3 Reasons to Get Stoked on #CNX14 Morning

Photo Credit: @Scott_Thomas_ET

Photo Credit: @Scott_Thomas_ET

Ring the bell, Indy! It’s finally here. At long last, ExactTarget’s Connections Week is upon us. This week, the best and brightest in the marketing tech industry are going to converge on the Circle City  to put their moxy and know-how on center stage.

This event gets better every year and as the city turns orange, we’ll all be turning to the Convention Center for lessons learned.

“But Tim! I’m a startup! I don’t have the time or money to go to Connections!”

Good observation, rhetorical device! I totally get that. That’s why I’ve decided to give you a quick preview of what you can expect this year, plus a super cool offer that can help you grow your business without leaving your couch.

Here are the three reasons I’m so stoked today:

Mindy Kaling, Comedy Icon

As some of you may know, I have a comedy background and I think this can be overlooked in a marketing setting. That’s why it’s so encouraging to me to see a comedy icon giving the closing keynote at this year’s event.

You may know Mindy from her performances on The Office or The Mindy Project, but if you’re in the content marketing world, you should know her for her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? It’s no secret that Mindy is a hilarious actress and comedian, but her skill as a writer trumps even her funniest moments. Mindy’s ability to combine humor with thoughtful opinion, all wrapped under the sassy bow that is her own personal voice, is an inspiration to me as a content producer.

This interview on her struggles in Hollywood is a great illustration of her wit.

If you take yourself seriously as a content writer, I’d encourage you to study the voice behind Mindy’s writing. Don’t forget, a ticket to this week’s Verge event also buys your way into Connections to see Mindy! Get yours before they run out!

Let’s Workshop That

Conferences are all about self-improvement. Say hello to my theme song this week:

This year’s workshop lineup is great as always and I’m luck enough to have a full pass to this year’s conference. That’s why I’m thrilled to offer a great deal to anyone who’s interested.

If you can’t make the workshops or keynotes, I’m going to take some SUPER GOOD notes and send them out to anyone who’s interested! If you want my personal notes from this year’s workshops, or you just want to be my friend, let me know here!

Will.I.Am (L-L-Let the Beat Rock)

Hi, my name is Tim and I’m an early-2000’s junkie. I still remember bumping some Black Eyed Peas, driving to good ol’ Roncalli High School here in Indianapolis (I know, I know… I’m young.)

Anyway, as great as Will.I.Am is as an entertainer, you don’t get to where he is in life without some business savvy. I’m excited to hear the lessons that he learned from the music business that can be applied not just to marketing, but to the startup community as a whole.

Also, I’m so 3008, you’re so 2000 and late.

This year’s Connections conference is going to be bumping, and I hope to see you there! If you’re going, let me know! If not, drop a comment and let me know what workshop notes you’d like to see!

I’m stoked for this year’s Connections conference, and I hope you are, too. If you want to bum some notes off me, let me know here or follow me on Twitter and I’ll see you at this week’s event!

 

Why 11-year-old “Super Business Girl” Has an All-Star Pitch

“I’m asking for an eight dollar investment because not only are you investing into me, but you’re investing into my future and my business,” says 11-year-old Asia Newson. This kid has something that makes her pitch for her “Super Business Girl” business irresistible. See for yourself:

What!? OK, take my money.

I was in. The first time I heard Asia’s pitch on an episode of This American Life I knew this young lady had it. Young Newson has the most important part of any business pitch.

Asia Newson has conviction about Super Business Girl.

She is 100% committed to her product, her business, and herself. She believes in what she’s pitching and is able to convey this with conviction.

But where does this talent come from?

“It’s my personality,” says Newson in her interview with MSNBC. I’m not 100% convinced. Look for yourself:

Somewhere along the way (probably from her father), Newson learned to use her whole voice and her body to present herself and her business, Super Business Girl. She learned to use her voice inflection and facial expressions to keep her pitch engaging.

She kept it short. She said what she had to say with conviction, and then she did something really important.

She made the ask.

