Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

NORTH STAR

by John Jonelis

We catch 647 fish here in 4 days.  On average, that’s a pike every 2.8 minutes.  This place is wild, unspoiled, perhaps like this continent a thousand years ago and summer feels like spring.

Huge northern pike.  Gorgeous scenery.  What man can resist a fishing expedition?

I am visiting my favorite startup company—North Star Executive Outpost on Knee Lake, Manitoba.  It’s a paradise—a northern pike factory in the breathtaking Canadian wilderness.  No roads.  Accessible only by air.  Just one lodge on a 50-mile-long stretch of pure water where God and God alone stocks these hearty fish that grow to such prodigious proportions and feed so ferociously.

Six hundred forty seven fish.  Don’t believe me?  I assure you, we keep an accurate count.  Got to.  Boat bets.  Loop Lonagan and Jim Kren will skin me alive for lying about a thing like that.

On day #2, a pike manages to hit my lure before swallowing its previous meal and yes, I count two fish caught on one cast.  The bite is on!

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Shore Lunch

Every day we pause to catch a few fat walleye and then land our boats at a likely island to participate in a great Canadian custom—shore lunch.  The guide cuts wood, builds a fire, cleans, cooks, and serves the fish.  My favorite restaurant of all time.

So many wonderful ways to cook fresh fish.  Beer batter walleye, honey-garlic walleye, traditional walleye with all the trimmings.  A different dish every day, followed by desert.  If you have not yet experienced this wilderness feast, you are in for a treat!

Nothing tastes better than fresh walleye.  It’s a delicacy elsewhere in the world, but nowhere near as good as walleye up here.  These are fresh from of a cold clean body of water—live until cooked and eaten.  Up here, they grow big and thick, with luscious and flaky meat.  I have room for just one.

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Hunting Pike

We spend our days on these pristine waters in open boats, making long casts with stout rods, our heavy lures retrieved at speed.  Attacks by northern pike are sudden, savage, and frequent, with water churning at line’s end.  To our surprise, walleye also strike our lures with tenacity and vigor.

But on day #3, the air grows unusually warm for this far north, and the bite slows.  I put away my heavy tackle and slip out a fly rod.  We glide into a calm bay, looking for big ones sunning and digesting an afternoon’s feed.  We are hunting them.

My guide spots a monster pike 50 feet away and I cast a 10-inch fly at it.  It refuses my offering and paddles away ever so slowly.  “We’ll find it again!” says my companion.

And we do.  I tie on a bigger fly (it looks more like a mop), cast it past this fish, and draw it into the kill zone, then twitch it to entice the lounging lunker.  As I watch, the big fish gradually turns toward my bait and lazily moves on it.  With great care, enormous jaws close over my lure.  I set the hook hard, feel weight and life at the end of my line, and see the huge pike pull against me.  Fish on!

A shiver runs down my shoulder.  Then the big pike charges our boat and I strip line fast, spilling coils around my feet, trying to keep a load on my rod because any slack and that barbless hook can easily fall from a bony jaw.  The pike continues to charge and swims directly under the boat.  Plunging fly rod into water, I work around the bow.  The pike continues to run in the same direction, taking line at will—line that burns through my grip until it spools off the floor, pulls taught, and tugs at the drag on my primitive reel.  The reel gives me an advantage.

Powerful shakes and malicious tugs, then the pike’s 25 pounds rolls in my leader, but hook holds fast and this northern pike finally goes to bottom, still as rock.  The water is clear in this shallow bay and I see my fish and keep pressure on.

Eventually the big pike concedes, and perhaps more out of curiosity than fatigue comes to our gunnels.  My guide and I both gasp. There’s always something awesome about a thick, powerful fish measuring in the mid 40’s.

We net the pike, snap a quick photo, and the trophy goes right back in the lake to swim away and fight again. I can barely express the draining satisfaction of hunting, battling, and landing a pike this big.  Maybe I’ll catch him again next year.  Then primal shouts, a congratulatory handshake, and I relive the fight in my mind all the many miles back to our lodge.

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Revival

After a hard day fishing, this old man needs food and rest.  Management proves courteous and professional and refuses to let me suffer.  We sit around our beautiful log cabin in blissful comfort, sipping beer and telling stories with suitable embellishments while eating steak, ribs, and other satisfying fare.

Up here, summer nights don’t get entirely dark.  By eight o’clock in the afternoon, we’re playing at the pool table, shuffleboard table, and poker table.  Then we shower under deliciously hot water and sleep soundly under warm quilts, on firm and expansive beds.

On the appointed day, we board our bush plane at the lodge’s private landing strip and fly home for dinner.  If you live in Chicago, a true wilderness isn’t really that far away..

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THE PLACE:

North Star Executive Outpost

http://northstarresort.ca/

Check for a cancellation if you want to book this year.

