)

Every state seems to have a godfather of early stage startup funding. In Tennessee Vic Gatto of Solidus is the godfather. In Atlanta it’s Sig Mosley. Mosley was an early stage venture capitalist, took a short hiatus but couldn’t stay away. He stood on stage and talked about the technology sectors that would build the next stage of companies in Atlanta.

Jim Flannery the founder of Four Athens spoke about coming to Athens Georgia with nothing, in fact he moved from Silicon Valley to Athens Georgia, a town made famous by REM and the B52’s. Now they have their own budding startup community. Four Athens serves as the hub for entrepreneurs in the Athens area. Sam Zebarjadi, a wireless entrepreneur, and mentor for both Four Athens and Greenville’s “Iron Yard” also spoke about startup communities, and the power in Georgia.

Paul Judge, an Atlanta based serial entrepreneur has already had two exits to Silicon Valley firms. While the time was ripe to head out west Judge remained in Atlanta where he currently serves as the Chief Research Officer at Barracuda Networks (which bought one of his companies). He’s currently working on his latest company Pindrop Security, which was exhibiting in Startup Rally’s expo earlier in the day.

Many of the speakers made reference to some of Atlanta’s more well known startups like Sarah Blakely’s Spanx and of course Mail Chimp. Neither company raised venture capital and instead made their money the old fashioned way. Now millions of people are buying Spanx’ products and using Mail Chimp to send out emails in droves.

ScoutMob CEO Michael Tavani on stage at Startup Rally/Startup Georgia Launch (photo: NMI 2013)

Michael Tavani, the CEO of ScoutMob praised Mail Chimp when it was his turn to speak, noting that he wants to start his next company in Atlanta and do it without venture funding. Tavani’s local deals startup has raised $5 million dollars to date, but it wasn’t easy.

Tavani said growing your company in Atlanta “…forces you to be scrappy, we were forced to find a business model that made revenues early on. Instagram would have never worked here.”

Being scrappy and grinding paid off for Tavani and his team. When ScoutMob launched, they had created enough buzz, through hard work, that investors called right away, as did merchant partners. “It’s easy to make an impact here in Georgia.  There’s a lot of noise in the valley, the impact we were able to make took a much shorter time” Tavani said.

Check out ScoutMob here

Several other startup founders spoke, as did some of the venture capitalists in Georgia’s startup eco system.

All of this was in celebration of the launch of Startup Georgia the official partner region for Startup America. Case stuck around until the end of the event when he and I had time to talk about how Startup Georgia was still in it’s infant stages of forming back in October during the Startup America Regional Champions Summit. The team behind both events really pulled it off.

This all led up to one of Atlanta’s most infamous entrepreneurs Jermaine Dupri who spoked for about a half an hour on building his business, So So Def Recordings, into a multi million dollar empire, all the while growing it in Atlanta, rather than moving to New York or LA.

A celebration of startups everywhereelse, tickets on sale now at 2013 prices for EE2014, follow this link.

Jermaine Dupri And Scott Case To Kick Off Startup Rally And Startup Georgia


Monday afternoon in Atlanta Georgia promises to bring the largest gathering of startups in the city since 1895 when it hosted the Cotton and International Exposition.

Jermaine Dupri, entrepreneur and CEO of SoSoDef Recordings, is set to keynote Startup Rally which will showcase 100 regional startups at the Biltmore Hotel.

The exposition and summer internship fair will kick off at 3:00pm and run until 7:00pm. At 5:00pm Scott Case, the founding CTO of and the CEO of the Startup America Partnership will take the stage to officially launch Startup Georgia.

Dupri is no stranger to startup and entrepreneurship. His homegrown record label has spawned several Grammy award winning artists, and remains in Atlanta to this day. Dupri I also the founder of Global 14, a social network he launched in 2011 because he wanted a real social network vs “social notifying” which he says other social network are riddled with.

Dupri was also one of many top tier keynote speakers at Startup Grind, earlier this month.

