Tag Archives: Entrepreneurs

THE NAME IS IN2

by John Jonelis

What happens when you give kids—highly gifted in math and science—a state-of-the-art facility entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship? This could be the best-designed business incubator on the planet and the students are going to create real businesses here. Hey—this is too much fun! It sure doesn’t look like high school to me! Where did they put the usual long halls walled by the usual rows of lockers? Where are the standardized rigid rectangular classrooms?

This is IN2, the new entrepreneurship center at IMSA—the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy—the Statewide high school for the best and the brightest. It’s located near Chicago and students live on campus, as if attending a university four years too soon.

IMSA will host a big party and ribbon cutting for the new IN2 innovation space on the 30th of the month—that’s the 30th anniversary of the school’s founding. I had the unique opportunity to preview this amazing facility. Here’s a sneak peek:

IN2 at IMSA (Note the unique tables and ping pong net)

Britta McKenna is the Chief Innovation Officer here, and led the team that put this together. As I fumble to get my recorder going, I ask her how they pulled it off. Without any hesitation, she pours out an amazing story—so here it is, verbatim:

[First of all, I asked about the name—IN2. What does it mean?]

“Innovation and Inquiry. When people were in focus groups and asked about IMSA, those were the two words that came up over and over. So the company we worked with used Inquiry & Innovation as IN-IN. That’s why it’s called IN2. So you can say, ‘What are you IN2?’ It can be playful.”

Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer

“The story actually goes back 10 years. It was decided an innovation hub would be built—a physical space and a virtual space.

“Three and a half years ago, we got a gift of one million dollars from Steve Chen to build the innovation center, so then the work really began.”

[Chen is an IMSA alum and co-founder of YouTube and AVOS. I asked Britta how they came up with such a wonderful design]

“I got tapped, as chief innovation officer, to figure out what this would be, what it would look like, how it would operate, how it would be funded. It would have to be a private revenue stream to support this.”

[ALERT—All you budget hawks. She’s talking private funding—and she’s got the corporate connections and alumni to do it.]

Maker Space

“So I brought along students to Silicon Valley—15 of them. We went through Chicago to spaces like Northwestern, IIT, University of Chicago, Fermilab, Argon, 1871, Private Industry Chicago, Next Door, and we also went out to Boston to visit MIT Media Lab, and other spaces out there, including artist colonies to be inspired to by what people were doing coast-to-coast in innovation spaces.”

Multi-use conference rooms

“That was a 2-year research project and included the students all the way. They worked in three teams—Developing Technology, Programming, and Facilities. They helped co-design the space, because they are the users, and too many times, we design things in a box outside of the users. So we implemented a user-designed thinking approach.”

Lab space

“We went to Facebook, Google, Dropbox, AVOS, which is Steve Chen’s newest startup, WeWork, which is a co-working space, and Stanford’s StartX, so we literally have done our due diligence.

“And I asked, ‘What space gets used the most? What’s your favorite thing? And what did you do wrong?’

“It doesn’t mean that those things will all work here, but it’s likely that we might have success if somebody else already has. So we synthesized all of that and I became what is known as the ‘hashtag’ Super-User. And the Super-User is the one that funnels all of this information to the architects, because now it actually has to be designed.”

Idea space

“We went to the community. We came together—58 of us—anyone from a Chicago Public School teacher to a city administrator with City of St. Charles. We got public, private, parents, past parents, teachers—everybody came together and literally built models of this space. We went through the design process with architects, we used Cordogan Clark in Aurora, and we built this—it took about a year to build from the time we broke ground and now we’re opening up.”

Sharing space

“So all the spaces here are influenced either by student ideas or places coast-to-coast that we visited. And so we’d probably say that we’re the first secondary school innovation center in Illinois, and dare we say the United States because we haven’t been able to find something like this. First-to-market is great for Illinois, great for Aurora, and puts IMSA on the map. We invite people to come in and see what we’ve built here.”

Collaboration space

“This is really meant as a convening space. Innovation doesn’t happen unless there are people here. We learned from going coast-to-coast that you can have the coolest space ever, but if there’s nobody there, there’s no innovation happening. There’s nothing happening. It’s all about connecting people.”

Coffee Bar

“One of the biggest places we found is around food. So we have a built-in cafe around the corner because you want to meet somebody for a cup of coffee. You just want to have a casual conversation. You want to have a back-of-the-napkin sketch, that can happen there or it can happen in our idea bar.

