500 Startups’ Batch 20 Demo Day:  The Summer of Love

The 41 companies of Batch 20 proudly graduated from 500 Startups three month Accelerator program by pitching to an auditorium full of investors on their Demo Day held on May 12, 2017.  The startups fell mainly into the categories of Digital Health, FinTech and Civic Tech.  With a flair for fun, the theme for the event was the “Summer of Love” and Dave McClure and the 500 Team were dressed up in their groovy getups.  In no particular order, here are some of the startups that I found hip.

 

Outta Sight!

I have two Amazon Echo’s in my house and use Siri often with my iPhone.  Consequently, Mycroft AI was my top pick for the batch.  They’ve developed an open source voice assistant platform that allows companies to create their own voice assistant interface.

Bummer…You Need a Lawyer

The only thing worse than going to a dentist is having to find a lawyer.  Having personally done this in the past, it’s really not fun.  Court Buddy helps consumers find solo practicing lawyers that offer flat rates.

Keep on Truckin’

 Preteckt has developed a platform that uses both hardware and software to provide real time data for big rigs and effectively predicts needed maintenance and minimizes on down time for the trucking industry.

Flashback: It’s Been Done Before But…

With Printivo, you can make business cards, custom stationary, banners, posters via their web site.  Hmmm….aren’t there a ton of companies like VistaPrint and Shutterfly that already do this?  Yes, but Printivo is the only online service that does this in Africa which is green territory worth an estimated $8 B.  I personally like startups that do functions that we find mundane in areas that are underserved.

Head Trip:  Why Hasn’t This Been Done Yet?

BenRevo has developed a sales automation platform for the health insurance industry.  This essentially provides the ability for health insurance to be purchased online.  Why is this head trip?  I don’t know why the insurance companies do this themselves.  Kudos to the Benrevo team for recognizing the need and developing a solution.

It’s Hip to be Square

Combine the most boring topics, government, big data, and urban planning and you get the startup, UrbanLogiq.  UrbanLogiq has developed a platform where they aggregate big data into a usable format which really helps out city planners.   A yawn fest for me but, if you’re a city planner, UrbanLogiq is pretty hip.

Nark and Get Paid

Sacramento based Text To Ticket has developed an app where you can report texting drivers.  A good video that catches the culprit will nab the nark $5 (Text to Ticket gets a lot more when they forward the video to the appropriate enforcement agency).

Groovy:  A Fun Startup

Win-Win has developed a platform where athletes can engage their fans by hosting games while raising funds for their charities.  I found their CEO, Mike Tauiliili, pretty interesting.  He was an NFL Player that played for the Indianapolis Colts.  Afterwards, he learned to code and joined the Silicon Valley startup world.

Join Batch 22

How well the Batch 20 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing three unicorn startups (with a fourth, possibly on the way). 37 Centaurs, (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M).

If you’re interest in 500 Startups, they are currently looking for applicants for Batch 22.

A good candidate should have:

  • Balanced Team
  • Product Launched
  • Traction with Good Metrics​

If your startup is interested in applying for Batch 22, find the application here.

After applying, be sure to ask your local Startup Grind director for a warm referral!

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

SupportPay Founder Sheri Atwood: Almost on Food Stamps

Sheri Atwood, founder and CEO of SupportPay was named #5 out of the top “50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley.  In her interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Sheri discussed her entrepreneurial journey.

Chaotic Childhood.

Sheri’s childhood was chaotic having to attended over 20 schools by the time she received her diploma. After graduating from UC San Diego, she started working with Sun Microsystems and later attained an MBA to sharpen her business skills. Shortly after having her daughter, she parted ways with her husband and put her best forward to end on a good note. She quickly realized that despite her efforts, the side effects of a divorce can complicate things. One day while doing an expense report for Symantec, Sheri started to imagine how such a report could be used to benefit her child support dilemma. She quit her high-paying VP position, learned how to code and started to build her application. Within a year she was able to get her first 100 users and gained valuable insight on the most-needed features and ideal price point.

