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VC Minute: Finding Investors to Target

By Everything

The VC Minute is my segment on the Startup of the Year podcast where I share a quick snippet of advice related to startup fundraising.

Let’s talk about finding investors to target. 

Fundraising needs to be treated like a sales process. You need to know who you’re going after, why them, and how to approach them. But it starts with knowing who you’re targeting.

Generally speaking, you want to cast a wide net and start with the lesser known investors first. If you’re going to go after a big name investor, it’s best to wait until you’ve honed your pitch on others. So let’s build that list!

Signal.NFX.com is where I send most startups. It’s a free online platform for VCs to list themselves and for startups to find them. While you’re at it, you should visit another NFX site, The Company Brief and make a company brief that you can forward along. 

Visible.vc is an investor relationship hub, so it’s only fitting they have a searchable database Head over to connect.visible.vc to search for free.

OmniValley.co is a great resource with a searchable database focused on investors outside of the Bay Area, but they have some Bay Area VCs as well.

 If you’d like access to our network of investors, then apply to Startup of the Year. We hold weekly office hours that are only open to applicants. There’s no cost and no catch, except to be part of the Startup of the Year program. 

Listen to the whole episode here:
Startup of the Year Podcast Episode #0034 – Cooper Harris of Klickly

On this episode of the Startup of the Year Podcast, we catch up with Cooper Harris, the founder, and CEO of Klickly, an A.I. impulse-payments platform. Cooper invented a payment layer that leverages machine-learning to make purchasing directly within digital UIs possible. This significant innovation creates a huge efficiency in the market – the platform’s machine-learning identifies payment situations and uses sophisticated cross-origin calls to facilitate the transaction. 

VC Minute: Asking for Referrals to Investors

By Everything

The VC Minute is my segment on the Startup of the Year podcast where I share a quick snippet of advice related to startup fundraising.

Let’s talk about asking for referrals to investors. The wrong way is to say, “please introduce me to investors.” There’s not a lot I can do with that. Which ones? Why would I intro you? What do I send them? 

Make it easy for your network to make referrals for you. 

First, You should have a target list of introductions you would like—researched in advance of course. 

Next, Forward along your list of prospective investors, attach an investor deck, and finally include an intro paragraph someone can copy/paste into their own email. 

I call this, “don’t make me think, don’t make me work.” When you make it as easy as possible for people to make connections for you, they will. 

If you’d like access to our network of investors, then apply to Startup of the Year. We hold weekly office hours that are only open to applicants. There’s no cost and no catch, except to be part of the Startup of the Year program.

Listen to the whole episode here:
Startup of the Year Podcast episode #0033 – Honoring U.S. Veteran Founders

On this episode of the Startup of the Year podcast we are featuring our virtual event that we hosted, Honoring U.S. Veteran Founders.

We had a great group of veteran-led companies presenting their pitches. The STARTUPS included: Govlia (Fort Lauderdale, FL); Milk Money Kitchens (New York, NY); Target Arm (Ridgefield, CT); TCare (St. Louis, MO); and TruGenomix (Rockville, MD).

11,428 Startups

By Everything

Everyone talks about the dollars of investment that goes to the Big Three markets (Bay Area, NYC, Boston). According to the PwC/CB Insights MoneyTree™ Report of 2017, 67% of all investment dollars went to those three locations. Every week I read about another fund that is focused almost exclusively on the Big Three. Even in Jason Calacanis’ book Angel, the title of Chapter 5 is “Do You Really Need To Be In Silicon Valley To Be A Great Angel Investor?” The entire chapter consists of one word: “YES!!”

Everyone talks about that percent of dollars. But I find another number more fascinating: 11,428. That is the number of startups that received funding in 2017 not located in the Big Three. That’s 45% of the funded startups last year.

11,428 startups funded outside of the big three.

The corollary to that number is 15,124 — the number of startups funded in the Big Three. Corporations and VCs alike look at that and think, “I can reach 55% of the market by having offices in three cities.” And so they focus their efforts, and either ignore the Rest, or wait for the Rest to come to them. Frankly, many startups do, and I don’t begrudge either strategy. This concentration of efforts creates opportunity.

In what business can you ignore 45% of the market and hope to have a competitive edge?

All of the other markets — “the rest” — go largely ignored because reaching the other 45% is hard. Reaching a concentrated 55% is easier than a widely distributed 45%. Great businesses are built on solving hard problems. And so was Engage Here.

