Famous German scientist Georg Lichtenberg once said that each person is a genius at least once a year, but the best geniuses have their brightest ideas closest together.
If that's truly the case, then the Durham enthusiasts planning the second annual PARADOXOS Festival are onto something. They believe they can force that collision of genius into existence by bringing together Durham's arts, technology, music, maker, entrepreneurial and food communities and proving the city's sum is greater than its parts.
Not exactly sure what that looks like in practice? Then check out 10 reasons you just might want to witness next week's festival of events.
1. You don't have to watch this creative girl-power video anymore to marvel at modern-day Rube Goldberg machines. The folks at Shoeboxed, the Paragraph Project and the Scrap Exchange are partnering up to build a life-size machine that spans PARADOXOS Village in downtown Durham. Come shock audiences with your tinkering abilities. --Read On
Elliott Hauser is CEO of Trinket, an education technology startup in Durham helping instructors and teachers get their course materials online.
As a CEO, the three things you must do well are: set the overall strategy and vision of the company, hire the best team and make sure there's enough money in the bank (according to Union Square Ventures investor Fred Wilson). This post is about building the relationships you'll need to raise money when you need it.
To Build a Relationship, Give First
It's easy to get caught up thinking you're trying to get something from an investor. This is a trap. My test of a good investor is whether they add value in the first meeting though their questions, analysis or advice. So why not return the favor? Find out what—or who—investors are looking for when you meet them and then keep an ear out. It's that easy.
I learned this partially through example: Local founders have been a huge source of intros to angels and VCs for us. Local CEOs like James Avery of Adzerk, Anil Chawla of ArchiveSocial, and Taylor Mingos of Shoeboxed have all opened up their networks to help me get meetings with investors they know. Now that my network is expanding, I've been able to help promising young CEOs I meet get meetings as well. --Read On
Round two of the Triangle's edition of the NEXT pre-accelerator program is kicking off April 23rd at HQ Raleigh. And here's your chance to learn all about it from a local entrepreneur who graduated from the inaugural class in 2013. ExitEvent conducted a question-and-answer interview this week with Durham entrepreneur and graphic designer Archana Gowda.
Below, Gowda shares her story of having an idea and sharing it at Triangle Startup Weekend. She then entered the five-week NEXT (which meets once a week for three hours) to develop it further and get advice from experienced entrepreneurs. Though Gowda hasn't launched her business, she's learned a lot about what it's going to take.
Read on for all of her insights and observations, and hopefully, a little motivation to apply before April 20:
First, briefly your business idea.
My company's name is Vouch. We help singles create more trustworthy profiles by allowing the people you know to vouch for you. Research shows that the number one way that people meet their partners is still through friends and family. But second is online dating. Vouch is really just the next logical step in online dating. --Read On
Those are the first two words out of Windsor Circle CEO Matt Williamson's mouth when I asked his feelings about winning the first-ever Google For Entrepreneurs Demo Day and receiving a $100,000 investment from AOL co-founder Steve Case.
In the minutes to follow the inaugural event at Google's Mountain View campus—where Williamson and Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen pitched against eight other startups from seven secondary startup markets around the nation—he'd spoken with at least a dozen investors. Some compared the quality of his pitch to those at Y Combinator or TechStars Demo Days, gold standard type events for startups.
"When you hear the words "Investment Committee" in initial conversations, that's a good sign," he told me.
Becoming a Google Tech Hub was considered a major win for the region when it was announced nearly six months ago. It'd give American Underground and the Triangle a direct link to one of the most influential Internet companies in the world, and PR cred as it beat out dozens of other entrepreneurial communities. But few understood the true significance of the designation until the Demo Day was announced.
In response to the seven hubs' need for outside capital in their regions, Google For Entrepreneurs agreed to gather its investor friends for an event at its Google Ventures offices. At least one company from each region would have the opportunity to pitch them, and hopefully, to secure investment. --Read On
In the week since Facebook announced plans to purchase Oculus, the general consensus among early adopters of the company's popular virtual reality headsets has been a combination of anger and dismay.
Many were frustrated that a project they funded less than two years ago on Kickstarter was being taken out of the community's hands. Among them was Markus “Notch” Persson, the creator of another nontraditionally-funded gaming project, Minecraft. In a March 25th blog post, Persson said he found Facebook “creepy,” and was no longer going to build a version of Minecraft for the Rift, Oculus's headset. Persson was one of Oculus's top-level Kickstarter backers.
The other common reaction to the news was, “Why Facebook? It's not a game company.” The official line from Facebook during the announcement was that it saw virtual reality as something that would be a “social experience,” and that it would be the best fit to make that happen. The next day, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told reporters and investors his company's vision was to build the next “computing platform.” --Read On
College students from around the country sit in Duke University's Gross Hall auditorium with backpacks and duffel bags scattered around them.
They are ready to spend the whole day and night coding new software at the second annual HackDuke. While most hackathons involve programmers competing to create new technology in a short amount of time, this event has a twist on the traditional approach.
