Tag Archives: Venture Capital

CHICAGO—THE BEST INCUBATOR IN AMERICA?

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

Leave a comment

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

THE FRENZY

Funding Feeding FrenzyBill Blair – special correspondent –

as told to John Jonelis

Bill Blaire here.  Mr. Jonelis wants I should go to this FUNDING FEEDING FRENZY thing. Says I’m gonna give a completely different slant compared to the resta this crowd here. I cut my teeth in the Local #1 Boilermakers, then as a Cement Contractor till I packed up my tools fer good.

Me? I’m always open to new ideas. I make loans to all kindsa people. John says I’ll see someFFF Logo real sharks at this place and that strikes me as a nasty crack but I let it slide.

.

The Sharks

So I get here and whadaya think? Deeze guys is all legit investors. I glad-hand every one o’ them and their little mits all disappear between my hairy fingers. But I gotta give it to ‘em—these guys got balls. They throw money at raw startup companies and win maybe only 3 outa 10—and that’s just if the investors is real smart. They don’t get paid back by the deadbeats neither.

I don’t like them odds at all. Hell—the stuff I put money in gets a guaranteed payout or else, see?

Glenn Gottfried

Glenn Gottfried

Then I meet Glenn Gottfried—real smart guy. He explains it all to me. These is all private equity deals. Not a loan in the house. The ones that come in can make it big—REAL BIG. I’m talkin 10 times return—sometimes 100 times or more. It’s the stuff they make dreams outa. That gets my juices flowin’ and it’s all legal! Hoo boy, I’m gonna have some fun here!

I remembers catchin’ an episode o’ Shark Tank on TV and so I got the general idea.

.

The Hideout

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater

I don’t usually get caught dead at no place with a name like Chopin Theater but I always help my friends. And it turns out real nice. This thing goes on all day so they got coffee, booze, food, good seats—my big butt laps across two o’ those.  Nobody’s breathin’ down my neck ’cause none of ’em can see over my head. Yeah, it’s all good.

So here I is with my buddy Rocco Spumoni of the Pierce O’Shea Mob. Oops—maybe I oughta call it an investment firm, get the picture? Anyhow, Rocco goes after some gal and I ain’t seen him since. I think her name’s Jane Pickling or something, but I dunno fer sure. Lemme get down to business: Ludditis Shots and Beer

I wanna give you the whole picture first, so in a minute I’m gonna show ya a hard-hitting video from Blackline Review.  My buddy David Carmen is part o’ that outfit. They got that catchy name cuzza the L trains here in Chicago. There’s a Blue Line and a Red Line but there ain’t no Black Line. If there was, you can bet they’d build another Ludditis Shots & Beer right under the tracks.  Chicago’s best potato pancakes too. 

Anyhow, this video gives ya the flavor o’ the whole thing and it’s short:

.

Check out Blackline Review fer more o’ that kinda stuff.

.

The Companies

Phil Murphy of Call Potential  was the winner last time. He gives the keynote along with some guy that makes goofy looking glasses that cost an arm and a leg. But hey—people buy that stuff like crazy so who am I?  Murphy’s real smart. When he’s done speaking he sits down as one o’ the judges. I’ll get back to him later.

The companies is all kinds: There’s the Bomboard jet ski that fits in my trunk and I want one.  John West and Anders Stubkjaer put that one together. Then on d’other sida things there’s Nature’s Little Recyclers, a worm farm that can solve alotta pollution problems.  Blame that one on Ed Hubbard.

Jerry Freeman of PaletteAPP

Jerry Freeman of PaletteAPP

We get an update report from a Jerry Freeman’s company, Palette APP. They’s gettin’ traction now and it’s off to the races.

I’m comin’ back with a lot more on this event so keep yer heads up.  Meanwhile, lemme give you the winners: 

.
The Winners

1stSmart GardnerCarl Alquire

Uses high tech to help city people grow their own healthy food.

.
2ndPortapureGeorge Page 

We seen this guy before and he’s good. Won alotta awards.  Clean water fer the third world.

.
3rdCardoonaColin Robertson, Jeffrey Herrington

Making it super-easy for restaurants to place orders with ALL their vendors.

.

The Crowd Favorite – Geek Bar – David Zoltan

And yeah—this one’s a real riot. A bar that celebrates geekdom.

.

Photo and Video Credits – Royalty Free Images, Glenn Gottfried, Wikipedia, Blackline Review, Donatas Ludditis, John Jonelis

.

