Category Archives: FFF


Team Interval 7

by John Jonelis

Kids are dropping dead on the athletic field. Dead!  These are our kids—those highly cherished and precocious little brats, grades K-12.  Just a few years back we suffered a miserable year—120 deaths according to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance.  Here’s a huge problem waiting to get fixed.

I recall Coach Bodle from my high school years. “Hey kid,” he’d say, “Scrape yerself off da ground. Yuh got yer bell rung is all.  Shake it off!  Da team needs yuh.  Get back out there and gimme a hunert ‘n’ twenty percent!”  An inspiring speech.  Always got results.  Players knew the alternative.  During my moments of serious academic pursuit, I’d draw Coach Bodle in the margins of my textbook. The result always came out looking like the Frankenstein Monster.  This was a guy whose claim to fame was an ejection due to unnecessary roughness in a semi-pro football game.  But I made allowances for his furious temper.  Had no alternative.  Anyway, I figured the guy got his bell run too many times.

That was a different era. Nowadays coaching is a profession.  They know better.  The liability is huge.  People can go to jail.  Eighty percent of athletic injuries happen at the high school level.  Same old/same old doesn’t cut it and the demand for change rings powerful and loud.

Tonight I get to see Tyrre Burks, founder of Team Interval tell us what he proposes to do about it.

BNC 500

The Field of Play

Last time I saw Burks, he was winning the pitch competition at FFF here in Chicago. He probably deserved that win.  When a social entrepreneur presents his company well, he’s gonna get the nod.

But now we’re in the friendly confines of BNC Venture CapitalTeam Interval 3I don’t know if you ever had the pleasure, but month after month, BNC—short for Business Network Chicago—puts on the best show in town.  That is if you like personal confrontation and plenty of drama like I do.  If you want a chance to rake a budding entrepreneur over the coals.   If you enjoy watching grown men turn beet red with anger in their eagerness to ask probing business questions.  Oh yes, there’s always some smart guy that says, “Wait a sec. Go back three slides.  Where’d you get that number?”

The beauty of the system at BNC is Len Bland’s five magic questions. Answer all five and you’ve probably got a sound business plan.  Dazzling the throngs with pizzazz doesn’t cut it here.  You must address the tough stuff.  That keeps everybody in the room at attention because the crowd gets grilled on some of this too.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2169e200The Q&A can get a bit hot. But tonight, through it all, Tyrre Burks remains poised.  Informed.  Confident.  Pretty much indomitable.  He’s tall, fit, and stands proud.  Somehow, the guy manages to seem humble about it too.  I guess professional sums it up.

And why not? This is a man that knows his business.  Burks played Pro Football—a career plagued with injuries—so he understands this problem on the personal level.  He teaches High School, so he knows the weaknesses in the current system.  I see passion, and passion gets results.  The man is on a mission bigger than himself—Full reporting of childhood sports injuries.  And he seems to know precisely how to make it happen.  As he unpacks his plan, I find myself hoping he’s right.

Team Interval 2

Lousy Records

The way we record injuries just stinks. Most go unreported.  Records are sketchy.  Team Interval 4Many teams don’t even hire trainers. Ambulances get called too late.  Disaster strikes and parents bite their nails waiting for information.

Here we are in the mobile information age, surrounded by advanced medical technology. So what do we do?  That’s right—we drop the ball.  Only 18% of sports injuries get documented at all.  Eighteen percent!  There’s no meaningful data from ages 8-18!  I don’t know about you, but statistics like those get my attention.

Consider it from the coach’s perspective. I think we can agree that nobody wants players dropping dead on the field of play.  Don’t you think a coach wants to know if a kid had five concussions since his Pop Warner days?  Or a heart problem?  You better believe it!  What about college programs?  Do you suppose a recruiter would like to review the childhood injury records for prospective scholarship athletes?  Well, d’ya think?

So how do we get that done?

Right here at BNC, Tyrre Burks is giving us his answer. Trainers will log the injuriesIf there’s no trainer on staff, then the coaches.  Trainers? Coaches?  That takes me by surprise and seems to raise the emotional level of the entire room.  Objections get raised right away.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2168e500

How to Answer Stupid Questions

Bill Blaire once coached football and wrestling—till they politely asked him to leave. When he stands up to ask a question, his bulk blocks half the room.  His deep rumble rattles the light fixtures: “Dem coaches ain’t dumb,” he says with all sincerity.  “And reportin’ injuries is gonna turn out real dumb fer a coach.”   When asked to elaborate, he indicates in so many words that it opens a guy up to liability.

