Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Potomac Tech-Wire holds Seed Stage Outlook and Entrepreneurs Breakfast Round Table; interesting iPad accessory demonstrated

Today, I attended a Potomac Tech-Wire Breakfast Round Table, titled “Seed Stage Outlook 2012: Crowd Funding, Super Angles, Accelerators, and More”, at the Gannett Headquarters (USA Today newspaper) near Tysons Corner VA. The event is sponsored by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and Ross Financial Services.  The basic link is here

In past years, Fairfax County has helped sponsor a Digital Media Conference for the East Coast, usually in Tysons Corner (last year in Crystal City), during the last week of June.  This year, the event, a Mobile and Social Entertainment Summit, appears to be scheduled for New York City, June 28, link here.  

The Potomac event opened early with a full breakfast. It was followed by a Seed Stage Investor Panel, a single presentation about Kickstarter, and then an Entrepreneurial Panel.

In breakfast networking (while my smart phone sported a video image of the Washington Nationals’ Adam LaRoche and his second opposite-field homer in Colorado last night) some of us talked about the need to fine-tune privacy settings for the availability of geolocation from smart phones.  (MLB does provide a good backdrop for business.)

The “Seed Outlook” panelists were Sean Glass (Norman Biddle Venture Partners), Michael Goldstein (Endeavor DC), Jonathan Perelli (“”), Thomas Weithman (CIT Gap Funds), and Paul Sherman, moderator (PTW).

Some of the major ideas were that it’s good not to need funding – if you have friends and family. You need to have details – a business plan, a prototype, and some leads on customers.   Cash requirements for seed funding have gone down in some cases.  There was also a comment that the DC area may be friendlier to investors than Wall Street, and that “the Street” sold Facebook (at the IPO) as a “retail product”; a fair price would have been $18-22, and a price of about $28 today.

The concept of “angel investors” was discussed. These entities provide investment funds with ownership interest as consideration.  There are various ratios of ownership that are common business practice.  A typical company that sponsors such investments is the "New Vantage Group", here.  (And, no, this kind of Vantage doesn't "rule the world".)

After a brief coffee break, there was a presentation by Salman on how he used Kickstarter for a pledge campaign to raise money for his iPad Touchtype.   Here is his “short film” on how his innovation works:

 There followed an Entrepreneurs Panel.  It comprised Stephanie Hay (Fast Customer), James Quigly (Canvas), Fahad Hassan (Always Prepped), Aunim Hossain (Tista Games), and Michael Mayernick (Spinakr). 

There was a general impression that most potential investors tend to be ambiguous when approached, and that entrepreneurs need to be quick and nimble in getting their ideas out: you don’t have a “brand” yet during a startup phase.

There was an audience hand-show on how many were looking for funding right now.  The percentage was small, although during breakfast the people I met were doing so and quite aggressive in their funding approaches.

The service Spinakr looks interesting:  with an embedded code snippet, it analyzes website traffic and recommends “targeted messaging”.  It’s link is here.

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