Go to – THE BUSINESS PLAN POLICE

Back to – MY KRAKEN ENCOUNTER

.

.

Our logo proclaims “Chicago is the World.” We believe creativity is spawned by adversity. That makes Chicago a growing center for thought leadership in the world.
.
Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.
.
Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved
.
.

4 Comments

Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Bill Blaire., Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, chopin theater, Donatas Ludditis, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy

7 TIPS FROM A WINNER

Funding Feeding Frenzy – Part 5

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

FFF LogoLoop Lonagan here. I’m gonna go full circle at dis Funding Feeding Frenzy.

No, I ain’t drunk—well maybe I am by now—but what I mean is, I’m goin’ back to the start o’ this event. After all that stuff I already talked about, I’m finally gettin’ ‘round to the first speaker at the FFF—Palette App—the company that won last time.

Like I said, I seen the pitch before. I also seen them at BNC Venture Capital and later at their corporate offices. Research. A guy’s gotta check stuff out fer himself.  Anyhow, here I am at the FFF in the Chopin Theater to hear what he has to say.  And as it turns out, I’m very glad I to be here.

Chopin Theater Lobby

Lobby – courtesy Chopin Theater

The speaker is Jerry Freeman, founder of Palette App, and the guy’s real smart. He’s doin’ his pitch fer us as a demo—to break the ice before all the poor slobs face the judges.

So I’m sittin’ here next to Jay Kinzie, a colleague o’ mine from Mastermind Advisory Board in this cushy seat in the Chopin Theater. Rong Mayhem ain’t gonna wheel up behind me and start yellin’ like he did at that car barn they held this thing at last time. And the noisy crowd is banished to the trough downstairs.

Feeding Trough

Feeding Trough

That means I’m free. Free to concentrate on findin’ the companies I wanna follow up on. But first comes Jerry Freeman. He starts by giving his own pitch. I know it by heart so I’ll paraphrase:

.

Da Pitch

Palette App logoPalette App helps architects and designers do their job better, faster, cheaper. (Jerry doesn’t actually say better, faster, cheaper, but that’s what it amounts to.)

They take away them old-fashioned sample binders that designers and architects been blowin’ their money on for 150 years. They hand ‘em this beautiful digital palette. It’s easier to put together, better organized and more efficient to use. You can make changes fer free! That’s a big deal in this industry.

Palette App

Palette App

It saves a designer about 30 business days a year. That’s alotta man hours. And that kinda time’s worth a few bucks. The digital palette’s better for the client too. That’s why I been excited ‘bout this company right from the first.

Palette

Palette

The software usta be just on iPad ‘cause that’s what designers and them kinda people use. But now it’s on Android too. There’s a version for architectural design schools, which turns out to be a big deal. You can read all about it at https://chicagoventuremagazine.com/2012/07/16/150-years-of-waste-meets-technology/

The company is up-and-running and generating revenue. They already got 35,000 products loaded in their system. They got multiple profit centers. They make money whenever a designer orders a sample. And they make money through subscriptions.

Far as capital goes, they already raised $700K and the first round is gonna close pretty quick. 70% of that came from the last FFF. You can read about that at https://chicagoventuremagazine.com/2012/11/23/shark-tank-meets-the-apprentice/

.

Da Interview

So after his sample pitch which I kinda butchered—but hey—how ya gonna spoil something as good as that? Anyhow, Jerry sits down with David Culver and does an interview about what it’s like to run a startup. This is good stuff and I learn something.

Jerry Freeman and David Culver

Jerry Freeman interviewed by David Culver

Raising Money

This seems to be the biggest question on ever’body’s minds. Jerry says, keep pitching at every event you can ‘cause it’s the best way to get connections to lotsa investors. Raising money is a full time job. As CEO, raising capital turns out to be his #1 job.

Then there’s cold calling. You start by pitching on the phone to some junior-level gatekeeper. Then to the next one up, then the next. Then maybe you gets a face-to-face with a decision-maker, fly way out somewheres and run up the old expense account.

All that takes months. Then maybe you get a commitment. Whoa—the money ain’t in the bank yet, fella. Gotta go thru due diligence. Paperwork. It takes six months to get the check, if it comes at all. People drop out. Meanwhile, how you gonna pay yer staff? So you gotta watch yer cash flow real close.

So he says to keep entertaining small investors till the big checks come through—just to pay the bills. The little guys come through quicker.

.

