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Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneur’

NorthSharkTank

North was recently quoted dropping some knowledge in the article, Real-Life Lessons From Shark Tank on Entrepreneur.com.

Here’s an excerpt:

Know when to pitch. Entrepreneurs with a well-developed product and proven financial success have the best luck with the “sharks,” says David Brody, a managing partner at the venture analysis firm North. “Nothing builds momentum like demonstrating you know how to make a cash register ring,” Brody says. Krinzman cited the entrepreneurs who failed to net funding for their “fun house” in Times Square as an example, saying they sought capital in the idea phase of their business planning.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

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The crew at Venture 360 (a North venture…) has just teamed up with Marc and Clint over at Startup Weekend to bring their throngs of ambitious entrepreneurs some valuable insight and to support Startup Weekend in their mission to foster more innovation around the globe.

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Startup Weekend is a 54 hour startup event that provides networking, resources, and incentives for individuals and teams to go from idea to launch. Yep, you read it right. Attend a weekend and you’ll be able to network with like-minded local developers, innovators and entrepreneurs. Be apart of creating a company. And as they like to say about their events, they’re “No Talk. All Action”.

Attendees of upcoming Startup Weekend events will not only receive some pocket-pleasing discounts on Full Venture 360 analysis reports, each formed team will receive complimentary access to the Venture 360 analysis software to help them develop their business plans and put their weekend ventures on the right track.

The strategic partnership will kick off at the upcoming Women 2.0 Startup Weekend in San Francisco, August 28-30, 2009 and the Startup Weekend Redmond @ BizSpark on the exact same weekend. Both events will have excellent turnouts, so we recommend you snatch up a ticket fast.

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entlogo-2009North was recently quoted dropping some knowledge in the article, 5 Lifelines For You Startup on Entrepreneur.com.

Here’s an excerpt:

Evan Solida was stuck.

Solida, founder of Cerevellum, which sells digital rearview mirrors for bicycles, had posted his business plan on several websites promising to connect him with investors in exchange for a few hundred dollars.

Time passed. Investors never came.

It’s a familiar dilemma for many startup companies: Solida knew he needed help but didn’t know where to find it.

“You almost feel like you’re at a used car dealership,” Solida says “You’ve got all these people who know you’re out there looking for something–in this case, money from investors–and they prey on that.”

Solida eventually found North Venture Partners, a consulting firm that helped him streamline his product offerings, set up an advisory board and take other steps to professionalize his business plan.

North is one of many resources available to startups seeking direction and funding.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE.

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breakingthroughAs we’ve outlined on this blog over the last few weeks, the system for raising early stage capital today is fundamentally flawed. Even though the road to success for entrepreneurs trying to kickstart their visions is littered with potholes and deceptive directions, it can all be corrected with a little teamwork. If change is going to happen, we can’t just tease the entrepreneurial community with brief moments of candor and transparency. The only way we truly accelerate the rate at which that innovation is created in this country and solve our financial crisis is for us to come together and provide enormous value back to the very entrepreneurs from which we expect that innovation to come. By the way, that busted road we mentioned…it’s a two-way street.

So without further ado, here, in no particular order, are North’s 10 Rules for Breaking Through:

1. Listen To The Challengers, Not Just The Congratulators.

listentoyourcriticsTurning an idea into an actual operating company is hard work. So make it easier on yourself, bounce your concept off those people that have no problem ripping it apart. Seriously, if all you do is play “show and tell” with your trusted inner circle are you really going to learn anything new? Feedback from candid and objective outsider can often make the difference between your business growing and maturing vs. remaining underdeveloped. Are you listening?

2. Don’t Buy Anything That Doesn’t Provide Value Back.

As mentioned throughout this paper, there are a ton of services marketing at entrepreneurs, especially those that pitch the promise of raising money or connecting you with investors. However, before you take the plunge (or get out your credit card) ask yourself a simple question, “am I getting useful value back?” What you’re doing is hard and takes a lot of time, don’t waste it. Surround yourself with experts that can inspire and help you reach your goals.

