Tag: Geekdom Fund

SAPitch Provides an Informal Setting for San Antonio Startups to Pitch to Investors

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The Walkingspree team at SAPitch

The Walkingspree team at SAPitch

One of the big problems in growing San Antonio’s technology startup industry has been lack of access to capital for entrepreneurs.

The Geekdom Fund has provided $25,000 to a handful of tech startups in the earliest stages of their companies, but the real need comes with follow on funding in larger amounts ranging from $250,000 to a few million.

The solution might well be found in groups like the newly created SAPitch. The organization, headed up by Michael Girdley and Cole Wollak, brings together entrepreneurs and angel investors in an informal setting for lunch. Everyone buys their own meal and four startups pitch their companies before investors.

On Wednesday afternoon, Storific, Walkingspree, HighNoon and Lightphile presented their companies to investors at Café Commerce in the downtown library.

Walkingspree, a seven year old company with revenues of $2.3 million last year, already has 80 corporate clients and more than 44,000 registered members for its software as a service platform for digital health. The company has created a physical activity program aimed at corporations looking to increase the health of their employees.

Walkingspree CEO Hiran Perera said the company has created its own Bluetooth-enabled device called the “Inspire.” The watch-like device tracks steps, calories, time, distance and goals.

The company’s platform also incorporates other activity trackers like the Fitbit. With customers like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Mercer Total Health Management and Texas Health Resources, the company is on track to top revenues of $3.4 million this year.

The company has been bootstrapped so far with one angel investment, Perera said. It’s looking for a strategic investor to develop and Android-based product and further expand its sales and marketing.

Kyle Cornelius and Zachary Stovall, co-founders of Storific, pitched their app-based business that allows consumers to order food via their mobile phones from restaurants and skip the lines. The company recently relocated its headquarters from Paris, France to Geekdom in San Antonio with six employees. They are looking to raise a seed stage round of investment to further develop and market Storific.

HighNoon, which has been in business about eight weeks, wants to bring the custom barn buying experience online. It is already selling a couple of barns a month but plans to create a platform for customers to buy a new and efficient barn tailored to meet their needs, said Pegy Brimhall, one of the founders along with Sonja Howle and Alex Guerra. It was seeking seed stage funding.

David Barrick and Logan Butler, co-founders of LightPhile, pitched their lighting control device to manage an entire concert lighting experience with an iPad. The company received a $25,000 initial investment from the Geekdom Fund. It’s looking for additional funds to finish developing its software interface for the iPad and hardware device.

Remote Garage Stores Clutter by the Box

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Jaakko Piipponen, founder of Remote Garage, photo by Laura Lorek

Jaakko Piipponen, founder of Remote Garage, photo by Laura Lorek

Mei Butler, a senior at Trinity University, needed to store some household goods while she studied in China for seven months.

“I didn’t want to rent out a storage unit since I didn’t have enough belongings to take up the whole space,” Butler said.

Instead, she signed up with Remote Garage, a San Antonio-based storage on demand startup. It provides a storage bin and even picks up the goods.

Butler’s storing kitchen supplies, bathroom supplies, decorations and other home furnishings with them while she’s studying in China.

Last year, Jaakko Piipponen, launched Remote Garage with his friend Valdas Galdikas. And in December, they received a $25,000 investment from the Geekdom fund. Since then, they have been marketing the company and enrolling more customers while working on the technology behind the site and securing partnerships.

Piipponen is from Finland. He earned his undergraduate degree from the Helsinki School of Economics and studied abroad at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles. He also worked previously for an investment bank in London and founded another startup, Kiitos Technologies, a marketing service for online videos. He moved to San Antonio in 2013 with his girlfriend. She is attending medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

At first, the Geekdom Fund turned Piipponen down, but he came back the next month with customers and partners, said Cole Wollak, spokesman for the fund. They were also convinced of his expertise in the storage market and were impressed with the beta version of his product, Wollak said.

Storage is a $25 billion market, Piipponen said. About one in ten Americans use self-storage facilities, he said. But that’s doesn’t work for everyone, especially for people who don’t have a lot to store and can’t afford to pay $1,200 a year or more for a storage unit, he said.

That’s where Remote Garage comes in, Piipponen said. It’s there for the rest of the population with smaller storage needs, he said.

“They pay by the box,” Piipponen said. “We pick up, store their stuff securely and let them monitor it online and they can get their things back whenever they want.”