“We have Idea Baristas that we’re training. They actually wear aprons, and will help people advance their ideas here. They’re all volunteers.”

Idea Baristas.

We’ve got a mentoring office like 1871. We hope by the fall to have regular office hours. So I am a non-profit mentor. On Tuesdays from 4-6:00, I volunteer my time to mentor non-profits in the community. I can go to them. They can come to us.”

Mentoring Office

“Mike McCool, who’s an alum and a software engineer, wanted to donate and I said, ‘How ‘bout we get the McCool View?’ So he funded the beautiful windows that we have.”

The McCool View

“Our reach—about advancing the human condition—can, I think, really be actualized through this space. Not that we weren’t doing it—it just gives us that new front door. The space is just literally right by the front door.”

A huge competition between student startup companies— POWER PITCH—is going on here today. I’ll give you an inside look at that in the second article in this series.

Moises Goldman – Judge at POWER PITCH

I run into an old friend, Moises Goldman—angel investor, a big driver at MIT, and an important contributor at IMSA. Today he’s one of 17 judges at POWER PITCH. I ask him what he thinks of the new facility. Moises responds in his gentle, deliberate, and old-world manner, condensing his thoughts into a few words:

“I think it’s always been the desire to be in a type of space that recognized talented students. This is our recognition of these students. That makes a difference to me.”

.

Notable IMSA Alums

The school’s alumni reflect its excellence. Browse through a few:

Steve Chen – Co-founder/Chief Technology Officer of YouTube and AVOS. Early engineer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Chen

Steve Crutchfield – Chicago Trading Company. CBOE Advisory Board, Head of Options, ETPs, Bonds at NYSE Euronext.  2012 Crain’s Forty Under 40.

http://marketswiki.com/wiki/Steven_Crutchfield

.

Dr. Julia Comerford – Astronomer. Discovered several supermassive black hole pairs—occurring in the merger of galaxies.

http://www.sci-news.com/astronomy/pair-black-holes-distant-galaxy-03546.html

.

Dr. Scott Gaudi – Astronomer, discovered over a dozen new planets and a new solar system.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/06/president-obama-honors-dr-b-scott-gaudi-91-highest-honor-early-career-scien

http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~gaudi/

.

Nathan Gettings – Co-founder of Palantir. Founder of robotics company Robotex.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palantir_Technologies

Also – http://www.robotex.com/

.

Ramez Naam – Software developer and international bestselling author. Developer at Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer projects.

https://www.amazon.com/Ramez-Naam/e/B001IOH84S/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1489516515&sr=8-2-ent

.

Mike McCool – Software Engineer at Google, Robot Invader, Aechelon Technology, Netscape, and many others.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.robotinvader.fooding&hl=en

Rob McCool – Software developer and author. Developed the original NCSA Web server, later known as the Apache HTTP Server. Part of original NCSA Mosaic team with his twin brother Mike.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCool

.

Tim Meyer, PhD – Chief Operating Officer, Fermilab

http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/timothy-meyer.html

.

Yu Pan – Co-creator of PayPal and the first employee at You Tube. Co-founder of kid’s kraft company Kiwi Crate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yu_Pan

.

Dwan Prude – Financial Analyst, Boeing Company. Motivational speaker.

https://www.imsa.edu/news/releases/2012/08/20/dwan-prude-97-gives-passionate-and-motivational-2012-convocation-address

.

Russel Simmons – Co-founder of Yelp. Early developer at PayPal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russel_Simmons

.

Clara Shih – Bestselling author, THE FACEBOOK ERA. Founder of Hearsay systems. In 2010, she was named one of most influential women in tech.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Shih

.

Kevin Wang – Founder of TL;DR Legal. Theil Foundation fellowship recipient.

https://www.imsa.edu/academics/talent/kevin-wang-new-thiel-fellow

Also – http://www.geekwire.com/2012/kevin-wang/

.

Sam Yagan – American internet entrepreneur. Co-founder of SparkNotes and OkCupid. CEO Match.com. Named in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world list.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Yagan

 

.

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 – THE NAME IS IN2

Read Part 2 – POWER PITCH

Go to Part 3 – INQUIRY & INNOVATION

.

.

