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Seed fund 500 Startups hires four new partners in Europe

Seed fund 500 Startups hires four new partners in Europe | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups is doubling down on Europe, bringing on board four new investment partners in Israel, Germany, Turkey and Eastern Europe.

After announcing a new $85 million fund, starting Distro Dojo in London and setting up a pre-accelerator in Scandinavia called 500 Nordics, startup accelerator and seed fund 500 Startups is today announcing a slew of new investments partners and mini-funds around the world (e.g. Japan).

You can check the announcement for all the details, but here we’ll focus on its news for Europe. Disclosure: 500 Startups is an investor in Tech.eu.

Apart from London and the Nordics, there are four European regions where 500 Startups is focusing its attention on in the coming years: Eastern Europe, Germany, Israel and Turkey. Read more: click on image or title.

Learn more about funding, find great funding sources, get a free business plan template, post your funding request for free, and more:


Marc Kneepkens's insight:

500 startups is aggressively looking for great #startups all over the world and making #seedfunding available to them. Many countries have been opened up.

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These startups from around the world are innovating their way to a better world

These startups from around the world are innovating their way to a better world | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Innovative solutions to fundamental problems.

Over the past week, 1776, a startup incubator focused on public good brought startups from 16 cities in 11 countries to Washington D.C. to compete in the Challenge Festival.

The week-long startup competition focused on four areas of public innovation: education, energy & sustainability, health, and transportation.

Unlike other well-known incubators and seed funds, 1776 solely funds startups that are focused on making a major impact in heavily regulated industries.

At the Challenge Festival, startups like as BaseTrace, which “uses DNA-based tracers to track where industrial fluids are going in large, complex environments” and Reliefwatch, a cloud-based system that uses smartphone technology to track inventory and diseases for healthcare organisations in the developing world, battled it out on stage for a grand prize of $US150,000 in investment.

Twiga Fruits, a Kenya-based startup that builds fair and sustainable distribution systems to export fresh fruit from the country without going through a middleman. The company aims to treat farmers fairly while helping to distribute their goods to the widest network. Twiga Fruits is currently Kenya’s leading exporter of bananas, pineapples and avocados.

Read more: click image or title.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Impressive list and creative ideas from entrepreneurs allover the world making a difference.

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Advice for inventors: turning your bright idea into a business

Advice for inventors: turning your bright idea into a business | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
The journey from great idea to commercial product can be long and costly – but help is available

It was 2008, when the late inventor John Reid and entrepreneur Arpana Gandhi got talking at a fundraising event for landmine victims. In a long career, Reid had invented, among other things, the plastic security tag used to deter shoplifters.

Reid told Gandhi about the Dragon torch, a product he had developed to disable landmines. Despite its promise, problems such as a lack of raw materials meant it had never come to market. “I explained that I’ve got a good track record and a commercial background, and that was one of the things, unfortunately, that John was not very good at,” Gandhi says now. The two decided to combine their strengths – and that is how Disarmco was born.

There are 120m landmines worldwide, and the principal method of disposal is to blow them up. But that requires carrying explosives across borders, which naturally attracts suspicion. “Because of these conflicts in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, everybody is awfully twitchy,” says Gandhi.

Reid – who, sadly, died in 2014 – was very good, says Gandhi, at taking technology used in one area of life and applying it to another. The Dragon torch works like a firework: it directs a very hot flame at the munitions so that the landmine is burnt rather than exploded.
Both Gandhi and Reid had put money into the company but needed more funding to test the product. Attempts to attract venture capital failed, says Gandhi: “People are risk-averse, especially within a sector that they don’t understand, and nobody is prepared to do the due diligence to understand that we’re not going to be using this in a detrimental way, we’re using it for a humanitarian purpose.”
So Disarmco used a very modern method of raising funds: it put a request on crowdfunding platform Crowdcube and within six months had raised just under £150,000 (£30,000 more than the original target). The torch has been tested and should be commercially available later this year – though the company also has other products on the market.
Disarmco’s story demonstrates that the journey between having a good idea and creating a commercially viable product can be long, bumpy and costly: half of UK startups fail within five years, and that is partly down to the difficulty of attracting investment.

Read more, click on title or image.

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"Our work with Growthink was very helpful for creating a business plan to focus our efforts in the short term and increase our value over the long term."
Jack Bergstrand, CEO
Brand Velocity, Inc.

Via Zonata
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Crowdfunding to test new ideas is a great platform.

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The 16 Best Startups That Launched In 2014 - Business Insider

The 16 Best Startups That Launched In 2014 - Business Insider | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
These are the best new startups this year.

2014 was a great year for consumer tech, so we decided to take a look at the best startups that launched this year.

When looking at the best startups, we took into account factors like funding, revenue, growth, and investor interest.

Did we miss a great startup that launched this year? Let us know in the comments!

Read more at http://snip.ly/BW0g

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Amazing how some ideas attract millions of dollars in funding.

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How do the offers made on the show Shark Tank compare to offers made in a less public arena? - Quora

Shark Tank bears no relation whatsoever to professional angel investing.

Part of the reason can be found in the question itself: it asks about valuations for "inventors". In the real world, many of the contestants on Shark Tank are, indeed, inventors. People who have come up with an idea for a new product and are looking for help in marketing it.

