Raising Capital through an ICO (Initial Coin Offering)

A friend of mine kept nagging me to buy Bitcoin when it was around $900. Honestly, the whole concept of cryptocurrency seemed a little wanky. For those of you that don’t know, Bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency enabled by blockchain technology which debuted in 2009.

The founder(s) of Bitcoin remains unknown to this day and is only known by the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. Anyway, I finally caved in and started buying Bitcoin when it hit $1300 and at the time of this writing it’s valued at more than $7,200 (which really makes me wish I bought more).

In 2010, if you bought $100 worth of Bitcoin, it would be worth more than $1 M today (the highest value of Bitcoin in 2010 was 39 cents).   The staggering rise of Bitcoin has led to the rise of countless cryptocurrencies.  In fact, Coin Market Cap currently lists over 1000 cryptocurrencies.

Similar to an IPO (Initial Public Offering), a cryptocurrency will have an ICO (Initial Coin Offering).  For example, Ethereum debuted at 40 cents and has a value over $300 at the time of this writing.

While I was covering TechCrunch Disrupt 2017, I witnessed the ICO of SparkleCoin, a cryptocurrency backed by diamonds, which had a countdown punctuated with a confetti canon (I always enjoy a good party).

Initially, when I heard the concept of ICO, I shrugged thinking that it’s another cryptocurrency in a crowded market.  Why would I speculate on another cryptocurrency?   However, ICOs have evolved beyond cryptocurrency -it’s been a way for startups to raise capital.  A startup can assign an amount of equity per coin in a similar way that equity is assigned to stock in a publicly traded company. With blockchain technology, a company’s coin can easily be traded on various exchanges (CryptoCoinCharts lists over 100 coin exchanges).

I talked to an angel investor and she said that she preferred to invest in companies that have done an ICO.  One of the reasons is that she can cash out a lot earlier in an exchange whereas with a traditional investment in a startup, she may never have the option to cash out.

For a startup to raise money through an ICO, they should expect to pay for about $500 K in legal fees (this is cheap compared to an IPO which may cost north of $5 M – typically it’s about 7% of the revenue generated).

iComplyICO, a Vancouver BC based startup, aims to drastically reduce the cost of an ICO  by streamlining the legal, compliance, and due diligence procedures that traditional IPOs must go through today. iComplyICO CEO, Matthew Unger, said that his goal is to reduce the cost of a legally compliant ICO to below $100 K.

Here are examples of some successful ICOs for this year:

  • Filecoin ($257 M): A blockchain-based storage network and cryptocurrency
  • Tezos($232 M): new decentralized blockchain that governs itself by establishing a true digital commonwealth.
  • EOS($185 M): a blockchain architecture designed to enable vertical and horizontal scaling of decentralized applications
  • Bancor($153 M): enables built-in price discovery and a liquidity mechanism for tokens on smart contract blockchains.
  • Status($90 M):  an interface to access Ethereum, built for Android & iOS.

As you can see, it’s possible to raise a tremendous amount of capital through an ICO at the fraction of the cost of an IPO.  With that said, the SEC has declared that some ICO’s are actually securities and subject to regulations.

Recently, the SEC charged two companies, REIcoin Group Foundation and DRC World, of defrauding investors with their ICOs.  In these case, the two companies claimed to have cryptocurrencies backed by Real Estate and Diamonds respectively (and it turns out they didn’t). So investors, beware!

For startups, an ICO can be an amazing vehicle to raise money; there’s less red tape and the costs are a fraction of going public. If you are thinking of raising capital through an ICO, you need to consult with legal counsel that’s well versed in this field.

Personally, I foresee that once the regulations and procedures for raising capital through are fully established, IPOs will go the way of the dinosaur and be replaced by the more agile and leaner ICO.

 

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.

 

 

Favorites at TechCrunch Disrupt 2017

The winner of TechCrunch Disrupt 2017 Startup Battlefield is Pi.   They developed a device that allows smartphones and other devices to charge wirelessly .   Amazingly, they were able to demonstrate this on stage in front of a live audience.  In comparison, in the previous week, Apple announced their wireless charging pad, Mophie,  which is clearly an inferior product.  Along with the bragging rights, Pi received a $50,000 cash prize.