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VERIFY MY NUMBERS:

Fish frequency calculation:

3 fishermen, 4 days on the water

less 1.5 hours/day for shore lunch

= 30 hours fishing and running around in the boat.

30 hrs / 647 fish = avg 2.8 min per fish caught

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Photography by John Jonelis

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READ “WILDERNESS”

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, Canada, Cleantech, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Fishing, fly fishing, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, new companies, pike fishing, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture

TOP OF THE LIST

by Mark T Wayne

“Admirable!  Superlative!  Top of the list!  Gentlemen, you are indeed fortunate that I invited you here!”  I study the greedy faces of my two compatriots—the estimable Donatas Ludditis (good old Don) as well as the execrable Loop Lonagan and his stinking bull terrier, Clamps.  (Claims it’s a therapy dog.)  We are here as judges, along with a crowd of luminaries from Chicago’s startup community for the finals of the tenth annual POWER PITCH competition.  Today we will hear pitches from a host of exciting new companies.  Yes sir!  The enthusiasm is riveting.

Clamps

Don bows politely and speaks like a gentleman.  “Am glad I come,” he says in his charming Lithuanian accent.

Lonagan leers at me.  “Lemme at ‘em,” he says in his gutter lingo.

The IN2 Accelerator

I scan the ranks of judges and note representatives of the Business Plan Police lurking in the wings.  We want no trouble from them. But I must familiarize my guests with the program.  “This, gentlemen, is IN2—potentially the greatest startup accelerator of its kind in the world, with facilities available at a mere handful of elite universities”  I sweep my arm in an arc to indicate our magnificent surroundings. “Offices here and at the huge 1871 incubator.” 

Clamps releases one resounding bark—basso profundo—and lolls a broad tongue out over enormous teeth.  From a suitcoat pocket, Lonagan produces a hunk of meat.  He tosses it into the gaping maw—just as the teeth snap closed in hungry abandon.  This animal and its uncouth owner make up a last-minute replacement, foisted upon me by the editor.

On stage, Dr. Carl Heine announces the first competitor.  With a cane, I prod my guests and lower my voice to a whisper. “Don’t make me ashamed, you two derelicts.”  Don straightens his back and faces front with all due alacrity and respect.  Lonagan slouches like the slob he is.  The round begins:

IN2 Maker Space

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Flameless

Fifty percent of all residential fires are cooking related. This company uses sound waves—yes, sound waves—to extinguish fires automatically.  It is safe. It is neat.  It does not belch messy fluid or poisonous gas, as do other fire suppression methods.  We watch a video showing the system in action and the audience bustles with delight.   Amazing!

“Five minutes!”  The shout stops the speaker in mid-sentence.  That is the kind of strict discipline that warms my heart.  But even under the gun of limited time, their business plan is complete with financial projections, marketing plan, intellectual property, and go-to-market strategy.  Well coached, sir!  Very well coached!

Moises Goldman – Judge

Lonagan elbows Don and whispers:  “Deeze guys look kinda young, doncha think?”  The response to his juvenile utterance gets cut short when the next company is introduced:

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The Oil Magnet

This is a new technology for cleaning oil slicks.  They disburse magnetic nanoparticles into the spill, and then recover black gold with a magnetic boom.  A demonstration unit elicits gasps from the crowd—the team pulls off this whiz-bang presentation with thoroughness and aplomb.  I believe I’m sensing a rhythm to this event.

Demo

The foul Lonagan leans over to me and mutters with his rank breath and wet voice: “How old d’ya s’pose dem guys is?”

“Shush! You, sir, are making a mistake. Mark your judging sheet.” I thump the document with a finger. “The next company is already speaking.” I cannot abide ludicrous interruptions during business hours.

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Series

Ninety six billion dollars of crops are lost annually due to pests, standing water, and soil degradation.  This company uses drones and GPS to scan farm fields automatically, in both the visible and infrared spectrums.  They scrutinize images against a large computer database and detect damage down to the individual plant.  And they do it cheaply.  Their mentor is DuPont.

Don nudges my arm and leans close to my ear, speaking with hushed tones in his broken English:  “In old country, I not see anything like this.  Is just high school.  Am impressed!”

Judge

Apparently overhearing, Lonagan lets out a shout of desperation:   “Hey, yer sayin’ dis’s a high school?—a high school?” After this inane utterance, he buries his face in both hands and moans as if in deep pain.  “And youse guys dragged me outa bed!  On Saturday!”  His outburst elicits a perplexed expression from the speaker and rumblings of outrage from the judges and crowd.  Clamps leaps against his master and howls.  I am astonished—astonished I say—that the man only just noticed the fact that this is indeed a high school.  True, it does not look like one, but nobody can be that obtuse.

Judge

I am unable to restrain myself from delivering a rebuke, and do not spare any volume:  “Sir, your puerile reaction is entirely inappropriate to the situation!”  I fix my stare until the man squirms.