3. Those With Fewer Words Win.

We can’t express enough the importance of being able to concisely state your business idea in a very persuasive manner. Investor’s have limited time and even a more limited attention span (do you know how many pitches they hear a day?). If your “single sentence” about what you do and how you make money is confusing, you’ve wasted your breath and other’s time. Take time to dial this in. The results will follow.

4. Talk To Anyone Who’ll Listen.

Okay, quit hiding behind your laptop screen and go talk to people. If you’re too remote and working from a tropical island somewhere (good for you), but at least pick up the phone. Investors know each other and if you talk to large number of them it can actually create more buzz about you and your concept. Healthy competition is good when it comes to raising money. The more options (and contacts) you have, the better off you’re going to be. Lastly, when you’re doing all that talking, be sure you don’t forget to take pauses and listen! (see #1).

5. Momentum Is Your Friend, If…

Don’t waste precious time hunting for cash if you’re not yet “investor ready.” Keep dialing in your business model and make that sucker bulletproof. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to stay focused, inspired, and moving forward with steady pace. If you know which direction you’re going, it’s okay to sprint. On the other hand, if you have no clue where you’re headed, slowdown hombre. Speed without direction is the fastest way to getting nowhere.

6. Start Smart Or End Stupid.

Take it from people who have “been there done that.” Be wise with your time in the early stages. If you’re not truly confident and frequently find yourself second-guessing your path, stop. “Green” entrepreneurs blast out their concept stage plans when they’re not even mature enough to be considered for funding (and then wonder why they hear crickets?). Instead of taking this route, go meet with experts that can help you tighten up your concept, train of thought, and give you an indication whether you even have a viable idea in the first place. You’ll be smarter for it, and a more prepared entrepreneur the second time around.

7. Heighten Your Bullshit Radar.

The early stage investment capital space is crawling with unsavory characters. Do all you can to avoid a lengthy unfruitful and expensive ride on the scam tram. We already mentioned in #2 above that you should seek out value. Well, in order to do so, you must first sharpen your perceptive skills. If someone says they “know how to find you capital” (and they haven’t shown you and credible evidence that they know how), ask them how they intend to do that. Remember during the last presidential race when John McCain proclaimed, “I know how to catch Bin Laden.” Hey, if he knows how to “do it” then why hasn’t he shared it with anyone already. It’s because it’s just desperate drivel from a man seeking votes from unperceptive swing voters.

8. Cash Is King.

Do your economic models scale beautifully? Do you have a solid way to make money? Can you prove it? If this part of your plan is not credible, you will quickly be voted off Start-up Island. No question about it. If an investor were hosting the show Survivor, they’d say, “Bring your business plan up here (after handing it to them, they toss it in the fire). The tribe has spoken. It’s time for you to go. The rest of you looking for funding, head back to camp and work on your financial models.”

9. Don’t Wait In Line.

beheardQuit trying to shout “me…me…me” in the crowded pitch farms. This is a complete waste of time, effort, and money. In order to break through with investors, you’ll have to take risks and do whatever it takes to get noticed. Don’t just show up on the congested scene with one arrow in your quiver. Arm yourself with third party due diligence, a working prototype, or some other vehicle that demonstrates that your business is worthy of attention and funding consideration.

10. Sell Something Dammit.

cashregisterIf you are starting a business, sell something. Nothing builds excitement, momentum, and revenue faster than actually ringing a real register. Far too many new ventures focus on research and development and by the time they have a product, the market has moved. They never got real consumer feedback and they wound up running out of money before they were able to hang that first dollar on the wall. If you want to succeed, make sure the “selling” component is a well-oiled machine. It’s the difference maker.

This is the conclusion section from our recent paper, Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.

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thefunded-logoAdeo Ressi, the founder of the TheFunded.com has joined a long list of entrepreneurs and investors that say that the venture capital industry is broken. However, Ressi decided to put his (didn’t use outsider funds) money where his mouth was and built a site that allows entrepreneurs to critique and rate the actual audience that was evaluating them…the investors.