”My roots are in Atlanta, and so is my future,” explains Dupri, “I am excited to share the story about So So Def Recordings and Global 14 at Startup Rally and to support the growth of fresh ideas emerging from Atlanta.”

Case continues his cross country evangelism for promoting startups and entrepreneurism. Last week Case kicked off The Startup Conference

“Focusing on high-growth startups is a smart strategy for Georgia to grow its economy,” Case said. “Startup Georgia will provide a state-wide network to help the local entrepreneurs building the next great success story to access the opportunities and resources unique to the state.”

Ticketing information can be found here.

Startup America’s Donna Harris & Startup DC’s Evan Burfield Launching 1776 DC

1776, Donna Harris, Startup America, Startup DC, Accelerator

Startup America’s Donna Harris interviews Steve Case (photo: Nibletz Media)

On the heel’s of the Startup America Partnership’s second anniversary a new initiative, incubator and accelerator are launching just steps from the White House. It was on the White House lawn on January 31, 2010 when Startup America was officially launched.

The new epicenter for entrepreneurship in Washington DC will be called 1776 and is being spearheaded by Startup America’s Managing Director, Donna Harris, and Evan Burfield, Chair of Startup DC. These two have worked hand in hand, over the past two years nurturing the Startup America Partnership an organization that supports startup communities nationwide. Harris will transition away from her role at Startup America over the next month.

“1776 is a fantastic example of the entire community rallying around a very bold idea that taps the unique assets of the community rather than replicating what others have done,” said Scott Case CEO of the Startup America Partnership. “I couldn’t be more thrilled that Donna, who was the architect and leader of our National Regions Initiative, and Evan will now focus their expertise on making this bold vision a reality in DC.”

“Washington is one of the most powerful cities on earth, and it has the potential to become an incredible nerve center for startups seeking to tackle big national challenges like education and healthcare,” said Donna Harris. “1776 will be a single rallying point to tie startups into the region’s significant wealth, expertise, and extraordinary advocacy community, and will create a global brand for what makes the DC community unique.”

Harris oversaw the creation of Startup America “regions” across the country. Over the course of the past year Startup America began looking to empower the regions, and their regional champions so that the organization itself could take a backseat while startup communities across the country blossomed.

1776 will provide co-working space, curriculum to help build entrepreneurs and startups, and an accelerator program. The also plan to continue a trend currently in place at Startup America where people and trends that are reinventing America share the spotlight.

“Our goal is to build an explosive entrepreneurial economy based on the assets unique to Washington, DC,” said Evan Burfield, co-founder of 1776. “1776 will have a number of strategies to help the hottest startups in the world — the ones with the bold ideas for tackling the big problems — to navigate regulatory minefields, develop scalable business models, and drive revenue.”

1776 will hold an open house and press conference on February 6th at their campus, 1133 15th Street NW, 12th Floor. DC Mayor Vincent Gray, Startup America CEO Scott Case and other notable national figures from the entrepreneur community will help kick off the new initiative.

For more information sign up for 1776’s email list here

Scott Case and several other’s from Startup America and it’s regional partnerships will be on hand at the biggest startup conference in the U.S. The Startup Conference, limited number of tickets still available.

Tech Media Elite Stop By Talk Startups At Startup America Stage CES 2013

Engadget Editor In Chief Tim Stevens speaks at Startup America Stage CES 2013 (photo

Some of the top tech elite dropped by the Startup America Live stage at Eureka Park on Wednesday to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Las Vegas Convention Center expo floor and talk to young companies, entrepreneurs and startups about what it takes to get coverage for CES and in general.

The panel was moderated by Frank Gruber, founder and CEO of TechCocktail, creator of DC Week and AOL alum. Joining him as panelists were Tim Stevens the current Editor in Chief at Engadget, Kelly Grant with Market Watch and Smart Money at the Wall Street Journal, and Jason Gilbert from the Huffington Post.  All three gave very candid insights into what they are looking for and how to get them to read your pitch and visit your booth.