Serious angel investors, however, virtually never invest in "inventors", or even "products". What we invest in are companies: businesses that may or may not be built around a new invention, but that have already started with a product or services, tested the market for it, assembled a team that can at least begin to deliver on the market promise, and that will eventually be able to find a buyer for the company.

As such, the average pre-money valuation for serious angel investments in the United States these days is roughly $2.1 million. But the contestants who get "offers" on Shark Tank probably receive average valuations in the range of $100,000 – $250,000.

Of all the companies that typically appear on the show, maybe 10% might ever make it through the screening process of an angel group, let alone get funding. Similarly, maybe 10% of the companies that get funded by angel investors might ever be 'photogenic' enough or funky enough to be worth watching on a dramatic reality series.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

David Rose compares 'Shark Tank' to 'Angel Investing' to what 'Indiana Jones' is to 'Archeology'  in a little video clip.

Nice to see that straightened out.

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Richard Branson on Finding Funding

Richard Branson on Finding Funding | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Editor's Note: Entrepreneur Richard Branson regularly shares his business experience and advice with readers. Ask him a question and your query might be the inspiration for a future column.

Q: I am a social entrepreneur, striving to develop a business in Africa that makes a difference, but my struggle is the same as that of millions of others: finding funding. I come from Denmark, and potential investors always tell me, “The idea is great, but please prove that your business model works first, and then come back.” Should I look abroad for funding instead? -- Christian Høegh-Guldberg Hoff, Nairobi, Kenya

More and more often I hear from people like you, who are in our field for the right reasons. It’s very encouraging to see enterprising social entrepreneurs prove that they want to help people and the planet by doing good business.

It can sometimes be more difficult for social entrepreneurs to secure funding than for those proposing to run purely commercial, profit-driven enterprises. Getting your message across to potential investors can be particularly challenging, since they may assume that because you intend to solve a problem or help people, you must be adopting the nonprofit model.

Your local community is often the best place to start when looking for funding opportunities, but if you can’t find anyone suitable to work with, the logical next step is to broaden your search to the national or even international level. And if you do have the option of bringing in foreign investors, this may be to your advantage in the long run. Your business could gain some important contacts, while their outsider perspectives on your business may offer some interesting insights. When you’re ready to expand the business internationally, the process will be a lot easier if you have contacts already in place.

There are many organizations aside from venture capital funds or banks that socially responsible startups can try in their search for funding. Virgin has been involved in the Dutch Postcode Lottery for years, and last year I chaired its sustainable competition jury, which provides a lot of funding to green businesses. Included in the prize are opportunities to work with a mentor, which are just as important as cash. On a similar theme, I was also on the jury for the $4 million Zayed Future Energy Prize, based in the United Arab Emirates, which encourages entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions “that will meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment.”

Another option might be the Carbon War Room, which Virgin Unite incubated and which helps to accelerate businesses that aim to reduce carbon emissions and advance the low-carbon economy. While the Carbon War Room cannot directly fund businesses, working with them enables entrepreneurs like you to bring their ideas to thought leaders, industry experts and many more potential investors.

Whatever your business idea, if you look long and hard enough, more often than not you’ll be able to find someone with a shared vision who will want to help you on your way. Online communities and forums about issues in your sector can help you to contact those who will be interested in what you’re doing. Such people are all potential investors.

Another great way to generate excitement about your idea and raise funds is through crowdfunding, an option many startups are choosing. Thanks to websites like Kickstarter and EquityNet, it’s now easier than ever before to drum up interest around your new idea or innovation and find small loans and pledges that supply the money you need to take things forward.

There are other benefits to taking the crowdfunding route. Pitching an idea to a room full of investors can be tricky; while preparing a pitch for an online forum is not easy, it does require a different set of skills -- perhaps this is an area where you and your business idea shine. Gaining momentum is also very important: The crowdfunding process may create a buzz about your business as the money begins to roll in. If things go well, you could soon find people from all over the world hoping to buy your product or service --so make sure you’re ready to provide it.

Entrepreneurship isn’t just about selling things -- it’s also about finding ways to make a difference in people’s lives. Setting up a company explicitly to bring about positive change may be challenging, but keep in mind that enterprises that survive and thrive in the long run are ones that have won the trust and respect of their communities. If you build your mission into your business model, it’s likely you’ll lay the foundation for success. Good luck!.

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The Importance of Timing and Luck for Your Startup

The Importance of Timing and Luck for Your Startup | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Time and luck are key elements for success but they are the hardest to identify and control. Here are the key drivers to consider when optimizing your odds.

George Deeb is the Managing Partner at Chicago-based Red Rocket Ventures, a growth consulting, advisory and executive staffing firm based in Chicago. 

Timing and luck are key elements for success, but they are the hardest to identify and control. Here are the key drivers to consider when trying to optimize your odds of success:

Market timing

Market timing is basically the old adage of being in the right place at the right time.

As an example, MediaRecall, my past company, had built the fastest, cheapest solution to digitize large archives of film and video content, for publishing on the Web. However, the business launched in 2006 – well before online video started to take off.

At the time, big film archives had not yet began to think about digitizing their archives. Subsequently, the company struggled to build a sales pipeline until 2009, when the rapid success of sites like YouTube and Hulu had film archives scrambling to find a way to monetizing online.

