Tag Archives: New company


by Denny O’Malley

Recently, Inc.com published an article about the best cities for early-stage companies. The premise: Chicago is the surprise winner.

Why would that be? San Francisco and New York are both beautiful, thriving cities that dramatically represent the diversity of American ideas. San Fran—younger, more venture-oriented, with beautiful natural vistas. New York—the classic, bustling private and public equity concrete jungle.

What do they have in common? It costs a kidney to pay rent for a closet. Continue reading

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Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, chicago, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Economics, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Heartland Angels, Innovation, Internet, Internet Marketing, Mobile, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, new companies, Software, Startup, startup company, Taxes, the chicago machine, vc, Venture, venture capital


Howard Tullman Double Gulp Tby Howard Tullman

If you run a startup you’ll hit a wall or screw up big-time at some point. It goes with the territory. What doesn’t is letting yourself get stopped. Adversity doesn’t need any help. There are things you can do to right the ship—and the first is to right yourself.

The bond between the best entrepreneurs and their businesses is often tight and all-encompassing—so much so that they can make the easy mistake of confusing who they are as people with what they do for a living. They can lose sight of some of the more important things that distinguish earning a living from having a life. And because they typically take the ups-and-downs of business so personally, there’s virtually no separation between work and what little time is left for the rest of life. Family, friends, everything suffers.

If the business takes a hit, which startups do on a regular basis, the tendency is to feel like a personal failure—to feel fundamentally worthless. If that sounds overly dramatic or overwrought, come live in my world for a few weeks and you’ll change your mind in no time. The external stresses of business creation are nothing compared to the mental beatings and recriminations we administer to ourselves. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart, but it’s common to what we’ve chosen.

Frustration from Getty Images

Getty Images

Having said that, I want to be clear that I believe that there’s no such thing as “just business.” It’s essential to take your business personally if you want any chance of real success—if you want to build something that matters and makes a difference. But, at the same time, I don’t think that you can let your identity and your sense of self-worth be entirely subsumed by the day-to-day crises and fire drills and the many setbacks that we all deal with. The ups and the occasional wins are nice; but it’s the downs and learning how to deal with them that makes all the difference in the long run.

We all get depressed from time to time because—and I hope this doesn’t come as a complete surprise to anyone—life isn’t fair. Even the nicest people get knocked on the head from time to time. The very best of intentions are scant protection from the vagaries of the startup world. And especially in the startup world, few things work out the way you planned. Sadly, and far too often, just being in the right time and place, or catching some other lucky break beats out a lot of better ideas, a bunch of long hours, hard work, and even much better technology and solutions. Bill Gates is a spectacular example. That’s just how it goes. But where things go after something good happens is up to you. How do you handle the bruises and blisters that are all an essential part of growing any business?

I’ve watched hundreds of entrepreneurs handle every kind of adversity, and lived through more near-death experiences myself than I care to recall, and I’ve concluded that there’s a right way to proceed and a lot of ways that are wastes of time, leading nowhere. Some of these approaches are just common sense ideas, but it’s easy to look past them when you’re feeling down and troubled. So here goes.


What Won’t Work

Playing the Blame Game

There’s always someone or something to blame. Usually it’s the people not in the room or circumstances you can’t do anything about. It doesn’t help to whine. Worse, by putting your fate in the hands of circumstances or third parties, you give up your own power to change things. Sitting back and feeling sorry for yourself isn’t ever a viable solution.


Settling for a Situation that Sucks

Nothing I know gets better by itself. If you want a better outcome or result, you have to take control of the situation and make things better. Standing still means you’re sliding back while others are racing ahead. As often as not, when you settle for less than your best, you end up with even less than you settled for.


Trying to Ignore the Problem

If you don’t want to believe or accept something, no amount of evidence will change your mind. But, if you ignore a serious problem long enough, you’ll eventually have a crisis on your hands and then you’ll have no choice but to take action. It makes much more sense to get started on a solution before things get out of control. Ignoring the unhappy facts doesn’t make them go away; they just fester.


Trying to Be Superman

You can’t solve everything by yourself regardless of how many all-nighters you pull. Important problems are complex and require a competent team to address and resolve. A team distributes the burdens, stresses, and makes for a much better result.