While nibletz dwarfs any of those sites in comparison, we still get 75 pitches a week on a regular week and during CES it swells to 125-150 per day. It’s hard for our staff to weed through pitches, imagine what it’s like for these guys. Well after today you don’t need to imagine.

Gruber started off the panel by asking the panelists what trends caught their eye at CES this year. Stevens said that he was happy to see a lot of the products that got their starts on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo exhibiting at CES. Gilbert agreed with Stevens pointing out that there seemed to be a backlash this year at CES against the “big” manufacturers and “super mega booths”.

Grant loved seeing health and fitness trackers but also said there were too many of them and she’s still looking for the ultimate one.

In talking about CES specifically, Gruber wanted to know what it took to get an email read. HuffPo’s Gilbert said that you have the subject line and the Gmail preview to sell him on a pitch, otherwise it’s probably headed to the trash.  Stevens said that he was fortunate to have a team helping him find the diamonds in the rough.

For Grant, like us, its all about timing. You have a better chance at getting your CES related email read a few months earlier so she can put your booth on her calendar. Sending her emails during the show is useless as she (like many of us) don’t even bother reading emails until the end of the night.  Like many journalists Grant works off a private email address for her colleagues to actually produce and edit material.

Eureka Park, CES 2013, Startup America Stage, Frank Gruber, Tim Stevens, Kelly Grant, Jason Gilbert

ltoR: Frank Gruber (TechCocktail), Tim Stevens (Engadget), Kelly Grant (WSJ), Jason Gilbert (Huffington Post) photo: nibletz LLC

Presentation and Product are Key

Another theme that all three journalists seemed to agree on is that presentation and product are key. We all know that for  a startup a booth at CES can be an expensive thing, but you have to show that you care at least about your product. Speaking of products, Stevens said if you don’t have a product unfortunately Engadget probably won’t cover you. On that, Stevens added that if your product is on the market, going and selling, for more than two weeks it’s too late for Engadget, he likes to be on the cutting edge.

PR People and Press Releases

In a lot of “media” panels PR people get a bad rep. This particular panel didn’t do any PR bashing however they all agreed that your PR team needs to know your pitch word for word and the technology that backs your pitch. As a founder of a startup you don’t want to be at CES or any show for that matter, leave your booth to go to the bathroom and then have a PR person tell a journalist, “I’ll have to ask so and so” and make them wait. Journalists won’t wait.

Stevens and Gilbert both talked about how important exclusives were to them. Stevens said that a product they might not put a priority on would quickly move up the ladder if they got it first.

This panel was part of the Startup America Live stage at Eureka Park at CES 2013

See Scott Case and many more startup and entrepreneurial leaders at The Startup Conference



CES 2013: DC Startup Troop ID Validating Veterans Past & Present In The Civilian World

TroopID,DC Startup,Pitch video,video,CES 2013,Startup AmericaThe members of the U.S. armed forces are heroes. Going all the way back to the revolutionary war, and the military that helped deliver our freedom to the British, to those troops that have helped curb the unrest in the middle east, time and time again we honor them by calling them heroes, recognizing military at events and in tributes on all types of media.

Another way that we, as American’s, have honored those who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice in our military, is by giving them military discounts and other benefits in a civilian context at retailers, restaurants and services across the country.  In some cases these tiny tributes can result in saving our military heroes a little extra time, a little extra money and a little extra pain in day to day civilian life.

Unfortunately wherever there’s a discount program, or a benefits program, there’s also the other side of Americans, those trying to cheat and game the system. In the online world, it makes it hard for online retailers to offer discounts to military because they can’t tap into the government database to validate veterans past and present.  While some online retailers have felt the benefit to recognizing the veterans is worth the loss they take in discount fraud, other companies just can’t afford it.

Traditional offline retailers, restaurants and services don’t have the same problem. They can recognize veterans by their uniforms and in some cases by their military ID cards. Online sites can’t see either.

That’s why DC area entrepreneur, and veteran, Blake Hall has created Troop ID. This startup serves as a validation clearing house for military personnel and they are able to do this not with some top secret government clearance and access to the official database, but by leveraging partners like USAA.

