Tag: entrepreneurs

Chris Burney with the San Antonio Angel Network Discusses Angel Investing on Ideas to Invoices

By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

Chris Burney, Executive Director of the San Antonio Angel Network, courtesy photo.

San Antonio has always had angel investors but it hasn’t had a formal network for a while, but a year ago that changed with the formation of the San Antonio Angel Network.

“A group of local investors, visionaries, entrepreneurs got together and hatched the idea that San Antonio really needed an angel network to help with all the growth we are experiencing in our startup ecosystem and beyond,” said Chris Burney, executive director of the San Antonio Angel Network.

Previously, Burney worked as a manager and senior financial analyst for Rackspace, the San Antonio-based Web hosting company.

As the head of the San Antonio Angel Network, Burney evaluates deals, recruits new members and runs the organization, which is based in the RealCo Seed Fund Program offices at Geekdom in downtown San Antonio.

On this episode of Ideas to Invoices, Burney discusses angel investing in San Antonio and the details of the deals the San Antonio Angel Network looks for when evaluating a startup.

The San Antonio Angel Network’s 75 members consist of accredited investors or wealthy individuals, ranging from large family offices, successful entrepreneurs, business owners, doctors, accountants, and lawyers.

“The diversity of our network is one of its strengths,” Burney said.

The San Antonio Angel Network, a nonprofit organization, is still accepting members but plans to cap membership at 100. Individual members pay $1,800 and corporate members pay $2,500 a year.

“Those dues just really help us be sustainable,” he said.

The San Antonio Angel Network uses a pooled investment vehicle that allows angels to invest a smaller amount in lots of deals, Burney said. That allows them to write checks in a startup for as low as $5,000, he said.

“Angel deals are inherently risky even with the best due diligence and best entrepreneurs,” he said. “We expect a high rate of failure. But we also expect a high rate of return for our investors.”

Every six to eight weeks, the San Antonio Angel Network hosts pitch events with two or three startups pitching to investors. Entrepreneurs can apply directly on the San Antonio Angel Network website. It reviews applications on a rolling basis and it doesn’t require a fee to apply, Burnet said.

“We have no geographic limitations on the companies we will fund, or invest in,” Burnet said.

The San Antonio Angel Network has invested in three San Antonio startups and one in Austin so far. Its first deal was in HelpSocial, a social media software systems startup spun out of Rackspace and founded by Matt Wilbanks. The second investment was in Parlevel Systems, which is inventing new vending machine technology, and the third one was Dauber, a dump truck logistics, and technology company. And its Austin investment is Localeur, based in Austin, which is an app that provides recommendations from locals headed up by Joah Spearman.

“Almost every major city with a thriving startup ecosystem in the state has an angel network helping support the entrepreneurs,” Burney said. “San Antonio did not have that until we came around. We know for a fact that we were missing deals and that companies were either not getting funding or moving elsewhere because of the lack of investment resources here.”

The San Antonio Angel Network is part of the Alliance of Texas Angel Networks, comprised of 13 angel groups across Texas. Last May at the Hotel Emma at the Pearl, the San Antonio Angel Network hosted the annual summit of the Alliance of Texas Angel Networks with more than 100 investors from all the groups to discuss best practices and angel investing across the state.

The San Antonio Angel Network tries to be a very friendly entrepreneurial network, Burney said. It tries to get the application and due diligence process down to weeks, instead of months and to get the entrepreneurs that meet its criteria in front of its investors as quickly as possible, he said.

The San Antonio Angel Network will look at any deal with a scalable business model that will provide a good return to its investors, Burney said.

For more on the San Antonio Angel Network, listen to the entire podcast and please subscribe, rate and review Ideas to Invoices on iTunes. And support the podcast on Patreon for exclusive content only available to subscribers.

NaturallyCurly CoFounder Michelle Breyer Created a Curl Empire in Austin


By LAURA LOREK
Publisher and Reporter with Silicon Hills
Host of Ideas to Invoices

As a business reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, Michelle Breyer launched a website geared to girls with curls.

At a party with friends and colleagues, Breyer complained about the lack of hairstyles and products for women with curly hair. At the suggestion of a colleague to start her own website, she decided right then and there to get on a computer to search for information about products and services for women with texture in their hair. She couldn’t find much. That led her to launch NaturallyCurly in Austin with Gretchen Heber, a colleague at the paper in 1998.

“There was such a void of information for people with curly hair,” Breyer said. But people with texture in their hair make up 40 percent of the overall population, she said. They were being largely ignored by the hair care marketplace.

NaturallyCurly started as a hobby and a passion project.

But they listened to their community and they added products and services and content tailored directly to that community from audience feedback.

