Tag Archives: startups

CEOs THAT SELL

Why Startup CEOs Still Have to Make Sales Calls

by Howard Tullman

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It’s not your strength, or maybe not even what you enjoy doing. But being there to close the deal isn’t something you can simply hand off to the sales team.

At what point can a CEO turn sales over to professional salespeople?  Before that can happen, the company has to achieve two foundational milestones:

  • You need to know exactly what you’re selling—by doing it over and over again (and not as a one-off).
  • You need to know for certain that others can sell it consistently.

That only comes with the maturity of your product/service.  Until it reaches that point, stay in the field and keep selling.  Your product is still being developed on the fly and continually redesigned/reconfigured to better suit the real requirements and demands of customers.  The fact is, ultimately only you can make the critical design and development decisions and you’ll do a much better job of that if you are hearing it directly from the end users and not from a bunch of whiny salespeople.

I’m seeing more and more startup CEOs who discover way too soon that they don’t like the wear and tear, the travel, and the rejection that are all crucial parts of selling a new product or service.  So they retreat, thinking they can run their businesses while they’re sitting on their butts behind a desk back in the office. That’s not how this game works; that behavior is a formula for failure. You may not be an extrovert.  You may not even know the technology that underlies your business as well as half the other people in the company.  You are, however, the boss and today that fact alone means a lot, at least to the people who make the final purchasing decisions.

Remember—buyers are typically older than you, they grew up in strictly hierarchical systems where titles count, and they need to be made to feel important and respected if they’re gonna sign off on your deal. No offense to any of the members of your team, but customers don’t want to deal with the monkey—they need to see the organ grinder. That’s you. And they want you for all the obvious reasons:

  • People don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show up. It’s important.
  • Startup staffs are notoriously scattered and hurried—lacking focus and attention to detail. Customers want to know that you personally are connected, paying attention and directly engaged with their business, their concerns, and their problems.
  • Clients want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Not second hand. They want commitments and assurances from you. Everybody knows that the sales guys will say anything and promise them the world.  They need assurance that you will stand behind your product or service and make good on your promises. The buck always stops with you.

Product Maturity

Once your product/service reaches those critical milestones, it’s time to kick yourself upstairs and focus on other things. I encourage CEOs who find they spend too much effort selling to optimize their time.  I suggest that they find competent sales managers and others who can tee up just the right meetings for them—not opening meetings which are a dime a dozen, but closing meetings where the deals get done.

Finding sales meat-eaters to fill managerial roles isn’t easy; they are the hardest hires for any startup, but it’s absolutely critical to have them onboard if you’re going to build a viable business.

When your startup is hiring talent, you need to avoid certain categories of salespeople. For example, stay away from what I call empire builders.  There’s a whole generation or two of sales management types whose experience comes only from large organizations.  I have found fairly consistently that they are the wrongest guys possible for a startup because they grew up in a system where they measured their value and their success by the sheer number of people they managed rather than the results that those folks delivered. Nothing kills a young business faster than bloat and bureaucracy and having too many sales people sitting on their hands and not selling is the worst kind of poison. So be careful what you wish for and who you hire for this critical job.

There’s no more challenging job than being the CEO. You are responsible for the health of each part of the organization and the trajectory of the entire venture.  Stay in the sales loop until your product/service matures.  Then focus on closing deals.  Customers need you to be there—to say what you’ll do, and do what you say.

 

 Howard Tullman is the CEO of Chicago-based 1871, where 500 digital startups are building their businesses every day. He is also the general managing partner of G2T3V and Chicago High Tech Investors, both early-stage venture funds; a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT Innovation Council and Governor Bruce Rauner’s Innovate Illinois Advisory Council. He is an adviser to many technology businesses and an adjunct professor at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

@tullman

This article is an excerpt of one that appeared recently in Inc.

Image Credits – Getty Images, MS Office, Howard 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. Please perform your own due diligence. It’s not our fault if you lose money..Copyright © 2018 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
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5 STARTUPS WE LOVED FROM TECHWEEK

Chicago’s Launch Competition

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by Jeff Segal

Why does a B2B digital marketing agency that works with some of the biggest and best-known companies in America send a team to a startup competition?