Crowd Funding

Glenn Gottfried

Glenn Gottfried

Let’s talk about the new self-directed IRA. Lotsa baby boomers got millions stashed in their IRAs. All those add up fast. There’s five trillion in investment dollars hidden away in these accounts. That’s right—I said five TRILLION dollars—almost a third as big as the national debt! It dwarfs private capital. Blows it away! And deals like that close in thirty days—not six months like with VCs and Angels.

This is a form o’ crowd funding. Usta be only charities raised money that way. Now there’s brand-new laws that open it up to investors. So far it’s only for accredited types—people with a million bucks plus. That’s gonna change but the government is draggin’ its toes—nothin’ new about that.

So fer now, friends ‘n’ family ‘n’ Kick Starter is still the best way for small cash, then

Loren Minkus with Jay Kinzie

Loren Minkus with Jay Kinzie

millionairs with self-directed IRAs. Pretty soon we might see the dam burst on crowdfunding and money’ll flow all over the place.

Jerry gives 7 more tips on how to run a startup:

7 Tips

  1. “The shorter your pitch, the better,” says Jerry. If you think yer gonna get through it in eight minutes, cut it back ‘cause it’ll always take longer. “Practice 21 times,” he says, “so you’re not nervous.”
  2. “Simplify. If you’ve got twenty ideas, narrow it down to three,” he says. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, he cut down their product line to about five. Now they’re huge.
  3. “Challenge is important.” He asks himself why he ain’t tripling his users every month. You gotta find creative ways to reach that target.
  4. “The dot bomb era is over.” Start raising revenue ASAP. That helps attract investors way better than flashing yer goofy projections on PowerPoint. “When you can say, We already started generating revenue, it puts you in a different pile from the rest.”
  5. “Crank up sales fast because sales sell. Get to risk mitigation ASAP.” That’s important ‘cause investors is more risk-averse than dey ever was before. And the banks ain’t lending. Actual sales sounds a lot less risky.
  6. “Keep your people motivated.” Use every success to get your people rejuvenated. Tell ‘em stories from the road. Celebrate small successes.
  7. An entrepreneur is somebody who goes from failure to failure to failure without getting discouraged.” It’s good to come from a sales background so yer already used to rejection. “If you’re a wallflower, get over it,” he says. Then David Culver follows that with, “The fortune is in the follow-up.”
Chopin Theater

Stage – courtesy Chopin Theater

Gotta Go

I gotta catch a cab to another meeting, so after plenty o’ good food ‘n’ drink, I say g’bye to the FFF kinda early. Two guys tag along to share the ride. One’s an investment banker, the other a VC.

And wouldn’t you know it—I trip on another pothole, right there on the sidewalk. Now my suit’s slashed in both knees. Neither o’ these guys helps me up like the bums did.

And when I drop ‘em off, neither offers to share the cab fare.

Happy New Year to all o’ youse out there.  Cheers from da merry land of Shark Tank Meets the Apprentice.  

NOTE TO JOHN – I seen your articles on a buncha sites.  One o’ dem usta be a real good tech jounal run by the Huffington Post.  It went through a buncha changes.  Now it’s runnin’ third-rate soft porn right along with da articles.  Don’t know what’s with that but thought you’d wanna know.

NOTE TO LOOP – Thanks for the heads-up.  I’ll check it out and maybe put a stop to it.

.

Continue to WHAT’S GOOD?

Go back to Part 1

.

Da Contacts

Palette App – www.paletteapp.com

Funding Feeding Frenzy – www.facebook.com/FundingFeedingFrenzy

The Chopin Theater – www.chopintheatre.com/event.php?id=2275&pageId=soon

.

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

.
.

5 Comments

Filed under angel, angel capital, angel investor, App, big money, BNC Venture Capital, Bums, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, chopin theater, Christmas, city, Conflict, CORE Insight Story, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Internet, Internet Marketing, Invention, investor, loop lonagan, Marketing, Mastermind Advisory Board, Mobile, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, new companies, pitch, Software, The City

THE BUM IN ME

Funding Feeding Frenzy – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan—investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

FFF LogoLoop Lonagan here. I’m headin’ out to this year’s Funding Feeding Frenzy. It’s the big event if ya wanna see all o’ Chicago’s best startups in one place. This time the FFF is happenin’ at a place called the Chopin Theater northwest o’ downtown and I wanna see how that’s gonna work out. Will there be a string quartet? They yusta hold it at a huge automobile showroom which seems weird but worked out. It had about half the floor space of McCormick Place and plenty o’ room fer hordes o’ people to roam. But this is gonna be a lot different.

