7.23.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

My Chance to Interview SXSW Interactive's Hugh Forrest

SXSW Interactive leader to headline Wilmington event September 4

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

I attended my first South by Southwest Interactive Festival in 2011, and I remember walking away thinking, 'What just happened?'

It's one of those experiences that can only be described with a bunch of adjectives: energizing, inspiring, weird, delicious, surprising, fun, exhausting, overwhelming, exciting and I'm sure I'm missing a lot. At the end of the weekend, your brain is so full you can't make sense of it any other way.

But looking back, I know that the people I met and heard speak gave me deep context for the interviews I've conducted and stories I've written since. So I guess if I had to pick a word to describe SXSW, it's influential.

There's a team of people that carefully crafts this experience, and the head of that team for the last 21 years is an Austin man named Hugh Forrest. And North Carolina (specifically, Wilmington) is lucky enough to be his host September 4th for the first Coastal Connect Entrepreneur and Capital Conference, an event organizers hope will spotlight the entrepreneurial efforts in their city along with its coast line (Check out ExitEvent's take on Wilmington's startup scene). I'm pretty pumped too, because they've asked me to host a "riverside" chat with him that day.

Forrest and I chatted yesterday to help me prepare for the event and I've published excerpts of our conversation below. I hope they drum up some other questions from those who plan to attend (leave some in the comments, if you want!).
 --Read On

7.23.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Help Governor McCrory Help Startups

The Gov surveys entrepreneurs for help spurring more university commercialization

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

University commercialization. One of the most complicated, yet promising, functions of entrepreneurial communities.

It's been around since 1980, when the federal government passed the Bayh-Dole Act and made it possible for universities (and nonprofits and private corporations) to own intellectual property rights to federally-funded research. What universities do with those rights is what is continually up for discussion. And that's mostly because universities are best at education, not launching businesses.

Governor McCrory and the North Carolina Office of Science & Technology are tackling this challenge head on. One of four priorities of his Innovation-to-Jobs Working Group is to increase licensing revenue, startup creation and investor opportunity at the state's educational institutions.

To help understand the opportunity that exists, the team wants your help. If you've had any involvement in research or innovation at local universities, consider filling out this 15-minute survey. The specific request is for your opinion about how well NC's universities perform in commercialization activities (i.e., creation and support of startup companies as investment opportunities; licensing innovations to existing businesses or startups). --Read On

7.23.14 BILL BING@BillNBing

The More Things Change... (The Mostly Inert State of the Limited Partner)

The rest of the venture capital world is changing. Why aren't institutional LPs?

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The other day I was watching part of 500 Startups' PreMoney conference live video stream and I happened to catch the Limited Partner (“LP”) panel.

It was a group of five or six CIOs and Alternative Investment Managers from large institutional investment funds and fund-of-funds, and it was… incredibly boring.

It immediately brought me back to my time attending conferences and listening to LP panels while fundraising for Square 1 Ventures in 2008. Everyone was saying the exact same things as they were back then and speaking in generalities about the characteristics they look for in a manager: “good track record”, “honest about performance”, “patient approach”, “can manage in all macro environments” and more empty and banal platitudes.

Right after the LP panel, Naval Ravikant, founder of AngelList (a company that is completely changing angel investing and which I believe will continue to eat its way downstream) had a fireside chat in which he discussed the impact of AngelList. Contrasting these two sessions left me shaking my head: how can there be so much change and excitement going on in the world of direct investing, while one level up the food chain everything is so stagnant and dull?
 --Read On

7.22.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

SOAR MENTEE: Building the Sportswear Brand of Tween Athletes Everywhere

Dragonwing Girlgear aims to build a national brand around age-appropriate sports bras and apparel

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

This is the second in a series of profiles on the first four women to be mentored by SOAR, a new Triangle area organization to help female entrepreneurs raise capital and grow their companies. SOAR is funded by Google for Entrepreneurs as part of its #40Forward initiative to support women in startups.

MaryAnne Gucciardi carries a special bag with her wherever she goes.

