Tag Archives: Impact Engine

CHICAGO SPEEDS UP

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdapted from the Journal of the Heartland Angels

By Michael Gardiner

Chicago’s startup scene has grown dramatically in recent years. That includes a rapid increase in local accelerators, incubators, tech parks, and similar programs.

The term accelerator is used somewhat loosely, but the prototypical accelerator involves cohorts of between 10 and 20 startups that spend three to four months in a common physical location. Accelerators are sponsoring organizations that provide startups with a combination of small cash investments, intense mentoring, formal and informal networking opportunities, and organized investor pitch events—all designed to dramatically “accelerate” a startup’s development. Typically, graduating companies immediately seek a significant angel investment or venture “A” round funding.

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The Big Three

Seed-DB  lists three significant accelerators in Chicago: Techstars Chicago (formerly Excelerate Labs); Healthbox – Chicago; and Impact Engine.

Although small in number, accelerators form a significant part of the landscape in which Chicago-area angels operate.  These programs support and foster entrepreneurs, drive media attention, and attract capital. In addition, a startup’s participation in an accelerator tells us something about the company. Techstars, which by most accounts is the premier Chicago accelerator, produces portfolio companies that are highly vetted, coached, and connected. Techstars companies raise an average of $1.5 million in outside capital after the program.

In addition, accelerators take an investment stake and a significant advisory role in their portfolio companies. This level of professional involvement may be a positive or negative factor in any particular angel investment opportunity.  A company that graduates from an accelerator is typically relatively high quality but expensive from a valuation perspective.

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Everybody’s Got a Niche

More broadly, each accelerator program specializes in a particular field. Techstars focuses on web-based and software companies, Healthbox is for healthcare businesses, and Impact Engine companies address societal or environmental issues. These specialties point to trends in the startup market in general and give insight into the nature of a startup that was part of a particular accelerator.

Finally, accelerator programs conclude with a Demo Day.  On that day, angel investors get the chance to view the current standard for well-coached startup pitches and identify potential investment candidates.

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Incubator vs. Accelerator

An incubator rents space and provides a central physical workspace to a dozen or two startups.  The startup companies are often sponsored by an investor group or university. In contrast to accelerators, a company typically stays in an incubator on a long-term basis—until it needs to relocate to a larger facility. Mentoring and support varies, but is less intense than accelerators and generally comes from a sponsoring group, mentors brought in by the group, and other incubator companies.

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What about 1871?

Chicago’s best-known startup hub is 1871, located in the Merchandise Mart. It’s very successful in renting co-working space to startups, hosting classes and speakers, and generally raising the profile of entrepreneurship in Chicago. 1871 does not sponsor or invest in specific companies like an accelerator. But because of its massive size, incubators have sprung up within its walls.  Even Venture Capital firms keep office space in the facility.

 

Michael Gardiner is an Angel Investor based in Chicago.

For more articles in this issue of NEWS FROM HEARTLAND download the PDF.  [click here]

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NEWS FROM HEARTLAND – the Journal of the Heartland Angels, is published quarterly as an information service to its members. Articles may be reproduced in full with attribution for educational purposes.

Copyright © 2013 Heartland Angels – John Jonelis, Editor – John@HeartlandAngels.com

CAVEAT EMPTOR – These articles are for educational purposes and not investment advice. Investment involves substantial risk. Please perform your own due diligence. Contact Ron Kirschner – Ron@HeartlandAngels.com

For more information, go to: www.HeartlandAngels.com

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link. This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2014 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Impact Engine, new companies, pitch, Social Entrepreneur

VAST PILES OF MONEY

Chicago Social Enterprise Eyes a Trillion Dollar Market

Piggy BankImpact Engine Part 9 – by Jeff Segal, Message Therapist –

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”— James Baldwin

Imagine your reaction if your bank charged you a 9% fee to write a check to your sister in Cleveland. You send $100, but she only gets $91.

It’s unthinkable. But if you’re a low-wage immigrant sending part of your wages to family in your native country, that’s standard procedure—just one of the ways  you pay more for being poor.

