Tag Archives: investors

Live Braille Wins at Ultra Light Startups Investor Feedback Forum

24 Nov

Eight entrepreneurs competed at an Ultra Light Startups pitch night at at the Microsoft building in Times Square on November 13, 2014.

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LiveBraille, a startup with technology that could eliminate the blind’s need for a cane, won the audience’s vote as the winner of the ULS pitch night, as well as other great startup essentials like office space, consulting and more.

The eights startups each gave a two-minute pitch followed by questions and advice from a panel of investors. Nikhil Kalghatgi of Vast Ventures, Owen Davis of NYC Seed, David Teten of ff Venture Capital and Marc Michel of Metamorphic Ventures were on the panel. Nikhil won the audience’s pick for favorite judge.

Top 3

LiveBraille makes a low-cost 5-sensor glove that uses sonar technology to give a feeling of orientation to those without sight. The company has a patent on the product, which has been tested on 150 users. The glove is washable and water-resistant and is sensitive to the environment – even potholes in India.

The overall feedback was to consider other markets to expand the technology, like the military. Investors also suggested putting the sensor on shirts rather than just gloves, and thinking of more revenue streams.

Pijon: This package company gets brands into impressionable college students’ dorm rooms and reminds them to call home. The company has sold over 23,000 monthly packages to college students that are packed with $30-65 of curated items, like snacks, beauty supplies, etc.

The investors said Pijon should aim to become the preferred vendors at colleges, and of course, consider other markets. They also advised to make their company compelling so people choose Pijon over competitors and subscribe each month.

Meals to Heal: Malnutrition is often an overlooked problem among cancer patients. Inspired by friend who died of brain tumor, Susan Bratton started a company that delivers individualized meals to cancer patients and their caregivers. Revenue comes from weekly meal sales, subscriptions and nutritional counseling. The company also has some b2b partnerships with big box stores like Walgreens.

The judges advised Bratton to clarify why her company is better than other food delivery companies like Fresh Direct and to think about other possible markets.

The other competiting startups

Ketchup: This is a mobile newsreader app for news junkies who are always on their phones. It not only has recent headlines, but a timeline with summaries of related stories.

Jukebox: With this app, you have a say in what music you hear when you leave your house or take out your headphones. The app connects to the speaker system at venues like bars and restaurants.

Tent square: This site dismantles the barriers to enter the movie industry by funding community-created projects. The crowd-powered entertainment and discovery site has about 12,000 members that can assemble movie casts, vote on plotlines and more for the in-platform projects.

Hackers Collective solves a catch-22 in the startup world – in order to get capital you need traction, but in order to get traction you need capital. The site builds a community of peers and users around your product. It also serves as a platform to crowd-fund and discover early stage startups and collaborate.

Job Elevation aims to fundamentally change the job search for the sales profession. The visual online platform allows salespeople to pick what they’re interested in and filter it by sector, location and seniority.

Read the full version at Office Lease Center http://bit.ly/1xDZQzO.

Entrepreneur & Small Business Forum Hosts Panel

21 Oct

Is your business fundable? Three panelists with diverse experience with startups and investing gave advice to help entrepreneurs answer this question at the Entrepreneur & Small Business Forum event on October 17. The panelists included Alan Brody, of events company Startupalooza, Alessandro Piol of AlphaPrime investors and Tom Wisniewski of RosePaul Venture.

First Alan Brody (yes, my dad) talked about the investor code from his new book Are You Fundable. Brody explained his hierarchy of who gets funded the most.