Ressi argues that airing the venture industry’s dirty laundry will ultimately improve the efficiency of the funding process as well as the rocky relationships that exist between investors and entrepreneurs. TheFunded also allows entrepreneurs to view and share term sheets, to assist one another finding good investors, and to discuss the many facets of operating a business. While many entrepreneurs applaud Ressi for clearing out the cloud of smoke that surrounds the VC world, many simply see TheFunded as only an arena for disgruntled entrepreneurs to vent.

“The problem with sites like TheFunded.com, or any site with user reviews is that the reviewed product will always be at a disadvantage. For every unhappy customer, they tell 9 of their friends, and for every happy one they tell 3. The odds are against the VCs here. Of course the majority of turned away entrepreneurs will put a negative review – it’s a form of vengeance. But those that did have a happy experience will have little reason to post anything. They have already researched for information from the site, got what they were looking for and will not likely return without proper incentive.” Ian Bell, Entrepreneur

Because of this lack of positive reviews, many entrepreneurs accuse the VCs of gaming the system where they’ve asked entrepreneurs they’ve backed to submit a favorable commentary about them and their fundraising experience. This boosts the firm’s rankings on TheFunded’s leaderboard, and has resulted in many in the industry to question the sites credibility.

For example, if a disproportionate number of members enter the site to provide a single comment on a given firm’s profile, this sends a red flag to TheFunded’s system. TheFunded looks for other behavior, too, for example, unusual semantic characteristics of the written fund reviews, such as excessive use of exclamation points and superlatives. It also looks at how many entrepreneurs voluntarily admit they were asked by their VC to submit a review (entrepreneurs are asked this when they provide a comment, and they check a box to say they’ve been asked).

Before this site can truly becomes a quality resource for the start-up community, they’ll need to become more respected (from both sides) by attracting additional traffic and even more helpful reviews to their site (Psst…a new Toyota Prius has over 160 consumer reviews on Edmunds.com compared to just 30 entrepreneur reviews of Kleiner Perkins on TheFunded.com). Unless these numbers pick up, it’s hard to look at this site without some real bias. At the end of the day tough, the TheFunded has definitely made Investors way more aware of their perceptions in the venture marketplace, and if that’s the nudge they needed to become more transparent and helpful to entrepreneurs; they deserve some applause, but not quite a standing “O” just yet.

“If their tool did such a good job, they’d raise a fund themselves and beat the tar out of us.” – Paul Kedrosky, investor & entrepreneur

“It’s a wantrepreneur focused product. Real VCs and real companies with a legit shot at VC money wont use it.” – Jeff Martens, strategic consultant

younoodleThe above quotes are referring to the highly controversial YouNoodle.com, an online platform for start-ups and early stage ventures. The feature that has sparked a lot of debate in the investment community is their YouNoodle Start-Up Predictor that analyzes data on early stage ventures and generates a report on what that start-up will be worth in three years. For real? Yes, they’ve developed a software program that claims it can predict the valuation of early-stage start up companies (yes, companies that haven’t come within a whiff of a dollar in revenue…). The model relies on basically four areas: 1) the team; 2) financial factors; 3) the concept; and 4) advisors. How’s it work? The entrepreneur fills out the survey and provides a little detail, and like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, presto…YouNoodle spits out a valuation. Smells about as real as the future predicting information Miss Cleo (the famous TV psychic and shaman), provided after calling her “900” hotline. misscleo

It’s hard for us to look at this with a straight face. Seriously. Has the venture community been Punk’d? After all, a “noodle” is defined in the dictionary as a fool or simpleton. Can you really believe that two teenagers working on a few lines of code in the basement have developed a $2.75 million dollar idea? Ridiculous. Be very afraid of this tool, looking at some number on the screen followed by a huge string of zeroes right next to the name and your start-up feeds the entrepreneurs ego like nothing else can. Think about the Far Side cartoon where the kids are all eating ice cream in front of the windows of a gym filled with overweight people sweating on treadmills. It’s pretty sick. We think it’s nothing more than a way to grow their real ambition – – yet another social network for entrepreneurs. If it isn’t, then why haven’t their own founding members run themselves through their magical predictor?