Remote Garage partners with well-known, professional storage and delivery companies. It charges $7 per box for a month with the average order of five boxes.

The company does face some competition from other on-demand storage services like Makespace, a New York-based micro-storage startup that has raised $1.3 million, Boxbee, based in San Francisco has raised $2.3 million for its storage on demand service and PODS. And Austin-based SpareFoot, which works with storage companies, to fill up their space through its online marketplace, is not really a competitor, Piipponen said.

Remote Garage has been marketing the company by working with apartment leasing agents. They are seeking to fill the niche for apartment dwellers that store things on their balconies, which is usually prohibited by the complexes. Now the apartments can offer up Remote Garage as an alternative storage source. Piipponen has signed up more than 50 apartment complexes in San Antonio including The Broadway, The Crescent and Mosaic.

Butler heard about Remote Garage from her boyfriend. She decided to try them out and she’s been pleased with its “excellent customer service.” She thinks the service has a lot of potential.

“Its appeal lies in the fact that it does not require you to make a big commitment in terms of rental length, or amount of space you rent,” she said.

Geekdom Fund Invests in Three San Antonio Startups

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Photo courtesy of Geekdom.

Photo courtesy of Geekdom.

Three new startups in San Antonio have received $25,000 cash investments each from the Geekdom Fund.

The two-year-old fund aims to jumpstart the city’s startup community by providing seed-stage funding to tech startups.

In February, the Geekdom Fund made investments in Nebulab Technologies and Lightphile. Last November, the fund invested in Remote Garage. All of the startups are based at Geekdom, a collaborative coworking space in downtown San Antonio.

The fund “seeks to enable these companies to build businesses around a problem worth solving and a market large enough for high growth potential with a team that can build a profitable business,” according to a statement from Cole Wollak with the fund. “The Geekdom Fund will make investments for which the expected social, economic and cultural impact from the investment being made will have a net positive gain on the broader startup community of San Antonio.”

But the fund aims to make a profit for its investors.

“We won’t invest in a company that we believe won’t make a return for the fund,” Wollak said. “Things we look at when making decisions are like any fund or accelerator: idea, market, team, stage and progress. We’ve said no to people for not having a complete team, we’ve said no to people for lack of execution, too small of a market, the whole gamut.”

Guillermo Vela, co-founder of Nebulab Technologies, got turned down before Nebulab received an investment. The idea behind the company spun out of a 3-Day Startup program in San Antonio and wasn’t developed enough initially, he said. But now, the founders have worked out the kinks and they presented a more polished pitch.

Five members make up the team: Vela, Arturo Covarrubias, Diego Castro, Simon Barnett and Jonathan Loo.

Nebulab Technologies is developing a web app for scientists to organize their data in a visual way, he said. It combines the visual appeal of PowerPoint with the functionality of Microsoft One Notes with the ability to drag and drop data files onto a blank canvas, Vela said. It’s cloud-based, collaborative and real time, he said. The product will help scientists share and communicate their scientific data and to add greater transparency to the process, he said.

“Our goal is really to facilitate the way scientists store and share information,” Vela said.

The Geekdom funding will help to evolve its product, Vela said.

“This vast majority is going to go to pay the lead developer a salary and to incorporate as well,” he said.

Previously, Vela worked as a brain cancer research at John Hopkins University.

Lightphile plans to use its funding to develop its software as well as with the prototyping cost of its hardware, said David Barrick, co-founder.

The company has made a $500 hardware device controlled by an iPad that acts as a lighting controller at concerts, replacing other hardware systems that costs thousands more, Barrick said.

His co-founder is Logan Butler and together the two have designed many lighting sets. They have 10 years of industry experience.

“We’ve never been satisfied with the lighting control experience,” he said.

So they created a solution. Now they’ve got a working prototype that they’ve tested and they’re working to create the final product, which will be Wi-Fi based.

“Our primary market is churches at the start,” Barrick said.

Jaakko Piipponen, co-founder of Remote Garage, received the Geekdom Fund investment late last year.

Remote Garage is a storage on demand service. It provides customers with a storage container and then its drivers pick up customers’ belongings and stores them and delivers them back whenever needed. The company charges by the cubic foot, and users can see their storage inventory online.

“Our typical customer is an apartment dweller with limited space and limited time, who just wants that extra space without the hassle,” he said.

Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News

The Post Mortem on Short-Lived Tech Startup: Grapevine

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Photo licensed from Getty Images.

Photo licensed from Getty Images.