So Asia Newson, age 11, has already put together 3 of the most important elements into her pitch:

  1. Present with conviction
  2. Keep it brief
  3. Make the ask

Do you follow these best practices in each and every pitch you give?

Asia Newson a.k.a. Super Business GirlWhy don’t you see for yourself? Here’s my challenge to you:

Turn the camera on yourself today. No one has to see this. It’s just for you.

Flip your phone camera to video mode and set it 10-15 feet across from you so you can see your whole body. Find a private space so you don’t scare your officemates or coworking buddies. Then, pitch your business or product like your life depended on it. Remember to:

  1. Present with conviction
  2. Keep it brief
  3. Make the ask

Then watch it. What did you do well? Then get real with yourself… What could use some fine tuning in your pitch?

The Overlooked Pitch – Your Online Presence

online-presence-will-ferrellToday’s post comes from Nick Wangler, a recent addition to DeveloperTown. Every two weeks, Nick will be sharing stories of DeveloperTown startups and the lessons we can learn from them. Today, he’s introducing us to the overlooked pitch – our online presence.

You know those videos where celebrities read angry tweets about themselves? If you haven’t seen them, imagine Will Ferrell sitting on a toilet reading tweets where he is heckled mercilessly and you’ve got the idea.

There’s something surreal about the moment when words clearly intended for the internet are heard in a different context. Read aloud and considered, what’s written online often takes on a new perspective.
For instance, imagine reading your LinkedIn profile from the stage of the next Verge event. Are you totally satisfied with how that would go? Would there even be anything to read? Would it be compelling? And if not, why? I know I’ve got work to do and I’m sure others do too.
Everything we write online is a pitch to the unseen yet seemingly ever present potential investor, partner, employee, and customer. A pitch for who you are, what you’re about, and how well you can communicate big ideas in constrained spaces.
What’s more, taking the time to write original thoughts with the constraints of a summary on LinkedIn or 140 characters on Twitter forces you to understand exactly what you want to convey and do it concisely. As author John Piper once said, “The effort to say is the path to seeing.”
While I’ve always paid attention to the way I communicate online, I hadn’t given this area as much thought as I should until a recent discussion with Jason Seiden made me reconsider. He said, “If you aren’t at least as compelling online as you are in person, you’re doing it wrong.”
When is the last time you read your LinkedIn profile from the perspective of a potential client? Or took the time to think through how to communicate an original thought in 140 characters rather than just sharing yet another blog post about your industry to appear knowledgable? (I’m guilty.)
Frequent writing and refining of original thoughts through online platforms doesn’t just broaden your reach, it strengthens your core ability to communicate. While design and development is (righfully) experiencing a huge boom, the need for good writing is as important as ever and will multiply the effectiveness of whatever position you find yourself in.
So go watch Will Ferrell read tweets on a toilet (somewhat nsfw, obv), check out one of my favorite resources for learning to write well, and then go write something.

To learn more about improving your online presence, make sure  you check out our September event with Connections!

Using Data to Change an Industry: The felix + iris Story

felix-and-irisWe live in an era where “big data” is more of a buzzword than a business tool, especially for a small or medium-sized team. Solving problems with data is a noble, if cumbersome, task and many teams just aren’t up for it.

The team at One Click Ventures, however, isn’t built like most teams.

As the founders of the online retailer, Randy and Angie Stocklin saw a problem. They were providing world-class eye wear to their customers, but their customers weren’t nearly as satisfied as Randy and Angie wanted. It was extremely difficult to ensure that customers were getting the exact right fit. They were providing a world-class product, but they weren’t providing a world-class experience.

Data to the rescue.

Introducing The felix + iris Brand

The problem that Randy and Angie were really observing is a lack of specificity. If I, a 20-something kid with great vision and impeccable sense of style, went to their product page, I’d see the exact same results that my sister, aunt, or mom would see. Sure, you can have customers self-select their product page based on a number of criteria, including gender and product type, but how can you get them to self-select their product page based on face shape or lifestyle?

felix + iris was introduced to solve this problem.