Hall already has several partners lined up who are using the system to validate military personnel and open up avenues to offer them discounts and speedy service. He has also given the use of the Troop ID service free to Startup America for their veteran’s initiative launched in November 2012.

Hall got the chance to pitch a team of judges during the Launch.It showstoppers event at CES 2013. This event included special guest judge, the world renowned Guy Kawasaki.

Watch Hall’s pitch video below and hear about the milestones he’s achieved in a short time since he started working on Troop ID.

Several veteran founded startups will be in the Startup Village at The Startup Conference



CES 2013: CEA Welcomes Startups With New Membership Category

CEA,CES 2013, Startups, startup membership, Gary Shapiro We could see the writing on the wall for this one over two years ago when Eureka Park was announced. CEA, the Consumer Electronics Association and the producers of the International CES show in Las Vegas January 8-11, has created a new membership category making it easier for startups to join the ranks of the top consumer electronics association in the world.

In addition to Eureka Park, one of the largest global gathering of startups in the world, CEA has been busy fostering startups, innovation and entrepreneurism in the United States. They’ve started a grassroots campaign “The Innovation Movement” to educate lawmakers on the spirit of innovation, they produce the International CES and have launched a new magazine called “It Is Innovation”.

This year, CEA has also partnered with Startup America to provide continuous programming at the Startup America stage as part of Eureka Park’s Tech Zone.

CEA’s President and CEO Gary Shapiro is also very supportive of innovation, startups and entrepreneurism. He often writes about innovation across the country, lobbies for innovation and speaks at startup events. Shapiro was on-hand for Chicago TechWeek this past June where he spoke to startups and founders as well as gave away and signed books.

“Startups are jumpstarting our economy and are paving the way for America’s future,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Creating a unique membership category for startups is another way we are pursuing our strategic goal of promoting innovation, the lifeblood of our industry. Many of the individuals behind startups have put all of their resources on the line to make sure their companies have the best chance of succeeding. Every bit of support we can offer as an organization is critical not only to advancing the consumer electronics industry but also to ensuring the world’s most cutting-edge technologies end up in consumers’ hands.”

CEA’s new Startup membership category is just $95 per year. In order to qualify for this membership level companies must be in development of a technology product, service or app that has been introduced in the market within the last year or will be in within the next year. They must have annual sales under $1 million, be located in the U.S. and not have been CEA members in the last two years.

To sign up for this membership International CES Attendees can visit the CEA booth in the Grand Lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center during the show. You can also email beginning January 3, 2013.


More CES 2013 team coverage from here

Startup News

CEA’s Website

Event two in the grandslam of startup events is The Startup Conference

Austin Startup: Heyride Wins Startup Texas Competition

Heyride, Austin startup,Startup Texas, Startup America, StartupStartups pitching at stadiums seems to be a really cool thing this year. Startups in Indianapolis pitched at Lucas Oil Field during the PowderKeg startup event earlier this fall. The graduating class at the Brandery in Cincinnati pitched at the Great American Ball Park where the Cincinnati Reds play, for investor day. Last week Startup Texas hosted a statewide competition at Cowboy Stadium.

The pitch contest, which pitted startups across the entire state of Texas, gave startups the chance to pitch in front of Startup Texas, Startup America and influential entrepreneurial leaders like Steve Case (Founder of AOL), Scott Case (Founding CTO at Priceline) and Carl Sparks (CEO at Travelocity). The winning team won a consultation with one of the three iconic leaders, facilitated by the Startup America Partnership.

Austin startup Heyride was the overall winner in the competition. Heyride is a peer to peer ride sharing app, which is a hot space right now.  Users are able to find on demand rides from drivers based on competing offers. The app gives the user the option of riding or driving and it’s peer to peer, so presumably less expensive than Uber or Taxi Magic.

Ridesharing is huge overseas and there are several startups popping up across the country like Greenville SC startup RidePost which completed the Iron Yard accelerator program back in August.