They never thought it would evolve into a big business. Initially they sold t-shirts to support the business. They created their first real business plan when they went out to raise money.

“If we had created a business plan too early, we may have limited ourselves,” Breyer said.

NaturallyCurly created the first eCommerce site targeted at women with curly hair, called CurlMart. They filled packages out of Gretchen’s house. They financed the site out of their own bank accounts.

They also had amazing mentors like Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers, who served as the company’s early adviser.

In 2005, NaturallyCurly was making $250,000 a year. Breyer was working 40 hours a week on NaturallyCurly and she was working full time. She quit her newspaper job and plunged full time into entrepreneurship.

But it didn’t go exactly as planned.

The week after she left the newspaper, they lost their biggest advertiser and she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. But in even those bleakest moments, she didn’t give up. A week later, NaturallyCurly landed Paul Mitchell as an advertiser, led by Austin Billionaire John Paul DeJoria.

“Things just worked out because they had to work out,” Breyer said. “You can make things happen if you have to make things happen.”

NaturallyCurly raised $600,000 in seed stage funding and was the first investment from angels in the Central Texas Angel Network. They used the funds to bring on Crista Bailey as the company’s head of marketing. She eventually became Chief Executive Officer. They also used the money to hire a developer and a public relations firm.

“I know what I know and I know what I don’t know,” Breyer said. “I wanted to have people who really were much more knowledgeable in certain areas. As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be constantly re-engineering yourself and finding your value. Your value is not just that you started the company. At some point, it’s got to be where do you fit in. You’ve got to be best at what you do even more so as the company grows.”

NaturallyCurly ended up raising another $250,000 a couple years later when it launched its stylist site geared to stylist reviews. That venture also allowed it to forge a partnership with Modern Salon.

At first, people didn’t take NaturallyCurly seriously. But then they started getting invited to special shows and industry events. They became the leader in the texture hair industry and they still are, Breyer said.

Content and community are everything for NaturallyCurly, Breyer said.

“You can never lose sight of that community,” she said. “They are the core.”
Walmart does a campaign on NaturallyCurly because they know that community is engaged, Breyer said.

NaturallyCurly raised its third round, $1.2 million, that allowed them to develop a mobile app and those funds took them to a level where it became an acquisition target.

In September of 2015, Ultra/Standard, a multicultural hair care and beauty distribution company based in New York, acquired TextureMedia.

Today, TextureMedia has 40 employees and 100 contributors. It reaches about 26 million a month through all its websites and social media channels, Breyer said. It expects to grow 15 percent this year, she said. Its brands include NaturallyCurly, CurlyNikki, CurlMart and CurlStylists. It also launched TextureTrends in 2010 to provide hair care brands with consumer insights on hair care and style trends and behaviors.

“We created this market and now we have a lot of competitors,” Breyer said.
Startups as they grow must retain their entrepreneurial spirit, their flexibility and nimbleness and their entrepreneurial sense of urgency, Breyer said.

“You cannot be complacent,” Breyer said. “You have to constantly be re-innovating and bringing people in to help you.”

Editor’s note: Michelle Breyer was the first entrepreneur interviewed to kick off Silicon Hills News’ Ideas to Invoices Podcast. She provides a lot more insights into how she built NaturallyCurly in the podcast. Please listen to the interview or go to iTunes to subscribe to our weekly podcast. Please also rate and review the podcast on iTunes. We will soon be launching on Soundcloud, Stitcher and other podcasting platforms.

Cafe Commerce Officially Launches in San Antonio

Entrepreneurs and small businesses now have a new resource to get help in San Antonio.

Café Commerce, operated by Accion Texas with funding from the city, officially opened Monday at the central library downtown.

Peter French, founder of FreeFlow Research, serves as president of Café Commerce.

Photos courtesy of Accion Texas and Cafe Commerce

Photos courtesy of Accion Texas and Cafe Commerce

Small businesses contribute three quarters of the new jobs to the city, Mayor Julian Castro said at a press conference broadcast online by NowcastSA.

“It’s an exciting journey we’re going to go on,” French said.

On July 9th, Café Commerce will launch One Million Cups San Antonio, a nationally licensed program developed by the Kauffman Foundation of Kansas. The program allows two local entrepreneurs pitch their startups each week to a diverse audience of mentors, advisors, and entrepreneurs. Each pitch is six minutes long followed by 20 minutes of feedback and Q&A. Codeup, a Geekdom-based startup founded by Michael Girdley teaches nonprogrammers how to code, is one of the first companies scheduled to pitch.

Photo of Peter French courtesy of Accion Texas

Photo of Peter French courtesy of Accion Texas

When G.P. Singh started Karta Technologies in 1989 but he couldn’t find information to help him with his business. He relied on one bookstore. Today, entrepreneurs and small businesses have access to a lot of information. They have information overload, Singh said.