One thing I wanna impress on your readers, John, is about Chicago itself. You know I love this place but face it—it’s a city with all the usual warts ‘n’ barnacles. And every neighborhood is different, so yer either at home here or yer not. Nobody never gave me no trouble. Maybe I’m no pushover, so I got an advantage. But if I’m gonna tell this story, I gotta give you the whole picture. And I’m gonna give it my best shot.

Clybourn

The Street

I’m comin’ in by train and can’t resist gettin’ off at the old Clybourn Station. From here, it’s only a mile walk to where I’m goin’. That looks real good on a map. But my advice to you is don’t do it. Get off all the way downtown and take a nice comfy cab to the event. This ain’t a bad part o’ town. Nothin’ like that. Just take my advice.

Once I’m on the Clybourn platform I draw in a lungful o’ cold air. It’s feelin’ like the Christmas season just gettin’ started up here and I got a wad o’ money in my pocket. I get my choice o’ passages down to street level. That always feels like descending into the bowels of hell. Mincing little concrete steps winding through grimy concrete tunnels. Once-yellow paint peeling off the walls. And the best part is you get yer choice o’ tunnels! They’s all the same!

It’s still early and the usual crowd is layin’ about the sidewalk. I step over Old Man Percy, ‘cause I don’t wanna disturb his sleep, but the others is startin’ to rise’n’ shine. I give a hearty good morning to Fred and Big Bubba and ignore Merry ‘n’ Pippin huddled in a corner—those two give me the creeps. Summa these people are new to me but you can’t never know ‘em all. Familiar faces go missing but still, there’s never no shortage. I got it on good authority that the poor will always be among us.

People tell me these guys makes Fifty Gs just panhandling. I say it’s a buncha hooey. The idea got invented in that Sherlock Holmes story, The Man With the Twisted Lip, ‘n people been repeatin’ it ever since. If it was true these guys’d find a warm place to sleep. Ever try an icy Bridgesidewalk ‘round about Christmastime? And there’s more ‘o these people hangin’ ‘round than ever. That means more competition. That means harder times fer all o’ them. Sure, any profession’s got it’s elite that strike it rich, but that leaves the multitudes, scrablin’ fer crumbs.

The Professionals

I always say there’s a lot to bein’ a good bum. You feel so warm inside when you drop a buck in his hat. ‘Specially near Christmas. Makes your whole day. Some ‘o these derelicts play musical instruments and summa them is pretty good at it too. Come to think of it, these guys fill an important role in society. They’re public servants. Maybe the city should fit ‘em into their patronage system. It’d mean more votes for The Chicago Machine. After all, The Machine is politicians.  And politicians is people paid to be bums.

Hell, when you get down to it, there ain’t much difference between these guys ‘n’ me. Maybe I invest alota money, drink good liquor, sleep in a warm bed. But whadda I really do for the world? I been givin’ that some thought lately and all I comes up with is this—I provide liquidity. Sounds pretty shallow, don’t it? Let’s just imagine some day I make a big mistake and lose it all. They throw me on the street. In no time, I’m part o’ this crowd. Makes a guy think. Maybe I got a talent for it, though—who knows? But it’s a profession without nobility.

Of course there’s gangs and outright criminals in the mix. Then there’s a lotta homeless people with no hope. Alcoholics, drug addicts, and whack jobs. Minds gone over the edge. They say Old Man Percy’s got millions stuffed in the bank but he’s sleepin’ here on the pavement whenever they shove him outa the loony bin. You think you can change him? Think again.

The Scholar

Everybody’s awake now. I always ask if one of ‘em can recite a famous quotation. Gotta keep up the level o’ education here. So I calls for somethin’ Christmassy. I give ‘em a choice—Isaiah 7:14 or Matthew 1:23, whatever their preference—theys exactly the same text. And Fred rattles it right off while Big Bubba stares him in the face, mouth hangin’ open. Fred’s a real intelligent guy. He’d be a good addition to my team.

Note to John – Why not make him a reporter?

Note to Loop – Bring him around for an interview.

Anyway, Fred’s recitation earns a C-Note for every one of ‘em that’s present—even Old Man Percy and the two Hobbits. Except I peel off ten fer Fred. Hell, it really is almost Christmas. I know most of ‘em is gonna waste it but I ain’t tellin’ these guys what to do with their own money.

Then Big Bubba rumbles to himself in a deep bass, “Emanuel—I thought dat was da name o’ da mayor.” Whadaya gonna do with guys like that?

