Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Seattle Angel Conference VII - Observations and Insights from a First Timer

by Jim Howes

Keynote Notes

Jonathan Sposato, chairman of GeekWire, kicked off the Seattle Angel Conference with an enjoyable keynote entitled "Everything I learned in business I learned running a bar." How did a serial tech entrepreneur end up running a bar, you ask? Well, apparently he was looking to diversify his investments during the late 90's tech bubble and bought some distressed real estate in Seattle. When finding tenants proved difficult, he decided to become his own tenant.

The experience taught him seven "bar rules" that encapsulate timeless business wisdom. Most of them are common refrains in the start-up space: design affects behavior, your team is critically important, and no job is too small. The one that stood out to me the most? "If you create a place for men, only men will show up. If you create a place for women, men and women will show up." Fantastic insight, especially from someone coming from tech.

On that note, during the Q&A session Jonathan made the bold statement that he's not willing to invest in companies that do not have a female member of the founding team, eliciting whoops and cheers from the crowd. Two of the six finalists today specifically target women, and three were founded by women, so he’s certainly speaking to a partial audience.

Pitch Perfect

First Three: Yottio, Glamhive, TomboyX- Couldn't be more different:

The first three companies to pitch were Yottio, Glamhive, and TomboyX. My biggest takeaway was that these are three very different start-ups. Yottio is a platform that will enable television and other live media to pull in real-time live streaming content from viewers. They already have $300,000 in revenue, and are aggressively projecting $200 million in two years. Glamhive, on the other hand, is a social media platform for women to connect the style photos they share with actual products, to enable others to purchase those styles. After hearing the keynote from Jonathan Sposato earlier, I was not surprised to learn that he is one of their principal advisors. And TomboyX is building a women's clothing brand that seeks to combine style with a level of fit and quality that is often only available on men's clothing. Their most impressive metric was a return rate of only 1%, where 20-35% is typical for women's clothing.

I solicited a very small sample of opinions from my fellow attendees, and it seems that TomboyX did an excellent job of hooking the audience emotionally. One person said that she was brought to tears by their brand statement, and another mentioned that they are tapping into a massive unfilled need that has existed for a long, long time.

The most common positive feedback I heard about the pitches was that they did a great job of crafting the story behind the product. There was very little criticism to be found, but one investor mentioned that he would have liked to see a more thorough exploration of traction and go-to-market strategy from all three teams.

Second Three: SaaS plays by Attachedapps, Payboard and Sqoop

After the intermission we were introduced to another set of three start-ups, all of which are SaaS plays. First up was Attachedapps, which is attempting to serve small businesses' CRM needs by filling in the gap between "good enough" solutions like Excel, and enterprise products like Salesforce. I really liked how they opened up the presentation by talking about the intersecting trends of IT consumerization and the unbundling of software through apps. Next was Payboard, which combines AB testing, path optimization, and automation to turn website visitors into revenue. I thought this was the most polished pitch of the group, and I really liked the product, so they would probably get my vote if I was deliberating with the other angels. And, last but not least, was Sqoop. Sqoop has created a free web service for journalists to unearth company information and data from difficult to access sources, which they plan to monetize by connecting the PR industry to the captive audience of reporters on the service. This is probably the most non-intuitive business model of the group, so they had a very challenging pitch to make.


Entrepreneurs Take:  Tailoring for the audience is critical



After dust settled, I asked the entrepreneurs about the challenges they faced in putting together their pitches. The most common answer? Simplifying the message for the audience is really hard. This is especially true for high-tech start-ups that need to convey the essence of the product without getting too far into the technical weeds.

The nature of audience itself also presents challenges, and one founder mentioned that he has over 70 versions of his pitch deck that he has tailored for different audiences. Another stated that reworking pitch decks for different audiences and formats could eat up 100% of his time if he allowed it to.

All of the companies spent a tremendous amount of time refining their pitches, but how do you handle feedback on your pitch? One founder said that he had some fears about making changes to a presentation too close to the pitch. But as long as the feedback is from people who you trust and who understand your business, it will probably improve your pitch. Last-minute changes can be very effective. One case in point: another founder said that the icing on the cake for his pitch was including a story about how he explained the product to his five year-old daughter, which happened only a couple days before the conference.

Finally, now that the pitching is done, is there anything that the entrepreneurs wish they could do over? Everyone mentioned at least one key line that they missed during the presentation, but one good way to recover is to try and work it into the Q&A session afterwards. Another point that everyone agreed on was the need to polish their storytelling, to really draw the audience into their domain at the beginning of the presentation.

Jim Howes
is an MBA student at the University of Washington Foster School of Business. He can be reached at jhowes@uw.edu.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Jonathan Sposato to Keynote Seattle Angel Conference VII

Geekwire Chairman and CEO of PicMonkey Jonathan Sposato will be the keynote speaker for Seattle Angel Conference VII on May 20th at HUB Seattle. He will give a talk entitled 'Everything I Learned as a Tech Entrepreneur I Learned Running a Bar'.

A serial entrepreneur and investor in many startups, Jonathan is currently the Chairman of Geekwire.com, the region's top technology news site, and CEO of PicMonkey the world's most popular web photo-editor. He also has the distinct honor of being the first person to sell 2 companies to Google. As the CEO of Picnik, Jonathan created a category-defining (1st search result for “photo editor”) online photo editor to profitability and reached over 60M visits a month.

Prior to Picnik, Jonathan founded Phatbits which went on to become Google Gadgets.

