4.16.14 • LISTER DELGADO@ListerDelgado

Why One VC Hates the Triangle's Best Place to Live Status

Do livability accolades really attract the best entrepreneurs? One local VC says probably not.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Lister Delgado is a founder and general partner at IDEA Fund Partners. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and company formation, and has been an early stage investor and advisor to entrepreneurs since 2001. Currently, Lister serves on the board as director or observer of nine portfolio companies: Argyle Social, Automated Insights, Distil Networks, GradSave, NextRay, Oncoscope, Pendo.io, Physcient and Windsor Circle.

When ExitEvent asked me to write about a topic of interest to the entrepreneurial community in this region, I immediately had an idea.

It's one of my biggest pet peeves— why I hate it when magazines list the Triangle Region as one of the best places to live.

Don't get me wrong. I like that this is a great place to live. Like many other transplants, I moved here in part because of the great quality of life that this area offers. We typically experience mild weather and enjoy all four seasons. We have a low cost of living, low crime rates, good schools, low unemployment, etc. These are great, but it bothers me when magazines put us on top of these “livability” lists. Those designations do not help us with the one factor that affects the entrepreneurial community the most: better access to capital. --Read On

4.16.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Duke Students Launch World's First Free Mobile Lottery

New app gives lotto-players a free chance to walk away with a jackpot

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Little effort. Free cash.

That's the promise of a new mobile app called Lotto 23 launched April 10 by a pair of Duke University juniors.

Brandon Sassouni and Zachary Poddela (along with Sassouni's childhood friend in New York, Arieh Movtady) believe they're the first in the world to create a mobile lottery that doesn't require the oversight of government.

Its potential could be industry-changing—U.S. lottery ticket sales topped $78 billion in 2012 and more than 57 percent of the population bought at least one ticket. Globally, at least 100 countries have publicly-operated lotteries.

Sassouni and Poddela figure if people will pay for tickets, they'll certainly download an app and enter for free.

"It seemed like a big opportunity to do mobile," says Sassouni, who develops apps under the company name DreamBig Studios. "The lottery is normally run by the state but we saw a legal way to do it for free." --Read On

4.15.14 JIVAN ACHREJA@achreja

Girl Develop It RDU is a huge (and growing) success

An update on the 2-year-old organization teaching women (and some men) to code

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Girl Develop It is an organization started in the U.S. to help women learn software development. With 90 percent of programmers male, there is a serious need for women in the field.

In four years since its launch in 2010, 25 chapters have sprung up around the United States and Canada. It's clear Girl Develop It has begun to solve a real world problem that has existed in development since the inception of the field itself. We need more female developers, and Girl Develop It is building them up and churning them out.

Enter Girl Develop It Raleigh/ Durham. The local chapter is helmed by three active members of the Triangle developer community: Julia Elman, Sarah Kahn and Sylvia Richardson. I first interviewed Julia and Sarah last year for an ExitEvent story about Teen Tech Camp, an annual event held for underprivileged teens at the Durham County Library. That, however, is just one of their pursuits to spread learning and knowledge of software development. I sat down with Kahn recently to learn a bit more about our local GDI chapter and what is in store for the near future.

First, some quick stats about the Raleigh/Durham Chapter: --Read On

4.11.14 SARAH BILL

Catching up with Mati Energy and NeuroSpire at PARADOXOS

Grassroots festival celebrates Durham-born ideas and businesses

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The second-annual PARADOXOS festival brings together disparate start-ups that would not connect under normal circumstances, and last night's Build-A-Party was no exception. Its theme was "What are you building?" and answers came through show-and-tell by real estate developers, artists, musicians, hoteliers and entrepreneurs.

The event is being held at locations throughout downtown Durham, and is built on the exchange of community-inspired ideas.

Tatiana Birgisson, founder of Mati Energy and a speaker at Paradoxos, has a lot to say about the power of grassroots influence.

“The community is so supportive,” she says of her rise from dorm-room tea brewer to Whole Foods distributor. Two years ago, Birgisson was a Duke student living with the burden of post-traumatic stress disorder, and was simply looking for a way to be productive.