Clamps wags his tail as I continue:

“This, sir, is THE high school—IMSA—the Illinois Math and Science Academy—the statewide school for the highly gifted!  You may find other schools riddled with dropouts and illiterate stooges that quickly jettison whatever knowledge they accidentally absorb, but these students WANT to lead society! At this fine institution, 99.8% of the graduates go to college!  Many of the businesses you see here come to fruition and these students intern at actual startup companies around the city!” 

Mark T Wayne

As my gaze bores into his soul, the man appears badly stunned.  Dare I tell him that some of these teams are middle school students?  Those around us seem well satisfied with my lecture, but I cannot be certain that any real ideas penetrate Lonagan’s frontal lobe.  From under my shaggy brows, I pin my friend Don with a meaningful glance and tilt my head in the general direction of the foul perpetrator and his dog.

Don immediately comes to my rescue:  “Loop!  Is great place!  Not gangs here!  No drugs!  No fear!”

“Whatsa funna dat?”

Don keeps at him.  “Faculty 47% PhD!”

“Piled Higher ‘n’ Deeper.”

Clamps barks.

Dr. Heine spares us further histrionics by introducing the next pitch.

Judge

iCane

What grandpa is ever without his cane?  This company makes a smart cane with medical reminders, loud SOS alarm location tracking, geo fencing, pedometer, and Bluetooth.  It folds up and is easy to use.  My walking stick seems inadequate by comparison.  What an excellent idea!

Judges

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epilEXPERT

Fifty thousand people a year die from epileptic seizures. It’s a $27.8B market.  This company makes a device that detects the problem, alerts the caregiver’s phone, and keeps a trail of raw data.

Lonagan slurrs out a belligerent question:

“How y’gonna run a business ‘n’ finish yer education at da same time?”  The man has gone from judge to heckler and I find myself acutely embarrassed for him.  The team covered this point in its presentation.  Like most of these companies, it will license its technology—in my view, an elegant and fully reasonable solution.

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Rethink Numeracy

This is a new way to teach numbers to children with disabilities, and the team seems to have cracked the problem.  They’re already working with neuropsychology experts and marketing their methods through a reputable center for the care of children with Downs Syndrome.

Finals

Lonagan scratches his monstrous dog behind the ears and puts another question: “How y’gonna scale a thing like dat?” 

This slurred interrogatory barely precedes the flashing of a badge. “Business Plan Police.  Please come along quietly, sir.”  Lonagan immediately balls a fist and clouts the officer to the floor.

Clamps licks the stricken man’s face. The officer regains consciousness and blows his whistle.

From out of the crowd, three musclebound agents pile onto Lonagan and hustle him out of the room like a roll of carpet.  I catch a glimpse of his feet kicking and hear him spew a few choice and utterly foul invectives as he disappears out the door.  Clamps bounds after them, tail wagging vigorously.

The crowd hushes a moment, then shrugs off the incident and Don lets out a sigh.  “Is bad.  I wonder do we ever see Loop again.” 

I also feel somewhat perplexed about such a questionable privilege.  In any given year, the Business Plan Police arrest a number of startups—never to be seen again—but I have never known them to abduct a judge at a pitch competition.  I can now relax.  It makes me most grateful.

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Finals

Three high school teams will advance to the regionals.  (Lower grades compete and are rewarded, but they cannot advance.)  Last year, IMSA won the top three slots at the regional competition.  Here are the results of today’s event:

Jim Gerry – IMSA

1st Place –  $1500 – award sponsor: Charles Whittaker

  • OIL MAGNET – Marisa Patel-O’Conner, Eden Gorevoy & Sol Hwangbo (Juniors at IMSA)
  • iCANE – Umika Arora (7th grade at St. Catherine Laboure School)

2nd Place – $1000 – award sponsor: Deliciousness

  • FLAMELESS – Sivam Bhatt & Nikhil Madugula (Seniors at IMSA)
  • RETHINK NUMERACY – Akshaya Raghavan (Junior at IMSA)

3rd Place – $500 – Award sponsor: After the Peanut

  • epilEXPERT – Monika Narain (8th grade at Mead Jr High) & Jayant Kumar (7th grade at Grainger Middle School)

Alternate

  • SERIES – Andre Wiedenmann & Tommy Neidlein

Britta McKenna – IMSA

Other Companies (alphabetical)

  • 21 C2 – Maryam Mufti, Erika Ezife
  • ACTIV8 – Anusha Trivedi
  • AMENITY – Sonia Edassery, Milica Barac
  • COMMUTE – Natalie Sanchez
  • BRIDGE TUTORING – Armando Pizano, David Gonzalez, Cain Yepez & Stefany Boyas
  • ENABLE EQUITY – Rachel Mason, Shikha

Adhikari

  • GOGO RIDERS – Rishi Modi
  • IDEAL SUGAR – Maya Wlodarczyk
  • IDROGENY TECHNOLOGY – Sricharan Sanakkayala
  • IMMERSION – Neil John, Samuel Anozie, Samantha Alexis Lehman
  • INSPIRULINA – Meghan Hendrix, Kanika Leang, Harsha Nalam
  • INSTA-VILLAGE – Catelyn Rounds & Julian Kroschke
  • INTELLIFIT – Steven Andreev
  • INTELLI-TEST – Akash Basavaraju
  • PHOCUS – Matthew Selvaraj, Louise Lima, Vaishnavi Vanamala, Eric Errampalli, Arthur Lu
  • POCKET PASS – Ajay Jayaraman
  • PROMETHEA – Ayush Bhalavat, Ian Son
  • SAVE OUR STARVING SOULS – Shreya Parepally, Sofie Heidrich
  • SCHOOLBOARD – Samuel Anozie, Aryan Walia, Mary Ashley Tenedor
  • SHINDIG – Nikita Elkin
  • TAKE HOME – Aliah Shaira De Guzman, Michelle Sia, Aryan Walia
  • TRANSSPEED – Atharva Gawde
  • THINKING CAP – Nishant Bhamidipati, Ryan Talusan, Micah Casey-Fusco
  • VIRTUPEACE – Michael McKelvie, Max Knutson
  • UNITED 5 AEROSPACE – Levi Raskin, Duncan Osmund, Wyatt Funkhouser, Ethan Tse

Dr. Carl Heine – IMSA

IMSA IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Dr. Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

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Photography – John Jonelis

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Characters, Chicago Startup, Donatas Ludditis, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, IMSA, Innovation, investor, loop lonagan, Mark T Wayne, Mobile App, new companies, Startup

CEOs THAT SELL

Why Startup CEOs Still Have to Make Sales Calls

by Howard Tullman

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It’s not your strength, or maybe not even what you enjoy doing. But being there to close the deal isn’t something you can simply hand off to the sales team.

At what point can a CEO turn sales over to professional salespeople?  Before that can happen, the company has to achieve two foundational milestones:

  • You need to know exactly what you’re selling—by doing it over and over again (and not as a one-off).
  • You need to know for certain that others can sell it consistently.

That only comes with the maturity of your product/service.  Until it reaches that point, stay in the field and keep selling.  Your product is still being developed on the fly and continually redesigned/reconfigured to better suit the real requirements and demands of customers.  The fact is, ultimately only you can make the critical design and development decisions and you’ll do a much better job of that if you are hearing it directly from the end users and not from a bunch of whiny salespeople.

I’m seeing more and more startup CEOs who discover way too soon that they don’t like the wear and tear, the travel, and the rejection that are all crucial parts of selling a new product or service.  So they retreat, thinking they can run their businesses while they’re sitting on their butts behind a desk back in the office. That’s not how this game works; that behavior is a formula for failure. You may not be an extrovert.  You may not even know the technology that underlies your business as well as half the other people in the company.  You are, however, the boss and today that fact alone means a lot, at least to the people who make the final purchasing decisions.

Remember—buyers are typically older than you, they grew up in strictly hierarchical systems where titles count, and they need to be made to feel important and respected if they’re gonna sign off on your deal. No offense to any of the members of your team, but customers don’t want to deal with the monkey—they need to see the organ grinder. That’s you. And they want you for all the obvious reasons:

  • People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show up. It’s important.
  • Startup staffs are notoriously scattered and hurried—lacking focus and attention to detail. Customers want to know that you personally are connected, paying attention and directly engaged with their business, their concerns, and their problems.
  • Clients want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Not second hand. They want commitments and assurances from you. Everybody knows that the sales guys will say anything and promise them the world.  They need assurance that you will stand behind your product or service and make good on your promises. The buck always stops with you.

Product Maturity

Once your product/service reaches those critical milestones, it’s time to kick yourself upstairs and focus on other things. I encourage CEOs who find they spend too much effort selling to optimize their time.  I suggest that they find competent sales managers and others who can tee up just the right meetings for them—not opening meetings which are a dime a dozen, but closing meetings where the deals get done.

Finding sales meat-eaters to fill managerial roles isn’t easy; they are the hardest hires for any startup, but it’s absolutely critical to have them onboard if you’re going to build a viable business.

When your startup is hiring talent, you need to avoid certain categories of salespeople. For example, stay away from what I call empire builders.  There’s a whole generation or two of sales management types whose experience comes only from large organizations.  I have found fairly consistently that they are the wrongest guys possible for a startup because they grew up in a system where they measured their value and their success by the sheer number of people they managed rather than the results that those folks delivered. Nothing kills a young business faster than bloat and bureaucracy and having too many sales people sitting on their hands and not selling is the worst kind of poison. So be careful what you wish for and who you hire for this critical job.

There’s no more challenging job than being the CEO. You are responsible for the health of each part of the organization and the trajectory of the entire venture.  Stay in the sales loop until your product/service matures.  Then focus on closing deals.  Customers need you to be there—to say what you’ll do, and do what you say.