At HackDuke, the students form teams to create real solutions for local nonprofits, not just technology for a business purpose or personal gain. In fact, none of them will win any prize money. Instead, the winners of the event choose a nonprofit to receive donations in their name.
HackDuke co-coordinator Ashley Qian said this year's two-day event, held on campus this past weekend, was the first of its size regionally to bring together college students and non-profit experts to solve real social issues plaguing communities. Its purpose was to allow students of all majors to experience what its like to build a product from scratch and to use it to make a difference.
The organizers did not know what kind of turnout to expect initially—their first event, last spring's hackBlue, was a conventional hackathon and drew more than 80 students from the three major universities in the area: NC State, UNC Chapel Hill and Duke. But this year's event drew 300 and from states like Maryland, Georgia, California, Pennsylvania and Arizona. --Read On
Nick Jordan spends as much time recruiting new employees as selling into clients of his fast-growing web development agency Smashing Boxes.
The company has grown to 38 employees over the last four years, and its greatest need is capable coders. But despite relationships with local universities and recruiters actively seeking workers around the nation, there never seems to be enough talent.
Jordan isn't one to sit back and wait for a solution. Like much of his last eight years starting companies, when he has an idea, he launches it. And his new Durham coding school is no exception.
Coming June 1st is this region's second full-time coding academy, a partnership between Greenville, S.C.-based The Iron Yard and Jordan's firm. Called Iron Yard Academy powered by Smashing Boxes, the school will offer 40-hour-per-week, 12-week courses on a variety of web development topics. For $9,000 ($10K if you need a computer), students are guaranteed they'll learn the skills to get a junior-level programming job within six months of graduation. If they don't, they get their money back.
Coding skills are in demand throughout the world, at early stage companies, governments, nonprofits, hospitals and large corporations. In the U.S., proponents of immigration reform say a lack of coders is a key reason to loosen restrictions on visas for foreign engineers and computer scientists. Coding education has been heralded by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others as a way to better prepare kids for future careers. Others believe coding education can help lower national unemployment, especially among college graduates. --Read On
Tobin Geatz will join your advisory board, sit as your CEO, sell your product at trade shows or serve as your CMO.
But first, you've got to get the attention of his new Seahawk Innovation Funds. Geatz and co-founder Tom Looney have hinted at the creation of a new $20 million fund in Wilmington for nearly a year. Their plan was to partner with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to launch the fund, and to provide some proceeds of successful investments back to the university's research foundation to fund more entrepreneurial efforts at the college (including the operations of the new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.).
It took nine months or so, but UNCW's board of directors have approved the arrangement—one Chancellor Gary Miller says has few prior examples nationally. And the men have since set up shop at the new off-campus offices of the Center. There, they've created a "Seahawk Alley," where startups from Wilmington and across the Southeast will come for funding or other help from the partners. Some may end up building their businesses in the space.
Why Geatz? Because he built 20 businesses over the last 32 years—from software to water purification to clinical research to semiconductor companies— and sold 15 of them. He was a general partner at Aurora Funds II in Cary, and a limited partner in two other funds. And most recently, he merged his Wilmington-based contract research organization Inclinix with PMG Research, using private equity funds.
Looney had an impressive career as a sales executive at Silicon Valley giants like Oracle Corp, Steve Jobs's NeXT, Active Software (now Software AG) and NextChannel Partners (now Microsoft).
Entrepreneurs are an optimistic bunch. We ignore what most people look at as impossible challenges and see problems that have solutions. We believe. And work hard. We find a way to make it happen.
But that doesn't mean that a young company trying to take its great idea to market is a pretty thing to watch. Finding product market fit is difficult even for seasoned marketers. Worse yet, startups regularly struggle to understand how to properly invest in customer acquisition and retention.
Why? Because too few of us have calculated our sales funnel math.
The Secret To Marketing Success Is For Your Business to Make More Money From Customers Than It Costs You To Acquire Them
I know. That's obvious. Yet in practice, it's harder than it seems. Many of us have a gut-level desire to come up with fun, creative marketing ideas, throw them against the wall and wait for the revenue to roll in. Even if that works—and that's a long shot—that doesn't mean that it will be profitable.
Thankfully, there is a reasonably easy way to build a model around how much you should spend to acquire and retain a customer... and then compare it against your real-world performance to keep you on track.
Did you know there are 17 venture funds and venture banks in this region, and 15 organizations providing support for entrepreneurs?
What about the eight startup competitions or contests in town? Or the six incubators and co-working spaces?
Did you know the state has a fund for companies hiring high-tech jobs? Or that it matches the federal government's SBIR and STTR grant awards?
There's also a tax credit for companies developing interactive digital media.
All these startup and small business resources and more are listed in a new one-stop document created by the city of Raleigh and released online this week. The document is regional in nature, including support organizations and efforts throughout the Triangle.
Raleigh's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager Derrick Minor told me the document is part of his office's ongoing attempt to support small and startup businesses in town. Earlier this month, a team from the office and some Raleigh entrepreneurs attended the South by Southwest conference in Austin and rented a table during the conference's trade show. Their primary goal was talent attraction, to meet the needs of companies forming and growing here. --Read On