Because marketing and startups actually have a lot in common.

  • Marketing is about problem solving, and startups are founded to solve problems.
  • Marketing is about storytelling, and every startup has a story.
  • Finally, a great marketing campaign and a successful startup both make people say, Wow, I wish I’d thought of that!

Out of the dozens of startups entered in last week’s Techweek Launch competition, here are five that made me and my coworkers say, “Wow!”

Techweek

 

CAST21

Technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of healthcare in the last 20 years. But if you break your arm, your cast will look and feel just like one from 50 years ago.

Cast 21 wants to change that. Their lattice design—stiff on the inside, soft on the outside—lets patients shower and even swim, and lets doctors dress and treat the affected skin underneath. No more itching, no more smell.

Cast21

CEO Ashley S. Moy explains, “Our co-founder [and bio-mechanical engineer] Jason Troutner wore casts for nearly three years of his life. He was passionate about solving the complications that accompanied the casts, and his energy was contagious. We knew there was no other option but to change the way people heal broken bones.”

 

COMMON CENTS

If you know a college student or recent grad, you’ve probably heard about the increasing burden students loans are putting on the youngest members of our workforce.

Some recent University of Chicago graduates have designed a platform that makes paying off loans a little easier. Common Cents connects mobile spending apps like Venmo to a student’s loan accounts, so spare change from everyday purchases goes directly toward paying those loans down.

Common Cents

How much difference can a few cents here and there make? Co-founder Madeleine Barr says an average student who puts just $1.33 per day toward loan repayment can save more than $3,000 before finishing school, and more than $20,000 over the lifetime of a loan.

She adds, “As recent graduates with student debt, we are building the app we wish existed for us.”

 

FIND YOUR DITTO

Find your Ditto CEO Brianna Wolin has lived with multiple chronic illnesses since she was four years old. And she spent four stressful years at college without meeting a single other person living with the same conditions.

Her solution: build a mobile platform that allows people to make local, on-demand connections with others living with the same chronic illness. These connections can help relieve the isolation and depression that so often accompany chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, diabetes, cancer and eating disorders.

Find Your Ditto

 

The result: Within five days of Brianna starting the Find Your Ditto pilot at the University of Michigan, another female student with exactly her same conditions had signed up.

 

FLIPWORD

If you read lots of online content, Flipword can help you learn a new language without special classes or software.

Like many startups, the idea for Flipword came from a real-life problem. CEO Thomas Reese was trying to teach himself Mandarin, but didn’t have time to study. One day while browsing the web, it hit him that he could learn Mandarin at the same time.

Flipword

The concept is mind-bogglingly simple. Read whatever online content you like, and Flipword replaces a few words per page with words from the language you want to learn, along with definitions and pronunciations. Maravilloso!

 

HERE 2

Jelani Floyd, CEO of Here2, explains how this “pop-up social broadcasting” app came to be:

“My brother and I attended a Bulls game at the United Center. We noticed so many people around us taking photos and videos and we wondered, where was all this content going? We searched hashtags on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but we could not find any content relevant to that game.

“We posted a photo to Facebook, and one of our friends—whom we had no idea who was also at the game—commented on our pic and said ‘I’M HERE TOO!!’”

Here 2

Here2 locates users geographically, so they can connect with each other in real time without having to guess hashtags or channels. And users who can’t make an event can still get authentic insight from the crowd’s perspective—the next best thing to being “here too!”

 

Links to the Five Companies

Cast21

Common Cents

Find Your Ditto

Flipword

Here2

Jeff Segal

Jeff Segal writes blogs and social content for digital B2B marketing agency StudioNorth, while crusading tirelessly against the words provide, quality, strive and utilize. This post originally appeared at Inside the Studio, the StudioNorth blog.

Check out Stories We’ve Told and Techweek Launch Competition

Graphics courtesy Jeff Segal


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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TOO MANY FOUNDERS

Seth Temko

A new company is always short on cash and long on tasks. Right from the start an excited pot of people gather together and someone puts a stake in the ground “We’re doing this”. From that point forward a business entity is formed and shares are issued. From this, founders are born.