When the right moment comes along in a conversation, she begins to pull out its contents. The first looks like a typical girl's camisole but Gucciardi is quick to point out its wider straps, longer torso, elastic that doesn't ride up and its wicking shelf bra. It's made of sustainable fabric, she says, and it blocks the sun with its UV 50 rating. Perfect for tweens on the soccer field, basketball court or in a dance studio.

Next comes a similar garment from a name-brand department store. She'll have you feel the difference.

And then she'll tell the story behind the former, the first creation of her line of Dragonwing Girlgear sportswear, what she envisions will become the leading brand for girls aged 8 to 17 who play sports.

With the help of SOAR, the Cary entrepreneur hopes to build a business worthy of outside investment, and with sports bras, camis, compression shorts and other garments sold online and in athletic stores around the nation. So far, she's selling in about 10 retail stores, including Omega Sports in the Triangle and online through the Hillsborough-based operator of Soccer.com and Lacrosse.com (Sports Endeavors, Inc.).

“My whole mission in this business is to give girls an advantage on the field and in life,” she says. “If something fits, it can be empowering, a change agent.” --Read On

7.21.14 • SCOT WINGO@scotwingo

Ask Scot Wingo: Coming Up With Your Big Idea, i.e. The Startup Idea Pattern

Part one of a three-part series on how to turn ideas into companies.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Scot Wingo is co-founder and CEO of ChannelAdvisor, a public company in Morrisville, N.C. that helps e-commerce retailers optimize sales across channels. Wingo and team took the company public in May 2013.

This is a regular series, and you can read the kick-off post here for background. Ask him a question by commenting or emailing news@exitevent.com.

Aaron writes:
Hey Scot,

I've always had so many ideas swirling around but never felt drawn towards any one idea over the others. How were you able to come up with 3 ideas that were able to create such value? I just bash my head against the wall sometimes trying to think of something that would create legitimate value for someone, so much so they'd give me their money for it.

I'm a web developer, but development is a means to an end for me, with the end being creating something of value, rather than programming for programming's sake.

Thanks Aaron! This is a great question and one I'm going to answer with a three-part series:

1. Coming up with your Big Idea—the Startup Idea Pattern
2. Evaluating your Idea(s)
3. Ideas are easy—execution is hard. --Read On

7.18.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

ArchiveSocial Raises $1M From Strategic California GovTech Investor

Durham civic tech startup gets unprecedented access to government through new strategic partnership

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The tip came from City of Raleigh CIO Gail Roper. You have to talk to Dennis.

ArchiveSocial CEO Anil Chawla was running into the same problem over and over again—despite connections made at the nationally-recognized Code for America accelerator and early users of his software that archives social media for government workers and officials—it was really hard for the small company to get attention in the civic sector.

But Dennis McKenna had access unlike many others. He started 30 years ago and still runs the leading media, research and education company serving state and local government, Folsom, Calif.-based e.Republic. And one fateful day last fall, Chawla cornered the man at a Code for America conference, gave his 30-second pitch and began a relationship that now promises links to nearly every municipality in the nation.

Today, Chawla announces a $1 million investment from e.Republic Ventures (in capital and marketing services). ArchiveSocial also becomes the first portfolio company in a new e.Republic Labs innovation initiative. Chawla will get access to the company's volumes of research (typically available to giant government IT vendors like IBM, Lockheed Martin and Accenture), its 150 events each year and marketing prowess to help sell ArchiveSocial into governments around the nation.
 --Read On


A Startup Founder's Plea for Net Neutrality, and Why You Should Care Too

GROUNDFLOOR co-founder wants entrepreneurs to take a stance on net neutrality before the FCC's comment period ends tomorrow.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Nick Bhargava is co-founder of GROUNDFLOOR, the Raleigh-based pioneer of real estate crowd lending. He previously worked for the Securities and Exchange Commission, helping to draft the federal crowdfunding rules. He holds a JD and worked as legal counsel for SciQuest.

You might not be familiar with Net Neutrality, but it just might be one of the defining issues of our time.

Simply put, the core question of Net Neutrality is whether all bits are created equal. On one side are Internet users, startups, technology companies, content providers and First Amendment advocates, who believe the government should impose Net Neutrality rules. On the other side are the incumbent Internet Service Providers, who would prefer to operate and price discriminate consumers and content providers freely.