IN2 Contact Info

Address – 1500 Sullivan Rd. Aurora, IL 60506

Website – https://www.imsa.edu/

Carl Heine – heine@imsa.edu

Britta McKenna – bmckenna@imsa.edu

Tami Armstrong – tarmstrong@imsa.edu

.

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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
.
.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, IMSA, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, new companies, Public Schools, Social Entrepreneur, Startup, startup company

30 SECONDS OVER CHICAGO

30 SecondsFrom the City’s Hardest Rocking Startup

by Jeff Segal – Message Therapist

What’s your favorite place to hear live music in Chicago? What makes it rock? Don’t tell me—tell Gigity.TV, a Chicago startup that live streams concerts from local venues.

To shine a brighter spotlight on the clubs and theaters where 30 SecondsChicago’s dynamic music scene lives, Gigity.TV is sponsoring its third “30 Seconds Over Chicagocompetition, urging local writers, musicians and videographers to create 30-second commercials for 45 local venues like Schubas Martyrs’ and the Riviera Theater.

The winning team gets $1000. Every team gets a $150 bar credit from their venue. And the deadline for pitches is this Sunday, Nov. 3 at midnight.

Gigity.TV founder Rich Seng says, “It’s all about promoting what makes Chicago a great music city.”

.

A Rock ‘n’ Roll Time Machine

Seng founded Gigity.TV to be Chicago’s rock ‘n’ roll time machine.

“Imagine if you could go back and watch Nirvana at Cabaret Metro in 1990, or the first Smashing Pumpkins shows,” says Rich Seng, Founder of Gigity.TV. “That’s what we’re doing—sharing and archiving Chicago culture so it can live forever.

Gigity Stream

A recent Gigity.TV broadcast

Gigity.TV sets up camera systems in music venues and livestreams concerts—with audio straight from the soundboard—to subscribers worldwide. Sign-up is free, and so are many of the shows. Gigity.TV streams about 60 shows a week and boasts a viewable archive of more than 2200.

“Say you live in Australia, but you’ve heard about this great Chicago music scene,” says Seng. “Now you can watch it live.”

Venues pay to have the cameras installed, then share in pay-per-view and advertising revenues. (The performers get a significant cut as well—Gigity.TV’s stated mission is “to help artists take another step towards making a living off of their talents.”) Once the system’s installed, says Seng, “All they have to do is hit Create Broadcast, set start and end times, and upload the band profile. Then they can go back to running the bar.”Gigity.TV logo

The results won’t win any awards, but the automated three-camera set-up does an amazing job of changing perspectives to capture the intensity of the performance. If you’re a suburban music lover who doesn’t like crowds, drinking or staying up late, Gigity.TV is even better than being there.

.

Pitches Pouring In All Weekend

Most of the venues in 30 Seconds Over Chicago don’t have Gigity.TV set-ups, but Seng insists the competition isn’t about adding them to his roster. The point is to highlight local creative talent. “Everyone who works on these spots is credited. Say someone at one of the major ad agencies sees a spot and it really gets his attention. It’s a way for your portfolio to reach more eyeballs.”

Previous competitions have invited spots for Wicker Park retailers and Chicago area brew pubs. Teams shoot on shoestring budgets, but Seng says, “Some of the winners from the brew pub competition look like they cost $100,000.”

Flossmoor Beer

Flossmoor Brewing, a winner from the Brew Pub Competition

.

If you’re thinking it’s too late to jump in, don’t worry. Your pitches don’t have to be anything elaborate—just short write-ups of what kind of spots you’d create for particular venues. (A young girl is above the stage looking out of the window on the top floor ….) Each venue picks the concept it likes best, and the 45 finalists have a little over a month to complete their spots before the finals, Dec. 10 at the Double Door.

All you really need to compete, Seng says, are, “Creativity, resourcefulness, and a love for the music.”

.

About the Author

Jeff Segal works with entrepreneurs as a Message Therapist, translating great ideas into messages that connect with customers, partners and investors. He also writes at BrokerSavant  and We’re Not Expecting Any Surprises Contact him at mt.jeffsegal@gmail.com or Twitter @MsgTherapist

.