Trying to Distract Yourself

You may think that you can re-direct your focus on trivial things—see a show, a movie, take a run or workout, have a few drinks—and magically you’ll stop worrying about the elephant in the room. But that’s not the way an entrepreneurial brain works. It never shuts down completely. Convincing yourself that you don’t care isn’t as easy as you might imagine, regardless of what a great sales person you are. And even if you momentarily get your head out of the game, your stomach will still keep score.


What Will Work

Do Something Now to Fix the Problem

Nothing beats now. You may not get it totally right but you won’t get anywhere if you don’t get started. Better to do something constructive and move the ball forward than to sit in a pile of pity. People who work hard and still can’t find the right answers don’t come to a screeching halt. They bend the world to their needs and desires. They create their own solutions. They make conditions and circumstances that succeed.


Raise Your Sights and Expectations for Next Time

At 1871, one of our favorite mottos is: “It’s Only a NO for NOW.” The most critical skill of any successful entrepreneur is perseverance. Get knocked down. Get back up. Try again. While you’re at it, aim a little higher the next time because selling yourself short is stupid. Ignore all the people who tell you why things can’t be done.


Focus on What is Working and Build from There

I call this “eating the elephant one bite at a time.” Not every problem can be solved all at once. But you can build off the foundation formed by the accomplishments and successes that you’ve had to date and then break the remaining barriers down into manageable, bite-sized challenges. Take tasks on one at a time. A lot of small steps, pushes, and the occasional shove—as well as a little bit of patience—will get you there.


Acknowledge that Things Could Be a Lot Worse

People who aren’t living this life think that all entrepreneurs are cock-eyed optimists who view everything through rose-colored glasses and believe that trees grow to the sky. But we know better. Serial entrepreneurs will tell you that it’s never as bad or as good as it looks. Every day you must put on a brave and excited face for the world and your team. Deep down inside, it may pay to be a little paranoid, but it’s essential, in the privacy of your own mind, to be proud—proud of how far you’ve come when so many others never could, proud of what you’ve built so far and all the people you’ve benefited along the way. There are much worse ways you could spend your time and your life. Admit it and get on with it.


Remember Why You’re Doing This in the First Place

We didn’t come this far to quit or to only come this far. We didn’t come to play; we came to win. And we wouldn’t be doing this at all if it wasn’t important and likely to make a difference to a lot of people in addition to ourselves. That’s why we come to work; put our noses to the grindstone; and try to get better every single day. If it was easy, anyone could do it. It’s not.


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

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

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

Or just type his name into your favorite search engine.


Photo credits: Howard Tullman, Getty Images

This article is abridged from the version appearing in INC.


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 © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Business Network Chicago

John Jonelis

I’m at the monthly BNC Venture Capital meeting. A number of things bring me to these get-togethers: Well-organized. First class. Efficient format. Limited guest list—just the right size so everybody can grill the presenters. And grill them we do.


Genecor Trailers and Manufacturing, LLC

Jerry Kurtenbach presenting, Tom Stevenson CEO, Frank Jacquest COO

In anticipation of government regulation, Genecor proposes to make the first ISO certified portable tanks for the natural gas fracturing industry—the first to be manufactured using robotics. The thing I like about this space is the huge demand for tanks and the 6-8 month backlog. It’s a seller’s market.

Picture this: A property lease may run only three years, so when a company sets out to drill they face a time crunch. No frack tanks, no fracking. That means outsized profits for the tank providers and their investors.

Contact Tom Stevenson at tsgeneva@hotmail.com

Full disclosure—I am personally invested in this area with shares in ECA Marcellus Trust. (Ticker ECT)



George Page, CEO

Imagine taking off on a two-week wilderness excursion with one—count it—ONE small and EMPTY water bottle. Fill it and refill it in lakes, rivers, and streams. It filters out dirt, contaminants, even bacteria. No need to carry or cache water. No need to boil water. No need for water purification tablets.

Now take that same product and sell it cheap—way below any water purification product out there. Now bring it to a billion people in Third World countries who have no safe drinking water. That’s what Portapure plans to do.

They will serve NGO organizations, a $20 billion market as well as higher margin markets such as recreational and military. Portapure already boasts pilot projects in Japan, Haiti, Jamaica, and Kenya.

NO DILUTION—Portapure plans no equity financing after the first round. Do you have expertise to offer? Portapure is looking to fill out it’s team.