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I’ve come across a number of startups with 3, 4, 5 and even 7 founders involved in various startups over the past year. It’s always debatable about the right number of founders but there definitely can be too many. Too many founders significantly affects the success of the company, the happiness of the founders and the financial results the founders may achieve personally.

​How so? Read on!

Many founders focus on their percentage ownership in the startup. They tend not to talk about shares but percentage ownership. I own 100%, I own 50%, etc. Usually the more founders the less percentage of ownership each founder will have right at the start. This may seem obvious but think about this in the context of dilution over time.

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Personal Dilution

Dilution Over Time – Assuming you’ll be seeking financial backing and assuming you’ll be giving up equity for money, your share of the company will be reduced with every investment of cash. This effect is cumulative in your reduction of company total ownership unless you intend to maintain personal anti-dilution rights. This means you get to put in your own money along side new investors to maintain your percentage of ownership. Most founders aren’t in a personal financial position to do this. Most founders are “tapped” financially by getting the company off the ground and working for little or no money in the beginning. Even if you can afford to put in money it means your co-founders will get even more diluted and chances are they will not be happy with you.

The percentage you start with is not going to be the percentage you end with. Let’s look at some scenarios so we can get a definitive feel for this.

test tubes

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Dilution Examples

Let’s say you start a company on your own. You own 100% of the shares.

Investment 1- Let’s say $1 million will be invested for 30% of your company. You will not be handing over 30% of your shares, instead the company will issue 30% additional shares and they will be assigned to the new investor. So your absolute number of share remains the same but you now own 70% of the total shares after the investment.

Result – You own 70% of shares. Investment 1 owns 30% of shares.

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Investment 2 – Now that you’ve successfully grown your business with the first investment you now raise a second round of investment. You get $2 million and give up 20% of the company for the money. This is real progress from your first investment. You’ve double your money raise and give up 33% fewer shares for the investment.

Result A – You own 56% of shares. Investment 1 owns 24% of shares. Investment 2 owns 20% of shares. If you’re scratching your head wondering why investment one is lower it’s because we’re assuming they don’t have anti-dilution rights. This means they lose the same percentage of share you do. They didn’t put any new money in with the second round of investment so they diluted like you at 20%. The net effect is it saved you a percentage of the company. Also, you retain voting control. At 56% of the company you still have the majority of voting stock. This means you control the company.

Result B – Now let’s look at the second investment assuming the first investment has anti-dilution rights. This means they get to put in money alongside with the second investor and maintain their percentage of the company. THIS IS VERY COMMON. Most sophisticated investors will force you to accept anti-dilution rights as a term of their investment

You own 44% of shares. Investment 1 owns 30% of shares. Investment 2 owns 20% of shares. Guess what? You just lost voting control of your company.

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So what happened here? Well, in this case investment #1 said “hey I want to maintain my 30% ownership” so they put in additional investment along with investment 2. So you didn’t bring in $2 million, you brought $2.6 million. The extra $600,000 was invested by investment 1 to not get diluted in the round. So you, the founder, took the additional dilution.

If you wanted to maintain voting control then you’d needed to have taken in less money from investment 2, say $1.5 million, and restrict them to getting 16% or less of the company’s total shares. Then the match from investment 1 would have kept you keeping over 50% of the stock. BUT, some investors won’t accept less than the percentage they want. It’s just not a “meaningful enough” ownership stake. If investment 2 insists on 20% you have a tough choice. Maybe you can convince investment 1 to not maintain anti-dilution rights but it’s highly unlikely.

small business

Now Bring On the Extra Founders

We saw in the simple example above the dilution of a single owner. Let’s now assume there are five founders and each has 20% equal ownership of the stock to start with.

We’re going to stay focused on you for this set of examples but keep in mind that all the founders are in the exact same boat. I’m assuming here that all five founders are fully vested in their 20% stakes to begin with and none of them have anti-dilution rights or the personal finances to invest additional money with the subsequent investors.

It requires the pool of three of the five founders to have voting majority of the company. 20% times 3 founders = 60% of the shares and therefore voting control.