Had MediaRecall launched in 2008, it would have saved two years of burn rate. But, you are never that smart to time the market. The lesson here is to make sure there is solid customer interest for your product, before investing too heavily in your business (e.g., the lean startup principle). Many people like to think they are predicting the future of the market with their product, but be patient before putting all your eggs in one basket.

Economic conditions

Economic conditions are entirely out of your control once you get started. Another one of my company, travel startup iExplore, launched its site in February 2000 in the peak of the dot com boom. However, the dot com bubble burst one month later, making it immediately an uphill slog right out of the gate.

Had we launched three years earlier, riding the momentum of the dot com wave would have made it much easier to grow the business. Or, even worse, nobody could have predicted September 11 tragedy, and the negative impact that event would have on both the economy overall, and especially the travel industry.

The unfortunate timing almost took iExplore out of business entirely. All you can do here is to keep your business nimble, so it can easily scale up or down, based on external market conditions.

When times are good, run as fast as possible to build your coffers for the downtimes. And, when times are bad, defer all unnecessary investment. If you ever need to shut your business down, do it quick before burning through capital.

Execution speed

Execution speed simply means build your business at light speed, and where you can, be a first mover in your space. Continually distance yourself from your competitors. And, better yet, using Google or Amazon as an example, try to widen your lead over your competitors to make the gap insurmountable.

Never get “comfortable” with your success. Continually have a sense of “controlled paranoia,” pushing your research and development efforts and sales and marketing tactics to new heights in each year. The turtle never wins this race.

Keep a clear focus on continued and accelerating growth, holding your competitors further back in your rear-view mirrors.

Knowing how long to ride the wave

On the sell side of your venture, it is important you know how long to ride the wave. Don’t make the mistake of the riding the story too long. A wild factor may change to hurt the business (e.g., market conditions, competition) that will result in a much lower sale price, had you exited at an earlier time.

Equally important, the prospective buyer of your business will want to see upside on their investment. They will not want to buy a story that they perceive has reached its full potential.

And, overriding all of this? Luck! Carry your four leaf clovers and rabbit feet in your pocket at all times. Startup success is 80 percent timing and 20 percent luck – just make sure to put 101 in your hustle.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.ly/1aKy7km

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Create your own tailwind: stay focused and keep on breathing energy in your ventures. Luck may be a small part of it, but most of it is what you put in it.

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The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America

The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Innovation districts are geographic areas where leading-edge companies, research institutions, start-ups, and business incubators are located in dense proximity. Bruce Katz and Julie Wagner explain how these districts facilitate new connections and ideas, accelerate the commercialization of those ideas, and support metropolitan economies by growing jobs in ways that leverage their distinct economic position.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.ly/1aKy7km

Via Tammie Sweet
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

This is excellent! Information about the innovation hubs, how it works and where they are. Great article.

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10 Things I’ve Learned from Working at a Startup

10 Things I’ve Learned from Working at a Startup | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
We've all heard about how difficult, fun and challenging it can be to work at a startup. In fact, being a part of a small team who's trying to change the way things are is a great adventure that requires lots of engagement and passion.

My name is Fred, and I've been a member of a startup team for almost two years now. There are many things that I've learned here that couldn't have picked up elsewhere, not only in terms of professional experiences, but also about myself.

The first thing you need to know about working in a startup is that you need to be a passionate person. Not only because it requires hard work, but also because you'll quickly feel overwhelmed and you'll loose your foothold if you're not passionate about what you're doing.

To help understand what it means to be part of a startup, here are the top 10 things that I've learned from working at Azendoo.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.ly/1aKy7km

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

To address the comments under this article : all companies have been startups at some point. If you don't want to work hard, go just be an employee somewhere and dream of white beaches and long vacations and working from home the rest of your life.

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Virtual school gives teen entrepreneur freedom to thrive

Virtual school gives teen entrepreneur freedom to thrive | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

When Willow Tufano left a public school for the gifted three years ago and enrolled in Florida Virtual School, she discovered a doorway to opportunity.

No longer confined to a typical school day, the eighth-grader spent mornings and afternoons combing Craigslist and garage sales for electronics and other items, then sold them for a profit. At night, she studied English and algebra, keeping up her grades and socking away enough cash to buy a house with her mom, a real estate broker.

At 14, Willow became a landlord. Then she saved enough for another house. Two years later, the Palm Island, Fla., teen has sold both houses and is finishing her sophomore year online with Florida Virtual School, earning mostly A’s and B’s, while fielding offers from Hollywood for a reality TV show.

To read the full article, click on the title.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here:


Via Tammie Sweet
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Opportunities are limitless now. Internet has provided access to entrepreneurial opportunities, education is changing as we speak, startups are thriving. Check this incredible story.

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YC Fellowship

Ten years ago, Paul Graham said there could be ten times as many startups if more people realized they could try. Thanks to the work he, Jessica, Trevor and Robert helped do, that’s become true.

We think there is still room for another ten-fold increase in the number of (good) startups. But even now, a lot of good founders never get started because they can’t scrape together a relatively small sum of money at the idea stage.

So we’re going to try a new experiment, which we’re calling the YC Fellowship. This is targeted at teams that are very, very early. Read more: click title.

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.l/1aKy7km
"I wanted to take a moment to thank-you and your team for the incredible job on the Redux business plan. It was an absolute breeze to work with you and would look forward to working with you again in the future."
Hannah Kirby
Owner Redux Beverages, LLC

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Another initiative to give the best ideas a chance to get started. Even though it's a small budget, it may make a huge difference for some startups to take off. Take a look for more information.

