6 Tips for Fine Tuning Your Startup Pitch

How to fine tune your startup's investor pitch

Photo Credit: Alex Skopje

Launching a small business isn’t easy. Whether you dream of one local shop or a global corporate empire, you’re going to need help financing your business efforts. Now, this could mean friends and family, and it could mean venture capitalists and angel investors. Regardless, the only way to seal the deal is with a great pitch. Check out these six tips for fine tuning your startup pitch and get your business off the ground.

1. Set Yourself Apart

It’s essential that you set yourself apart from your competition. Investors are going to ask why they should sink money into your operation as opposed to another one that offers a similar product or service. This differentiation has to be an integral part of your pitch. Highlight the characteristics that make your business better than the rest.

2. Include Solutions

In addition to featuring your company’s unique characteristics, you also need to include the solutions it can provide for customers. Identify problems in the marketplace that need to be solved and detail exactly how you are going to solve them.

3. Prudently Include Creativity and Humor

You never want your pitch to be dry, just be sure to use your senses of creativity and humor effectively. Don’t cross the line and say something offensive or off the mark, but by all means, make your pitch seem human. Be yourself – you are your company, after all. Tell a humorous or intriguing anecdote about something that occurred while developing your business idea, for example. And, forget about Power Point presentations – they’re generally recognized as death knells for pitches.

4. Be Specific and Open About How Much You Need

If you need $50,000, ask for it. The people you’re pitching to know that you want money, so there’s no point in being bashful. Plus, this way they’re instantly going to know whether or not they can handle such an investment, which can save everyone a lot of time. The key here is not just knowing how much you need, but knowing why you need it and when you should raise it.

5. Be Prepared and Practice

Never deliver a pitch off the cuff – practice and tweak it as much as necessary. Instead of just rehearsing in front of a mirror, though, assemble a group of friends or fellow entrepreneurs and recreate the actual environment you’re going to find yourself in.

6. Keep it Concise

There’s no standard time limit when it comes to delivering your pitch, just make sure it’s as concise as it can be. If you can get your point across fully in three minutes, do so. If you need 10, take it. Just be sure to edit your pitch down so there’s no fluff. As long as it’s packed full of pertinent information, it can take a bit longer.

No matter what you’re talking about, you need to exude passion in every aspect of your pitch. Investors know that if a company is going to be successful, its owner must live and breathe it 24 hours a day. Small businesses are incredibly difficult to get off the ground, and are ultimately successful only if the people at the helm love what they’re doing. Communicate this in your pitch and your chances of success skyrocket.

What was your best investor pitch? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs pitching for the first time? If you’re interested in perfecting your pitch at Verge, let us know!

When to Raise Seed Capital (and how to spend it)

Angel has been a member of the Verge community since I can remember. When he first pitched at Verge back in 2010 with his original idea for Smarter Remarketer, he was ready to raise seed capital. 

Since then, Angel Morales has grown Smarter Remarketer beyond  his original prototype and grand ambitions. They’ve grown a huge team of talented technologists, marketers, and operators. They’ve landed huge clients like SkyMall, Wet Seal, and Finish Line.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that they just closed a $7 million dollar investment round led by Battery Ventures.

I recently sat down with Angel Morales and Matt Tyner, Director of Finance, to chat about the their first raise of seed capital that started it all. We talk about when to raise seed capital, how much to raise, and how to spend your seed capital intelligently.

When Raising Seed Capital (and spending it), Remember to:

  1. Build a functional prototype to demonstrate to seed investors
  2. Land at least one early customer
  3. Spend seed money tactically
  4. Invest seed capital in sales leadership

What questions do you have about when to raise a seed round? What have you learned along the way?

Learn more about seed funding and startup fundraising at The Innovation Showcase on July 10. Grab your all-access pass here: http://theinnovationshowcase.com

When to Raise Seed Capital (Transcript):

We’ve transcribed this interview for your reading pleasure. Let us know what you think!

when-to-raise-seed-capital

Angel Morales:

Angel Morales, cofounder of Smarter Remarketer our Chief

Innovation Officer. My job day to day is to keep tabs on where the industry is moving, keep tabs on where our product is at, and make sure the two hopefully intersect (frequently and meaningfully).

Matt Tyner:

Matt Tyner, Director of Finance here at Smarter Remarketer. Day-to-day always changing. Started out in the accounting and finance focus of the business. I assisted and led fundraising here.

Matt Hunckler:

When did you guys decide to raise seed capital and why?

Angel Morales:

To raise seed capital we were a team of four. And it was right around when I started to run out of money (which pretty quick). And we knew that there was a market opportunity. We knew that to capitalize on it you needed to build.

In a previous start up I had tried to raise money on a slide deck and a promise… and a smile (not necessarily an award-winning smile, but a smile none-the-less).

It didn’t fly so we decided that this time around we’re going to go out we’re going to build a rapid prototype. We were going to prove out the validity of that prototype by getting one client.

We achieved that and then we knew that to commercialize we needed to start raising cash.