Pi and the runner-up, Oneva,  got the limelight but there were literally hundreds of startups that participated at the event that don’t get any attention .  I spent three days wandering the floor at Disrupt; talking to scores of startups and I would like to highlight a few of my favorites.  So, in no particular order…

Hashgraph

Hashgraph has a bold claim. They stated that their patented algorithm is faster and more secure than blockchain (the underlying technology that enable cryptocurrencies ).  Blockchain has been the basis for other startups that have figured out innovative uses for its distributed ledger system.  If Hashgraph’s claims hold true, they can potentially replace blockchain in a rapidly growing space.

Waggit

Being a dog owner, Waggit caught my eye.  Their high tech collar captures the vitals for dogs which can be tracked on an app.  Their point is that dogs can’t tell us when they’re in pain (since they can’t talk-we’ve tried) and that their platform can help diagnose your dog’s health.   This can be a useful diagnostic tool for veterinarians.

SparkleCOIN

One of the new areas of coverage at Disrupt is Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain.  SparkleCOIN is a new cryptocurrency that had their ICO (Initial Coin Offering) at the event.  Every SparkleCOIN will be backed by $5 worth of diamonds.  In addition, they plan to build a whole ecosystem including an exchange and an ecommerce site.

UnitOneDose

UnitOneDose is a robotic pharmacy dispensary.  Their  system accurately dispenses the drug in containers that can be only opened by the patient with their wrist band. Having seen how pharmaceutical drugs are dispensed in hospital and retail settings, I immediately saw the  benefits.  The current process is manually intensive and prone to errors and abuse.   I can easily see their device being the standard in hospitals. 

JumpStart

On the final day of Disrupt, Mexico was hit with a 7.1 magnitude earth quake.  Coincidentally, JumpStart had an earthquake demonstrator that simulates a 7.9 magnitude earthquake.  To see a video click here.  It was a pretty impressive demonstration.   By the way, JumpStart provides supplemental earthquake insurance.

eggXYt

eggXYt is an example of a startup that solves a problem that most people are unaware of (including myself).  In a nutshell, 6 billion male chicks (of a breed that’s meant to lay eggs) are killed annually.  Their technology is able to detect the sex of the egg shortly after they’re laid and prevents them from going through incubation process.  Their technology can also potentially save $1.5 B annually.

Equbot

Equbot uses artificial intelligence to analyze investment opportunities.  Pretty intriguing.  They’ve already been using their platform to make investments and claim that it’s done amazingly well.  However, because they are currently working in negotiating their A round, they couldn’t provide specifics. 

Aris MD

Aris MD has developed a platform that enables surgeons to superimpose patient data (like an MRI) over a live patient using augmented reality (AR).  This is probably one of the most practical and innovative uses of AR that I’ve seen.

Stemless

Stemless has developed a solution that allows for online ordering and payment for cannabis dispensaries.  For those not familiar with the cannabis industry, it’s primarily an all cash business.  Their solution is not just a technical solution but also a legal solution where they had to work and negotiate with banks willing to work in cannabis industry.

Ourotech

Chemotherapy is painful process as an oncologist goes through trial and error with FDA approved chemical cocktails on cancer patients.  Ourotech has developed a testing platform where they can test various cocktails on cancer cells obtained from the patient in a lab environment and then recommend an optimal course of action.  This process totally makes sense to me and I can see it becoming standard practice with oncologists. 

In the 3 days at TechCrunch disrupt, I talked to scores of startups.  I wished I could have highlighted more in this article.  It will be interesting to see which of startups become the next big thing.

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

How to Introduce Your Brand New Company to the World in 5 Easy Steps

Compared to established companies, startups often have to play by different rules. They are just starting their journeys into the business world and face additional challenges to conquer early on.

One of the biggest challenges is marketing. Because startups have little to no brand recognition and often offer a niche product or service which might be difficult to explain to outsiders, a foray into marketing has to be carefully considered. Whereas other companies may make use of tried-and-true techniques, startups have to be more creative in order to succeed.

5 Key Steps to Market Your Startup

1. Identify your key audience and influencers

Before you take one step, first identify where you will market your product. A staggering 42 per cent of founders cite a lack of market need as the number one reason for failure. Even if you have an outstanding product or an excellent service, it is absolutely useless unless people actually want to use it.