Note to John— I ain’t had no coffee yet this mornin’ after a real rough night. Too much booze and no sleep, so maybe you oughta clean up my copy. I think I’m runnin’ on like the old days—I mean before I got some college. Understand what I’m sayin’?

Note to Loop— I find your account lucid and concise. I’ll publish it as is. And a graduate degree in finance at the University of Chicago is more than “some” college.

Overpass

Stumbling over the Truth 

Fred and Big Bubba take me up on my offer of breakfast. There’s a good old diner along the way. That’s the real reason I picked this station. But before you get to the gentry part o’ town, you gotta walk under the overpasses. The Kennedy Expressway bridges make natural roofs fer the homeless and the piles o’ rubble at the sides reek somethin’ horrible. Yeah it’s raw but so is any city.

Another thing about cities is potholes. In good times there was always holes in the street. Now, with this economic depression it’s worse than ever. So we’re walkin’ down Ashland Avenue at a brisk clip, enjoyin’ each other’s company and I’m scannin’ around like any careful city dweller when the next thing I knows I’m on my face. Lousy pothole—right in the sidewalk of all places.

Fred and Big Bubba haul me back to my feet and brush me off and I check for damage. Maybe a guy can get away with slashed knees and filth on his rumpled blue jeans but it don’t look right on a $2,000 suit. In an instant I go from Mr. Bigshot to a reject from the Salvation Army. But now I fit in with my companions, so I shrug it off. And I got a mile ahead o’ me to walk off the sprained ankle. But in a couple blocks we reach the nice section and the diner I told you about.

The Private Room

The cashier at the restaurant tries to push us out the door like we’re the Blues Brothers or somethin’. Probably thinks we’ll drive off the clientele. Phooey. Maybe this is a classier joint than Julio’s House of Jalapeños but hey—it’s still a diner, not the Chez Paul. So I ask for Lonny, the owner, and he leads us to a back room stacked with boxes. They lay a nice table for us and the room is perfect for planning out crimes and runnin’ poker games.

Big Bubba orders three stacks o’ pancakes. He butters every one of ‘em and drowns ‘em all in maple syrup. Fred sticks with a piece o’ pecan pie. But I dig into steak ‘n eggs with toast and A-1 Sauce ‘n’ bacon. And more important—a big pot o’ coffee for each of us. Round about the fifth cup I’m feelin’ a whole lot better. Fred smokes a cigarette. We talk. Lotsa stimulating conversation. It cheers me up. Now I’m ready—ready to meet with big money at the FFF.

Back on the street, Big Bubba and Fred part ways with a wave and a Merry Christmas. When I suck in the brisk air, I feel more coherent and alert—ready to pick winners, negotiate terms. Less than a mile left to walk off this sprained ankle. I think about them that puts their heads down on a frozen sidewalk and the ankle don’t seem so bad no more.

Note to John—Do I sound more coherent and alert now that I had my coffee?

Note to Loop—You’re always alert.

The Gentrification

Here’s another thing I find interesting about the city. Here in these gentrified sections you can never tell what’s inside a building. Alotta these are new construction or complete makeovers with big-time brands on their signs. Those buildings are nice inside—most o’ the time. But the others can surprise you. The outside of the Chopin Theater looks like a dump that’s been a dump for the last hundred years. Turns out completely different once you walk in the door. This place is gorgeous. A great spot for the FFF.

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater

A beautiful lady greets me like royalty. I check the layout. Nice lobby. Nice coffee bar. Nice theater space for the companies to present. Steep stadium seating so everybody can see. Doors and windows floating around the stage give it a class look. I figure them’s props for some production but it’s a bonus for us.

Chopin Theater Lobby

Chopin Theater Lobby – photo courtesy of theater

I take in the morning’s presentations. Then I go bummin’ downstairs. Wow! A huge room with a great spread of food and drink. This is way better than the old place. People can talk and strike deals while they feed at the trough and make all the racket they want. Meanwhile, the presentations go on in the kinda setting they deserve—quiet and focused. Kudos to David Culver and company for finding this spot and nailing it down.

Chopin Theater Stage

Chopin Theater Stage – photo courtesy theater

So what’s the FFF all about? One o’ the most important things in the world—starting brand new companies! That means keepin’ as many people off the streets as we can! So here I am wolfing down food, crackin’ jokes, and talkin’ to intelligent company. Lotsa stimulating conversation. It cheers me up. Just like breakfast with the bums. Now I’m ready—ready fer the rest o’ the day.