Matt Hunckler:

In terms of your seed capital when you guys raised it… How did you spend it? And if you could do it again, would you do it differently?

Angel Morales:

That’s good. Honestly, you really don’t have any choice but to spend seed capital pretty tactically.

We primarily spent on building the commercial product that was based on the prototype. Early on, I mean we were fortunate. We had a lot of relationships in our target vertical, which is retail. So, we didn’t have to spend a lot of money on sales and marketing. It was more like, we can pick up the phone and go, “Hey, we finally built it!” And they were in.

So the early, early-stage seed money, it was spent really tactically primarily on R&D and then getting out to a couple of conferences. Airfare to fly out on meet with some prospects.

As you move a little past that early, early seed (funding) … where we were actually sprout … that’s where the challenge that we encountered, and Tyner was with us at this point, but we were raising just enough to act tactically when we should have been able to raise more money in one point so that we could act more strategically.

We can take some of the risks that were required in order to grow a business versus to sustain that really sprout-level company. And frankly, you know back then it was pretty hard to raise money in one fell swoop here in Indy.

Matt Tyner:

To add to that a little bit, we talk about what we would have done differently if you had a chance… The importance of sales leadership I think is something that really stands out to me as a potential growth area.

Your need for funding obviously decreases when you can bring money in the door. So really focusing on sales talent early on in sales spend areas I think here as vital as anything else …. especially as we talk about valuation these days and ultimately what happens when you go raise more money).

Startup Investor Insights: Elevate Ventures’ Ting Gootee

When you score as much as the Seahawks did in the Super Bowl, the way people refer to you starts to change. They call you things like “dominant,” “effective,” and “the best.” 

Elevate Ventures has been called many of those things.

That’s why I was so excited to hear what Elevate Ventures’ Vice President of Investments, Ting Gootee, had to say about what she considers when evaluating deals–and what startup founders should know about how Investors approach deals–on one of our recent Investor Panels.

Startup Investor Insights: Elevate Ventures’ Ting Gootee

Investor Insights Elevate Ventures Ting Gootee

Ting Gootee, VP of Investments at Elevate Ventures

Not All Money Is Created Equal

If Firm A agrees to the same terms as Firm B, why would their investments be any different?

Because, as Gootee pointed out, not all investors bring the same resources, network, and commitment level to the table.

“Look at it as a partnership,” Gootee urged founders. “When you take money from someone, they are in this with you for a reasonably long time.” Startup funding is not marriage, but the investor panel agreed: it’s close.

As with any relationship, Gootee said, you’ll want to look for three Cs when evaluating your potential investors.

The Three Cs of a Healthy Investor-Startup Relationship:

  • Competence. Do your due diligence on your investors. You can bet they’ll be doing theirs on you.

  • Character. You’ll depend on

  • Chemistry. Are your goals aligned well, or is it more of a loose fit? You’ll want your investors to be in lock-step with your goals so you can leverage your relationship with them effectively.

“Know that you are in this for the long term, and know that there will be bumps in the road,” said Gootee. But, as she illustrated, if you have kept the Three Cs in the front of your mind as you secure funding, you’ll encounter those bumps in the road with the confidence that all parties involved want the same result.

What Makes Investors want to Invest?

As Gootee pointed out, you should not ignore the human side of the investor-startup relationship. And her investment team at Elevate certainly doesn’t.

  • Gootee looks for “Someone that is comfortable managing the human side of business. As early stage as they are, there is a lot of subjectivity in finding the right fit.”

  • The second thing Gootee and her team at Elevate Ventures look for in a founder is leadership. But, as Ting so rightly asked, “What does that mean?”

    • When she evaluates a founder, Gootee wants to see servant leadership. “It’s not just about you, as the founder,” Gootee said. “It’s about the resources you can bring to your team.” That, Gootee said, is how companies can really grow and scale.

Gootee’s fellow panelist, Gerry Hayes of Slane Capital, agreed with Gootee and explained that the difference between a founder and a CEO can mean the difference between whether or not an investment will be made.

Both investors concur that the founder may not be the person to scale the startup–which really gets at a key insight I got from this panel:

  • When they’re evaluating founders, investors want to see someone who is willing to acknowledge that, although they built “their baby” until a certain point, in order for it to grow bigger than themselves, they may need to assume new, different roles. Be humble.

Reducing Small Business Expenses: 3 Startup Expenses That Pay For Themselves

Reducing Small Business ExpensesStartup founders are always looking for a creative way to reduce small business expenses. And to some, it may even seem almost pathological. 

“You ride your bike 10 miles to the office every day, Tim! Are you training for a triathlon or something?” …nope. Just reducing small business expenses. 

“Why is this proposal printed on the back of a takeout menu?” Well, obviously I’m reducing small business expenses. 

“Really? Dumpster diving!?”

Reducing. Small business. Expenses.

Luckily, Lauren Rose from BlueFirePR has broken down 3 small business expenses that end up paying for themselves and outlined how your startup or small business can benefit (and so you can sleep better at night). 