Team Interval 5Turns out, according to Tyrre Burks, the reality is just the opposite. Nobody wants to get sued.  That’s a huge incentive, especially for trainers and coaches today.  It occurs to me that reporting absolutely everything might just be the best CYA maneuver in the business.  And maybe Burks is right.  Given the tools to do it quickly and immediately, a coach will dutifully log every incident, if not for the player’s benefit, at least to protect the old career.

Sheldon Tommygun looks like he’s about to burst a blood vessel and he finally gets called to speak. “An athletic staff,” he says in his incongruously cultured voice, “isn’t qualified to make a medical diagnosis.”

Turns out, when you think about it, any trainer, any coach knows when a player gets his bell rung or hurts a knee. When follow-up is required, the doctor’s diagnosis will appear on the athlete’s and the school’s records. Mission accomplished.  Burks predicts that we’re moving to legislation to mandate this in 48 months.  If that happens, there’ll be a land grab for the data.  And don’t forget the goal—to save over a hundred lives a year.

Janet Case used to teach school and I’ve been after her to write for this journal. “Coaches are disinclined to fill out detailed injury reports,” she says with admirable precision.  “They are overworked and ill-equipped to carry out such a function.  How do you turn an onerous task into an immediate action?”  Yeah—that’s the question on everybody’s mind, but maybe not quite in those words.

Turns out it’s a simple pictorial interface. FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2178e200All a coach or trainer needs to do is whip out his phone or tablet and highlight an area of the body where the injury occurred, and add a voice memo.  The system instantly alerts all the right people from parents to administrators to ambulance and doctors.  It’s tied to an electronic tracking system that organizes the records and documents.  This is the first universal health record system for athletic injuries.  Coaches can make informed decisions about the status of individual players and the injuries that accumulate in other sports.  Administrators get a birds-eye view of the health of all their athletes and can analyze trends and re-direct policy using the data driven dashboard.  For college programs, it’s like a CarMax report for players. “Later on,” says Burks, “Insurance companies will get involved.”

Loop Lonagan has the floor. “Yer gonna run into all kindsa privacy issues. This bird ain’t never gonna fly.”

But it turns out Burks system is up and running in 16 school systems.  FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2177e200He’s deep in negotiation with more.  It’s already built with with role permissions that prevent privacy issues.  This thing is moving and moving fast.

Warren D. Mink calls out, “Go back three slides. What’s that number?”  A lot of time gets spent in a group effort at basic arithmetic.  When the argument finally winds down, I’m too confused to know if their sums are correct.

I walk to the front, congratulate Tyrre Burks, trade business cards, and then escape for my train. Later that week I learn Burks landed another huge contract.  Yes, this is moving very fast.

Team Interval 6

Contacts & Credits



BNC Venture Capital –



PHOTOGRAPHY – John Jonelis, Team Interval


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2111-3001by John Jonelis

This is a winner. You wanna wow the judges?  Win the crowd?  Get your game face on, kiddo!  Hit ’em with real passion, overflowing personality and a canon shot of enthusiasm.   State what you want to do with bravado.  With humor.  With intelligence.  With dazzle and power.  While you’re at it, throw in a pair of fitted black leather pants so they’ll sit up and bark.  It never hurts to be feminine and smart.  By the way, she’s an award-winning mathematician from MIT.  Really!

This is Joy Tang and she’s pitching InstanTagThe Social Fashion Network at the Funding Feeding Frenzy in Chicago—a private equity arena with no speed limit in an industry dominated by sweaty men.  Men pack the judging panel.  Men pack the audience.  That doesn’t stop her.




Tang moves forward with authority, hitting every detail and point required of a superb private equity pitch. She plucks an orchestra of human emotions and plays each to her favor.  Curiosity, Compassion. Avarice. Anxiety. Hope—lots of Hope..

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2128-500

She isn’t tall, isn’t boardroom, and speaks in somewhat broken English.  You think that slows her down?  Guess again buddy!  Tang is stunning, smart, and rivets your attention.  We know nothing about her but make no mistake—she steals the show.  Everyone falls in love with her sizzling energy and she backs it up with a complete business story for as nice a package as I’ve seen in a long while.  She’s not asking for your money, Mr. Investor.  No—she’s demonstrating an opportunity, and she’s ready to sail.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2127-500So I’m thinking, Another social media play?  But this is different—it’s all about fashion—and she’s holding the judges between two dainty fingers.  You think, just maybe she might pull this off?  Yup.  I’m betting Tang will turn a successful business no matter how many times she pivots in this or that ballroom.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2132-300Between pitches, the leadership of three angel groups ask me what companies I like. I like Nano Gas Technologies.  I like Team Interval.  I like Geek Bar.  But most of all, I like InstanTag’s Joy Tang.  Turns out, she’s already at the top of those three lists.

FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2157-500


Two weeks later at Business Network Chicago, it’s a reunion of FFF FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2136B-200speakers. And in a roomful of sweaty men, there’s Tang in her black leather pants, asking the tough business questions—pinning down the speaker and making him squirm—but with such consideration and aplomb!  As the lyrics to the song go, “Don’t change baby, please don’t change.”

And Mr. Investor—catch this boat before it sails. This is the time to bet on the captain, not the ship.





InstanTag – The Social Fashion Network

Joy Tang, CEO & Co-Founder


FFF 9-17-14 JAJ-2117-200Nano Gas Technologies

Team Interval

Geek Bar

Funding Feeding Frenzy

Business Network Chicago

Photography Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis

Lyrics from the song Bella Donna as performed by Grace Slick


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Worm courtesy Nature's Little RecyclersBill Blaire – special correspondent

as told to John Jonelis

Bill Blaire here. Jim Kren don’t want you should see this story, ‘n’ scratched it outa the last article but Da Boss overruled him so here it is. I might be talkin’ a victory fer da little guy here, but nobody never accused me o’ bein’ a little guy.

Anyhow, here I am at FFF – da Funding Feeding Frenzy – and Kren’s askin’ me what he missed on accounta he showed up late.  I gotta stop to think and then it come to me.  “Oh yeah, Ed Hubbard – da pollution guy.”

Kren’s practically foaming at da mouth.  “Finally some high tech.” he says. “Is it air pollution control or water purification?”


I watch Kren pause, kinda stunned.

“Oh yeah—and sewage.”

He recovers quicker than I expect and fires another question. “What’s his technology?”

I grin to myself and then let him have it. “Vermiculture.” But he shugs like I’s talkin’ Greek er somethin’ so I spell it out fer him. “W-O-R-M-S”


Them Worms

Them Worms - jaj

Now Kren’s grinding his teeth so I keep runnin’ with it. “I didn’t believe it at first neither, but them little wiggly guys can eat up coffee grounds, newspaper, cardboard, restaurant waste—even T-shirts ‘n’ convert that stuff into high-quality green products like fertilizer fer potted plants.

“His customer’s is what he calls ‘urban farmers.’ I’m tellin ya, this is a low-energy, low-water, low-carbon-footprint kinda company that’s part o’ da urban net-zero-waste society.”T-Shirt 2 courtesy FFF

Now Kren’s gone stiff. “What society is that, Blaire?”

“I dunno—people that got culture I guess. Like I said—Vermiculture.”

He twitches again at the corner o’ da mouth.  Bad habit that.

I think Kren’s missing out on a good thing, so I put it to him: “Listen, Mr. High-Tech-Gadget:  Whadaya gonna do with 36 million tons o’ food that heads to landfills? I don’t see no other solutions out there. And that ain’t the half of it.”

Then outa the blue, Kren hits me with this: “Let me guess. He sells to anglers, too.”

That stops me for a sec. Sarcastic sonofabitch, that Kren.

Then I get my thoughts back together: “Ya gotta think big. Think hog farms. Them piggies eat half their body weight a day and 50% o’ that ends up as hog manure. It stinks real bad and it’s TOXIC. So far, there ain’t no good way to get ridda the stuff. But them worms is immune to it and eat it right up. AND when it comes outa their little hinders, there ain’t no methane gas neither. Them expensive anaerobic digesters they been foolin’ around with belch out that poison by the ton.”

By now, Kren’s actually laughin’ and he buries his face in both hands.

“Hey, it gets even better. He can take care o’ 10 Billion USD in waste ‘n’ sell it as organic Them Worms - jajfertilizer. Packages it as ‘Caviar Compost’ to da urban farmers.”

I hear Kren snort. His laughs kinda strange too. I keep it rollin’:

“He only wants 60K to build the first Vermicenter, then he plans to build ‘em in ten other cities, too. I really think you oughta invest in this one ‘cause the price is right fer yer tenny weeny portfolio.”

