Tag: Patti Rogers

Women@Austin Provides Insights on Startups and Fundraising

The steering committee behind Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

The steering committee behind Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

Founder of Silicon Hills News

The Capital Factory in downtown Austin smelled like roses and perfume on Thursday night.
Red heart balloons, roses and heart-shaped doilies decorated the tables, walls and windows of the main presentation room.
The tech accelerator and incubator hosted more than 100 women for the inaugural Women@Austin event, which kicked off with networking over wine and hors d’oeuvres. The event sold out in five days, said Jan Ryan, its founder.
“I think we hit a nerve,” she said.
A steering committee of 16 women began meeting last fall to plan for Women@Austin which aims to triple the number of women-funded companies in the next few years, provide more mentoring and increase the visibility of female entrepreneurs in the community.
“This is the debut of a new mission-driven community to really accelerate women in Austin,” Ryan said.
Josh Kerr, co-founder of Written.com, was one of the few men in attendance. He was one of the first ones to sign up, Ryan said.
Usually, Capital Factory is teeming with a lot of men working on startups. Kerr’s company is based there. But on Thursday night, the women took over except for the first speaker, Bill Wood, general partner at Silverton Partners. Laura Kilcrease, founder of Triton Ventures and founding director of the Austin Technology Incubator, introduced Wood. She said he was the first person she met when she moved to Austin in 1984. And he was the first person she consulted when she decided to become a Venture Capitalist and to establish Triton Ventures.
“He gave me insightful information,” Kilcrease said.

Advice from Bill Wood, general partner with Silverton Partners

Bill Wood, general partner of Silverton Partners, photo by Sara Peralta

Bill Wood, general partner of Silverton Partners, photo by Sara Peralta

And Wood provided insightful information about raising venture funds in his talk. Increasing the number of women-backed ventures is something he said he feels very strongly about.
“Women are under-represented and they add such a different dimension,” Wood said. Having women involved in startups leads to better outcomes, he said.
Women have “lifestyle obstacles” but those can be addressed and handled, he said.
Wood gave basic information on the different stages of how startups raise money from friends and family to angels to seed funds and then early stage funds and lastly, growth equity.
“We are a classic seed stage, early stage fund,” he said. “We’re the first institutional investor in our deals, but there are almost always angels where we invest.”
Venture capitalists look for a validation of a product’s market opportunity when they decide to invest in a startup, Wood said. Everything is driven by data and metrics today, he said.
“Business has gone from judgment and insight and wisdom to metric-based decision making.” Wood said. “That’s just the way it works…It’s all math. We’re looking for some validation in the numbers.”
The expectations also go up dramatically when a company gets venture capital, Wood said.
He also said there are lots of great businesses out there that don’t make sense for VCs.
“Don’t get your feelings hurt,” he said. “If you don’t raise VC money, that means you own more of the company. If it’s successful, good for you.”
VCs are looking for outcomes in the $100 million range, Wood said. It’s not just that the business is a really good business, but it has to be able to get to a size where it can provide a big return to investors, he said.
Silverton Partners only invests in Austin companies and most of its investments are in the software industry or consumer applications, Wood said.

Three Female Founders Give Startup Advice

From left - Jan Ryan, Patti Rogers, Heather Brunner and Erica Douglass, photo by Sara Peralta

From left – Jan Ryan, Patti Rogers, Heather Brunner and Erica Douglass, photo by Sara Peralta

Following Wood, a panel of three female founders took to the stage to share lessons they learned raising money and running companies. The panel featured Patti Rogers, founder and CEO of Rallyhood, a productivity platform for groups, Heather Brunner, CEO of WPEngine, a WordPress hosting company, and Erica Douglass of MarketVibe, a blog marketing startup.
Ryan asked them what challenges they faced launching their businesses and the lessons they learned.
“When you’re starting something new, every day is a new surprise,” Rogers said. “Having tolerance for that is super important.”
Douglass recounted how Josh Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, told her that no one cared about her $1 million exit and that she shouldn’t mention that when she pitched investors because they think it’s too small. She cried, she said.
She did go on to raise $640,000 as part of the TechStars Austin program and she’s getting ready to raise another round soon, she said.
Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