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Investment 1 – $1 million comes in for 30% of the shares, anti-dilution rights are in place.

Result – You now own 14% of shares. The other four founders own 14% of shares each. Investment 1 owns 30% of shares. It requires four of five founders to pool enough shares for voting majority with the company.

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Investment 2 – $2 million is invested by a new investor for 20% of shares.

Result – You own 7.9% of shares. The other four founders own 7.9% of shares. Investment 1 owns 30% (they invested an additional $600,000 to not be diluted). Investment 2 own 20%. You took in a total of $2.6 million total. The founders now have lost voting control of the company.

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At this point, subsequent rounds of investment dilute you personally even more. If your company hits a problem and experiences a reversal of fortunes you’re pretty much obliterated in your ownership percentage.

Theoretically, on the total value of your shares the 200,000 shares you own keep going up in value. This is a good thing and any general shareholders should be happy. As a founder you may have a very different outlook on things. After all, it’s your baby.

 

Founders Not Pulling Their Weight or Leaving

The romantic notions of a startup and the realities are very different things. If the founders involved have started other companies, their eyes are wide open and everyone should have a good idea of the general effort, stress and dynamic pace they’ll encounter. MOST HAVE NOT.

Those who have not started a business with no other means of financial income are in for lots of surprises. This is not for the faint of heart. Some will abandon the effort. Some will not be adequate for the task. Some will just be impediments to success and must be removed.

What happens to the share ownership of those that prove not valuable and not worthy? Nothing, unless you plan for it. Once stock is issued, they own it. Period. Founders shares are usually very cheap. They may be a penny a share of less. So even if a million shares are issued to the founders only $10,000 is paid by the founders to own the shares. That usually is far short of the capital that’s going to be required to get the business off the ground.

The value to the company is going to be the fruits of their labors. That can be organizing and fundraising, creating operational plans, writing code, leveraging business networking, etc. The impact should be ongoing NOT just one-time. A startup is a marathon, not a sprint. You shouldn’t have someone permanently and significantly benefiting from company ownership for running a short fast “dash” of effort.

Peter Thiel of Paypal founder fame likes to see two founders in a company. No more and no less. In his personal funding he finds that to be the magic number for execution and effectiveness.

​In the groups of four to seven founders (yes, I’ve come across a startup with seven members) it tends to be a democracy, kind of like a band. One or two founders will have the strongest voice and front facing effort but decisions tend to be “group think”.

When one of the principle advantages startups have is being nimble, group think slows things done. Also, quite frankly, it’s a pain in the ass to work with a large group of founders as a coach, adviser, partner or investor. Hassle is friction and no one likes to get burned.

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Resentment Waits for Low Value Producers

Nothing breeds more contention with founders than the guy who “doesn’t pull his own weight”. When a couple of founders are putting in major time and taking on major stress while another founder just isn’t executing with the same passion, commitment and investment – resentment builds.

True Story – A dynamic duo had launched a hosted Ecommerce platform in the late 90’s called Apollo Solutions. These young guys mortgaged their condos and went full steam ahead. The pair felt they needed an MBA involved so they brought in a third partner to write a detailed business plan to present to investors and bring in money. They felt his plan was terrible and he just didn’t fit into the company. They fired him and moved on. They said he didn’t do anything meaningful so they denied his stock grant. Within 12 months along came CNet to buy them out. Guess who came out of the woodwork, yep, MBA guy. He sued which put the sale on hold. This leveraged the founders to pay out a large settlement just so they could sell the business.

Short Timers – What happens when initial founders want out? They leave and they take their shares with them. The guys left are doing a ton of work and usually for reduced or no pay. Most founder shares are very, very cheap so there was no real cash contribution. What happens? They get to benefit from the remaining founders’ efforts.

Some Remedies to Prevent Short Timers from Benefiting – First off, nothing says founder shares need to be fully purchased and handed out on day one. Instead you can carve out all or a large portion of shares and keep them in the “treasury” of the company.