Chopin Theater

Chopin Theater – photo courtesy theater

Listen John, I went off on a tangent and didn’t even cover the event yet. Now my batteries is gettin’ kinda low. I’ll buy some fresh ones and get back to ya later. Fer now, have a joyous Christmas.

.

Continue to Part 3

Go back to Part 1

Links

Chopin Theater

http://www.chopintheatre.com/event.php?id=2275&pageId=soon

Funding Feeding Frenzy

https://www.facebook.com/FundingFeedingFrenzy

Find Chicago Venture Magazine at 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. I do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not my fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

8 Comments

Filed under Characters, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, jobs, The City

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.

.

Continue to Part 2

..

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

.

.

Continue to Part 2

Contacts

Find the Funding Feeding Frenzy at https://www.facebook.com/FundingFeedingFrenzy

.

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.

.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.
.

8 Comments

Filed under Characters, Chicago Ventures, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Events, FFF, Funding Feeding Frenzy, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Invention

WORTHY OF AWARDS

The Chicago Innovation Awards – Part 3

John Jonelis

Time Share Gulfstream JetI’ve jumped aboard a Gulfstream G450 to interview the legendary Loren Bukkett. I want his take on the Chicago Innovation Awards. He finally puts away his phone and turns to me. “Okay, let’s talk,” he says.

I take that to mean he’s already finalized all the deals that peaked his interest. Nice to have a large staff to handle the details. But here in the jet cabin, it’s just Loren, his wife Aussy, and me.

Aussy is doing some form of shorthand on a tablet computer. That woman hasn’t spoken since I climbed in the plane. Maybe Loren asked his wife to keep it buttoned. Maybe he wants to control what information gets out. At this point, I’m afraid to ask her a direct question. I even wonder if this is their secret strategy to keep outsiders off balance. If so, it’s working.

They give out so many honors at the Chicago Innovation Awards tonight that I can’t keep it all straight. So much glitz and pizzazz. Jumbo screen. Music. Entertainment. Applause. Streaming internet content. I appreciate the way they present a standardized set of videos to highlight the mission of each winner. A professional job and it moves things along nicely. With sponsors like Disney, Comcast, and Wrigley, they can afford to do it right.

Chicago Innovation Awards

Chicago Innovation Awards – jaj

I pull out my notes. “Let’s do the ‘Up-and-Comer’ category first.” I proceed to read off the list but Loren waves me to a halt.

“We’ll do it my way,” he says. And he goes on to tell me about every company that won an award at that event. He does it in depth. No notes. No prompts. At his age, that kind of memory astounds me.

“Now John, keep in mind that for twelve years, every company with an award from this group is a success. And there are a lot of them. That’s impressive and gives an old investor like me a feeling of confidence. Of course my people check out these companies in depth, but you can’t help but come away with some degree of certainty—a belief deep down that every one of them will find a way to make it.”

“You said they’ll break that perfect record this year.”

“That’s the awards to those two politicos, not the companies. No as I see it, what we have here is a large pool of opportunity. I already set some wheels in motion. Don’t ask me which ones.” He clasps his hands behind his neck and leans back. “When you get to be my age, you either turn into a curmudgeon or you win back some of that idealism you enjoyed as a youth. These days, a big part of my strategy includes companies that are doing-well-by-doing-good. I saw a few tonight. One of them is BriteSeed.

I nod. “I saw them pitch earlier in the year—at BNC I think. They made a big impression on me.” I splash three fingers of his excellent Hennessy into each of our snifters. Maybe the combination of spirits and altitude will keep him loose.

“It’s a hot sector,” he says. “Their SafeSnipstm technology could be life-saving. Imagine it on a large scale. No more surgical accidents. Billions of dollars saved.” He leans toward me and lowers his voice. “Keep your eye on Northwestern Global Health and their rapid HIV diagnosis. And Recall-Connect built an automated system to match defective medical implants with patients. No more wading through reams of paper files. Medline came out with an anti-viral face mask. Preventing disease is real attractive to me, but this one’s a family company, so…”

“No need for investors?”

“We’ll wait and see. My only concern with Feeding America is scalability. But they won the Social Innovator Award so people need to take that group seriously—very seriously. Any way we can fight hunger, we oughta do it.” He gingerly takes a tiny sip of his cognac as if he’s already had enough to drink. “I’m interested in the People’s Choice Awards winner,” he says. A little company, New Futura, wants to help Latinos achieve the American dream. Naturally I’m attracted to those kinda offerings. Then there’s Moneythink helping high school kids with their careers. That’s about it for the do-gooders.”

“What about Belly?”

