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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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
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'sExitEvent'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
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.
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
That was my defense to BCVP partner Jason Caplain anyway when he called me out on my lack of coverage of the fruits of his months of meetings and conversations and paperwork.
He had a point—there's a well-documented scarcity of funds available for tech startups in this region and focus from nearly every organization in town on improving the situation.
Part of that focus has been to lure out-of-town investors. Those efforts have been fruitful considering high-profile raises this year by Automated Insights, Keona Health, Validic, WedPics and Valencell, all of which had investors from outside the region. CED's latest Innovators Report counted 108 unique investors in the Triangle in 2013, 75 percent from out of state.
But time and again, venture capitalists outside the region say they'd like a partner inside of it (The most recent of these was Neil Sequeira of General Catalyst Partners, who I met in Palo Alto in April after a Caplain intro). They want someone who can hear the daily needs of the entrepreneurs and help fulfill them. That's why BCVP's $26 million fund is so important. --Read On
Jay Bigelow's column is part of a regular series on ExitEvent. 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.
I read three different but very interesting articles/posts about the philosophy of investors this past week. Each sheds some light on the ongoing debate around the lingering challenges of raising capital in this area.
That debate often boils down to two categories of issues: structural (e.g. not enough local VCs, no “critical mass” or areas of expertise, etc.) or cultural (e.g. entrepreneurs are too comfortable with current lifestyle or aren't driven to build big, disruptive innovation companies, or early investors are too risk adverse, etc.) Here's a quick recap of each article's argument:
*Allison Wood of LCMS+ sent me an interesting blog post the other day by Matt Greenfield of the New York-based edtech venture capital firm Rethink Education. While the core premise is the need for industry standards for edtech companies, he cited his experience trying to invest in RTP-based telephony companies back in the 1980s. From his perspective, the entrepreneurs of those companies simply did not have the ethos to build huge, disruptive technology companies (like those often found in Silicon Valley). It is Matt's assertion that culturally, our entrepreneurs just didn't have the chops (at least back then). Sure, there is an entirely new generation of entrepreneurs in this region, but that perception may still linger especially in the minds of investors from outside the region. --Read On
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. Here's part two.
After speaking on entrepreneurship at a conference a few years ago I was taking questions from the audience when a wide-eyed young man near the front raised his hand. He asked what arguably might be the two best questions any would-be entrepreneur should ask,
“How do I know if I'm cut out to be an entrepreneur and what is it like to start your own company?”
I said that starting a new venture is a rush full of stress and uncertainty but one that will get you out of bed excited to get going every morning. You put together a little pot of money against a plan that you honestly don't know will work and then you try like hell to get cash flow positive before it runs out. It's like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute; all you have is a bag full of really ambitious silk worms and you are knitting as fast as you can all of the way down! --Read On