Of course, that’s not to say you should only cater to an existing audience. Steve Jobs famously said that people don’t know what they want until you give it to them.

For instance, smartphones were adopted extremely quickly, yet few people could have predicted their popularity. Even so, you must understand exactly who your product will be marketed toward so you can create relevant content and marketing campaigns that will actually interest your audience.

2. Analyze and plan accordingly

Entrepreneurs often hear that the majority of startups are doomed to fail before they are even conceived, a notion that is supported by hard statistics. In fact, 90 per cent of startups inevitably fail for one reason or another; that’s a fact every person in the business has to face.

The first step is to make a cohesive plan. As any entrepreneur will tell you, plans are also prone to failure. The turbulent nature of business will render a lot of them useless by the time they are supposed to come into fruition.

Even so, studies have shown that setting challenging and specific goals is linked to more effective performance and increased motivation. When you have clear objectives in sight, you work slowly toward achieving them.

Even if you fail in some steps along the way, keep working toward fulfilling your purpose. Hurdles and obstacles in the entrepreneurial world are not just common; they are to be expected at nearly every turn.

Once you carefully lay out your plans, it’s time to make an in-depth analysis of what makes your startup tick. Before you go into market and start promoting your product, it’s vital to properly understand what your startup is made of. It’s only when you can safely answer all the questions that may be thrown at you that you are actually ready to go out and meet the world.

3. Craft targeted and engaging content

Some of the most effective B2B marketers spend 39 per cent of their marketing budgets on content, and there’s a general trend toward creating relevant, targeted content for specific audiences. That’s why ignoring content creation is a bad idea. After all, the majority of consumers learn about a company through content rather than ads. Though this takes into account a number of different services and ways to serve content, as a startup you may be limited on the type of content marketing that you can create and push.

Blogs, however, are fantastic and inexpensive, and the vast majority of companies employ blogs for marketing purposes. Marketers who prioritize blogging see increased search-engine traffic, build their company’s authority in the industry, improve conversion rates, increase leads, and more. It’s not hard to see the benefits of such a practice, particularly because you have full creative control over what’s happening in your company’s blog. It’s a great way to create a brand identity, reach out to potential consumers, and create much-needed awareness for your brand, your product, and what it entails.

4. Make sure you’re on social media (your competitors already are!)

In this day and age, you have no excuse for not keeping up with social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites provide a free way of directly reaching out to your target audience. They are great places to promote your brand, explain how your product or service works, and keep your startup in the spotlight for as long as possible.

When you first start, social media management can easily be done by one person—often you, the founder. As you grow, you can always delegate social media marketing to other people within your company. Of course, first educate yourself in how social media marketing works. What you may think is simple and obvious might turn out to be a difficult lesson indeed.

5. Maintain engaging and interactive social media presence

In addition to being social, being interactive is of equal importance. If you maintain a social media presence that is faceless and cold, consumers will turn their backs on you. In the digital age, users expect their questions to be answered and companies to interact with them on a personal level.

As long as you respond immediately (or within two hours), 34 per cent of customers are more likely to complete a purchase with your company. In addition, about 43 per cent are much more likely to recommend your product or service to friends and family as well as promote it through social media. On the other hand, failing to respond may result in customers feeling indifferent about your brand, which means you won’t receive word of mouth advertising and a positive image in social media.

Common Mistakes Made by Founders When Marketing

  1. Putting too much trust in the idea of their product, not its real-world applicability. Since entrepreneurs live and breathe the products and services they offer, they often (mistakenly) think everyone will feel the same way.
  2. Failing to connect with customers and listen to their feedback. No one can offer a service without customers, and it’s the general population that largely defines the market.
  3. Failing to work out a personal, tailor-made plan for the company. Just because something works for another startup doesn’t mean it will work for yours.
  4. Managing the budget poorly. Though investments are necessary, they should be carefully thought out and executed since money is tight, especially in the beginning.
  5. Failing to identity the actual target market, and thus creating a completely irrelevant campaign. As mentioned before, in-depth research is absolutely necessary before attempting to reach your target market.

Take a Cue from other Entrepreneurs’ Successes

Shopify may be an incredibly successful Canadian company, but that wasn’t always the case. According to CEO Tobias Lütke, there are some key elements that all startups should take into account when they are trying to launch their business and introduce it to a wider audience.