He pauses a moment, pats his stomach, then grins. “That’s another hot sector. That company is off and running in 10 markets with half a million customers already. I’m sure they’ll do well. But I’m not in the mobile app or social media space.”

“Doesn’t that limit your exposure to startups?”

“That it does, John. That it does.” He takes another tiny sip of cognac. “Anymore,” he says, in his Midwestern idiom, “Anymore there’s so much money chasing mobile. So many new startups and only a few will pay off. The good ones get bid-up. Way too high for my liking. New York, Boston—all those great centers for venture capital are in love with mobile and social media. Maybe it’s good for Silicon Valley but it doesn’t fit my strategy. That’s why I come to Chicago. Of course I make exceptions.”

“Do you see a bubble?”

“Well, you always need to keep that in mind. For me it’s more a problem of value.”

Anybody that follows Loren Bukkett knows that deep value is his favorite strategy. Then he shifts gears. “Do you know anything about NuMat Technologies?

That catches me off-guard and I fumble over my words. “Some. I saw them present at another Chicago event–can’t recall where. Seemed like a winner to me but with so many great offerings, the judges at that event looked elsewhere. Do you think the technology is practical? Can they actually store and transport natural gas in bulk the way they suggest?”

“Keep your eye on them,” he says. And suddenly I wish my investment portfolio could stretch that far.

“And Coyote helps trucking avoid dead runs by sharing between companies. That’s the same thinking that put you and me on this beautiful jet. I like that business model.”

He takes more from his snifter and my hopes of getting him to comment on the awards to the governor and mayor are one step closer to reality. “1871,” he says. “That is without a doubt the most significant incubator I’ve come across. They made up their minds to do it right. 50,000 square feet with an option to double. Three universities keep offices there. Venture capitalists too. A successful startup from Northwestern keeps two big rooms to teach folks to code in new languages. Lots and lots of aspiring companies—and you gotta pass their standards to get in! This is one of the new hybrids—part incubator, part accelerator. Most of their companies are outside my investment horizons but every one of them is highly interesting. It must be a great resource for you.”

“Sure, I’ve been there a number of times. They run a lot of events and always invite the community. If they expand, I may take an office there. What’s your opinion on Options City?”

Loren lifts his feet back to the tabletop. “That one hopes to cure a sore point of mine. They want to help the little guy fight back against high frequency trading syndicates. We’re talking trading in-and-out in nanoseconds. Nowadays these guys own 70% or more of the volume on most of the exchanges. And naturally, the exchanges reciprocate by giving them the same privileges as market makers. But they don’t carry any responsibility like market makers. Or risk. They don’t make orderly markets. No, they hit and run. They’re speculators. Why should they get the first look at all the trades?  It’s all driven by greed on the part of the exchanges. I think it should be illegal.”

I’m leaning forward and nodding vigorously. “It’s the High Freaks that changed my approach to trading. I had to slow my timing way down and widen my stops—take on more risk.”

“Well alotta people are going broke because of it. These operations spend upwards of $100,000 a month for the fastest hookup and shortest wire to the exchanges and then run everything by computer algorithm. This new company wants to level the playing field.”

“Can they do it?”

“The jury is still out.”

Loren talks another twenty minutes to cover it all. Food Genius, mentormob, and mobcart, all leverage the Internet to aggregate information and communication. Cummins Allison of all people is selling a document scanner for banks. Borealis makes a light that takes 90% less energy and lasts 30 years.

That leaves Bright Tag, Catamaran, Littelfuse, and SMS Assist.  An impressive event in execution, scope, and promise.  It amazes me that so many fine businesses are right here in Chicago.  All they need to succeed is a boost in the economy. 

We clink glasses. “So Loren, I still want to talk in-depth about the awards to the governor and mayor.”

He flashes me a dirty look.

.

Continue to Part 4

Go back to Part 1

Comment on this article — Your name and email is optional

.

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.
.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.

.

6 Comments

Filed under 1871, BNC Venture Capital, Characters, Chicago Innovation Awards, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Internet, Internet Marketing, Invention, Kellogg, Marketing, MIT Enterprise Forum, MITEF, Mobile App, Mobile Marketing, MobiM, Northwestern, Software, University of Chicago

THE SECRET OF HARD TIMES

The Chicago Innovation Awards – Part 1

John Jonelis

Time Share Gulfstream JetI’m talking to investing legend, Loren Bukkett—the Prophet of Pekin, immediately after a big event in Chicago. “Twelve whole years,” he says. “A hundred percent of their winners are all still in business. And tonight they break that perfect record.” He’s talking about the winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards and he’s got my attention. Which companies are going down?