But this isn’t an article about how immigrants get ripped off. It’s about vast piles of money.

Dubai is one of the world’s largest employers of foreign workers

Dubai is one of the world’s largest employers of foreign workers

Estimates vary, but there are currently well over 200 million people who work in one country

and send their earnings somewhere else. Rahier Rahman, Founder and CEO of Pangea a Chicago-based global payments company, says “Remittances through formal channels in 2012 were estimated at $534 billion. Many experts believe that flows through informal channels double that estimate. We’re looking at a trillion dollar market.”

Do I have your attention yet?

Rahier Rahman - CEO

Rahier Rahman – CEO

Between fees and the spread on exchange rates, the World Bank claims the average cost of an international transfer is 9.3%. Nine percent of a trillion dollars is a vast pile of money. Hell, any percent of a trillion dollars is a vast pile of money.

“And some markets are more competitive than others,” adds Rahman. “In corridors like Japan-to-China, fees can be as high as 20%.”

Now then. On the one hand we have millions of hard-working, poorly paid people getting the

Carson Junginger - Product Dev

Carson Junginger – Product Dev

shaft from the corporate banking establishment. On the other hand, we have vast piles of money. It’s a textbook opportunity for a social enterprise solution.

That’s where Pangea comes in.

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A textbook social enterprise solution

To review: a social enterprise generates its sustainable revenue and profit from a business model that achieves a social benefit. Startups from Chicago-based incubator Impact Engine are proving that profit-driven innovation can create solutions to some of the world’s direst problems.

pangeaPangea is one of eight startups from Impact Engine’s first cohort They’ve developed a new approach to money transfer that skips the entrenched, agent-based system. With a beta launch scheduled for later this year, Rahman doesn’t share many details, but says Pangea will work through existing retailers, online or mobile, will make funds available instantly, and will “help consumers save between 50% and 80% of what they’re paying now.”

Some perspective: Workers in the US remitted $22.4 billion to Mexico in 2012 —more than all foreign direct investment in Mexico—and incurred just over $2 billion in fees. Cutting those charges by half would put an extra billion dollars into the hands of 1.4 million Mexican working class families.

remittance1

Workers transfer billions to Mexico every year. Workers in the US remitted $22.4 billion to Mexico in 2012

Money like that has what Rahman calls “a reverberating impact,” since earnings are so much lower in developing economies. What we Americans might consider spare change can create meaningful lifestyle changes for poor families in places like India or Latin America.

Bottom line—if Pangea succeeds, millions of people will lead better lives.

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Investors Won’t Do Badly, Either

Omar Khudeira - Engineering

Omar Khudeira – Engineering

Of the five Impact Engine startups to receive funding since December’s Investor Day , Pangea has closed the most to date—a $1 million angel round. “Our partners recognize and respect our mission,” Rahman says.

I imagine they also recognize and respect the profit potential of a company that seizes even a fraction of a percent of a trillion dollar market.

That’s not cynicism. That’s capitalism.

Pangea has identified an underserved market, determined a pain point, and built a solution.

Lamia Pardo - Marketing

Lamia Pardo – Marketing

Like any other startup, their success will make a few wealthy people even wealthier.

Unlike any other startup, their success will also make large numbers of poor people a little less poor.

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Contacts

Pangea – gopangea.com

Impact Engine – www.TheImpactEngine.com

Image credits: guardian.co.uk   arstechnicaPangea

This article appeared on the wildly popular WE’RE NOT EXPECTING ANY SURPRISES

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About the Author

Jeff SegalJeff Segal Twitter Bird @MsgTherapist, 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

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Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. 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, big money, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Impact Engine, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, investor, Jeff Segal, Kellogg, Northwestern, Social Entrepreneur, vc, venture capital

THE TWO WHEELS OF CHANGE

Impact Engine – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact EngineLoop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investor Day. This is the new Chicago incubator fer companies that do well by doin’ good—and doin’ it profitably! Think of it—we’re gathered here to get richer by makin’ all them other poor slobs around the world prosper! This I like!