“The Bigger the Pain, The More They’ll Pay”

It didn’t take long to discover that some divorcees would pay virtually any amount to automate their childhood affairs. But when in the room with Valley VC’s, many had doubts and solidified the price point at $9.99/month. After continual pitches and little response, funds started to get low and Sheri needed to find an investor and fast. Almost miraculously, 2 of the biggest Silicon players, Marc Benioff and Tim Draper gave the greenlight on a $100 k investment. If Sheri wouldn’t have received funding at that precise moment, she planned to apply for food stamps the following day.

SupportPay

Since then, SupportPay has successfully raised an $4 M Series A round and have moved their operation to Sacramento. You can watch her Startup Grind Sacramento Interview here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Sacramento Kings Hosts 2nd Annual Capitalize Startup Contest

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Last  year, 89 startups participated in the Sacramento King’s Capitalize Contest.  It was a March Madness type of event which had several judging rounds that culminated to a four finalist where the winner was decided by Kings Fans.

The Sacramento Kings announced the second year of Capitalize, the NBA’s first startup pitch contest showcasing local entrepreneurs. Moneta Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Folsom, California, is collaborating with the Kings to highlight the most promising innovators and companies of the Sacramento region, potentially launching their unique products into a global marketplace.

Startups within 75 miles of Sacramento may submit applications for this unique contest. Visit Kings.com/Capitalize to begin the application process.

“The inaugural Capitalize contest highlighted the best and brightest innovators that come right from our community who are ready to compete on a global stage,” said Kings President Chris Granger. “We’re excited to see what projects rise during this year’s competition and grow Sacramento’s emerging innovation economy. It’s a unique way for us to use our robust background in tech to support our community’s entrepreneurs.”

Last year’s finalists have seen tremendous opportunities following the first NBA VC contest. Finalist California Safe Soil provides its innovative waste solution at the Kings new home, Golden 1 Center – the most environmentally friendly and technologically advanced arena in the world – and has expanded to an 80,000 square-foot facility to meet new client needs. Finalist Barobo received the 2016 Sacramento Regional Innovation Award for Hardware and Electronics and looks to partner with the Kings Foundation on a school STEM initiative.

“We are excited and proud to be working with the Sacramento Kings to continue to grow the Sacramento tech economy,” said Moneta Ventures Managing Partner Lokesh Sikaria. “As a fund focused on early-stage companies, the Moneta team hopes to add valuable insight to the Capitalize contest process.”

Capitalize is a two-round tournament where 16 local innovators will compete to be selected for a cash prize and lunch with an owner of the Sacramento Kings. Sixteen semi-finalists will be selected to participate in a one-day pitchfest, where they will have an opportunity to impress a panel of judges consisting of local investors and technology executives. These judges will select the top four companies to move on to the finals.

The four finalists will compete for the fan vote on Twitter from March 15 through March 22, when they will join the join the Kings and Moneta Ventures at Golden 1 Center for Tech Night on March 22. The winner will be announced and awarded a grand prize package.  The deadline to apply for the contest is February 17, 2017.

Impact Venture Capital Entrepreneurs Showcase Accelerator

EOH

Impact Venture Capital (formerly Velocity VC) is taking applications for their Entrepreneur’s Showcase Accelerator.  The most promising technology startups from Northern CA are selected to engage in 8 weeks of intensive education and mentoring sessions in order to refine their business model, hone their pitches, and prepare to take the stage in front of investors on Demo Day. The Entrepreneur’s Showcase was a recipient of the City of Sacramento’s RAILS Grant.    Apptology went through the program in 2013 and we highly recommend the program.

Application: http://impactvc.com/showcase-accelerator/

Benefits include:

  • 30+ hours of intensive coaching, mentorship & peer review
  • 6 months of access to co-working space
  • Free Office hours – including legal, sales, business & marketing
  • Promotion via web, social & events
  • Opportunity to present to investors, customers, mentors at Demo Day
  • 50 company Alumni Network

Applications Due: 2/20 Accepted Companies Announced: 2/23

Please contact info@impactvc.com with any questions.

*Sessions will be Tuesday nights (6:00-9:00pm) at 801 K Street, ste 2800, Sacramento 95814

Howard Love: The Original Business Plan Never Works!