“Fundraising is something that takes all your time,” Douglass said. She recommended putting together a list of 125 active investors and spending a month or two just focused on fundraising. It’s important to find out if those investors have written a check in the last year, she said. Austin has a lot of people who say they are investors, but they never write checks, she said.
“You don’t want to waste your time with people who aren’t active investors,” Douglass said.
On the personal side, founders have to get used to rejection, Brunner said.
“Get used to the fact that not everyone is going to love your story,” she said. But make sure to get feedback from them, she said.
Brunner also recommended vetting venture capital firms and investors to find the right fit for a startup’s industry and for those investors who already had investments in that space. That will save time, she said.
She heard from a lot of investors who loved WPEngine’s metrics and were in love with the story, but it didn’t fit their investment metrics, she said.
Ryan also asked the panel how they coped with stress running a startup. Brunner and Rogers do Yoga a couple of times a week and Douglass plays games on her mobile phone with friends.
Lastly, Ryan asked them to give advice to other startup founders.
Rogers said it’s important to really know your story.
“And to continue to refine it and craft it and repeat it and make it better all the time,” she said. “And deliver it with clarity and confidence.”
She also recommended reading Steve Blank’s Startup Manual.
Brunner said it’s important to “know who your hero customer is and find as many of them as possible and talk to them. Make sure you really understand their psyche.”
Douglass told the founders not to opt out. She recommended reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.”
The crowd at the Women@Austin event by Sara Peralta

The crowd at the Women@Austin event, photo by Sara Peralta

Rallyhood Seeks to Simplify Your Online Life

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Patti Rogers, founder of Rallyhood