Less than 1 percent of entrepreneurs in 2009 came from an extremely rich or poor background, reports OnStartups. The finding represents 549 major company founders, and stresses a greater truth about starting a business: One does not need to be wealthy or come from extreme beginnings to flourish as an entrepreneur. One way start-up business owners can succeed is to use the techniques listed below to find small business necessities that pay for themselves.

Reduced Small Biz Expenses vs. Tax Write-Offs

The earliest stages of business development rely on those welcomed tax write-offs that will become inevitable at the turn of the first year, which include many purchases discussed in greater detail below (system software, tax filing). Such purchases pay for themselves because they can be deferred as tax write-offs and may include business cell phones, computer parts and entertainment purchases related to business that affect the bottom line. Bankrate.com details the big 12 write-offs that are self-paying:
  • Vehicle mileage
  • FurnitureReducing Small Biz Expenses Meme
  • Home office supplies
  • Child care
  • Social security
  • Retirement contributions
  • Insurance
  • Business-related gifts
  • Travel
  • Software
  • Telephone
  • Meals

Setting Up the Paperwork

doing-paperwork-like-a-bossPaperwork is a major initial expense for a small business. Fortunately, such an expense will rarely appear again, and may vanish forever. Because paperwork is required to start efficient business practices and attain prosperity in the field, it pays for itself almost immediately (though certainly in a different way than more tangible aspects of business). Paperwork pseudo-assets include bonding forms, tax identification, EIN number qualification and general business type filing for corporate, LLC, partnership and other company types, according to SBA.gov.

Of course, legal documentation is important. For a business in a creative field, trade marking various graphics and names will pay for itself immediately because doing so protects the business from being inherently sued right out of the gate. Copyrighting and trade marking logos, general business graphics and the business name facilitate business credibility. Without them, the business is left more vulnerable and may potentially collapse due to legal fumbling.

Software: The Crux of Small Business

small business cloud computingMany businesses prosper because of the software behind their functionality. A graphic design firm requires a sophisticated design software to succeed, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. A company that offers cloud services for firms unduly rely on cloud computing software systems to offer the service. These pivotal software systems, detailed by PC World, pay for themselves, because a firm would not be able to realistically offer the service without them.

One example, WordPress, is a borderline groundbreaking component to the modern Internet and business landscape, signaling WordPress-built home pages, integral blog pages and SEO-qualified specifications. Quickbooks by Intuit becomes paramount for accounting businesses, as well as Peachtree for administration and tax accounting.

As far as software goes, one of the most complete and essential is credit card processing software. The system is necessary to receive digital payments. AmericanExpress.com cash flow, for example, assists business in grounding their digital transactions en masse.

A business stands on the use of its software, whether the field is digital-based or not. No business can escape the need for a quality software and, if it does, it is unlikely to be a business that can gain major traction in this globally focused, small business environment.

For more information about starting your first business, check out these business skills you can put into practice for better results.

The Art of the Ask

how to close more sales

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone knows that one person that has the “it” factor. They hustle, they convince, and they close. And whether they’re raising a round for their startup or making a sale, perfecting the art of the ask is the closer’s surest path to success. So, what do we know about the art of the ask?

Close More Sales Through the Art of the Ask

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Be intentional. Spend plenty of time thinking about your audience’s pain points and structure your conversation around that. Form each chunk of your pitch so that the next segment or point is the next logical step. The first 80% of your pitch should lead naturally to the ask. Establish a chain of logic to do this, one that your audience can follow step by step. If you’re asking them to purchase a product, walk them through a use case. Your ask is the punchline, so build to it.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

Draw out the simple equation for success in your venture, and show them exactly where and how they can be a part of it. For fund raisers: if you don’t begin your pitch by telling the audience precisely what you’re asking for, then you should at least give them a good idea of what your ask will be. And your ask slide should have three easy to read points:

  • What you’re asking for
  • What you’ll do with it, and by when
  • Projected outcome

Prove it

While entrepreneurs might thrive in uncertainty, buyers don’t. Ever. Before you make your ask, you’ll need to demonstrate the value (track record, energy, core values, external validators like clients/other investors/team) your audience seeks. This helps establish credibility–and creditability is fundamental to the ask.

Similarly, build credibility with your audience by appealing to their intellect. People like their intelligence to be respected. So, while you may need to do some education in your pitch, be sure to discuss ROI, the marketplace you’re playing in, and the probability of success your audience can expect.

To really be able to prove it, you’ll also need to know exactly what you need. That’s what you’ll ask for–that, or 20-30% more (for negotiating). This is debated, but both are reasonable strategies.

Drama Isn’t a Bad Thing

Appeal to your audience’s emotions. People require data to qualify their decisions, but they respond emotionally to stories. You already know that emotion (pain points) drives most buying decisions, so be sure your pitch is focused in on those emotions.

In order to really understand how to appeal to your audience’s emotions, it’s a good idea to spend plenty of time creating buyer personas for your audience before entering the conversation. If you haven’t created them before, you really should learn more about buyer and user personas.

