The Startup Hats: The Introduction

A handbook for startup founders based on the advice and insights of serial entrepreneur and angel investor David Gardner

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

David Gardner is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor based in Cary. He sold ProviderLink to Compuware for $12 million in 2006. Four years later, he sold Peopleclick to a New York private equity firm for $100 million. Among his portfolio of 25 local startups are FilterEasy, Stealz, Validic, ArchiveSocial, FotoSwipe and Fortnight Brewing. He had two exits in 2013: Magnus Health (after it raised a round) and ChannelAdvisor.

Gardner wrote The Startup Hats over Christmas 2013 and expects to publish it. In the meantime, he shares it with ExitEvent readers in 13 installments, beginning with this introduction.

With degrees in philosophy and dead languages, I have often said that the best thing higher education did for me was to leave me with absolutely no marketable skills. I don't say this in jest. The reality is that had I graduated with a useful engineering or finance degree, the odds are that I would have immediately gotten a job, gotten a mortgage and lived out the rest of my days without ever considering starting my own ventures. Since no one would hire me, I stumbled into entrepreneurship simply as a means to service a mountain of student loan debt. Because I didn't know what I should know, I assumed everything was knowable if I just jumped in, thrashed around and didn't give up.
 --Read On

7.14.14 JOE PROCOPIO@jproco

A Common Language for the Internet of Things

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The Open Interconnect Consortium, a group of big tech companies including Intel, Samsung, and Dell, announced last week their intention to create and open-source a specification for connecting the billions of things that make up the Internet of Things. This is the sole purpose of this consortium, and they're starting with smart homes, smart offices, and smart cars.

Their mission is to define "the specification, certification, and branding to deliver reliable interoperability" between all wireless-enabled devices across all operating systems: Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and so on.

In other words, if your smart watch and your smart television can seamlessly talk to one another via this platform, they'll be certified and branded as such. Concepts like user identity, authentication, proximity, onboarding and provisioning, and of course communication, would be plug-and-play between any two certified devices.

As you can imagine, this announcement went out without a ton of fanfare. In comparison to March headlines touting a bot breaking the story of an earthquake, this was a blip.

I can see why. This isn't layperson news. This is rocket science, or rather, robot science. And unless you're talking about the Terminator or Robocop or some other machine putting a human out of a job (and/or eventually killing them), people tend to want to get back to enjoying their slow news day.

But this story has much bigger implications for automated content than the template-driven ramblings of an earthquake sensor. --Read On

7.11.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Help Make 80Pct Solutions a Dream Big America Champ

Chapel Hill startup makes national radio startup competition

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Fred Stutzman is on a roll since his startup 80Pct Solutions won an NC IDEA grant in June.

The former University of North Carolina professor pitched his Freedom App this morning on national radio in hopes of becoming a Dream Big America champion and winning $20,000 in cash and marketing support.

His is one of three pitches to air on radio stations around the country over the next week (and online here), and listeners will vote for their favorite on the Dream Big America website (You can too through the link above). Each month, one champion is chosen from the weekly winners.

Chapel Hill-based 80Pct Solutions develops apps that turn off social media and other online distractions to improve productivity. Check out ExitEvent's profile of the company. Stutzman was "discovered" after last September's local One Million Cups event. The national event series is one of six partners in the Dream Big America Show, a Sprint-sponsored show and contest that launched in May. --Read On

7.11.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

Can FotoSwipe Do Right What Bump Did Wrong?

Raleigh-based photo-sharing startup has 'magic' technology its founder thinks just might make it a viral success.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

When serial entrepreneur Sylvain Dufour first demonstrated for me his new photo-sharing app FotoSwipe, my first thought was, Bump.

Similar to bumping mobile phones to transfer a photo or contact card from person to person, FotoSwipe lets you swipe a photo (or several) from one phone to the next, regardless of model of phone and cellular provider.

We've heard a lot about Bump Technologies' once innovative mobile file and photo-sharing technology in the last year. Google acquired the company in September 2013 for around $35 million (It raised nearly $20M in venture capital) and notoriously shut down the service four months later.

Its biggest criticism was that bumping didn't work on every device—it worked best with phones that have NFC chips (which iPhones do not). Competitors also created easier-to-use sharing apps, like Apple's AirDrop and ProxToMe, which uses Bluetooth technology to detect devices within a 250-foot radius to allow file-sharing.

With just-launched FotoSwipe, Dufour is trying to solve Bump's challenges and offer an even simpler solution than the others, one that could get 10 or 20 million users around the globe and attract potential acquirers.

He's spent the last year building an app with patent-pending technology that allows seamless swiping between two devices when they're next to each other. In recent weeks, he completed the Groundwork Labs pre-accelerator program and raised $250,000 from seed investors, funds he'll use to market the app and drive user adoption around the globe.

He's starting with photos because that's what we all share the most of—he's also spent a decade developing and marketing apps to consumers. --Read On

7.9.14 SARAH HEADLEY@sarah_headley

Startup Jobs, the Weekly Round-up

Want a job at a startup? These 11 companies are hiring...

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

So, you've been looking for a job and still no luck. As Chumbawamba once said, “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never going to keep me down.”