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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

Leave a comment

Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, BNC Venture Capital, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Internet Marketing, Jeff Segal, new companies, The City

WHAT MAKES IT GOOD

Techweek Part 4 –

Two Points T

by storied business consultant, Joe Perogi,

as told to John Jonelis –

Been hearin’ complaints ‘n’ controversy about Techweek this year. People gripe so you figure there’s gotta be a good reason, right? Yeah, I hear you. Yer sayin’, where there’s smoke there’s fire. But all them critics completely miss THE HIDDEN ROOM that you and me stumple upon—the hidden room that makes this thing truly amazing. Now the dust is settled, lemme take you on a tour o’ what I seen.

First, permit me t’ introduce myself. Name’s J. P. Pierogiczikowski, but you can call me Joe Perogi. Everybody else does. They say I have way too much fun. Maybe they’re right. Confidentially, there’s alotta money in it, too.

Da Speakers

We meet at the office in the backroom o’ Ludditis Shots & Beer.

Ludditis Shots and Beer 3

It’s just a good stretch o’ the legs from here to the Chicago Merchandise Mart and we get there in fifteen minutes easy. This event takes up a whole floor and gets a special elevator.

On this tour, you and me start in a room packed with chairs and people eager to hear Sal Khan of Khan Academy—one o’ da featured speakers. I wanna hear this guy. His company solves problems in education. Uses technology to help the kids learn ‘n’ helps the teachers make better use o’ their time. That’s huge. I’m figure this is gonna be good.

Khan Academy’s gonna partner with big business—a move that’ll give ‘em a longer reach. None of us know about that at the time—all we wanna do is hear the guy talk.

Look at that outrageously pretty lady on stage. Now she’s tellin’ us how great the speaker is. Now she points out the big screen. Hey, Sal Khan ain’t even here. You’re here. I’m here. We paid to be here. All these other people are here, too. But no Sal. He’s on Skype. So I’m a little bit offended, but whaddaya gonna do? They call it Techweek, so I figure we’ll give it our best shot.

All the computers crash at Sal’s office out in California or wherever he really is. But Sal’s no quitter. He carries on—with his smartphone. Ever notice how people believe them smartphones can do anything? Maybe it’s ‘cause they call ‘em smart when they’re really just pocket-size computers waitin’ to go wrong.

THE MERCHANDISE MARTWe look at the big screen and see this faded picture of Sal Kahn. You can tell he’s holdin’ the phone too close to his face. That’s why he looks kinda distorted. And he’s got a lousy connection—maybe one bar, tops. Truth be told, none of us can get our phones working here in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. Too much concrete. But apparently the organizers think smart phones is a smart move. So we sit through snips and swipes o’ Sal’s voice, cutting in and out. Nobody knows what the hell he’s saying. It creates a feeling of suspense, doncha think? I mean, the way that distorted face skips and jerks across the faded auditorium screen.

Why don’t anybody get up and walk out? Easy. It’s that gorgeous gal on stage—she’s really somethin’. Class. Intelligent-looking. Businesslike. She apologizes. Now she’s promising they’s gonna fix the problem. Now she’s watching that big screen with such intense interest—like she can understand what he’s sayin’ and she’s hangin’ on every word. She creates in us what they call a sense of suspended belief. (I read that somewhere.) And it keeps everybody in their seats.

Sal keeps cutting in and out till his battery dies and that means, lecture over. It teaches me a lesson: It’s usually more about marketing than technology. But you don’t know that till the technology breaks down.

Did I mention that the Blackhawk’s rally is going on downtown today?Blackhawk logo You don’t wanna go? Hey—they won the Stanley Cup. It’s a big deal. Okay then, let’s crash a few more presentations.

So we take in summore lectures. Seems like every speaker talks in some important-sounding corporate lingo. It’s all meaningful stuff, right? Maybe it’s what they call high-elf—I dunno. I’m wishin’ I can be with the Blackhawk fans. So you and me ditch the lectures and hit the booths.

.

Da Booths

There’s rows ‘n’ rows o’ these little islands o’ commerce packed side-by-side, with all sortsa people plugging up the floor and it all seems to go on forever. Pretty soon I get turned around and confused and everything’s a blur. Don’t it hit you that way, too? This place is so big, a guy can get lost in here real fast.

Look around. Everywhere it’s corporations hawking their wares. (There’s that word Hawk again.) Notice how most people just mill past the booths. Except fer that one—the one serving free booze. We stop there for a while. Pretty good, huh?

FREE BOOZE

So I learn a second lesson, but it don’t hit me till later: Big corporations waste lots of money. But they help an event pay the bills.