“I slept all the time,” says Birgisson. “I needed energy, but I was putting tons of sugar in my coffee. It wasn't healthy.”
 --Read On

4.11.14 JAY BIGELOW@JayBigelow

On the Go with Jay Bigelow

CED's entrepreneurship director shares his weekly adventures and insights on Triangle startups

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

ExitEvent launches a new series today tracking the weekly activities of Council for Entrepreneurial Development Director of Entrepreneurship Jay Bigelow. Why Jay? Because he's charged with meeting and learning the needs of entrepreneurs all over this region and connecting them with the resources and people to help achieve their goals.

Here's Jay's first Friday post detailing the connections he's making and help he's providing throughout the Triangle startup community. To get on Jay's calendar, email jbigelow@cednc.org.

As I re-engaged with the local entrepreneurial community in the past year or so, one of the things I came to realize is the breadth and diversity of innovation in this region (That's a plus).

However, I also observed our “spread-out-ness” is a hindrance not a help. Each “micro-entrepreneurial ecosystem” knows something (and some people) in its little corner of the RTP world, but often does not know what‘s happening just a few miles down I-40. CED supports the entire region and makes connections locally, and more and more, nationally. I thought it might be helpful to share some of our activities on a weekly basis so you can gain a little bigger picture of what's going on region-wide. Please let me know what you think.

 --Read On

4.10.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Update: Yeti Ties World Record But Loses PARADOXOS Talent Show

Fundraising CEO Needs Cash to Fix his Car, Enters Talent Show

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

SnapYeti failed to take home $2,500 in today's PARADOXOS talent show. The grand prize went to Josh Mills, studio director of Relevant Games. Here's his first-prize winning dance ensemble.

Some entrepreneurs couch surf and eat ramen noodles to make ends meet. Others enter talent competitions, and with talents acquired quite literally overnight.

Those who know Justin Beard of SnapYeti won't be too surprised to see him compete in the startup talent show kicking off the PARADOXOS Festival today. He's the guy who makes videos of himself wearing a Yeti costume to promote his photo contest tool for brands.

But this time, Beard's antics will pay off in more than public relations. If he wins the $2,500 at stake in the competition, he'll finally have the money to put a new engine in his broken-down truck.

Beard has spent the last month and a half hitching rides with his fiance and friends. He didn't want to spend the money to fix the truck when he's trying to raise $300,000 from investors to grow his business. Here's the video he created to promote today's performance.

Though Beard hasn't yet secured the funds, his quirky marketing tactics seem to be working. He launched 23 new photo contests in the month of March alone, including one with Target. He acquired more than 7,000 new users during the month to grow the SnapYeti userbase to more than 26,500 people. The site launched in September 2013.

So what's Beard's mysterious talent?

A Guiness World Record for number of balloons popped with his butt in 30 seconds or less. If he pops more than 34 balloons, he'll take the reins from an adolescent British kid who earned the recognition last December. Beard is allowed two helpers to accomplish the feat. He's got work to do...after several practices, he's popped 27.

But Beard is pretty confident he'll win the Record and the $2,500 prize, and perhaps he'll get some good PR too.

After all, "It's not every day the Yeti breaks a world record," he says. --Read On

4.10.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Can these UNC Students Transform the Media Business?

With one launched startup and dozens of students vetting ideas, Reese News Lab is rethinking media

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

If you've ever wanted to bet on the weather, you just might get a chance.

Tomorrow, a team of four University of North Carolina students will stand before a room of meteorologists and news crews to share their idea for Weather Wager. Best compared to the sports betting site CentSports, says sophomore Matt Plaus, the app lets you bet on the weather for free, but earn money from successful bets over time.

Weather Wager is one of six ideas born out of a trio of semester-long challenges posed by John Clark and his team at the Reese News Lab. Funded with a large donation and tucked in the basement of the journalism school at Carroll Hall, the lab opened three years ago to innovate in media.

But a year ago, Clark, formerly general manager at WRAL.com, repositioned the lab to teach students to think like entrepreneurs. He believes that students can play a role in evolving the quickly changing news business into the future.

His students have already come up with one viable product. Beginning with the North Carolina General Assembly's May legislative session, an audio transcription subscription service called Capitol Hound will be available for $500 to lawyers, lobbyists and journalists who want to listen to and track the discussions on the House and Senate floor. The Lab has applied for a grant from Knight Foundation's Prototype Fund to grow the business beyond North Carolina in coming months.
 --Read On

4.10.14 JOE PROCOPIO@jproco

Tech Jobs Under the Big Top Draws Huge Crowd, Makes Solid Connections

Clowns, Jugglers, Jobs

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

I've never had so much fun at a job fair.