Heyride has prepared itself for the hurdles they could face operating a ride sharing startup and dealing with the public at larges. It was recently reported that private car hailing startup Uber, had a Washington DC based driver accused or Rape, last week.

Heyride offers three types of driver verification including social drivers, community verified drivers and background verified drivers. In a driver’s profile, the level of verification that they’ve completed can be found in an icon next to their name, giving riders a better piece of mind.

Of course drivers are also star rated so that the more successful rides they give the better their rating.

The company has also developed a payment conduit which allows the rider and driver to exchange a frictionless and cashless payment at the onset of the ride so that they don’t have to haggle about price at the end.. It’s also safer for both the riders and the drivers to not have to carry cash.

Heyride is currently only available in Austin Texas which should be great for the tens of thousands converging on the city in March for SXSW.  They do plan on expanding outside of Austin eventually.


Check out Heyride here

More startup stories from Austin are here The Startup Conference is the largest startup conference in the U.S.

Startup America Stage Headed To International CES

CES,Startup America, Eureka Park, startupsThe Startup America partnership has done a phenomenal job of promoting startups across the United States at key events throughout the year. Last year they had an entire area at the Hilton Hotel for startups as part of SXSW. They also partnered with Startup Rockon to bring equally amazing programming to stages at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Continuing with that theme, Startup America has teamed up with the Consumer Electronics Association to bring the Startup America Stage to Eureka Park at the International CES.  The International CES is the largest consumer electronics trade show on the western hemisphere and is happening January 8-11th in Las Vegas.

The Startup America stage will be part of CES’ startup pavilion called Eureka Park, which is housed at the Venetian Hotel and easily accessible via a free shuttle from the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“Innovation defines the International CES and we are thrilled to partner with Startup America to bring programming that highlights the young start-ups and entrepreneurs who will shape the future of technology,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “We look forward to the exciting sessions on the Startup America Stage at the 2013 CES shining a light on the companies and innovations of tomorrow.”

“Eureka Park will be home to some of the most cutting-edge startups from across the country this year at the 2013 CES,” said Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership. “We’re incredibly excited to bring together startups, investors, large companies and media to highlight the amazing innovations taking place at this world-class event.”

Innovation is a major theme, this and every year at CES however the past few years they’ve added an exhibit area for startups. Last year Eureka Park was packed. CEA is able to attract startups with lower cost both space, provided they meet the criteria.

CEA has also announced that Eureka Park is 40% bigger this year, adding even more startups and innovation to the mix.

The Startup America stage will feature panels, keynotes, and Q&A’s from top speakers in the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem across the country.


For more on the International CES visit here

For more on Startup America visit here

Startup America is also part of this, the largest startup conference in the US

Veteran & Apprentice 2 Winner Kelly Perdew Helping To Lead Startup America Veteran’s Initiative

Kelly Perdew,Startup America, Apprentice 2,Veterans Work Group, Donna Harris, startup,startups,Startup America

Veteran & Apprentice 2 Winner Kelly Perdew (photo CY Interview)

Thinking back to the days of the second season of Apprentice, before Donald Trump went crazy on social media, we recall the season 2 winner Kelly Perdew. The Lexington Kentucky native, West Point graduate and army vet, went on to oversee and promote the construction of Trump Place in New York City, and serve as the Executive Vice President of Trump’s, now defunct, signature water brand, Trump Ice.

Perdew didn’t let the Trump Ice failure set him back he’s gone on to found or lead other successful startups including, and eTeamz.

Now, in an announcement by the Startup America Partnership, it’s been revealed that Perdew will help lead a team of Veteran and Veteran service entrepreneurs, in an initiative called the Veteran’s Working Group.

The Veterans Working Group, an initiative that highlights the best practices for helping veterans become successful entrepreneurs and promotes startups that are successfully serving our nation’s vets. Led by Regional Championsfrom across the country, the creation of the group is a response to a tremendous level of interest from Startup Regions across the U.S.