Imagine having scouts give you access to the best startups — the dark dealflow — from two dozen markets around the US. Imagine having access to that amazing robotics startup in Pittsburgh, the manufacturing systems startup in Charlotte, and the hottest blockchain startup in Austin. Yet, it goes beyond access. Sifting through 1,000 startups is hard, sifting through 11,000 is ridiculous.

Engage Here is a distributed scout network based on local relationships. Our secret sauce is the local community leader in each market. We partner with the boots-on-the-ground community builder who is out every day meeting startups. They see everything in their community because they’re the organizer and the consummate connector. If you were to move to their town, they would be the person that four other people would say, “have you met ______?” They are on our team, scouting startups, and sending the best our way.

Let’s be clear: Engage Here isn’t a technology platform; it isn’t a social network, it doesn’t require you to authenticate through your Google account and spam your contacts. Engage Here is built on the fundamental belief that relationships are the foundation of business. Relationships are at the core of everything we do.

To be competitive in this increasingly noisy and crowded space, you need an edge. You need to be able to reach down into the corners of the country, into the pockets of entrepreneurship rising up, and find the absolute best among from the crowd. We are a force-multiplier for your start efforts. We offer curated, dark dealflow from all pockets of the country.

The best part is that everyone stands to gain from your involvement:

  • Startups get access to the people and companies across geographies
  • Corporations get strategically-fitting introductions
  • VC’s get scouts in two dozen markets

Join us and tap the 45% of the market you’re missing.

Here’s a freebie: the Daily Dealflow newsletter, featuring one startup each workday sourced from our network, from every corner of the country. Sign up here: https://engagehere.co/daily-dealflow/

Are you a corporation or VC that wants access to dealflow? Drop us a note.

Are you a startup that wants to be featured: share your information here.

Six Bold Predictions for Game of Thrones Season Six

By Everything

If you aren’t caught up on HBO’s Game of Thrones yet, then I really don’t have much to say to you. Other than 1) go watch it, and 2) come back after to read this post. If you are caught up, then read on, because with just over two months to go, the time is right for some bold predictions.

1. Jon Is Resurrected by Melisandre

Carice van Houten as Melisandre – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Carice van Houten as Melisandre – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

The red witch’s arrival at Castle Black was no mere coincidence. She shows up at the gate a defeated and broken woman, questioning her faith in the Lord of Light. Very shortly after her arrival, Jon Snow is stabbed and left for dead. Jon is a man with royal blood (more on that below below), and she is drawn to that like a moth to a flame.

With or without royal blood, one thing we know about priests and priestess of the Lord of Light is that they can resurrect people—even if their own faith is broken. Recall Season 3 when Thoros of Myr tells Arya  how he has resurrected Beric Dondarrion multiple times. Melisandre looked down on Thoros, thinking him less of a worthwhile servant of the light, and wondered how he came to behold such power from their religion. Now it’s her turn. A broken woman with shaken faith comes in to save Jon Snow.

2. Jon Snow is Royalty

This is more of a long-term prediction, as we might not get around to this reveal until later in the series. But, with Jon now resurrected and free of this bond to the Night’s Watch (“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.”), his plotline opens up to the whole of Westeros. At some point his mother will be reveled, and my belief is that he’s the son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Eddard’s sister Lyanna Stark. I’m not the only one to think this one may be possible.

3. Daenerys Wins Over the Dothraki

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Let’s not speak about the unspeakable things that will probably happen to Dany as the Dothraki khalasar takes her captive. One thing that GoT is exceptionally good at is unspeakable crimes against humanity—especially against women. Yet here we are, in Season 6, hoping beyond hope that our favorite queen does not get harmed.

Regardless of what happens to her, the arc of her storyline seems to be about her conquering Essos piece by piece, in her quest to get back to Westeros.  After her capture, she’ll eventually win over this particular horde, uniting them and the cities of Slaver’s Bay under one rule: hers. A united Essos, plus a queen with dragons and designs on the iron throne means big battles in the next season.

4. Cersei Goes Berserk

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

And the start of Season 5 she was just an evil, power-hungry, scheming drunkard, by the end of it she was a broken woman with a glint in her eye that can only mean one thing: revenge. After her imprisonment and humiliation (shame… ding ding) Cersei’s world gets a lot smaller. Her uncle shows only contempt for her, her former sycophantic follower, Pycelle, returns the cold hatred she always showed him, and her son the king did nothing to save her. She still has to endure a trial at the hands of the High Sparrow, and to top it all off, Jamie returns with a dead Myrcella from what was supposed to be a rescue mission.