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No one wants to buy from startups | VentureBeat | Business | by Chris Lynch, Atlas Venture

No one wants to buy from startups | VentureBeat | Business | by Chris Lynch, Atlas Venture | Pitch it! | Scoop.it


I spend most days (and way too many nights and weekends) thinking about, evaluating, visiting, and coaching startups. It’s a never-ending series of pitches from people telling me they are about to take over the world to become the next Salesforce/Splunk/EMC, etc. But rarely, as part of their presentations, do they admit or imply the simple truth:

People buy from startups because they have to, not because they want to.

They really don’t. Sure it’s fun to talk about startups. It’s a cultural obsession. Get my 15 minutes of fame. Be an overnight sensation. And it’s no wonder. Anybody who manages to bolt a new idea onto a workable business model has the potential to be rewarded handsomely. That’s a potential reality, if you’re willing, able, and lucky enough to make it happen.

But, all things being equal, given the choice between buying from an established, safe, well-known company or a bunch of ponytails and greybeards crowded around some folding tables in a converted warehouse … You can guess how that decision goes the vast majority of the time. Read more:  http://snip.ly/RcwY

Get your Free Business Plan Template here: http://bit.ly/1aKy7km

"It has been an absolute delight working with you and this will be just a beginning in my relationship with Growthink.
I am very satisfied with my business plan and financial plan. Your work is outstanding."
Michael Mundi
Mundi Homes

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

The great challenge startups deal with is disruption. This VC explains it in detail. People don't like change. Structured environments don't do change. All they want is improvement. Read this is if you think that your next innovation is really going to change the world and find out what you're up to. Then act accordingly.

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20 Questions You Can Ask to Validate Your Startup Idea

20 Questions You Can Ask to Validate Your Startup Idea | Pitch it! | Scoop.it


Before you commit significant time, money or other resources to launch, take this test.

Do you have a million-dollar idea in your head, just waiting to be acted upon? Or will it be a complete bust -- an idea with no actual potential for return?
This question is one that stops many would-be entrepreneurs in their tracks before they even take the chance and launch their potential business ventures. Fortunately, it is possible to make a more educated guess on your idea’s likelihood of success or failure by taking the time to validate your idea before moving forward with it.
Here are 20 questions you can ask to validate your startup idea -- before you commit significant time, money or other resources to its launch:

More here: http://snip.ly/JuIl

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"I have so much gratitude in my soul right now. Growthink has helped me to come a long way since I've found the company and started making my business plan.
I'm counting my blessings every day."
Best Regards,
Trevor Houlihan

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3 Student Startups That Are Going the Distance

3 Student Startups That Are Going the Distance | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
They've all managed to make the tricky jump from great idea to great company.

Anyone who has made it through college knows that ideas are cheap. Every conversation in the classroom, on the quad or at the coffee shop is littered with them--some great, most awful. On occasion, the spitballing even spawns a bit of short-lived business action (witness all the broken links on any Best College Startups internet list from the past few years). o Clearly, it's not just an awesome idea that makes a college startup great. It takes follow-through, patience and business smarts to transform a dorm-room musing into a viable business. Here are some college startups that made the leap from good idea to great company.

The perfect fix

In 2012, Spencer Quinn was a junior at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, working a summer job at a company that sold athletic tape, when he heard about a doctor who used medical casting tape to fix an all-terrain vehicle. It was an "aha" moment for Quinn, a biotech major.

Along with his cousins Reed and Chris Quinn and brother-in-law Derek Rowley, Quinn attempted to repair household items using casting tape. "I thought maybe this stuff could fix more than bones, so we started putting it on broken tools, leaky pipes and other stuff," he recalls. "It was not a good solution

Those efforts didn't work, but the trio got to thinking about what elements would make a better repair tape. The product would have to go beyond duct tape to create a permanent bond, and it would need to be waterproof and able to withstand impact and heavy loads.

They worked with the BYU mechanical engineering lab to find a solution. Once they had a prototype, they took it to an adhesives manufacturer to work out the production process. The result was FiberFix, which, after being soaked in water and applied tightly, can permanently repair shovel handles, leaking pipes and just about any other broken object.

But creating FiberFix was just the first step. "I think so many products fail in the manufacturing and logistics stage," Quinn, now 25, explains. "You have to learn how to approach big retail buyers and know how to execute your product in such a way that you don't get chargebacks that kill the company. After that first sale, 99 percent of the work is still ahead of you."

The team worked trade shows, demonstrating their miracle product to hardware and construction experts, and entered their idea in competitions. They won events at BYU and placed second in the International Business Model Competition. But their biggest coup came in October 2013, when they were featured on TV's Shark Tank, where they convinced judge Lori Greiner to invest in their concept.

That led to multiple stints on QVC, where they sold 45,000 rolls of FiberFix in 10 minutes. The product is now carried at 10,000 retail locations, including Home Depot and Lowe's. More than 1.3 million rolls of FiberFix have been sold at $6 to $10 each.

Despite the success, Quinn and his business partners are dedicated to finishing their education, though on a more relaxed schedule.

"I was initially nervous that I wouldn't get enough support from my professors to do both things, but I haven't found a single one that wasn't excited about the opportunity and supported us," says Quinn, who hopes to expand the FiberFix product line over the next three to five years before selling the company. "BYU has lots of entrepreneurs and great talent. I think everyone here likes a good success story and wants to be a part of it in some way."

