Venture Capital and Angel Resources

Raising funds for your start up or growth stage business is hard.  Here are some resources that could make it easier.

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Tools to Shop Your Deal and Submit to Funders

Gust.com (formerly Angel Soft) is often used to submit your deal so funders can more easily compare your company, share it with their partners, and get feedback to determine how to best fund you.

Angel List is one of the early public investment marketplaces.  You can call it crowd funding if you want.  Great feature: Angels who see an investment that they like can invite other angels to participate in a round.

Investor Associations

Most start ups and early stage companies will want to be aware of at least these associations and the resources they bring.

National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) is a great place to find Venture Capitalists.  They hold events where you can meet and greet potential funders.  And if you’re a member of the NVCA, you can access their online directory. (For entrepreneurs, this may mean finding a friendly VC who is willing to help you access the membership.)

Angel Capital Association (ACA) is an association of Angel groups around the country.  Unlike the NVCA, the ACA has a fully accessible list of its members, so entrepreneurs can browse to find groups that match.  Most of the groups are regional.

These websites can give you great stats to use for decision making and for pitching and give you great insights into how to better deal with VCs and Angels respectively.

Industry Data Resources

Want to know what’s going down in technology investing?  CrunchBase gives you a database of Venture Capitalists & Angels, investable companies and deals that have happened.  So you can see where you can go, who might be willing to do a deal with you, and comparable deals for your planning and your pitches.

AngelSearch and VCSearch comb government records to gather investment data, industry preferences and total stock positions of America’s wealthiest individuals and VCs – giving you access by simply entering your parameters.  Alas, it’s not free; but for a few bucks, you might be able to find ways to parlay your small investment into 6 or 7 figure investments by others.

From Their Own Mouths

Some Venture Capitalists and Angels share their views and data publicly on their own blogs and via Twitter.  Here are several where I have found intriguing and helpful information.

FeldThoughts - posts from Brad Feld, VC at the Foundry Group in Boulder Colorado.  I also follow his tweets.

AVC.com – posts from Fred Wilson, VC at Union Square Ventures in New York City.

GenuineVC – posts from David Beisel, VC at NextViewVentures in Boston.  David is a native of Upper St. Clair.

Local Sources – Pittsburgh

Here’s a short list; but there are a lot more resources in Pittsburgh that can be helpful.

Apps

VC Calendar from Fundingpost - This app lists VC, Angel Investor, and Entrepreneur events from around the world.

Your Favorites

Feel free to add your favorite resources as comments – whether they are from local sources or from around the globe.

And good luck getting the investment you deserve.

Phil Everly’s Death Likely to Spread His Music to a New Generation

Nora Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong recreate Everly Brothers' sound impeccably.

Nora Jones and Billy Joe Armstrong recreate Everly Brothers’ sound impeccably.

In mid-December, a song on the radio took my breath away, causing me to pull out Shazam to find out what it is and who is singing it.  It sounded remarkably like the Everly Brothers’ style, but was a male/female duet – fresh, clean, spectacular.  Turns out it was Billy Joe Armstrong and Nora Jones performing “Long Time Gone”, an Everly Brothers tune from an obscure 1958 Everly album called “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us”.

There are few songs these days that entice me to share them with friends and family; but Long Time Gone (here’s the Everly Brother’s version) was that good.

A few weeks later, with the sad news of Phil Everly’s death, I found out that the song was part of an entire album of Everly Brothers tunes that Armstrong and Jones did – The “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” album in its entirety, now named “Foreverly”.

The Everly Brothers influenced musicians from the Beatles to the Stones to Linda Ronstadt, Simon & Garfunkel and the Hollies – not to mention my daughters.  When they were young, I sang them rock & pop tunes at bed time – and Everly tunes were often among them.  ”All I Have to Do is Dream” is perhaps one of the top three daddy requests I got for many years.

With the Armstrong/Jones collaboration and Phil’s recent death and the news trail of both, I expect there to be renewed interest in the great catalog of songs by the Everly Brothers.  Just as they influenced the greats of the sixties and seventies, I expect their songs will again pop up on albums and playlists by singers of all genres throughout the rest of the decade – so our kids can enjoy the sounds that we knew in our youth.

Here’s a collection of songs put together by Rolling Stone so you can hear the Everly sound – and it’s amazing harmonies.

The Everly Brothers were among the first set of rockers inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Ranked in top 100 singers by Rolling Stone .

Here are a few of my favorite Everly Brothers tunes – all live performances posted on YouTube:

Crying in the Rain

Let It Be Me

All I Have to Do is Dream” followed by “Cathy’s Clown” (backed by Buddy Holly’s Crickets)  BTW, John Lennon says that Please Please Me was inspired by Cathy’s Clown.

And some covers:

“When Will I Be Loved” – Linda Ronstadt

“Wake Up Little Susie” – Simon & Garfunkel  (I love playing this on guitar.  Fun strum.)

 

Americans don’t trust Facebook & Google, but use them anyway

Children trust automatically.  For adults, it should be earned.

Children trust automatically. For adults, it should be earned.

 

There’s an old adage about doing business only with people you trust.  And frankly, whenever I have dealings with somebody who doesn’t earn my trust consistently, it turns out not-so-good.  You know — when you are not quite sure you trust the other person, but give them the benefit of the doubt.  It’s that queasy gut feeling that you ignore.

A recent study shows that most Americans don’t trust Facebook – yet its growth is astounding – even though it tops the list of untrusted.  Similarly, Google is not well trusted according to the same study.  Recently, I found out that Google keeps your credit card on file even after you cancel accounts that have your card (debit or credit) attached – such as AdWords.  I can’t say I’m worried that Google will misuse my card; my worry is more about having it in a database that can be hacked – an especially dangerous situation when it’s a credit card involved.  Oh, and by the way, in standard practice, if you have automatic payments set up with Google using one of your cards, you cannot remove the card from your account without replacing it with another card — even if you never intend to use that account again.  Can you say “Hostage”?  To get mine removed, I had to phone Google and have my case sent up for special consideration.  Good news: the card was attached to one of the few services for which Google provides human support.  If it was attached to Google Voice or most of the other services, there’d be no way to reach somebody to get it fixed.

I don’t want to be paranoid or make you feel paranoid – but you need to protect yourself.  They won’t protect you.  Read more about it in this Washington Post article.

Americans don't trust Facebook or Google according to this Washington Post article.

Americans don’t trust Facebook or Google according to this Washington Post article.

2013 Christmas Gift Ideas

Still looking for a gift that stands out from the crowd? Here are a few ideas that will likely be appreciated by your recipient:

A Klingg (not a Klingon)

Will keeping your earbud cord in place help you look like this?  I doubt it.  But it will be more comfortable.

Will keeping your earbud cord in place help you look like this? I doubt it. But it will be more comfortable.

Perhaps you want to buy something thoughtful for somebody who is active – you know, a runner who loves to go out with their iPod and submerse themselves as they run – or a biker. When I first started biking with earbuds, I found it difficult. Every time I moved my head, either the cord pulled uncomfortably; or it would come out of one of my ears. Not fun.

A Klingg is a magnetic cord holder – two super magnets that keep your cord where you want it. Put the flat one inside your shirt; then snap the one with the cord channel on the outside of your shirt so it clings to your shirt by the strength of two magnets mating. Then slide the cord into the channel – with plenty of slack near your head so you have room to move.

That’s it. Your cord will no longer get in your way.

Electronics Disguised as Fashion

Not just a pretty bow on your pretty girl.  They're headphones in disguise.  Jersey Shore fashion statements.

Not just a pretty bow on your pretty girl. They’re headphones in disguise. Jersey Shore fashion statements.

Most electronics are geeky – and when you wear it near your head, it’s the ultimate in geekdom. Unless, of course, you turn it into fashion. Who better than to convey fashion for the latest MTV generation, but Snooki from Jersey Shore. She has put together a line of fashionable phone wear that looks like zebra and leopard skin. My daughter loves her Snooki zebra earbuds. I don’t even know if they sound good. They might; but as long as they look good, that’s all that matters. The photo you see shows Snooki’s headphones – making believe they are a ribbon/headband. Again, they may sound great or not – but it won’t matter if they make the wearer look great.

Alone Together

When Dave Mason swirled colors into his classic Alone Together album, he never considered how alone together streaming electronics would make the world.

When Dave Mason swirled colors into his classic Alone Together album, he never considered how alone together streaming electronics would make the world.

This one took me some time to understand why it’s cool — The Mobile Junkie Media Streamer. It’s a device the size of an Altoids box. Place your movie on a USB thumb drive or SD card; then connect it to your Media Streamer. You’re now ready to stream that movie to up to four devices.

“Why?”, you ask. Imagine being able to go on a long car trip – and let each of your children watch the movie on their own device. One child can use your tablet, another your smart phone, and the third can use his own iPod Touch. You can watch on your PC or Mac, while your spouse gets to do all the driving. (You are so mean!)

Computer Buying – Holiday style

 

 

Buying a Computer - 2013 holiday style

It’s time to buy that computer as a gift – again.

 

As tablets continue their upward trend, many people are switching away from their traditional computers – but in many cases a traditional computer, whether laptop or desktop, is still the right choice.  Here are some things you ought to consider this year.

Form Factor

While tablets are really light and travel well, in their standard state, they are not good workhorses for heavy duty writing (word-processing) or big data manipulation (complex spreadsheets).  Yes; they can be used effectively; but in most instances, if you’re in a production mode, desktops or traditional laptops will be faster and easier to use – with their more ergonomic keyboards, multitasking, and external mice.  Tablets are great for portability, connectivity, and doing tasks that are not heavily production oriented.

No Guts No Glory – NOT

It used to be that you would measure how fast a computer can run by the speed of its CPU; but that’s no longer the case.  Now the Intel line is generally split into i3, i5 and i7 models, but having the i7 doesn’t always translate into faster work output than the i5, and respectively the i3.  They are different technologies.  For instance, the i7 has four cores (which you can think of as 4 computers in a single chip), and the i3 has two.  So if your application can take advantage of four cores, it will run much faster.  Think graphics and engineering applications among this group.  But your email software and your web browser typically can’t take advantage of all those cores.  If that’s all you do, you don’t need an i7.

Memory – The Forgotten Hardware

The latest operating systems from Microsoft (Windows 8) and Apple (OS X Mavericks) can take advantage of much more memory than previous operating systems – so having large memories can have even more of an impact than previously.  The operative term is “addressable memory”.  You can have lots of memory on your system; but if it’s not all addressable, it’s wasted expense.  For instance, while earlier versions of Windows were limited to 4 GB of addressable memory (or even 2), Windows 8 can address a whopping 128 GB to 512GB depending on the version.  Mac notebooks will address 8GB to 16GB, while the desktops will max out at 16GB to 64GB.  (Don’t use this to compare Mac to PC; they use memory differently.)

In general more memory makes your computer faster because it decreases the amount of movement of data between your computer’s CPU and your disk.  So a rule of thumb is more is better if you can afford it – but only up to a point.

SSD Comes of Age

One of the most marvelous technologies to come to mainstream computers in recent years are SSDs or solid state disks.  In essence, these are storage devices, like your hard disk drive, that have a technology factor much like the cards you put into your camera or phone or like your computer’s main memory.  They are much faster than normal hard disk drives, use a lot less power, and are less prone to breakage.  Prices have come down a lot in the past few years, but they’re still extremely expensive.  A 256GB SSD may cost you the same amount as a 1,000GB (a.k.a. 1 TB) hard drive.  The differences are even great on larger SSDs.

The rule of thumb here is if fast is much more important to you than cheap, SSD is preferred.  But you’ll likely need to make a trade-off.  When I was recently pricing out a Mac configuration, it was 60% more expensive with an SSD than with a traditional hard drive.  Lots of factors affect the price.

Lifetime Factor

As always, I mentor you to buy for today, and NOT buy for the future.  Products will change dramatically over the next few years.  So while your computer might last you five years, you might find an innovation in two that makes whatever you purchase seem obsolete.  Don’t worry about.  Ride the wave.  Unless you break it, your computer will still be usable.  It just won’t feel as shiny and new.

Other Buying

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been helping you with your holiday tech shopping for 13 years already.  This year, I’m also helping with other buying – in a way that also helps local groups (such as PTAs, schools, fire departments, and youth activities) raise money through a concept called “Effortless Fundraisers”.  Please consider buying some holiday gifts through your favorite group store using the lookup widget below.  You’ll find cool, useful products, and in many cases, will get FREE SHIPPING.  Thanks – from me and your favorite group.  Here’s the widget:

 

The Best Feature of Apple’s iOS 7 iPhone Upgrade

My favorite screen in Apple's iOS 7 - ugly, but beautiful

My favorite screen in Apple’s iOS 7 – ugly, but beautiful

 

Apple has done a good job of providing “new phones” with some operating system upgrades. iOS 7 is a very different experience than anything that came before – and it’s available all the way back to iPhone 4.  (See my column in TEQ for upgrade tips and how the upgrade differs based on which iPhone model you own.)

With all the changes over iOS 6, this ugly grey screen is my favorite.  It puts the things I want most at my easiest disposal.

Those four icons on the bottom are Flashlight (a new feature that helps me get rid of my separate flashlight app), clock (great access to the timer, stopwatch and alarm), calculator (always needed at short notice), and camera.

There are two at the top that make all the difference – Airplane mode (far left) and Bluetooth.

And the reason this screen – especially those icons are so useful: Because it’s available from anywhere on your iPhone – even before you unlock it.  Simply swipe your finger from the bottom edge of the screen up toward the top to pull up these controls putting them immediately at your fingers.

What a great way to turn on/off your wireless head phones!  Or access your timer when you’re getting ready to practice a presentation – or your calculator when you need to verify formulas you’re working on with colleagues..

 

 

What a difference a Century Makes

Red Sox celebrations in 1903 and 2013

Red Sox celebrate World Series victories in 1903 (against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Huntington Field Boston) and in 2013 (against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park).

Thrival Festival a Success; Bobby Z “Gets” Customer Support

Thrival LogoThis weekend’s Thrival Festival, conducted by Thrill Mill was excellent.  The investor pitches that happened at Google’s Pittsburgh Office in Bakery Square were among the most polished pitches I’ve seen.  Then the evening’s music festival across the street was hopping.

Early in the evening, I mentioned to Bobby Zappala (co-founder of Thrill Mill and organizer of the Thrival event) that I was not able to grab my ticket online because ShowClix had had shut down ticketing already – and his reaction demonstrated customer service at its finest: he reached into his pocket and pulled out a $20 bill (the cost of admission), handed it to me, and said. ”Use this.  I’ll get it back later from the person at the gate.”

Now I understand why his portfolio companies looked so good in the afternoon and why the event went so well.  His reaction showed class, quick thinking, and an attitude that doesn’t hesitate to put the customer first.

 

Modcloth – Model of Tomorrow (and Yesterday)

The ModCloth fulfillment center in Pittsburgh - efficiency like the old Pittsburgh; growth in California style.

The ModCloth fulfillment center in Pittsburgh – efficiency like the old Pittsburgh; growth in California style.

 

I had the chance last week to visit the Modcloth fulfillment center – and boy was I shocked. (“Impressed” would work too – and be an equal descriptor).

I’ve heard for a few years about how the company was growing on the strength of retro styled clothing (hence the yesterday) – and that they have kept a foot in Pittsburgh while growing here and in California.  My college-aged daughter and her friends drool over their fashions – and at least one has based her entire wardrobe on Modcloth purchases.

So when I traveled into my old neighborhood and found a grand fulfillment center and offices a mile away from the condo I used to own, my eyes got wide.

It didn’t take me long to realize the Modcloth team has its act together.  Alex Kyyashko (senior industrial engineer) and Aire Plichta (fashion press specialist) showed me around the fulfillment center and let me ask questions ranging from the usual business stuff to the more arcane operational questions – and demonstrated that the company has a focus on efficiency in the present and an eye for the future – even though they’ve made a reputation with clothes reminiscent of the past.

Udi Nir, the company’s chief technology officer, spoke of vision – not of technology, making it clear that the company uses technology as a tool to serve its markets.  Unlike many CTOs, he’s interested in relationships – in his markets and in the communities his company serves.

Despite the growth, the company seems to have maintained its start-up atmosphere, with lots of the perks you see in Silicon Valley and its own distinct Modcloth style.

 

 

Blackberry Camera Has Feature Whose Time Shift Has Arrived

Blackberry Z10 TimeShift

Group photo time!  Get everybody together – ready? Smile…>>click<< “Ah Dad! You got me with my eyes closed!”

Sound familiar?  If so, you’ll be interested in a cool feature in the Blackberry Z10 called “Time Shift”.  With time shift, you can take a photo of a group; then adjust the photo so you catch everybody just when they looked the best – even though they’re all in the same photo?  As the name suggests, it’s as if you are able to time shift a few seconds for each person in the photo.

Here’s how it works:

  1. First, put your Blackberry Z10 camera into Time Shift mode (as opposed to still photo or movie modes).
  2. Then aim at your subjects like you normally would – then take the picture by touching the screen.

So far it’s all familiar; right?  Until you want to time shift…

For the next step, select the face that looks not quite the way you want.  Time shift mode will pop up a circle with a control that you can drag left and and right.  As you drag it left, it steps back in time to the few seconds before you snapped the photo – or right to go forward in time.

Now you can get the perfect look on the face you’ve chosen and keep that look in the picture – instead of the one that was showing when you snapped the photo.  Do the same thing for subsequent faces until they all are perfect.

This is a truly remarkable feature that could change the way you take your photos.  In essence, it is taking pictures even before and after you snap the shutter, and lets you edit in place right after you take it.

No more closed eyes, runny noses or turned heads.  Everybody is happy because you don’t have to choose the pose in which one person was ready but the other was not.  Why didn’t somebody think of this years ago?

David

The scoop:  I was testing the Blackberry Z10 on VerizonWireless Network.