Prior to Phatbits, Jonathan was a Senior Manager in Microsoft’s consumer division, personally delivering the next level of thought on key Microsoft properties to chairman Bill Gates and the company’s leadership, as well as driving the development of award-winning software applications, Xbox video games, and social communications applications.  

Jonathan is a graduate of Whitman College.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


6 Finalists to Compete for Top Prize at Seattle Angel Conference VII


Congratulations to the 6 Finalists who will compete for more than $200,000 dollars in funding on May 20th during the final event for Seattle Angel Conference VII.  In less than three years, the conference has invested more than one million dollars in 7 local startups across a wide range of industries.
These Finalist companies represent the future of mobile, fashion, culture and business. 
Seattle Angel Conference VII had the highest number of company applications in its history at 51.  Here are the 6 Finalists:
YOTTIO @4yottio
Helping to craft the next generation of inclusive news and entertainment

Glamhive @glamhive
Social media platform for everyday fashionistas to share, shop, and monetize their style.

Tomboy X  @tomboyexchange
Lifestyle brand that creates, curates and cultivates clothing and accessories

attachedapps 
Powerfully simple tools to retain, manage and grow your customers

payboard  @payboard
Processes over ten million events every month for customers to figure out which steps are most likely to lead to conversion

Sqoop  @sqoopinc
Helping journalists gather news 

Friday, April 3, 2015

13 Semi-Finalists to Compete for Top Prize at Seattle Angel Conference VII



Competing for $200,000 in funding!

Congratulations to the 13 semifinalists who will compete for more than $200,000 dollars in funding on May 20th during the final event for Seattle Angel Conference VII.  In less than three years, the conference has invested more than one million dollars in 8 Washington States firms across a wide range of industries.

Across all Industries

These semifinalist companies represent the future of mobile, social media, music, culture and business.  Whether it’s collaborating online to create your next dream room or building your own platforms for live video and music, one of these startups could be the next big thing!

On to Deep Due Diligence by our Volunteer Team of Angel Investors




SAC VII set a new record with 51 applications.  Here are the 12 semi-finalists (One company opted to remain anonymous)

YOTTIO @4yottio
Helping to craft the next generation of inclusive news and entertainment

Purplewall  @purplewall4all
Online collaborative interior design platform

tapTrax   @taptrax
Rapid music discovery- find infinite new music and make fast custom playlists from suggestions

Glamhive @glamhive
Social media platform for everyday fashionistas to share, shop, and monetize their style.

Tomboy X  @tomboyexchange
Lifestyle brand that creates, curates and cultivates clothing and accessories

Crowsnest  @crowsnestio
Crash Analytics for the Internet of Things

GolfPadGPS   @golfpadgps
New real-time game tracking system that works with Golf Pad app on your phone.

Ripple  @ripplemethis
Spread your thoughts

Powerfully simple tools to retain, manage and grow your customers

nouvola  @nouvolatech
Quickly find and fix cloud performance issues before they become a problem

payboard  @payboard
Processes over ten million events every month for customers to figure out which steps are most likely to lead to conversion

Sqoop  @sqoopinc
Helping journalists gather news 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Startup HR - Identifying Your Needs and Recruiting Talent


HR for Startups Identifying needs and recruiting talent & strategies:  - Daniela Luzi Tudor

Training Workshop for Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (PST)

SURF Incubator
999 3rd Avenue
#700
Seattle, WA 9810

 



Identifying Needs & Recruiting Strategies!
In this session you will learn: 
1. How to identify what type of talent you need to get your startup off the ground 
2. Strategies and methods on how to find the right person
3. Making the hire
4. Continuing to ensure team happiness and success!
You will learn tricks and tips to use your network and free tools like LinkedIN to find your core first members of your team!

Daniela is currently the Community Development Manager at General UI, a mobile app and emerging technology development company. She focuses on strategy, recruiting, marketing and PR. Daniela's background is in IT recruiting, HR & sales for Fortune 100 companies and start-ups nationwide. She grew up across five countries and is passionate about music, technology, art, philanthropy, and traveling.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Seattle Angel Launches Seattle Angel Fund


Seattle Angel Team, Group operating Seattle Angel Conference, Launches Seattle Angel Fund.

New investment fund to help drive economic growth across sectors in Washington State.

Driving Economic Growth

Seattle Angel, the group operating the Seattle Angel Conference, announces the launch of a new angel fund focused on investments in Pacific Northwest start-up companies, beginning in January 2015. The Seattle Angel Fund aims to drive economic growth and prosperity in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest by creating growth opportunities for investors and businesses.

 What is next for Angel Investors

 The Seattle Angel Fund is a follow-on to the three year old, highly successful Seattle Angel Conference, begun in 2012, to train new angel investors and bring more funding into the Pacific Northwest start-up ecosystem. The organizers at Seattle Angel estimate there are more than 60,000 people qualified to angel invest in the Seattle area alone, yet fewer than 500 are actually investing in local start-ups.
Susan Preston, General Partner for the CalCEF Clean Energy Angel Fund, the Buerk Endowed Fellow for Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington, and a Trustee for the Angel Resource Institute, will be the Seattle Angel Fund’s professional manager, bringing a wealth of early stage investment experience.

Committed to the Pacific Northwest


Based in Seattle, the Seattle Angel Fund is committed to the Pacific Northwest’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The Fund is an annual fund, and will typically invest in five to seven launch stage companies per year across all industry sectors. Investment decisions will be based upon due diligence and selection of portfolio companies by the investors themselves, rather than by the fund manager. More at www.seattleangelfund.net