Patti Rogers, founder of Rallyhood

Quick, how many tools do you use to stay in touch and on top of your schedule? Think Facebook, Google Plus, Base Camp, Dropbox, Survey Monkey, Doodle and email, email, email, email, email. Most of us have to go to at least half a dozen sites to keep track of our lives. Rallyhood wants to make it just one: Rallyhood.
“We have all these different ways to keep track of the projects at work and our kids’ soccer teams and the boards we’re on and the second grade class activities. It’s in all these different silos. But that’s not how we live our lives,” says Rallyhood founder Patti Rogers.
Rallyhood provides private dashboards for any kind of group to communicate over issues, share photos, build a community calendar, sign up volunteers, collect RSVPs and dues and more. It can replace giant streams of email, Facebook and Yahoo group pages, Google shared calendars, Evites and Paypal accounts, all in one application. And that doesn’t include the customization the company can do for groups with premium services.
Plus, you can build a “Rally” around anything, from a company project to a youth sports team to your parents’ anniversary party. And if you have multiple “Rallies” you can get a daily schedule that incorporates all your group activities and deadlines, right in your inbox. The calendar can be exported to other sites like Google and Outlook. It even has integrated maps so you don’t have to look up where you’re supposed to be.
Kevin Embree, CEO of Online Persona, used to run his online marketing company on Base Camp. But there were issues. Techies related comfortably to Base Camp, but clients who weren’t particularly tech savvy, including many of the non-profits the company works for, didn’t want to mess with it.
“They were wondering ‘What is this I’ve been invited to? How am I going to use this?’” Embree said. Clients who rejected Base Camp stuck to emailing, which required tens of emails back and forth every day and made communication a chore. That resulted in lower client satisfaction rates.
Rallyhood_graphicWith Rallyhood, Online Persona could maintain running conversations on the dashboard, download screenshots of social media and other campaigns, and divide information according to who needed access. One of his clients, YMCA, became so enamored of the tool it started using it nationwide to keep track of all of its offices.
Plus, Embree says, he keeps track of his daughter’s volleyball. It’s right there on the dashboard with his work stuff, which is a pretty snazzy marketing strategy on Rallyhood’s part. Each person who is won over converts others, because it makes his or her life easier.
This might prove a giant coup in the case of some of Rallyhood’s customers, like the Girl Scouts of Central Texas which includes 22,000 scouts and 13,000 adults, all of whom are converting to Rallyhood for Girl Scout related communications over the next two years. Lolis Garcia-Babb, Director of Marketing and Communications says some members have fallen in love with the application while others are putting off learning it as long as possible.
The organization has 85 service units, each overseeing 60 troops. It puts out a magazine twice a year. But quickly communicating something important–like when a Central Texas girl was named among only 15 recipients of a national award–is an emailing nightmare. With Rallyhood, it’s put on a central Rally and everyone gets the news. More importantly for the organization, it gets the news privately. Girl Scouts is extremely cautious what information the public has access to. When they used Yahoo Groups, too much information was accessible.
Rogers is thrilled about groups like the Girl Scouts and its talking to other regions. But that’s not what she had in mind when she first envisioned Rallyhood. In fact, in many ways the company started the day Rogers found out she had breast cancer. She was 41.
“I was merging into traffic, wearing a Bat Girl suit because we were having a big ol’ Halloween party and I was planning to pick up my kids dressed as Bat Girl,” she recalls. “And they called and said ‘We wanted to let you know you have breast cancer….’ My first thought was ‘No, this is Patti ROGERS…R-O-G-E-R-S, not Roberts….’ I kept it together and at the end of the evening we kicked out the last few neighbors and unplugged the margarita machine and I told my husband.”
The next many months would bring surgeries and chemo and a hugely supportive community that was a full-time job to manage. Many people wanted to help, but didn’t know how. People wanted to bring meals but didn’t know what. Rogers’ sister tried to orchestrate the tremendous outpouring but it involved a jillion emails and phone calls that ate up her time. And that’s what sparked Rogers’ idea. When she recovered, she considered how great it would be to have a central place where people can go to get information, sign up to help in an organized way, without having to bother the family or lamely offer “If there’s anything I can do….”
If someone uses Rallyhood for support around a sick friend or family member, people can sign up for meals on a calendar. They can see, without having to ask, if the family is gluten free or vegetarian or really hates broccoli. They can make sure that not everyone brings lasagna or offer to help carpool, if that’s what’s needed instead.
But Rogers wanted to make the tool “group agnostic” so it wouldn’t create just another silo. She wanted it to be something that schools and organizations, businesses and families or really any group could use and incorporate other groups. One of the first groups she took it to was a school that had not only classrooms, but teams, organizations, teacher groups, parent groups, boosters and more. The key was getting rid of clutter and chaos. So when the date for a meeting has to change, the site administrator can change it on the calendar and the word will go out to all the group members, rather than having to send a mass email.
Another organization that uses it is Komen Austin. While it’s a small office, when it comes to organizing committees and volunteers, say for Race for the Cure, they needed a tool that could encompass a crowd.
“I love it,” said Christy Casey-Moore, Executive Director. “I can’t be involved in all the nitty-gritty of the committees but I’m on all the rallies and I can go to rally, click on it, and there’s everything.”
Rogers has a web design background. Her husband is in IT in software. They bootstrapped the company in 2010 when she recovered from her cancer and began to wireframe the new site. In 2011 they raised $500,000 of angel seed funding with an additional $1.3 million injected by a group of professional angels led by Tom Meredith and Calendars.com. The company has nine employees at its downtown offices and several engineers off site. As a team, they not only provide the basic Rallyhood services but a high level of customization, said Garcia-Babb.
“I’ve been told I am a good listener,” Rogers said. “I’m eager to find out what isn’t working and fix it in the marketing and design before we build it. Then we measure and iterate. What is it about that feature that is slowing up adoption, making it difficult for leaders to use?” At first, for example, she focused n making the application easier to use in terms of membership lists and data but that left something to be desired in engagement. So then that piece needed attention.
Her real focus is building community and reducing chaos and clutter. That, she said, leads to a happy life.
A Rallyhood account is free and small groups can use it without cost. But there are premium services offered to large organizations based on the scope of services required. Those services include customization of the dashboard, advanced branding solutions and community-specific templates and advanced analytics and products. Enterprise services include gray and white labeling for organizations who want to create their own branded communities with Rallyhood’s feature set.
Now it’s just a matter of making it the go-to in the world of social communication and organization.
As Garcia-Babb said: “If you can capture the imagination of your audience, and if they feel like they’re getting left out, that’s what’s going to drive them there.”

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