Instead of handing out a big wad of shares on day one, you can divvy up stock options that vest over time. This would be similar to what you’d do with employees. I recommend three or four years to fully vest with a portion vesting immediately and upfront. So for example, if a founder is going to get 200,000 shares in total over three years then have 50,000 share vest immediately and 50,000 shares per year for the next three years. To keep people more on the hook you can have the shares vest equally every month at 1/36th of 150,000.

You’ll have to work out some of the “what ifs”, i.e. what if the company is bought (vest immediately), etc. What this does is allow people who want to leave, to leave, but it keeps a large pool of shares held by the company to give to employees, investors or new founders without having a big dilution effect on everyone overall.

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Phantom Shares and Warrants

For minor partners or those recruited late to the game, sometimes phantom shares are useful although most investors won’t like them. This is a contractual promise to issue shares to people if they meet contract goals and objectives and often there are restrictions. So these persons often get upside financial gain if the company sells for example (phantom shares turn into real shares and are automatically converted into the sale). Phantom shares have no voting rights and no immediate dilution impact. Warrants are similar. They give someone the option but not the obligation to buy shares of the company stock at a set price. Often there is an expiration on this right. They aren’t good forever.

Get it right from the beginning. Don’t have too many founders and put a vesting plan into place for all the founders to start. This will get commitment and best efforts and still allow people to leave on agreed terms if something doesn’t work out. You’ll all feel better about your role as a founder and have better odds of personal success.

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Copyright © 2015 Seth Temko. All rights reserved.

Images from Seth Temko, MS Office.

This article previously appeared in ATTACK PLAN – www.attackplan.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 © 2016 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

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WHIZ KIDS

You Don't Want to Compete with this Kidby John Jonelis

You don’t want to compete with this kid.  Believe me.  Just watch his intensity as he pitches his business to some of the private equity luminaries in the city.  I’m a judge at this event and try not to show my feelings of awe as he answers all the tough questions in a pressure-cooker environment without so much as a flinch.  There’s an intimidating team behind him too.  They’re all in middle school.  Middle school!

These guys offer a new white-label web browser that’s secure from hackers at WiFi hotspots.  It’s up-and-running and they’ve got the moxie to ask $100K for 15% of their company!  These are potential recruits for IMSA – the vigorous live-in statewide high school for the best and the brightest.

You don't want to compete with this kid 2

And that kid over there—the one quietly sitting in the background?  The IT department at IMSA is afraid of that one.  “Some IMSA students try to hack the system,” says Carl Heine of TALENT, “but if this kid comes to the academy, we’ll have to keep him close.  He’s the real deal.”

SecuritumFive other teams like this one pitch today and they’re all wonderful.  I’ve seen IMSA students put adults to shame but hey—this is way over the top!  Once again, the TALENT program proves that children can outperform adults in one of the toughest games in town—a grueling pursuit that demands everything you can put out and then asks for more.

I ask you—can you imagine doing that when you were in 7th or 8th grade?  At that age, a pop quiz seemed like a big deal.  I certainly had no dream of running a business back then.  What we have here is a roomful of truly extraordinary individuals coached by wonderful teachers.  I’d like to hire them to create and build the next big company.  Problem is they’re still minors.

PitchThis event is part of an intensive one-week immersion camp held at 1871—a program geared to teach what an entrepreneur goes through by personal experience.  These kids pitch real companies only 3 days into the program.  Three days to form a group, put together a business plan and prepare the pitches we hear today.  Three days!  When I look at the quality of the output, it seems impossible.  But I’m here watching it happen.  Give credit to IMSA’s selection process.  Give credit to Carl Heine, Jim Gerry, and a brilliant TALENT organization with their finely crafted template.

It’s our job as judges to challenge these kids with real business questions.  And we do.  All of them respond well.  We’re asked to rate them on specific categories, and yes, TALENT provides us with an organized matrix to keep score.  Here’s their Pitch Rubric:Judges

  • Pain Point – Do they understand and describe it clearly? Yup.
  • Market Research – Is it clear and complete? Looks that way to me.
  • Competition – Have they identified and clearly expressed their competitive advantage? Yes sir.
  • Product – Do they have a compelling prototype? A prototype? After 3 days! Hey, these kids already have working products! This ain’t your science fair back home, Chumley!
  • Business Model – What’s the go-to-market strategy? What is the likelihood it will be profitable? Chances look pretty good from here.
  • Presentation – Does it convincingly cover all the bases? Yeah. That it does.
  • Questions – Do the answers make you want to invest?