Then, just when I’m about to give up and say goodbye, we find the hidden room.

startup city logo

Da Hidden Room

See that wall with the huge Startup City logo painted on it? Looks like a dead end, don’t it? We walk up and take a closer look at the artwork. There’s a small door on our right. We go through there and WHAM! It’s a whole ‘nother room packed with booths ‘n’ people ‘n’ lotsa noise. These is all startup companies. Seventy of ‘em. Ambitious entrepreneurs, brilliant inventors and gutsy financiers ready to take a risk on a new idea. This is where the action is. So let’s do the rounds. Hey, I know summa these people! I like this place!

And whaddaya know—they got a competition goin’. The judges go from booth to booth and try to pick out the five best startups. Which o’ these folks is the judges? I can’t tell. It’s kinda like a benched dog show.

Now we find out the winners are gonna get announced at a special event with the mayor. Our tickets ain’t good enough to get in—those tickets musta cost thousands! No problemo. We crash it.

We’re in and now the mayor’s up there giving a speech:

“…I think the city of Chicago will become the mecca of the Midwest in startup cities,” he says. IMG_9067“The city of Chicago is building the digital economy as the fifth pillar…” I gotta ask you: Where’d he get all that mecca and fifth pillar stuff? I mean I like the guy but them terms don’t feel right coming outa him. Maybe if he wore a keffiyeh or a turban er somethin’. Naw, that ain’t never gonna happen.

.

Da Shortlist

Then they announce the winners. But I’m an investor and I got my own short list. Lemme tell you about ‘em:

cervia diagnostic logoCervia Diagnostic Innovations is gonna wipe out cervical cancer by replacing the age-old pap smear with a better test. They got all the research and their team’s fulla PhDs and Nobel Prize winners.

.

PaletteApp logoPaletteApp is bringing architects and interior designers outa da closets and into the digital world and saving companies a whole lot of money.

.

youtopia logoYoutopia is gettin’ high school kids emotionally involved in those service projects they gotta do and documenting the results fer the colleges they wanna get into. You got a high school kid? Then you know that’s something worthwhile.

.

faspark logoFaspark is helpin’ us all find street parking for our jalopies. It’s based on data analytics and probability of success and reduces time cruising the streets by 70%. Shows up as a map on your phone. They’re setting up in Chicago and Munich at the same time.

UPDATE – Faspark now gives you parking garage information in addition to the street parking.  Check out this article in Crain’s Chicago Business.  

None o’ them great companies made the finals ‘n’ that makes me scratch my head. And now they announce the winner:

.

Da Official Finalists

.

wedeliver logoWeDeliverFirst Place. I gotta say, this one’s on my short list now I get to know ‘em, and there’s an article about them in this magazine. But this is my first look at ‘em. You ever see these guys before? Great business model. Terrific CEO. Tech enabled same-day local delivery for brick and mortar businesses. These guys is gonna level the playing field with Amazon and create a buncha jobs right here in Chicago—and that’s just fer starters.

.

Crowdfynd LogoCrowdFynd is a lost-n-found service that uses crowdsourcing to find yer stuff.

.

Furywing LogoFurywing is is a gambling play. I don’t like online gambling, but it ain’t my place to judge.

.

.

24Fundraiser logo24Fundraiser is a one-stop solution fer online auctions.

.

.

neststepio logoNextStep.io helps you get yer daily workout by usin’ yer daily routine. I like that idea a lot. Gotta find out more about this one.

.

.

trinet logoThe whole Startup City production is sponsored by TriNet. I talked to them folks at length and came away impressed.

Then I get a big surprise on the way home:

.

Da Hawks

I ride the water taxi to the train and it turns out I don’t miss the Blackhawks celebration after all. The train’s loaded with drunken smiling people singin’ songs, makin’ a whole lotta noise, and generally havin’ a great time. Now it’s my turn, so I belt out The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

IMG_9086-001

..

Back to Part 3 – BNC TUESDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN

.

Photos courtesy Techweek, The Chicago Blackhawks, John Jonelis.  Logos courtesy companies.