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Let's go to the tape

Lindsay Stewart was a TV news producer in Los Angeles before enrolling at the Wharton School's San Francisco campus in 2012. The idea was to get a few letters behind her name to help make her way up the ladder on the management side of the media business.

In one of her classes, students were asked to pitch a business idea. For several years, Stewart had been thinking about the inefficient ways news outlets acquire video footage. Deadline-focused assignment editors are often forced to buy tape sight-unseen from third-party stringers; at times they even contact people through YouTube. News stations go to air with whatever images they can find, good or bad. On the flip side, Stewart knew great photographers and videographers who missed out on work because they had no way to communicate directly with editors. And the payment process was equally slow and messy.

When she proposed her idea of an online exchange where editors could view and purchase news footage, and photographers (and the public) could show their work and find assignments, her classmates were intrigued. But it wasn't until fellow student Brian McNeill filled her Dropbox with plans and calculations that she realized her concept, which she dubbed Stringr, could be a viable business.

"It was having someone throwing their weight behind my idea that was the genesis of Stringr," Stewart says. "You can go to the best business-school program, but it's not so much about the academics as it is who sits next to you. Classmates helped write the business plan and build the tech stack. They gave me all that human capital for free, and that's what helped us launch Stringr."

Through the rest of their time at Wharton, Stewart and McNeill, both of whom graduated in May, refined their concept. They're now based at the San Francisco media accelerator Matter, where they have five engineers on contract. Stringr, which launched a three-month pilot in the San Diego news market in August, plans to roll out to several more pilot cities before expanding to newsrooms around the country.

Unlike other college entrepreneurs, who often have nothing to lose, Stewart, 34, and McNeill, 37, are taking big mid-career gambles with their startup. "I think doing something like this is totally different than when you're younger," Stewart says. "There are more risks--I sold my house to do this; I'm not taking a salary. But my contacts are wider and deeper; I'm able to navigate and sell to bigger companies. I'm not a 19-year-old selling a pipe dream."

McNeill, who tried to start a tech company during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, agrees that things are different this time around. "Without a network or capital to get you down those first 50 yards, starting a business is extremely difficult," he says. "At the same time, the opportunity loss is high. I walked away from a partner-track job at Ernst & Young. But leaving that behind has given me more confidence in what we're doing."

The founders agree that their entrepreneurship classes helped them clarify their once-hazy expectations. "One of our professors ended our class by giving us the stats on our education and experience," Stewart says. "He said less than 1 percent of the population was as prepared as [we were] to start a business, and he ended by saying he hoped we would try. That was very inspiring. This is not just an idea for me. I feel passionate about it."

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A global cure

For all the debate about healthcare in the U.S., it's easy to lose sight of the fundamental problems plaguing medical systems in other parts of the world. In developing countries, people often die from lack of basic medicines, blood or operable surgical equipment.

During one of her first classes at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, chemical engineering major Carolyn Yarina stumbled upon this reality. Assigned an open-ended engineering challenge, Yarina turned to a campus club that had recently surveyed rural health workers. One of the needs in Africa, the survey found, was a centrifuge that could run without electricity, allowing clinicians to diagnose and treat diseases in areas without power.

Yarina took on the challenge, and by the end of the semester she and a team of students created a human-powered centrifuge built from bicycle parts. It was a neat engineering feat, and Yarina didn't want the idea to die with the end of the class. So she created a student group called CentriCycle to continue work on the project. She also enrolled in entrepreneurship classes, including a practicum in social entrepreneurship, which convinced her to go to India for the first time.

"I learned a lot on that trip, which led to a lot of changes," she recalls. "I realized what they needed on the ground, and using a bicycle was not the best idea."

Returning to India over the next two summers, she refined her concept and developed contacts. After graduating in 2013, she worked on her centrifuge full time, eventually developing a portable machine dubbed (r)Evolve that can alternate between manual power and electricity. She also lined up engineering and manufacturing support in India.

But it dawned on Yarina that she needed to go further. "Once I created our student organization and started going to business classes, I had an epiphany," she says. "Open-source designs are not a viable option if you actually want to get your product out there. If it was just about creating a process to separate blood, we would have been done four years ago."

Early this year, she and CentriCycle member Katie Kirsch teamed up with another University of Michigan grad, Gillian Henker, who is developing Hemafuse, an auto-transfusion pump for blood. Together, they started Sisu Global Health, a socially conscious for-profit company, as a platform to deliver medical products designed specifically for the needs of developing countries. The centrifuge and auto-transfusion pump are their first two offerings.

"Eighty percent of medical products are designed for 10 percent of the world," Yarina explains. "Designing for that other 90 percent is what we want to do."

The 24-year-old says she never expected to be at the helm of a company, but she's glad her life has taken this turn. "During freshman orientation they took us on a tour of the Center for Entrepreneurship. I remember I couldn't wait to get out of there," she says. "I never thought I'd do anything with entrepreneurship. After learning how to turn this idea into something that could impact people's lives, I've realized entrepreneurship can be more about making an impact than making money."

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Three examples of great ideas with the right follow through.

Shawn Nason, Executive Director, Xavier Center for Innovation's curator insight, October 5, 2014 9:20 PM

These are great stories about student start-ups. I look forward to the day when we are writing about Xavier's student start-ups. 