Their team built an online “Fit Profile.” This short quiz uses customer-specific data to create a customized online store for each individual user. So when I go to shop at felix + iris, I’d see a product page filled with glasses like this:

eyeglasses

If Hunckler went to shop at felix + iris, however, he’d probably see a product page filled with glasses like this:

dorky-eyeglasses

This is the future of E-Commerce. A lot of E-Commerce sites already use browsing, search, or social data to market, but few are customizing the entire customer view. This is a solution.

Using Data to Solve Customer Problems

This really fits under a general theme. How do you use data to solve customer problems? What can your startup learn from felix + iris? Here are a few tips on how any business can replicate this approach:

Collect a Lot of Data

You can’t know solve problems with data unless you’re willing to collect it first. Whether it’s a survey, buying patterns, website flow, or demographic data, make sure you’re collecting as much data as you can get your hands on. The more systematic the approach is, the better.

Take an Objective Look at Your Customer’s Process

Randy and Angie had a world-class product. A bad ownership team would stop there. Randy and Angie didn’t settle for this, however. For them, they wanted a world-class buying experience, and that can be much more difficult to achieve. Don’t get blinded by your own biases. Make sure you understand the weaknesses in your offerings inside and out.

Start Small if Necessary

Not everyone needs a customized web store for each individual customers. Don’t think that you need to build something great and extravagant on day one. Use the lean startup approach and build something with what you have, even if it isn’t Earth shattering.

This Sounds Interesting, I Want To Learn More!

What a coincidence, you’re in luck!

We’ve already announced our big September event with Connections. What we haven’t announced is our big October event and what makes it so special.

As a premier brand for fashion eye wear, felix + iris is going to be launching in New York City for Fashion Week, but after talking to Randy and Angie, they want to take that magic and bring it back home to Indy. This October, One Click Ventures is going to be rolling out felix + iris on the Verge stage and teaching the community about solving consumer problems with data.  Between all the data nerds, fashionistas, and the awesome, secret downtown location this party is going to be bumping and you won’t want to miss it!

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 29th. More info to come.

In the meantime, tickets are going live for our September event this week! Keep an eye on your inbox. You won’t want to miss your Verge Connections Experience!

Save the Date: Verge Wants You to Get Connected

Connections13It feels like every month, there’s another big acquisition in the Indianapolis tech community. Hell, most times it’s a member of the Verge community getting acquired. As a tech entrepreneur, you can’t help but think about what that negotiation looks like. Personally, I do mock buy-out talks every morning in the shower.

I think if you look at the numbers, you’ll see that conditioner’s ability to restore hair and add volume could really help shampoo engage with new markets.

That’s why I’m so excited for this month’s event.

This month, we get the opportunity to learn first-hand lessons from a company that has been on both sides of the negotiation table. As a staple in the Indianapolis tech community, this company acquired Pardot, an Atlanta-based marketing automation company for over $95M and an Indy-based company (and former Verge pitch), iGoDigital for $21M. They also were acquired by Salesforce for $2.5 Billion.

You know who I’m talking about, right? If not, take a look downtown. They’re painting the whole place orange.

Every year, ExactTarget throws the world’s largest interactive marketing conference right here in Indianapolis. Connections is attended by the best and brightest in both marketing and technology from all around the world, and we get to host it in our back yard. This year, they’ve brought in a great lineup that is determined to educate, inform, and entertain the nearly sold out conference. This year’s event includes keynotes from:

  • Mark Benioff, Salesforce CEO
  • Scott McCorkle, ExactTarget CEO
  • Gabriel Stricker, Twitter CMO
  • Will.I.Am, Musician and Entrepreneur
  • John Green, Best Selling Author
  • Mindy Kaling, Actress, Comedian, and Tim Hickle’s celebrity crush
  • and MANY more!

“Right, but aren’t tickets to that thing like a bajillion dollars?”

No, rhetorical device, they’re not. In fact, we’re giving all Verge members a chance to attend the last day of the conference for free!

Save the Date: Thursday, September 25th

Verge is teaming up with Connections to bring you a Verge event unlike any you’ve seen before. We’ll start our day at Connections to catch two incredible keynotes. We’ll then be heading to an awesome location that’s been known to host bad ass Verge events in the past. Here we’ll be doing Verge over lunch, featuring a couple of awesome pitches that you’ll hear a lot more about next week and a fireside that will be the perfect capstone to our Connections experience.