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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

9 Comments

Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Ventures, city, Donatas Ludditis, Education, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, Innovation, Internet, Internet Marketing, Invention, investor, Mobile, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, new companies, Nobel Prize, pitch, Software, Techweek, the chicago machine, The City, the machine, vc, venture capital

TOP FIVE STARTUPS THAT DIDN’T MAKE TECHWEEK’S FINAL FIVE

Startup_CityTechweek – Part 1

By Jeff Segal – Message Therapist

I love startups. But I’m cheap. So I was happy to buy the $30 Expo pass to Techweek Chicago.  No way was I shelling out for the $650 VIP pass.

Which meant I got to browse Startup City and meet the founders of 70 startups, but couldn’t crash the LAUNCH Final Five event. And you know what? I’m sure it was lovely, but apparently they chose the finalists based on nothing more than concept, business model, strength of team and presentation. Bor-ing.

I selected mine, on the other hand, based on pure awesomeness. Will they succeed? Will they find funding? Do they have sufficiently unique value propositions? Who cares?

All that matters is, one way or another, these five startups struck me as brilliant.

.techweek_chicago

Editor’s Note – Next time, just crash the gates like I did by tagging along with YouTopia.  

And hey, everybody else in Chicago is at the parade celebrating the Blackhawk’s Stanley Cup victory!

.

Best New Way for Shy People to Hook Up

Ever see an attractive stranger and wish you could connect without embarrassing yourself? Get yourself a deck of anonymous intro cards from Cheek’d. With messages like “I just put all my drinks on your tab” and “I’m totally cooler than your date,” the cards let the stranger connect to your profile without either of you seeing the other’s contact info. I love a tech startup that’s all about plain old, last-century cards, and the way you can make new connections without sharing everything with the whole world. It’s antisocial networking!

.

Best Completely Pointless Time Waster

Yes, there are a zillion sites where people do nothing but post, share and vote on witty little comments, but I’ve never seen one with as cool a design or as obnoxious a name as F.U. I’m Right.

FU I'm Right

Plus, it made me LMAO. Sample question: “You catch your teenager with a dime bag.

  • A— Smoke it.
  • B—Dump it.”

(“Smoke it” is winning, 56% to 44%.) This is the kind of startup that gives startups a reputation as overhyped hangouts for overeducated frat boys with nothing better to do. God Bless America.

.

Best Where-Was-This-When-I-Needed-It App

It’s Saturday night. My suburban wife and I head into the city to meet some friends at a bar near Belmont and Racine. It takes us 45 minutes to get there—and another 45 minutes to find a damn parking spot! Sure wish I’d known about Faspark. Faspark

You type in your destination and it gives you a neighborhood route, color-coded from most to least likely blocks to find parking. I haven’t tested it yet, but if it works as advertised it’s a watershed moment in Western Civilization.

.

Best Slap-Your-Forehead Business Software

Remember back in the 90s when they said the Internet would create a paperless workplace? (Don’t say, No dude, I was still in grade school. Just don’t.) While we’re waiting for that miracle, PrintEco has developed an algorithmic plug-in that optimizes printed content so it fits on a smaller number of pages. And it’s free. You can keep all that software that saves money through streamlined processing or greater storage or maximized bandwidth or whatever. I’ll take the one that saves trees, too.

.

Best Idea Your Friends Will Hate You For

“Are you a blogger?” they asked me at the Snip.ps booth. “Wouldn’t you like to get paid for it?” Well, sure. How it works is, you convert any link with your Snip.ps account and post it wherever. Then, every time someone clicks on your link, they have to watch an ad for 10 seconds before they get connected—and you get paid. I might just join. Not that I think I’ll make much money. But it will force me to ask myself, “Is this Tweet worth making my friends sit through a ten-second Morgan Stanley commercial?

Don’t like my winners? Check out the other 65 startups and pick your own. It’s not as much fun as cruising Startup City, but you’re still $30 ahead of me.

Jeff Segal Logo.

.

.

.

..

Go to Part 2 – TECH CHILDREN

.
.

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 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. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.
.Copyright © 2013 Jeff Segal – All Rights Reserved
.
.

2 Comments

Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, chicago, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, Jeff Segal, Mobile, Mobile App, Social Media, Software, Techweek, vc, venture capital

THE YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS

An evening with legendary international investor, Loren Bukkett

by John Jonelis

Technori PitchI’m at the Technori Pitch event in Chicago standing beside the iconic figure of Loren Bukkett–the Prophet of Pekin.  Everybody’s seen him on the news but this guy blends into to any crowd. Unassuming. Cheap rumpled suit. A hundred percent Midwestern. I knew his wife before they got hitched—she almost posed for one of my paintings but somebody stopped her—probably Bukkett himself. He shakes my hand absentmindedly and tells me not to call him “mister” as he scans the milling crowd in the lobby of the Chase Auditorium.

