Tag Archives: Conflict

SHARK TANK MEETS THE APPRENTICE

Funding Feeding Frenzy – Part 1

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

FFF LogoLoop Lonagan here. I’m at the Funding Feeding Frenzy ‘n’ there must be more’n 1000 people here and lots more goin’ in and out all day. If you wanna see what’s happening in the Chicago Startup Community, this is the place to be and you can do it all in one single day. But don’t ferget—there’s sharks in them waters and they bite.

This is the place where the judges hold up cards like they used to at the Olympics way back when. They say either FUNDABLE, which almost nobody gets, KEEP FISHING, which I see a lot, or the dreaded GO FUND YOURSELF. Plenty of those too. I watch one company get the thumbs down from the judges but later in the day that same company finds itself an Angel Investor right here at the event.  I’m trolling for a couple good companies myself.   And maybe some fun on the side.

It takes all day before I see any blood in the water. And I’m sittin’ here with a big grin. I always like a good fight.

The Setup

FFF is so big they hold it in this enormous indoor car dealership – almost as big as McCormick Place.  I crawl into a hot new Camaro and ogle the red Corvette.  In past years, with room to spread out, they ran three stages at once.

This year for the first time, the FFF runs just one stage—not the usual three. This poses some pros and some cons. It allows David Culver & Company to put together a large panel of distinguished judges—all recognized Chicago investors. That’s on the good side. I get to see every company that presents. That’s good too. They already weeded out the weak companies and lotsa these presenting here bear a deeper look. I’ll check into those. These companies seem like they’re coached better than ever before and I appreciate the professionalism. All o’ that is on the good side.

But some things don’t work so good on a single stage. You gotta picture the situation. This event goes on ALL DAY. Sure, you can walk around but with only one stage, there’s nowhere else interesting to go. And it’s a hot day. Real hot. The AC keeps going till afternoon, then it gets nasty. But I like investing in startup companies and I like fireworks. I expect to see some of both. So I show up bright and early and stay late. And so do the judges—the whole day. That’s what causes all the trouble.

FFF Corvette

FFF

Just like any good event, they save the best fer last. That means the big show happens late afternoon. By this time I see lotsa shiny faces. The audience gets kinda thin. Most of ‘em are feedin’ their faces and indulging in various liquid cravings and raising a terrific racket in back—so loud it’s hard to hear the panelists. Like I said, these judges been workin’ their tails off all day and barely time for a pit stop. Anybody can see they’re all wrung out. And cranky. For what it’s worth, I figure this thing needs to start at 10:00 am and end at 3:00 pm max. That gives time for a couple two-hour sessions and a nice break.  But that ain’t the way it is.  No it’s every minute all day.

I think it’s crazy to pitch to a buncha investors suffering the miseries, but I see that’s just what’s about to happen. I prick up my ears and lick my chops. I wanna see what develops.

The Donnybrook

After four o’clock, the panelist’s questions are gettin’ kinda testy. They’re attention spans are probably at the breaking point too. I figure some promising offering is about to get chewed up.

Lemme tell you what happens but first, remember my rules:

  1. Tell a good story.
  2. Don’t get the judges mad.
  3. There ain’t no third rule ‘cause three strikes and yer out.

The next company is real special. After hearin’ their pitch over lunch, I believe they’re the real deal. But the guy I talked to at lunch ain’t the same guy givin’ the presentation right now. No, this presenter comes off as a know-it-all. What’s the word? Arrogant. Could be the heat because I meet him later and he ain’t that way at all. But right now, it’s painful to hear. He’s breaking rule #2.

And sure enough, the first judge turns nasty right away.

FFF Speaker

FFF Speaker

“I don’t understand your value proposition.” That’s the opening salvo. Then he starts firing off questions at the poor guy like a machine gun and when he’s done, you can sweep the pieces off the floor. This judge is an investor I respect. He’s the kinda guy I call the sharpest knife in the drawer. Some people think he’s intimidating. This time as it turns out, it’s the kiss of death. No way the other judges are gonna say anything positive after this guy turns vicious. No—they all fall right in line:

It’s like lecturing a schoolboy when the next judge says, “Within the million dollars, how do you see using that money?” Hey, the presentation covered all that stuff. Was he asleep or what? Like I say, it’s late and these guys attention spans are all shot to hell.

They could rattle off the rest of the objections in their sleep:

“You spent virtually no time on the business side.”

“Can you describe in more detail…?”

“How is that justified…?”

“I have a concern…”

Then back to the first judge. “There’s some big players in the marketplace. Some BIG, BIG competitors. One is coming to Chicago probably this year. It’s gonna—they’ll crush you!”

