There's no Mark Cuban, but tonight's Real Deal event is the closest this region might get to a local Shark Tank.
Conceived by a pair of local business consultants and the trio of founders at Royalty Exchange, the first-time event at CAM Raleigh is inspired by the popular televised pitch event, but with a mission critical to the growth of this region's startup community.
Their goal is to get people who've never invested in startup companies before to make their first deal. And live.
And if it works, they'll take the event on the road.
Co-founders Robert Williams and Antoine Ponton of CaWaSa Consulting don't think it will be too difficult to get people to invest on the spot. They've selected four companies to present, each with established businesses and intriguing plans for growth. There's the groundbreaking real estate crowd lending site GROUNDFLOOR, Gamil Design with its fast-selling Impress coffee press and to-go cup, an educational kids film company called Rusty Bucket and an analytics startup called Biddrocket focused on the events and entertainment business.
And they're targeting people for which $50,000 or $100,000 isn't so large a sum. The companies are each seeking between $500,00 and $1 million.Lawyers helped the Real Deal organizers be sure they complied with Securities and Exchange Commission regulations for soliciting accredited investors. --Read On
A Microsoft engineer wanted to do something about the lack of computer science education in Seattle public schools. So he contacted a local high school and began to teach 12 students how to code.
That was five years ago. Today, his program called Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) has 280 software engineers volunteering as teachers and mentors to 3,300 students in 70 U.S. high schools. They've developed computer science curriculum that teachers use to train students for 21st century technology careers.
And their big goal is to get computer science education in every high school.
That's also a wish of the entrepreneurial community growing in Durham. And those startup founders and workers weren't afraid to speak it at yesterday's focus group with Durham Board of Education Chair Heidi Carter and Vice Chair Minnie Forte-Brown.
The Board is taking a collaborative approach to finding the next leader for its 33,400 student school district. Though it's hired a national recruiter to identify candidates, the job description will be written with the help of the community. The focus group at American Underground Tuesday was the third this week. Board members expect to finalize a candidate profile by Friday and to post it around the nation in coming days and weeks. --Read On
CB Insights predicted a Series A crunch 16 months ago—1,000 early stage startups would die because the couldn't raise another round of funds.
But there's another thing that often happens to early stage companies—they realize it's too hard, there's too much competition and they're not growing at the clip they need to turn a decent profit any time soon. It's just not worth raising more funds.
That was the case for Argyle Social, a Durham startup early in to social media and marketing automation, an industry segment that has exploded in the last two years due to large venture capital raises and major acquisitions by giants like Salesforce, Adobe and Oracle. Last week, founder Adam Covati notified his employees and customers that he'll shut down the platform at the end of May. WRALTechWire covered the news here.
Covati told me in an email that though about 500 companies had used Argyle during its four years—which at mid-market prices provided decent revenue for the small firm—it was an uphill battle to compete with the giants. --Read On
Taxi drivers in the N.C. State area may be a little confused over a recent decrease in drunk student calls. There is a new competitor on the scene.
N.C. State students Arjun Aravindan (pictured right) and Tomer Shvueli (left) launched the sober driving startup Campus Cruizer in February. It is an online platform with a mobile app that allows pre-registered designated student drivers to connect with students needing a safe ride home.
“We have the Cruizers who drive for us, and the Boozers who request rides,” says Shvueli. “We have a universal phone number the Boozers call, and that redirects them to a Cruizer who's currently driving in our queue.”
They say their service offers advantages the taxi companies cannot match: a comfortable ride, lower rates and the ability to support fellow students. Not to mention the ability to coordinate rides effortlessly from a mobile phone.
Campus Cruizer is hopping on a couple national trends. There's the movement to reinvent the taxicab and private car industry, led by San Francisco-based Uber, which allows busy professionals in 70 cities to find, call and pay drivers using a mobile app, and Lyft, a ride-sharing app which caters more to the casual commuter (drivers are known to give fist-bumps and wear iconic pink mustaches). --Read On
Green and granola might be common ways to describe residents of Asheville. But reality is that sustainability and the natural environment actually drive the economy in North Carolina's largest mountain town.