He snaps his head to the side like I slapped him er somethin’.

judges 2 courtesy FFFHey, I’m tellin’ ya, this one’s a winner. And yeah, he sells to fishermen, just like you said. But he also hauls it in truckloads to them big fish farms. Says worms is exactly the same protein as minnows ‘n’ cheaper. I’m talkin’ BULK earthworms on a HUGE scale. Company’s called Nature’s Little Recyclers.”

Kren pulls a hunk o’ toilet paper outa his pocket and dabs the tears from his eyes. “Okay Blaire, what’s that on stage now? A mobile app? Some kind of technology? I’m moving down front so I can see this one.”

And off he goes. So’s I get to tell ya more next time.


Look for PART 6 – Coming Soon




Nature’s Little Recyclers

Funding Feeding Frenzy

PHOTO CREDITS – Nature’s Little Recyclers, Funding Feeding Frenzy


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Bill Blaire., Characters, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, investor, new companies, pitch, vc, venture capital


Coffeecake Gift 3 courtesy CoffeecakeConnectionBill Blaire – special correspondent

as told to John Jonelis

Bill Blaire here. Sometimes ya get surprised by a simple little idea—one that ain’t a mobile app er nothin’. Summa them make real nice businesses.  I’m at FFF—da Funding Feeding Frenzy where it ain’t just tech—it’s good investments.

I’m sittin’ here in back so’s I don’t block nobody’s view when all of a sudden Jim Kren plops down in da chair nexta the ones I’m lappin’ across—and just when things was gettin’ good, too.

He leans over and talks in a real low tone like he’s got some kinda secret er somethin’. But he ain’t got nothin’. “What did I miss?” is all he sez. Hell, what didn’t he miss? But I’m ready. Been savin’ a couple good ones fer Kren.

The Coffeecake Connection Company



“First,” I sez, “There’s this company called The Coffeecake Connection Company. Last minute entry, I think. Wants a quarter Mil…

“Hey, don’t look at me like that. Sure they got high tech here, but I’m givin’ ya the interestin’ stuff first.”

He starts to get nasty so I gotta clamp down on him. “Look Kren— just shaddup ‘n’ listen’ will ya?”

He calms down except for a twitch—just at the corner of his mouth. You gotta watch fer it to notice but it’s a twitch all right.

“Anyhow,” I sez, “When this gal talks about her company, she keeps sayin’, ‘WE this’ and Interview with judge courtesy FFF‘WE that,’ and one o’ the judges cuts her off cold.

‘Who’s WE?’ He sez, cause ever’body knows it’s a one-woman company.”

Kren sits up in his seat but his head still don’t reach my shoulders. “So she loses it completely?”

I really think he’s hopin’ she does—lose it, I mean. Don’t it sound that way to you?  That’s what I call mean spirited.   “Yer wrong, she’s straight with da guy. She comes right out with it: ‘I always say WE because it makes it sound bigger.’ She sez it real natural-like. No nerves er nothin’. This gal’s got guts. I could eat her coffeecake any time.”

“Save the crude remarks for your underworld connections, Blaire.” Kren scowls at me like I’s some kinda dirt. “And stop that horrid noise this instant!”

And I gotta admit Mr. Kren’s right. My laugh sounds like a hoarse wheeze. He prob’ly figures some first responder might panic and do CPR on me er somethin’. So I wind it down and start talkin’ again.

“All I’m sayin’ is she’s got the moxey to make a go o’ this thing. I’m bettin’ on her, personal-like. She deserves some respect in my book on accounta she bribed the judges with a coffecake fer each of ‘em all wrapped up in red foil with a ribbon.” 

Coffeecake Gifts courtesy CoffecakeConnection

Coffeecake Photographs courtesy The Coffeecake Connection Company

Then I say, “And the coffeecake costs 17 Bucks.”  I figure that’ll get some kinda response.

“That’s absurd.” He blurts it out loud, then covers his mouth ’cause ever’body in the room’s lookin’ at him.  I fergot to tell ya what a cheapskate this Kren really is. But he don’t get the whole picture, so I go on:

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

“No, I’m talkin’ corporate gifts. All natural ingredients. Gluten free.”

His face is turnin’ red.  “Not with my money she’s not.”

“Hey, the judges is all sayin’ she’s fundable! So yer thinkin’ they mean it as a play on words er somethin’?”

“I’m tired of your foul remarks, Blaire!” Now Kren’s starin’ up at me, his face scrunched like a piece o’ rotten fruit. “And don’t start that noise you use for laughter. I’ve heard enough!”