And when you can appeal to your audience’s nobler motives (Dale Carnegie nailed it) while solving their pain points, your ask will feel like a no-brainer.

Shut Up

Ask and then shut up. Don’t fill space with more babble because it feels awkward. Some people call this the silent close.

React with clear next steps if they say yes. Don’t act surprised, don’t waver, don’t give them any reason to second guess. Communicate REALLY well. And, regardless if they say no, don’t fail with a “second ask.”

7 Startup Community Takeaways and Photos from The Innovation Showcase

The Innovation Showcase is one of the rare opportunities we have as entrepreneurs to lift our focus from the everyday, take pause, and remind ourselves why we love what we do. On July 11th, over 600 entrepreneurs, investors, and professional service providers came together to celebrate problem solvers, connect with inspiration, and (hopefully) find the right funding for young companies. Attendees were united by a shared pursuit of excellence and innovation, and the entrepreneurial energy at The Innovation Showcase was strong and apparent.

Entrepreneurs, investors and service providers packed the house at Dallara.

Entrepreneurs, investors and service providers packed the house at Dallara.

Welcome from Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann

The Dallara Indycar Factory was chock full of game changers. Companies and investors from Indianapolis, the Midwest, and the coasts were there to validate innovation across different markets and understand new approaches to familiar challenges. Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann and Venture Club of Indianapolis President John Hanak officially opened the event at 2:00.

 

Lt. Gov. Ellspermann

Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, and entrepreneur herself, has done much to benefit Indiana’s entrepreneurs.

Verge’s Bright Future

Then, just before the day’s first panel, Matt made the announcement that I am Verge’s new executive director from The Innovation Showcase’s stage. It’s a responsibility I am honored to take on, and I can’t wait to grow our amazing community with you.

Verge New Director

Matt Hunckler officially announces Alec Synnestvedt as Verge’s new Executive Director.

Entrepreneurial Hotspots Panel

The Entrepreneurial Hostpots panelists provided great insights into what Indiana’s startups can do to leverage great local resources like coworking spaces and accelerators. Anecdotes from the excellent panel packed plenty of humor into actionable info for entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial Hotspots Panel

Startup Pitch Competition

The startup pitch lightning round was fast-paced and hard-hitting. 60 seconds wasn’t enough for some entrepreneurs, but it was just enough for many. Keep an eye out for more from the pitches hitting the Verge blog soon!

 

Pitch Competition

A rapt crowd watches each minute-long sprint of a pitch, evaluating possible investment opportunities.

pitch3

The Investor Roundup Panel

The Investor Roundup panel yielded excellent discussion and plenty of takeaways for the audience. A few soundbites:

The Winners

Thanks to our amazing sponsors, many companies walked away as winners of opportunities to pitch for Elevate, Stepstone, P3 Alliance, Gravity, Allos, xCAP and Halo.

Best Seed Pitch: Emphymab Biotech

Best Startup Pitch: Revive Electronics

Best First Round Pitch: BlueBridge Digital

Elevate Pitch invitations: Revive Electronics, Enfront

Halo Diligence Interest: BoxFox, IP Software, CloudOne

Grand Prize Honorable Mention (Formstack Max plan for one year, Executive coaching & pitch review with Eric Anderson of Scientifically Speaking, one month consulting services with Ryan Pfenniger): Revive Electronics

2013 Innovation Showcase Company of the Year: Emphymab Biotech

See you next year!

Crowd2 Crowd

Next year’s Innovation Showcase promises to be even bigger and better. See you for the next one on July 10th, 2014!

 

 

Announcing more Companies to Pitch and Exhibit at Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase

The Innovation Showcase is shaping up to be a fantastic event! On July 11th, 60+ fundable companies of varying stages will share their story in the Dallara Indycar Factory exhibit hall and give their 60-second pitch for a chance to win $60K in cash and services. Attendees get a chance to see the pitches, tour the hall, and attend two great panel discussions before the winner is announced at the end of the day.

60-innovation-showcase-companies

Grab your attendee tickets to catch all the action!

And in case you missed it, watch Showcase participant PocketCab on Inside Indiana Business:

PocketCab pitches on IIB

PocketCab pitches on IIB

We’re thrilled to announce the next group of Innovators to watch:

ShopTalk was founded in September 2012 to solve the most talked about pain point for online retailers today – how to best capitalize and engage potential customers through Facebook. ShopTalk’s subscription-based product gives retailers exposure to their customers’ social network by providing shoppers an instant discount (or other direct incentives) for sharing their purchases to Facebook, while also providing retailers analytics behind customer profiling and the reach/interaction of posted products.

Innovative Photonics Technologies, LLC Increases the performance of electronics systems used in communications and computing networks by miniaturizing current fiber optic architectures onto photonic integrated circuits (PICs). Development work has included fiber-optic architectures for analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters (ADC / DAC), photonic switching, and optical processing of multiple simultaneous radio frequency (RF) communications and radar signals for antenna arrays. The first product InPhoTec is bringing to market is a high-speed and high-resolution all-optical ADC based on an architecture developed by Dr. Siahmakoun that takes advantage of the reduced path lengths and high-speed devices available in photonics chips to achieve market leading performance. Currently raising funds to complete implementation of this photonic ADC.