First and foremost, a startup that fixes an existing problem is much more likely to be successful. Even better, if you create something that you need for yourself, it means that you will be that much more connected to the product. You’ll also have an easier time identifying the right market.

Find the right team. This can mean a number of different things, but in essence it boils down to finding people who share your passion for the product and who are also able to help with its growth. A team of engineers might create a fantastic product, but if no one else can use it, then it has no value in the market.

Expect to do everything at once. When you are just starting out, you may need to conduct a range of jobs that you’re not well-suited for—and that’s perfectly fine. Though you may just want to create a product and leave everything else for other people to handle, you’ll most likely need to address those issues by yourself. This also applies to marketing. No one knows your product better than you do, and creating a brand should and most likely will be your responsibility.

Be visible, both to your target audience and to any potential investors. For example, you may find that the product you offer will do great in another city, but if you’re not prepared to move, you may risk everything else. If you don’t have a presence, users who may have been interested in your product will simply be satisfied elsewhere, with another product.

Stay focused and true to your purpose. Once you start marketing your product, you will face a lot of challenges. You’ll also be confronted by a lot of distractions and failures. Being distracted and inconsistent is a surefire path toward failure because your users need to identify stability in your product. A company that doesn’t know what to do with itself is harder to trust.

By guest writer, Jonha Richman  who is a marketing strategist with over 9 years of experience advising tech startups. She’s also a staff writer at Small Business Trends and her works were featured on The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Business Insider, among others. You may connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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.

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.

Highlights from 500 Startups Batch 18 Demo Day

500 Startups Batch 18

500 Startups held their Demo Day for Batch 18 at the Innovation Hanger near the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Batch 18 is made of 46 companies with themes in FinTech, Digital Health, Industrial Applications, Experimental Lifestyles, and Bots.   Here are a few startups that I found interesting.

Startup with Coolest Medical Tech

Siren Care’s tagline is “Next-Generation Smart Textiles.”  What they’ve developed is the ability to weave sensors into the fabric.  Their first application is a temperature monitoring sock that is used to prevent foot ulcers for diabetics.

siren

Startup with Coolest Lifestyle Concept

One of the Experimental Lifestyles startups is DigitalOutpost which allows for people to remotely work at their day job in exciting locals like Bali and Thailand.   They handle planning, accommodations, co-working spaces, and social events for their customers.  A month in Bali only cost $ 2 K.  Theoretically, if you live in the Bay Area, you can put your apartment on Airbnb and make money while you work in an exotic location.

digitialoutpost

Startup Most Likely to be Acquired by Google

Andromium has developed hardware that will convert an Android phone into a laptop.  Just download the app, connect the phone to their laptop shell and you got a working laptop.  It’s pretty darn cool.  I tried  out their demo and it had the full laptop experience including the ability to use a mouse.  With  smartphones that often have a faster processor than laptops, Andromium  may have just developed a product that can rival laptop makers like Dell and Apple.  Alas, their system only works with Android phones.   I also would like to mention that Andromium has raised almost $3 M in their Kickstarter campaign.

andromium

Startup with Coolest iPhone attachment

Pyrnt had developed a case that turns your iPhone into a Polaroid Camera.    There’s no ink; all the magic happens on their special paper.  They also have interesting augmented reality feature and with the app, you can send free postcards.  They are gaining some traction and their case and photo paper are now available at Target.

prynt

 

Startup with best use of a Bots

SimplifiMed uses a combination of big data and artificial intelligence to develop a chatbot that will allow a medical staff to manage 10X more chronic patients.   With the health industry’s need to do more with less, SimplifiedMed provides an ideal solution for managing chronic patients.

siplifiedmed

Startup with tech that I would use

Lighthouse has developed a tool to help managers manage their team.  Their platform allows a manager to track their team member’s progress of meeting goals and feedback.  As Salesforce is to sales, they want Lighthouse to be synonymous with management.   As a manager, I found that I would actually use Lighthouse to manage my team.  I’m actually quite surprised that this hasn’t been developed before.

lighthouse

What’s Next? Join the Next Batch of 500 Startups

How well the Batch 18 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing 3 Unicorn startups (with a 4th possibly on the way), 37 Centaurs (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M), you might be wondering how to get into 500 Startups. Well, first you’ve got to apply!