So keep chugging along and take a look at some pretty cool new opportunities at startups in the Triangle...

 --Read On

7.9.14 BLAKE CALLENS@blakecallens

So You Want to Contract a Developer...

Four things to remember before you make a deal.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Blake Callens is CEO of online publishing startup, PencilBlue and Co-founder of the Raleigh Entrepreneurial Acceleration Lab, a non-profit incubator with the mission of creating profitable, self-sustaining, technology startups in the Triangle. He is a DEMOgod and Webby award winner, and writes regularly on the subjects of software startups and UI/UX development.

One of the most common stories I hear from founders is that of the wayward software development contract. It's so common that the top post on the entrepreneur subreddit last weekend was from a business owner who is missing a sales cycle because a contracted project went late.

On the other hand, the sentiment from contractors about unreliable clients isn't any better or any less deserved—it has even inspired its own parodies.

I've been on both sides of the issue. Contractors I've hired have missed deadlines and attempted to charge multiples on the original estimate, even when the project parameters never changed. I've also been the contractor, with clients who were never satisfied, couldn't stick to the plan, and expected their every whim to be accommodated at no additional charge. --Read On

7.8.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

The $2.5M N.C. Budget Line Item No One is Talking About

Details on a grant program that, if reinstated, could fund the state's most innovative startups.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

If it seems like the North Carolina budget talks will never end, then it especially feels that way for the 70 or so N.C. companies that apply for and earn federal Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer grants each year.

If the budget passes in its current form, they could qualify for matching grants of up to $100,000 from the One North Carolina Small Business Program, a grant program that was suspended for the last three years. That could mean more equipment, additional staff, help seeking or defending patents or other critical research and business-building needs.

The current (not-yet-passed) budget reallocates $2.5 million for the program—funds left over from the broader One North Carolina program. Both the House and Senate Budget committees have included the reallocation in their budgets and Governor Pat McCrory has recommended it.
 --Read On

7.8.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

WATCH: Can This Sushi Startup Roll into Grocery Stores?

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

My husband and I tried to make sushi once. Rice got stuck all over the kitchen. And we made the rolls so thick that we couldn't fit them in our mouthes.

It goes without saying that a frozen pre-cooked, pre-sliced, easy-to-roll rice wrap makes a lot of sense. But will people buy it?

A Raleigh father and son certainly think so. Richard and Kyle Cronk hope to raise $68,000 through Kickstarter this month to market, design and buy the equipment needed to package and distribute at retail their patent-pending Slice of Rice healthy frozen rice sheets. They have a ways to go—57 backers have pledged just more than $5,000 with a week left in the campaign.

Here's the kickoff video:

 --Read On

7.7.14 LAURA BAVERMAN@laurabaverman

SOAR MENTEE: Mati Energy's Journey to 75 Whole Foods Stores and Counting

Profiling the impressive female founders in the Triangle's new SOAR mentorship program

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

This is the first 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.

A beverage industry exec once told Mati Energy founder Tatiana Birgisson she'd need $1 million to get cans of her healthy caffeinated energy drink on the shelves of grocery stores.

The comment scared the young startup founder two years ago, but today she can laugh. She hadn't raised any money when she sold her first keg of Mati to the startup Shoeboxed in 2012. And Mati was already on the shelves of seven Whole Foods stores by the time she raised $120,000 from friends and family last fall.

Now, she's ramping up to fulfill orders of the $2.50-$2.70 drink for more than 75 Whole Foods stores across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic by year's end. In the Triangle, Mati is one of the best selling energy drinks in the healthy grocery store's chain.

“We're definitely pushing buttons,” Birgisson says. And she's done it with less than $150K in funding.

But further growth will require more money, Birgisson acknowledges, and so she's happy to have been selected one of four women to receive a year of mentorship from SOAR. The new Google-sponsored female founder mentorship program has a goal to help at least one woman raise funds by summer 2015. --Read On

7.7.14 • AMY HUFFMAN@arhuffman78

Thoughts on Yo, Tulips and Bubbles by Appia's CEO and ExitEvent's Data Geek

Jud Bowman and ExitEvent are following Yo and you should too.

Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

When I first learned of the app, Yo, and its $1.2 million dollar investment, I experienced a wave of nostalgia (if you haven't heard of Yo, check out our recap here). In my more youthful days, I often greeted friends using popular late ‘90s phrases like “What up, yo?” or “Yo, dude.”

So, seeing the word ‘yo' enter mainstream culture again quickly sent me back to my youth. But after my initial reaction, I realized the app reminded me of something else I read about a few years ago—tulips.

In 17th century Holland, if you owned tulip flowers, you were considered to be important and successful. When a rare and particularly popular genetically-modified tulip bulb—called mosaic—was created, the tulip market bubbled because bulb prices skyrocketed far beyond their actual value. Merchants bought large numbers of bulbs with the intent to sell them the next season at a profit, further exacerbating the market. At the peak, one mosaic bulb could sell for roughly $90,000 in 2014 dollars. As more bulbs were grown and the market became saturated, the price of bulbs dropped dramatically, crashing the market.

Today, this series of events is famous as the first recorded economic bubble.
 --Read On