Scooped by Marc Kneepkens

How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked my life up

How quitting my corporate job for my startup dream f*cked my life up | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Finally the SMS arrived:

“Tomorrow morning 5am, flight number AZ610 from Rome to NewYork.”

An SMS hitting my BlackBerry on Sunday evenings used to decide my destination and client for the coming week.

I was working for one of the top three global strategy consulting firms.

A life packed in a suitcase. A consulting life where you miss out on everything and everyone in life, except Excel spreadsheets. A fancy business life we are taught to be ideal slaves of, at top business schools whose degrees we are proud to hold.

After few hours of sleep, the private driver was taking me to the Rome Fiumicino airport so I could take my fancy business-class flight to NYC. Upon arrival, I was checking in to a fancy five-star hotel and heading to my client’s office afterwards.

The salary? It was fancy, too. The company was proud to be among the top payers of the industry.


There was something wrong with this consulting life, though. I couldn’t stand this bullsh*t any longer and one day I called my parents:

“Dad, mom, I just quit my job. I want to start my own startup.”

My mom almost had a heart attack. It wasn’t the first thing a perfectionist mother wanted to hear after encouraging me to graduate from the world’s top business schools with top grades.

I tried to ease her distress. No chance.

“Mom, I hate it. All these consultants are pretending to be happy and they are taking happiness pills. I get to sleep only 3–4 hours a day. All those benefits the company promised don’t exist. Remember the fancy five-star hotel? I am working almost 20 hours a day and I don’t even enjoy it. Fancy breakfast? We never have time to have that. Fancy lunch, dinner? It’s just a sandwich in front of our Excel spreadsheets.

Oh, by the way, instead of enjoying a champagne, I stare at spreadsheets during my entire business class flights, too. The fancy salary? I never have time to spend a single penny of it.

I hate my life, Mom, it’s such a loser life. I don’t even see my girlfriend. I can’t fake it anymore. I want to start my own business.”

My parents had retired after years of a 9–5 working routine at their secure and boring government jobs.

I knew that coming from a family with no entrepreneurial background, it would be difficult to explain my situation to them, but I didn’t expect the call next morning.

It was my mom on the phone:

“Sooooooooo, how is your business doing?! Is it growing?!”

No matter what I said, I couldn’t explain to her that a business needs more than one day to grow.

Girlfriend, Friends & Social Circle

Having had the most supportive girlfriend ever, it was now time I shared the news with my friends who were busy climbing the fancy career steps in the fancy corporate world.

I told everyone that I just quit my job to follow my startup dream. Some of my friends gradually stopped seeing me, probably because they thought there was something wrong with me since it was the second “fancy” job I had quit in a short period of time.

While the rest of my friends were supportive, there was, however, still something wrong with my relationship with them:

I soon realized I was starting to pull myself away from social gatherings.

Every time I met with those friends, I didn’t have many updates to give them in response to their repeated questions, such as, “So, how is your startup going? You are going to be the next Zuckerberg, right?” “Oh man, we are so proud of you and we are so sure you will soon receive a huge round of investment.”

Doing a startup was a long journey and I was putting myself under so much pressure by giving such a f*ck about what other people think.

Day by day, I was getting lonelier and more depressive as I avoided social occasions. My startup progress was not as fast as my social circle imagined it to be and I was fed up with telling people it took years for startups like Facebook and Twitter to arrive at where they are now.

The only comfortable place was next to my few entrepreneur friends. It was true, only an entrepreneur could understand an entrepreneur.

Cash, cash, cash.

As if the social pressure and loneliness were not enough, I was meeting the mother of all stresses: running out of cash much faster than I had imagined.

This was killing my productivity and ability to make proper decisions. I was panicking and rushing to be successful and to make money.

One day, I even found myself asking my girlfriend for a few cents because I had no money to buy bottled water. I didn’t know it was just the beginning of such a difficult life full of ups and downs…


Enough with the drama: more than two years have passed since those days. I am now writing this blog post in a beautiful resort in Phuket, Thailand, while enjoying my mojito.

Wait, I am not selling a dream. No, I haven’t become a millionaire startup founder.

However, my business has a constant stream of cash that allows me to travel the world and to work from wherever there is WiFi.

There are, however, five things I wish I had asked myself before starting this painful journey. Five questions I believe every future entrepreneur should ask himself before taking the first step to entrepreneurship:

1. Are you ready for the social pressure?

If you have friends and family who are not entrepreneurs, they won’t truly understand what you are trying to achieve and the public pressure will be even higher.

I cared so much about what other people think of me– so much that it ruined my life.

I was so hard on myself and punished myself with even more work so I could announce my success as soon as possible. That is, until the day I realized no one gave a f*ck about me, so why would I?

You are no more than a few seconds of attention other people give to a Facebook status. In 2014, no one has time to care about others in such a crowded, noisy world.

If you care so much about what others think, you will waste your time trying to prove that you are successful instead of focusing on your startup.

Get a life. I got mine quite late.

2. Are you single or do you have an extremely supportive partner?

As we grow up, we share more of our life with our partners than with our friends or family. While I was lucky to have such an amazing girl, it was so sad to see many of my entrepreneur friends breaking up with their girlfriends along the way.