“I don’t see anybody over 30 here,” he says. Then his famous grin. “Except for you, John.” He grins some more.

I shake off the fact that he still knows my name. Total recall, I guess. “What brings you here, Loren? I didn’t think you invested in new ventures.”

“The ticket’s only ten dollars and the pizza’s free.”

“You flew to Chicago for free pizza?” In what, his private jet? I know this guy’s frugal, but c’mon.

He stops scanning and looks me square in the face. I feel the power of intelligence behind that casual persona. There’s a reason people hang on this guy’s every word. You don’t make that kind of money getting lucky at the racetrack, so I’m all ears when he answers my question:  “Think about it,” he says, “Did you notice something unusual about the last two stock market corrections?”

“Yeah. Everything tanked. Fast and hard.”

He looks at me from beneath his bushy brows. “Do you recognize the importance of what you just said? Markets drop all the time. In the long run it doesn’t even matter. Tell me about the recent correlations with commodities and derivatives.” He waves a hand. “Of course, the big exchanges are right here in Chicago, so you know all about that. What do you see happening?”

The crowd gets loud and thick as I try to recall what I once knew about correlation coefficients. Finally, I blurt out an answer. “Just about everything dropped the same time, even the Futures.”

“You’ve put your finger on it. Correlations are all very close to one right now. That’s what’s so significant. Now look at all these kids. Do you suppose their startup companies move with the broader markets?  What’s their correlation?”

“So you’re shopping diversification.”

“For public consumption, I’m just enjoying myself. Have you tried this pizza?”

I’m doing zero carb so I look around the room to distract myself from the food. I hear this place holds 500. Looks like they’ll fill it. The crowd presses around us. Buckkett’s been recognized. A 20 something asks for his autograph, which he grants. Some people form a line. I gesture to him and push my way through the bodies. He follows me through a door and up some stairs to the projection room. “Thought it’d be quieter up here,” I say.

Bukkett looks around at the equipment. “This is nice. Any chairs?”

I push a couple to a place where we can see the stage then decide to prod him for inside information. “Listen Loren, some of these startups are only asking for a quarter million. Isn’t that kinda small for you?”

He glances at me—a look bordering on pity. “You actually mean to say you don’t get it?” He pauses but I have no answer. “Don’t ever forget what I’m about to tell you: These kids are the future of capitalism in this country. If I see something worthwhile, I’m glad to fund it. The good ones always go through several rounds. When we’re in one of those, we’re with it all the way to IPO or buyout, or we adjust the management team and fold it into the portfolio.”

“A 100% stake? What’s that come to?”

“You figure it out.”

Looks to me like he’s talking millions,  then the stage introductions start. I was right—every seat taken. Last month was standing-room-only so they moved to this beautiful auditorium. Clay Neighbor is onstage priming the audience, saying what a special place Chicago is to do business. We all know that. He gets a round of applause.

John Paski gets in a plug for the next Chicago TechWeek. At least half the audience raises their hands when he asks who’ll attend in June. That one will be on two floors of the Merchandise Mart. Cripes. 500+ speakers, 200+ sessions. Website www.techweek.com

Seth Kravitz—Tech guro and driving force behind Technori is speaking. He’s set up a Q&A method using text messaging. The audience gets to vote on what questions get asked.

Time for the presentations. Fifteen minutes each. I ask Loren for his take on what he hears.

LockBoxer

Jennifer Morehead – jmorehead@lockboxer.com

The company helps people create a home inventory and price their possessions. Type in your items, upload photos, and prices automatically post to your list from the company database. That’s valuable for insurance, for sales, and for the taxman who audits your giving. It places a hard valuation that stands scrutiny.

We hear about the recent WSJ profile of the company and the monetization plan. Their site links to the Salvation Army and Google. Major insurance agents are signing up for a pilot project to launch in January. Lockboxer is secure like a safety deposit box—that’s where they got their name.

I poke Bukkett. “Loren. Loren.  What do you think?”