DermaLife, LLC provides advanced skin care solutions. Since our company’s founding in early 2010, we have focused on launching in the U.S. an improved formulation of a classic French remedy that generates $50M in annual revenues and is used in over 70% of French households for burns, wounds anti-aging. Since Dermal Life achieved FDA clearance on May 1, 2013 and recently launched LaFONTAINE to achieve revenue generation, we are pursuing both strategic private-label partnerships and strategic angel-investor funding of up to $1 million to launch Rx indications into radiation oncology and dermatology market segments.

Infinite AI, Inc. builds intelligent end-to-end automation systems for supply chain operations and healthcare organizations that utilize artificial intelligence, robotics, RFID and high performance computing.

MYTM8 is a management tool for youth sports teams that simplifies the lives of parents and coaches. The application was developed to alleviate the day-to-day management and fundraising challenges uncovered by conversations with local sports teams. In the past several months, we have built and beta tested a functional team management application. MYTM8 is currently expanding our user network and engaging the feedback of our existing member teams.  To build upon this success, MYTM8 is working to enhance the fundraising potential of youth teams – enabling team parents to give back to their organization through everyday purchases on their smartphone. Within the past few weeks, we have developed a relationship with the state’s governing soccer body, the Indiana Soccer Association, to eventually test and promote our fundraising application to their member base of 60,000 players.

Envigilator We solve the problem that teachers don’t have any insights into the methodology or steps their students use in completing assignments by recording data and syncing it to the cloud for further analytics and review. You might remember us from the Innovation Showcase last year. At that time, we were capturing data for the purposes of cheating prevention. We’ve learned that there isn’t much of a market for cheating prevention software. However, our users loved using our recordings to help students who struggled in their classes. So we listened and now we’re working on building Envigilator into a complete assignment level learning analytics system to help students and teachers discover and correct the difficult points in the learning process. Do you know educators that give computer-based assignments? It could be coding exams, graphic design, or even english or history papers written on a computer. We’d love to talk to them!

Curvo Labs, LLC Hospitals and surgery centers purchase $200 billion in medical devices each year. Medical device companies spend more to sell a product than to manufacture it. Hospitals and surgery centers need to save money. Medical device companies need to sell products efficiently. With Curvo, they both win.

MedDiary.com solves the challenge of remotely managing patients with multiple chronic conditions by enabling healthcare providers to truly “prescribe” a personalized health management plan directly to their patient’s mobile device. The idea for MedDiary.com originated when the Founder of the company was diagnosed with a second chronic condition, after having launched an app (MyGiTrack) specific to his first chronic condition (Crohn’s disease). The Founder didn’t want to use two different apps to manage his health. The MedDiary.com health management platform has evolved into an enterprise-level SaaS-based system, supporting population management and care coordination for patients with multiple chronic conditions. The MedDiary.com system will soon receive approval from Allscripts to integrate into their Enterprise EHR system. We are now pursuing partnerships with regional hospital groups for clinical evaluations.

Bookacoach For decades, the $6B sports coaching market has operated on an archaic and unsafe process of finding, booking and buying private instruction. The complexity of managing private lessons for one athlete involves the use of yard signs, word of mouth, cash/check, and lengthy email exchanges. With more than 700K active coaches and 40M athletes ages 6 to 18 participating in sports instruction in the US, growth is expected to exceed $7B by 2017. bookacoach is an online mobile responsive web app platform that offers a simple and robust solution to the complexities of managing private lesson instruction for both coaches and parents. Coaches receive their BAC Safety Certification thru our exclusive background check API, offering parents peace of mind while booking. Upon launch, we were the featured trending story on mashable.com and since then have taken bookacoach to over 600 coaches in 33 states and 200 cities. This number continues to grow at a 50+ % growth month over month.

Courseload, the leading innovator in the aggregation, delivery and use of digital course materials in higher education, helps institutions increase student access to course materials, improve affordability and enhance learning outcomes. Courseload eliminates the barriers that have impeded the print-to-digital evolution in academia through a business model inclusive of all stakeholders, an innovative platform incorporating study tools and analytics to enhance learning and pedagogy and a team with deep experience in implementing educational technology solutions. Most recently, Courseload was identified as the leading contributor to a 12.5 percent increase in student retention at one of our partner institutions, Berkeley College. In addition, the IMS Global Learning Consortium recently awarded Courseload and its partner, Indiana University, with a Gold Learning Impact Award. Courseload has also been identified as an Indiana Company to Watch and Best Place to Work (2012,2013).