Yes, yes, and yes!  The event ends and we meet everybody.  In a moment of irrational exuberance, I hand my card to a boy and say I’d like to see him pitch to my angel group.  Forgive me.  I sometimes forget myself.  First school, then the business world.  Gotta keep those two straight.  ♦

 

Photo credits IMSA.

To contact IMSA TALENT:  Britta McKenna, Chief Innovation Officer bmckenna@imsa.edu

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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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THE QUICK NO

DSC01291e2TAdapted from the Journal of the Heartland Angels 

By: Douglas Yau, PhD

When asked for funding, one of the most frustrating things investors do to a startup company is give them the “Slow No.”  What I mean by this is dragging on the process of evaluating, requesting more information, and setting up teleconferences for weeks or months without a clear process for making the decision to invest.

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The Solution

Because Heartland Angels believes a “Quick No” better serves the startup than a “Slow No,” we recently initiated a new process.  At multiple stages of the evaluation process, we can provide a quick no—to decline an application.  This “No” does not mean “Never.”  It means, at this time.  A no is sometimes given because the risk associated with this startup is not tolerated by the general pool of investors.  The mismatch may be due to a number of other reasons including the stage the company is at, the technology in general, or the comfort level of the investors in this particular industry sector.

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Application

The process begins when the company registers at the website.  Though typically the companies that reach out to us are local, within Illinois or the surrounding states, we have received applications for funding from all across the country.

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Looks good but it’s still a dog

Vetting

Next, two Heartland Angel members from the respective industry sector review the company’s executive summary and business plan, perform SWOT analysis and evaluate the technology, evaluate the management team, identify competitors and study the market.  At this point, there can be a quick no.

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Pre-Screening

A point person is selected and the proposal sent to an internal discussion group for comments.  Comments are posted on the discussion forum on the Heartland Angels website.

An internal conference call is scheduled.  At this point, there can be a quick decision to decline.

Once all the questions and comments are gathered, the point person reaches out to the startup company to request more information.  Typically a conference call is set up with that company and the discussion group.  After the call, there can be a quick no, or further email or calls made to address any concerns.

Once all the questions are answered, the review committee can elect the company for presentation to the investors.  The point person schedules the presentation and works with the startup company to help them tailor their pitch to the needs and interest of the group.

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Invitation to Present

The current format for company presentations has alternated between a long detailed single presentation to a short 10-15 min pitch by multiple companies.  The evaluations of companies on presentation day have also alternated between critique from the entire group and critique by a pre-selected panel.  At the end of these meetings, the members are asked if the company’s product fills a need.  Did the company present enough data?  Is a prototype far enough along to minimize risk to investors?  Is the management team the best one for the job?

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Due Diligence

If there is sufficient interest from members to invest, a committee is formed to conduct the due diligence and negotiate terms for the investment.   ■

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READ THE FULL JOURNAL [PDF]

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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 © 2014 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:

http://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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THE ANGEL EDGE

PB&J T-JAJAdapted from the Journal of the Heartland Angels

Part 1 – by John Jonelis

Is an Angel a fool?

In the world of private equity investing, the order of funding is supposed to go like this:

  • Seed Round—that’s friends, family, and fools.
  • Angel Round—that’s funding the big initial spurt of growth.
  • Venture Round—that’s big funding for massive scaling.

Compare that stack-of-three (above) to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Notice that Angels make up the good stuff in the middle. And yes—according to studies by the Kauffman Foundation—Angels make the best money.

But sometimes Angels step in early—right next to friends and family. Sometimes they get in late—right next to VCs. That’s the PB&J squeezing out the sides of the bread.

We all know the friends and family round is the most likely to fail and we shoulda oughta shy away from it. But if we wait too long we ain’t makin’ no money. According to research by the Kauffman Foundation, investors in VC funds on average make a NEGATIVE return. That’s right—average negative. Angels do a whole lot better. So maybe it’s wise to avoid the sloppy edges. Make sense so far?