He leans over to me. “This gal is comfortable, even though the tech booth people fouled up her video. I like the idea. Home inventories are a terrible nuisance. Have you ever done one? There’s competition out there but that just proves how good the idea might be.”

BankBadger

Brian Busche

Want to teach your kids to understand money? Want to make banking fun? Want a simple way to do it? In this online bank, the parents are the bankers and control all aspects of the experience.

They use Badges instead of dollars and each badge can represent any amount the parents choose. The format avoids legal restrictions so kids under 13 can participate. Wow, I wish this was around when my kids were small.

It’s is a freemium model. They source parent’s names through Facebook. When one million users sign on, they’ll launch a premium service, perhaps with a stock market.

Bukkett: “Look at this one. He’s bootstrapping so far. It’s is a minimally viable project that’s already up and running. He’s letting it evolve. That’s how these kids are beating the big companies.”

Utellit

rishi@utell.it

Text and social media are dominating communications and they’re here to stay. Utellit enhances text messaging with voice. “Shoutouts” take the place of “Tweets.” Not only that, the system converts voice to text and posts it on Facebook. Other features make the app fun, including full-motion cartoons.

So I’m thinking, hey, I can text and I don’t need to fool around with that tiny virtual keyboard. Sounds good to me.

Bukkett makes no comment. I don’t know if that means he’s not interested or already in.

jumprope

www.jumpropetheapp.com

Loren sends me out for pizza and when I get back, he’s smiling.

Bukkett: “Look how fast these kids move. They’re launching this thing tonight. Great pitch—Don’t you get sick of waiting in lines? These guys make it possible to cut in line and the price depends on the length of the line. It’s mobile, social, local, and free to download. It interfaces with Facebook, Twitter, and email. Think this one might go?”

I can’t believe Loren Bukkett asked me a question like that. “You just like it ‘cause it’s free.” That raises a laugh out of him.

Berst

Matt & Kaleb Foster. Email: team@berstapp.com  Website: http://berstapp.com/

Where are your friends? Want to know? Want to text your group and share photos from your phone? Imagine a social media site that’s mobile and aggregates Twitter and Facebook with GPS. With Berst, you STAR members to your private group or use the search function to form an elastic group on the fly. At a sporting event, text chat becomes group chat. This one’s both Android and iPhone ready with Windows and Blackberry coming. It’s already in the App Store.

Bukkett: “This falls into the category known asl the creepy app because it keeps track of where you are. Young people don’t seem to mind it but the old folks do. They don’t like to be hunted.”

WizOra

Dan Devias, founder.

This company started at the recent Chicago TechWeek. The winner of the Bloomberg tech competition, it already has thousands of followers. It asks you five basic questions and pulls personal info from your social media sites, then feeds you recommendations for food, fun, savings and more. You rate the restaurants and see ratings posted by others. Over time, the software learns everything about you and gives highly targeted recommendations. It’s web based, with mobile on the horizon.

Loren taps me on the shoulder. “See how creepy it gets? Their asset is the knowledge of everything about you.”

“So you don’t like it?”

“I wouldn’t put it that way. Never let personal bias stifle dollars.”

Junto

Marcy Capron, Joe Poeschi, Matt Wanske, founders@thejun.to

Junto is the everyman incubator. It helps non-techs apply, fund and build their venture. Is your idea any good? Are eager users waiting? Can you build it? Can you get funding? What do you do next?

Junto helps you identify a minimally viable product then connects you with a community to crowdsource R&D, testing, mentorship, and funding. The community votes on ventures and funds them. It takes the risk out of a startup.

Most applicants are MBAs with good business plans. Junto helps these not-technical clients round out their offering. This company launched just nine hours before the presentation. They already have three startups. Junto doesn’t take equity from users, but rather a 5% share of the profits.

Speechless, I turn to Bukkett.

He nods and gives me a knowing look. “You help companies write plans and get funded, don’t you? This could run you out of business.”

We slip out into the pleasant evening air. Loren invites me for a hamburger. We wind up at Uno for a deep dish and beer.

The next Technori Pitch is Nov 29, 2011, 6:00 PM – 8:45 PM, Chase Auditorium. Sign up early—it’s bound to sell out. http://www.technori.com/

That’s what I heard. What did you hear? Comments welcome.

John Jonelis

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.

© 2011 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.

43 Comments

Filed under Chicago Ventures, Events, Technori