It’s all a buncha hogwash. But now the poor guy is back on his heels. He’s shot his wad.

Here’s the problem: He’s fielding questions all alone—something I like to avoid. He let himself get caught up in details and he don’t recognize these questions is coming at him from an entirely different perspective. Naturally he gets defensive.  Naturally that offends the judges. What he needs is a colleague to observe and step in when there’s a problem. But he’s all on his own.

FFF Speaker

Then we hear objections shouted from the audience.

Can you move so I can see?” Sheesh, I been sittin’ here all day. I’m tryin’ to pay attention to the shellacking going on in front of the big screen. I don’t even need to turn around to recognize the loud, harsh voice of Rong Mayhem. Why’d he wheel himself behind me?

“Somebody make him move.” I don’t budge. Rong can take a flyin’ leap fer all I care. Then he calls out to the speaker—as if the guy didn’t have enough trouble. “What happened to your last venture? I heard it went bust.” I have no idea what he means by this remark. Their last venture is a film that turned out real good.

The moderator interferes before another word gets out: “Don’t talk to him,” he says, meaning the speaker and audience shouldn’t oughta talk to each other. That’s the rules but it seems kinda rude given the circumstances. I like Rong but he gets banned from alotta these events. Can’t keep his mouth shut.

Then there’s a burst of noise from the beer drinkers in back ‘n’ that gets a response from the audience.

“Turn up the speakers. I can’t hear anything,” shouts Rong Mayhem.

“Who cares?” yells Sheldon Tommygun.

“Shuttup Sheldon,” booms Rong.  This delightful interchange leaves me wondering if I’m gonna see an old man and a guy in a wheel chair duke it out. That’d be somethin’ to see.

Another judge goes on as if there was no interruption: “What does adopt the platform mean? C’mon, whaddaya think it means? Then he suggests a major change in the business plan and the poor guy is so beaten down he accepts it—even calls it “smart.”

Time’s up. The presenter limps off.

Next!

This comes as a big surprise – the very next company,  Pallette App, gets a nice warm and friendly reception and takes first place fer the whole event.

bnc-pallete-app

The Winner

I gotta admit, they’re good. Real good. But where’d all that irritability go? Maybe the shark’s bellies are full. To my mind, they just butchered a promising offering and missed a shot at a great investment.

The Happy Ending

I always say: If you tell a good story with passion and don’t personally offend the investors, they’ll gleefully fill-in the holes in your business plan using their own imaginations. Without a good story, they’ll pick you apart like vultures on a carcass. Well it isn’t hard to offend the investors this late in the afternoon. And that’s what just happened here.

So here’s what I do the next day: I run off a transcript of the Q&A. I go to the company’s offices and present it to them. There’s nothing like seeing something in black and white to get your attention. Then I encourage ‘em to show up at a couple other events. And sure enough, the next time these guys present, they do great. And I watch ‘em get fully funded. So this story has a happy ending.

A Promising Company

A Happy Ending

Upcoming FFF Event

So’s I’m goin’ to the next FFF.  It won’t be like this one was.  Probably strictly business. They’re holdin’ it in an auditorium where they can keep tighter control. All the noisy food and venders is gonna be separate. I’m sure David Culver’s got it figured out. It’s his show and he knows what he’s doin’. And I’ll be there ‘cause I’m always ready to pick up another great company or two.  And it’ll be ALL DAY again, so maybe, just maybe, we’ll get some fireworks on the side.  If not, I’ll see what I can stir up.

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Continue to Part 2

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Hey, you wanna know how it actually feels to give a pitch to this kinda crowd? Check out “My Kraken Encounter.” Just click da link.

My Kraken Encounter

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Continue to Part 2

Contacts

Find the Funding Feeding Frenzy at https://www.facebook.com/FundingFeedingFrenzy

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Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

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Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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8 Comments

Filed under Characters, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Invention

THE BIG MATCH

The Story of Ray Markman-Part 13

 Friday, 5:00 pm – The Conclusion

Ray MarkmanIt’s 5pm at the Union League Club.  We crowd into a squash court, not a boxing ring, and close the door.  This is a private fight between Alexander Harbinger PhD and Loop Lonagan, man-about-town.  That’s right—two of my colleagues and best friends are about to beat each other senseless.  And I’m here to enjoy every second of it. 

Three rounds to decide the issue. My office manager, Jim Kren officiates.  He does college matches and knows his stuff.  Bill Blaire stands in a corner with a stopwatch and an air horn.  My assignment is to stay out of the way.