 

 Howard Tullman is the CEO of Chicago-based 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council and Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

@tullman

This article is an excerpt of one that appeared recently in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office, Howard Tullman

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, big money, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, new companies, Relationships, Startup, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

JUST WRONG

Remembering the Olympics

by John Jonelis

“That’s just wrong!”  says Loop Lonagan as he grabs his remote control, skips ahead on the DVR, and a major Olympic event flashes by the screen too fast to recognize.  We immediately voice our outrage—all of us: Mark T Wayne, William Shakes, Donatas Ludditis, and me.

T.WAYNE“Go back—go back you idiot!”

ME“What’d we just miss?”

T.WAYNE “The entire race—that’s what we missed!  Execrable!”

Things are usually more congenial.  We like watching the Olympics at Lonagan’s penthouse condo.  And we like the 20 ft. OLED Jumbotron, the glass-wall view of the lake, the Swedish waitresses plying us with drinks and food as we wallow in reclining chairs.  Who wouldn’t?  Every two years we do it—our own private marathon!  AND WE WATCH IT ALL.  Skipping events is not taken lightly.

Loop records every event on every station and presents it all to us in the most excellent way.  He’s a master of the remote!  His skill and judgement add immeasurably to our enjoyment!  We race past the talking heads.  Don’t even stop to hear athlete interviews.  Who has time or patience for such drivel?  There’s always another sport to watch and no shortage at all!  And every one of them is performed with such extraordinary skill!  I absolutely love watching the Olympics this way.

Take figure skating for instance.  Before Loop created our marathon, I’d watch the event live and quickly overflow with indignation at unfair judging. I’d get rowdy, vocal, and loud—probably turn purple—and spoil my appreciation of the skill displayed on ice.  I hate to imagine my effect on other poor souls cursed by close proximity to my fury.  Loop eliminates all that.  Turns out, I find the sport a whole lot more enjoyable if we just watch the excellent skating and wait till the end to see the lineup of winners.

But this time, he’s taken it upon himself to skip an entire event without so much as asking for a vote.

T.WAYNE  – “May I point out, Mr. Lonagan, that your action is entirely outside the realm of polite behavior and unbecoming a host.  We agreed to vote.  Because of that rule, I sat through a flighty ice dancing competition night after night—certainly not an event worthy of Olympic glory like biathlon or hockey—and I held my tongue  (if not my liquor) and filed no complaint!  But this—this is inexcusable!”

LUDDITIS“I agree with Mr. Wayne.  Is not right what you do.  You must go back.”

Albert Einstein

LONAGAN – “Wadda you say, Will?”

SHAKES “Methinks tis sport to race.  To aver smacks pie on thy face.”

With the revolt heated and noisy, Loop’s dog Clamps wakes up and quick as a short track skater, snaps food off plates precariously perched on large bellies.  I hold my shrimp cocktail high over my head, hoping he doesn’t attack.  An 85 lb. Bull Terrier is capable of snapping a 2×4 with his jaws.

LONAGAN“Clamps!  Down!  Okay you guys—if that’s what you’se all want.  I’m windin’ it back.  But yer all gonna be sorry. Just sayin’.”

LUDDITIS“Is better you do right thing.”

T.WAYNE“Here, here!”

Lonagan cues up the recording and the first competitors in doubles luge begin their run.

LUDDITIS – (wiping his glasses)  “Something not right. I see two stiff bodies—piled like corpses.”

SHAKES“Tis a foul sled that slides no good.” 

ME“What’s the purpose of the second guy, anyway?  Looks to me like the one on the bottom gets his stuffings squeezed out. Kinda awkward.”

T.WAYNE“Patently vulgar and preposterous!  Ought not to be allowed!” 

SHAKES“When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools”

LONAGAN “I tried t’ spare you guys all that pain. There’s hardly room fer ONE guy on dem little lude sleds.  And think about it—they practice like that fer four whole years.  Kinda stretches da ‘magination, don’t it? ‘Course, it might be good if just one of ‘em went down holdin’ a greased pig.  Er maybe a keg and see who can empty it the fastest.”

LUDDITIS – “I wonder if parents are proud.”

T.WAYNE“Those men should be taken out and shot!”

LONAGAN“Okay dat’s unanimous. Let’s see what we got next.”

And while we watch the next sport, I attempt to drive the foul image out of my memory.

 

With thanks for inspiration from Jeremie Freund.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel investor, big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, investor, loop lonagan, Mark T Wayne, vc

A STOLEN STORY

by John Jonelis

“Tell me a story, Uncle John!”

“A story eh?” My pal Loop Lonagan got in big trouble telling stories to Jim Kren’s little girl. “Y’know, Princess, in this case, maybe discretion’s the better part of valor.”

“But I always get a bedtime story. I can’t sleep without a bedtime story. Please, Uncle John! Pleeeeeeeeeze!”

How can a guy turn this kid down? “Okay Princess, just lay back and pretend you’re sleepy.”

“Make it a Christmas story!”

“Hmmm.” After a moment, one occurs to me—one I can steal. “Okay Princess, here goes. There’s this bright guy I know. Immigrant entrepreneur. I mean, Princess, he comes to this country and founds a startup company.”

“I know what it means.”

“It’s high tech. Agricultural analytics. Starts it during the dot-com crash around the turn of the century. Despite the lousy economy, it takes off big-time, goes public and makes me and the other investors real happy.

“His two sons work for him to build up the business. They’re his key employees and make fair salaries. The company adds a mobile app, enhanced AI, and thrives right through the 2008 recession. Years later, it’s still strong. Stock keeps going up-and-up.”

“That’s not a Christmas story, Uncle John! That’s business stuff. You sound just like my daddy.”

“Hold onto your red fur hat—I’m just getting warmed up. Papa loves those boys more than anything—wants them to run the company when he retires. Lost his wife years ago and these two are all he cares about.

“Now let’s look at the younger son. He knows he’s gonna inherit a lot of stock some day and can’t want to get his hands on it. He feels trapped and longs to run his own life while he’s still young. So on Christmas in 2006, he announces he wants his inheritance—right now. Like most kids that age, he’s full of himself—not seeing things from his fathers point of view, maybe not considering all the ramifications of what he says. But it’s kinda like telling the old man, ‘I wish you were already dead so I had your money.’”

“That’s not nice.”

“No it’s not and it gets worse. The young buck’s not interested in the company at all. Not planning to stick around. Just wants to cash out and enjoy life.”

“This is a bad boy, Uncle John.”

“Ah Princess, don’t be so hasty to judge. You don’t know what’s really in his heart. Now the company’s listed on Nasdaq, and Papa still owns 40% of the shares. He says to himself in his broken English, ‘That what they want? Okay!  Is Christmas!’ There’s a family trust set up, so he simply transfers his stock—all of it to the two boys.

“Right away, the young colt sells his stock on the open market. With all that loose cash, he feels rich. So he moves to Vegas. Lives the wild life. Gambling all night. Show girls. Maserati. Yacht. Private jet. Hangs around with movie stars. And lots of foolish investments that don’t pay off. He never calls or writes home. Doesn’t visit the next Christmas.

“Now the older brother is still working at the company. But as you might have guessed by now, the old man is really the brains of the outfit. The shareholders—especially that big VC firm that owns a lot of stock with a seat on the board—they all want to keep Papa running the company. The board of directors votes to keeps him on as CEO, with a fat salary—bigger than he ever paid himself.

“Now I want you to notice something: That move wrankles the older brother. He secretly wants to run the show, but there’s nothing he can do about it. So he hoards his shares and bides his time. He stays at his job, working harder and harder, trying to prove himself. Doesn’t like it that his father’s salary is coming out of his share of the company. Can’t wait for the old geezer to croak so he can slide into that big desk.”

“Ugh! How horrible! This brother is worse than the other one!”

“Right Princess. Pappy doesn’t have a clue what’s cranking through this guy’s mind. The kid works hard. He’s dependable. Therefore, he must be a fine boy, right? But he’s so secretive—so sour—never smiles—and for some reason that Pops doesn’t understand, the other one still holds a soft spot in his aging heart.

Back to the younger buck: By the second year, this kid’s portfolio takes a dive, and at the same time, he’s going through money like water. Kid starts looking for work. After all, he was a big executive at a successful company. Impressive LinkedIn resume and all. But now it’s the great recession of 2008 and all he can get are temporary consulting jobs. He forms a startup company, crunching numbers for big investment houses and actually raises some capital. But not enough. Goes belly up within the year. Figures he’s a failure and he’s ashamed to let his father know how bad things are turning out for him. So he doesn’t visit the family that Christmas either.

“By the third year, he’s broke, can’t pay the rent, and gets evicted from his hotel suite. Most of that year, he’s living in his car and scrounging food, feeling mighty low.

“Don’t cry, Princess.”

She sniffs. “This is a terrible Christmas story.”

“Wait and see. Finally, the kid hits rock bottom and comes to his senses. I mean—hey—he’s starving to death. He decides to go home. Even newbies at his dad’s company make a decent living. He’ll confess everything to his father—his failure, his waste—he’ll apologize and beg for a part-time job. Nothing special—maybe an internship or some low-level gig on probation—something like that. He knows it’s more than he deserves.

“Out of the blue, Papa sends him an invite to Christmas dinner and a plane ticket that year, so he texts that he’ll come. Spends the whole flight practicing his confession.

“On Christmas Eve, the old man gets restless; hires a limo and goes out to make a few preparations. Phones his secretary with special instructions. Stops at Mens Wearhouse and lotsa other places. Gets to O’Hare and hangs around for hours. I mean, this guy hasn’t even heard from his boy in three years! When the kid finally walks out the concourse, Papa runs to him, throws his arms around him, hugs him tenderly, tells him he’s glad he’s home. The kid hasn’t changed clothes in a year. Stinks to make your eyes sting. No luggage. Papa leads his son to the limo, arm over his shoulders, and tells his boy he loves him.

“In the back of the limo, the boy stammers out his practiced confession, tears streaming down his face, but his father will have none of it. ‘Stop—no more!’ he shouts. If there’s anything this kid ever learned, it’s to obey his father’s commands. Papa breaks out two tumblers and a bottle of Drambuie and leads the conversation into fond recollections and good times. Does most of the talking and the kid can’t help but laugh at some of the memories.

“Limo stops at the Union League Club and they take in a steam and swim and shower. The kid opens his locker to find a new shirt, jeans, sport jacket, shoes—the works. He can hardly believe it and again stammers out his confession.

Enough already! I not hear it!’ says his father, and the old man’s word is always final.

“When they get home, the place is full of Papa’s close friends and dear customers—maybe 300 people. A twelve foot tree sparkles with a million lights.  A live band pumps out Christmas music.  The aroma of good food fills the house. A caterer lays out an amazing number of enormous turkeys with stuffing and potatoes with gravy, and cranberry sauce, wine and all the trimmings. All that food takes up the big table in Papa’s baronial dining room and they set up a buffet line. People enjoy their meal milling around, indulging in lively conversation. When everybody eats their fill, out comes the pumpkin and mincemeat pies, ice cream, coffee, and brandy. The band leads the crowd singing carols. Take it from me: this is a great party! I for one, enjoyed every minute of it.

“Now the older brother works late at the office that night, as usual. One of the guests notices him out front, pacing in the snow. Papa runs out to him—doesn’t even stop to put on his coat. Begs the boy to come in and join the party. But the kid spits out words in anger: ‘I work for you day and night! I never refuse to do anything you say! Do you ever throw a party for me? But when this worthless bum—this son of yours—shows up, after squandering your money on women and gambling—you celebrate like some kind of idiot, disgracing us in front of all our friends and customers!’

“Papa hugs him and speaks softly to him in his native dialect. ‘On you I depend always. You are good boy. You own all my company stock. But your brother is home! After three years he come home! We must celebrate! Is like he come back from dead!’

“But the older brother won’t be consoled. He curses and shouts, ‘He should be dead,’ and gets in his car and drives off.”

I smile at Princess. She doesn’t look sleepy at all.

“What happens then?” she says.

I sigh. “The old man—Uncle Ludditis, in case you hadn’t guessed already—he eventually retires and opens that bar he always dreamed about.  Rents me the back room for my magazine.  The older brother takes over as CEO and forces the younger one out.

“Uncle John!  That can’t be the way it turns out!  It’s not fair!”

“Why not?  Those are the consequences of their decisions.  The older one holds onto his 20% share of the company so he finally runs that show, a rich miser living alone.  The younger one learns from his mistakes, finds employment elsewhere, marries a good woman, raises two wonderful children.

“And Princess, their father loves them both deeply, no matter what.  His love is all he has left to give and he’s not stingy with it.  Close your eyes now.  Merry Christmas.”

Story credit: Jesus Christ, The Parable of the Prodigal Son –Luke 15:11-32

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More Christmas Stories:

BEST GIFT

A LOOP LONAGAN CHRISTMAS

THE BUM IN ME

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, Big Corporations, big money, Conflict, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Culture, investor, Jim Kren, loop lonagan, Mobile App, Relationships, Startup, startup company, vc, venture capital

GET YOUR OWN ‘BOTS

OR RISK BEING PUT OUT OF BUSINESS BY THEM

by Howard Tullman

Don’t fear the bots. They’ll free your company from unprofitable and tedious work. Yes, some jobs are going to be displaced. But the ones that are left and the new ones the bots will create will be more productive and way more interesting.

I realize that it’s a little frightening for many of us when we hear some of the intimidating statistics about headcount reductions in more and more industries that are being driven by the growing deployment of what we’re generically calling “bots.” But I don’t think bots are so bad for business. I realize that, while the major shifts are just beginning, we’re already talking about the displacement of thousands of analysts and adjusters in the insurance and finance industries as well as hundreds of highly-paid attorneys in sectors of the banking business. The sooner you figure out how to incorporate and deploy these little time- and money-savers, the better off you and your business will be. And that goes for businesses of all sizes.

Excepting some of the folks who will be replaced by these efficient and energetic little wonders, it will be a break for the better. Honest. No one in their right mind will miss any of the boring, repetitive and utterly useless tasks that are a painful part of too many of our jobs. If your tasks can be reduced to a set of instructions and rules that need to be repeatedly and flawlessly executed, we’ll soon enough find a program or a machine to do that work better, quicker and more accurately than you– and to do it 24/7 as well. No one argues with that part of the equation. We’d all love to be freed up from our chores and be doing exciting, creative and constructive work.