7PSolutions, LLC  delivers one comprehensive GPS-GSM monitoring solution to the pharmaceutical, biotech and life science industries for the transportation of climate control cargo, with integrated security and quality management. This technology is also being recognized by high-value and time definite manufacturers and service providers. Our company was founded in 2010 to fulfill an unmet need in the life sciences and transportation industries. Our management team consists of logistics, quality assurance and operations veterans who have cold chain and pharma experience. Our current clients include small and medium sized trucking companies, manufacturers of climate controlled cargo carriers, cargo airlines and major couriers. We are currently expanding our product offerings to include telematics fleet management for small vehicles, and enhancing our software to provide greater visibility to our clients of their location and environmental data.

Sapphire Education, LLC is using analytics and social collaboration to improve student academic performance. By allowing students to forecast their grades and share their academic knowledge with one another, we intend to use social metrics to enhance learning. We have seven confirmed high schools and colleges ready to beta test our software in the fall. Currently we are working on an algorithm that screens the web for relevant education content.

IN3 is a digital products company in West Lafayette that focuses on developing paperless solutions. These solutions include a note taking tool for conferences and classrooms named paperlessMe; survey tools; mobile documents; and directory applications.

Wasatch Photonics Wasatch Photonics is developing an imaging device using Optical Coherence Tomography(OCT)that will provide new information and evidence to physicians to aid diagnoses and treatment of vascular disorders. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major complication of diabetes – about 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease and stroke. Our product development is driven by trends in medical care requiring higher value physician patient interactions along with the growth trend of vascular disorders mirroring diabetes.

Wasatch Photonics (WP) was founded in 2002 in Logan, Utah to build volume phase holographic (VPH) gratings initially for the telecom industry. In 2010 Wasatch Photonics expanded into optical systems with the acquisition of Kiara Biosystems. This systems division has been focused on optical systems for Raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography. In the OCT space we have sold systems to researchers and OEM’s.

Evacua is using the ride-sharing business model to create an evacuation marketplace during emergencies of all kinds. Members can get out before a hurricane strikes, or even avoid missing that important meeting when their commercial flight gets cancelled. Resource sharing during these scenarios can lead to exponential savings, and improved efficiency. We have already secured sponsorship of the Global Congress of Travel Risk Management, and have been mentioned in articles surrounding travel startups on Tnooz and Skift.

SpeechVive enables people with Parkinson’s disease to speak louder and communicate more effectively through a spontaneous reflex (the Lombard effect). Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system which affects over 1.5 million people in the U.S.
90% of people with Parkinson’s (PWP) have hypokinetic dysarthria and cannot speak loud enough to be heard. SpeechVive has 4 years of clinical data which demonstrates the ability of the SpeechVive device to revive the patients voice immediately in over 75% of cases. Another 15% show significant improvement after wearing the device for 8 weeks. One patient recently commented, “I am tired of people talking over me as if I didn’t exist.” She is excited to try SpeechVive as soon as it is commercially available along with thousands of other PWP.

Animated Dynamics’ Biodynamic Imaging platform is a breakthrough biomedical technology that is like putting vital signs monitors inside living tissue to measure its health and how it responds to drugs…simply by shining light on it. It has applications for the selection of personalized cancer therapies, the discovery of new drugs and improving the efficiency of in-vitro fertilization.

Dynamic Auto Dealer Solutions, Inc. has created a Cloud-based Dealer Management System that supports the entire Dealership Lifecycle. Both New and Independent Dealers can now benefit from Internet Technology that doesn’t require additional sotware products to run on tablets or cell phones – our products already run on them because they were built from scratch on state of the art technology. Needless rekeying of data between business units and business partners is eliminated. With crisp designs and similar screen layouts, the front and back office adoption is quick and easy. We provide CRM, Inventory, Desking, Finance and Insurance, Service, Parts, and Integrated Accounting and E-Mail. New technology allows dealerships to reduce costs, time, and errors and provides real time reporting for both Sales and Service. We have joined forces with key automotive and financial companies to create a true Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package that also improves upon current DMS products.

Enfront.com empowers small business owners and field sales personnel to deliver person-to-person communication to the individuals and small groups important to success, for either relationship building or revenue building. Our software platform is online, putting custom content and actionable contact “at your fingertips.” Output media includes postcards, email, letters, and 3-dimensional mail. All production is handled behind the scenes by Enfront partners. Delivery can be immediate or at pre-defined future intervals. Enfront has established accounts coast-to-coast via independent Consultant Partners and headquarters sales to National Accounts. Our multi-media capability is providing an increasingly sought-after alternative to email only marketing, and Enfront is pursuing production partnerships with email players such as Indy’s Weblink International. We believe that e-glut and related marketplace noise represent an enormous opportunity, and we are positioned ideally.

BoxFox helps small brick-and-mortar retailers appraise and liquidate their excess merchandise via its B2B marketplace. Retailers can automatically determine their inventory value through proprietary web-based software and then sell it to authorized resellers. BoxFox charges resellers a tiered subscription fee and takes a small transaction fee from both parties.