Howard Love is a startup legend founding or co-founding a total of 15 companies since 1985. Some of his most notable enterprises have been LoveToKnow, PageWise, and Flex Jobs. He recently released his new book, “The Startup J Curve” that stresses the importance of agility and willingness to follow through with change.

No time for reading? Fine! Watch the video interview by clicking here now! 

While attending Colgate University, him and his partner changed the school’s computer network to a trading system. It evolved into a technical analysis and software charting package for users of the original IBM PC. They made an okay name for themselves and later got involved in software development tools. After moving to Silicon Valley, they named the tool “Zap” and sold them in abundance. By 1996, their original charting package eventually merged with Roguewave Software and provided him with enough funds to start angel investing.

“The Original Business Plan Never Works…But that’s Okay!”

At the time, Angel investing was frowned upon and lacked structure. Him and his venture partner decided to be a lot more hands on with entrepreneurs by partnering up and offering additional support. Howard would launch startups with any candidate he thought had potential. They may polish the original idea, provide substantial funding, and even lead the first round. Howard values the character of individuals he works with because he believes the team is most important. Funding will come and go and the the idea constantly changes. Your team members on the other hand, will stay the same which is why it’s important that everyone’s compatible for the long-term.

6 Phases of the Startup J Curve: “Create, Release, Morph, Model, Scale, Harvest”

In his 35 years of entrepreneurship, Howard understands that startups either evolve or die. Many successful startups take time to eventually reach their peak and  popular “overnight success stories” such as Twitter and Groupon he feels are a misconception. Howard admires the efforts of startups creating a solid business plan but looks more for the ability to pitch their idea. What he looks for in a business pitch is the team’s resourcefulness; are they able to do a lot with a little? He also wants a sharp and open mind, ambition, passion along with an undeniable energy that can sustain the growth process. Above all, he feels that you have to like the individuals on a personal level before even considering investing time let alone money into their venture.

If you want to get more in depth with the most helpful entrepreneur insight available, watch the full interview now! 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Margaret Mackenzie Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Seeing is Believing

Margaret Mackenzie was interviewed at Startup Grind Sacramento at the Urban Hive last September and enlighten the audience with well-needed entrepreneurial wisdom. Currently serving an executive role in Astia, Margaret also consults several early-stage startups with a specialty in finance, IT and artificial intelligence. She served as CFO at Paymo (now Boku) and JustInvesting along with being CEO to 3 financial market corporations. Her focus has been identity, digital/mobile transactions, and FinTech.

Born in Stockton and raised in Sacramento, Margaret founded her first startup named Paymo with the model that customers would be charged for their digital transactions on their phones rather than their credit/debit cards. Feeling that the idea was ahead of its time for the states, she raised most of the funding in the UK where it was already being practiced. In order to effectively acquire a user base, they targeted online and mobile gamers who were mostly too young to own a Visa but old enough to have a cell phone.

“If you can bring women up to the level of equality in business relations, we would add $25 trillion to the global economy.”

She co-founded Astia in 2008 as a nonprofit in San Francisco providing networks and capital to women who are managing or involved with high growth tech startups. After seeing the clear challenges for women to raise funds in the industry, she was compelled to help make it easier. Not only did it make sense morally, but from a financial standpoint, she feels that women can contribute a lot to the global economy but are largely underfunded. Astia offers free and low-cost services to female entrepreneurs and now have offices in Silicon Valley, Boston, London and more. She discussed how female entrepreneurs tend to underestimate their qualifications in favor of a man. This hinders the amount of examples that young women look up to and gain confidence in their abilities.  In regards to the value of programs that promote women and minorities, Margaret commented:

“Regardless of your gender or color, in order to believe it, you have to see it.”

Despite the obvious and not so apparent reasons why women struggle in the tech industry, Margaret understood that the difficulties of an entrepreneur remain gender neutral. The grueling task of working for little to no pay along with constantly trying to beat the odds are true regardless of your reproductive organs. She also emphasized the importance of a team and how significant it is for the well-being of a company.