“You need someone to guide you through the jungle of information out there,” Singh said. “That is what Café Commerce is going to do.”

Small businesses are the backbone of the city and the country, Singh said.

Silicon Hills News Launches a Kickstarter Campaign

images-1This week, Silicon Hills News launched its first Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to create a slick print magazine to be released at South by Southwest Interactive.
At SXSW, Silicon Hills News is hosting a startup pitch competition in conjunction with the Austin Technology Incubator.
We plan to distribute the 32-page color magazine at the SXSW panel. The magazine will feature a dozen or so Austin and San Antonio startup companies along with information on technology resources in both cities.
The Silicon Hills News mission is to shine a spotlight on all of the innovation going on in the Central Texas technology industry. For the past two years and four months, we have worked tirelessly to cover the Austin and San Antonio region. We’re also evolving into a networking platform for the technology industry in Central Texas. We seek to foster collaboration among people doing interesting technology ventures. We do this through event coverage, news stories, tech profiles, calendar postings, job listings, resource listings, expert contributors and soon monthly, quarterly and annual events and a section devoted to aggregating all of the local technology news.
Veteran technology journalists with two decades of experience covering technology lead Silicon Hills News. Laura Lorek and Susan Lahey understand business, technology and news startups. We are also trained journalists with a strong code of ethics and adherence to traditional reporting values.
We also believe in being a part of the community we cover. We are storytelling entrepreneurs blazing a trail in the new media landscape.
But we need your help.
To produce 5,000 copies of the magazine, we need to raise $5,000 and another $2,000 to pay for stories and photos and $500 more for marketing expenses.
We can do all of this with your support of our Kickstarter Campaign. But you don’t just get a warm and fuzzy feeling for helping out another bootstrapped startup entrepreneur, you also get perks.
For just $120, a startup can advertise on our site for a year – that’s just $10 a month (that’s less than a case or 36 packs of Ramen noodles) even pre-seed stage entrepreneurs can afford that. The ad is for 140 characters with a link and it will run on the main page for a year.
Technology companies with a little more disposable income might consider the $500 full page ad in the magazine or the combo for $1,000 of an ad in both the print and digital version of Silicon Hills News. You also get invited to a happy hour where we will debut the magazine and give you some free drinks.
If you like the job we are doing, please become part of our mission and support our Kickstarter campaign at whatever level you like. We’ve even got a $1 offering. We appreciate you and your support. Thank you, in advance, for helping to make our first ever print magazine possible.

Tips on Pitching Billionaire Mark Cuban

IMG_2130
By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

At Longhorn Startup Demo Day last week, Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder of 3Com and professor of innovation at UT, interviewed Billionaire Mark Cuban, co-founder of Broadcast.com and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban also stars on the popular TV show Shark Tank on ABC. This is some of the advice he gave on pitching him.

1. Know Your History. “The biggest error I see in startups that pitch to me is no sense of history” – Not everything is in Google. Companies fail and their servers are no longer online, Cuban said. He gets pitched from entrepreneurs who do not know that their idea has been tried before and failed. He suggests entrepreneurs put their idea in search engines with the word “fail” after it and see what comes up. He also suggests they talk to people who have been around and find out what they know and dig deeper than Google to find out as much information as possible. Cuban said it’s OK if you pitch a deal that has failed before, but just make sure you don’t make the same mistakes and you know how to make it work.

2. Know Your Product and Market Better Than Anyone Else. Cuban looks for “someone who knows their industry cold. Knows their product cold.”

IMG_21323. What’s Special About Your Startup? “I always look to see what’s the special sauce,” Cuban said. They have to have something that differentiates them from everyone else. They need a “special sauce” that sets them apart from the competition. Superlatives don’t benefit the entrepreneur, Cuban said. Anything that ends in “er” or “est” like cheaper, fastest, better – are big red flags because the competition isn’t going to go away, Cuban said. They’ll just improve on their product. “I try to find entrepreneurs that aren’t lying to themselves and that’s very difficult.”

4. Don’t Ask for too Much. He doesn’t invest in deals that require $300 million in venture capital to succeed. His shares get diluted and the founders spend too much time just looking for capital.

5. Work Hard. He likes pitches from hard-working entrepreneurs. “You’ve got to grind, grind and grind” says Cuban. Entrepreneurs only fail because of lack of effort and brains.

