Tag Archives: startup company

STARTUP OF THE YEAR

by John Jonelis

Here’s a Chicago Area startup that brings pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction to tired business people, gets them out in the open air, away from the pressures of the big city, and teaches them to smile again. Does that sound like a worthy goal?

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I think so.

Now imagine you’re in waters bounded by trees of all kinds—not a house or building in site! No water skiers. No high-powered outboard motors. Not a boat of any kind!

Well, can you imagine that?

Ah!

You see the flight of the blue heron, the bald eagle, ducks and geese. A couple of otters. Nobody in your boat sets eyes on another human being all day long! Sound good so far?

Ah!

This is nature in the raw. You’re drifting a wild river—in strong current—strewn with huge boulders. As you make your way downstream, you shoot several rugged rapids. But due to the skill of your guide and his specialized boat, the ice in your martini glass is never disturbed. You feel at ease the entire day.

Ah!

You bring along a hat, polarized sun glasses, a rain jacket, but no fishing gear. Your guide hands you an expensive Orvis 8-weight fly rod. It feels surprisingly natural and light in your hand.

Maybe you never cast a fly rod before, but your guide gives you a few pointers and moves the boat a little closer to the target—just to make it simpler for you. Now you’re casting hand-made six-inch streamers at the banks with ease. Soon you find out why the fly rod is favored on the river. It’s the most efficient tool for the job.

And fly-casting is therapeutic and highly relaxing.

Ah!

Soon you thrill to strikes from trophy smallmouth bass that fight like a tigers. The fish here grow fat as footballs. Landing one in the heavy current on a fly rod takes all your skill and strength. I can think of nothing else that gives this kind of peace and satisfaction.

Ah!

Ah!

Wahoo!

Hooray!

Yes, we all dream of exotic trips to faraway places. But this one requires no passport. No airplane tickets. All this is happening on the Wisconsin River—a three-hour car ride from Chicago!

Wanna go?

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Hoo-boy!

You gain entry to this paradise in an unusual little boat—a specially designed dory—incredibly maneuverable—easily able to withstand these rocky rapids.

Motorized aluminum rowboats and jon boats risk ripping open their bottoms and ruining their props and lower units on submerged rocks. Electric trolling motors are useless. These rapids swamp canoes and challenge kayaks. A $75,000 bass boat wouldn’t last an hour.

But the diminutive dory makes for safe passage and provides a comfortable and stable platform for you to cast your line with accuracy. It makes the raging water seem calm.

Ah!

Your guide controls the boat with incredible precision using oars.

Yes—oars!

The specialized equipment and the guide’s skill allow you to gain entry to this paradise. Almost nobody else can get in here. That makes for very little fishing pressure. That means abundant game, eager to attack your offering. And the bass here are much larger than those found on famous rivers out east.

Now, THIS is what I’m talkin’ about!

Abe Downs—a chemist by profession—runs Great Northern Fly Fishing out of Stevens Point Wisconsin—just three hours north of Chicago. He’s an Orvis-certified guide and brings his scientific training and businesslike professionalism to bear alongside his extensive fishing knowledge. He’ll even get you a discount at a local restaurant.

Abe switches to musky with the fly rod in the Spring and Fall and scores a good percentage of the time. I love fishing musky but they’re called “The Fish of a Thousand Casts” with good reason. In contrast, these huge smalleys seem always voracious for a meal—even after a cold front! They fight harder than pike. And they bite in the summertime!

Okay, I hear the objections. This ain’t no startup because—because what? Because Abe doesn’t plan to grow like Uber?

Bosh! This little company may not present an investment opportunity for your venture capital fund, but it’s a startup all the same—and quite a successful one. He’s booked most every day of the season. Like a tech startup, he makes use of specialized technology and proprietary knowledge to operate the business. Few can compete in his niche.

And he brings pleasure, relaxation, and satisfaction to himself and his clients. Does that sound like a worthy goal?

I think so.

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On one trip this summer, my fishing partner was my son. On another, it was my friend, Rod Erickson. Neither fished with fly rod and streamer ever before. Both learned quickly and—truth be told—out-fished me. I think Abe is a good teacher.