The following excerpt is taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.

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compforcapitalThis section wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the plethora of contests and competitions out there for entrepreneurs. Most of these are business plan writing competitions that target upstart entrepreneurs to enter in hopes they are going to get in front of a panel of investors who will then choose their venture and write them a big fat check.

For young entrepreneurs, it seems that every college with an MBA program is promoting one of these. But again, if you happen to enter one, don’t just fall under the spell of dollar signs. Most of the competitions offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to: 1) help crystallize their thinking (and making them more investor ready); 2) receive feedback and advice from forward-thinking entrepreneurs and investors; 3) network with fellow entrepreneurs and distinguished investors; and 4) sharpen their skills in analyzing, writing, and presenting their business plan. Again, the more value one of these contests provides back, the better it makes the entire process for starting and funding a company.

riceThe Rice University Competition has become one of the premier collegiate competitions in the world; with over 35% of its entered teams (since 2001) going on to successfully launch their business. These impressive numbers can be directly attributed to the counseling and feedback all of these teams received at the competition. Now that’s entrepreneurial education done right.

“The support of business leaders and successful entrepreneurs ensures that tomorrow’s leaders can pursue their dreams by utilizing such an investment to refine their business plan and presentation, potentially develop a prototype or begin the patent process, and build the foundations of a viable business – ultimately attracting additional capital and fostering the spirit of entrepreneurship in the US,” explains Steven C. Currall, PhD, and Founding Director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

Alternatively, many VCs and Angel Groups are now holding “segment specific” competitions to generate quality deal flow in hopes of surfacing the next big thing. Entrepreneurs submit their innovative ideas on everything from gaming to green energy to senior products & services to social media. The winner can usually drive home with as much as $100,000K of start-up capital in their front seat.

One interesting newbie on the competition front is Ideablob.com. Run by Advanta, one of the largest credit card companies in the States, Ideablob is a place for entrepreneurs to post their ideas and get real-time feedback from their peers. The site was developed around the premise that there are tens of millions of entrepreneurs and small business owners in the United States, but no real way for them to network and bounce ideas off of each other. Eligible individuals can submit their business ideas to ideablob.com, and based on votes from the ideablob.com online community; which includes other innovators as well as friends, family, colleagues, associates, teachers and mentors – one idea every month will win $10,000. Here’s to growing the blob and mentoring entrepreneurs in the process!

googlelunarxprizelogoLooking for something a little more unconventional? As of this writing there were already 16 announced teams registered for the Google Lunar X Prize competition. The Google Lunar X Prize will reward the first privately-funded team to land a rover on the moon (and travel at least 500 meters across its surface) with the $20 million purse. If no one is able to complete the mission and send video, data, and images back to Earth by December 31, 2012, the first prize drops to $15 million. The big challenge for these braniacs will be to do it affordably. Many are already raising money and even turning to corporate sponsorship to help get their idea on the launch pad. Let the countdown to liftoff begin.

The following excerpt is taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.

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needleinhaystackThe scarcity of capital for early stage companies in recent years has lead to the creation of literally thousands of businesses focused on helping entrepreneurs raise money for their start-ups. At North, this subject is close to our hearts, as we’ve made it our mission to make the entire process for fostering, filtering, and funding entrepreneurial innovation more efficient.

While some individuals and companies are taking strides to optimize entrepreneurship and inspire innovation, others unfortunately seem to be falling into the all too familiar trap of playing “follower,” when today’s economy desperately needs leaders. While there’s certainly value to extract from a few of these businesses, many unfortunately are coming up short of industry expectations, launching the exact same set of features and functionality as those that came before them.

