2017 UC Davis Big Bang Competition Awards

UC Davis Big Bang Competition is the biggest startup event in Davis.  This year, 70 companies participated in the 8 month program that started in October 2016 and concluded with the final pitches held on May 25th.   Personally, I was impressed with the final presentations.  Here are the award winners of the competition:

1st Place ($10, 000) 

Raydiant Oximetry has developed a low-cost, noninvasive fetal pulse oximeter that keeps mothers and babies safe during labor and delivery. The device is intended to reduce medically unnecessary c-sections that can create health complications to millions of babies and mothers each year and increase healthcare costs.

 

2nd Place ($5,000)

Chromatiscope aims to boost students’ scientific literacy by combining four specialized laboratory devices—each of which costs thousands of dollars—into a single, easy-to-use device that costs just $40 to $70. The result: more students can have the experiences necessary to excel in STEM.

 

People’s Choice ($2,500)

This award was voted by the audience.

AthleticOutlook:  A web-based platform that connects high school and college athletes with NCAA-experienced coaches for evaluations, feedback and resources.

 

Gowan / AGR Challenge Award ($10,000)

Two teams tied for this award and split the cash prize.

FloraPulse is building a data service for growers that provides water stress data for their crops in real time. This could replace current technology (pressure chambers) that dates back to the 1960s and that is slow, expensive and often inaccurate.

ReNew Foods is developing great-tasting, healthy snacks from high-quality rescued fruit and vegetable pressings.

Biomedical Innovation Award ($4,000)

Oomni Inc. is developing a drug called Oomnicoxib. When combined with current chemotherapies, the drug will improve cancer treatment.

 

Global Poverty Alleviation ($3,000)

Reach 1600 Foundation has developed a free, adaptive SAT prep program for students from underserved communities.

Innovation in Food & Agriculture Award ($3,000)

WISRAN identifies operation logistics inefficiencies in real-time for growers to capture profits.

1st Place Food + Ag Innovation Pitch and Poster Contest ($1,000)

Global Water Farms is working on developing solar powered desalination plants.

 

It will be interesting to see how the startups that participated in the competition turn out.  Sierra Energy can trace their roots as a past Big Bang People’s Choice Winner.  If you are interested in participating in next year’s Big Bang’s Competition, check out their site around October.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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.

500 Startups Co-Founder Dave McClure: Have Fun, Get Sh*t Done

Dave McClure is a Silicon Valley icon that is recognized as one of the region’s super angel investors. Over the years he has advised and managed a number of successful startups which includes 3 unicorns (Twilio, Credit Karma, and Grab) . He’s the co-founder of 500 startups and invested in more than 1500 companies around the world. Three companies  have evaluations over $1 billion with over 300 with a valuation $10-$999 million range. He was recently a guest speaker at Startup Grind Sacramento and offered wisdom that was practical, to the point with a hint of humor.

“As an entrepreneur, you realize that you’re kind of clueless.”

In his humble manner, Dave explained how his path to success was a confusing and gradual process. He laughed about his past mistakes and launched 500 startups as a vehicle to guide entrepreneurs that are still wet behind the ears. It is a personal conviction to compensate for what he perceived was his failure of creating a large scale startup. “Looking back on the last 10-15 years and realizing that I could’ve figured out problems faster, part of it was trying to help people figure it out faster…and make [entrepreneurship] a little more approachable…for geeks.”

While many successful entrepreneurs glorify the ambitious startup lifestyle, McClure understands that it’s not all sunshine and ice cream. His ability to relate with entrepreneurs at any career stage allows him to connect with his audience and keep them grounded in reality. He recalls how difficult it was raising funds for his first startup saying, “We raised $30 million in 2 years and the first $5 million in the first year….It was a bit challenging.That’s a complete understatement, it was a ****ing pain in the ass.” His witty remarks kept the audience laughing and was a reminder that behind all of the clout in the industry, successful entrepreneurs are regular people just like us.

“When making a lot of investments, only a few will work out.”

As the perfected imperfect creatures that humans are, we try to make the best decisions in business, relationships and life in general. However, the truth is that more often than not, investments will fail to deliver as anticipated. “[We] know we’re gonna be wrong…and might not find an outcome that frequently but we hope that 20-30% of those get to a series A or larger investment and 5-10% in total get to $100 million plus sort of outcome…Maybe if we’re smart we can steer in of some of the capital into winners…but it takes about 10 years.” McClure’s calculated approach to business signifies he has well accepted that with investments, slow and steady wins the race.

“We do diversity because it’s a good investment not necessarily of social impact, that might happen and we hope it does but [ultimately] we’re trying to make money.”

McClure recognizes the potential in people from all backgrounds which has resulted in a diverse global network of entrepreneurs. Saying that more than 50% of his founders are non-white and 20-30% are female, his business model is shifting the traditional standard of gender/race dynamics in the workplace. “We actually think that there’s a lot of smart people that don’t have a penis and there’s a lot of smart people that aren’t white and went to Stanford…we just wan’t to make money…we like to say we’re arbitraging racism and sexism for our own economic benefit…” For example, one of his current endeavors has been developing a platform for Black and Latino entrepreneurs. Despite that sounding like a social effort, it’s commercially viable given that these demographics make up 30% of the American market.

Moreover, McClure believes that his foreign outreach into less developed countries will become profitable as well. Places like Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia have huge populations with markets that continue to increase their internet usage. By strategically investing a couple million dollars here and there, he hopes to establish a solid foundation for when these markets begin to take off. “If we’re willing to deploy capital in those markets for an extended period of time and learn, we are going to find some things that work. When those things start to work, we would want to have already done a hundred investments, made friends, built our brand, have people on the ground and understood how those markets work.”