IMG_21396. Don’t be a Copy Cat. Everyone thinks the Internet is new. But bits are bits, Cuban said. The servers that YouTube uses are no different than the servers that Comcast uses. If 10,000 people are distributing something on YouTube, why do you want to be 10,001, he said. I try to look where people aren’t looking. I try to look where people think it’s archaic or wrong, he said. That’s why he put his movies made for Magnolia, his production company, on video on demand. For example, he thinks video on demand is growing much faster than Internet viewing of video. It’s going to grow even faster as the satellite and cable companies get their user interface perfected, Cuban said.

7. What’s the best way to pitch him? Send him an email to mcuban@gmail.com. He will at least glance through the first paragraph of them all. He is very quick on the delete button. But he has invested $10 million in companies he discovered through email and at least $6 million of that are entrepreneurs he has never met.

8. Don’t pitch him directly, if you want to be on Shark Tank. If he knows anything about the financial elements of your company, he has to recuse himself from the deal on Shark Tank.

Billionaire Mark Cuban likes to “Party Like a Rock Star” and Invest in Startups

Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, instructors with Longhorn Startup and Mark Cuban

Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, instructors with Longhorn Startup and Mark Cuban


By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

Since selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999, Billionaire Mark Cuban has invested in 80 startups.
But his entrepreneurial ventures began as a kid growing up in Pittsburgh.
“As long as I can remember I was an entrepreneur,” Cuban said.
At the age of nine and ten, Cuban packaged baseball cards and sold them to his friends.
At 12, he wanted new basketball shoes. His dad told him that his tennis shoes were just fine and when he had a job he could buy any kind of shoes he wanted. A family friend had some garbage bags he wanted to get rid of and offered them to Cuban. So Cuban sold them door-to-door to earn enough money to buy the basketball shoes.
Cuban recounted the story Thursday night before a packed audience of more than 800 people at the University of Texas Longhorn Startup’s Demo Day. The semester-long course for undergraduates at UT aims to teach them entrepreneurial skills and how to found a startup. One of its instructors, Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT, Ethernet inventor and co-founder of 3Com, interviewed Cuban at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium following pitches by 14 student-run startups.
During the hour-long talk, Cuban provided insights into his entrepreneurial journey and lessons learned along the way.
Early on, if it wasn’t garbage bags, it would have been something else, Cuban said.
At 16, Cuban’s mom introduced him to stamp collecting. He consumed information about stamps. At stamp shows, Cuban would buy a stamp from one dealer for 50 cents and walk down to the other side of the show and sell it for $50. Selling stamps helped him pay for school.

Cuban’s College Years

He left Mt. Lebanon High School early because he couldn’t take business classes. He went to the University of Pittsburgh and took classes. He earned enough credits to finish high school. He ended up transferring to the Kelley School of Business. He researched and discovered it was one of the top ten business schools in the country and it had the lowest tuition. At Indiana University in Bloomington, Cuban earned his undergraduate degree in business. He also did a year and a half of his MBA.
“I wanted to take all the hardest classes that I could my freshman and sophomore years and I promised myself I wouldn’t drink and then my junior and senior years when I was 21 I would take all the easy classes and party like a maniac,” Cuban said. “And that’s what I did.”
He also ran a bar in college, which went out of business.
After he left college, Cuban worked for nine months for Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh. He learned how to program there in Fortran. But he didn’t like banking much so he moved to Dallas.

Moving to Dallas

When Metcalfe asked him why, Cuban said “For fun, sun, money and women.”
He had friends who moved to Dallas. He liked the tropical climate. He lived in the village with six guys in a three-bedroom apartment and he slept on the floor.
“I loved every minute of it,” Cuban said.
He worked as a bartender at night. He bought a Texas Instruments 99/4A computer and taught himself to program. He really liked it. Then he got a job at Your Business Software, a retail store, selling Peachtree software and different applications. He did that for nine months and then he got fired. That’s when he started his own PC and software consulting business called MicroSolutions. They set up PCs and software for businesses and set up local area networks.

The crowd clamoring to get a picture with Mark Cuban and Bob Metcalfe at the end of Longhorn Startup Demo Day

The crowd clamoring to get a picture with Mark Cuban and Bob Metcalfe at the end of Longhorn Startup Demo Day