“In working with our 30 Startup Regions, we’ve found that communities across the country are trying to figure out how startups can better serve our returning veterans and how they can provide support for veteran entrepreneurs,” said Donna Harris, managing director of Startup Regions at Startup America. “The Veterans Working Group will collect and distribute the most promising ideas, programs, activities and events to help veterans as they pursue their own entrepreneurial goals.”

Although just announced this morning, the Veteran’s Working Group has already been active. They participated as part of TechStars Patriot Bootcamp in Washington DC, over the summer. They also just helped with the Veteran’s Day Weekend Hackathon in San Francisco.

The Veteran’s Working Group will have immediate access to these two important resources:

Troop ID has agreed to donate software to all of the launched Startup America Regions on a pro bonobasis so that community organizers can validate the military credentials of participants in these types of Veteran-centric events. Troop ID is groundbreaking technology that allows Service Members, Veterans and Military Spouses to digitally verify their military credentials to military-friendly brands and reputable organizations in order to claim discounts and benefits.

In conjunction with VETransfer, the Veterans Working Group will be organizing a multi-city hackathon, in which any of the Startup America Regions may participate. VETransfer is a nonprofit business accelerator for America’s military veterans, which has seen incredible demand from Veterans who want to start a business. The hackathon will take place in early spring, and it is designed to encourage the community at large to connect with Veterans and build a stronger entrepreneurial community

In addition to Perdew the leadership team also includes; Page Craig, Angel Investor and Veteran; Dawn Halfaker, CEO of Halfaker & Associates, and Veteran; Blake Hall, CEO, TroopSwap, and Veteran; and Nick Wichert Co-Founder and CEO of VETransfer.


Check out the Veteran’s Working Group here

Register for Startup America here

More Startup America news from

Come meet Scott Case Startup America CEO at this event

200 Startups Participate In Startup Maryland’s Pitch Across Maryland Bus Tour

Late this past summer Startup Maryland co-founders Mike Binko and Julie Lenzer Kirk announced that they would be holding a one of a kind bus tour across the state of Maryland in September. Binko and Lenzer Kirk were able to procure a giant tour bus, get it wrapped and outfitted with a video studio, work space and a place for startups to sit and talk as it caravaned across the state.

The trip began September 11th and ended on September 28th. The bus adventure started on Maryland’s eastern shore and continued all the way to the communities in Western Maryland.

“The Pitch Across Maryland tour, which ran from September 11 – 28, 2012, held celebration and promotional rallies at 25 stops throughout the state of Maryland,”  Lenzer Kirk, Startup Maryland Co-Chair said in a statement. “Culminating in the Last Stop, First Step party and celebration event at Merriweather Post Pavilion on September 28th this Tour has rightly placed the spotlight on the vitality in Maryland’s innovation economy.”

Both Lenzer Kirk and Binko are passionate about the startup community in the state of Maryland as is Howard County Executive and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Ken Ulman, who provided some financial backing for the trip.  When the bus tour was announced Binko was optimistic that 40-50 startups would use the onboard video studio to do pitch as part of a state wide contest. When all was said and done 168 startups actually did pitches. Maryland’s sitting Governor, Martin O’Malley also pitched on the bus. Binko told a group of Startup America regional champions in October that O’Malley had contacted the bus team and asked to come and take a tour. Admission to that tour was a pitch video.

“These videos are a testament to the strength, dedication and diversity of Maryland’s entrepreneurial community,” said Binko in a news release. “When we launched the Pitch Across Maryland tour we thought we might have 40-50 entrepreneurs join us on the Tour Bus and pitch, so 168 is phenomenal. Including all the rallies and events we held more than 200 startups actually participated in the tour.”

In addition to the 168 startups that pitched another 30 or so startups came out to the 25 stops that were on the bus trip. Some even volunteered to help.

All 168 pitches (not including the governors) are posted to YouTube where anyone can vote for their favorite pitch. A prize will be awarded to the entrepreneur with the most “view” votes after the voting closes on December 31st. Startup Maryland will announce 7 finalists next week on November 7th. Those finalists will have a chance to pitch during the entrepreneurial expo November 13th.