And the thing that gets me is I can’t recall what set off the fight.  The two of them are helping me research Ray Markman and next thing I know, angry words are flying and the big German challenges Lonagan to a duel.  Loop chooses boxing gloves, so I guess it could be worse.  They’re not slashing each other with sabres or blazing away with pistols. 

Bill Blaire helped get the big PhD warmed up, but Alex doesn’t stand a chance against a tough street fighter like Loop Lonagan.  I’ll be walking off with a Bill’s $10K bet after Loop finishes with Dr. Alex.

Boxing

source unknown

Round One

They touch gloves, and the fight is on. 

Harbinger gets in two quick jabs and my assumption that he’s inept in the ring turns out to be wrong.  Right away, I know why Bill made that bet.  Alex knows boxing and at six foot five, he’s taking full advantage of his reach.  He bluffed us all afternoon and I fell for it.  As the boxers circle each other, he throws two more jabs. 

Lonagan is the pure street fighter and it’s clear that the Marquis of Queensbury rules hamper his style.  He crouches and weaves from side to side and I know he’s looking for a chance to step inside Harbinger’s long jabs.  He ducks and blocks but a lot of those jabs land and I hear Kren click his counter again and again.  Loop could lose on points alone.  He hasn’t even thrown a punch. 

Harbinger’s style follows his personality.  Impeccable form but stylized and calculating.  If Lonagan can pick up the pace, he might short-circuit the German’s thinking process.  I bite my lip and restrain my urge to shout advice.  I don’t want to show favoritism between my two pals—but ten thousand bucks!  Things don’t look so good for the good guys right now.  If Harbinger gets him back on his heels, this thing could be over quick. 

Ouch—that one connects and spittle sprays to the side.  Lonagan should’ve laid off the scotch before the match.  Overconfidence.  It gets you every time and I decide to revise my decoding PhD.  Maybe it’s not ‘Piled higher and Deeper.’  Could be it’s ‘Punch hard and Duck.’

The shockwave of the air horn in that small room gets everybody’s instant attention.  Both boxers retreat to folding chairs in opposite corners.  The German breathes slow and deep.  Lonagan is sweating freely and mops his head with a towel.  First round to Dr. Harbinger.  I can almost see my money swirling in the toilet. 

Boxing - 2012 London Olympics

Boxing – 2012 London Olympics

Round Two

They’re up again.  For some reason, Lonagan stands tall—relatively speaking of course.  What the hell is he doing?  He circles Harbinger in sidelong hops, blocking jabs with his forearms, mostly staying out of reach.  Time winds down.  Now he’s getting too close.  He drops his guard.  What the hell does he think he’s doing?

Just like I figured, Harbinger swings for his head, his whole body behind it.  As if predicting the move, Lonagan ducks under the big man’s arm.  He instantly scores a combination of blows—two to the solar plexus and an uppercut to the jaw.  He scores a few more to the gut before they go into a clench and the ref separates them. 

Now both men are sweating.  Each animal knows the other has teeth.  Lonagan keeps his gloves high the rest of the round.  The air horn sounds.  Lonagan wins round two. 

I have to admit, I never expected this to last a full three rounds the way these guys packed away the booze. 

From the Motion Picture Series "Rocky"

From the Motion Picture Series “Rocky” – United Artists

Round Three

Now they’re up again. 

Harbinger taps Lonagan’s gloves a couple times then comes right over the top and throws his shoulder behind a long blow that connects square on the nose.  The smaller man abruptly goes down.

Kren pushes Harbinger back. 

But Loop is back on his feet.  He raises his gloves and covers his face but I’ve already seen it.  His nose is bleeding, maybe broken. 

Lonagan abruptly lunges at Harbinger and absorbs two powerful body blows, but gets close to the taller man. 

Before they can clench, Loop drives an elbow into the big man’s jaw that snaps his head back.  He instantly follows with elbow thrusts to one side of the head, then the other.  One-two-three—just like that.  Definitely not Marquis of Queensbury.  Kren blows the penalty whistle as Alexander Harbinger drops backwards to the floor like a felled tree. 

He lies there, limp, motionless.

Lonagan assumes his boxer’s stance once again but Kren orders him to his corner and signals Harbinger the winner.  

I quickly approach and feel the back of Alex’ neck with great care while Bill checks his pulse.  The guy’s out cold.  I can’t find any evidence of displaced vertebrae or a caved-in skull, but I hold his head immobile while Kren phones the paramedics.  

“Ten Gs!” Bill Blaire shouts.  “Alex done great!  Ten thousand bucks!  I’ll take it in ones, Mr. Jonelis!” 