PeeqMe For employees working in the ‘people economy,’ dizzying levels of value-destroying disengagement exist because people often feel misunderstood, misused and abused. How people work matters. PeeqMe socializes the personality, behavior and talent assessments that over 100 million people have taken with the right level of intimacy and simplicity to be useful. When people understand their style and their teammates’, when they use their strength and not weakness, and when they get positive not negative feedback, people do better together. By applying the smartest science, best practices, and social trends, PeeqMe allows professionals to know themselves, show their best, and grow with crowd-sourced, positive feedback. PeeqMe launched beta in June on iTunes for our high-potential, early adopting members. We are signing up small enterprise clients to pilot in higher ed, non-profit, professional services, and high tech. PeeqMe is developing enterprise functionality for a 2014 launch.

CloudOne Driving our business (and the cloud in general) is the dissatisfaction with the old ways of information technology: buy the hardware and software up front, pay to have it installed and configured, and then make expensive maintenance payments year after year that offer few new features or updates. Organizations were stuck with whatever they owned, even as their needs evolved. We’re using our unique capabilities to address this issue: 1. It’s economical, because organizations pay only for what they use, and we operate their software in the most expert and efficient way. 2. It’s elastic, because it grows and shrinks with changing business cycles. 3. It’s global, because everyone involved can connect from anywhere, anytime: sharing data, processes and knowledge with each other. Everything about business has become on-demand: utilities, facilities, staffing – and now we’re helping customers in all industries make the move to dynamic IT.

3DLT.com There are 200,000 3D printers currently around the world, and that number is growing fast. With a growing number of printers, there will be a growing number of 3d printable content. 3DLT.com is the Istockphoto of 3D printable designs. We provide makers the content to do much more with their 3D printers. Recent successes include TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield Finalist/Alum, SXSW V2V Venture Finalist, X-Lab Winner.

AlGalCo, LLC has the exclusive license from Purdue University to commercialize a new technology in which hydrogen is generated on demand simply by adding water to a solid alloy comprised of 90% common aluminum. The deployment of hydrogen reduces the demand for oil as it replaces gasoline and diesel when powering any internal combustion engine or fuel cell. When hydrogen is combusted, it burns with zero harmful emissions, only water vapor. Since our feedstock is aluminum, it can be recycled indefinitely. AlGalCo is currently involved in numerous applications both commercial and for the military. Weekly, we invite all interested parties to visit our beta test site located at the city of Carmel Street Department garage. We operate a standard F 250 pick-up truck partially on our hydrogen. The results are a 15% increase in mileage and a reduction in harmful emissions. Testing for Revision 2.0 of our hydrogen on demand system is also demonstrated on the test vehicle.

Tymora Analytical Operations, LLC has been established to provide new research products and reagents to Research and Development (R&D) organizations within the life sciences market. Tymora has developed a set of highly effective technologies for the analysis of protein phosphorylation that relates to the onset of numerous diseases, most notably cancer. Tymora’s flagship products, PolyMAC and pIMAGO, greatly enhance an organization’s ability to discover and develop new therapies that combat disease.

As you can see, this is going to be an action-packed Showcase. I hope to see you there!

Designing Your First Startup Office

My mother, whom I love dearly, has always held slightly alternative worldly perspectives. Back in college, when she found out I had cold, she would call me to suggest that, in addition to taking the latest herbal remedy, I make sure I clean the dirty laundry off my floor that was, in her opinion, creating bad energy in my room. While I used to roll my eyes at these suggestions, I have come to accept that the space around us greatly affects us. In the case of a startup office, where you may regularly find yourself spending 80+ hours a week, it can be especially important to take a few minutes to think about how you design your space.

Warning: This article is not for swanky startups flush with V.C. cash. Go hire a consultant and build your tree house conference room or spaceship cafeteria. I wrote this article for lean startups looking to increase their productivity and happiness by putting a little bit of thought into their office. Therefore, I have divided this post into the major expense categories for a startup office and provided my recommendations on where you should save your money and where its worth is to spend a few dollars.

 

Walls and Ceilings

While they might not be the first thing you think about, wall and ceilings define a space and can have tremendous effects on how you work. Ceiling height, for example, has been shown to affect problem solving abilities, with higher ceilings promoting creativity and lower ceilings encouraging focus. Wall colors and patterns can also dramatically affect moods, with distinct responses to each color. Meanwhile, seeing nature has been proven reduce stress. If you aren’t fortunate to enough to have real windows looking out at nature, wallpaper or posters can do. Office plants are also a great investment and can dramatically improve the air quality in your office (Check out NASA’s suggested plants for air filtering).

Walls are perhaps the easiest medium to reflect your company’s culture. In our office, we started by covering the walls in inexpensive homemade whiteboards, because team collaboration is a huge part of our identity. Above the whiteboards, we’ve printed out and posted a few of our favorite quotes, media coverage we’ve received, and over one board, our competitor’s logos to remind us to stay hungry. Around peoples’ desks, the whiteboards get personal and are plastered with design inspiration, wireframes of upcoming releases, and the occasional keepsake.

Save your money on the walls and ceiling and substitute creativity to make a fun and productive office. Hold off on commissioning a mural with equity until your valuation is a bit higher.