Government rules and regulations creating a Net Neutrality framework would require ISPs to provide access to content on a non-discriminatory basis. For example, Comcast could not charge you more money to access Netflix than it could for you access its own streaming video options. Likewise, Comcast could not charge Netflix more money to deliver content to its Internet subscribers by sole virtue of Netflix being a sought-after streaming service.
 --Read On

7.17.14 • BENJI JONES

Intrastate Crowdfunding: Why the Red Tape? You Gotta be Able to Kick the Tires

Why doesn't this law exist already? Our legal expert makes sense of the General Assembly's delays.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Benji Jones is an attorney and partner at Smith Anderson in Raleigh. For young and growing companies, she handles public equity and debt offerings, corporate formation and governance, early stage financing and mergers and acquisitions. She graduated from Columbia University Law School and has a background in writing—she was on staff at the Columbia Law Review.

I recently received an email from a reader (quite legitimately) lamenting the delay by the NC Senate in adopting the NC JOBS Act (although we are getting closer! And here's ExitEvent's update on the bill ) and the massive amount of red tape that comes with the law. He went on to ask: Why, if he could buy a used car for $2,000 (which would be the cap for many investors under the proposed law) with just a handshake, we needed all of this regulation for small investments in local companies?

I understand his frustration and support the general principle underlying his complaint. Our representatives need to create an intrastate crowdfunding process that is efficient and effective. If intrastate crowdfunding is too complicated or too expensive, people simply won't use it.

But the crowdfunding process also needs to provide transparency so that potential investors know what they are getting into. Investing in a company through equity crowdfunding isn't the same thing as buying a used car. Here are three reasons why: --Read On

7.17.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

STORIFY: How We Rally for Cali Investors

Los Angeles VC and blogger Mark Suster wants help planning an N.C. visit....here's how we helped.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

A cool thing happened on Twitter yesterday. Mark Suster, a well-known California venture capitalist, serial entrepreneur and popular blogger on all things startups (his LinkedIn photo left), asked his 166,000 followers for help planning a September trip to North Carolina. And the Triangle rallied.

We've aggregated all the Twitter chatter in the fancy little Storify below. But here's the bigger question: what should a big-name venture capitalist do when he visits our state?

On a May visit, 500 Startups' founder Dave McClure visited the universities, participated in a fireside chat with 100 or so startup community members, played late night pool with some entrepreneurs and attended The Startup Factory's Pitch Night. Plenty of other VCs and West Coast founders come in town for the Triangle's big conferences or to speak at their alma maters each year, spending most of their time in convention halls and college campuses.

But it's a pretty cool opportunity to help set the agenda of a person this region hopes to impress. So what would you suggest? Share your itinerary for Suster in the comments.

And for a bit more info on the man, check out his website and bio. --Read On

7.16.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

A General Assembly Vote, Some Rule-Making and $150 Separate You From Crowdfunding in N.C.

Senate Commerce Committee approves latest version of NC JOBS Act.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Here's some encouraging news for your Wednesday. The Senate Commerce Committee spent less than 40 minutes discussing the latest version of the state's proposed JOBS Act before approving it. Nearly every senator in the room lauded the bill for its effort to help companies raise funds and create jobs across the state.

And now both parts of the proposed law—intrastate crowdfunding and a new $208 million tax credit program for institutions that lend money to growing small businesses in rural communities—have a pretty sure bet at hitting the General Assembly's floor next week before the spring session comes to a close.

The only other step before that happens is Senate Finance Committee approval of the $150 fee companies will be required to pay before they can file an exemption to existing securities laws and begin soliciting funds from the general public. And local leaders of the N.C. JOBS Act lobbying effort tell me that's only a technicality.

The law in its current form is as close to the gold standard (Georgia, which perfectly addresses the needs of companies raising capital) as the state will get, says Nick Bhargava, co-founder of the real estate crowd lending site GROUNDFLOOR and a JOBS Act proponent. The major difference is that N.C.'s law includes more investor protections. --Read On