I steal a glance at Loop, sitting in his corner, blood running down his chin.  I instinctively turn away from the gruesome sight.  What made me think he’d fight fair?  It’s entirely against his nature. 

But I force myself to look again and get a surprise.  Loop Lonagan leans back, staring into space with a blissful–yes I said blissful grin on his ruined face.  A look of satisfied peace.  It’s as if he just had the time of his life.  And in that instant, I know that’s just what he did.  As his face swells, he looks so pleased with himself.  In his own personal way, he won that match as sure as he carried his point about Ray Markman.   Ω

Drawing by Jack Lee

Drawing by Jack Lee

Go back to Part 1

Comment on this article — Name and email optional

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

85 Comments

Filed under Characters, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, Innovation, Invention

I NEVER WORKED A DAY IN MY LIFE

The Story of Ray Markman – Part 1

Ray Markman

by John Jonelis

“What he says is—” I pause to confront the two men across my battered old WWII Air Force desk.  “What he says is this: ‘I never worked a day in my life.’  Far as I can tell, Ray Markman never stopped working a day in his life.  Should’ve retired years ago and he’s still working.  Day and night he’s working.”

“It is merely a paraphrase from ze great inventor, Thomas Edison.” Alexander Harbinger PhD, sits erect, speaking in his German baritone.  “Most likely, Mr. Markman does not intend such a statement to be taken seriously.”

Loop Lonagan slams his fist on the scarred maple desktop.  “No.  I heard ‘im say it.  Two times I heard ‘im.  That guy always says what he means and I believe him.”

I smile.  I believe Ray, too.  I glance at my notes and read Ray’s words: I loved what I did.  To me working was the greatest things in the world.  I still average twelve hours a day.  I never felt I worked a day in my life.’  How can you argue against that kind of heart?

Ray Markman

Ray Markman – Bachrach Photography

Again the baritone from the tall man, but more animated:  “Voicing such an outlandish opinion does not make it fact.  The very idea iss… what is ze word…”  He pauses.  “Vimsical.  It iss vimsical.”

It tickles me to hear Alex’ accent thicken when he gets excited.

“Proof,” he says.  “I cannot accept it vithout proof and I do not believe that you can produce evidence that vill convince an educated person that such a statement is…that it iss justified.”

“Waddaya mean educated?  You callin’ me illiterate?”  I don’t like the look Lonagan gives Harbinger.  Dangerous.  Personally, I never want to find myself on Lonagan’s bad side.

For a moment, the tall PhD appears nonplussed.  Then he stammers, “No—no.  Present company excepted, of course—of course.”  An amazing concession from the tall, cold scholar.

I roll my chair out of the way, stoop to the floor and work my fingers under a cardboard box, remembering what I learned working in factories as a boy—lift with your legs, not your back.  The massive old desk shifts when I drop the first box on the scored maple top.  I dump the second next to it.  Then the third.

Still standing, I heave a sigh. “Glad you’re taking it that way.  This is everything I have.  I’d appreciate each of your perspectives.  It’s short notice but I need your opinions by Friday.  Will you take it on?”

The room goes silent as the three of us stare at the bulging boxes, each with the name, RAY MARKMAN, printed in neat letters.  I know I’m asking a lot. Gazing down at Alex and Loop I am unable to read their eyes.

Loop is first to speak.  “You want I should dig through all this stuff by Friday?”

I lean forward on my fists.  “Listen—you are two of the smartest guys I know.  Loop, you traded huge money on the floor of the CME and later funded a lot of winning companies.  Your street smarts and business savvy make your opinion beyond value to me.  Alex, you’re academic credentials are legendary but at the same time you keep your feet solidly on the ground.  I trust your judgment—trust it thoroughly.  I’m hoping we can put our heads together on this.”

After a pause, Harbinger stands tall.  “I vill begin immediately.”  He turns to Loop.  “I meet you here Friday.”  Then he lifts a box of documents and ducks as he marches out the door.

Loop grunts when he hefts a box.  “Lug dis.  Lug dat.”  Leaning well back, he steps out of the room with the heavy burden.

I park my duff in my chair and stare at the remaining box.  A lot of documents to examine.  But I link my fingers behind my head and lean back into the plush leather, lifting my feet to the desktop, smiling to myself.  I’ve just succeeded in lighting a fire under two divergent thinkers.  I wonder what they’ll bring back with them.

Continue to Part 2

Comment on this article — Name and email optional

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts are welcomed and encouraged. This is not investment advice – do your own due diligence. I cannot guarantee accuracy but I give you my best.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

18 Comments

Filed under Biography, BNC Venture Capital, Chicago Ventures, Midwest Renaissance Fund, Nobel Prize, Northwestern