 

Kitchen(ette)

“An army marches on its stomach” – Napoleon. Keeping your team well fed and caffeinated should be a priority of any founder. Rather than wasting your money by running to Starbucks or ordering pizzas, equip your office with the tools it needs to take care of your troops. As far as coffee, we really like the convenience being able to make a single cup in seconds with our Keurig. When we can afford it, we will probably splurge on an espresso machine as well. Another great investment has been our Sodastream machine which allows us to make our own soda and energy drinks for pennies on the dollar. We’ve even hacked our Sodastream to use larger and cheaper generic CO2 tanks.

You don’t need a cafeteria or a chef to enjoy fresh, healthy meals at work. Our kitchenette setup includes a small bar sink that came with the office, a full size fridge, two toaster ovens, a microwave, and a five-in-one sandwich press/grill/three other crazy setups. Each week, I’ll run to the supermarket to stock the fridge with fruit, vegetables, cold cuts, and whatever else the team throws on the Google Doc we use as a grocery list. A couple times a week, someone in the office will prepare a team meal which we eat together. (Yesterday, for lunch I made chicken fajitas.) While this is far cheaper than going out, it also helps to make the office feel more like home.

Spend the money up front to outfit your office kitchen(ette) and you can save money in the long run, while keeping your team happy and healthy.

 

Furniture

Furniture, especially desks, may be the most controversial item in a startup office. While ergonomics and the perils of sitting are significant and legitimate concerns, it can be hard to justify spending a thousand bucks on a standing desk. Fortunately, there are already some guides online for how to hack together a standing desk from cheap Ikea components.

We discovered a goldmine of well-constructed, used furniture at the Purdue Surplus Store. We were able to buy desks for ten bucks a pop and a conference table for a mere 25 dollars. All of the desks have held up superbly and no one seems to care that they were one step away from a trash heap. Make sure to get computer height desks or keyboard trays so you don’t strain your wrists. (Here’s a good article about other important ergonomic considerations.)

Furniture is an area where you can afford to save your money, aside from one important exception. While your desk holds your computer (and maybe some paper?), your chair supports a far more valuable resource, you. Spend the money on comfortable, ergonomic chairs.

 

Tech

Spending on the final category is probably an easy choice for the Verge audience. Technology is the vehicle for our businesses and deserves our respect and dollars. The seconds spent waiting for slow computers add up into hours of lost productivity for your team. Choose laptops over workstations when possible, so your team can work from anywhere. Large, high-resolution monitors have dramatically dropped in price over the last few years. Get at least two for everyone on your team, even nontechnical positions who can benefit just as much from the added screen real estate. We also purchased a 42” screen for our conference room, although, I’m not certain we have gotten as much value out of it as other technology investments.

I don’t really need to tell any of you, but go ahead and spend the money outfitting your startup office with the technology you need.

Ultimately, there is no wrong way to design your startup office as long as it makes your team comfortable. If you need inspiration, check out the offices of other startups in the area. If you’re near West Lafayette, I welcome you to stop by our office for a game of foosball. If you have more tips for designing a startup office, please leave them in the comments below.

 

Facebook IPO: Will You Buy?

“Highly anticipated” is an understatement. It feels like people we’ve been waiting for real news about a Facebook IPO forever. I’m ready to get it over with, but there are a few questions left to be answered.Facebook IPO

Facebook IPO valuation: $75 billion to $100 billion!?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Facebook is an extremely valuable company. The question is, how valuable?

Facebook IPO Valuation

Facebook User Growth (source: Business Intelligence)

The paperwork is expected to be filed for a $5 billion Facebook initial public offering with the most recent valuation reported at $83.5 billion.

It’s really not that crazy when you look at Facebook’s user growth (right), and consider its dominance in the social media space.

But Facebook’s IPO could fall flat short of expectations. New technology cycles usually end up having one dominant player, and it usually ends up being worth around $200 billion (think Microsoft).

With the entrance of Google Plus on the social scene, Facebook could be worth a lot less. Google has a lot of control over the average internet user’s web experience, and it looks like they’re going to cram Google Plus down our throats.

It’s clear that Google is gunning for that #1 spot in the social media market. Will Google Plus reach social media dominance before Facebook IPOs? I’m sure Zuckerberg hopes not.

When should I invest after the Facebook IPO? 

Zynga, the last big dot com IPO, closed at 5% below its initial public offering price at the end of its first trading day in December. But back in May, LinkedIn’s shares doubled in the first day of trading and even retained most of its gains in the second day.

This first day of trading can be a strong indicator of the longevity of the stock. According to a study done last year, the five best IPOs of 2011 posted healthy first-day gains. So, if you do decide to invest and don’t mind missing out on a potential big first day, you may want to wait until after the first day or two of trading.

We’re still months away from the Facebook IPO, which means we have some time to think about it and discuss with our inner circle of advisors.

What do you think the Facebook IPO will be like?  Will you buy Facebook stock? Weigh in on the Quipol and in the comments below: