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Early Stage Valuation - Mark S. Newton

Early Stage Valuation - Mark S. Newton | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Early stage valuation is a critical step for startups. 

Early stage investors care about the market and the team.

There’s really not a lot else to go on (e.g., traction, metrics, business model, LTV, user acquisition costs, etc.) at an early stage. You can talk until you are blue in the face about how defensible the technology that you and another guy hacked together over a weekend is, but no one cares. If you can build it in a weekend, so can someone else. Save your breath and the investor’s time.

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

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

There you have it! It's not the big idea, it's 'Execution'.

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5 Ways for Bootstrapped Startups to Get Through the First Year - Entrepreneur (blog)

5 Ways for Bootstrapped Startups to Get Through the First Year - Entrepreneur (blog) | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

In the eyes of an investor, a bootstrapped startup that has proven stable and successful within the first year is powerful.

 It not only raises confidence in the product and the leadership behind it, but also indicates that any invested money will likely not be thrown away.

Ultimately, when it comes to working with investors, it’s important to prove that a startup and the people behind it not only know how to spend money, but know how to bring in additional money.

To successfully bootstrap a company in its first year, it’s important to consider a few things:

1. Cut the nonessentials and focus on immediate needs. There is nothing more important to startup success than the talent that makes it all possible. Avoid any unnecessary expenses, such as office overhead or “frills,” to free up money to invest in better talent.

Virtual offices will allow team members to work together from anywhere in the world and are extremely cost-effective. Ultimately, cutting costs wherever possible will more likely enable worthwhile investment in a larger team, which will be the catalyst to growth for the company.

2. Focus on two types of talent: engineering and marketing. An innovative and savvy engineer knows the ins and outs of mobile apps and understands what users truly want and need. An intelligent and driven marketing professional understands the market and how to reach the desired target audience.

With these two power talents working side by side, any product has a good chance to be successful.

3. Don’t cut corners. Investors need to know the business and its leadership are stable and legit, so do everything by the book. Once they get involved, investors will want to see paperwork, as well as profits and losses and balance sheet reports right off the bat. This should be a priority from day one.

Find an accountant and purchase good accounting software to ensure that records are clear and corners are not cut. This will also allow for extra time to tend to other important matters within the startup.

4. Cover the legalities before it’s too late. It’s critical to ensure the product or app is covered and that there are no loopholes that would allow someone to steal its name or intellectual property once it takes off.

During the planning phases, when speaking to potential investors, partners, or developers, it’s also wise to use a confidentiality agreement to ensure everything stays within the four walls. Additionally, copyright any sketches, mockups or documentation of the product during development stages.

5. Utilize freelance consultants. Skilled freelance consultants offer additional niche talent only when it’s needed. Build and keep a solid list of trusted and intelligent freelancers who can be utilized when the time is right. With the extra cash flow freelancers provide, startups have more ability to hire the best full-time staff needed for success.

It’s no secret that the first year for a bootstrapped startup will have many highs and lows. Despite the uncertainty and exhilaration that comes with those highs and lows, it’s important to stay focused on what’s needed to get to the next step.

Eventually, those steps will likely lead to talking with investors to get the startup to the next level. Cutting no corners from the very first day, bringing on the best talent and preparing for failure and success will prove to an investor that the product and those behind it have what it takes to succeed.

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This Guy Is Launching 12 Startups in 12 Months | Business | WIRED

This Guy Is Launching 12 Startups in 12 Months | Business | WIRED | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Can’t get enough of that animated GIF where Oprah unleashes a swarm of bees on her studio audience? Or the one where some guy gets hit in the face by a trashcan? You’re in luck. Soon, a new startup called Gifbook will sell you some flip books that recreate your favorite animated GIFs, so that you can enjoy them even when away from your computer. Three books will set you back just $25.

That may sound like a gag from Silicon Valley, the spot-on TV parody of the tech world, but Gifbook is a honest-to-goodness internet service. It was founded by Pieter Levels—a 28-year-old Dutch programmer, designer, and entrepreneur—and it’s just one of several unexpected online services Levels has unleashed on the world.

Levels is on a quest to launch 12 “startups” in just 12 months, and he’s a third of the way home now. One, called Play My Inbox, gathers all the music it finds in your e-mail inbox into a single playlist. Another, called Go Fucking Do It, gives you a new way to set personal goals. Basically, if you don’t reach your goal, you have to cough up some cash to Levels. Gifbook, due to launch by the end of the month, is his fifth creation.

Levels represents everything that’s right about the state of the technology industry—or everything that’s wrong.

Launching one product a month would be a major endeavor for anyone, but Levels has ramped up the degree of difficulty. For one, he’s building all this stuff while traveling the world. He has no fixed address. Instead, he lives out of a single backpack and works from coffee shops and co-working spaces. And two, each of these “startups” is a one-man operation. “I do everything,” he tells WIRED from his current home, The Philippines. “I’m sort of a control freak.”

Depending on who you ask, Levels represents either everything that’s right about the state of the technology industry or everything that’s wrong. He’s self-motivated, ambitious, and resourceful, building each of these projects without any outside investment. But on the flip side, he’s yet another young white male making products that solve what many people see as trivial problems for an already privileged subset of the population, while ignoring larger issues like global warming and wealth disparity.

Worse, as a “digital nomad” who has left to West to create new tech gizmos in places like Thailand and Indonesia, some argue that he’s exploiting wealth disparity to his own benefit. But Levels no fool. He’s deeply aware of the contradictions in his work, and he’s trying hard to sort through them. He may or may not succeed.

Levels launched his first business entirely by accident. Five years ago, while studying at Rotterdam School of Management, he started uploading his own electronic music mixes to YouTube. His channel—called Panda Mix Show—did surprisingly well, and soon, other DJs were asking to upload their mixes too.

By the time he graduated in 2012, he was earning enough money from YouTube advertising to support himself. But he didn’t like being tied to some other company’s service—Google’s YouTube machine—and he wanted to build something more ambitious. And he was tired of his home town. So, when a friend pointed out that he could work from anywhere, he left.

In April 2013, Levels sold most of his possessions—everything that couldn’t fit into a single carry-on—and booked a flight to Thailand. It took him awhile to get any real work done. Several ideas fell by the wayside. “I’d work on them for a long time, trying to get them perfect, then I’d move on to the next thing,” he says. “I was always scared to launch.” He settled on the 12 Startups in 12 Days gimmick so that he would actually see his ideas through. This past March, he launched his first service, Play My Inbox.

Levels is a bona fide “digital nomad,” part of a growing community of professionals who travel from country to country, staying for about a month in each—depending on how long their visas last—while working for U.S. companies or running their own online businesses.

This movement was largely inspired by self-help author Tim Ferris and his book The Four Hour Work Week. Ferris encouraged Westerners to quit their day jobs and start online businesses while living in foreign countries where their dollars or euros would stretch further, and many followed his advice.

According to an Associated Press analysis of government data, 53 percent of recent college graduates in the U.S. were either unemployed or working jobs that didn’t require a degree. The situation in most European countries is at least as bad, and even as all these young people struggle to find a footing in the West, the cost of living in major cities is skyrocketing. It’s little wonder that some are seeking cheaper rents in foreign cities, where they can stretch their earnings from the gig economy further.

But some question whether this is a good thing. Though blogger Duff McDuffee, a frequent critic of Ferris and the “personal development” movement as a whole, says there’s nothing inherently wrong with travel, or trying to live cheaply, he argues that nomads like Levels should consider the bigger picture. “There’s sort of a colonial aspect to taking advantage of cheap labor and currency discrepancies,” he says.

Levels has friends who call him “neocolonialist.” And he sees their point. He worries that even though he spends money locally, he’s taking advantage of local infrastructure and government services—such as the protection of local police—without giving much back in the way of taxes.

The Good With the Scammy

Amarit Charoenphan, the founder of the Bangkok co-working space HUBBA, where about half the occupants are digital nomads, says these traveling entrepreneurs are pretty good for the local economy. And more importantly, he believes, they’re helping Bangkok grow its own tech startup community.

“They have the skills and the fortitude and the assets necessary to become a good startup founder or co-founder,” he explains. “They know what they’re doing. They can make money.”

He acknowledges, however, that some digital nomads, particularly those influenced by Ferris, aren’t running legitimate tech businesses. Instead, he says, they’re promoting scammy multi-level marketing schemes and e-books on how to make money online by, of course, selling e-books on how to make money online.

Levels says he has met many nomads that are part of this racket, but he says things are getting better. Many serious startups, such as live translation service Babelverse and link sharing service Buffer were founded by nomads, he points out, and many other travelers work as freelance designers or programmers and have skills they can share.

Minimum Viable Products

How much value are his “startups” are creating? That’s another open question. After all, Levels isn’t really creating 12 different companies. He’s building what people in tech land call “minimum viable products”—simple prototypes that can be used to gauge the level of interest in your idea.

The problem is that these rapid prototypes created by 20-something year old software developers tend to only address the needs of a small group of people—namely other 20-something year-old software developers with money to burn. What we end up with is an endless procession of apps and services with pitches like “Uber for laundry.”

Levels ideas tend to fit this mold. One of his startups is called NomadList, a leaderboard of the cheapest cities to work from for one month. In other words, it’s a site for people just like him. It’s hard to imagine the next General Electric emerging from this bootstrapped approach to building companies—let alone something that solves global issues like hunger or poverty.

But for Levels, this is about learning and experimentation. And it’s working out—at least for him. Just Fucking Do It has attracted acquisition offers and inquiries from investors. NomadList, his most successful product to date, was profitable on the first day, even though he didn’t even know what the business model would be until after launched it. As turns out, people wanted to advertise jobs on the service.

He hopes that, eventually, he can do something that would have a far bigger impact, and perhaps his travels will help him figure out what. “You have to start somewhere,” he says. “I’d love to create more meaningful products that have a significant impact on the world, but how can I if I can’t afford to pay my own rent first?”

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great story of a digital nomad who is teaching people around him how to get profitable very quickly and pay for his expenses while seeing the world. At the same time he learns about business and finding products that are worth being marketed.

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Stop Confusing Small Businesses and Startups

Stop Confusing Small Businesses and Startups | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Small businesses and startups often get lumped together but they're different ventures with vastly different goals, and that means they need different things to thrive.

The words “startup” and “small business” seem interchangeable enough – startups often start out small, after all – except they’re not.

And the differences have major implications for the best approach to helping San Diego startups thrive.

Many small business owners start a company with the help of a bank loan or their own money and are immediately focused on sustainability. They hire a handful of employees and want to quickly be viable enough to pay their bills.

Startups tend to follow a different path. They start small but they’re bent on explosive growth. An entrepreneur has an idea she hopes will make a massive impact, seeks out multiple investors and potentially, millions of dollars in profits. The payoff may be years away. For most, it never comes.

“When the startup is in that small phase they’re still not structured or acting like or financed like a small business,” said Brant Cooper, an Encinitas-based startup connoisseur who co-wrote the New York Times bestseller “The Lean Entrepreneur.”

Their eye is on an eventual stock market launch instead of simply staying local like most small businesses.

Still, misunderstandings abound. Even publications that are presumably experts on business can amplify the confusion.

Take a March Forbes ranking. San Diego ranked No. 1 on the magazine’s list of best places to launch a startup. The metrics behind that ranking – and the article itself – only referred to small businesses, though. San Diego boosters who touted the first-place finish described the city as the best place to open a startup or a small business. Or both.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer used the terms interchangeably in a press release:

“It’s no secret to San Diego’s entrepreneurs and startup community that San Diego is a great place to start a business. This is just a reminder that we need to continue to foster a fertile environment for small businesses to grow.”

But a fertile environment for small businesses isn’t necessarily a fertile environment for startups.

Startups have a host of concerns that don’t match most small businesses’ needs. They start with an innovative idea and may want office space or guidance from others as they develop it. They need outside capital, a concept that many startup founders have said is a particular challenge here.

Most local government programs aren’t geared toward helping them get these things.

Cities including San Diego have long catered their loan programs, seminars and other offerings toward small businesses.  There are also industry groups that can offer advice to small businesses.