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1. Serial entrepreneurs: This is a rare person in the startup world. Serial entrepreneurs have a track record. They’ve already started 1 or more successful companies and won’t have a hard time getting funded. One example, is Steve Jobs. When his company NeXT was on the verge of bankruptcy, he met Ross Perot at an event, they hit it off, and Perot offered him $20 million.
2. Pedigreed: This person has 5+ years expertise in their startup’s industry. They know it well, they have a product, customers and a growth market.
3. Up and comer: This group represents about half of everyone in NY and Silicon Valley, Brody said. An up and comer is a young person who has an idea and really thinks they can make it.
4. Me too: These are entrepreneurs who join a crowded market (like froyo or cupcakes). They often get a bad rap, but you can make it if you have a competitive advantage. An example is Cousins Maine Lobster, which received funding from Barbara Corcoran on Shark Tank. It’s not the only truck selling lobster rolls, but the two owners are lobster brokers, meaning they know how to source lobster cheaper than the competitors.
5. And then there’s everyone else

He stressed the importance of the entrepreneur and uses a “jockey vs. the horse” analogy. The “jockey” is more important because the “horse,” meaning the business, can always change or be refined.

Entrepreneurs need to have a background that is relevant to their idea, which will increase their credibility, especially if it is an older entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs also need a get-it-done attitude and have grit, not passion. Brody said the emotional definition of passion is wrong. Passion in the startup world means grit, Brody said.

Brody also warned entrepreneurs of what investors fear. Investors don’t like lifestyle businesses because they don’t have growth potential. These are more small businesses, like a Laundromat. They won’t invest, Brody said. A “zombie startup” is a business that isn’t growing or profiting and the owners have stepped back. A “settler” is an entrepreneur who is more interested in making the money back quickly and selling rather than growing on his own.

piolInvestor Alessandro Piol spoke about what he looks for as an early stage investor. He focuses on investing in early stage tech startups at AlphaPrime Ventures. He also has written a book Tech and the City, which he explained as “more inspirational and informational,” than Brody’s motivational, how-to book, and explains the birth of the NY startup ecosystem.

Having experience with both early and late stage startups, he said they have their own advantages and disadvantages. Later stage companies have a track record, revenue and management team investors can investigate to make their assessment. Yet, the return for investors might be smaller.

Earlier stage businesses are risky, he said, because there is a higher rate of failure and guessing consumer trends is hard. It’s also hard to determine if there’s competition and who they are. Because of this, his firm tries to find companies that are going after a huge market, not only because it can scale, but because if there is competition it’s easier to find a piece of the market. He used Uber as an example because with their model, they can go anywhere (the law allows, that is).

And of course, the entrepreneur has to solve a problem for the idea to be valid.

“The first thing I ask people when they come to present to us is – I don’t want to see pitches, presentations, financials, I just want you to tell me your story,” Piol said. “I want to understand where you came up with your idea, where it comes from.”

He echoed Brody saying the team is very important because the original idea often doesn’t end up as business. Startups usually have to pivot, and good entrepreneurs can recognize when to shift.

“There’s really one thing we look at – the entrepreneur and the management, that’s really the story,” Piol said. “Sometimes when you invest it’s better to invest in a mediocre idea with a great entrepreneur rather than a great idea with a mediocre entrepreneur.”

Management and timing often lead to companies’ demise, he said.

“Most of the times when things don’t work out it’s because either there was a problem with management or there was a timing problem – either the company was too early or the company was too late,” Piol said.

He looks for competent, experienced, passionate and driven leaders. If you’re in the startup game because it’s fashionable, Pio said to get out.

tomTom Wisniewski, a full-time investor at Rose Paul Ventures, said most of the audience was in the angel/seed stage, which meant they were looking for $300 thousand to $1 million. Businesses qualify for this category if they have a detailed business plan, full-time founders, product in market, some traction, a path to break-even or next funding. He reminds them that often times angel investors are not full-time and don’t have a team working for them, unlike venture capitalist who work for a firm.

Four major pieces of advice:

1. Avoid raising money
“It sucks the life out of you,” Wisniewski said.
Not only is raising money hard, he said, but all the efforts to get meetings and pitch detract from developing the business. He suggests bootstrapping as long as possible.

2. Find investors that fit
Research the investors before you pitch them to make sure they’ll actually care about your business.