Our last event sold out in less than a week, and these tickets are set to move a lot faster. Between free access to Connections and a Verge lunch, this is going to be an all-morning, hard-hitting event that no one in the tech space is going to want to miss.

Keep an eye on your inbox next week!

Tickets will be going live and we have a very fixed capacity. Occasionally we’re able to open up events to sell more tickets, but this is not one of those times, so it’s extra important that you get your tickets EARLY! 

I’ll also be sharing more about our pitches and fireside chat on the blog, and you won’t want to miss that. Can’t wait to see you all downtown!

connections_2013_stage3

If you want to learn more about pitching without sounding sales-y, check out this awesome blog by Hunckler!

How NOT To Be An Email Spammer

email-spamPeople often ask Greg Kraios, Founder of 250ok: Why is there spam? He knows that the answer is simply “because it’s profitable…If it didn’t make money, people wouldn’t do it.”

Kraios spoke at the August Smartups event about the ins and outs of email marketing. He told of his days at ExactTarget and how spam filtering has evolved since. Back then, emails were content filtered, with words like “free,” “viagra,” and exclamation marks creating the basis for screening. Spammers were quickly able to game the system and be one step ahead of it.

So, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) changed the game. It didn’t matter what the message is, but rather who the message is from. This created a structure based on reputation tied to an IP address. Now, companies (like Pfizer) that want to promote products (such as Viagra) legitimately finally can.

Once again, spammers figured out how to beat this system too. This brings us to how spam filters work today: reputation + engagement. ISPs look at engagement data from an IP address to find out how many people are opening an email, clicking a link, forwarding the message, replying to the sender. We all interact with emails from friends and family. But, this becomes a problem when it’s a marketing email.

How does a business get through the spam filters and get the user to open that email?

avoiding-spam-filters-email-marketing

Young companies are anxious to broadcast their message to large audience. And email has become an important tool for startup marketers for doing just that. But, they often think the best way to do that is to buy a list. To that, Kraios asks “would you share your customer list with anybody ever? I’ll take it if you guys are.”

Not only does buying an email list not work, but often times the addresses provided are invalid by the time you get to them (which counts against your reputation) – or they could be filled with “spam traps.” A spam trap is when an ISP creates an address that has never been used by a human being. The only way to get that email on your list is if it’s scraped off the internet. When that happens, ISPs flag you as a spammer because they caught you capturing addresses without permission.

For startups, Kraios recommends finding a partner company that has a subscriber base that might benefit from your product or service. Some businesses may ask for a fee for this. Others will do it because they want to help other companies. The key here is to get that company to promote you in their newsletter, to push people to a landing page, and get the permission yourself to have them on your mailing list.

Google has become really good at determining spam emails. More times than not, people go into their spam folder, find an email from a friend or family member with a link inside and think, Google messed up. Once the email is back in the inbox, they click on the link and are redirected to a malware site. It looks harmless – like their bank. So, they enter all their personal information. And, they’re phished!

To counter this, email providers have started deleting spam emails before the user can view them.

Another tactic bigger companies use is sending emails with a “no reply” for the sender. Email is about communication, having a conversation. Using “no reply” alienates the target audience – “just tells me you don’t care about me.” Realizing that replies can help get your email delivered changes the entire playing field – especially for startups. You’re the most accessible business owner the user will come in contact with. Why not use that to your advantage and include your own email as the sender?

Set Clear Expectations

You’re already familiar with implicit email permission. You’re about to buy your items at a store when you’re asked for your email address. You give it willingly – not realizing that you’ve been added to their email list. Kraios stresses the importance of obtaining explicit permission for someone’s email. This not only serves to let the potential customer know that they’re signing up for a newsletter or promotion, but also creates an expectancy phenomenon in their minds. They will look for your email in their inbox. They won’t ignore it. They won’t delete it. They won’t mark it as spam.