Then there’s the issue of speed. Businesses often bemoan waiting games when it comes to government but startups are intent on growing at a much swifter clip than most companies.

So many small business programs that might be helpful to startups just don’t move fast enough, startup evangelist and consultant Gabriela Dow said.

Startups burn through cash quickly and may need funding or additional office space in an instant. Government entities generally can’t offer that.

“A lot of the programs take too long and the startups just can’t wait that long,” Dow said.

They can work sometimes.

Carlsbad has touted early success with its Bio, Tech and Beyond incubator, a city-owned building outfitted with lab equipment and machinery that’s hosting local startups.

And in 2008, Barrio Logan startup New Leaf Biofuel received a $590,000 loan from the San Diego Regional Revolving Loan Fund, which is supported by funds from the federal government as well as San Diego and Chula Vista.

Deputy Chief Operating Officer David Graham, who oversees San Diego’s economic development department, argued the city has more to offer startups than entrepreneurs realize.

“In many cases, these folks never engaged with the city and never realized there would be something we could help with,” he said.

Much of the city’s startup work thus far has focused on collaboration with other groups. For example, it’s offered grant funding to a few, including EvoNexus, an incubator that offers free rent space for young startups.

Graham said Faulconer wants to step up those efforts. His administration signed onto a White House-promoted Mayors Makers Challenge and is organizing a committee to promote manufacturing entrepreneurship. They’re also directly asking the tech startup crowd how they can help.

The No. 1 takeaway from those conversations? Incentives are nice but promotion is more important, at least for now.

A mayor’s office spokesman said Faulconer will soon announce initiatives to spotlight San Diego innovators and help them grow.

Yashar Ahmadpour, CEO of scheduling app startup CrowdClock, is one of the entrepreneurs offering input to the mayor’s office. He’s also one of a handful of CEOs behind localstartups.co, a group that aims to foster greater connectivity and awareness about the local startup scene.

He’s convinced city politicians’ bullhorns could be key.

Greater public awareness of San Diego’s startup scene could not only attract new companies but also discourage talent coming out of UC San Diego and other local universities from bolting to the Bay Area, he said.  It could also mean greater investment in San Diego startups.

Ruprecht von Buttlar, who leads the nonprofit Connect’s Springboard program for science and technology companies, said the latter need is most dire.

“We need to find a way to showcase our technology in a way that makes Bay Area investors look to San Diego for possible investments,” von Buttlar said.

The mayor might help, von Buttlar suggested, by hosting a large-scale innovation trade show to draw attention from out-of-town funders.

He thinks the city should fund a staffer who acts as a go-to for startups, similar to the city’s small business ambassador. That person could help the city strategize and identify which startups merit city investment as well as answer questions about city resources or incentives.

Of course, opinions vary on how much government should wade in. Some startup founders say they’d prefer the city and state government to stay out of their business altogether.

Others like Ahmadpour want city leaders to better understand their unique needs so they can adapt programs, incentives and promotional campaigns to specifically boost local startups. They’ve also rallied behind a proposal to convert the old Central Library into a startup incubator.

And they point to moves in New York and elsewhere to roll out the red carpet for startups.

New York state, for example, kicked off a program that allows startups and more traditional companies to avoid taxes for up to a decade if they settle in certain zones. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee debuted a high-profile entrepreneurship-in-residence program that aims to have city workers and startups team to improve city services.

Up to this point, Ahmadpour said, the city hasn’t necessarily hampered San Diego startups but it also hasn’t tailored its economic development approach to help them.

“They’re not in our way but they also haven’t been making things easier,” Ahmadpour said.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

It's good to see an article that spells out the exact difference between startups and small businesess. Even though all the hype these days goes to startups, most new businesses starting up are simply 'small businesses'.

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Kickstarter, Indiegogo Are This Era's DEMO for Startups

Back in the 90's and 2000's DEMO was THE event where new companies, products and ideas came to life, generating previously unattainable levels of interest, media coverage and attention from investors that led to funding. And with it, came the anticipation of when the product would come to life.

Now, today, companies no longer need to raise the money needed to go to DEMO or other events "launchpad" like events because they now go the crowdfunding route by launching their ideas and dreams on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. In turn those two companies have disintermediated the entire "startup" model as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the new launchpad for ideas where those ideas are getting funded.

Even with TechCrunch flattening the "demo" launch model with no fee demonstration costs with Disrupt never opened the playing field up like crowdfunding has today. But the idea of needing to launch at an event around new technology has seen its day in the sun.

Recently, I cofounded Velocity Growth, a company that works with startup to propel them and their ideas, while providing guidance, strategy and direction to enable the idea to actually get launched. Working and watching companies like Spark Aerial get their wings, kick off a campaign on Kickstarter and see the goal get reached in five days is personally heartwarming.

But what we're also seeing is how campaigns really done right generates the kind of publicity and interest from the eco-system that leads to business and corporate development. And we're seeing that already, before the campaign is even over. But when a campaign is executed right a whole lot more will come from it as the news coverage below indicates:

Xconomy San Diego


National Journal

Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch

Here's the Spark Aerial campaign link on Kickstarter:

What this also means is the business plan of yesterday is being replaced by the crowdfunding plan today, so without a proper crowdfunding campaign plan about all that gets accomplished is the same as getting up on stage at DEMO and hoping someone pays attention.

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Via marcduke
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Crowdfunding is adding a new dimension to business. It's not only the  funding aspect, there is much more to it.

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Mark Cuban’s 12 rules for startups by Illumination Consulting

Mark Cuban’s 12 rules for startups by Illumination Consulting | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Over the weekend Mark Cuban published his thoughts about what it takes to be great in business, boiled down to six fundamental practices. But for startups in particular, Cuban has a few extra pointers.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Good advice for startups.

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Sixteen Year Old Anaya Tipins Wins First Place for Startup and an Award for One of the Three Most Powerful Women at MIT’s Launch Program | Articles | INDIA New England

Sixteen Year Old Anaya Tipins Wins First Place for Startup and an Award for One of the Three Most Powerful Women at MIT’s Launch Program | Articles | INDIA New England | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Sixteen Year Old Anaya Tipins Wins First Place for Startup and an Award for One of the Three Most Powerful Women at MIT’s Launch Program

This summer, Anaya Tipnis, a 16 year old rising junior at Needham High School started a company with three other students at a prestigious MIT program called Launch. MIT Launch is a highly selective summer program where 40 talented high school students from all over the world are invited to stay on campus, go through a rigorous 4 week program to learn about entrepreneurship and launch businesses.

Tipnis co-founded Commisi, a web platform that bridges the divide between skilled high school developers and startup companies. Through her venture, teens can gain hands-on experience and earn money working on real world projects. In turn, budding startups utilize the next generation's creative minds to develop their company's products and services. In just 4 weeks, Commisi signed up 10+ interested high school developers and secured 5 letters of intent from local companies, including one affiliated with Museum of Science.

In Tipnis' session, eleven teams competed with one another. They brainstormed ideas, developed concepts, tested the customer and market needs, and executed within a short duration of four weeks. At the end of four weeks, eleven companies presented at the Kirsch auditorium to a panel of judges which included successful and influential business leaders and entrepreneurs. Tipnis's company Commisi was awarded first place for Startup with the Best Execution. Tipnis was the CEO of their team of four; along with Sohom Paul from India (CMO), David Yuan from Texas (CFO), and Alex Yu from Maryland (CTO). Tipnis was also a proud recipient of an award for One of the Three Most Powerful Women at the program.

Tipnis was interested in entrepreneurship from an early age. She would often tag along with her father to local WebInno conferences in Boston, where local startups presented their ventures to the community. Learning from her experience, Anaya believes entrepreneurship is a key skill all teens should have. She explains that it allows a student to harness their passion and creativity and solidify them into an actual business.

Through this experience and service, Tipnis hopes to inspire local students to pursue STEM-related activities and find exciting opportunities for work and experience while in school. Her vision is that Commisi would be used as a go-to academic platform for teens to find opportunities, ranging from research and data entry to video and song composition. She plans to bring Commisi to Needham High, in order to give teenagers the creative freedom to find opportunities suited to their interests.

Here is a brief Q-A with Tipnis:

INDIA New England News: How did you get interested in entrepreneurship?
I have always been intrigued by the start-up world. My dad himself is an entrepreneur, so I would frequently see him working in his basement when I was younger, developing a venture with his partners. I thought that his drive to get a company up and running himself was admirable, especially being in elementary school, when we were told without thought that becoming a doctor or lawyer was the best profession.

In addition, Boston is home to a diverse range of startups, and it was inspiring to see that people were able to turn a dream into a tangible company. It showed me that entrepreneurship allows a person to both work independently and contribute towards the community, and I think that this combination is liberating. Originally, I never saw myself as an entrepreneur; I dreamed of becoming a journalist or a neurologist. But once I realized I had the potential to shape my future by pursuing personal, innovative ideas, I decided to look into entrepreneurship as a potential career choice.

INE: What do you want to do after studies?
Although I enjoy entrepreneurship, I definitely want to be able to go to college and learn more about other fields of study. I especially love learning about aerospace and aviation, because I see that space travel is a growing market and an expansive field for innovative technologies. Working for a disruptive company like SpaceX would be a dream come true. In addition, I want to be able to apply the entrepreneurial skills I've learned after my studies. Teaching about the logistics of the startup process in India, Malaysia, and other parts of the world would be a humbling experience. I really believe that by learning how to maintain businesses, especially for young women, people can benefit tremendously in terms of self-sufficiency. I envision a world where everyone can do what they love, and I think entrepreneurship lends that freedom.

INE: What advise you will give to your other students?
My advice to other students is to find your passions. From a young age, we are told how the world works, and to squeeze ourselves inside those limitations and make do with what is available. I say that despite your age, you have the potential to broaden your horizons and do what you enjoy if you love to learn and soak up knowledge like a sponge. It is never too early to explore career opportunities and areas of interest; don't be afraid to put yourself out there and discover what you are happy doing. Steve Jobs once said, "If you don't love something, you're not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much". Go out and challenge the status quo!

INE: When you are not studying or working, what do you do? What are your hobbies?
When I am not studying/working, I love to play and compose music on the piano and guitar. During the Launch camp, we would frequently gather on late nights and pour ourselves into a song. Music is a wonderful means of de-stressing and showcasing passion, and it's definitely a hobby of mine. I also enjoy playing basketball, creative writing, and public speaking. In addition, the entrepreneurs I met during Launch also said that cooking is a great hobby to pursue - so I'm looking into that as well.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Amazing story.

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3 Energy Companies Investing In Startups

3 Energy Companies Investing In Startups | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

As recently reported, NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) is acquiring Goal Zero, a company that makes portable solar battery chargers.

The deal is just the latest in a growing trend of energy companies acquiring innovative startups, in an effort to diversify and expand their markets. Here are some recent examples.

Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A)

Back in 2010, Shell acquired a stake in Virent Energy Systems -– a Wisconsin-based company that creates chemicals and fuels from “biomass-derived” sugars.

In 2012, using technology licensed from Virent, Royal Dutch Shell built a next-generation biofuels pilot plant at Shell's Westhollow Technology Center in Houston.

The pilot plant “allows us to explore further biofuels options as we continue to actively manage our advanced biofuels pathways to identify a feasible set of commercial solutions,” Luis Scoffone, Vice President, Alternative Energies at Shell, said at the time.

Virent also has partnerships with Cargill, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Navy, the USDA and the U.S. Department of Energy.

SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY)

While Elon Musk is best known for the Tesla electric car and his SpaceX chimerical space venture, he's also chairman of Solar City, one of America's largest installers of rooftop solar power systems.

And this past June SolarCity announced its acquisition of Silevo, a solar panel technology and manufacturing company.

In a blog co-signed by Musk, SolarCity said the company was in discussions with New York officials regarding the construction of a manufacturing plant in the state, a facility that within the next two years “will be one of the largest solar panel production plants in the world.”

“If we don’t do this, we felt there was a risk of not being able to have the solar panels we need to expand the business in the long term,” Musk said during a June conference call.

Pacific Gas and Electric (NYSE: PCG)

Also known as PG&E, the company is one of the biggest combined natural gas/electric utilities in the country -- supplying natural gas and electricity to an estimated 15 million people in north and central California.

In 2009 PG&E signed a contract with BrightSource Energy, a designer, developer and distributor of solar thermal technology, to create seven solar power projects that would produce an overall total of 1,310 megawatts (MW) of solar thermal power.

But the relationship hasn't always been to plan. Last year, PG&E canceled a plan to purchase power from two BrightSource plants, citing “uncertainty around the timing of transmission upgrades,”

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Chinese startups get taste of Silicon Valley with TechCrunch

Chinese startups get taste of Silicon Valley with TechCrunch | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
San Francisco-based TechCrunch brought a taste of Silicon Valley to Beijing this week, with more than 50 startups showcasing their innovations to tech fans and investors at a two-day event in the Chinese capital.

Beijing (CNN) -- San Francisco-based TechCrunch brought a taste of Silicon Valley to Beijing this week, with more than 50 startups showcasing their innovations to tech fans and investors at a two-day event in the Chinese capital.

The conference attracted some of the most forward-thinking and dynamic Chinese technology wannabees, including ANTVR, a wearable gaming device company.

The startup attracted a long line of visitors eager try out its very first product, ANTVR kit.

Consisting of a headset and a controller, ANTVR claims the kit can provide a "fully immersive experience" by projecting a high-definition image onto users' retinas without distortion and provide an experience similar to an IMAX movie.

During the demo, the player is thrown into a pitch-dark room and told to find the source of a sound, which leads to a pale ghost with blood trickling down her face.

Qin Zheng, founder of ANTVR said the kit is compatible with all major gaming consoles and will hit both Chinese and overseas markets by the end of the year.

The 27-year-old said ANTVR went through the same difficulties as many startups in China — it was hard to find proper platforms to release products and raise funds.

Qin founded the company half a year ago, and to get started raised initial funding of $231,095 on U.S. crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

"Fund-raising is hard (here). I think this is why everybody rushes to crowdfunding sites," Qin said.

Lu Gang, head of Technote, TechCrunch's partner in China said that Chinese startups face a unique set of challenges.

"I think Chinese startups (face) much tougher competition, like copies," said Lu. "We've found so many copycats."

By bringing TechCrunch to China, Lu hopes to bring the originality and creativity that Silicon Valley is known for and inspire Chinese companies to invent something that "really makes a difference."

"I think the TechCrunch brand obviously stands for original work for entrepreneurs, and for creating something out of nothing, which is ideal. I think this is what everybody's striving for," says Lu.

"We want to encourage people here to be truly innovative instead of copying."

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9 startup companies perfect for your family

9 startup companies perfect for your family | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

It’s a new age for startup companies, and your family may reap some benefits from them.

Right now, the United States is adding 20 million new businesses every year, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity. And, according to The New York Times, many of these startups — between 25 and possibly even 40 of them — are worth more than $1 billion. So, yeah, they're big.

Which of these startups are the most relevant to your family? Here’s a list of nine startup companies that your family might find helpful:

For Pley, everything is awesome. The California-based startup company rents Lego sets out to families for minimum prices — ranging between $15 and $40 a month, according to Entrepreneur — giving kids a chance to test out their desired Lego set before making the full commitment with a purchase.

This French-Romanian startup is all about helping families interact. Called Hubert, the company helps the elderly connect with their families from across the world, according to expatica.com. This is help for the 37 percent of people over the age of 80 who go online, as the Pew Research Center noted.

Frameri is as startup as they come. It began as a Kickstarter campaign, but soon grew with the help of the co-founder of AOL. Now, the company is helping people swap their eyeglasses, according to The Cincinnati Business Courier. You change the frames, and they change the lenses. Simple.

ULTRA Testing
Though ULTRA Testing isn’t exactly helpful because it just tests software, it does accommodate families by hiring those with autism. Business Insider recently ran a rather popular piece about how the company hires employees who have autistic characteristics, since they have natural capabilities and aptitudes that others don't.

Want to get rid of that weird sound in your car or figure out when you’ll need gas? The startup Automatic, based out of San Francisco, is helping people do just that. Fox News Business reported this month on how the app helps people save the $3,000 they spend annually on their cars just by informing them of their gas usage, braking and speeding habits.

Jibo is just what your family needs to see those old photos or help out around the house. Deseret News National reported earlier this month about the robot that can help you tuck your kids in at night or even help you wash your clothes — perfect for any working parent.

KNO Clothing
KNO Clothing is good for families for two reasons. The first reason: It can get you the clothes you need. The other? Its aim is to help end homelessness. With each purchase, the company donates to a number of organizations that aid homeless people across the country. For the 75 percent of people who are donating, this startup makes giving all the easier.

Kurbo Health
Want to help your child fight obesity? Kurbo Health may be the key. This app helps kids keep track of the food they're snacking on by engaging them with fun and interactive games. This may be a good app for some families whose kids aren’t aware they’re actually overweight — which is a common trend, according to the Centers for Disease Control — and for those who are a part of the ongoing rise in obesity.

Think movie theater prices are a drag? Well, instead of trying to save on snacks, you many want to try Dealflicks, which offers both tickets and concessions online for lesser prices. The company offers coupons and myriad offers to help you save at the box office.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Startups don't always have to be tech companies. Here are some great ideas for products/services for families.

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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.

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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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Incubated: How The 500 Startups Accelerator Helps Startups Get Noticed | TechCrunch

Incubated: How The 500 Startups Accelerator Helps Startups Get Noticed  | TechCrunch | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

It's only been around a short three years, but the 500 Startups Accelerator has already cemented its spot as one of the top programs for founders who are  looking to improve their products and reach new users. Now graduating more than 100 new companies per year, the program has historically done a great job of including international startups.

500 Startups runs four accelerator classes each year, running a 12-week program of about 30 companies in each batch. The program operates as an incubator in which startups all work together within the same office space, with access to staff and mentors to help them grow their business.

The accelerator is particularly strong in helping startups to understand their internal metrics and distribution, helping them to market their products and services more efficiently. And it’s got a strong background in helping companies about design and improving their product.

It’s also been great for international companies, many of which get their first exposure to what it’s like to operate in Silicon Valley. The program helps them to understand their audience from a global perspective, and helps them to figure out the best way to reach users around the world.

To find out more, check out the video above (link below), where I talk to partners, mentors, and some founders who have been through the program.


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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

First of a series of videos on incubators.

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How To Raise Venture Capital

How To Raise Venture Capital | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs need funding to launch or grow their nascent companies, and some will seek the support of venture capitalists (VCs) to fulfill their ambitions. For many entrepreneurs, myself included, pitching to potential investors is far from an enjoyable task; at times, it can even appear to be a wasted effort. According to this report, venture capitalists provided $29.5 billion in funding to 3,382 businesses in 2013, so they have earned an unfortunate reputation as a necessary evil in the startup world.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly first-time founders, don’t know how to engage or attract potential investors. Inexperienced entrepreneurs employ a blanket approach by giving the same rehearsed spiel to any venture capitalist who is willing to listen. In the end, nobody wins.

My current company, Retention Science, is my third business endeavor, and through the course of raising money for three companies, I learned firsthand how arduous and difficult the fundraising process could be. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. The negative stigma associated with securing funding isn’t a given; it doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking ordeal, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a perpetual disappointment.

I’ve learned a few key tactics that can prove invaluable when pitching a company to prospective investors.

Don’t Talk To Everybody

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not wise to pitch to anybody who will listen (though it is understandably difficult to say no to meetings). Your time is just as valuable as the VCs and you should only meet with VCs who specialize in your field.

It is also critical to identify the right partner to pitch to within a VC. Every partner has different investment interests, styles and seniority within the firm. Start by targeting ones who are most likely to be interested in your company.

When I started Retention Science, we listed ourselves on AngelList, a popular funding platform for startups, and received around 25 intro requests, but we only took meetings with a select few that made sense for our company. For instance, I met with Katherine Barr at Mohr Davidow Ventures because of their proven track record with successful B2B enterprise companies like Rocket Fuel  and Rally Software. They also had a known venture partner, Geoffrey Moore, who authored Crossing the Chasm, a respected publication on selling and marketing high-tech products like ours.

Look Into Your Own Network

One way to filter the investors you should meet up with is to target people who you already know, either directly or indirectly. After all, it is much easier for VCs to take an aspiring entrepreneur seriously when introduced by someone they already trust or know.

For instance, Andy Rankin, one of our earliest Angel Investors, introduced me to Kirsten Green, the founder of Forerunner Ventures. At the time, I wasn’t actively seeking capital, and I had instead hoped to be given the opportunity to work with her impressive list of portfolio companies, including Bonobos, Warby Parker and Birchbox. As we continued discussions, however, Kirsten realized that many of her commerce-based portfolio companies had the exact same needs that Retention Science was addressing. Our conversation quickly shifted away from a sales angle to a fundraising one because Kirsten was interested in being a part of the company. The shift was very serendipitous and natural once we realized that we’d be great partners with each other. But if it weren’t for the initial connection by Andy, we’d have never met Kirsten in the first place.

Research, Research, and Research More

Pitching to investors involves making a personal connection and telling a story they can relate to from their own investment experiences. A successful pitch is not only about the idea; it is about helping the investors to see your vision, size up the market, and, most importantly, foresee a profitable business model. Assuming you already know everything there is about your industry, make sure you thoroughly research everyone you will be speaking to so you can identify ways to connect on a personal level.

Whenever I confirmed a meeting with prospective investors at VC firms, I would thoroughly research all the partners who I might speak to. I familiarized myself with their previous investments, their philosophies, and their LinkedIn profiles, and I drafted notes and questions based on this information.

By the time I actually arrived at the meeting, I was able to modify my pitch to reflect the specific investment and professional experiences of the partners who were present. By the time I pitched for Retention Science, I convinced four partners from Mohr Davidow to sign on with us within a 24 hour span, the quickest turnaround I’ve ever had.

Be Yourself

When pitching to investors, it can be all too easy to revert to a façade of no-nonsense professionalism. However, it is important to remember to be yourself and to act natural. After all, as much as partners invest in an idea, they also invest in people.

As the saying goes, you are only human, so relax. It will make it much easier to demonstrate your knowledge of the problem you are trying to solve, your expertise in the market you are trying to enter, and your genuine excitement to create a viable, profitable solution.

Investors are trained to see through the “smoke and mirrors” of superficiality. They are generally good judges of character regardless of how you present yourself. So the best bet is to go into a meeting as yourself. An advisor once recommended that I pitch myself and my business differently to compensate for my youth and my enthusiasm, which, I was told, made me seem inexperienced and desperate. I tried to modify my actions accordingly, but in the end, I realized that I wouldn’t want to partner with an investor who wasn’t willing to work with me as I am.

You Can’t Control Everything, Such As Timing & Luck

Timing is everything in life, and it no different for fundraising. The outcome of many interactions with investors will hinge on the timing of the meeting. Some factors are beyond your control. If a VC just concluded a successful investment with a company similar to your own, they are more likely to look favorably on your proposal. But if they just came out of a lengthy board meeting, you may have difficulty capturing their full attention. Though you have no way of knowing an investor’s state of mind, you can at least do a little casual probing to gauge their mind frame before you launch into your pitch, and adjust accordingly.

There are some factors that you can control. If a VC gets in touch with you about setting up a meeting, be prompt to respond. You’ll be more likely to guarantee yourself an optimal time slot. Also, make sure to show up earlier than your meeting time. With luck, you may be able to snag a few extra minutes of time to pitch your company.

It is also critical to remember that VCs are generally busy people with jobs and lives outside of their meetings, so it will likely be difficult for them all to gather in a single room and agree to place their money in a certain company. The decision-making process is often delayed, so remain patient. At the same time, while persistence is always good, avoid resorting to obsessive emails or phone calls, which can quickly morph into annoyance.

Follow Up and Perform Due Diligence

Fundraising is not rocket science, yet many entrepreneurs drop the ball when closing a deal. Remember that a verbal commitment is not the same as a signed agreement, so keep working with your partners until the money is in the bank.

Until the partnership is legally finalized, make sure you attentively and directly answer all of the requests that come your way—investors take everything into account when forming their impression of you, and they are probably taking notes on how well you respond to their additional requests when handling the final steps of the fundraising process. Expect to receive numerous follow-up requests of all types, and respond to them in a thorough, timely, and professional manner.

Final Thoughts

Fundraising has developed a negative stigma, possibly because entrepreneurs see it as a necessary evil and a stressful ordeal. But it does not have to be the case. Fundraising involves more than just securing financial support – it also entails working with the right partners who can take a company to new heights. So rather than fear the process of raising money, cherish the learning experience and revel in the opportunity to make new connections.

Though it may sound cliché, fundraising is much like getting married. Your partner provides not only financial support; they also lend you their expertise, time, and invaluable advice. Our investors at Retention Science visit our office frequently enough to be called honorary team members, and having them around constantly reminds me that they are so much more than sources of capital. When you can feel that way about your investors, you’ll know you’ve made the right partnership.

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The Aha Moment - How Entrepreneurs Realized What To Do In Life

The Aha Moment - How Entrepreneurs Realized What To Do In Life | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Before any entrepreneur became successful there was a time they did not know what to do. And then the aha moment happened. How?

About 2200 years ago Archimedes stepped into his bath and exclaimed, “Eureka!”


It was a moment of sudden discovery. The eureka effect. A moment of deep insight. It’s an epiphany which translates as “striking appearance.” In that moment a previously unsolvable problem becomes suddenly clear and obvious.

Before The Aha Moment

Life can be divided into two periods. Before you know why you are alive and after. In between there is just a single moment – the Aha! moment. One brainwave that turns a person into a person on a mission.

Here we show the moments that turned famous people onto their missions. Even though for them it was a process to get to that moment, there was a catalyst that one day made them say, “Aha!”

What Makes Us Aha

What brings the Aha moment?

Inconvenience. GoPro founder who struggled to take a picture of himself while surfing.

Limited resources. Ikea founder could not fit a table in his small car, so he thought to take off the legs.

Pain and tragedy. Samuel Morse received a letter about his wife’s illness after she was already buried. Letters took a long time back then. He raced to see her, but it was too late. Grief-stricken, he decided to forever change how people talk to each other and invented the telegraph.

The aha moment comes at different ages. Here are a few examples. Is it ever too late to have the aha moment? Some entrepreneurs had them well into their fifties. Were they thinking it was never too late?

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Via Justin Jones
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Nice chart and some interesting facts.

Change Impetus's curator insight, August 1, 5:51 AM

With all of the resources available today, I believe more entrepreneurs  can pursue their AHA life forms than ever.

Barbara Alevras, PMP's curator insight, August 1, 6:40 AM

I think this is kinda fascinating. Have you had your "Eureka Moment" or are you still waiting? 

M. Philip Oliver's curator insight, August 1, 2:14 PM

Thanks to Justin Jones

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Incubated: Y Combinator's Approach To Finding And Helping Startups Become Big Winners

Incubated: Y Combinator's Approach To Finding And Helping Startups Become Big Winners | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Y Combinator is the most famous of all startup accelerators out there, thanks to success of companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, all of which have gone through its program. YC co-founder Paul Graham once referred to the process of finding and nurturing those big hits as “Black Swan Farming.”

But how does YC do it? What sets it apart from some of the other accelerators out there, and why does it seem like its alumni companies are disproportionately successful? With the latest episode of Incubated, we set out to find out.

At first glance, Y Combinator doesn’t look that different from most accelerators in part because it defined the category. Founded in 2005, its success has inspired multiple other programs to copy its 12-week format of weekly meetings, partner office hours, and access to alumni and mentors from the tech world.

But one of the things that sets it apart from other accelerators is just the depth and breadth of knowledge that exists within its network. In part, that stems from running for so long — there are about 1,500 YC alums available to learn from. And many of those alumni end up becoming the first partners or customers for startups in a current class.

While startups are expected to have their own space, Y Combinator companies meet weekly on Tuesdays to catch up, discuss their progress, and learn from famous entrepreneurs who are invited to talk about their own challenges in scaling up their businesses. It also hosts a series of other events, like Y Combinator Startup School, that are open to entrepreneurs who wish to attend.

One other thing that sets it apart is the selection process: YC takes online applications to help screen applicants, but bases its decision mostly on one 10-minute interview with the accelerator’s partners. It looks for founders who have deep domain expertise, and companies that can be big outliers in different technology.

Y Combinator just opened applications for its winter class this week.

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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Y Combinator has pioneered this approach and keeps on creating success stories.

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28 Mistakes Startups Make When Pitching To Investors

28 Mistakes Startups Make When Pitching To Investors | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
As a venture capital and angel investor who has heard many pitches, I’ve compiled a list of mistakes and things to avoid if you are an entrepreneur seeking angel or venture financing.

Entrepreneurs from early stage startups have to pitch to investors to raise financing, and many entrepreneurs are inexperienced or terrible at making the presentation. As a venture capital and angel investor who has heard many pitches, I’ve compiled a list of mistakes and things to avoid if you are an entrepreneur seeking angel or venture financing.

Mistake 1: Sending me your executive summary or business plan unsolicited

Investors routinely discard or don’t read unsolicited emails. They get hundreds if not thousands of such emails, and they can’t spend the time sifting through them all to find that diamond in the rough. But what they will pay attention to is a referral from someone in their network — a lawyer, an entrepreneur from one of their portfolio companies, or a fellow venture capitalist.

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Mistake 2: Pitching me your company unless it’s clear that you are in a space I am interested in

Some investors only care about biotech. Or mobile apps. Or clean tech. Or Internet and digital media. Do your homework first before trying to pitch me to make sure your company is in my sweet spot.

Mistake 3: Giving me a 50-page business plan to review

I don’t have the time to review a 50-page business plan up front to decide whether it’s worth taking a meeting or following up. Give me a 2-3 page executive summary and maybe a PowerPoint deck.

Mistake 4: Not showing me why the market opportunity is big

Most investors are looking for businesses that can scale and become meaningful. So make sure you address this issue right up front as to why your business can really become big. Don’t present any small ideas. If the first product or service is small, then perhaps you need to position the company as a “platform” business allowing the creation of multiple products or apps. I will want to know the actual addressable market and what percentage of the market you plan to get over time.

Mistake 5: Coming in with your team to a pitch meeting, but only have the CEO speak

Investors want to know that you have a good team. Only having the CEO speak at a pitch meeting is a mistake. How will the investor gauge whether the other team members are any good if they don’t hear them speak? And please don’t have the team members contradict themselves.

Mistake 6: Telling me you don’t have any competition

Telling me you have no competition likely says you are unrealistic or naive. Of course you have competition, whether direct, indirect. or someone who provides a substitute solution. And your analysis of your competitors will show me you have an understanding of the market.

Mistake 7: Showing me uninteresting or unrealistic projections

If you show me projections for the company to become $5 million in revenue in five years, I will have little interest. I want to invest in a company that can grow significantly and become an exciting business. Alternatively, if you show me projections where you are at $500 million in three years, I will just think you are unrealistic, especially if you are at zero in revenues today. Avoid assumptions in your projections that will be difficult to justify, such as how you will get to a 400% growth in revenue with only a 20% growth in operating and marketing costs.

Mistake 8: Asking me to sign an NDA before you will share information with me

Most investors have a policy not to sign non-disclosure agreements. Why would you want to put a hurdle in front of being able to connect with an investor? And if you have something highly confidential, don’t share it with me.

Mistake 9: Giving me confusing or bad answers to my questions

Entrepreneurs should practice their pitch with friends and advisors before presenting to an investor. You need to be prepared to give crisp answers to questions. You have to anticipate the difficult questions you may get. Telling me that “you will get back to me with an answer” seldom leaves a good impression. If I am asking you questions, that’s a good sign that I am engaged. So do your best to answer them right away. Don’t evade the hard questions or tell me that you will get to it later in the presentation. I want to see if you can think on your feet. Expect to get interrupted during your presentation.

Mistake 10: Not telling me what problem your business solves

What problem does your business solve? Does it matter at all?

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Mistake 11: Presenting unrealistic valuation expectations for your company

If you tell me you want a $100 million valuation when you started the business three weeks ago, or don’t have much traction yet, the conversation will likely end very quickly. Often, it’s best not to discuss valuation in a first meeting other than to say you expect to be reasonable on valuation.

Mistake 12: Giving me clichés

Phrases to avoid:

  • “All we need is 1% of the market” (unlikely you will get that)
  • “We will get huge viral usage” (unless you show me early traction, that will be difficult to believe)
  • “This product will market itself” (no, it won’t)
  • “Google will want to buy us” (maybe, but not likely)
  • “Our projection numbers are conservative” (just once I would like to hear an entrepreneur say, “Our projections are wildly optimistic”).

Mistake 13: Having more than 20 slides in your PowerPoint deck

You will have an hour at most to make your pitch. So overloading your PowerPoint deck with too many slides will cut into the crispness of the presentation, and you won’t have time to get to the slides at the end of your deck. If an investor is interested, you can always provide more detailed information later.

Mistake 14: Forgetting to highlight your team’s experience and credentials

Many investors consider the team behind a startup more important than the idea or the product. The investors will want to know that the team has the right set of skills, drive, experience, and temperament to grow the business. I want to be shown all of this together with a passion to do something truly great and unique. Anticipate these questions:

  • Who are the founders and key team members?
  • What relevant domain experience does the team have?
  • What key additions to the team are needed in the short term?
  • Why is the team uniquely capable to execute the company’s business plan?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What motivates the founders?
  • How do you plan to scale the team in the next 12 months?

Mistake 15: Not paying attention to detail

Make sure your presentation doesn’t contain typos or inconsistencies. Present a well-written, visually interesting presentation. Include page numbers on each slide so I can easily reference a specific page. For your legal protection, put a copyright notice at the bottom and add the phrase “Confidential and Private.”

Mistake 16: Not doing a demo
A demo is worth a thousand words. Show me a prototype or working demo of your product, app, or website. It will give me a better sense of what you are trying to do. Make sure it works well and isn’t buggy. Impress me with its look and feel.

Mistake 17: Not doing research on the investor and his portfolio

Showing some awareness of my background and the companies I am invested in will facilitate parts of the conversation, and also shows you have done some advance due diligence for the meeting.

Mistake 18: Not looking at other pitch decks and executive summaries

Looking at other pitch decks and executive summaries can help you improve your own. You can ask your lawyer or entrepreneur or angel investor friends for samples. Plenty are available on the Web, such as the deck for Mint.com, a startup that sold to Intuit for $170 million.

Mistake 19: Not understanding customer acquisition costs and long-term value of the customer

I will be interested in your understanding of customer or user acquisition issues. What costs will you incur to acquire a customer? What will be the likely lifetime value of the customer? What channels will you use to acquire that user or customer? What marketing costs will you incur? What is the typical sales cycle between initial customer contact and closing of a sale? Not being prepared for those types of questions will hurt my perception of how well you have thought out your business plan.

Mistake 20: Not understanding the potential risks to the business

I will want to test what you see are the risks to the business. I want to understand your thought process and the mitigating precautions you might take. There inevitably are risks in any business plan, so be prepared to answer these questions thoughtfully:

  • What do you see are the principal risks to the business?
  • What legal risks do you have?
  • What technology risks do you have?
  • Do you have any regulatory risks?
  • Are there any product liability risks?
  • What steps do you anticipate to mitigate such risks?

Mistake 21: Not being able to explain the key assumptions in your projections

In order for me to believe your financial projections, I will want you to articulate the key assumptions and convince me they are reasonable. If you can’t do that, then I won’t feel you have a real handle on the business. I will push back on the numbers in the assumptions and I will want you to have a cogent, thoughtful response.

Mistake 22: Not articulating why your product or technology is differentiated from a competitor

I will want to know why your product or technology is better than or different from what is already out there. You can assume I will know about competitive products or technology, so you need to have a good response. For example, “We are different from Instagram in three important ways: (1) we are easier to use; (2) we have better editing functions; and (3) we are monetizing earlier than Instagram was able to.”

Mistake 23: Not being able to articulate a coherent marketing strategy

Just because you build something great doesn’t mean it’s going to sell or get user adoption. So I will care about your plans to market your product or service. What outlets are you going to use? How can you cost-effectively get to prospective customers? How will you use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.? Will you do content marketing and put sponsored posts on sites like BusinessInsider.com, Forbes.com, and AllBusiness.com? Will you do search engine marketing and can you show it will be productive? What steps will you take to get some rapid sales or adoption of your offering?

Mistake 24: Not telling me what early buzz or press you have gotten

Don’t forget to show me any early buzz or press you have received, especially from prominent sites or publications. Feature the headlines in a slide on your deck. List the number of articles and publications mentioning you.

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Mistake 25: Not telling me what traction or customers you have already gotten

One of the most important things for me will be signs of any early traction or customers. If you have an app, how many downloads have you gotten and how many additional ones are you getting a week? Have you gotten any brand-name customers if you are a software company? How can the early traction be accelerated? What has been the principal reason for the traction? Show me how you can scale this early traction.

Mistake 26: Being unable to tell me how you will invest my investment capital and how long it will last

I will absolutely want to know how my capital will be invested and your proposed burn rate (so that I can understand when you may need the next round of financing). It will also allow me to test whether your fund-raising plans are reasonable given the capital requirements you will have. And it will allow me to see whether your estimate of costs (e.g., for engineering talent, for marketing costs, or office space) is reasonable given my experiences with other companies.

Mistake 27: Not selling me on your intellectual property 

For many companies, their intellectual property will be a key to success. Investors will pay particular attention to your answers to these questions:

  • What key intellectual property does the company have (patents, patents pending, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, domain names)?
  • What comfort do you have that the company’s intellectual property does not violate the rights of a third party?
  • How was the company’s intellectual property developed?
  • Would any prior employers of a team member have a potential claim to the company’s intellectual property?

Mistake 28: Not explaining the product or service well enough

The entrepreneur must clearly articulate what the company’s product or service consists of and why it is unique, so expect to get the following questions:

  • Why do users care about your product or service?
  • What are the major product milestones?
  • What are the key differentiated features of your product or service?
  • What have you learned from early versions of the product or service?
  • What are the two or three key features you plan to add?
  • How often do you envision enhancing or updating the product or service?


Not all of these mistakes are fatal. And as you practice and make more presentations to advisors and investors, you will learn what they care about and what doesn’t resonate with them. So make sure to adapt your PowerPoint deck, Executive Summary, and presentation from these learnings.

Copyright ©2014 by Richard D. Harroch. All Rights Reserved.

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

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

From the perspective of an investor: why did they not read your business plan or respond to your email? Excellent information.

Remember my article a while ago? It's still on my site: http://www.business-funding-insider.com/investment-proposal.html

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

10 Tips for Getting into Our Next Accelerator Batch

10 Tips for Getting into Our Next Accelerator Batch | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

We’re currently accepting applications for our next Mountain View Accelerator class. You can apply here.

We’re kicking off our second batch of companies in the shiny new 500 Startups San Francisco accelerator program, otherwise known as 500 Del Norte. We’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit about  what we’re looking for and how we select companies.

We started with over thousands of applications for 28 slots. While we’re much more concerned with quality than quantity, if you’re applying to a competitive accelerator you should understand that you will be one of many applications.

Tip 1: Apply Early

We start reviewing applications on a rolling basis as soon as the application window opens. More than half of the applications come in on the last day. If you want us to spend more time on your application, get it in early.

Tip 2: Put effort into your application and give as much detail as possible

 We don’t have the luxury of putting hours into reviewing your application. We need to see something interesting that makes us want to dig in.

We filter these applications with the help of our mentor and founder networks. Our goal is to have at least four people look at every application, ideally with expertise in the space you’re working in. We couldn’t do it without these awesome folks (Thanks 500 mentors!).

We also look extra hard at companies that are referred in by our founders and mentors. A personal recommendation from someone we trust isn’t a guarantee you’ll get an interview, but it’s pretty valuable.

Tip 3: Figure out who you know in the 500 network

Ask them if they would be comfortable recommending your company. If you don’t have this network, consider reaching out to 500 mentors who would understand your business and asking (politely) if they would give you some feedback. Don’t be a creep about it. If they dig your company, you can ask them to give us their thoughts.

Our goal is to narrow the initial applications down to about 100 companies we interview. We do these interviews over 3-4 full days. We split up into teams of two, and each company gets interviewed for 15 minutes. You’ll usually do three interviews.

We do this to avoid groupthink, and to give startups the chance to shine even if one interview doesn’t go well. Interviewers include members of the 500 Investment Team, Distribution Team, other 500 staff, and sometimes 500 mentors.

Tip 4: Come prepared.

You only have 15 minutes. You need to convey who you are, why your business is interesting, and be prepared for us to dig into everything from your unit economics  and customer acquisition strategies to long-term plans and where you met your co-founders.

Tip 4.1: Research the program.

Know what our terms are, know how we work, talk to startups who have gone through the program, and come prepared to tell us what you want from 500. It reflects poorly on you (and is bad business) to consider selling a chunk of your company to someone without understanding deeply what you’re getting in return.

Tip 5: Don’t have a script

Go into the interview with specific questions. We don’t have much time, so remember that your job is to fill in the gaps, not to hammer home what you think is important.

After interviews are complete, we schedule a half-day team meeting to come up with a batch. We start with the companies that we all agree on, either positive or negative, and thi usually gives us the first 10-15 companies. If you have a phenomenal founding team with several exits to your name, a million dollar run rate, 50% month-over-month growth, a beautiful product, and an unsexy-but-giant market – well, you’re almost certainly in. Figuring out the other companies is where the fun (and arguing) begins.

For companies that don’t have all the boxes checked, we look to each other for a champion. We believe groupthink is a big problem in venture capital, so we encourage debate and empower anyone on the team to take a controversial position.

Tip 6: Find a champion

Even if all of us don’t “get” a company, that’s OK. We all have different backgrounds and different interests. Find interviewers who are exciting about what you do, then give them the information they need to be your champion. One ‘hell yes’ usually beats out any other strong negative votes.

After hours of arguing, we end up with a list of 35-40 companies we think are really interesting. We then discuss which companies might be too early.

We believe an accelerator program should help companies refine their strategy, break through concrete bottlenecks in the business, and raise reasonable seed rounds at good valuations once they’re done with the program.

We think a lot about companies getting their money’s (equity’s) worth out of us. If a company is too early to get ready for demo day and achieve their fundraising goals, our accelerator is probably not a good fit.

We try hard to give these companies concrete feedback on what we think they should be working on – then invite them to reapply for our next batch. This isn’t BS. Timing matters with accelerators, and we want you to get the most out of ours.

Tip 7: Tell us what you’ve learned

Markets are Darwinian. The most important skill you can have is the ability to adapt quickly. Tell us what you’ve learned. What were you wrong about? What secrets have your customers told you that give you an unfair advantage? We’re suckers for quick learners.

Tip 8: Tell us how you’ll grow

Startups grow or they die. Where are you customers? How will you reach them? Tell us what you’ve done. Unscalable growth is fine (and reflects hustle), but ultimately we’ll need to see a path scalability. If you’re small you know we can help you grow, that’s really exciting.

Tip 9: Make sure we understand your traction

Traction comes in many forms, with the most obvious being revenue. However, revenue isn’t the only form. This may sound obvious, but we’re looking for people who have executed – not people who will execute some time in the future. Make sure we understand what you’ve done. This is way more important than what you think you can do.

I hope this is helpful. We’re grateful for all the amazing companies we received applications from, and look forward to having some of them in our first San Francisco accelerator. Hopefully this will help you if you choose to apply to our Spring batch in Mountain View. Applications open NOW, so apply here.

Tip 10: Do what’s right for your business.

VCs resonate with simple stories and metrics, so its natural for companies to try to play to the test. But whether you join 500 or not, success comes from being an expert in your business and doing the right thing for it and for your customers. Don’t adapt your business to our needs, but please speak slowly when explaining it. We are VCs after all.

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

Via Justin Jones
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Find out what it takes to get accepted in an accelerator. Go prepared.

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What is a Startup...?: 5 startups that show that the future has already arrived

What is a Startup...?: 5 startups that show that the future has already arrived | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
startups that show that the future has already arrived
Hello all Entrepreneurs! How are you?

Today I have selected 5 startups that make us feel (at least they make me feel...!) like the future has already arrived. Please check them out and feel free to comment below.


1- AIRWARE: "Hardware, Software and Cloud Services for Commercial Drones".

I have a personal fascination for drones (wow, we are in 2014 and they are already here!), so everything that has to do with drones calls my attention. Well, this startup doesn't need a lot of explanation, they sell hardware, software and cloud (!) for drones. The age of the flying robots is coming, hey!

2- ZUTA LABS: "Pocket Printer"

You type and the small device prints for you. I loved that and I would one in my purse right now! The format remembers me those child stamps and child paper push that we had in our childhood and that seem to be fashionable until now (or maybe children prefer i-Pads, I can't say)!

3- NEW MATTER: "Simple. Affordable. 3D Printing" - MOD-t

Everybody got very excited with the 3D printers, what was missing was something a-f-f-o-r-d-a-b-l-e. This seems to be New Matter's goal (thanks for that!). The device costs 279 US$ and you can already pre-order that. I found it chic!


Wearables, the new "must" in tech. This business has wearables useful for heating, lighting, bio-monitoring, anti-radiation, conductive gloves (those I have... I call them social media gloves because they allow me to blog and post on winter time!). On their website It seems that you have to send a personal email and ask for the product (I didn't find a normal "e-commerce" screen). I want a heating shirt for winter!

5- EKSOBIONICS: exoskeleton

The first image from the homepage can speak alone. Super exoskeleton technology made for people with some forms of paralysis. Absolutely amazing. I think that the medical sector has thousands, if not millions, of possibilities in terms of innovations, new technologies, new facilities, new ways to perform the same activity with less pain, less wait, less nuisance and thus helping many people.


It's in the hands of the entrepreneurs - brave explorers - to bring to the present what our imagination sometimes puts in a distant future...!

I would like to remember all of you that the technology giants of our time (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) are also developing amazing and world changing technologies (such as Amazon's dronesGoogle's self-driven car etc), but the main goal here is to focus on Startups.

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

Via Luiza S. Rezende, Edouard Estour
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Need ideas for startups? Yes indeed, the future is here.

Luiza S. Rezende's curator insight, August 22, 2:14 AM

I love thinking about the future... Don't miss these 5 startups!

Scooped by Marc Kneepkens

What is a Startup...?: Why has my startup not taken off yet?

What is a Startup...?: Why has my startup not taken off yet? | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Why has my startup not taken off yet?
Many startups fail. Many entrepreneurs start with a lot of energy (and anxiety), build expectations around the business they are building, launch it, are for a while very happy with it, and after a period of gradual decay, after 6 months or 1 year there is nothing more of them and the members returned to "safe" jobs. But why? What was missing for that startup to become a success? 


In order not to frustrate expectations: the aim of this paper is not to present micro-economic data, statistics or research on why startups fail. The aim of this paper is to show my opinion on the topic, based on what I see and read every day. 


As many of you may have already read, failing is part of the innovation and self-discovery process, and it's something totally linked to entrepreneurship. Starting a new business is venturing into the unknown: you can do many previous researches and studies, but there are variables that will be not well measured in advance. Sometimes you will need to launch your startup first and then see what happens when it's running.

Maybe your calculations were sufficiently well-aimed, you have studied the market and the competitors, you had luck and the necessary preparation, you did all on the "right time" and "the right way" and your startup is suddenly a success. Maybe you realize that important variables were ignored in the business plan and things did not evolve as planned. It's normal: making mistakes is human. Making mistakes, in the context of entrepreneurship, is fully part of the learning process. 