Doing your own business is tough – way tougher than I could have ever imagined. Your mind is constantly f*cked up with a million things going on inside and no other person, including your girlfriend, has a single clue what is going on in there.

If you are not single, make sure your partner understands it’s sometimes normal not to have a mindset even for a simple kiss.

Yes, for a simple proper French kiss.

3. Do you have enough cash to last at least a year?

Good, then multiply that amount at least by three because you will be running out of your savings way faster than you ever imagined. Along the way, there will be so many hidden costs, accountant fees, lawyer needs, broken iPhones or PCs, etc.

Get ready for a smaller apartment, smaller food portions, or counting your cents, which you never cared about in your life previously.

The last few months before you totally run out of your cash will be especially difficult and the pressure will grow so exponentially that you won’t be able to sleep properly.

Success will come slowly, and cash will burn fast. Be smart – plan from day one.

4. Are you ready to sleep only few hours a day?

Having escaped from the corporate consulting world, I was thinking I was finally going to live the dream by working whenever I wanted to work – until I read Lori Greiner’s following quote:

“Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

It all started by little wake-ups in the middle of the night. At the beginning, it was because I was too excited about my ideas and I had so many of them. I simply couldn’t wait for the morning to arrive so that I could start working again.

Then came the exaggeration phase. I was working too much because I never had enough of working for my idea and I wanted to do more. However, the more I worked and the later I went to bed, the more difficult it was to fall asleep and the lower the quality of my sleep became.

As a result, at least two or three days of every week I was having days with almost no productivity.

Don’t be fooled by my fancy Instagram picture above. Don’t be fooled by over-hyped funding news about startup founders becoming millionaires.

The stories behind the scenes have so many painful days, sleepless nights, and continuous rejections and failures.

The journey to success is long. Very long. Very often, too long.

5. How do you define success?

Each of us has a different priority list in life. For most people, money is the number one priority on the list, while work-life balance ranks higher for others. Consequently, people define success differently.

Depending on your definition of success, the difficulty of your entrepreneurial journey will differ, too. If money and public success are what matters to you the most, you are likely to have a hard time along your journey.

Remember Hemingway’s wise words:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Successful entrepreneurs are not necessarily those who raise millions of investment rounds. Don’t forget, they are one in a million.

There are, however, thousands of dreamers out there who manage to bootstrap their startups or live so well off on their own, but even they do not make it to the top of tech news.

No matter how much your journey f*cks up your life or how difficult it will be, enjoy the ride and keep following your passion. As Tony Gaskin puts it perfectly:

“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.”

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Here is a fun article with some wise conclusions. Valuable warnings before starting the 'startup' life.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Ideas, Innovation & Start-ups

How To Know If Your Dumb Idea Will Change The World

How To Know If Your Dumb Idea Will Change The World | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

In 2005, along with colleagues Steve Newman and Claudia Carpenter, Sam Schillace created a browser-based word processor called Writely. A Silicon Valley darling, it was eventually acquired by Google and became the basis for Google Docs. Now the SVP of engineering at Box, a cloud storage and file sharing service, Schillace says that despite today's ubiquity of cloud-based computing, Writely was at first considered a bad idea and a waste of time.

"What I've learned over time is that creative, interesting ideas almost always look stupid at first," says Schillace. "It's really hard once one of these things emerges to think about what the world was like before it emerged. Now it's obvious, we're in the world of the cloud, Box is a cloud collaboration company, this is valued, Google Docs is obviously a good idea and it's hard to think about it not being a good idea." At the time, though, the only real dynamic cloud-based application was Gmail, and Office had essentially killed the competition space for productivity tools. "The road from Office was just completely littered with bodies," says Schillace. "So we were thinking about doing this thing in a browser, with crappy tools that no one has ever seen before, in a competitive area that everyone died when they tried to compete with, why would you do that?"

Schillace believed in the idea and wanted to experiment--but says the key to convincing his colleagues was to get the prototype up and running in a matter of days at almost no cost.

"All of my startups have entailed experiments and trials, and what I've learned over the years is you have to make them cheap," says Schillace. "There's this activation energy you have to get over, and if this energy is very small, if you say I'm not asking you to invest this month, but just a couple of days so we can try something to see how it feels, you have a very different ability to do that experimentation."

To do this with Writely, Schillace says he used pieces of other projects in progress, as opposed to building the idea from scratch. "It's a habit that I have after years of doing this stuff, when my partners and I work on technology, we always try to do it in a way that's reusable--your build environment should be something you're comfortable with, turn an old project into a new project and get it up and running immediately," he says. "We had a lot of pieces lying around that we reused. The first prototype of Writely was up in two or three days. We were working on a distributed bug tracking database, to make a better database for development, completely unrelated to the Writely stuff, but we used that as the basis."

It wasn't until the prototype was built, says Schillace, that they realized, "Oh, shit, because of the server, we can both be working on this document at the same time, that's actually really useful."

Schillace has carried this philosophy to Box, which has regular hack events to quickly activate new ideas that may suck. "It's a way of lowering the organizational cost to experiment, and giving people permission to do something that same day without having to ask or politic, just to see what happens," he says. "We also do these overnight hackathons, which are like sleepover competitions, which is another way to encourage people to take risks and sharpen their tools. You have about 24 hours start to finish, so you want your tools to already be sharp."

If what you get is 80% think it's the dumbest idea ever and should die in a fire, and 20% think it's the best thing they've ever seen, then you've probably got something.