And that's why a team of entrepreneurs, educators and investors believe it's the best place for the nation's premiere green tech accelerator. Launching late this year or early next is a new three-month startup accelerator program sponsored by the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech) and the Greenville, S.C. The Iron Yard (which is alsoopening a code school with Smashing Boxes in Durham). Organizers hope that entrepreneurs from around the world will move to Asheville to take advantage of its many resources for green technology and product companies.
Those include the hundreds of scientists who work at Asheville's National Climatic Data Center, which holds the world's largest climate data archive; professors and researchers at the greenest university in the country, Warren Wilson College; solar energy experts at FLS Energy, a leader in its field; and handfuls of software entrepreneurs who have settled in town. The community college has also won several Department of Energy grants around sustainability.
Plans for an accelerator in Asheville are at least three years old, says Marilyn McDonald, strategic business development officer at A-B Tech. For several years, the college has incubated biofuels, natural products and sustainable agriculture companies at its Business Acceleration facility off-campus. More than 15 are in the incubator now. --Read On
ExitEvent recently launched a series 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 latest 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Thursday, I saw more than eight pitches. Some great, some good, some not-so-good. One global observation I have from seeing many first-time tech entrepreneurs pitch is a real lack of understanding about the competitive landscape. While I'm sure each entrepreneur truly believes he or she has invented the greatest piece of technology ever, that doesn't mean prospective customer can't find alternatives to stop/ease the pain. --Read On
Gaming is getting more serious these days, and the organizers of the sixth annual East Coast Game Conference have planned next week's two days of workshops, speakers, expos and events to prove it.
Serious gaming—or gaming used for training, strategy, education, government, defense, health and more—is woven throughout conference tracks that range from production, narrative and art to programming, design and gaming technologies. Organizers Troy Knight of the Raleigh creative agency BLDG 25 and Walter Rotenberry of Wake Tech's computer science department hope this year's event is appealing to corporations interested in training employees or customers using games; to startups incorporating gaming into their products; to fun gamers looking at broader corporate applications for their talents and jobseekers and students looking to enter the field. They expect more than 1,000 attendees this year, and they're coming from around the nation.
As a preview for the event, happening next Wednesday and Thursday at the Raleigh Convention Center, ExitEvent writer Jivan Achreja and I have compiled a list of reasons why this year's ECGC is worth attending, whether you're a gamer, game developer or neither.
Understanding of game theory and gamification is becoming increasingly critical to business and entrepreneurs. "How do I make my business/experience/product more "sellable"?" is a question everyone in business struggles with, and games are one way to add interest to your product or site and motivate customers to keep buying or visiting. --Read On
At least a handful of Startup Weekend events will happen in the Triangle by year's end, including the first local Women and second EDU editions. One class of NEXT mentoring is planned. And perhaps the Triangle will send its first entrepreneurs as mentors to Entrepreneurs Across Borders, the newest program of the international entrepreneurial support organization known as UP Global.
There's one UP Global woman who supports all of these Triangle efforts (and those in 11 other southeastern states and Puerto Rico), and we spent some time chatting during her visit to the Triangle last week.
Ari Kern lives in Kansas City and is one of a dozen or so regional managers for the Seattle organization formed a year ago to house the global activities of Startup Weekend and the President Barack Obama initiative known as Startup America. She'll oversee more than 60 Startup Weekends, four Startup Weekend EDUs, three Corporate Internal Startup Weekends and three NEXT mentoring programs throughout the Southeast this year. That's nearly double the activity of 2013.
Though she spends most of her time on Google Hangouts sharing tips and insights with event organizers, she also makes visits to the regions to get to know the teams and find out how she can support their event plans with UP's national and global resources.
For example, Google for Entrepreneurs and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation have pledged to match up to $2,000 in funds raised in 10 cities for Startup Weekend: Women events. Kern is helping local organizer Mital Patel rally a dozen or so local women to raise funds and plan an event at HQ Raleigh later this year. --Read On
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
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