“Have fun get sh*t done…When we have fun, other people have fun.”

500 Startups has a reputation for being a fun and festive accelerator.  McClure may be a bit unorthodox in his approach to business but understands the value of hard work and creating a solid product. He feels that no amount of money is worth sacrificing fun and personal sanity. Still, there has to be a balance between fulfillment and progress that his organization instills into the minds of his employees. When asked why do many startups fail, he said it could be for a number of reasons. However, he insisted that the main cause is usually because “they build stuff people don’t want or build it for the wrong customer.” He assures the crowd that in order for any VC or investor to take an entrepreneur seriously, they must have gotten their product out the door and have some type of customer base. He emphasized that although this truth may sound basic, they’d be surprised how many people miss this point.

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’s $10 Million Innovation Fund

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On June 21st, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a $10 million Innovation and Growth Fund.  The purpose of the fund is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship within the City of Sacramento.  As Mayor Kevin Johnson states, “A more diverse, more entrepreneurial economy means a stronger Sacramento: more jobs, more innovation, and mostly a better quality of life for all of us.”

The fund is one of the largest of its kind.  In comparison, Los Angeles’ Innovation Fund only has a $1 million.  In addition, the fund will continually generate $2 million annually.

Currently, $1 million dollars has been earmarked for the RAILS (Rapid Acceleration, Innovation, and Leadership in Sacramento) with Grants (ranging from $10 k – $250 k) being given out in these three categories:

Acceleration Grants:  Given to accelerators and incubators supporting Sacramento Startups

Innovations Grants:  Civic Tech companies and organizations that foster the innovation community

Leadership Grants:  Educational programs that help train entrepreneurs in technology and Leadership.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, you can do so here.   The deadline is July 22nd.

$500 K has been earmarked for the Economic Development Department to attract technology companies to move or expand in the area.  According to Ash Roughani, Program Manager, “Sacramento is also exploring venture fund investments to increase access to capital for area startups and put Sacramento on the map. “

“Sacramento is truly starting to become a hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology and it’s something I’m really, really proud of,” stated Mayor Johnson.

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.

 

4 Ways to Make Money from a “Free” App

It seems counter intuitive that a free app is the best way to generate revenue.  When advising clients who intend to make money from their app, I recommend they don’t charge for the app.  In my opinion, the price of an app often becomes a barrier for people to download it.  For example, we had a client that had a successful app and it was getting thousands of downloads a week.  As soon as they charged 99 cents for it, the app dropped to a meager 40 downloads per week.  So how do you make money from a free app?  That’s the multiple billion dollar question.  I’ll cover 4 ways to generate revenue from a “free” app:

In-App Purchase:   the In-App purchase is what is described as the “freemium” model.  The app is free but there is an opportunity for the user to purchase additional services.  In terms of generating revenue from the app store, this is the biggie.  If you look at the top 20 grossing apps in the Apple App Store, all of them are free and use Apple’s In-App purchase mechanism (note:  Apple retains 30% of the revenue generated from this mechanism).    Some examples of In-App purchases are:

  • Unlocking “Pro” Version of the App:  This is typically a try it before you buy it model and there are several variations of this including:
    • Unlocking features of the app
    • Allowing the app to work after a trial period
    • Disabling ads
    • Some combination of the above
  • Purchase of virtual goods:  This is where you buy virtual goods with hard Clash of Clans Gem Boxcurrency.  Typically it’s used for games.  For example, Clash of Clans is currently the highest grossing app.  In this free app, you can buy a treasure chest of gems for the bargain price of $99.99.
  • Content:  The app has additional content like a song, video, story, game level, etc.
  • Subscriptions:  Typically used in content app like Zinio or for magazine apps in Apple’s Newsstand.  When the user buys the app, there’s typically some sample content and the user has the option of subscribing for additional content for some set amount of time.  Another example of a subscription can be seen in Pandora where you can upgrade to Pandora One for $3.99 / month.

Mobile Advertising:  The Mobile Ad Market is projected to reach $31.5 Billion this year alone.  Consequently, many mobile ad companies have sprouted with various revenue models.  Mobile Advertising can be used in conjunction with apps that have in-app purchase and consequently allows a free app to generate revenue even if the user doesn’t make any in-app purchases.

Deliver Service / Product:  This is where the free app is essentially a vehicle for the user to purchase a product or service.  Notable examples include:

  • Uber:  from this app, a user can request and pay for a ride sharing service.  Uber’s valuation at the time of this writing is $17 Billion.
  • Doctors on Demand:  this app allows a user to get a consultation from a licensed physician through a video conference for $40 for 15 minutes
  • Amazon:  this is pretty straight forward.   You can use the Amazon app to purchase pretty much anything that’s available through amazon.com

I would like to point out that if the app is to be used to purchase goods or services, you cannot use Apple’s in-app purchase mechanism, and you’ll have to use another mobile commerce vendor like PayPal or Authorized.net.

User Acquisition:  The poster child for this model is Whatsapp which was acquired by Facebook for a staggering $19 Billion.  On the surface, Whatsapp has no revenue model.  They don’t really have a subscription revenue model nor do they have mobile ads.  What they do have is a lot of users; 500 million by some estimates with 18 billion transactions a day.  Snapchat is also following the user acquisition model with no apparent revenue.  They have a reported 30 million users with a valuation of $10 Billion.  I think the model is get the users, monetize later; be it big data, advertising or something else.

Hopefully, after reading this post, you get the idea that if you want to develop an app for profit, “free” is the way to go.