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The Basic Question

In investing, the exercise always boils down to this: Here’s the environment—how do we make money in it? Investors always look for an edge—some slight advantage over the masses. And there definitely is an Angel Edge. Let’s examine:

  • Angel investing is entirely non-correlated to the broader security markets. (Hey, if you got a stock portfolio to protect, that’s a big deal.)
  • An Angel’s potential return—on average—knocks the stuffing out of traditional securities. (Again, that’s according to research from Kauffman.)
  • Then there’s the intellectual exercise. (Let’s face it, that’s a reward in itself. Otherwise we’d all turn our money over to some manager or mutual fund.)
  • Then you sometimes get to roll up your sleeves and sit on the board of one or more companies, which can be a real blast. (Beats sucking on an umbrella drink on some tropical beach. At least I feel that way. I sunburn so easily.)

So the Angel route makes for an enticing package. But it’s not for everybody. Then there’s my general attitude: I’m always suspicious of enticing packages. So let’s take a peek at the risks and rewards.

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Risk

It is well known that private equity investing carries with it a high risk compared to stodgy investments like stocks or treasuries. (Treasuries pay close to zero these days). Rather than buying regulated marketable securities in all-too-efficient markets, an Angel negotiates terms and makes private deals. Anything can happen. Let’s identify a few of the risks:

  • No liquidity
  • No stop loss
  • Little diversification (That is, if you’re a lone wolf. More on that below.)
  • Long time horizon

An Angel typically waits 3-5 years or more to cash out. Hey, I come from the world of 1-7 days and out—MAX. To me, anything measured in years is a real long time. But 3-5 is a short time compared to Venture Capital. It’s short compared to starting your own venture. It’s real short compared to real estate.

PB&J 500-JAJ

Reward

There are a number of advantages that attract money to this model:

  • Larger average payoffs compared to investing in securities. (More on this in the next issue.)
  • The chance to buy a future Industry Giant at a very early stage. (If you do enough deals and perform your due diligence, that might actually happen.)
  • As mentioned, private equity is non-correlated to the broad markets, like stamp collections or antique cars. (That means you might make money, even when the broad markets tank.)

Let me explore that last bullet a bit deeper: This is an Alternative Investment Vehicle. Alternative investments tend to be high-risk. But as part of a larger portfolio they can—(and this is non-intuitive)—can INCREASE return and REDUCE overall risk. Nice combination, don’t you think?

This strange phenomenon is mathematically demonstrated on a graph called The Efficient Frontier. It takes some thought to set up the strategy, and don’t overdo it. Conventional wisdom is to limit alternative investment to less than 10-15% of a total portfolio.

 

Risk Mitigation

How do you raise your returns above the averages, yet control risk? Skill, knowledge, and raw instinct? Personally, I don’t harbor such fantasies—I believe that it’s better to belong to a group. As a member of an Angel group, you enjoy a number of advantages that reduce risk:

  • Diversification – To throw all your capital into just a couple ventures is clearly dangerous. Members of a group can spread their deals across a large number of companies.
  • Industry Knowledge – A strong Angel group includes experts, in various industries. What single individual can boast deep knowledge of more than one or two industries?
  • Expertise – Members come from various disciplines—Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Operations, Science, Engineering. Who holds diplomas in all those areas?
  • Workflow – Many hands make for light work.
  • Control – When you play the stock market, you exercise HOPE. In contrast, an Angel group may have a member sitting on the Board of Directors.

Let’s Review

  • This is an Alternative Investment. Keep it small compared to the overall portfolio.
  • Join a strong Angel group and use it as your research team.
  • Spread your resources across as many diverse companies as you can.
  • Be patient. It may be a long wait for that first winner.

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MORE TO COME ON THIS TOPIC

READ THE FULL JOURNAL [PDF]

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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 © 2014 Heartland Angels – John Jonelis, Editor – John@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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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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Da Official Finalists

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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:

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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

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Back to Part 3 – BNC TUESDAY NIGHT SMACKDOWN

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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

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