Schillace says that even at companies focused on innovation, it's hard to convince others of the value of truly new things. "Whenever you see something that's truly creative or disruptive, it challenges your worldview. And when you're challenged like that, you have a choice either to accept the challenge, meaning that you are in some way wrong, or reject it, which is saying that the thing itself is wrong. So it's very rare that people will say, 'Oh I must be stupid because I didn't see this,' so usually people's first reaction is to reject them."

But before you give even a few days or dollars to a dubious idea, says Schillace, there are other things to look out for.

"One of the signals is to look for the pattern of how people respond to it," he says. "If you get a lot of 'Maybe that sounds okay,' you probably don't have a great idea. If what you get is 80% think it's the dumbest idea ever and should die in a fire, and 20% think it's the best thing they've ever seen, then you've probably got something."

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Via Justin Jones
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

New is by definition opposite of what is known or familiar. There is always resistance. I like the conclusion of this article.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from StartUP Times

How to start a startup?

How to start a startup? | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

"Success has a simple formula: do your best, and people may like it." (Sam Ewing) 

Why startup?

Not every new business is a startup. A newly opened café isn’t a startup, at least we don’t call it that way. Startups are usually dynamically developing companies all over the world with a high growth potential. Many think that mostly internet-related or technological developments fill this category, though there are innovative businesses working in the field of education, biotechnology, robotics, fashion, environmental management, energetics, renewable energy, green technologies, and manufacturing and packaging technologies too.

According to the basic definition, it’s a quickly developing business, based on a
good idea, usually younger than two years, in which the main value is represented by the innovative approach, the big idea or the technological innovation.

The innovation strategy planned until 2020 is separately dealing with the startups and the startup ecosystem growing from them, since the quickly growing starting businesses will be a significant part of the future’s economy.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

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Via Tamás Turcsán
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

What makes you a start up? This brief article provides a good definition.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Digital-News on Scoop.it today

How to Know When to Change Direction

How to Know When to Change Direction | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
There's something to be said for stick-with-it-ness, but most entrepreneurs stick with flawed ideas and plans way longer than they should.

This is Silicon Valley. Startups, founders and VCs are everywhere. You can’t walk down the street in Mountain View or Palo Alto without bumping into one or two successful entrepreneurs. And yet, they usually have one thing in common: this isn’t their first rodeo. In other words, their initial venture wasn’t the one that stuck.

Knowing when it’s time to quit and try something different is always tricky. The problem is, when you’re in the middle of it, there always seems to be one more thing to try. One more customer to call. One more investor to pitch. One more credit card to max out.

To read the full article, click on the title or image.

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Via Thomas Faltin
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Focus needs to stay with whatever you're doing. Keeping an eye on that is important. Sometimes mentors or or anyone who is looking at what you do from a slight distance have a better view. Keep on touching base with everyone, yourself included.

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3 Ideas Your Startup Can Steal From Warby Parker

3 Ideas Your Startup Can Steal From Warby Parker | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
By mapping Warb Parker’s success, you’ll find three sweeping, broad ideas your startup can steal and incorporate in its own business plan.

Every so often a company comes along and executes on a business plan so simple that it leaves thousands of would-be entrepreneurs on the sidelines asking one shared question, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Warby Parker, a stylish, high-end eyewear retailer, is one of those companies. Since 2010, the company has sold more than 500,000 pairs of glasses and become an inspiration for other aspiring businesses. 

How’d they do it in such a short amount of time? Their business’ plan was simple: offer a quality product that consumers feel good about buying, all at a price that wildly undercuts the competition. Now, that isn’t exactly a world-shattering idea. But what’s noteworthy, and what your business should pay attention to, is the way Warby Parker has succeeded in bringing its vision to life.

To read the full article, click on the image or title.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Startups are all about innovation, doing things differently. This one really nailed it. There are some great things to learn here.

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Rescooped by Marc Kneepkens from Entrepreneurship, Innovation

Anyone Anywhere Can Build The Next Google -- There Are No Barriers

Anyone Anywhere Can Build The Next Google -- There Are No Barriers | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
A common excuse that entrepreneurs make for not being able to innovate is the lack of venture capital in their region.

A common excuse that entrepreneurs make for not being able to innovate is the lack of venture capital in their region. They argue that because investors are not ready to take a risk, they can’t succeed. Policy makers all over the world make the same excuse. Access to venture capital may have been a problem as recently as a decade ago, but is no longer an inhibitor. The cost of developing world-changing startups has dropped dramatically. With the exponential advances in technologies such as computing, storage, and sensors, entrepreneurs can do what only governments and big research labs could do before: solve big problems.

To read the full article, click on the title.

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Via Marylene Delbourg-Delphis
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Wow! Great article, must-read for startups and entrepreneurs. There is no more excuse for waiting to get the big funding check. Just do it!

Guillaume Decugis's curator insight, November 22, 2013 8:48 PM

Several good examples that show how dramatically the cost of creating breakthrough innovations has decreased.

Alba Redin's curator insight, December 1, 2013 7:07 AM

Successful entrepreneurship, who succeed? THose companies who are different, Game changers (they aim to compete on different terms), market entry and tey are in essense guerillas.

Ranjit Kovilinkal's curator insight, December 2, 2013 11:08 PM

The culture of big risk taking has to fall in place in India for something really big to emerge! Any comments?