The keynote speaker is FK Day. (He calls hisself  FK fer short.) And he tells us a story that knocks us outa our seats. This is a real unusual chain of events that speaks about the virtues of capitalism doing alotta good by helping folks raise their own well-being.

Buffalo Bicycles

Here’s the shortlist:

  • The story starts with SRAM that makes high-end bike parts.
  • Then FK starts World Bicycle Relief—a not-fer-profit.
  • That leads to Buffalo Bicycles—a self-sustaining company.

Impact Investing

The Chase Auditorium’s packed with serious investors. Them’s the only kind they let in the place today and this hall seats over 500 of them rascals. They’s all squealin’ ‘n’ squirmin’ to get a piece o’ the action. Sheesh—I ain’t seen so much money in one room since I…well I ain’t s’posed to talk about that so lemme move on. I’m here to do summa that Impact Investing, just like da rest o’ these clowns. But first lemme get back to the keynote speaker

(Note to Editor—All that coffee I swilled down‘s got my eyes buggin’ out ‘n’ I feel a whole lot more coherent. I’m gonna give you the skinny on this thing. But I want you should cut me some slack—just in case I get something out o’ order.)

(Editor’s Note—Nobody’s perfect. I’ll print it just as you dictate it.)

Okay, so dis story starts after FK pioneers bicycle shifters ‘n’ brakes at SRAM. His stuff’s in high-end bikes AND in all the big international races. Even poor disgraced Lance Armstrong uses SRAM components so you gotta figure that FK knows a thing or two about bikes.

Hey—this is a Chicago company, okay? Don’t get no better ‘n’ that, right? Well actually it does as you’ll see in uno momento.

Bicycles WBR 1

World Bicycle Relief

Remember that big tsunami in Indonesia? FK and his wife go there to lend a hand. They’re lookin’ for a better solution than the NGO relief organizations. So they asks people lotsa questions.

Turns out nobody can earn a living or make any economic progress ‘cause there’s no transportation. Everybody’s on foot. That ain’t too efficient. There’s kids spendin’ six hours a day walkin’ to school ‘n’ back. Mothers carryin’ groceries long distance. And get this—businesmen haulin’ their wares to market 5 or 10 miles on foot.

You think da rush hour here in Chicago eats into yer day? It’s nothin’ compared to this. This is no way to do business. This keeps folks in poverty.

The Power of Bicycles 3

FK’s a bike guy, so he shows up pre-loaded with the natural solution to the problem. He runs experiments and finds out alotta things. Turns out a bicycle can increase the income of a poor family in a big way. Looks like it’s the single best way to fight poverty in these primitive areas.

So he creates the not-fer-profit organization, World Bicycle Relief, which is a real big deal. They partner with WorldVision and alotta other organizations.  They give out 24,400 bicycles in Indonesia.

Bicycles WBR 2

Africa

FK starts a buncha 9-day trips to Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS and creates a special bike for it. Bicycles WBR 10

His folks first task is to assemble their bikes so’s they can get around. Their last task, before they leave, is to turn over their bikes to the villagers.

Bicycles WBR 9 FEELING GOOD

FK gives out 90,000 bicycles this way and learns a lot more about the problem.

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By now he’s got three well-defined areas he wants to impact:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Economic development

Bicycles WBR 3

I think education tugs at him strongest.  Kids in these countries gotta travel a real long way to school and still have time to do chores not to mention homework.  With bicycles, they can get to school more often.  That builds up the whole culture by givin’ these people a future.  Givin’ ’em hope.  Summa these folks wanna be teachers, doctors, engineers.  Somethin’ as simple as a bicycle can make that happen.

Lemme get you started with a terrific video. Have a look at it ‘n’ then I’ll tell you more.

Pretty good stuff, doncha think? Bottom line—bikes carry more weight farther and faster than shoes. Bikes get kids to school, people to clinics, and they get businessmen to markets!