The way you go on after a mistake is the key and how you behave makes ALL the difference: you need to continue, understand it is a chapter, not the end of your story as an entrepreneur. Everything depends on how you will assimilate this mistake and go on with your business, with your dream. 

Many entrepreneurs are at this moment launching a business that will need some adjust to be a success (success here has the meaning of being well received by the public and generating sustainable income). Others will launch something that needs to be completely redesigned to be a success. Others will launch something that the market is not yet "ready" to accept or use, and they will have to invest in marketing, partnerships, sponsoring, endorsement and will have to convince the public they are good enough. That means a lot of time and persistence. Everyday believing and acting. For each person and for each business there is a needed time for development/maturation. It's necessary to try, believe, strive, pivot, adapt, follow. You should not be discouraged by an error, failure, or a broken company. 

You tried that way, it did not work. There are others. If you truly believe in your business, you need to continue with it, ask new opinions, study more, seek further advice and seek new paths to follow. 

There is a path to success, a straight shot. But it's not always there, on the first attempt. Sometimes you will need to improve more to reach it. Sometimes you will need to really conquer success, be ready to manage it and make it something sustainable. And that is actually good, that will make you grow. 

Success (and here I am talking about entrepreneurial success) will come, but each one has a journey, each one has a necessary way to go (a way that will enable each person to learn and grow). Do not give up. If you truly believe in your business, it will someday happen, maybe not exactly as you imagined, but it will happen and you will be much stronger when it happens.

You may need to re-create it completely. You may need to study more and harder, listen to other opinions, change partners, change partnerships, teams, sources, resources. If you are really proactive and seek people to help you, if you do not let your pessimistic thoughts or people who do not believe in you convince you, certainly your journey will be successful. 

It may be that the final result has nothing to do with your original plan. It may be that you end up getting involved in an area that has nothing to do with what you initially envisioned. You may conclude that being an entrepreneur is not for you. But certainly this journey of mistakes, successes, attempts (and courage!) will be very positive and will bring you closer to who you really are and what you really believe. 

See you soon!


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Top 3 Tips To Cut Your Startup Expenses

Top 3 Tips To Cut Your Startup Expenses | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Never Spend Your Money Before You Have Earned It
I think the most wonderful thing that I started thinking when I started up or which I keep hearing from startups who are in the seed stages isI need funds to spend.

What I learned instead which I now keep telling the startup founders is

Earn money and push it back into your venture, Save, Repeat

An age old saying of money saved is money earned is not wrong. I feel many startups fail to understand that finding smart ways to save money and work is always a better option specially when you are bootstrapped or still better when you have acquired funding.

I threw open this question in Startup Specialist Group on LinkedIn.

What are the 3 tips to cut startup expenses

An amazing entrepreneur Peter Johnston says in the discussion thread:

Generally startups don't need anything near the costs most people allocate to them.
Ask yourself what the funding is for. Do you really need it?
Take the biggest expense and ask "why is it so high"?

You'll almost certainly find you can reduce it by 50%.
It isn't the largest any more.

Next week do the same exercise on what is now the largest.
In a few weeks you have your costs down to manageable levels.

So here are the list of top 3 tips that can help startups to cut their costs:

  1. Rework the expenses. Calculate them again and ask yourself why are the expenses so high, rework them again and try working with your team if you can reduce them by a sizeable margin. Ask this question "Whether you really need that cost " Why Do you need that cost now ? As Peter Johnston says in the thread " You'll know by your pre-orders how many to make - indeed you'll probably have funded production
  2. Hire Human Capital When The Product Market Fit is Validated. Dont jump the gun in hiring human capital even if you have funds. Test the market, customers, TA even if you have funds in place and when the market is established get the critical manpower in place to get into the market.
  3. Outsource & Prioritize : Besides the critical functions focus on your core competence functions. If you are tech guy and and you need HR or legal support, get a cloud HR software to run your system or a legal attorney to create your legal formalities instead of hiring these manpower on rolls. Focus on building your MVP and going to the right customers and getting revenues asap.

What are your thoughts and insights on the same ?

Are there some other critical tips that can help startups ?

I invite you to share your thoughts and feel free to share this thread with someone who may share insights or for whom this thread could be useful.

Bon Voyage.

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

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

That's how to do it. Don't think that the big money will create and fund your startup. Your product will eventually have to pay for all of the expenses.

Change Impetus's curator insight, August 19, 12:27 PM

I agree 100%


Developing the MVP doesn't mean "build the app" and hire developers. Get a mock up and find out what it might cost if a customer were to sign up in the near future.


Don't hire a tech wizard, there are cloud based tools that can be utilized until scale or a specialized feature/ function requirement surfaces.

Scooped by Marc Kneepkens

Microsoft names the 10 startups participating in its home-automation accelerator | ZDNet

Microsoft names the 10 startups participating in its home-automation accelerator | ZDNet | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
Microsoft is bringing 10 startups focusing on home-automation into its new home-automation accelerator starting this fall.

Microsoft has named the 10 startups that will be participating in its home-automation accelerator starting this fall.

Microsoft announced in June its plan to create a new venture accelerator focused on home automation in partnership with American Family Insurance, one of the biggest mutual property/casualty insurance companies. Via this accelerator, which will be based on the Redmond, Wash., Microsoft campus, Microsoft will be investing in these home-automation startups.

The 10 participants (and Microsoft-provided descriptions of their businesses) -- culled from a pool of 400 applicants:

  • Chai Energy delivers real-time energy understanding – from the whole house to individual appliances.

  • Heatworks Model 1 is the world's first fully electronic, connected, water heater that conserves water and energy in any application.

  • Neura creates intuitive and intelligent experiences between users and their connected environments.

  • Novi Security is a portable smart-security system to seamlessly track activities across the home.

  • Reemo is a wrist-worn, gesture control wearable, interoperable interface for both conventional appliances and more recent connected homes.

  • Plum is Wi-Fi enabled light-pads, smart plugs and outlets that let the users control lights and electronics from a wall switch or from anywhere in the world using a smart phone.

  • Red Balloon Security is ubiquitous host-based defense for embedded devices.

  • Scanalytics is the centerpiece for understanding consumer behavior in the offline world.

  • Sentri's HD camera and built-in sensors track the home's vital stats and trends, allowing users to track temperature, humidity, air quality, weather and more.

  • Wallflowr is connected home technology that helps consumers prevent and significantly reduce risks related to accidental fires caused by ranges, stoves and oven

Microsoft has been conducting its own research in the home-automation space, with projects like its HomeOS operating system. Last year, Microsoft bought a home-automation focused company, id8 Group R2 Studios, whose technology the Redmondians are thought to be integrating with Xbox. More recently, it announced a partnership with Insteon, which is developing home-automation applications for Windows Phone and Windows 8. 

Microsoft formed its consolidated start-up outreach arm, Microsoft Ventures, in 2013. The company already launched ventures accelerators in Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, London, Paris and Tel Aviv.

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9 Free Business Productivity Tools For Startups

9 Free Business Productivity Tools For Startups | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

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

Starting a business can be a daunting endeavor, especially if all you have is a cool product and not enough capital. In the tech world, or in any other niche for that matter, most startuppers fail not because they have bad products but because they are unable to generate enough consumer interest in their products. 

Considering overheads and other back-office expenses, this scenario doesn’t come as a surprise. So if you’re still starting out and find yourself strapped for much needed funding to keep your startup afloat, the following free business productivity tools are worth checking out.

# 1. Bitrix24.com

If you need a collaboration tool your staff are most likely to adopt with relative ease and minimum training, take the social intranet route.

Bitrix24.com is the fastest growing social intranet that’s free for businesses with 12 employees or less. The application comes as a combination of several different work tools like CRM, project management, real-time streaming, activity planner, file sharing, to name just a few. As it is cloud-based, access can be anywhere, whether using your computer or smartphone. An upgrade to unlimited users starts at $99 per month.

# 2. GotFreeFax.com

In this era of e-mail and instant messaging, you’d think fax machines are no longer relevant. But if a LinkedIn survey as reported by Mashable is to be believed, fax machines are still in until 2017 steps in.

As you might have already guessed from the site’s name, GotFreeFax.com is an online service that allows you to send up to three pages of fax for free (maximum of two faxes per day) to any number in the United States or Canada. The site also offers premium pay-per-fax service should you need to send more.

# 3. RememberTheMilk.com

RememberTheMilk.com is an online productivity tool that assists in task and time management. Remember The Milk essentially functions as your all-in-one task manager, electronic calendar and to-do list. Aside from allowing you to share and split tasks with other people, the application can be integrated with GMail, too.

The pro account is priced at $25 for one year and comes with exclusive mobile app features and Microsoft Outlook integration.

# 4. Kolab.org

Kolab.org is an open-source group collaboration server that allows for sharing of notes, e-mail access, calendar organization, task management, address book maintenance, news aggregation, phone sync and journal integration. Kolab is secure, scalable, reliable, mobile and professional, ensuring productivity every step of the way. As a whole, the application requires some getting used to. But once you get the hang of it, the hassle can be all worth it.

# 5. WaveApps.com

Formerly WaveAccounting.com, WaveApps.com is an accounting software that’s fast, simple and easy to use, offering unlimited invoicing and expense tracking. 100% free for small businesses with nine employees or less, it’s accountant-approved and specifically designed for non-accountants. You can also securely connect your bank and PayPal accounts or other sources of data, and your transactions are automatically imported into the accounting software.

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

# 6. PRLog.org

To make your business presence known, one surefire route to take is through the distribution of press releases. PRLog.org is a site where you can dispense press releases for free. And if you feel you don’t have the necessary expertise to create a killer press release, the site provides instructions on how to write one, even how to embed videos where necessary.

# 7. Weebly.com

One cardinal business rule is that businesses should have their own websites to boost their market presence online. Weebly.com is a free website creator that doesn’t require website creation expertise. Until you’re ready to go for more complex and/or self-hosted sites that would require monthly or yearly payments, Weebly.com is a good alternative.

# 8. Join.me

For those meetings or web conferences on the fly, Join.me is a simple-to-use teleconferencing application that allows you to review documents and designs, train staff, do product demonstrations – basically to get everyone apprised of company updates. You can do transatlantic web conferences and presentations, too.

# 9. IFTTT.com

IFTTT.com, which is short for “if this, then that,” functions like a computer program repeatedly uttering if/then logic all day long. With IFTTT, you set up “recipes” to assist you with task automation. For a recipe to work, you have to have a channel, a trigger and an action. Examples of channels are Facebook, e-mail, Evernote, LinkedIn, just to mention a few.

For instance, if you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook, you can create a recipe that would automatically download the image into Dropbox.

What other free business productivity tools can you suggest?

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

Via Luis Costa
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Some more good tools for small companies and start ups. Get free fax, no more fax machines to buy.

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The Entrepreneur Handbook: 120 Awesome Resources for Every Entrepreneur | Alltopstartups.com

The Entrepreneur Handbook: 120 Awesome Resources for Every Entrepreneur | Alltopstartups.com | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Whether you are starting a new business or scaling your business to new heights, these are some of the most useful entrepreneur resources you will ever need.

ByThomas Oppong. Published on May 6, 2014.

Whether you are starting a new business or scaling your business to new heights, these are some of the most useful  entrepreneur resources you will ever need. My hope is that this post will be a great resource list for all your entrepreneurial needs. This is a huge list of blogs, tools and general resources I think could be useful for every entrepreneur.

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

Great business blogs and resource sites

1. Inc. Start-up – Advice for founders of start-ups and start-up entrepreneurs on writing a business plan, running a home-based business, naming a start-up business, how to incorporate, financing a start-up, buying a small business, and starting a franchise.

2. OnStartups – Run by HubSpot cofounder Dharmesh Shah, On Startups offers advice and insights for entrepreneurs.

3. For Entrepreneurs—A blog for startups and entrepreneurs, written by David Skok, a five time serial entrepreneur turned VC (now at Matrix. Partners)

4. Startup Lawyer — Ryan Roberts’Startup Lawyer breaks down the legal issues of startups.

5. Mashable on Small Business – Essential business advice for starting and growing small businesses.

6. About.com for Entrepreneurs – Help and advice for going from the idea stage to business plan to the marketplace and beyond.