Members of the judging panel include serial entrepreneur peers as well as representatives from TEDCO, DBED, universities, incubators/accelerators and economic development agencies (EDAs).


Get warmed up for Tuesday and go vote for your favorite pitch here

Stay in tune with Startup Maryland here

Make sure you click this link and sign up for “” here

Startup Super Group Initiative Launched: Startup America, Startup Weekend, TechStars, Udacity, Steve Blank

What do you get when you put together Startup America, Startup Weekend, TechStars, and Udacity, and then let Steve Blank run the whole thing? Startup Weekend Next, that’s what!

Startup Weekend announced the largest Startup initiative to date today. The startup “super group” (as our good friend Michael del Castillo calls it), consists of Startup America, Startup Weekend, TechStars, and Udacity. It’s all being led by Blank who wrote the book on startups “The Startup Owners Manual”.

The four organizations, and Blank are teaming up to help launch 10,000 startups. Startup Weekend Next will be a rolling four week program with hands on training, education and inspiration.

The backbone behind Startup Weekend Next will be The Lean Launchpad Class that Blank came up with, adapting the ideas and lessons from the Startup Owners Manual and applying them to real life companies and scenarios. The class is currently taught at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, Caltech,Princeton, the University of Michigan and Georgia Tech.

Blank also recently put the class online at Udacity where over 50,000 people have already started taking the course.

Certainly with the Udacity online course tens of thousands more entrepreneurs are able to take the course without being enrolled in some of the top colleges in the United States. As Blank points out in his blog though, the online version

“… doesn’t require you to form a team, and there’s no immediate instructor feedback. More importantly, it makes no demands of you to stand and deliver your weekly customer development progress in front of your peers. In sum, it lacks the rigorous and collaborative hands-on experience that entrepreneurs get in our university classes”

After pondering and then collaborating to find ways to make the Lean Launch Pad accessible to entrepreneurs in a classroom environment the Startup Weekend Next initiative was born.

Startup America will leverage their 30 startup regions, and their Startup America Regional Champions throughout the country to assist, promote and engage entrepreneurs in the classes. Techstars will leverage it’s world class mentor network to help coach the teams.

There is a small fee between $140 and $299 assessed to basically just cover the costs of hosting the classes.

Blank described on his blog how Startup Weekend Next will work:

  • You form a startup team (if you don’t have one, taking the 54-hour Startup Weekend class is a great a way to find one) and come into class with an initial idea
  • Your team arrives with an initial Business Model Canvas. (Your pre-class reading is to watch the Lean LaunchPad initial lectures on Udacity)
  • You present your hypotheses and what you learned in front of your peers and coaches
  • Your team gets live coaching and advice from Startup Weekend Next mentors.
  • You’ll take the suggestions from the meeting, get out of the building and talk to ten plus customers per week.
  • You’ll refine your business model by iterating or pivoting your product, your target customers, pricing, channels, partners, etc.
  • Repeat for four weeks– all while working with volunteer mentor partners from Startup Weekend, Startup America and TechStars – serial entrepreneurs and seasoned startup investors – to see whether your business idea was truly a vision or simply a hallucination.

Blank is calling this endeavor a “pre-accelerator”. The possibilities of where a startup can go after Startup Weekend Next are endless.


Steve Blank’s Blog

Startup Weekend Next website

Everywhere else is where you need to be

Boom I’ve Got Health Insurance, Thank You Startup America And Cigna

Back in July during one of Tech Cocktail’s legendary mixers in Washington DC, my good friend Scott Case, the founding CTO at and the current CEO of Startup America was speaking. As normal, at the end of his great speech which I remember involved gambling, women and, he had a little Q&A.