I just grin at him. “Turns out she’s got a B2B angle that’s worth alotta money. I’m sayin’ it could be a good little company. One o’ da judges talked t’ me about it at break and he’s all in.

.Coffeecake in a briefcase courtesy CoffeecakeConnection

“Anyhow, her financials is set up in units sold, so David Culver chimes in with, “She measures everything in cakes.”  Then on o’ the judges says, “It doesn’t matter—it’s all dough.”  Ya gotta laugh at that one, Mr. Kren.”

“It isn’t funny, Blaire”

I’m really gettin’ tired o’ his tone but it don’t surprise me none. Mr. Kren never thinks nothin’s funny.

David Culver

David Culver – FFF

In case none o’ you noticed before, Kren’s got a mean streak down his skinny little back. Hell, somebody’s gotta challenge the guy and it might as well be me. “That ain’t nice, makin’ funna my laugh. You shouldn’t oughta say them things, Mr. Kren.”


“My secretary will send you a letter of apology.”

I reach one o’ my big hairy mitts behind his neck and pinch his head by the ears. That way, I can twist his face up so’s I’m lookin’ into his eyes insteada down on his bald spot. Then I sez, real quiet-like: “Sometimes it don’t turn out so good when people ain’t polite, see? You don’t want I should ferget my manners…” Hell, I know I’m way outa line here, but he asked for it, doncha think?

Now he’s stammerin’, “Okay, okay—I’m sorry—sorry Blaire. J-just tell me what’s next.”

I pat his cheek twice, real friendly like, and stop to think. “Oh yeah, da pollution-control guy.”

Note from Jim Kren – The remainder of this article has been removed due to, in my opinion, it’s unsuitability.  It  will be under review by the managing editor.






The Coffeecake Connection

Funding Feeding Frenzy

PHOTO CREDITS – The Coffeecake Connection Company, Funding Feeding Frenzy


Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Bill Blaire., Characters, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, chopin theater, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, investor, vc, venture capital


Business Plan PoliceBill Blaire – special correspondent –

as told to John Jonelis

Bill Blaire here.  Lemme tell ya how things develop before all da trouble starts.  I’m at FFF again—Hold it; ‘scuse me a sec…

Hey, Bud, shut yer mouth!  FFF stands fer “Funding Feeding Frenzy,” and that’s all it stands fer, so if yer mind’s in da gutter keep yer trap zipped about it er I might get real helpful here.

…Sorry ’bout the interruption, but people get way outa line sometimes.  Anyhow, David Culver’s da big kahuna here and he’s just finishing up with an announcement: “…and after you judges get done crushing their dreams, please give some constructive criticism…” And he goes on. A real nice intro fer da first perspective company outa da box.


Da Pidgeonsbirdfeud logo

Turns out, that’s a startup called birdfeud, for some goofy reason I ain’t goin’ into. They’re helpin’ people argue. That’s right—argue! 

It’s a B2B social media marketing play run by a coupla nice kids.  That’s Andrew Parnell, their CEO, ‘n’ that tall, pencil-thin guy with da accent’s Vladimir Jornitsky. These poor guys is da ones that get da worsta what happens next.

Shark 1(I hear a confusion of noises behind me.  Somebody’s kickin’ up a terrible ruckus at the entrance to da theater but I need to concentrate on what’s goin’ on here.)

Lemmy ask you this: How many businessmen you know got social media figured out? I mean so’s they can use it fer marketing. How’s about you? Makin’ it work fer yer company, are ya? Don’t chew yer knuckles—that’s a lousy habit.

Face it—companies need some way to connect with customers er else somebody’s gonna beat ‘em to it. But get it wrong and yer wastin’ alotta money. All ya do is line Mark Zuckerberg’s pockets.

(Now the noise outside is gettin’ real loud and distracting. Gotta check that out when this’s done.)

So Andrew ‘n’ Vladimir tell us that people like to argue—as if we ain’t already got a clue about that sometime in our lifetimes. Hey, it’s universal. But these guys figured out howta tempt people into online debates. They got this platform puts up opposite sides o’ any argument on yer Twitter account. Then the public shows up ‘n’ talks about da product.

Sample Feud


I like their projections. The outfits bootstrapped so far and they’s already revenue positive. Gonna bring in 10 Million Pazoozas in five years. What’s not to like?


Da Raid

Three o’ da judges rate it fundable when without any warning there’s loud shouts from the back o’ da theater. A voice with alotta authority booms out, “BUSINESS PLAN POLICE!”  It’s a raid!