7. Mixergy – Successful CEOs share their experiences with the masses.

8. Small Business Administration. Find information, links and resources to help you start and grow your business, including SBA-guaranteed loans.

9.  Accounting Coach – Accounting coach will introduce you to some basic accounting principles, accounting concepts, and accounting terminology.

10. NYT Small Business – Find breaking news & money news on mortgage rates, mutual funds, the stock market, bonds & notes, company research, earnings reports and market insight.

11. Chris Dixon — A General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz. He is also a contributing writer for TechCrunch.  A seed investor turned VC, Dixon takes a macro view, considering industry-wide trends.

12. Quora (Startup Founders and Entrepreneurs page) — Quora’s question-answering website has some fantastic responses from establish entrepreneurs and investors for entrepreneurs.

13. Wall Street Journal’s Small Business How To Guide – WSJ small business guide covering how to start, fund, run and manage your small business.

14.  Forbes on Entrepreneurs — Forbes entrepreneur section, specifically on how entrepreneurs are running businesses and advice from entrepreneurs.

15. First Round Review — A compilation of startup-centric content. Case studies on the experiences of individual entrepreneurs and companies.

16. The Funded – An online community of entrepreneurs to research, rate, and review funding sources worldwide.

17. Paul Graham – Super awesome timeless essays about venture capital and entrepreneurship.

18. Springwise – Your essential fix of entrepreneurial ideas.

19.  Big Think – Blogs, articles and videos from the world’s top leaders and thinkers.

20. PSFK – A go-to source for ideas and inspiration.

21. StartupDigest - Free weekly email to help you meet people and learn more.

22. The Startup Toolkit – Tools and guidance for all startup founders.

23. Both Sides of The Table – Upfront Ventures partner Mark Suster’s blog runs the gamut from sales strategies to fundraising and startup culture.

24.  Chic-ceo – Slick site for women with the entrepreneur bug, but its downloadable tools makes this a must-visit for all.

25. How-to Guides on Entrepreneur.com — How-to resources for kick starting  your new business.

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

Tools and apps exclusively for startups

Use these startups resources (mostly free) to launch your idea, gather feedback and grow your new business. Whether you are wondering about how to put your idea out there, how to make a good presentation or learn from the best you will find some of these resources useful.

1.GroupTalent – Top teams of developers and designers, on-demand.

2. Docstoc – Discover the best professional documents and content resources to help start and grow your business

3.  CustomerSure – Simple, web-based customer feedback software.

4. Crowdvi.be – Get instant answers from over 50 million people.

5.  AYTM (Ask Your Target Market) – Market research has never been this easy.

6.  Term Sheet Generator – Generate a venture financing term sheet.

7.  Cofounda - App platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors.

8.  Feedbackify – Simple, private website feedback.

9.  Appfigures – mobile analytics and sales data.

10. Mopapp – mobile analytics, sales data, rankings.

11.  UserTesting.com – Low-cost website usability testing.

12.  Prezi - The zooming presentation editor.

13.  CircleUp - Like AngelList with a crowdfunding twist.

14.  AngelList - A platform for startups. Standardizing the pitch deck.

15.  Idea Flight - Get your ideas off the ground.

16.  CapLinked - Making private investment easy, secure and social.

17.  Go BIG Network – Helps entrepreneurs find funding.

18.  Intern Avenue - Find interns. Intern directory.

19.  A VC – Musings of a VC in NYC.

20.  Startup Weekend - Global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs.

21.  LiquidSpace - Airbnb for workspaces. Book last minute or plan ahead.

22.  OpenDesks – Find and share places to meet and work.

23.  Founders Den - Invite-only shared workspace and private club in SoMa neighborhood.

24.  TechHub – A physical space for tech startups in London.

25.  Prosper–  Prosper can help you get the seed funding you need to launch your own online business.

26.  Unbounce – Easy landing page creator and tester.

27.  Mobile Roadie - Full CMS, no coding app builder for iOS and Android.

28.  Chupa - The marketplace for buying/selling mobile app components.

29.  Grow VC - Get visibility with the right investing audience.

30. Appbackr - Crowdfunding for mobile apps.

31.  LaunchRock - Setup a “Launching Soon” page in minutes.

32.  LegalZoom: An inexpensive, fast, and easy to use online legal document service that can help you file the appropriate paperwork for your startup.

33.  VCgate - Venture capital firms, angel investors and private equity firms directory.

34.  Envestors - Pay-to-pitch investor network.

35.  Startup Compass - Benchmark your startup’s KPIs against more than 10k internet startups.

36.  Startup Tools-Complete list of startup tools by Steve Blank

37. KickoffLabs – Find new customers with a viral landing page in less than 60 seconds.

38. RocketHub - Launch, fund and fly.

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

Mobile app development tools

These are some of the best mobile app development resources out there that guarantees stunning app for mobile devices.  These tools offer drag-and-drop interfaces, fast and easy mobile prototyping with support for designing some of the best Android, iOS and Windows mobile apps.

1. Ooomf – Create a beautiful landing page for your iPhone app in minutes.

2. Appcelerator – Mobile app platform for building on Android, iOS and mobile web.

3. GameSalad Creator – Create, test and publish your own game. Drag and drop.

4.  Parse – Add a powerful and scalable backend to your app in minutes.

5.  Mobile Roadie - Full CMS, no coding app builder for iOS and Android.

6.  Proto.io – Silly-fast mobile prototyping.

7.  StackOverflow - Question and answer site for programmers.

8.  Kendo UI Mobile – Build HTML5 apps that look native on any device.

9.  Tiggzi – Cloud-based mobile app builder.

10. Verious - A mobile app component marketplace.

11. justinmind – Rich interactive wireframes to define mobile apps.

12. UXPin – User experience design tools for professionals.

13. Chupa – The marketplace for buying/selling mobile app components.

14. Distimo - Providing valuable insight into the app store marketplace.

15. App Annie - App store analytics and market intelligence.

16. Kontagent - User analytics for the mobile web.

17. Applingua - iOS app localization (translation) service.

18. AppMakr – Point and click solution for building rich content based apps.

19. Flurry - Analytics, traffic acquisition and monetization.

20. Crittercism – Gives you real-time, actionable crash reports for mobile apps.

21. PhoneGap - Easily create apps using well known web technologies.

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

Incubators & Accelerators

Incubators and accelerators can be a great option for any young company or even idea to get off the ground. These programs offer everything from funding, connections with top investors and mentors and collaborative work environments.

1. Y Combinator – Has funded over 380 startups (3 months).

2. TechStars - Mentorship-driven seed-stage investment program (3 months).

3. The Brandery - Accelerating startups by building powerful brands (14 weeks).

4. KickLabs – Ready to start acquiring customers? (3-6 months).

5. i/o Ventures – Early-stage startup program focused on mentorship (3 months).

6. Capital Factory – Entrepreneurs like entrepreneurs (10 weeks).

7. NYC SeedStart – Focused on advertising, ecommerce, digital and mobile (12 weeks).

8. Tech Wildcatters – Mentor-driven and led by entrepreneurs (12 weeks).

9. Seedcamp - Early stage mentoring and investment program (1 year).

10. Excelerate Labs – Amazing mentors, Chicago resources, high-profile demo (3 months).

11. Springboard - Mentorship-led accelerator program (13 weeks).

12. Dreamit Ventures – Helping build great companies.

13. The ARK – Mentorship-driven tech startup accelerator (3 months).

14. Betaspring – Mentorship-driven accelerator focused on tech and design (12 weeks).

15. InnoSpring - Start in Silicon Valley, grow in the US and China.

16. BizSpark - Microsoft accelerator for Windows Azure (3 months).

15. Media Camp - Startup academy camp for media innovations (12 weeks).

18. Founder Institute - Helping founders to build great companies (4 weeks).

19. AlphaLab – Funding, mentorship, education and more (20 weeks).

20. 500 Startups –Provides early-stage companies with up to $250K in funding.

21. Startup Chile –Apply from anywhere in the world, start in Chile. $40k grant per project (24 weeks).

22. MEST – Entrepreneurial program designed to foster the growth of tech companies in Africa (24 weeks).

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

Crowdfunding resources

If you can’t find funding from angels, how about seeking help from the crowd.

1. Seedrs - Equity-based crowdfunding platform.

2. Crowdfunder - Equity crowdfunding for your business.

3. CircleUp - Like AngelList with a crowdfunding twist.

4. Grow VC - Get visibility with the right investing audience.

5. appbackr - Crowdfunding for mobile apps.

6. Kickstarter - World’s largest funding platform for creative projects.

7. Indiegogo - Fund your passion.

8. Crowdtilt - Group fund anything.

9. Invested.in - Raise money, reach goals, build community.

10. Funding Circle - Online marketplace where people lend to businesses.

11. Sponsume - Fund your project through social networks.

12. RocketHub - Launch, fund and fly.

13. SellAnApp - Make app ideas happen.

14. Petridish - Crowdfunding for science startups.

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

Via marcduke
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great set of resources. Use them.

Rhonda Hunter's curator insight, August 21, 1:21 PM

In need of customized services, check out LEGG Lincoln Entrepreneur Growth Group at www.lincolneda.org under the Entrepreneur tab.  While you are there don't forget to check out "Tools for Business" it is a wealth of local Lincoln County information that will help you start or grow your business.

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Earning the halo: How to build relationships with angel investors, even when they won’t invest...

Earning the halo: How to build relationships with angel investors, even when they won’t invest... | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Rui Ma, front row second from right, at a 9others meetup for entrepreneurs in Beijing. 

Rui Ma is the Greater China Venture Partner for the global seed fund and accelerator 500 Startups. She has been working in finance for over a decade and is well into her second year as a professional angel investor. 
As an angel investor, I get a lot of awkward pitches – lots of which could probably be less awkward and more productive for both parties. So partially out of self-interest and partially because we really do feel for those of you on the opposite end of the table, I would like to share some of my personal perspectives on what I believe are best practices for building a relationship with an angel investor – particularly with whom you have no prior connection. Some of you might find my advice to be very basic. But for those of you who aren’t naturally inclined to be your most charismatic self in front of a stranger with a noticeably short attention span, I hope the following five tips can be helpful.
Do your research
What sector does this investor invest in? At what stage? How much money does this person typically invest? While sector focus is often less clear for many investors, especially those starting out, what is a lot clearer is their typical investment amount and maximum risk tolerance, a stage of development the business has to be in before they are comfortable with parting with their money. As for the stage of your business, be sure that you’ve made enough tangible progress to at least pique the interest of prospective investors. Of course we have all heard of the serial entrepreneur who got an investment “before there was a business plan.” But in general, with investors you have no prior relationship with, there is usually some minimum bar to meet before a fruitful discussion can occur. Often it is a working demo or prototype. Sometimes, as in the case of 500 Startups, it is having some traction of said product or service. In terms of investment amount, there is usually some variable range. It’s true investors often like to inflate this number, but you can get some sense of the amount by asking – how many investments have you made in the past year or two? How much have you invested in aggregate? Is it within a million dollars or north of a few million?
Pro Tip: If you don’t know, and you have exhausted all previously named avenues of finding out, then just ask. Ask at the beginning of the meeting rather than the end. Wouldn’t you want to know earlier rather than later? That way, you can actually mine some useful information out of the meeting, and begin to map out future interactions.
Embrace a mindset of giving, not taking
Just like in any relationship, some giving may be required before receiving. If you realize that an investor is unlikely to invest in your company at its current stage, but still want to develop a relationship with this person, be upfront about this. It is entirely possible the investor will decline the meeting, but there are still many ways for the entrepreneur to make the meeting worthwhile for the investor and frame it as such. At the minimum, appeal to your investor’s strengths and tailor your request for the meeting to a specific “request for expertise.” Make it clear that you have done research on the investor and know their investment thesis, but address any concerns they may have about meeting you “so early.” One way startups have caught my attention is by approaching me and saying: “We know it is too early for you to invest, but what should we do about China given our x percent of users that live there?” This frames our relationship around an intellectual problem rather than an immediate investment decision, and lends itself easily to a conversation. Asking an investor you have only just met for intros into their personal network is rude, impractical and a surefire way to ruin a relationship. However, it is perfectly reasonable to ask a hypothetical question such as “if you were me, how might you approach fundraising (or whatever subject you are interested in receiving advice in)?” and receive much the same information. Knowing who you should approach, when, and why is arguably just as useful as a direct intro.
Pro Tip: At the end of a meeting, ask if there’s anything you can do for the investor, such as letting them know of interesting events (and somewhat less importantly, dealflow) in your sector or some adjacent sector they are interested in. Ask them if you can forward them interesting articles or reports about your space (or even your competition) once in a while so they can become more knowledgeable. Offer to be an expert they can go to for future companies they see in the space. It is a good habit to form, for any sort of business development actually – how can you be helpful, how can you demonstrate your value-add?
Create opportunities for interaction
Building credibility with an investor is simple – say what you will do, and do it. Do this enough times, and you will build trust. In the common case where you meet an investor who is bullish on your sector but undecided about your company, you should take every opportunity to prove that can competently build and execute. Take every opportunity to involve them in the building of your business, in a low-obligation, “opt-in” format. Creating opportunities for interaction and doing something together, no matter how small, is the best way to build trust.
Pro Tip: One best practice I share with teams is the “advisor/investor-friendly monthly (or major event) update.” Include everyone on this list that you hope to build a relationship with – mentors, advisors, and potential investors. The best newsletters tend to have the following format: A TL; DR summary of the month’s main achievements in 1-2 sentences More detailed sections on some variations of the following: what went well, what went poorly, and what you will be doing in the next month Be specific in your numbers, but don’t provide too much detail. Stick to 2-3 KPIs you think demonstrate the growth of your business Always frame your updates with the mindset of “versus planned.” What did you think would happen? What actually happened? What are your next steps? Lead and close with asks – what can the recipient do to help you? Are you hiring, launching, fundraising, or what? Be explicit in the ways you need help. For folks you don’t know well, this is a great way of initiating and keeping a lead warm. It’s also efficiently establishes credibility – showing others how you work, and giving them a glimpse into what it might feel like to back you.
Communicate and close the loop
When you do successfully create that interaction, make sure you follow up, so there is a complete feedback loop. If you are lucky enough that your prospective investors, mentors and advisors actively jump in and help you with your outstanding asks, then please do them the favor of thanking them for their advice. Even more importantly, let them know the outcome – did you implement their suggestion? Why or why not? What then happened? Very few entrepreneurs do this well, as most are probably too busy executing to close the loop. However, if an interaction isn’t complete, a relationship does not move forward.
Pro Tip: For inspiration, look to successful Kickstarter campaigns. Some of the best communications packages I’ve received have been from projects I’ve backed. I am not sure what it is about the folks running these, but they create some great examples of passionate calls to action that turn mere supporters into passionate evangelists for their cause.
Be patiently persistent
While no good entrepreneur takes a lack of reply as the final answer, don’t be a stalker when it comes to being persistent. Give yourself a buffer of a week or so between “check-ins” when immediate replies don’t surface. Also, keep your messages brief and to the point. Try to limit your communications to no more than two mediums because beyond that it begins to get a bit uncomfortable. Pro tip: Meetings that last more than one hour suck. Just don’t do it. 30-45 minutes is preferable, and you shouldn’t be talking more than half the time, unless it is to answer questions. As an investor, I am unlikely to make time for someone who has wasted my time in the past.
Angel investors are like athletics scouts
Though it may not feel like it sometimes, investors (and angel investors in particular) truly want entrepreneurs to succeed, especially first-time entrepreneurs. There is a certain satisfaction that goes with being able to say one was the “first money in,” a certain pride to being that first person to “discover” the next Google or Facebook, to “seeing” when no one else saw. Occasionally we come to a decision quickly, but sometimes, we need more information. More often, we might not be the right person to join you on your entrepreneurial journey, but we may become one of your many cheerleaders and be the bridge to someone who ultimately brings you to the next level. Think of angel investors like scouts for professional sports: we really want you to make it, but help us help you. Do your research and adopt best practices.

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

Read more: Earning the halo: How to build relationships with angel investors, even when they won’t invest in you http://www.techinasia.com/earning-the-halo-how-to-build-relationships-with-angel-investors-even-when-they-dont-want-to-invest-in-you/
Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Excellent insights by an angel investor who works with start ups all the time.

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How To Get Your Business Noticed By Venture Capital

How To Get Your Business Noticed By Venture Capital | Pitch it! | Scoop.it
For every successful start-up, umpteen entrepreneurs will fail - despite having brilliant ideas. Many of these failures will be down to one major problem that faces new businesses anywhere in the world: finding finance.

For every successful start-up, umpteen entrepreneurs will fail – despite having brilliant ideas. Many of these failures will be down to one major problem that faces new businesses anywhere in the world: finding finance.

One solution, with added potency in a time of reduced bank lending, is Venture Capital (VC) – finance provided to early-stage companies, usually through dedicated management funds in return for an equity stake in the business.

But securing VC funding is not as simple as turning up and asking for a blank cheque. Funds have no end of potential suitors. For example, Mercia Fund Management, a multi-million UK-based VC fund, estimates that it receives 50 full business plans and as many as 200 website enquiries each month but only does 10-15 major investments each year.

The most important part of getting noticed is doing the initial research. There are many funds out there specialising in different sectors or geographical areas and it is a matter of finding the best fit for a business rather than attempting to blanket the market with proposals and applications.

Mercia, for example, is mostly interested in UK-based businesses involved in sectors such as medical research, disruptive technology, financial technology and e-commerce. Mercia is particularly interested in businesses that do not require a significant capital investment before producing revenue, says Mark Payton, managing director of Mercia Fund Management. For instance, this means it prefers to invest in companies that offer services to the medical research industry as opposed to those involved directly in drug discovery, which can be a capital intensive enterprise.

“We love a business that can offer a tweak of services to the pharmaceutical industry and get into revenue quickly,” Payton adds. “Cash generation and growth are important. We don’t want it to be capital intensive just for it to prove its point.”

The VC fund finds universities to be a rich seam of potential. Mercia has partnerships with eight UK universities located in the West Midlands – the University of Birmingham; Aston University; Staffordshire University; Coventry University; The University of Warwick; Birmingham City University; Keele University; and the University of Wolverhampton.

These partnerships form the basis for the fund’s early-stage entrepreneurial investments, using funds garnered through the UK’s Seed Investment Scheme (SEIS) – a government scheme giving significant tax relief to private investors that back early-stage entrepreneurship. For example, an investor can claim back all but 14p from every £1 invested through tax relief if a business was to fail, says Payton. And if it was to succeed, the investment would be exempt from capital gains taxation, he adds.

This has given Mercia more money than ever before to play with and means that the fund managers can spend more time evaluating businesses instead of running around looking for new sources of capital. “The founders aren’t scrambling around looking for money,” he says. “They’re looking at businesses that will start earning.”

But Mercia also looks further afield when trying to find more established businesses. It uses a network of contacts and experts to find and evaluate a variety of start-ups from many different sectors. For example, it invested in Canary Care, through a later-stage equity crowd-funding site called Syndicate Room.

Mercia is also looking to expand its investments in the digital sector. In August, it is raising a new fund that will run alongside its pre-existing growth funds and co-invest specifically in businesses operating in this area. Other funds in other parts of the world are also quite excited about new ideas in the digital sphere. This is especially true in still-developing markets where businesses are springing up to cater to a middle class that is growing in wealth and technological familiarity.

For example, in Latin America another VC fund called Kaszek is snapping up stakes in start-ups involved in areas such as mobile technology, driven by growth in smart-phone and internet use. “Mobile is where we’re seeing acceleration and we’re seeing opportunities,” says Nicolás Szekasy, Kaszek partner. “In general access and quality of broadband and penetration of smart-phones is growing a significant tail-wind for certain businesses, creating a regional opportunity.”

Kaszek has invested in mobile- and internet-based companies such as Restorando, an online reservation service, Safertaxi, a cab booking app and Comparaonline, a financial comparison website.

But it too is heavily subscribed. The fund has done around 24 investments but has looked at more than 2,000 companies in order to do so, says Szekasy. “We get a lot of in-bound interest. Most entrepreneurs in Latin America are in the technology sector and in most cases know us from Mercado Libre.” (A Latin American auction site like eBay where a number of the Kaszek founders got started)

The VC fund continues to look for companies that have a strong entrepreneurial and technological team in place and operate in areas where a virtual marketplace can be created. One of the newest and most interesting of these is online education services, he adds.

“Typically when you have a platform that a company develops and needs to attract supply and demand to – buyers and sellers of goods – you’ve got something worth investing in,” says Szekasy. Kazek has invested in many ideas such as this including OpenEnglish, in the online education sector and VivaReal in real estate.

In the end every VC fund will be looking for different things. But the one thing they will have in common is a desire for a clearly thought out business plan. A start-up must have a commercially viable idea. But it also needs to be able to find the fund that matches it best and then present its idea in a clear and concise manner.

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

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Every VC fund has its profile. Do your research well.

AleksBlumentals's curator insight, August 2, 2:46 AM

If the current process is to look at 250 pitches per month to invest in 20 companies per year, could one not imagine a different way?  

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Find Your Dennis: How to Close the First Investor

3 Tactics to help with closing your first investor

$10,800. Dennis' check was the smallest check we've ever raised from investors; but it was also the biggest. While subsequent venture capital and corporate investments added several more zeroes to our bank account, Dennis' check--our first--added much more at the earliest stage in our company's founding: credibility with our investor community, confidence we could achieve our vision, and capital to reach critical company milestones.

Every entrepreneur raising capital comes to the same conclusion: no one wants to be the first investor in their company. Many investors want to be early. "Early" equates with the high risk, high reward that has elevated a select few angel investors into billionaire status, but no one wants to be the very first. Like us, you need to find your Dennis--the one investor who will jump off the cliff with you and be that very first investor. Follow these three tactics to find and close your Dennis:

1. Create a network of could-be investors

If you plan to go around cold calling qualified investors to invest in your business, particularly if this is your first company, good luck. Not only does the lack of an established connection prevent you from getting in the door with investors, it is often the case that entrepreneurs ask for money before they truly need it.

To find your Dennis, you have to build a strong network of could-be investors. This network creation comes as the result of two steps. First, identify could-be investors in every one of your networks (work, school, locality, friends and family). Founding NuLabel out of school, we immediately looked to our alumni network for could-be investors and in our local entrepreneur community in Providence, RI--where we connected with Dennis. Second, engage could-be investors to provide what you really need when you first launch your business: intellectual capital. Most could-be investors bring valuable advice to the table, and engaging could-be investors as informal advisors can build a strong connection to your company's story without immediately demanding they open their wallet to help you as an investor.

2. Treat could-be investors like they already invested

Now that could-be investors are engaged and even providing occasional, informal advice, treat these valuable members of your network like you would an existing investor. Provide them with regular updates that establish meaningful, achievable milestones and showcase results. As you achieve these milestones and share them in a consistent and periodic manner, momentum builds, risk starts to evaporate, and your could-be investors start to become will-be investors as you establish a track record of results that exhibit not only you achieving your vision, but their intellectual capital creating value.

3. Ask for the check

Don't wait for your potential first investor to offer to invest, because that won't happen. Instead, ask for a specific investment; state the use of proceeds; and most importantly, explain how this first check can be leveraged into many additional, bigger investments from others. With an immediate term need to fund a specific, measurable milestone, we asked Dennis for the capital to cover the expenses to get to that milestone. We showed upfront how we knew we would exceed expectations and that we had several interested could-be investors awaiting the achievement of that milestone who ultimately jumped in less than one month after Dennis' check came in and we accomplished that immediate term business objective.


The lunch bill when Dennis told me, "Yes, I'm in," was modest: two cheeseburgers, two Diet Cokes, and a side of fries. The feeling after Dennis agreed to invest $10,800: well, that was worth a million bucks.

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

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Big point: get your first investor committed, no matter how big that check is, the rest will follow.

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