“Your likelihood of success increases if you talk to the right audience,” he said.
“People invest in things that they know, things they have experience with.”

He tells entrepreneurs to imagine what the perfect investor looks like so they’ll be prepared to recognize those elements in people they meet.

3. Avoid pitching (initially)
“Pitching is a really bad way to meet people, it sets up an awkward tension right off the bat,” he said, showing how when someone pitching leans in, investors instinctively move away.

Get to know investors before you pitch at them. Pitching reeks of salesmanship, not friendship. Build relationships because you won’t get money at the first meeting anyway. Ask for their opinion, which is non-threatening and complimentary, or even offer the investor something helpful to get off on the right foot.

4. Become a student of…pitching
Pitches aren’t limited to the deck. It can be an elevator pitch, an email or a 1-pager.

Wisniewski said no one is good at it to begin with – it is a learned art, everyone can improve. Just practice and watch other people.

This article was also posted on Office Lease Center here.

Triberr wins Startupalooza’s Open VC Pitching Night

17 Oct

Triberr, a brand influencer startup with high-profile clients, won the top prize at Startupalooza on October 15. The monthly event, hosted at Hive55 by CEO Alan Brody, brings investors and entrepreneurs together for quick trade-show style pitching that culminates in a pitch-off between the top startups. The winner receives an invitation worth $1,500 to a Private Equity Forum event.

The six startups that received the highest rankings pitched to the audience of entrepreneurs and angel investor judges.

Triberr – Managing and growing the blogger spokesperson community

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Triberr helps big brands spread their message through a network of 1,000 online influencers. These bloggers, podcasters and video hosts cross promote each other’s work, increasing views and engagement. Founder Dino Dogan said their platform marries native advertising with the spokesperson model. Rather than being sneaky about their intentions, Triberr influencers are transparent about promoting companies.

Triberr profits from the brands that pay for the media campaign. The 3-year-old company counts Sears, Godiva, Cottonelle, Almay and Xerox as some of their clients.

InsightMedi – Secure private sharing of medical photography and visual data

CTO Juan González calls InsightMedi “Instagram for doctors.” The app allows the medical community to share their clinical experience through a global photo-sharing mobile platform. The app already has 13,000 users and tops the Spanish medical app store at #1. They plan to sell ads to companies who want to reach this niche audience.

CREDACIOUS! – Credibility ranking for online reviews

credaciousFounder and CEO Mo Moadeli built CREDACIOUS to tame the wild web of questionable content. It integrates with social media, web and search allowing users to identify and build a more credible Internet as they read and type. Credibility is based on user data and algorithms.

Boston Biomotion – High-end, small size physical therapy device

The Boston Biomotion physical therapy device could replace a roomful of equipment and cost less. Sam Miller, who presented the startup, said his father created the rehab equipment in a biomechanics lab at MIT. It incorporates motions of the body and imitates the feeling of moving in water. The device sends performance data to a cloud so third parties like doctors, physical therapists and coaches could access the information. It has a patent and received clinical study success.

Strutz – Consumer podiatric products

strutzIn a roomful of tech startups, Strutz co-founders Paul Mazzanobile and Steven Lloren were the only entrepreneurs to bring a real product. Strutz is a foot and lower body health product that relieves a variety of podiatric problems. The company, which launched in 2009, has been on As Seen on TV and is now reestablishing the Strutz brand apart from the TV franchise. The products currently sell online, on Amazon and in stores. Strutz will be in CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens in the future.

Room – Private, secure online communities

FullSizeRender (1)“What happens in the room stays in the room,” said Damien Rottemberg of Room. This app allows users to create and join private social networks of less than 500 people. You can get in with a “room key,” meaning an invitation or password. He said celebrities in France use the app since they can’t use Facebook privately. Right now there is a freemium model.

said celebrities in France use the app since they can’t use Facebook privately. Right now there is a freemium model.