Her world, which previously revolved around power games and her children, has been stripped bare. There’s nothing left of her. She’ll go beyond simple cold-blooded revenge and sink deep into madness. A madness that will be executed by her new champion, the reincarnated Gregor Clegane and his creator, Qyburn. Look for Cersei to take it to a new level of insanity this season.

5. A Main Character Dies

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister and Conleth Hill as Varys – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister and Conleth Hill as Varys – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Bold! I’m only half-joking. Of course lots of main characters get offed throughout the seasons, and usually in the most shocking ways possible. It’s not really a matter of someone dying, it’s a matter of whom and how many. My lovely wife—who makes a great Daenerys—has made the bold prediction that none other than, Daenerys herself gets killed this season. That’s bold.

I’m of the belief that Varis meets his maker. Someone has to die in the Essos storyline, and I like Tyrion too much and can’t bring myself to predict his demise—which actually makes him far more likely a candidate. That leaves Missandei, Grey Worm, and Varis. We’re starting to like Varis, which means he’s as good as dead this season. Maybe Tyrion and Varis both get killed. Maybe they kill each other!

6. Littlefinger Gets Hunted

We’ve watched the full series through twice, and it’s amazing to see the intrigue and subterfuge that Petyr Baelish weaves throughout the whole story. He is the architect of nearly all the conflict. Without his doing, Jon Arryn would not have died, Eddard Stark would have stayed in Winterfell, and the War of the Five Kings would have never taken place. And that’s just the start of his scheming. We might already hate him for marrying Sansa Stark off to Ramsay Bolton, but my prediction is that he gets found out in the show as the schemer that he is, and hunted down.

Bonus Prediction: Legolas Tracks Down Daenerys

“Not idly do the leaves of Lorien fall.”

When Dany dropped her ring at the end of Season 6, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Sure, it worked for Pippin and Merry, but it took an elf to spot the leaf. I don’t see any elves around, so the only logical conclusion is that Legolas, Prince of the Woodland Realm, arrives on the scene to find the dropped ring, and join the search. And if Legolas is there, that must mean that Essos is the actually the Undying Lands! Look for Elrond on the Small Council in Season 7. You heard it here first.

Why your startup team should always be pitching

By Everything

Originally posted on the IBM Global Entrepreneur Blog on February 5, 2016.

Product. Team. Customers. Funding. The essential elements of a startup. But one more essential piece is missing: Pitch.

The Pitch is arguably the most important non-business piece of your startup. From your elevator pitch, to your public pitch, to your investor pitch, the more successful you are, the more integral these will become to your business and your life. Because of its importance, you should take absolutely every opportunity to pitch, especially in the early stages.

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The first and biggest benefit from the always pitching mindset is practice. Don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong, is the modus operandi of true professionals in every walk of life. This needs to be your motto. Living room pitch practice only takes you so far; get out in front of the public and practice your pitch.

Now that you’re out in the public, you’ll benefit from the next most important thing: feedback. The Lean startup methodology is build, measure, learn. When you have built something, whether mockups, a fully functioning product, or anything in between, pitching becomes a part of the measure stage, and the feedback you receive is part of learning. This accelerates the Lean process for your startup, and gets you closer to product-market-fit, faster. Listen closely to the questions, and aggregate the feedback across many pitches to find the common threads. Use this to iterate for your next pitch and your next build.

Another benefit of always pitching is that you get to show lines not dots. The winner of IBM Smartcamp Boulder, Lawbooth, went on to win the regional and semi-final rounds of Smartcamp because they could show lines–progress and traction across a longer timeframe. The judges in Boulder had seen them pitch many times, and because of this, specifically commented on their growth over the past year. Being out in the community, pitching your startup over and over, while showing growth shows grit and dedication–two things investors love to see.

You can perfect your pitch through IBM SmartCamp and there are plenty of opportunities to pitch in your community too. You can look for some of the more common ones such as 1 Million Cups, events at startup weeks, or pitch competitions at local co-working spaces. Galvanize Pitches & Pitchers is one such example.

IBM’s Smartcamp is one part pitch competition, networking opportunity and a chance at competing for a spot in an incubator with investment in thirty cities globally. The top ten companies from this year’s competition got invited to LAUNCH Scale in October, and are soon to attend LAUNCH Festival in March. Along the way they got personal pitch coaching from one of the top angel investors in the world, Jason Calacanis, and had the opportunity to present in front of thousands of people at both LAUNCH Scale and soon, LAUNCH Festival.

If you’re interested in perfecting your pitch through IBM SmartCamp, you can click here to learn more about the program and enter your email address to receive details about the 2016 IBM SmartCamp.