Project Slingshot will provide $750 K in Grants to Boost Innovation Ecosystem in Sacramento Region

slingshot

The Sacramento region entrepreneurial ecosystem and small business community will soon benefit from $750,000 in new grant funding. The newly-launched Project SlingShot is an initiative of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) to encourage and support regional partnerships across the state to engage in new collective actions that can “move the needle” on workforce challenges.

After an extensive planning and review process, SlingShot was approved for implementation in August 2016 and will include an innovation fund of $750,000 to provide grant and contract funding to support the ecosystem for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small businesses. The project is being implemented in the Capital Region by a partnership of four local workforce development boards: the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), Golden Sierra, the North Central Counties Consortium, and the Yolo County WDB, with SETA acting as the lead partner.

The goals of Project Slingshot are to catalyze entrepreneurship, business and employment growth across high growth economic clusters, such as Information and Communication Technology, Health Services and Advanced Manufacturing. SlingShot will foster the development of entrepreneurial skills within career pathways and provide robust resource systems to start-ups and small businesses.

The projected is expected to:

  • Increase access to and communication about regional resources through the creation of a web- based resource navigator
  • Increase business incubation and entrepreneurial mentoring
  • Foster an entrepreneurial and innovative culture
  • Catalyze an innovation ecosystem that will create more business and jobs throughout the region, and create a skilled talent pool so that new jobs will go to residents, supporting a resilient economy with widespread mobility opportunities

The funds will be made available through a competitive request for proposal (RFP) process. Slingshot will work across a nine-county region (Alpine, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba counties) and prioritize efforts that will connect rural communities to urban resources, enabling the nine-county region’s innovation ecosystem to expand and strengthen the support it provides to entrepreneurs, small businesses and startups.

The competitive RFP process, to be led by SETA, will address SlingShot’s three areas of focus:

  1. mentoring networks that connect entrepreneurs to experienced executives
  2. physical spaces for entrepreneurs, such as co-working facilities, maker spaces, incubators and accelerators
  3. the creation of a Resource Navigator, a searchable, interactive online tool that will house a comprehensive inventory of all the support services available to entrepreneurs across the region

The first RFP, covering the first two areas of focus, was released by SETA on November 4th. Awards for the first RFP will range from $20,000 to $150,000. Applicants’ responses are due mid-December 2016, and the evaluation and review process will be completed in February. Awards will be confirmed by March 2017, with all funded work required to be complete by March 2018. The second RFP is expected to be released in early December. The RFP for the Resource Navigator has not been released yet.

Valley Vision is serving as the SlingShot project manager, working with the workforce board partnership and more information about the project can be found here.   Valley Vision website.

Valley Vision Press Release written by Meg Arnold

Mark Haney Reminds Entrepreneurs to be a Rock Star!

Mark Haney

Mark Haney of Haney Business Ventures has founded or co-founded over 20 businesses with a focus on community-based values by offering opportunities for entrepreneurs and military veterans. He is a board member on the Sacramento Entrepreneurs’ Organization and Allegiant Giving Corporation which all are dedicated to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit of its region. Mark initially launched a successful video distribution company that expanded into a security/surveillance provider grossing over an annual $200 million with hundreds of employees. He also hosts a weekly radio broadcast, Entrepreneurs Unlimited which covers an array of topics related to entrepreneurship, business, startups and more. In a recent interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Mark discussed his entrepreneurial journey.

Born and raised in Roseville, CA, Mark started out by attaining tons of beta VCR players for the low and eventually opened up a chain of 14 video supply stores throughout the region. Once the video industry went down, they pivoted into security cameras and targeted video installers through telemarketing campaigns. They were hit hard during the 2008 housing collapse and made a successful exit 2 years later.

“My Friends, Family And Community; As they Succeed I Succeed.”

Shortly after, Mark shifted gears into more of a philanthropic approach by launching Allegiant Giving focused on the ‘heroes of today and the leaders of tomorrow.’ In his mind, the heroes were vets coming back from war and the leaders were aspiring entrepreneurs filled with drive and ambition. One of his first veteran projects was the creation of a wheelchair for a veteran amputee that allowed him to go off roading and resembled the looks of an army tank. His efforts with the vast community of entrepreneurs has allowed him to get involved with real estate, limo services and of course security surveillance systems.