If I piqued your interest in 500 Startups, they are currently looking for applicants for Batch 20. Good candidates should have:

  • Balanced Team
  • Product Launched
  • Traction with Good Metrics

If your startup is interested in applying for Batch 20, find the application here.

After applying, ask your local Startup Grind director if they can give you 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.

Apptology Awarded $50 K RAILS Grant from the City of Sacramento

rails

On November 1, 2016, the Sacramento City Council awarded RAILS (Rapid Acceleration Innovation & Leadership in Sacramento) Grants totaling $1 M to 15 groups that drive acceleration, innovation & leadership for startups in the Sacramento area.  Apptology was awarded $50 K for the StartupSac project.  In partnership with Sacramento Startup Community Leader, Laura Good and Digital Splash Media, the goals of the StartupSac project include:

  1. Expanding and enhancing the website to encompass the full range of  information, services, and resources in the Capital Region, thereby making it easier for innovators and entrepreneurs to connect and engage with each other and help foster and grow the Sacramento startup ecosystem. The goal for StartupSac.com is for it to be the go-to resource of all the services available to entrepreneurs across the region, such as:
    • A curated directory of area startups
    • A job board
    • Continued expansion of Sacramento Startup Ecosystem Circuit Board that visually shows the pieces of the Sacramento startup ecosystem
  2. Extend the access to StartupSac.com, by developing a free native StartupSac iPhone / iPad and Android Apps.
  3. Further catalyze the startup community by connecting organizations and people by curating a directory of area startups, writing and publishing interviews with founders, funders, entrepreneurs, and other innovators, creating profiles of startups and others in the ecosystem, and providing event coverage, etc.
  4. Through public relations and digital marketing activities, promote our startup ecosystem to the community which includes hosting a meetup group to feature events and promotion through digital advertising as well as pitching local startup stories to local media, writing blog posts, and features on social media.
  5. Provide promotion, event management and organizational guidance to grassroots volunteer startup building organizations like Startup Weekend, Health 2.0, Startup Grind, and others, to keep these events (and the community they build) happening in our city.
  6. Highlight female and minority entrepreneurs on a regular basis on the StartupSac website and app and at Startup Grind.

The StartupSac team looks forward to extending the reach and impact of this website, working with other RAILS grant recipients and all members of the Sacramento community to catalyze and grow the Sacramento innovation economy.

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.

 

Adobe Kickbox: Innovation in a Box

adobekick

Origin

Typically when an organization gets larger, it actually gets harder to innovate.  However, Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, had a terrific track record.  In his interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Randall stated that his boss at Adobe was amazed how quickly he was able to accomplish tasks and meet milestones. Randall was then tasked to develop a method that could show others how to do the same thing. The idea of automating complex processes was an attractive yet equally challenging endeavor that even Randall doubted would be possible to produce. After pondering on it for a few months, he wasn’t sure how something of that magnitude could be done until he looked at the project from a different perspective. “When I started to think about internal innovators at Adobe that were my customers and I wanted to make a product that could help them be an innovator, that sort of shifted everything mentally…to where I said I can do that, I can build that product.”

What’s in the Box?

Adobe Kickbox consists of a 6 step process that shows entrepreneurs the most effective ways to bring their product to the market. And it’s not just limited to the startup world. Government entities and nonprofit organizations all have downloaded this open-source system since offering it for free in February of this year. Randall explained it by saying, “It’s basically this system with essentially 6 levels and starts with level 1 about motivation and there’s a set of actions that you complete at the end of each level and their self-gaining so you check the boxes [required] and move on to the next…” Once all 6 stages are complete, users move on to the post “blue box” which helps you take your product to the next level. The entire system is void of a hierarchy and there’s no central source mediating or regulating how the system operates.

Streamlining Innovation

In a nutshell, Kickbox aims to eliminate the number of hoops innovators must jump through to get their idea approved. Adobe Research Scientist, Hailin Jin, said that, “Before, you had to get buy-in from your own boss, the product team, and other departments. Now, people work on projects without anyone’s approval.” Jin stated that before Kickbox, “risk taking was allowed. Now, it’s rewarded. That has really changed the way people think.” Randall illustrated how Kickbox simplifies tasks that more often than not, established organizations spend way too much time on. He recalls how General Electric asked him how many innovative coaches (out of the 300 available) should work with the Kickbox because they needed to deliver in a 6 month timeframe. He replied by saying that Kickbox doesn’t require many people to operate and it should only take about 3 weeks to complete. He concluded that like many companies out there, General Electric was overthinking an instrument designed to make business easier…much easier.