People scream and run fer the exit, but two tough-lookin’ boys carryin’ M-16s shove ‘em all back into the theater. What the hey? Some o them people take seats like theys told to do. Others crawl under da bleachers. That looks like a better play to me, but I don’t fit under there so good.

m16 rifle

Then without no pause, three guys in neat Swat Team uniforms rush the stage!

Now they’s hustlin’ Andrew ‘n’ Vladimir out like sacks o’ potatoes. The boys is squirmin’ ‘n’ complainin’ good ‘n’ loud but it don’t do ‘em no good.

Even da judges look too startled to react. One’s standing up in a daze. The others is just sittin’ there, mouths hangin’ open.

The last I see o’ them two kids is the soles o’ their sneakers kickin’ at the air as they disappear out the door. Tough break fer them.FFF Shark

David Culver’s screamin’ at da top o’ his lungs. “How did those goons get past security?” I guess by security, he means da gal handin’ out them stick-on name tags at da folding table.

I see Bob Bock in back, palms up in a big shrug. Hey, ya can’t blame him. That swat team got the badges ‘n’ uniforms ‘n’ guns ‘n’ even a federal court order I find out later.

Culver tells Bock to call da police. But that ain’t gonna do no good, ‘cause I know who them guys are. They’s part o’ Da President’s Business Plan Initiative. This whole outfit got set up ‘causa that Solyndra fiasco. Yeah, they’s gonna regulate private equity meetings from now on, ‘n’ nobody knows when er where they might strike next.

Them two boys wasn’t doin’ no harm and now I’m wonderin’ if they’s gonna put ’em in Gitmo or some chain gang down south. Or maybe a Federal pen.  I hate them Federal pens.  Wouldn’t be so bad if they dragged off the dregs but trust da politicians to get it wrong every time.





Da Contacts

birdfeudAndrew Parnell and Vladimir Jornitsky.

Funding Feeding Frenzy That’s David Culver ‘n’ company.

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, big money, Bill Blaire., Characters, chicago, Chicago Ventures, chopin theater, city, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Marketing, Mobile Marketing, new companies, Software


T KrakenJohn Jonelis

I am sitting with the audience at the Funding Feeding Frenzy in Chicago—a big event for startup companies like mine that need investors to make things happen. I wipe sweaty palms against my suit pants—my turn to present—my turn to make a fool of myself is coming up fast.

I’ve watched two speakers go down in flames. One drew a unanimous KEEP FISHING and the other got hammered with the dreaded GO FUND YOURSELF. I’m not kidding. The judges hold up cards like the Olympics before the digital age. Only 20% of the companies here today will get a fully fundable rating and move on to due diligence with a potential investor.

The panel seems stacked with the most acerbic characters—jaded venture capitalists all, and so far they have not been kind. The last guy came off like Thurber’s Walter Mitty. Will they cut me up with unexpected questions like they did to him? What foul humor will they display when my turn finally rolls around? I remind myself they’re professionals giving their best but I picture those same judges checking their watches while my hopes, my dreams, my life savings, and four years of work sink to the bottom like a ship at sea.

krakenThis same process is happening simultaneously on three stages—the Guppy Bowl, the Piranha Pond and the top level—the Kraken Cave. I find myself here purely based on the amount of money I need to raise, not on my business acumen. Not on my good looks—that’s for sure. There’s a lot of open space in this arena. A lot of people milling around between stages making noise—probably making deals. I’m purposely sitting apart from my team, trying to calm my nerves. There’s nothing more my team can do. It’s up to me now.

My consultant—I call him The Coach, just for fun—helped me build a plan and we’ve started to execute it. The reason we’re here today is to raise extra capital to accelerate the implementation of the plan. I see a window of opportunity and I know it won’t stay open forever. I think back on all the work I put into it. Numbers I thought I’d never come up with. Every question answered. So now I’m ready, right? Maybe over-prepared? Yeah, I tell myself, but right now I need to get my mind off that well-rehearsed pitch and focus outside myself or I’ll explode. I remind myself what the coach said: “Funding is just a milestone, not sink or swim. We have a plan for either situation. Don’t worry about the judges—they’ll treat you fair.” I try to keep that in front of my mind as I watch the third presentation along with the audience.

The guy up front drones on in a monotone. He’s reading his own slides, his back to me. Even I feel insulted by that—why doesn’t he just mail them in? The audience is getting noisy and it’s hard to hear. Hope they don’t do that to me. What is it that he says his business does? I don’t seem to catch it—am I just stupid or what? How does he deploy his product? How does he make money for the investor? He’s spending all his time harping on why the whole world needs him in some desperate way but after all that I still don’t get it and by this time I don’t care.