At the same time Cuban ran MicroSolutions, a kid in Austin was launching a PC business, Metcalfe said. He asked Cuban if he ever ran into him.
That prompted Cuban to talk about the importance of history in understanding the world today.
“One of the things kids are missing today is a sense of history,” Cuban said. They Google something and if it doesn’t come up in Google, it didn’t happen. But there’s a ton of stuff that isn’t in Google, Cuban said. What kids don’t know is if the companies went out of business, their servers aren’t online anymore and they can’t find out about them. Entrepreneurs need to dig deeper to find information on people who have tried an idea and failed at it so they don’t repeat those same mistakes, he said.
Yet one of the most brilliant things Cuban learned from was this kid in Austin who would post the price of generic computer parts in PC Week Magazine. Cuban drove down to Austin and bought a bunch of computer parts directly from him. When he got back to Dallas, Cuban wrote him a letter.
“Michael, if you keep this up, things will go really well for you,” Cuban said. That kid, of course, was Billionaire Michael Dell. Today, they still crack up about it, Cuban said.
“How did you decide to sell your company to CompuServe?” Metcalfe asked.
“They offered, and I said yes,” Cuban said.
He wanted to retire by the time he was 35. MicroSolutions had $30 million a year in revenue and was very profitable, Cuban said. He sold the company to CompuServe for $6 million. After that he worked for them for a little bit. But then he got a lifetime pass on American Airlines, he retired and “partied like a rock star.”

The founding of AudioNet, later to be renamed Broadcast.com

Cuban and his friend Todd Wagner started AudioNet so they could listen to Indiana basketball games on the Internet. They started the company in the second bedroom of Cuban’s house.
Cuban had a $39 Video Cassette Recorder that recorded for eight hours. He would record radio stations and then import that programming into his computer and eventually post it to the Internet. They had 600 to 700 radio stations that they would post online. The company had tens of thousands of hours of audio content online and more than one million visitors daily coming to the site to listen to it.
Cuban and Wagner started AudioNet in 1995, the same year that Netscape went public. They sold it four years later to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock.
In 2000, Cuban spent $285 million of his fortune to buy the Dallas Mavericks National Basketball Association team from Ross Perot Jr.
Cuban always loved basketball. He didn’t play in high school though. He said he was five foot eight and weighed 240 pounds in high school. Today, he’s six foot three and weighs 205 pounds.
The Mavs are a different type of entity, Cuban said. The team is unlike any business he has ever run. Even though he writes the checks, the team belongs to the community, he said. In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks became NBA champions. To turn the team around, Cuban focused on putting players in a position to succeed.
In addition to owning the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban also stars on the popular television show Shark Tank on ABC which features entrepreneurs pitching venture capitalists with the hopes of landing an investment.
“It’s a lot of work,” Cuban said.
The so-called “Sharks,” successful businessmen and women who invest their own money, don’t know anything about the people who pitch to them, Cuban said. What takes just 10 minutes of TV time, though, can take two and half-hours of interrogation off camera, Cuban said.
The investors, or Sharks, are allowed to do due-diligence after they invest in the companies. In fact, one time Cuban made an investment in a woman’s company but her husband didn’t believe in paying taxes and hadn’t ever paid them, Cuban said. So he was able to get out of that deal.
Out of the 80 startups Cuban has invested in, 28 came from Shark Tank pitches.

Mark Cuban and the rest of the cast of Shark Tank, photo courtesy of Shark Tank

Mark Cuban and the rest of the cast of Shark Tank, photo courtesy of Shark Tank

“Shark Tank has really ignited the entrepreneurial fire in a lot people,” Cuban said. “It’s really inspired a lot of people to start their own businesses.”
Out of his 28 investments, Cuban has had one company fail and another that should shut down, he said. But the others are either dragging along or doing very well, he said.
“Shark Tank is the most successful one hour selling platform in the world,” Cuban said. Lani Lazzari, owner of Simple Sugars, sold nearly $1 million worth of her body scrub products after being featured on the show for 10 minutes, Cuban said. He invested $100,000 for a 33 percent stake in her company. She recently turned down a buyout offer. She wants to get to $30 million in annual revenue, he said.
Now is an amazing time to start a business, Cuban said. With a laptop, phone, Internet connection and Amazon account, people can create any kind of business, Cuban said.

Entrepreneurs only fail because of lack of effort and brains

“The one thing in our lives every entrepreneur can control is effort,” Cuban said. Companies don’t fail for lack of anything but lack of effort and brains, he said.
The biggest error companies pitching to Cuban make is that they don’t have any sense of history, he said. Some entrepreneurs also underestimate the amount of effort it takes to turn their ideas into reality.
“It takes time, it’s a grind,” Cuban said. “There are no shortcuts. You’ve got to grind and grind.”

Mark Cuban meets the team behind The Zebra, an Austin startup he invested in but has never met in person until Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

Mark Cuban meets the team behind The Zebra, an Austin startup he invested in but has never met in person until Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

Entrepreneurs need to learn from what’s been done before, Cuban said. He likes to retweet articles on business failures so people can learn from them. That information becomes more valuable because it’s harder to find, Cuban said.