Randall feels that leading innovators at big companies are often denied the resources to innovate freely. Believing that innovating and creating is a natural human desire; organizations may stand in the way of employees carrying out the activities written in their job description. Why? Because company directors and presidents are afraid of taking risks which is not only irrational but can be counterproductive in the long run. Randall said in Fortune Magazine, “Ideally, you want to highlight that element of risk. Make sure everyone knows about it. Let employees know that you’re betting on them to come up with great ideas.” The most creative people out there can’t stand feeling limited and the bureaucratic structure of the workplace is usually the biggest obstacle when doing so.

Impact So Far

Still who would’ve imagined that a small red cardboard device, that looks similar to a restaurant “to go box,” could accomplish so much in a short amount of time? Inside the Kickbox, Adobe innovators find writing utensils, notebooks, snacks and a $1,000 prepaid debit card that they can spend however they choose. By placing innovators back in the driver’s seat, this allows them to do what they do best: create! However, only 23 of the 1,000 kickbox users have reached the mysterious blue box stage and so far, no Adobe products have been birthed from the concept. Nonetheless, the business model motivated organizations such as Cisco to adopt similar concepts such as “Adventure Kits” while launching a companywide “Innovate Everywhere Challenge.” In Q1 of 2016 alone, Adobe reported a 25% increase in revenue along with a 48% increase in profits. Although these improvements can’t be completely accredited to the Kickbox, it’s clear that Randall’s, “whole culture of experimenting” is catching on and empowering innovators nationwide.

It’s Free

One of the best things about Kickbox is that it’s free.  You can download all the materials here (minus the prepaid gift car).  It’s a great tool to help you develop that innovative idea that’s been spinning in your head and hopefully helps it become reality.

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.

TechCrunch Disrupt Challenge: Describe Your Startup (in a 140 characters or less)

TechCrunch Disrupt Challenge:  Describe Your Startup (in a 140 characters or less)

I was able to attend TechCrunch Disrupt 2016 held in San Francisco and focused my time meeting startups that had a display on the floor.  After I would meet with a startup, I would take a picture of them, include their company name or Twitter account and described what they did.  This interestingly enough was a challenge for almost all the startups I talked to.

In some cases, it was a no brainer.  A startup would have a short tag line that was descriptive and easy to comprehend.  An example is Infani Inc, Smart Baby Monitor Solution.  Being a parent, I instantly got it.

infini techcrunch disrupt

However, for many of the startups that I met, it wasn’t so simple.  A good example is Troop.  Their tagline was “Organize your Business with Cards.”  When I read their tagline, I assumed it was some sort of system that organized business cards.  It turns out that it was something more like Basecamp.  So, in as we were brainstorming how to describe it, the phrase “it’s like JIRA for everything. “  Hmmm…being a developer, I knew what JIRA was but I don’t think a lot of people did.  We finally settled on “Card base collaboration system.”  My response was that I don’t think people would get it but in the interest of time, we went with it.  For this article, I went back to their web site and they changed their Tag Line to “The best way to manage your project, your team, your life.”  To their credit, they must have taken feedback from TechCrunch and re-worked their tag line.

troop

It wasn’t only startups that had a challenge describing what they did in a tweet.  The folks at the IBM Watson display had a hard time describing Watson; finally settling on “Artificial Intelligence Platform” (I helped them with that).  Cisco also had a hard time describing Cisco Spark.  Their initial description was “It’s like Slack” but quickly dismissed it.  They finally got their marketing person on their team who came up with “Business Collaboration Made Simple.” I don’t know what that means but went with it.

ciscotweet

Hopefully, you’ve got a 30 second elevator pitch for your chance encounter with Marc Andreessen.  But I’ll end this article with a challenge to you.  Can you describe what your startup does in 140 characters or less?  Try it. I think this will be a good exercise that will force you to be succinct in describing your startup.

 

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.