I have been a Startup America supporter and Champion since the beginning and am always on listservs, chat rooms, and even here preaching the gospel about Startup America. Well that didn’t sit too well with one woman from Pennsylvania.  We were on the Philly Startup ListServ and I was writing someone about Startup America. Now before Startup PA even opened it’s doors she was all over me about how Startup America gave her no benefit what so ever. Then, she kept on bringing up healthcare like we were talking about Startupacare or Obamacare.

I relayed this conversation during the Q&A with Case and brought the room to great laughter since I did a great impression of the whiney woman on the Philly list serv. But as a Type II diabetic and an entrepreneur since 2003 I was actually curious about the health insurance. Case admitted that while building out regions was Startup America’s focus for the immediate future, there were talks going on about health insurance.

Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and the self employed account for a huge uninsured segment. Truth be told I was looking forward to next year when Obamacare takes over since I couldn’t afford healthcare on my own and 90% of everyone (even Cigna at the time) was either too much or refused me altogether because of the diabetes.

Well low and behold just moments ago I received an email from Donna Harris at the Startup America Partnership announcing an exciting partnership with Cigna for mentorship, education and of course health insurance.

So I quickly glanced over the mentorship and education part, great stuff by the way, and I clickity clicked through to the health insurance part. I filled out the form and within nano seconds I was talking with Shelly from Cigna on the phone. She knew I was signing up via Startup America and BOOM! It’s done** (disclaimer part: of course health insurance is underwritten but I was informed that even with the Type II diabetes the rate she quoted was good). So alas if all goes well Shelly tells me I can go to the doctor for a mere $25 starting next month vs the $85 I have been paying!

In a statement this morning Case said:

“We know how important mentoring, education, and health insurance benefits are to startups, and we’re excited to bring Cigna on board as a new partner to help our members,” said Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership. “Cigna believes, as we do, that entrepreneurship is a core American value and critical to the country’s long-term economic success.”

The real deal here is that health care, education and insurance is one of the biggest things that hold entrepreneurs back. Healthy entrepreneurs make healthy startups and healthy startups mean more jobs. Really it’s that simple.


Go check out the new partnership with Cigna and sign up for your own insurance here

Sign up for Startup America at here

More Startup America coverage from us here

Come to 


Startup Puerto Rico’s Kendall Quinones On Sharing Talent

Sparkative,Startup America,Kendall Quinones,Startup Puerto Rico,startupsThe Startup America Regions Summit this week in Chicago brought together 150 Startup America champions from across the country and Puerto Rico. Kendall Quinones, the founder and CEO of EdTech startup in Puerto Rico, Sparkative, was on hand for the summit and sharing ideas that work for Puerto Rico throughout the event.

Quinones talked in depth about one of the big challenges they are facing in Puerto Rico. They are having a hard time engaging some of the “feeders” in Puerto Rico, to get involved with the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Puerto Rico is known for their manufacturing and when it comes to job creation Quinones points out that in Puerto Rico they use factories as a band aid for job creation.

It’s much easier to employ more people in Puerto Rico by attracting more manufacturing than it is to try and entice say a game development studio to come to Puerto Rico. A factory that can employ hundreds at minimum wage is actually the easier way out and one that the Puerto Rican government seems to use often.

For those active and engaged in the startup and entrepreneurial community in Puerto Rico and in Startup Puerto Rico, the culture is a complete 180.  In their region they share, share, share and share some more. Their growing startup and entrepreneurial base, is encouraged to share resources, and ideas across the country.

One thing that’s also shared is talent.

In the video below Quinones talks about how at his company, Sparkative, he encourages his people to work on Sparkative and in their free time devote a few hours to other Startup Puerto Rico members that may need their services. Whether it’s a designer, an engineer or a marketer, it seems that Puerto Rico is all about sharing.

The biggest purpose of the Startup America summit was to share best practices, and even failures so that the 30 regions currently in the Startup America partnership can grow together.

Although at times it may seem like Puerto Rico is worlds away, it’s clear that their fully engaged in not only their own community but Startup America as well.

Here’s the video clip:


Check out Quinones’ company Sparkative here

Startup Puerto Rico here

Startup America here

oh and this too