The rub comes in the rest of the story – the ratio and the scale of the jobs being eliminated as compared with the new jobs available to replace them. To quote Bruce Springsteen, in My Hometown, “Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain’t coming back.” Take a look at the hospitality business as a simple example. Airbnb is closing in on Marriott’s $42.7 billion market cap (it’s already worth about $10 billion more than Hilton), but the employee headcounts of these companies are in different universes. Marriott employs more than 225,000 people, Airbnb about 3,500– yes 3,500 employees. And I’m not just picking on Marriott. Hilton has about 170,000 team members. You can argue that some of those people are doing different and allegedly irreplaceable functions. But in the end, the real question is whether the customer/guest’s needs are being more than met. None of Marriott’s guests really cares about whatever it is that fills the day for those extra 400,000 workers. I’m not even sure that most of their managers know what makes up their day.

When you couple the substantial reductions in the workforce with the readily-demonstrated and clearly impressive gains in productivity and lower operating costs that we’re also seeing, it’s clear that there are major bumps in the road ahead and significant disruptions in the ways business has traditionally been done. This is especially true because the vast majority of these changes are neither complicated in regard to the technologies nor costly in terms of the required capital. Low-hanging fruit abounds. JP Morgan Chase reports eliminating more than 350,000 hours of legal document review time per year by employing bots and smart contracts.

When I use the term “bots,” I’m not talking about anything as challenging as truly intelligent agents or even anything autonomous. I’m talking about simple lines of code– and not that many– that can successfully execute instructions and directives or commands that are well-established and documented by humans. I hate to call any of this stuff artificial intelligence. At best it’s augmented and extended intelligence. The intelligence being extended is ours; the folks being augmented are us. We’re talking about systems and tools that will help us perform routine tasks with minimal supervision or ongoing direction, and essentially automatically, upon request. Every business still has some of these pockets of obvious inefficiency and it’s mainly ignorance of better options and inertia that keeps them from realizing immediate improvements and significant cost savings. Your business does too, and the sooner you do your own audit and analysis, the better off and more competitive you’ll be. (See Use a Mirror to Mind Your Own Business First)

There are opportunities everywhere, but the sweetest spots for almost any business seem to fall into four recurring buckets. Forget about chatbots and retweeters. Focus internally first where you can get the biggest bang for your buck and where you can ride on existing rails. The people providing support and resources in this emerging space are few and far between right now, but they tend to target these critical areas: HR, Finance, Operations and Sales. I know, you’re already saying, “well duh, that’s just about the whole business”, so trim it down to HR and Finance and start there. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

One of the best providers is an 1871 alumni organization called Catalytic/www.catalytic.com/> whose tagline says it all: “Do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t.” They are smart enough to understand that they are in a “rinse and repeat” business so that each time they build a new process bot they create the ability to provide a version of that same solution to thousands of other businesses more efficiently, more rapidly, and less expensively. They talk about concrete client results delivered in days, not months or years.

And, to be successful, you need a plan that’s ongoing and iterative and that’s always targeting and attacking the dumbest things you are doing. In many cases, it’s an approach that follows the same basic steps: digitize and dump the paper; speed up the flow and the inter- and intra-departmental handoffs; automate as many steps in the process as possible; measure the results; and do it again. It needs to become a habit and a mantra of your business—always moving to raise the bottom and improve the average.

It’s interesting to watch the adoption cycle as well. It’s both competitive and contagious. The more you do; the more your people will want to do and, interestingly enough, you’ll have them bringing suggestions and ideas to you for next steps–forward integrations into other programs like Word and Excel, for example—instead of sitting on their hands and bitching about the bots.

The dashboards and the flow charts that you now have access to provide levels of actionable information and data that were never available before. Frankly, these are the exact tools that you need to move your business forward. Managing by exception rather than brute force is the only way to spread your scarce and costly resources around.

 

 

Howard Tullman is the father of Chicago’s 1871 incubator.

Read his bio on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_A._Tullman

Check out his websites at http://tullman.com/  and http://tullman.blogspot.com/

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.

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This article previously appeared in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
.
.

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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, Big Corporations, big money, chicago, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Howard Tullman, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, startup company, vc, Venture, venture capital

HOW HYPERLOCAL ECONOMIES EVOLVE

By: William Arrington

The original intent for this follow up to Hyperlocal Social Economies (HSEs) was to focus on how businesses can participate in these targeted consumption markets. I think this is an appropriate time to discuss how HSEs may evolve. Before diving in let’s quickly recap what comprises an HSE market:

  • A group of consumers with similar lifestyle and consumption patterns (i.e. friends)
  • Common set of goods/services consumed by the group
  • Competitive market for said goods and services
  • Goods and services are geographically unbound

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