As I was walking back from the beer table at Tech Jobs Under the Big Top last night with my second (and final) Top of the Hill Old Well White, replacing the one a Durham police officer had inadvertently knocked off the small table it had been haphazardly placed on (and we had a good laugh, he couldn't have been nicer about it), I decided to hang out at the entry to the event tent and hawk name tags of candidates as they walked in.

Within seconds, a guy walked up with "Data Scientist" on his name tag. I stopped him, introduced myself, and said I'd love to talk to him for a second. He looked at my Automated Insights T-shirt and said, "Cool. I'm here to talk to you anyway."

After about a minute of conversation, I said, "Look, I'll bring you in for an interview tomorrow if you can make it."

And with that, our money was more than well spent.

By 5:15 p.m. (for a 5:30 event), the line to get into Tech Jobs snaked down one block of downtown Durham's Corcoran street and spilled over into a second block. Other folks from Automated took to strolling down the sidewalk, starting conversations with job-seekers as they waited for the event to begin.

What's more is we weren't the only company doing that.

Tech Jobs, as promised, was an aggressive hunt and strong pitch to get about 450 of the Triangle's talent to be interested in working for the 11 startups who paid to present ourselves and our collective hundreds of open positions to them. --Read On

4.9.14 BILL BING@BillNBing

Full Stack Startups and the Resurgence of Venture Capital

New VC trend: investing in big-thinking, revolutionary startups.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Over the last couple of weeks a new meme courtesy of Andreessen Horowitz venture capitalist Chris Dixon has emerged: the full stack startup.

Some may view it is a new name for a slight variant on the idea of vertical integration, but there is a significant difference between the two concepts. Full stack startups (“FSS”) are a new breed of company that don't attempt to correct a particular problem within a larger process or industry. Instead, they reimagine and redesign a process altogether.

To be sure, there is an element of vertical integration within many of these ideas, as developing a new way to accomplish something can require building infrastructure and support services that don't yet exist. A simple example of a FSS is Tesla—rather than design and sell a battery to car makers, the company actually built a complete electric car. It owns the full product cycle, from designing to building and selling their product, rather than addressing one part of the process. Another example is AltSchool—rather than developing tools for teachers, it is building a new type of school altogether.

Taking a full stack approach to problem solving opens up new ways to address challenges, and therefore creates new opportunities for innovators. Starting this type of business can be fairly capital intensive and difficult to get going, but competitors will have significant barriers to entry if you are successful. While this is a somewhat novel and potentially useful approach to problem solving, that's not the primary reason I wanted to write about the FSS meme. I think the meme is an indication that the venture market is shifting out of capital-efficient startup mode to a more aggressive position. --Read On

4.8.14 • MARK EASLEY

Intrastate Investment Crowdfunding is Moving Fast

NC Crowdfunding lobbying group ramps up for May legislative session

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Mark Easley is a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor and a crowdfunding enthusiast leading the charge in North Carolina for the legislature to approve in-state crowdfunding.

Easley spent more than 20 years in Silicon Valley's semiconductor industry, working in software engineering or sales and marketing roles for HP, Intel, Adaptec and PLX Technology.

Since moving to the Triangle in the early 2000s, he's racked up a local investment portfolio that includes ChannelAdvisor, Adzerk, MyStoreRewards, RocketBolt, Trinket, Offline Media, GROUNDFLOOR and Motricity. He's also an avid guitarist, and you can see his talents on stage at Paradoxos this week.

Read the NC JOBS Act blog for more on the pending NC crowdfunding legislation.

Over the last year here in the U.S., there have been a number of important developments in the investment crowdfunding exemption story.

Many states are following in the footsteps of Kansas and Georgia, who were the first to implement in-state investment crowdfunding exemptions by regulation (allowing residents of the state to invest in funds-raising businesses in the state), and North Carolina, the first to introduce an exemption by legislation.

As of today, six states—Kansas, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington and Indiana—have intrastate crowdfunding exemptions in place. Four states—North Carolina, Florida, Alabama and Texas—have legislation pending. And five more—Idaho, Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Jersey—are in various stages of considering the idea.
 --Read On