See their You Tube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPFzj7kbYqc&context=C3041478ADOEgsToPDskJQ3B_ZG8I81fsDI92baLUe



This startup plans to install multiple cameras at music venues and create automatically edited footage broadcast as live streaming Internet content for members. They solve the problem of access to clubs due to capacity restrictions and age limitations.

Initial revenue comes from pay-per-view and advertising. They also archive footage and can monetize it. Bands thirsty for video content can get it as low as $40. Initial plans call for building infrastructure by anchoring 20 high-volume venues.

Do you have expertise to offer? This is a two-person company that needs to build a team. See their website at www.gigity.tv



Ellona Ferson

I met Ellona between presentations and found her offering highly intriguing. This is a service for married couples that keeps the romance alive by daily suggestions and reminders—a refreshing change from dating services. Her website looks terrific and I think she’s off to a good start.

See if for yourself. www.Lovendar.com



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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.

© 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved.


Filed under BNC Venture Capital, Events


Business Network ChicagoAn Interview with Len Bland by John Jonelis

 This month, I’m fortunate to connect with Len Bland, who along with David Carman gives us BNC Venture Capital, a premier venue in Chicago for startup companies seeking funding.  BNC meets the first Tuesday of every month. http://bnchicago.org/  Even though Len projects a poised and reserved manner, he often quietly cuts to the bone with deep insights. 


Q—Let me ask you, Len, about your mission at BNC Venture Capital. 

A—Sure.  The straight answer is, we introduce investment opportunities to professional investors.

Q – Is there a higher level to that?

A – I think we’ve been successful fostering the growth of entrepreneurial activity in Chicago.

Q – You’re talking startups and new ventures.  How do you manage to come up with such good presenters every month?  (Editor’s Note—I’ve been attending personally.)

A – Actually, it’s amazing how many good opportunities are out there.  We’ve been able to choose interesting ones on a consistent basis.  We present no more than three entrepreneurs every meeting so each has enough time to give a meaningful picture of their vision. 

Q – That begs the question, who attends?                                                               

A – Meetings are open.  We get angel investors, early-stage venture capitalists, and private equity firms seeking add-ons.  Entrepreneurs attend as well as service providers.  It’s a friendly group but can be a tough crowd for a presenter that’s not prepared.  The questions from the audience sometimes get very pointed, but that makes for a healthy vetting process and a good learning experience for the presenters.  The ones that get coaching in advance from our group or others tend to do well.

Q – You keep a strict protocol.  Can you describe it in a few words?

A –Each presentation lasts 10 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A.  That includes the financial picture, not just the idea, so it’s brief enough to get an entrepreneur used to giving a fast-paced delivery and to enable the investor to make a decision on whether they would like to meet.  I think the driver behind the quality of the meetings comes down to five basic questions we always ask:  One—What is the product or service?  Two—Why will customers buy it?  Three—Why is this management team the best one to run the business?  Four—How does the company make money? And Five—How will the investor make money? That last one is important and entrepreneurs tend to miss it.

Len Bland

Q – You roll those off your tongue quite easily.

A – Well, I’ve been asking those same five questions for some time.  These simple questions form the basis for any business.  If you can answer all of them well, then you’re a real venture. If you can’t, then you’re not ready for the real world.  I actually poll the audience afterwards to find out if all five get across.

Q – I know you recently launched the Midwest Renaissance Fund and that portfolio draws in part from companies I’ve seen present here.  Is a synergy developing between those two entities?

A – Yes and we’re excited about that.  Our VC fund aims at a different kind of business than other funds and yes, we’ve screened a number of companies that we expect to fund through Midwest Renaissance.  http://www.midwestrenaissance.com/

Q – How does a person get invited to one of your events?

A – That’s simple.  Join the BNC VC Group Notification list at http://conta.cc/joinbnc.  We meet the first Tuesday of each month after working hours.  If you’re an entrepreneur and interested in presenting, contact us at vcgroup@BNChicago.com  The next meeting is January 3rd.

Q – Len, thanks for your time.  The food and bar are great.  I find the venue here at Polsinelli Shughart quite intimate with no empty seats.  http://www.polsinelli.com/ I’ve been enjoying your hospitality every month and have yet to be disappointed. 

A – Always a pleasure, John.





Find Chicago Venture Magazine at
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.


Filed under BNC Venture Capital