Bicycles WBR 11

FK tells the story of a dairy farmer in Zambia. With a bike, he can get to the co-op twice a day insteada just once.

That instantaneously doubles his income! 

Summa these guys mount homemade cargo boxes on these bikes and use ‘em like trucks.

Bicycles WBR 6

According to FK, the most powerful bike in the world is one in the hands of a mudder feedin’ her family or a fadder making a buck fer his family or a kid gettin’ an education to claw his way outa poverty. All o’ these takes transportation. And education is real important. You gotta learn readin’, ‘rightin’, and ‘rithmetic and how to speak yer language da right way or yer never gettin’ nowhere in dis here world.

Bicycles WBR 7

Buffalo Bicycles

Lemme go back to the hardware development phase. FK takes this jeep trip down them things called roads in Zambia. Whadaya think he sees? Busted bikes in the ditches ever’place he goes—every brand ‘n’ model on the planet. Says it looks like somthin’ outa The Andromeda Strain. (That’s a movie in case you fergot.)

Bicycles WBR 8These bikes come from well-meaning charities. But it’s all wasted. People in Zambia take to callin’ ‘em Chinese Junks. Off-the-shelf bikes is way too flimsy fer this kinda terrain.

So whadaya think the average lifespan is for yer typical off-the-shelf bike? 30 days! That’s it! And there’s no way to fix ‘em neither! Too many different brands. No parts. No mechanics.

FK figures what they need:

  • Standardized bicycle
  • Standardized parts
  • Real, real rugged
  • Trained mechanics
  • Supply Chain

Bicycles WBR 14 THE BIKE

The Buffalo Bicycle is a rugged design like no other. It can withstand rough roads while carrying a load o’ trade goods to market.

Here’s a video of FK in Africa riding the roads with folks:

Da Business

Charity’s a good thing.  But how do ya make it self-sustaining?  How do ya make it grow like a hockey stick?  You turn it into a business.  Business can be a helluvalot more powerful than an outstretched hand.  A little capitalism can be good fer da soul and FK’s a capitalist at heart.  

FK sells the Buffalo Bicycle to third-world businessmen at a profit.  That makes the project self-sustaining.  He trains and supplies mechanics.  And that maintenance network is self-sustaining too. So far they got 124,754 bikes out there where they can do some good. 

He shows us graphs ‘n’ charts. He’s gonna be building 100,000 bicycles in eight African-based supply chains in 2015.  This program is scalable and sustainable.

Bikes from website 2

Remember all that research I told you about? FK makes a key point about that. He learned everything he ever needed to know from the end user. We need to stay deeply in touch with these people. The answers almost always come from there.

Bicycles WBR 13 Wrigley FieldAnd to me, the amazing thing is that he went and figured out da problem and da solution ‘n’ engineered such a wonderful outcome.  He bootstrapped all o’ this starting with lotsa fund-raising drives like the annual Wrigley Field Road Tour which is a part of Chicago Cubs Charities. 

Here’s a candid video of FK thanking his volunteers after a small fundraising drive–one of many:

Next up is a company called ThinkCERCA. Meanwhile, check out summa the other articles about Buffalo Bicycles below.  Ω

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CONTINUE TO PART 3

Go back to Part 1

More Reading

Wrigley Field Road Tour

http://worldbicyclerelief.org/pages/wrigley-field-road-tour

World Bicycle Relief on Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Bicycle_Relief

Article in Forbes

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0510/creative-giving-sram-zambia-charity-armstrong-bicycle-economy.html

BBC Article in TON

http://timesofnews.co/2012/03/15/can-the-buffalo-change-africas-bicycle-culture/

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Da Contacts

FK Day

FK Day

World Bicycle Relief website  http://worldbicyclerelief.org

WBR on Facebook  www.facebook.com/worldbicyclerelief

SRAM Logo

SRAM Corp.  http://www.sram.com/

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IMPACT ENGINE website  www.TheImpactEngine.com

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[ Photos and video courtesy of World Bicycle Relief ]

Impact Engine

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

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