The luckiest guy in the world

An audience member asked Cuban what he regrets not doing.
“It’s turned out pretty well – nothing,” Cuban said. “Someone’s got to be the luckiest guy in the world and luck has played a big part in the level of my success. And I’m just glad it’s me.”
To pitch Cuban, send him an email to MCuban@gmail.com. He reads the first paragraph and if he’s interested, he’ll read more and send the entrepreneur some follow up questions. If he likes the answers, then he might invest. He has invested $10 million in startups he discovered through email pitches and with $6 million worth of those investments he has never even met the entrepreneur, Cuban said.

How to Get Money from VC and Angel Investors

Laura Kilcrease, Brett Hurt, Michele Skelding and Rick Timmins Photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Laura Kilcrease, Brett Hurt, Michele Skelding and Rick Timmins Photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com


By LAURA LOREK
Founder of Silicon Hills News

Austin has one of the nation’s most active angel networks through the Central Texas Angel Network, known as CTAN.
Last year, CTAN, with 100 members, invested about $8 million in 28 companies, including 13 new companies and 15 portfolio companies.
Every angel investor is doing it because they are passionate, said Michele Skelding, a CTAN member and angel investor.
She spoke at the RISE Lunch & Learn panel Tuesday on Angel & VC Funding at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin.

Michele Skelding photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Michele Skelding photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Laura Kilcrease, UT McCombs Entrepreneur-in-Residence, moderated the panel, which included Skelding, Brett Hurt, a serial entrepreneur who has founded five companies and is now an angel investor and Rick Timmins, member of CTAN.
Throughout an hour long discussion, the panelists talked about a wide range of topics including what they look for when deciding to make an investment to tips on how to talk to a potential investor.
A startup must have five critical ingredients to build a successful company, said Hurt. He details them on his blog Lucky7.io. They are a solid business plan, a good team, the proper mindset, funding and culture.
While Hurt, 41, spent the first half of his life building companies, he plans to spend the second half helping entrepreneurs make an impact on Austin. His focus is on ideas that can become big businesses. Hurt co-founded Bazaarvoice which is now a $540 million company.
Laura Kilcrease and Brett Hurt photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Laura Kilcrease and Brett Hurt photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Hurt has met with 200 entrepreneurs in the last six and he says there are people thinking big in Austin and some of them are thinking really big.
“There are some people who are thinking too big,” he said.
He’s only interested in working with companies that have products like Bazaarvoice and HomeAway. The one difference is if he has his Angel hat on he will make an investment in something different like Deep Eddy Vodka. He actually met Clayton Christopher, the founder of Deep Eddy Vodka, through RISE.
“I’m a huge, huge fan of RISE,” Hurt said. “This is one of the best things the city has going.”
If he makes an investment in a company like Deep Eddy and he gets back three times his investment then that’s just fine, he said.
But normally, he wants to see companies that have a clear path to get to $100 million in revenue or $1 billion in revenue.
“Most of the things I see are not close to that,” he said. “Lifestyle businesses are just fine. I’m a think big guy.”
When it comes to writing a check, Timmins looks at four things. The most important thing is the entrepreneur, he said. He looks for leadership qualities, managing skills, the ability to take advice and listening skills.
“It’s about the person or the people running the company,” he said. “Fifty percent of what I look at when I decide to invest is about the entrepreneur…If there are any doubts in my mind, I don’t do it.”
His second criterion for investment is the company’s technology and whether it’s disruptive enough. He’ll often consult experts to help him assess that.
The third thing he looks at is a customer.
“All you need for me to believe this is one paying customer who believes in what you’re doing and what you’re trying to establish,” he said. “The last thing I look at is the business plan.”
The business plan makes up just 10 percent of his decision making process.
“I don’t believe business plans anymore,” he said. “But I want you to go through the exercise…I want you to go through the process of thinking through it.”
As a venture capitalist, Kilcrease looks at two key aspects: the jockey and the team, she said.
“We know the business plan is wrong but it’s giving us an idea of what you’re thinking,” she said. “The next thing I look at is the market.”
The average angel investment is around $275,000 and the average venture capital round is $2 million to $3 million.
“I think the jockey and the market is key,” Kilcrease said. “The very last thing I look at is the technology. An “A team” will be able to rework the technology to the market or pivot as they go along.”
In addition to VCs and Angels, now investors are starting to see a third category called the Super Angel who is funding the gap between seed stage and Series A funding for startups, Kilcrease said. And another funding source is syndication between angel networks across the country, which can provide funding in the $1 million to $3 million range, she said.
“Don’t just think about angels as a $50,000 check,” she said.
Mentorship that a company gets is more important than the amount of money they receive, Hurt said.
“A business needs capital and mentorship,” he said. “It’s like a marriage. You can take money from angels and it can be your worst nightmare. It’s got to be the right fit.”
CTAN has five funding cycles through the year, said Skelding. And CTAN added office hours as a more informal way to get to know the angel investors and for entrepreneurs to discuss their ideas, she said. One big mistake entrepreneurs make is that they are just not prepared to pitch to investors.
“You’ve got to learn how to speak to an investor,” Skelding said. “They’ve seen thousands of deals.”
Entrepreneurs need to serve up their ideas in a way that is quick and interesting, she said.
Angels will invest in any type of businesses, Kilcrease said.
“If you get the right angel there’s almost no area they won’t consider,” she said. Whereas, VCs have specialized areas they invest in, she said.
Since 2009, Timmins has invested in 24 companies and only one has a chance to be public, he said.
In response to a question about the single biggest mistake people make in their pitch, Hurt said that entrepreneurs go into the VC or Angel pitch and they show a hockey stick growth slide that they don’t believe in.
“Set expectations you think you can meet,” he said.
Rick Timmins photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Rick Timmins photo by ©2013, Scott Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com

Timmins echoed that sentiment saying that entrepreneurs need to set realistic expectations and achieve them.
“If you don’t want the pressure of being accountable then be like my parents and don’t ever raise money,” Hurt said. His dad created a halogen fishing light but turned down an offer from Wal-Mart because he wanted to keep his business simple.
Another audience member asked about when to take additional funding for her business.
“Only take the amount of money that will add value to get you to the next level,” Kilcrease said.

Startup Advice from Serial Entrepreneurs in Austin

By LAURA LOREK
Founder Silicon Hills News
BKKg61ZCAAAkRCVStartup founders can learn a lot from entrepreneurs who have been there and done that.
And on Monday, three serial entrepreneurs in Austin shared some of the challenges they faced in building their companies and some tips on how others can succeed.
Sam Decker, co-founder of Mass Relevance, Carl Shepherd, co-founder of HomeAway and Susan Strausberg, co-founder of 9WSearch participated in a RISE lunch and learn entrepreneurship super panel moderated by Ellie Brett, founder of Media Bombshell. About 120 people attended the event held at Mass Relevance’s downtown headquarters and sponsored by Turnstone.
Decker’s entrepreneurial roots go back to fourth grade when he ran a go-kart repair business and that got him into fixing engines.
He started working for Apple out of college. Then he ran three failed startups in the Bay area before Dell called.
“Even at Dell I always sought out the entrepreneurial jobs,” Decker said.
BKNAHbXCcAAg6ckHe worked at turning Dell.com into a big business. But after seven years, he wanted to launch a startup again.
Decker left to work at Bazaarvoice, founded in 2005. After five years, Bazaarvoice had $50 million in revenue and 500 people.
“Any time you are making that move to the next journey you are stepping off a cliff,” Decker said.
He left Bazaarvoice to co-found Mass Relevance, a social media company focused on handling Twitter campaigns for TV, sports and media companies.
Today, Mass Relevance has 85 people and does half its work for brands and half for media and sports teams.
Strausberg grew up in an entrepreneurial family.
“One needed to be in control of one’s own life,” she said.
Over time, she became obsessed with computers. She worked in publishing and film. She founded a publishing company and co-produced BKNAUiBCEAAbSdr“It Came from Hollywood,” a Paramount Pictures film.
She earned the title of “Dot Com Diva” for launching EDGAR Online, a financial data company, in 1995 with her husband Marc Strausberg. They left the company in 2007 to pursue other interests. They moved to Austin a few years ago to launch 9W Search Inc., an advanced financial search engine aimed at mobile users.
Shepherd, co-founder of HomeAway, was not a born entrepreneur.
“I did not come to be an entrepreneur overnight,” he said. “I was a late bloomer.”
At first he worked as a consultant for what is now Accenture and he also worked for magazine publishers.
He cut his entrepreneurial teeth at Hoover’s Online, where he worked as chief operating officer. Hoover’s Online was an information research business and was one of the first successful subscription based companies on the Web. He took the company public in 1999 and stayed on for a few years and then he joined Austin Ventures. That’s where he met Brian Sharples. They had coffee at Starbucks, the one that’s across the street from what’s now HomeAway’s headquarters. At that Starbucks, they started brainstorming ideas for businesses. They came up with one for selling information on outsourcing. But they both settled on addressing the pain in the vacation rental market. They both had families who liked to stay in rental homes instead of hotels when they travelled.
“Renting a vacation home really sucked,” he said.
They set about to fix that problem and came up with HomeAway as a solution.
Today, HomeAway has 1,300 employees on six continents including 600 employees in Austin, Shepherd said.
Next, Brett with Media Bombshell asked the entrepreneurs a series of questions including what was their biggest surprise about being an entrepreneur.
“The biggest surprise is that really great ideas and wonderful people and the best possible teams fail,” said Shepherd.
“So few people understand and embrace innovation,” said Strausberg.
“The highs are higher and the lows are lower,” said Decker. “Every rejection is like a rejection. And every win is like we’re going to be huge.”
But over time, the volatility starts to shrink, Decker said.
The next question Brett asked was what was the toughest challenge the entrepreneurs faced and how did they get through it.
Strausberg said in 2003 Market Watch wanted to buy EDGAR Online but that fell through. They had to pivot the business and find another way to exit the business, she said.
At Hoover’s Online, Shepherd bought a company called Power Rise in August of 2001 and after September of 2001 they had to completely revamp the business and eventually close down Power Rise. They had to pivot Hoover’s Online to go back to a subscription model.
Coming up with a company name is one of the biggest challenges a startup faces, Decker said.
One of the big challenges Mass Relevance faced when it launched was securing an official partnership with Twitter, Decker said. He personally negotiated the rights to use Twitter’s data, which was a critical aspect of their platform.
The panel also discussed how they handled risk. Decker said a good entrepreneur does his best or her best to mitigate risk.
And Shepherd said he has gotten more tolerant of risk during the past five to seven years.
“I feel like I’ve been far more in control as an entrepreneur than I was as an employee,” he said. “And I’m far more aggressive today than I was five or six years ago.”
The panel also gave advice to entrepreneurs.
Don’t lie to the IRS, said Shepherd. He has a 28-year-old son who is running a startup in the Bay Area and that’s the advice he gave him.
“Surround yourself with people and advisors who know what they’re doing,” he said.
“I would say first of all, think twice, then think three times,” Strausberg said. Thoroughly investigate the market, the competition and the validity of the idea, she said. And make sure you’re ready to cope emotionally with the risk and uncertainty of running a startup, she said.
“Think bigger,” said Decker. Whatever you’re thinking about add a zero to it, he said.
“Push yourself,” he said.

Startup Grind San Antonio Launches Featuring Interview with Jason Seats

images-3Startup Grind, based in Mountain View, Calif. seeks to foster entrepreneurship through storytelling.
Derek Anderson founded Startup Grind, which now has chapters in 40 cities and 20 countries around the world.
One of the latest chapters is Startup Grind San Antonio.
The values of Startup Grind are important ones to foster an entrepreneurial environment.
“We believe in making friends, not contacts. We believe in giving, not taking. We believe in helping others before helping yourself. We are truly passionate about helping founders, entrepreneurs and startups succeed. We intend to make their startup journey less lonely, more connected and more memorable.”
The first Startup Grind San Antonio event takes place on April 23 at Geekdom in downtown San Antonio and features a one on one interview with Jason Seats, cofounder of SliceHost and managing director of the TechStars Cloud. The TechStars Demo Day for its second class of 12 companies is Thursday in San Antonio. Seats has helped to launch 23 TechStars Cloud companies. He is also an active angel investor.
Startup Grind also has a chapter in Austin, headed up by Andi Gillentine, co-founder of Whit.li. She launched that chapter last year and has held several successful events at Capital Factory. The next one is April 29th at Capital Factory featuring an interview with Mellie Price, founder of Source Spring and Front Gate Tickets. Startup Grind also has a Dallas chapter.
Geekdom is sponsoring Startup Grind San Antonio and Vid Luther with ZippyKid, a WordPress hosting site, is also sponsoring the event.
Startup Grind San Antonio will kick off at 6 p.m. with pizza and beer. The interview with Seats will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature an interactive question and answer session with the audience. So please sign up now and get your tickets, which are limited.
Startup Grind San Antonio’s May speaker is David Spencer, founder of Onboard Systems and Startup Grind San Antonio’s speaker for June is Pat Condon, cofounder of Rackspace.

In February, I was lucky to attend Startup Grind’s annual conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The speakers were fabulous. Here’s a video that shows some highlights from that event.

Bijoy Goswami on “We Are Austin Tech”

Every week, We Are Austin Tech, a group of entrepreneurs, technologists and other volunteers release a video highlighting someone who has contributed to the local technology industry.
Last week’s video put the spotlight on Jason Cohen, founder of WPEngine and other startups including co-founding Capital Factory.
We Are Austin Tech seeks to tell the story of the city’s vibrant technology community blending the stories of veteran entrepreneurs with others involved in the industry such as public relations experts, journalists and more.
This week, the video features Bijoy Goswami, the founder of Bootstrap Austin. Susan Lahey, a reporter with Silicon Hills News, did this profile on him earlier this year.

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