Be clear about what your subscribers are going to get. Like Kraios, you may have been surprised when you think you’ve signed up for one company’s emails, and then you start getting promotions from other companies. You click the unsubscribe button and are sent to their preference center only to find out you’ve got five different content items checked.

In order to prevent the user from associating this nightmare with your startup, it’s best to outline exactly what they’ve signed up for and stick to it. You’ll see better engagement rates from potential customers and get rewarded from ISPs (by not getting marked as a spammer).

Kraios believes there’s no right or wrong when it comes to frequency. If you tell people they’re going to receive a weekly newsletter, you should send the a weekly newsletter. Your email readers want to consume things differently. As long as you set an expectation and deliver on it, you’ll be in good shape. He evens offers Doug Karr’s newsletter as an example. Kraios likes the monthly digest because while he wants to stay on top of what’s new in marketing, he’s too busy to read the weekly newsletter. He loves that Karr gives him the option to do that.

So, take your cue from these marketing giants and go beyond setting an expectation for the frequency of your emails: give your subscribers options for frequency.

Tips For Successful Email Marketing

Track sources

Startups that don’t track where they’ve acquired an email address from – even if it’s from a tradeshow prize bowl – cannot tell what their highest performing source is in order to reinvest energy and effort into that. They also can’t tell where negative experiences are coming from. When people mark an email as spam, did you know they came from that tradeshow? from your website? from a partner?

Tracking the different sources allows you more control over the messaging and provides you clear direction on which channels are working best.

Collect actionable data

Turn your email campaign from broad to actionable by asking a few telling questions at the point of acquiring an email. By adding a zip code field to the email signup form, Kraios and then-ExactTarget team gave one large lawn care service provider the advantage in targeting customers by serving relevant emails based on location and grass type.

Don’t obsess over the subject line

When he sees marketers still focusing on things like putting “free” in the subject line, Kraios wishes they’d spend their energy on what their target audience are actually looking for. People aren’t looking for the word “free.” They’re not counting how many exclamation points you’ve typed. Knowing what your goals are and delivering personal, relevant, targeted content trumps a formulaic subject line any day.

Test Deliverability

“It’s never too early to be concerned about delivery….if you’re not getting (the email) to the inbox, all that work you’ve done doesn’t mean anything.” Some companies will provide you with a sender score based on your IP address. According to Kraios, that number is meaningless if you cannot drill down to the deliverability issue itself. That’s why he recommends a tool like 250ok where a test email is sent to a pre-defined set of email addresses. Then, you can exactly track where the email winds up. Combined with data on opens, clicks, conversions, bounces, and unsubscribes, you can start to understand why people are unsubscribing. “The story’s in your own data if you know what to look for and what you’re trying to figure out.”

Following these tips will get your emails in your customers inboxes – and get them loving your emails!

Three Essential Items Every Startup Needs to Value

chris palmer discusses startup values at Verge West LafayetteIf you’re in the loop with the Verge Startup family, you’ve probably gotten to know our buddy, Chris Palmer, pretty well. In addition to pitching on the Verge Indy stage and his presence at the Innovation Showcase, Chris won the Startup Chile pitch competition and was just named Techpoint’s “2014 Rising Star.”

Between Foxio and BoxFox, Chris has become a grizzly startup veteran, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Chris recently visited Verge West Lafayette to impart some wisdom to the young entrepreneurs in the crowd. After witnessing three student pitches, Chris delivered a  fireside chat that  nailed a few things that every entrepreneur should be focusing on when trying to build a company that will last. Here are three things that every startup needs to learn how to truly value, whether they’re in their initial stages or their IPO.

Valuing True Mentors

It’s easy to get caught up in the myth that young entrepreneurs can do it alone. Many young founders make the mistake of believing that, because they’re more well-versed in today’s technology than the next guy, they’re destined to succeed. This is patently false. Today’s technology will come and go, the underlying principles behind the technology – and more importantly, the business – will live forever. These are things that can only be learned through true mentorship from those who have been through the obstacle course of entrepreneurship before.

“The best mentorship is not an official relationship, it’s a more casual curiosity about what older generations have done before you.”