Photography by John Jonelis, Robert Jonelis, and Rod Erickson

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Great Northern Fly Fishing

Abe@GreatNorthernFlyFishing.com

715-572-3225

1020 Tree Lane, Plover, WI 54467

 

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. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.Copyright © 2017 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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Filed under chicago, Chicago Startup, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Fishing, fly fishing, Innovation, new companies, pike fishing, smallmouth bass, Startup, startup company

ENGINEERING YOUR PITCH

jockey-and-horse-t-ms-officeInsights from the Cornerstone Angel Meeting

by Stephanie Wiegel

Angel investment deals aren’t made on the spot as the TV show Shark Tank suggests. Instead, entrepreneurs are excused from the meeting after delivering their pitches. If you’re vying for early investment money, what’s said behind these closed doors can make or break a deal. Continue reading

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THE HIDDEN DANGER IN YOUR DATA

Howard Tullman B&Wby Howard Tullman

From the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Today, entrepreneurs have tools and technologies to collect, monitor, and document more data than ever before. You’re likely swimming in data, since customers leave a trail of it everywhere to be captured and analyzed in real time. As I’ve often said, in business, what gets measured (and acknowledged and rewarded) is what gets done. I haven’t changed my belief about that, but I have come to see that we are putting too much emphasis strictly on the numbers. Numbers don’t lie, but they never tell the whole story. They can only take you so far before they top out and you need something qualitative and experiential to get to the right conclusions.

Pie Chart Hesitation

Peter Drucker’s dictum “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it” has created a whole generation of leaders so focused on perfecting their company’s processes that they lose sight of the company’s purpose. I hear managers all the time talking about the need to get more work out of their people when they should be trying to get the best work out of them. Optimizing (not maximizing) the team’s output is what matters most to the ultimate success of a business. Working smarter and more effectively—not necessarily longer or harder—is how you ultimately move ahead of the competition.

You need to be exceedingly careful these days that you don’t let the ease of access and the ubiquity of massive amounts of quantitative performance data cause you to over-emphasize the math and measurements—and thereby lose sight of the far more important qualitative attributes of what’s going on. Not everything is easy to measure or quantify, but that doesn’t make these things less important; it just makes your job as manager tougher. But when you get so wrapped up in the measurement process that it becomes the goal itself, it loses its effectiveness. It’s easy to confuse movement with progress, but not all motion is forward. And lots of activities that run up the numbers aren’t remotely productive. Measuring is easy; measuring better is tough.

When you let the numbers drive the train, you give up two important advantages that are critical to your success. First, the goal isn’t to be the thermometer; it’s to be the thermostat. It’s not about measuring the heat; it’s about generating and controlling the heat. You don’t want the analytics to lead you; they’re a useful benchmark and a guide for course corrections, but it’s your job to set the direction and move the business forward. Second, when you get so focused on specific and concrete financial results (sales targets, growth rates, etc.) and you direct all your team’s energies toward getting as close to achieving those numbers as possible, you actually limit your ultimate upside because you lose the ability to think and see beyond those immediate goals. When a game-changing opportunity arises or a quantum shift occurs in your sales prospects, your team will likely be so heads-down chasing those numbers that someone else will come along and grab the new brass ring.

Black Hole of Data

Here are three principles that have helped me resist the temptation to get too caught up in the numbers—and focus on what truly matters at my company:

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Elaboration is a form of pollution

Tell your team to keep it simple. No one gets paid by the page, and shorter is almost always better. I’ve found that when people expand and extend their plans, proposals, and presentations, there’s a high degree of likelihood that they’re concerned about the value of their pitch, so they try to bury it in a boatload of facts, figures, charts, citations, and everything else that just hides the hard truth. It’s better for everyone when your people put things right out there—front and center—and take their medicine if that’s what’s called for. If you torture the numbers long enough, they’ll say whatever you like, but that’s not any way to get to the truth or the right result.

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Not everything is worth doing well

Tell your team that everyone’s always on the clock. There’s an opportunity cost associated with everything you do, so choosing what not to do (and how extensively to do the things you need to do) is critical in any startup which has scarce resources and time. Some things just don’t warrant the full-court press, and it’s important to make sure that everyone knows that that’s okay with you. Other things shouldn’t be done at all, and you should never try to do things cheaply that just aren’t worth doing. It’s never easy to turn people down or say, “No,” to marginal choices, but it’s part of the job.

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No one’s ever measured how much the heart can hold

Ultimately, the value of the critical connections your people make every day with your clients and customers can only be roughly approximated by even the best math. But it’s those daily personal and emotional interactions with your empowered employees that build crucial engagement as well as the lifetime value of those buyers for your business. You need to give your team permission to do what’s best for the customer in the moment that the opportunity arises. If they need to consult a rule book or have a calculator handy to do the math, they’ll lose the value of the moment every time. The best businesses don’t worry about the number or sheer volume of moments–they work to make each moment matter.

Ω

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Howard Tullman is a philosopher, investor, and Chicago entrepreneur.   For more from Howard, go to

http://tullman.blogspot.com

www.1871.com/

Read his bio: http://tullman.com/resume.asp

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This article appeared in the following publicatons:

News From Heartland  http://news.HeartlandAngels.com

INC Magazine  http://www.inc.com/

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Graphics: Getty Images, MS Office, H Tullman

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 © 2015 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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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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