I think he has it backwards. It’s as if without dollars he’s got no plan. I feel a real strong sense of—what is it? Arrogance. Yeah, arrogance. Will this guy listen to advice? Can he build a winning team? Will he let go of the company at the right time? I don’t think so. The panel seems restless. Now he’s running out of time and flashing through the numbers. PowerPoint slides. Rows and columns. Lots of them. No time to read it all.

Time’s up. The panel asks their questions. The old guy: “How can you say you project 160% ROI? You’d have to be paid for your raw materials.” The speaker confers with a partner. “We’ll have to check our numbers. For now let’s say 80%.” Is this guy serious? What kind of response is that?

The next panelist: “Can you go back to sales?” The projectionist pans through a bunch of slides and finally finds the one. “How do you quantify that volume projection for year two? It seems optimistic.”

More questions. They’re making hamburger out of him. Maybe that’s how they get their jollies—no, that thought is unworthy of me. I stop listening and practice deep breathing. When the process is through, one-by-one each judge holds up a GO FUND YOURSELF card, each with a sharp criticism. Wow, this guy just got tanked. What will they do to me?

I’m up. Please don’t let me be another Mitty.

First my product. I open with a story: “You’re a kid about to watch your favorite TV show when Mom asks if you finished your homework.” Can they hear the tremor in my voice? I see them all nodding so I signal for the first slide and inwardly cringe. It’s a lined page of paper covered with arithmetic problems in pencil—way too many to read. I made it myself to drive home a point but it’s a calculated risk. I notice the audience leaning forward in their seats, not saying a word. I force myself to face the judges. They’re staring at that slide, mouths open. They get it—they really get it. Originally I wanted to talk about technical details but The Coach convinced me to go for an emotional connection and say it from my heart so I came up with this bare-bones visual. I tell another story. I describe my product the way I was taught—so everybody understands. I check my watch—5 minutes. Half way there. Time to show the numbers.

My slides are simple and direct. No cute cartoons but no rows or columns either. They make their point with just a glance. I force myself to look each panelist in the eye and tell myself to talk more slowly. It’s dead quiet and I sneak a glance at the audience. They seem fully engaged. Hey, I’m no public speaker but it’s coming together now. Maybe the preparation is paying off. I move through the projections—capital plan, operations plan, revenue plan. A credible customer coming on board. Risk assessments, industry trends, competitor analysis, management team, how the investor will make money. All quick. All bold. Time’s up and I just squeeze-in the last slide. Now they can draw my blood.

The panelists look at each other and reverse their previous order. The young guy asks why I need two million dollars. I’m ready for that one. The next wants to know how much field testing went on and I’m ready for that too. They’re starting to focus on the product so I assume they accepted my numbers. Then the last guy clobbers me. He wants a lot more financial detail—as if that were possible in five minutes time.

I freeze. My lips are moving but nothing comes out.

The Coach slips me four copies of supporting details, neatly bound. That’s right—I did the whole thing before I wrote my pitch. That’s why I’m in business. That’s why I’ll still be in business whatever happens here. I walk to the judges table and hand each a document. “I know there isn’t time to go into every detail,” I say, “So here it is in black and white.” The moderator calls time and the judge that asked the question actually thanks me. He’s not trying to shoot me down—he’s genuinely interested. Just a regular guy doing his job—not some kind of monster. I let out a deep sigh of relief, thank the panel and wait for their verdict.

It happens fast. Four cards go up simultaneously—FUNDABLE, FUNDABLE, FUNDABLE, FUNDABLE. Wow! I’m so excited, I can’t concentrate on the comments but the tone is positive and I know The Coach is taking notes.

We break for lunch. Two judges and a woman I never met stick close to me. She says, “You hit it out of the park.” These people are asking when I can meet with them. It reminds me of the story Ron Santo told about the time his insulin got out of whack at a Cubs game. The pitcher released and Santo saw three balls coming at him. But he’d seen that before. He swung at the one in the middle and hit a grand-slam home run.

This is a fictional account drawn from a composite of personal observation, experience and imagination. Any similarity to actual individuals is purely coincidental.