– Chris Palmer

By recognizing and embracing the value of true mentorship, you’re granting yourself access to a time machine. This is the only way that you can have access to advice from entrepreneurs just like you 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. This can help you mitigate risk and navigate the minefield that is entrepreneurship.

Chris’ Quick Tips For Finding Awesome Mentors

  • Meet a lot of people: Like Chris said above, the best mentors don’t come in the form of formal mentorship setups. They often more closely resemble friends than colleagues. When looking for mentors, you’re really just looking for friends who are immensely smarter than you. Approach meeting mentors the same way you’d approach meeting new friends.
  • Don’t come on too strong: Once again, this relationship doesn’t need to be official. Unless you really hit it off, it’s highly unlikely that the founder you met for the first time at the last Verge event is going to be stoked about you asking “Will you mentor me???” Take it slow. Treat it like a date. It’s easier to ask someone out to a networking event or for beer than it is to ask for some long-term commitment.

Valuing Collaboration

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. While some solo-preneurs have been successful, in Chris’ experience, they’re the minority. It’s far more common to see partnerships or teams of founders succeed. The reason behind this is simple, collaboration only makes you better. Differing and dissenting perspectives are essential in building a product that people will actually care about.

This isn’t limited to your founding team, though. When trying to get out there and find help, be it in the form of investment or talent, it’s essential that you don’t hide your idea under a bushel basket.

“Being vocal about your ideas really helps. The more you tell that story, the more your idea will spread.”

– Chris Palmer

At the end of the day, no one at a networking event is going to steal your idea. Even if they did, ideas are worth nothing. Ideas aren’t special, execution is. Collaboration and open discussion about your ideas can help vet the good ones so you know where you should be focusing your attention, allowing you to execute more effectively.

student entrepreneurs at the matchbox learn about core values for their startup

Valuing a Dollar

I don’t care whether you raised a $50M seed round or are bootstrapping, money is important. If your revenue model isn’t solid or your valuation is a house of cards, you should be concerned. At the end of the day, you’re building a business and a business’ only job is to make money. What most tech entrepreneurs overlook, however, is that the traditional approach of “I’ll build an audience and eventually, someone will pay me for access to it in the form of advertising!” is unlikely at best and misguided at worst. With many startups, the challenge is how can you generate revenue today – even if it won’t pay the bills – as a proof of concept?

“The biggest factor in our success has been flipping the traditional model of startup success on its head. I used to think that I’d just sit there and a big money idea would come to me and that would be it. What I’ve found is that the best way to go about entrepreneurship is to find ways to make small amounts of money. Eventually, you’ll learn how to take that and turn it into larger amounts of money.”

– Chris Palmer

That’s one thing that I personally have found to be remarkable about Indianapolis startups in general. The reason so many investors are hot on Indy right now is because of the massive movement in the midwest to build revenue-centric, no nonsense businesses as opposed to trying to chase short-term technology trends.

To learn more about other awesome Verge community members doing awesome things, make sure to check out this piece on how the community is focusing on reinvesting in Midwest startups.

5 Tips For Learning to Code

1Like learning any new domain (be it music or a foreign language), there is a tremendous learning curve to programming.  At first, it seems like a massive mountain to climb, but the most important thing is to keep learning and not to give up when you feel discouraged.  Here are a five tips for anyone considering whether they should take the time to learn how to program.

  1. Bet on any horse, because all of them will get you where you need to go – When it comes to which programming language to choose, think about what type of skill set you want to develop.
  • Mobile – Objective-C (iOS), Swift (HackHand’s Expert, Richard Clark explains what Swift is here) and Java (Android) are the main options for mobile development.
  • Web – Any modern web language is capable of all functionality (even mobile with the use of hybrid frameworks such as Phonegap and Xamarin) so when deciding to learn web development, there are two main areas to conquer.
  • Client-side (Frontend) – JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS are your toolbelt for the front end. Additionally, Twitter Bootstrap  and Foundations are popular template resources for front end development.
  • Server-side (Backend) – Ruby, which is preinstalled on all Macs (just type ‘irb’ in Terminal)/Rails, Python/Django, J2EE/Spring are all server side languages/frameworks that can get you to the same result. Additionally, JavaScript extends beyond client-side development.  The MEAN stack composed of MongoDB (NoSQL database), Express (Node.js framework), Angular.js (frontend framework) and Node.js (server-side platform) is an example of how JavaScript can be used for full-stack development.
  1. Start with tutorials online – You can now find tutorials and resources everywhere.  Start learning the basics online with MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) like Codecademy and CodeSchool.  You can even take Harvard’s CS50x, Intro to Computer Scienceclass for free at your own pace.  One tutorial that really helped me grasp the full stack fundamentals was Michael Hartl’s Sample Tutorial Guide. Here are some more resources for online tutorials.
  1. Graduate to projects as soon as possible – You could easily spend years taking all the tutorials and courses.  From my experience, nothing compares to the amount of learning when you are working on your own project.  So as soon as you feel comfortable with the basics and are able to get an environment setup, start hacking.  If you find that you get stuck or need hands on help, head over to HackHands.com.
  1. Read the documentation – Many new programmers just copy-paste code without understanding the details.  This can be tempting, but sets you back in the long run.  Programming these days is more about configuration rather than writing code, since software is now assembled from open source API puzzle pieces.  Reading the API docs can save you hours of wasted time on bad configurations.
  1. Get live help and keep coding – While first getting started programming I got stuck…a lot.  I relied on StackOverflow and meetups to get me out of the trenches.  Theses are definitely essential resources for programmers, but sometimes you can’t find the answer you need.  For this reason, I realized programmers need a live support system.  Thus, I startedHackHands.com.  For $1/minute you instantly connect to a programming expert for help over video chat and screen share.  This service enables programmers to learn more, never get too hung up when they get stuck, and keep coding.

About Forest Good

Forest is the co-founder ofHackHands.com.  HackHands is the SOS button for live programming support, available 24/7. Our mission is to double the productivity of software development. We do this by providing real-time access to the best software developers in the world.  To learn more aboutHackHands.com or to get instantly connected to a programming expert.  VERGE members can get 20% off their first session, just reach out to info@hackhands.com after your session and provide any feedback.

Can Indiana’s New Crowdfunding Law Help Your Business?

Photo Credit: LendingMemo.com

Photo Credit: LendingMemo.com

As of July 1, Hoosier entrepreneurs seeking to raise capital (join the club, right) now have a new tool: crowdfunding.  Indiana’s new crowdfunding law sailed quickly and almost unopposed through the General Assembly—140 yeas to 1 nay.  Despite any instinctual suspicion some may have of a law that both parties agree on, this legislation may actually be useful to you.  Here are six questions to consider in deciding whether to Hoosier crowdfund:

  1. Can I raise capital from out-of-state investors?

No.  For the time being, federal law still prohibits you from crowdfunding on a national scale.  The SEC, which is currently under congressional mandate to make rules permitting crowdfunding, has yet to finalize those rules.

Rather than wait for the feds, a handful of states have chosen to pass their own crowdfunding laws.  They can do this because of the “intrastate” exemption in the Securities Act of 1933.  That Act, which generally protects us all from snake oil salesmen by prohibiting the sale of securities outside of highly-regulated public markets such as the NYSE and Nasdaq, does not apply to offerings that are exclusively intrastate because the SEC only has jurisdiction over interstate offerings.  Indiana has now joined the ranks of states using this exemption to permit local companies to crowdfund the intrastate sale of securities.

Notably, as written, the new law only applies to companies organized under Indiana law.  If you’re local but incorporated under Delaware law, you can’t use the new exemption.

  1. How much can an entrepreneur raise?

Under Indiana’s new law, Hoosier entrepreneurs may raise up to $2 million in a 12-month period via crowdfunding if they provide potential investors with audited company financial statements.  Without audited financials, the limit is $1 million.  Of note, crowdfunding can piggyback on traditional methods to raise additional capital.

  1. From whom?

You may raise capital through an Indiana crowdfunding campaign from Indiana residents only.  As the issuer, you’ll need to verify that each investor is an Indiana resident (a driver’s license number would likely suffice).  Also, you may accept no more than $5,000 from any single investor, unless that investor is an accredited investor.

  1. How, and how much will it cost?

This answer, of course, varies and is somewhat detailed and complicated, but here are some basics:

(A) You must provide a disclosure document to all prospective investors.  The document must contain certain basic information about your company, including a business plan, intended use of the proceeds, amounts to be paid to owners and officers, the identity of all persons owning at least 20% of the company, the terms and conditions of the securities offered, and more.   Lawyers and accountants will most likely be involved.

(B) You must use a third party web portal (think Localstake).  The web portal operator may but is not required to be a registered broker-dealer, and will certainly charge a fee.

(C) You’ll have to provide quarterly reports to investors so long as any crowdfunded shares are outstanding.

Costs are difficult to calculate, but by comparison, estimates under the proposed SEC rules range from $6,500 to $26,000 for a $100,000 raise, and $80,000 and $190,000 for a $1,000,000 raise, plus a couple thousand dollars per year for ongoing reporting (see here and here).

  1. Any concerns?

Sure.  The law may be ignored.  If the cost of capital is prohibitively high, entrepreneurs will ignore crowdfunding and stick with tried-and-true methods.  Also, the $5,000 per investor limit likely will complicate reaching higher raise targets.

Another worry is that, unlike the draft SEC rules, Indiana’s law doesn’t cap an individual’s 12-month contribution, so conceivably grandpa could make fifteen $5,000 investments in one year and blow his savings.  Securities Commissioner Carol Mihalik has reminded issuers that fraud remains illegal and will be prosecuted, but there is potential for investors to lose their shirts.

Finally, some venture capitalists have expressed their disinclination to participate in a Series A where there’s a mob of crowdfunders populating the cap table.

  1. What happens when the SEC finally adopts national crowdfunding rules?

Indiana’s crowdfunding laws will gather dust.  The current exemption for intrastate offerings is probably the least used ’33 Act exemption.  The reason is simple: though exempted from federal law, intra-state offerings are still governed by state laws, and these “Blue Sky Laws” almost invariably mimic their federal counterparts.  So if nearly identical regulations must be followed, companies rarely chose to limit their pool of prospective investors to only one state.

There will be differences between Indiana’s crowdfunding law and its federal counterpart, but these differences are unlikely to matter.  To take the most notable difference: our law allows raises of up to $2 million, while the SEC rules (if finalized as drafted) would limit raises to $1 million.  But raising more than $1 million will be difficult when the investor pool is limited to Hoosiers at $5,000 a pop, and the lure of a national pool with the higher proposed individual limits will be irresistible to most, even if it means shelling out for audited financials (which the proposed SEC rules require for any plus $500,000 raise).

In short, if you are seeking to raise less than $2 million dollars exclusively from Hoosiers in many small increments, you just got the green light.  But you’ll have to keep waiting for the SEC to finalize its rules if you want to run a national crowdfunded equity sale.

WATCH: Verge Organizer Jordan Updike Discusses Indiana’s Growth on IIB

jordan

Last week, Verge organizer and all around stud Jordan Updike made a visit to Inside Indiana Business to chat with Gerry Dick and Ike Willett about the growth of Indiana’s tech sector and the new capital the Circle City is seeing because of it.

“The beautiful thing is we’re starting to get a reputation as an area that’s putting out quality companies and quality work.”

– Jordan Updike

Perhaps the greatest evidence of this comes from the Innovation Showcase. In the past six years, this event has grown from a small, niche event to a startup spectacle that attracts tech companies from across the country. This year, we had a record number of exhibitor applications, a record number of sponsors, and tomorrow we will be awarding a record number of cash and prizes to our winners.

This year’s event is one you definitely won’t want to miss. This year, we’ll be hearing 60 second pitches from over 80 companies, all of whom are vying for north of $120k in prizes and funding. The showcase is tomorrow at the Dallara IndyCar Factory, and space is going to be limited so get your tickets now!