More than 90 percent of technology startups fail, according to a 2012 report from the Startup Genome Project.
The researchers found that most fail “due primarily to self destruction rather than competition.”
“For the less than 10 percent of startups that do succeed, most encounter near death experiences along the way.”
Some tech companies fail in a spectacular way like Webvan, a grocery delivery service during the dot com era that raised and spent more than $1 billion and closed down after just two years.
And others are just here today and gone tomorrow.
That’s the case of Grapevine in San Antonio. It was one of the first recipients of a $25,000 investment from the Geekdom Fund. Eric Larson and Richard Ortega founded the company, and a third co-founder Josh Seltzer joined Grapevine in 2012. The company lasted one year from inception to shut down.
On Tuesday night, the founders talked about their entrepreneurial journey and what led to their closing up shop at a post-mortem talk during SA NewTech, a monthly gathering of entrepreneurs at Geekdom.
Ortega recounted some advice Jason Seats, co-founder of Slicehost and now head of TechStars Austin, told Grapevine early on: “You want to be a must have and not a nice to have.”
Grapevine alerted businesses, primarily restaurants, to reviews left at Yelp, OpenTable and other review sites, about their establishments so that they could respond to them in a timely manner. They sprang to life out of a 3 Day Startup San Antonio weekend in the summer of 2012.
“We were all in,” Larson said. “Grapevine was what we did on a daily basis.”
By winter, Grapevine got some paying customers. At first, Larson did everything manually but by January, Ortega had a fully functioning software program.
They also joined the San Antonio Restaurant Association to find more customers.
The company applied to Dell to pitch at its first entrepreneur pitch day in January. Dell chose Grapevine as one of the lucky 13 to present in front of Dell executives. After that event, the company had two other meetings with Dell executives but a deal never materialized.
And then in the summer of 2013, Grapevine’s money ran out and it couldn’t raise additional funds. Larson, Seltzer and Ortega decided to shut down operations.
They shared a few of the lessons they learned from their startup journey:

  • You cannot have too much customer validation.
  • We were not solving the complete problem. We were only alerting companies about reviews. We weren’t solving them.
  • Design can’t solve core business model issues. “I kept trying to design a package that wasn’t neatly packaged to begin with,” Seltzer said.
  • Don’t outsource, do it yourself. Don’t build on top of other people’s services.
  • Be objective and look at your numbers.

And with a humorous bent, the founders shared some signs they knew they were trouble when:
1. Your developer has more tutorial bookmarks than actual lines of codes.
2. The person in charge of sales is still selling for their old company.
3. Your designer hasn’t opened Photoshop in two years and panics when opening PowerPoint.
4. You use the latest and greatest team collaborative app and you get nothing done.
5. You have more conversations in HipChat than you do with your own customers.
6. You are having a hard time getting customers to sign up for your free account.
7. You’re doing a presentation about the rise and fall of your startup and you’re working on your presentation 30 minutes before it’s due.

Kirpeep’s SXSW Swag Challenge Featured on A Slice of Silicon Hills

c6766a5f-1d99-4582-a5df-afa3325716fd_61 Kirpeep’s Leticia Barrientos, vice president of outreach, talks with Slice of Silicon Hills Host Andrew Moore about the startup’s plans for South by Southwest this weekend.
The company, based at Geekdom, is having a swag challenge at SXSW. More than 5,000 people signed up for the challenge, which quickly sold out, Barrientos said. They have established a waitlist. To find out more, the startup will based at Free Lunch Friday’s Rig at SXSW at 604 East 7th Street in Austin.
Kirpeep is an online marketplace that allows people to exchange, buy or sell goods and services. For more on the company, please read this profile on the company.

Disclosure: Kirpeep is an advertiser with Silicon Hills News. And Geekdom is a sponsor.

Geekdom Fund Gives $25K Each to Two Startups

The Kirpeep Team: Sara Moffett, Steven Quintanilla, Kyle Jennings, John Lozano and Naomi Rios. Photo courtesy of Kirpeep

The Geekdom Fund has invested $25,000 each into two startup companies to be based at Geekdom, a downtown San Antonio coworking and collaboration space.
The teams are KirPeep and ParLevel Systems, said Nick Longo, director of Geekdom.
“Both teams attempted to get the Geekdom Fund in this past round,” Longo said. “For really a myriad of reasons, they didn’t make it through. But they took all of the advice we gave them and met with mentors and came back prepared to tell their stories.”
Longo and the four other members of the Geekdom Fund board met on Tuesday with applicants. The Geekdom Fund board meets every month. Last month, they did not give out any money. Previously, Grapevine, a reputation management firm aimed at hotels and restaurants, received a $25,000 Geekdom investment.
“I’m encouraging teams that apply for the Geekdom Fund to meet with mentors before they apply,” Longo said.
Geekdom members can find the hours that various mentors are available on the member dashboard online, Longo said. The Geekdom Fund Board members including Longo, Jason Seats, Pat Condon, John Mosher and Mike Troy all have times listed that they are available to meet with entrepreneurs.
Last month when the Geekdom Fund did not make any investments, the teams pitching weren’t as prepared as the board would have liked, Longo said. Each team must fill out an application including a Lean Canvas, or one-page business plan, and they are given 10 minutes to pitch their company to the board.
“This is their first money,” Longo said. “This opens up the opportunity for them to get more money.”
KirPeep hasn’t launched yet. The site is focused on creating a system for bartering.
“KirPeep stands for “Keep it real, people,” according to the company’s blog post. “Our vision statement says it all, “We empower those who provide value to the community by making it easy to exchange goods and services, with or without money.” We want to make it possible for individuals to trade not only goods, but also services in exchange for money, goods, or other services. What sets us apart from other bartering sites is the fact that we see how trading services benefit our communities.”
The KirPeep team is made up of Sara Moffett, Steven Quintanilla, Kyle Jennings, John Lozano and Naomi Rios.
ParLevel System, founded two months ago by Walter Teele and Luis Pablo Gonzalez, is working on a monitoring system for vending machine operators.
ParLevel installs a wireless meter inside vending machines so that the operators can get real-time access to their inventory, Teele said.
Right now, the vending machine world is divided up into new machines with the latest technology and older machines that require companies to visit them to find out what inventory needs updating, Teele said.
ParLevel seeks to give those operators with older vending machines real time information on inventory to save time and money, Teele said. The company is working on the software and hardware box now, he said. They came up with the idea after Gonzalez’s uncle told them about a problem he was having with his vending machine business in Mexico. He said he wanted to be able to see into the machines at any time to see what product he needed. Currently, a delivery truck operator must visit the machines and write down what they need. Then he has to go back to his truck and load up the inventory and go back to the machine and install it. The ParLevel System eliminates all of that, Teele said. Instead, the operator leaves the warehouse with the inventory when it’s needed at the machine, he said.
Both Teele and Gonzalez are from Mexico and they graduated from Trinity University and University of Texas at San Antonio.
“We are very entrepreneurial since we were little kids,” Teele said.
The Geekdom fund investment allows ParLevel to patent its idea and form its company and take care of other business, Teele said.
“It puts a challenge in front of us we have to fulfill,” he said.
Team dynamics are very important in the selection process for the Geekdom Fund, Longo said. He considers the team and its abilities over their idea, he said.
“No one is ever going to give you money for an idea,” Longo said. “They’ll give you money when you get to that next level, the product.”

Disclosure: Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News.

San Antonio-based Embarkly Began at 3 Day Startup in Austin

Nicole DeLeon, founder of Embarkly, based at Geekdom in San Antonio

Last October, Nicole DeLeon attended 3 Day Startup, a weekend entrepreneurial event, in Austin with an idea for a pet boarding site.
DeLeon’s idea got picked.
That weekend she developed the project with a team of eight people and by the end, they had a demo of the site ready to go. They also changed the name from BoardMe to Embarkly.
Embarkly helps people find and book pet boarding facilities. It’s a consolidated marketplace online with listings, prices, reviews, availability and the ability to book online. The site seeks to make pet boarding simple.
DeLeon rapidly got a prototype launched and she performed well at 3 Day Startup, said Pat Condon, one of the investors in the Geekdom Fund and a cofounder of Rackspace.
“One of the biggest benefits of programs like 3 Day Startup from an investor’s perspective is that you really get an inside look at how startup founders perform in the pressure cooker and it really showcases how much they can get done with extremely limited resources (money and time),” Condon said. “In today’s world, this extra insight for an investor can be the difference between success and failure.”
The Geekdom Fund made a seed stage equity investment in Embarkly.
The pet boarding market and pet services industry in general is quite large and Embarkly’s business model is quite scalable, Condon said.
“Plus, probably even more importantly, is the fact that so many pet owners really treat pets as family members and are willing to spend money on them accordingly” he said.
Embarkly seeks to become the “Expedia” of the $2 billion pet boarding industry. Right now, the service is available in all the major metropolitan markets in Texas. DeLeon plans to expand nationwide in coming months.
Embarkly pitched at Texas Ventures Labs Investment Competition Finals last February seeking $400,000 in financing.
At that time, the company estimated that it could achieve potential annual revenue of $72.5 million with a 10 percent market stake. It faces competition from Findpetcare.com, Petbookings.com, Dogboarding.com and others. The company makes money by generating leads for pet boarding facilities.
While Embarkly didn’t win, it did get traction at the event. DeLeon went on to raise money from some angel investors including an executive at Home Away. Travis Skelly, one of the founders, left the company to take a job on the east coast. Today, DeLeon runs the company in San Antonio and her cofounder Orion Jensen works out of Austin.
DeLeon recently moved her company to Geekdom, a collaborative and coworking space on the 11th floor of the Weston Centre in downtown San Antonio.
This past weekend DeLeon spent volunteering as a mentor for Startup Weekend San Antonio. She knows it’s possible to go from idea to a company in a weekend.
But it’s not easy.
“Startup weekends really work, but you must work them,” said Allen Torng, one of the organizers of Startup Weekend San Antonio. “You have to take the energy from the weekend and propel that forward. Everyone’s going to be asking what you’ve done since. Building a startup is hard. A lot harder than a Startup Weekend. It’s important to create achievable goals and be willing to do whatever it takes to meet them.”
DeLeon started Embarkly because she had trouble finding quality pet care for her dog, Carson, and cats, Bonito and Bob.
She was born and raised in San Antonio but she’s lived in Los Angeles and upstate New York. She has always had pets so she knows first hand how tough it can be to find quality care for them while she’s travelling.
Before founding Embarkly, DeLeon worked as a mergers and acquisition lawyer for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP and as a prosecutor for two years. She has a law degree from the University of Texas Law School in Austin and she passed the Texas Bar Exam.
“And although it didn’t make a difference for Geekdom fund to invest, I love the fact that Nicole left her law career behind to pursue her passion…that is just a great story,” Condon said. “She’s obviously willing to take the risk necessary to make a startup successful.”
At her heart, DeLeon’s always been an entrepreneur.
During her college years, she ran her own business online through eBay and she became one of its first PowerSellers. She ran a wholesale electronics import business into Argentina from China.
“Technology had enabled all of these things to happen,” she said.
She sold about $1.2 million worth of retail goods, she said. While she liked being a mergers and acquisition lawyer, she didn’t like being a prosecutor. So now she’s revisiting her entrepreneurial roots.
“What we are trying to build is a site extremely tailored to pet care services,” DeLeon said. “We see a huge need in the marketplace.”

Geekdom Launches Seed Stage Fund for Startups

Geekdom is taking a gamble on new technology startups.
The collaborative coworking site today launched the Geekdom Fund, seed stage capital for technology startups in San Antonio.
The fund will provide startup teams with $25,000 equity investments and free office space at the Weston Centre downtown where the Geekdom is based, said Nick Longo, director of Geekdom and one of the fund’s administrators.
The fund provides a big missing piece of the puzzle in San Antonio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, Longo said.
“Funding is always the point people want to get to,” Longo said.
The money comes from Pat Condon, one of the founders of Rackspace, and other executives at Rackspace and other angel investors, Longo said. The fund seeks to give San Antonio technology entrepreneurs a head start in launching their products into the marketplace.
“You apply with a great idea and a great team,” Longo said. “You have to be a member of Geekdom to apply. If you want to relocate here, we want you.”
Geekdom is a collaborative workspace, which launched late last year and has grown quickly. The site occupies the 11th floor of the Weston Centre and has expanded to the 10th floor and plans to expand to two additional floors in coming months.

Nick Longo, director of Geekdom is also one of the administrators of the Geekdom Fund, a $25,000 per startup seed stage fund.

Geekdom has attracted numerous startups already including Roughneck Graphics, ZippyKid, Grapevine, Embarkly and TrueAbility.
The money allows people to build a website, build an app and quit their job and pursue their startup dream, Longo said. The Geekdom fund has already invested in some startups based at the center including ZippyKid and Embarkly.
“Part of our criteria is you haven’t received funding from somewhere else,” Longo said. “This is seed money.”
To apply, visit the Geekdom site and fill out the application. It also asks startup teams to fill out a lean canvas form and list the people on their team.

Disclosure: Geekdom is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News

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