Our logo proclaims “Chicago is the World.” We believe creativity is spawned by adversity. That makes Chicago a growing center for thought leadership in the world.
Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Chicago Ventures, CORE Insight Story, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Internet Marketing, Invention, investor, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, new companies


Funding Feeding FrenzyBill Blair – special correspondent –

as told to John Jonelis

Bill Blaire here.  Mr. Jonelis wants I should go to this FUNDING FEEDING FRENZY thing. Says I’m gonna give a completely different slant compared to the resta this crowd here. I cut my teeth in the Local #1 Boilermakers, then as a Cement Contractor till I packed up my tools fer good.

Me? I’m always open to new ideas. I make loans to all kindsa people. John says I’ll see someFFF Logo real sharks at this place and that strikes me as a nasty crack but I let it slide.


The Sharks

So I get here and whadaya think? Deeze guys is all legit investors. I glad-hand every one o’ them and their little mits all disappear between my hairy fingers. But I gotta give it to ‘em—these guys got balls. They throw money at raw startup companies and win maybe only 3 outa 10—and that’s just if the investors is real smart. They don’t get paid back by the deadbeats neither.

I don’t like them odds at all. Hell—the stuff I put money in gets a guaranteed payout or else, see?

Glenn Gottfried

Glenn Gottfried

Then I meet Glenn Gottfried—real smart guy. He explains it all to me. These is all private equity deals. Not a loan in the house. The ones that come in can make it big—REAL BIG. I’m talkin 10 times return—sometimes 100 times or more. It’s the stuff they make dreams outa. That gets my juices flowin’ and it’s all legal! Hoo boy, I’m gonna have some fun here!

I remembers catchin’ an episode o’ Shark Tank on TV and so I got the general idea.


The Hideout

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater

I don’t usually get caught dead at no place with a name like Chopin Theater but I always help my friends. And it turns out real nice. This thing goes on all day so they got coffee, booze, food, good seats—my big butt laps across two o’ those.  Nobody’s breathin’ down my neck ’cause none of ’em can see over my head. Yeah, it’s all good.

So here I is with my buddy Rocco Spumoni of the Pierce O’Shea Mob. Oops—maybe I oughta call it an investment firm, get the picture? Anyhow, Rocco goes after some gal and I ain’t seen him since. I think her name’s Jane Pickling or something, but I dunno fer sure. Lemme get down to business: Ludditis Shots and Beer

I wanna give you the whole picture first, so in a minute I’m gonna show ya a hard-hitting video from Blackline Review.  My buddy David Carmen is part o’ that outfit. They got that catchy name cuzza the L trains here in Chicago. There’s a Blue Line and a Red Line but there ain’t no Black Line. If there was, you can bet they’d build another Ludditis Shots & Beer right under the tracks.  Chicago’s best potato pancakes too. 

Anyhow, this video gives ya the flavor o’ the whole thing and it’s short:


Check out Blackline Review fer more o’ that kinda stuff.


The Companies

Phil Murphy of Call Potential  was the winner last time. He gives the keynote along with some guy that makes goofy looking glasses that cost an arm and a leg. But hey—people buy that stuff like crazy so who am I?  Murphy’s real smart. When he’s done speaking he sits down as one o’ the judges. I’ll get back to him later.

The companies is all kinds: There’s the Bomboard jet ski that fits in my trunk and I want one.  John West and Anders Stubkjaer put that one together. Then on d’other sida things there’s Nature’s Little Recyclers, a worm farm that can solve alotta pollution problems.  Blame that one on Ed Hubbard.

Jerry Freeman of PaletteAPP

Jerry Freeman of PaletteAPP

We get an update report from a Jerry Freeman’s company, Palette APP. They’s gettin’ traction now and it’s off to the races.

I’m comin’ back with a lot more on this event so keep yer heads up.  Meanwhile, lemme give you the winners: 

The Winners

1stSmart GardnerCarl Alquire

Uses high tech to help city people grow their own healthy food.

2ndPortapureGeorge Page 

We seen this guy before and he’s good. Won alotta awards.  Clean water fer the third world.

3rdCardoonaColin Robertson, Jeffrey Herrington

Making it super-easy for restaurants to place orders with ALL their vendors.


The Crowd Favorite – Geek Bar – David Zoltan

And yeah—this one’s a real riot. A bar that celebrates geekdom.


Photo and Video Credits – Royalty Free Images, Glenn Gottfried, Wikipedia, Blackline Review, Donatas Ludditis, John Jonelis






Our logo proclaims “Chicago is the World.” We believe creativity is spawned by adversity. That makes Chicago a growing center for thought leadership in the world.
Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Bill Blaire., Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, chopin theater, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy