Tag: Cotter Cunningham

Fourteen Startups Pitch at UT Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Mark Cuban with the Longhorn Startup team of Pinecone

Mark Cuban with the Longhorn Startup team of Pinecone

Founder of Silicon Hills News

The fifth Longhorn Startup Demo Day at the University of Texas drew the largest crowd ever.
Close to 1,000 people registered to attend the event and most of them showed up despite the cold front and blustery weather that blew into Austin on Thursday.
The evening featured two accomplished entrepreneurs, Cotter Cunningham, founder of RetailMeNot and Mark Cuban, co-founder of Broadcast.com. The evening also spotlighted pitches from 14 student run startups.
Cunningham with RetailMeNot.com, the world’s largest online coupon site, kicked off the evening with a talk about his entrepreneurial hits and misses and lessons he has learned.
At 46, Cunningham left his job as COO of Bankrate in Palm Beach and founded Divorce360.com. He invested $1 million and raised another $1 million from Austin Ventures. The site failed but Cunningham learned from the experience. He founded a new company in Austin, which came to be known as RetailMeNot.
Following Cunningham’s talk, 14 undergraduate teams pitched their ventures.
This class had the most diversity of any Longhorn Startup class, said Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT and one of the instructors. It featured a hardware startup – a 3D Printing service: Sinigma, a medical device maker: Austin Thermal, a battery charger embedded in a shoe: Everywhere Energy, mobile apps and some websites, he said.
“What always amazes me is how much the presentations improve in the last two days,” Metcalfe said. “It has happened all five times.”
“We had lots of great companies,” said Joshua Baer, instructor with Longhorn Startup, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory.
Baer and Metcalfe teach the class along with Ben Dyer, founder of Peachtree Software and now Entrepreneur in Residence at UT. Dozens of mentors in the Austin startup community also volunteer to help the students.
This time, the pitches featured four biomedical companies and a partnership with the Texas Medical Accelerator, Baer said.

Mark Cuban with the MicroMulsion team

Mark Cuban with the MicroMulsion team

The students gave great pitches, which impressed Cuban, who said he would consider investing in half of them.
Baer had a favorite too. He liked MSpaces, a hospitality startup that signs long term leases for apartments in Austin in desirable locations. Then MSpaces furnishes them with second-hand furniture and local artwork, and then posts them on AirBnB as short-term corporate and vacation rentals.
Hunter Monk, the company’s founder, said it’s seeking to be like “Uber for AirBnB.” He rents the apartments out at competitive rates from $60 to $139. His apartments generate $10,000 in revenue monthly and $3,600 in profits, Monk said. He’s essentially running a hotel business without having to own any brick and mortar buildings.
Another company, Suit of Clubs, a management platform for student organizations, has merged with InterviewStreet, a Y-Combinator company, said Siya Raj Purohit, its founder. She has taken the class twice. She graduates Friday with a double major in computer engineering and economics. She plans to work with InterviewStreet for a few months and then she’ll join Udacity, an education and technology startup based in Mountain View.
“I have always liked business,” Purohit said. “But this class solidified that. This class has had the greatest impact on my educational experience here. “
Siya Raj Purohit, founder of Suit of Clubs

Siya Raj Purohit, founder of Suit of Clubs

The best part was learning directly from successful entrepreneurs, she said.
“Every week we got to hear from a different entrepreneur,” she said. The professors, Metcalfe, Baer and Dyer, also shared their experiences and provided excellent advice, she said.
The team behind BluSense, an networking app that maps attendees at a convention, also took the class last semester. The startups can take the class again to further develop their ideas, which often results in a pivot or change of course. Last semester, Forrest Dukes with BluSense pitched a wristband with built-in sensors to allow people to network at conferences. Now the device is an app.
Following the event, Cuban visited with many of the startups. He stayed until after 11 p.m. to give them advice. He also took pictures with each team. And he even met the team behind The Zebra, a car insurance aggregation site, which Cuban has invested in but he had not met the team until Thursday night.
In a brief interview, he praised programs like Longhorn Startup and said that anytime startups can get advice from experienced entrepreneurs it’s a good program.
Asked about his failures, Cuban said he had a lot. He tried to market powdered milk. He ran a bar, which went out of business in college.
When asked if Dancing with the Stars was a failure, Cuban said absolutely not.
“That’s hard work,” he said.
Cuban and his professional dancing partner, Kym Johnson, got eliminated from Dancing with the Stars during its fifth season in 2007. Cuban, who is highly competitive, did not like to lose.
The Austin Thermal team of Zi-on Cheung, Ashvin Bashyam and Emmanuel Nunez (photo courtesy of Austin Thermal)

The Austin Thermal team of Zi-on Cheung, Ashvin Bashyam and Emmanuel Nunez (photo courtesy of Austin Thermal)

Following the pitches at Longhorn Startup Demo Day, one of the first startups Cuban spoke with was the three-person medical device team of Austin Thermal made up of Ashvin Bashyam, Emmanuel Nunez and Zi-on Cheung. They created Hot IV, a medical device that warms intravenous fluid before it is injected it into the body. Hot IV is targeted at hypothermia recovery and prevention, Bashyam said. Their initial market is trauma victims and the military, he said. They already have a working alpha prototype, intellectual property, and Food and Drug Administration clearance on a previous version of the device. Cuban liked the idea and told them to email him.
Cuban also met with MicroMulsion, which is creating micro gels for cell cultures. The product has lots of applications in biomedical research, said Anirudh Sharma, one of the four-team members. They all wore white lab coats.
“He wants to give us money,” Sharma said. “We weren’t expecting this. We don’t even have business cards.”
The company, like a few others, doesn’t even have a website yet.
Cuban spent a lot of time answering questions from the Pinecone team. They developed project management software for onboarding new employees.
“It’s a good idea,” Cuban said. “But you’ve got to find that sweet spot.”
One member of the team asked Cuban if he had heard of other startups with the same idea.
“I don’t know of any but I haven’t researched it,” he said.
Selling the product to small businesses to integrate their applications is a huge market but it’s a grind, Cuban said.

The other startups pitching included:

Everywhere Energy – a battery charger embedded in the sole of a shoe – sole charger that can provide up to two hours of charging energy for a cell phone or other device.

Sinigma – a 3-D printing service that can print in five different colors targeted at consumers.

UpNext – a mobile app to replace pagers in restaurants. The idea is to give the user more flexibility on long waits.

Basedrive – onsite data storage for businesses.

Recommenu – a mobile app that provides restaurants with feedback on their food.

SocialToast – a mobile app to help people find their friends at bars.

Aurality Studios – a software program for disabled people to interact with everyday technologies.

DayOf – a mobile app that curates daily events.

Persistence and Confidence Key to RetailMeNot’s Cotter Cunningham’s Success

Founder of Silicon Hills News

IMG_1723It’s not a good idea to quit a good job and launch a divorce startup while happily married, said Cotter Cunningham.
“The day you quit your job to go home and tell your wife you’re starting a divorce site is not the best day of your life,” Cunningham said.
At 46, Cunningham left his job as the COO of Bankrate in Palm Beach and wrote a $1 million check to launch Divorce360.com. He also raised $1 million from Austin Ventures. The investment was a good chunk of his net worth.
“It failed miserably,” Cunningham said.
The first year, the startup spent $400,000 and made $19, Cunningham said. The second year, it spent $1.5 million and made $300,000, he said.
“I feel like we failed because of the business model,” he said.
Cunningham recounted his entrepreneurial journey Tuesday evening during an interview with Brett Hurt, co-founder of Bazaarvoice and entrepreneur in residence at UT during a talk sponsored by the Herb Kelleher Center for Entrepreneurship at UT.
Today, Cunningham is the founder, president and CEO of RetailMeNot, the world’s largest online coupon and deals marketplace. The company, founded in 2009, has 300 employees with its headquarters in Austin and offices in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. The company has raised approximately $300 million from investors including Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, JP Morgan and Google Ventures.
Hurt asked Cunningham how he became an entrepreneur. Cunningham and his brother grew up in Helena, Arkansas and later Memphis, after his parents divorced. His dad was speaker of the house in Arkansas and liked to debate politics around the dinner table. Cunningham liked growing up in a small town where everyone knew his name and the kids had a lot of freedom.
“I was driving at 14,” he said. “My dad threw me the keys and said have fun.”
When Hurt asked Cunningham what advice he would give to students, Cunningham advised them to be confident and persistent.
“I think to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to have a strong amount of confidence in yourself, bordering on arrogance,” Cunningham said. “Persistence has worked for me. It was not something I was born with. I had to develop it as a skill.”
Cunningham said he didn’t have a great academic record. When he graduated from Memphis State, he landed a $14,000 a year job working for Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. He then went on to get his MBA from Vanderbilt University.
“I have always persisted,” Cunningham said. “I didn’t give up.”
That’s where passion comes into play, Hurt said. It drives entrepreneurs to keep going in the face of adversity.
“You almost can’t be persistent if you don’t like what you do,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham joked that he was the antithesis of Hurt, who he joked grew up with an entrepreneurial pacifier from birth.
After Divorce360 failed, Cunningham moved to Austin with his family and worked with Austin Ventures to start something new. He met a guy at a cocktail party who was going through a divorce and he found out he owned an online coupon site. The site generated $3 million a year in revenue.
“It was insanely profitable,” Cunningham said.
That sparked him to start Whale Shark Media, later renamed RetailMeNot. With the backing of Austin Ventures, Cunningham cold-called 100 online coupon sites. He interviewed 60 of them. He ended up buying three of them. Together, they had $10 million in revenue. He hired 30 people. He found out that RetailMeNot, the biggest competitor, based in Melbourne, Australia, was for sale. He got on a plane a few days later and flew to Australia to meet with the founders.
“We pursued them for nine months,” he said.
Part of the courtship involved eating kangaroo meat, something that Cunningham did not enjoy. But it helped him close the deal.
The lesson for the students, said Hurt, is that to be successful, “you have to eat kangaroo meat.”
Through all of the acquisitions, RetailMeNot has been able to maintain its corporate culture by treating employees the right way, Cunningham said. It got 60 employees through the acquisitions.
“We believe people work hard for us, so we need to work hard for them,” he said.

Mark Cuban and Cotter Cunningham to Speak at Longhorn Startup Lab

markcubanLonghorn Startup Lab started out two years ago as a way to jump start undergraduate entrepreneurs at the University of Texas at Austin.
The program run by Bob Metcalfe, UT professor of innovation, and Joshua Baer, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory, has graduated four classes so far. Ben Dyer, entrepreneur in residence at UT, officially joined the class this semester, but he has been helping out since its inception.
During the semester, undergraduate students create business plans, assemble teams and launch startup companies. They work with a group of seasoned veteran entrepreneurs who volunteer as mentors. Some even land financing at the end of the program from angel investors or venture capitalists. Many of the student-run companies are still operating today including Lynx Laboratories, which created 3-D imaging software, Clay.io, a platform for HTML5 games and Burpy.com, a grocery delivery service.
The fifth class, featuring 14 undergraduate startups, showcase their ventures at Longhorn Startup Lab Demo Day on December 5th. Each team will give a six minute pitch.
cottercunninghamAnd this Demo Day will have two all-star entrepreneur speakers. Mark Cuban, founder of Broadcast.com and Dallas Mavericks owner and Cotter Cunningham, founder of RetailMeNot, the world’s largest online coupon and deal marketplace, will give keynote addresses at the event.
Baer officially announced the speakers on a Facebook post Sunday evening.
Metcalfe also announced the speakers on Twitter.

Previous speakers have included Metcalfe, Baer, James Truchard, who co-founded National Instruments in 1976 while a graduate student at UT and Rony Kahan, co-founder of Indeed.com.
The event is open to the public and already hundreds of people have signed up to attend.

Disclosure: Burpy.com is an advertiser with SiliconHillsNews.com

RetailMeNot.com launches new mobile coupon site

WhaleShark Media’s RetailMeNot.com, online coupon site, announced the launch of its new mobile site.
The new site provides coupons and other deals to Apple iPhone and Android mobile phone users worldwide. It also provides exclusive in-store mobile deals from retailers who want to reach customers on their mobile devices.
“In 2011, we experienced triple digit year-over-year growth of visits to RetailMeNot.com via a handheld device, which is why we made substantial investments in developing our mobile product capabilities over the past six months,” said Cotter Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer of WhaleShark Media, Inc., the operator of RetailMeNot.com, said in a news release.
The new site makes it easier to search for and redeem coupons using a mobile phone at a store.

WhaleShark Media seeks to dominate the deal industry

CEO and Founder of WhaleShark Media Cotter Cunningham

By Eoghan McCloskey
Special Contributor to Silicon Hills News

The popularity and success of daily deal sites such as Groupon and Living Social have created opportunities for others like WhaleShark Media.
The Austin-based startup connects consumers with multiple daily deal and coupon services like Deals.com and CouponShare.com as well as deal sites outside of the U.S. like Gutschein-Codes.de.
Founded in 2010, WhaleShark Media has received $300 million from several venture capital firms including Austin Ventures, Google Ventures, and Institutional Venture Partners. In less than two years, WhaleShark Media has evolved into a profitable and quickly growing company, generating 30 percent growth in site traffic and 50 percent revenue growth. WhaleShark Media’s rapid growth stems, in part, from a series of major acquisitions of other coupon vendors, most importantly RetailMeNot.com, the single largest online coupon site in the world, and VoucherCodes.co.uk, the UK’s top online deal site.
WhaleShark makes money from advertising on its sites from more than 300 million visits to its web properties, said Brian Hoyt, WhaleShark Media’s communications director. It also makes a small commission off thousands of retailers whose offers the company helps merchandise and facilitate sales for via the coupons and deals clicked on its site, he said.
“This relationship goes beyond big box retailers and includes thousands of other large and midsize merchants,” Hoyt said.
Last year, WhaleShark Media made more than $70 million in revenue as part of the $1.7 billion in sales generated for its merchant clients.

WhaleShark's workplace

WhaleShark Media’s workplace just south of downtown Austin on Congress Avenue is vibrant, laidback and youthful. Employees get a budget to decorate work areas with art, most employees dress casually and CEO Cotter Cunningham occupies a modest desk in a corner of the common work area, a symbolic reflection of his personality and the company’s philosophy. Cunningham’s personality and his success as an executive ultimately helped investment firm Austin Ventures decide to back the company. Cunningham previously served as CEO in residence at Austin Ventures, founder and CEO of Smallponds and Chief Operating Officer of Bankrate Inc.
“We originally invested in WhaleShark because of the enormous potential for growth we thought was there, as well as the ability to innovate within the online coupon and deals space,” said Austin Ventures Partner Thomas Ball. “We also had a relationship with Cotter, who we believe is a great executive.“
Jules Maltz, General Partner at Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), reflected Ball’s view.
“IVP looks to back premier late-stage companies and management teams,” said Maltz. “WhaleShark is the leading online coupon company with strong profitability and tremendous growth potential. We’re excited to back Cotter and help WhaleShark continue to expand.”
WhaleShark Media is also focused on hiring technology talent locally and worldwide to fuel its expansion, Hoyt said. The company has 170 employees worldwide, including 120 in the U.S., with most of them based in Austin. Last week, it announced that Matt Howitt would join the company as vice president of engineering.
“We recognize there is a limited talent pool in Austin and we want to keep them in Austin,” Hoyt said.
WhaleShark Media plans to hire another 50 people this year, he said. The company is also taking over another floor at its downtown headquarters. It currently occupies the seventh floor at 301 Congress and it’s expanding to the eighth floor.
Late last year, WhaleShark Media received $150 million in venture capital, which it plans to use to increase its market share in the retail deal industry. The company plans a series of product innovations and is concentrating on expanding its presence in the mobile coupon and deal market, Hoyt said.
“We’re looking at growth inside the U.S. and Europe,” Hoyt said. “We’re also looking at the Asia market.”
WhaleShark Media doesn’t have any short term plans to go public, Hoyt said.
“Right now we’re focused on building our business.”

© 2024 SiliconHills

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