This guy is seemingly unassuming. Uncombed hair. Rumpled blazer. Now he leans across the lounge table of the big Gulfstream G450 and speaks softly to the lady taking shorthand. “Pardon me Aussy,” he says, “Would you please file this conversation with the rest of tonight’s papers?”

She nods and then graces me with a striking smile and I think back to a time before they got hitched. One smile, that’s all, and I’m lost in the past, only vaguely aware of the man’s voice in the background. This gal sure doesn’t show her age.

“Hey Jonelis, you awake?”

With that, I stop ogling his wife and look him in the eye. This is turning into a strange interview. Because of his tight schedule, we’re going Mach 0.8 at 40,000 feet in this beautiful corporate jet enroute to—I don’t know where. In an hour, he says he’ll send me back in another plane. I’m hoping for something small. A Piper Citation can land at my home airport for an early-to-bed. This big jet is a corporate timeshare. I saw a similar timeshare scheme pitched tonight, but with trucks instead of airplanes.

Gulfstream G450

Gulfstream G450 – photo from Gulfstream website

An acerbic voice jars me to my senses: “Jonelis—are you done daydreaming yet?”

I smile. “For now, I guess—till I get another chance.”

“Good, then stay alert. As I was saying, Chicago’s in big financial trouble. A lotta trouble. You know it as well as I do. Heck, the whole state’s in trouble—almost as bad as California.” He gives me a down-home grin. “And as you’re no doubt aware, that’s what brought me here tonight.”

“You see a bottom?”

“A bottom? Nobody ever knows if it’s the bottom but use your common sense. This place will bounce back eventually. I’m not saying this town will solve its problems—likely as not they’ll do nothing or move in exactly the wrong direction. But business here has such a long, long way to bounce—a heck of a long way. I’m willing to take a position on that. The trouble with young investors any more is they don’t have the nerve or the stamina.”

I scribble some notes. It seems a safe bet he just took a stake in some of the companies honored at tonight’s event—maybe all of them. Could be he acquired all of them. He’s going on:

“One thing most people don’t understand about hard times—and John, these are real hard times—no doubt about that. The thing people get wrong is this: Tough times don’t blunt the sharp point of innovation. Not at all. When it gets this bad, desperation feeds creativity. Invention kicks in. People find a way to survive. Look how India and China exploded out of utter ruin in spite of their governments. I see Chicago as the next center for thought leadership in the entrepreneurial world. It could rival New York, Boston, Silicon Valley.”

Chicago Innovation Awards

Chicago Innovation Awards – jaj

“You’re really sold on Chicago?”

“I think I made myself clear on that. I’m not betting on the city—not even the state. No, I’m looking at individual companies that rise out of these terrible circumstances. Only strong organizations succeed in an environment this nasty. If they can make it without greasing palms, I’m interested.”

I scribble more notes and try to memorize as much as I can. “You’re telling me that squalor makes it easy for you to pick winning companies.”

“You think you got me figured out. Put away that blasted pencil.” He glances at his wife. “Aussy, see that Mr. Jonelis gets a transcript, would you please?” Then he swivels his leather chair and faces me head on.

“I’ll lay it out for you straight. It’s real simple. Here’s my secret: Hard times create a supply and demand imbalance. Innovation takes off, but at the same time investors run scared. Banks won’t lend. You end up with too many good ideas and not enough capital. That’s when I buy.”

“At a bargain?”

He looks at me from under his shaggy eyebrows. “D’you think?”

That draws a laugh out of me and I tuck away my notes.

“John, you’re the one that lives in that town. Look around. Don’t you see the huge vacuum? You know what happens in a vacuum?”

“Sure. It gets filled. Real fast.”

“That’s exactly right.”

Now that I’m in on his game, I can picture how it unfolds. “And when that happens, politicians grab the credit.”

He just smiles.

“And you laugh all the way to the bank.”

He tenses like a gambler holding his cards to his chest. “Let’s just leave it that the vacuum gets filled.”

“So what’s your take on the mayor and governor getting awards at the event?”

He grins. “That’s how the Chicago Innovation Awards loses its perfect record. But you do not want to get me started on politics!”

.

Comment on this article — Your name and email is optional

Continue to Part 2

.

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.

.

Copyright © 2012 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved

.

.

3 Comments

Filed under 1871, Characters, Chicago Innovation Awards, Conflict, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Events, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, Kellogg, Northwestern