“When I’m Looking for Business Partners, I’m Looking for Rockstars.”

Mark says he’s very selective who he partners with because he needs people that are going to make others move and take action. If you don’t have the attitude of a rockstar, such as the lead singer of a band, he’s uncertain whether a partnership would be mutually beneficial. More importantly, Mark emphasizes that everyone possesses natural skills that should be capitalized on rather than trying to balance out the responsibilities of an entire company. It’s a common trap for entrepreneurs to take on more roles than needed in the name of saving money. However, he says we can’t do everything alone and learning skills you’re not naturally apt at can waste a lot of time and actually cause you to lose money in the long run. He finds it much more effective to form a well-balanced team that each can offer their own unique gifts to contribute to company objectives.

“So Often we do Things we Hate…But Keep an Open Mind to Where your Weaknesses and Strengths Are.”

The full interview with Mark can be viewed here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Startup Lessons from Garage Ventures Bill Reichert

Silicon Valley icon Bill Reichert from Garage Technology Ventures recently spoke at Startup Grind Sacramento and offered some invaluable insight. With over 20 years as an entrepreneur and two public companies, Bill’s resume is quite impressive.

Originally from Chicago, Bill grew up spending quality time with his grandfather who exposed him to the adventurous world of entrepreneurship. He was in Silicon Valley when the PC was first released and arguably ran one of the first app development firms in United States history, which was apparently amazingly successful but eventually “crashed and burned.” In 1992, Bill and his buddy helped save a failing organization called “The Learning Company,” which later became the first business they took public for $60 million. Later down the line, the Learning Company was sold to Mattel for $3.6 billion. Ouch!  Bill eventually stopped kicking himself for selling too early and learned the ingredients to achieve success years later at the National Venture Capital Conference with Peter Lynch.

“I only invest in companies that even a complete idiot can run.”

This statement hit home for Bill, making him simplify his approach and become cautious with ventures that seem overly complex. When he looks for investments, he wants startups that have novel technology, a sustainable competitive advantage, and can make a significant impact in its designated sector.

Take for example Voke VR that “utilizes a synchronized multiple point-of-view stereoscopic panoramic camera system” technology. They’ve partnered with the Sacramento  Kings to enable mobile users in the stands or at home to receive an advanced VR spectacle without the bulky headset. The audience is able to pause, rewind and review the action from virtually any angle on the court.

When asked about ways for entrepreneurs to receive funding, his response was surprising:

“The best way to receive funding for your startup is to get endorsements from bigger companies for validation and reach out to venture capital sources.”

Bill firmly believes that by following these simple words of advice, you will be “head and shoulders” above your typical startup seeking that almighty dollar. Of course, you will most likely still need to meet the criteria that he mentioned when looking for a potential investment (i.e. novel technology, etc.).

Watch the full interview with Bill Reichert at Startup Grind Sacramento here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Impact Global Venture Summit Highlights Sacramento Region Startups

Impact Summit

The inaugural Impact Global Venture Summit was held on November 14, 2016 at the brand new, state of the art, Golden 1 Center. Over 700 people attended and 50 Northern California startups participated in the summit with the goal of providing local startups exposure to investors.

impactvcfounders

Impact VC Founders (left to right): Jack Crawford, Dixon Doll, Eric Ball

This was also the big debut for event organizer, Impact Venture Capital.  Impact VC was formed from Sacramento based Velocity VC in partnership with Dixon Doll and Eric Ball.  Dixon Doll is a well-known Silicon Valley investor with early investments in 20 unicorn (with a valuation over $1 B) companies.

Most of the event consisted of pitches from 20 startups.  Many were from local startups including HomeZada, California Safe Soil, Gatekeeper Innovation, and Barobo.  Startups from the Bay Area also attended with Mountain View based Nightingale Security and Santa Clara based Cornami each receiving an investment from Impact VC.

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HomeZada Co-Founder John Bodrozic

The other big star of the summit was the Golden 1 Center itself.  For many of the attendees, it was their first visit to the most technologically advance arena in the world. The event in concert with the arena really illustrated Sacramento’s emergence as an innovation hub. Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson, tweeted out, “…Now that’s #Sac3pt0!”

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at @ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.