“They have taken their cue from the Gold Rush when the truly crafty business-people made money not from prospecting but by selling shovels to the prospectors. Likewise, today’s money-raising services have found a low risk means to separate the cash-starved entrepreneur from any money he or she may have left.” – Antiventurecapital.com

In this section, we highlight a few of the emerging ideas, ventures, and individual brand names that either have or are in the midst of trying to bring much-needed efficiency to the early stage venture market. Are any the long-awaited silver bullet that is going to help accelerate economic growth when now we need to create innovation faster than ever before?

You be the judge. Let’s take a closer look at the Pitch Farms.

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We’ve already spoken at length about the recent proliferation of the “Pitch Farms,” those online destinations that promise to connect start-ups with the investor community. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re probably very familiar with the usual suspects that offer up their virtual cork board for some type of fee (usually a recurring monthly one): FundingPost, FundingUniverse, EFactor, and GoBigNetwork to name just a few.

David Rose, Founder and CEO of Angelsoft, considered one of the “smarter” pitch farms, outlines both the opportunity and the shortcomings of these destinations when he said, “…there are many, many web sites out there which purport to connect, or ‘match’, entrepreneurs seeking funding with potential investors. By our own count, there are probably three or four dozen, and that’s without looking very hard. The reason there are so many is that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel: how many starving entrepreneurs wouldn’t want to come to a web site that promises them cash?!”

Mr. Rose originally launched Angelsoft to Angel groups software that enabled submissions, file management, and group communication tools. It was a lot of the infrastructure that traditional Angels needed to scale and to update their current submission processes and makes them more “new economy ready.” However, Angelsoft has since morphed into another massive deal farm for the start-up community. Perhaps pleasing their engineers on staff, they now offer up a dizzying array of features and software updates. So many in fact, it makes an average Angel investor feel as though they’re playing around on their kid’s Facebook page.

angelsoftscreenshotEven with the questionable, confusing, and clearly off-target features, it’s not hard to tell that Mr. Rose has his sights on consolidating the entire early stage venture market. With 442 Angel groups, over 14,000 investors, and a staggering 2,000 new venture applications per month, they now have an Open Deal pitch for $250 a pop that allows an entrepreneur to get their plan in front of all 14,000 investors with the click of a mouse (if those investors were actually logged on and could even find their way to the Open Deal room…).

“The sad reality, however, is that while it is extremely easy to get hungry entrepreneurs to list their plans, it is well-nigh IMPOSSIBLE to get investors to show up on the other side of the curtain…for the simple reason that (a) the ratio of investors to entrepreneurs is about 1:1000, and (b) investors are so deluged with opportunities that they simply don’t go out LOOKING for plans; plans come to them!” says Mr. Rose who in his own words admits he’s got an efficiency problem on his hands.

Recently Angelsoft started to actually push deals onto the unsuspecting investors of all the third party Angel groups that use their software. This pushy intrusion comes in the form of a bi-weekly unsolicited email filled with recent venture submissions. Angel groups that signed up for Angelsoft to help manage their Angel group now find themselves competing for their own investor members attention with the unrequested (and often unwanted) deal flow being shoveled onto their members by an Angelsoft email server that seems to have its dial stuck on “spam.”

“With Angelsoft, all of the personal aspects of Angel investing seem to be removed from the equation. My materials are submitted through Angelsoft forms, and then disappear into some system that encourages a group of busy angels to evaluate the opportunity in a black box. Do they like it? Do they hate it? Do they even read it? I have no idea, since I have never heard anything!” comments a disappointed entrepreneur.

For all the aggressive email action and striking numbers on this site, one has to wonder, is it really delivering on quality deal flow or just polluting the Internet with more “not ready for prime time” quantity? As of this writing, Angelsoft reports that just 1.32 percent of start-ups on their site have been funded, and that the average number of “views” for each submission is only 5.3 (Which means an average submission is viewed by only 1 of every 3,000 investors that Angelsoft claims to represent). For entrepreneurs and investors, the verdict is still out on whether this site is more “soft” than true “Angel.”

The following excerpt is taken from Breaking Through The Broken: The Transparent Guide To Overcoming The Inefficiencies In Early Stage Venture Capital.

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