So excited to have our first floor venue space available for the world to enjoy! We can host events up to 120 people! Let us know if you want to use this space in February!
So excited to have our first floor venue space available for the world to enjoy! We can host events up to 120 people! Let us know if you want to use this space in February!
“Success unshared is failure” was one of the ending statements given by Robert Herjavec, CEO of the Herjavec Group and an investor on Shark Tank, as the Iconic Conference was coming to a close yesterday. After a day filled with raw and genuine lessons given by some of the most remarkable entrepreneurs, I couldn’t stop thinking that it might as well have been the leading thought of the event.
Nonetheless, Iconic Conference’s catchphrase “innovate, inspire, ignite” was setting the tone just as well. As was promised in the opening remarks, all of us are ready to go back to work tomorrow morning and deliver the newly-found value (or attempt to, at the very least. As Kevin O’Leary said today, “What matters most is the skill to execute. There’s nothing worse than vision all day long.”) Regardless of the stage that your company might be at, or whether you are a founder or an employee – even regardless of the industry you’re in – your perspective was bound to change within the eight “iconic” hours.
What did I found out? Now, for me, this part is always tricky. I can go around and try to find the quotes that I think would be the most interesting to me if I was a leader of a company. I don’t. I’m not a founder, a C-level executive, I do not manage people.
But I do run a business. Even as an employee, I do run the business. I take a part of the company into my hands and become responsible for its sustainability at worst; growth, development, and innovation at best. At Iconic, I had a chance to take away lessons on leadership from some of the greatest minds in entrepreneurship. I found a two-fold value: for one, I scribbled down thoughts and advice that I can implement personally in my work and my approach to it. Two: I had an opportunity to look at entrepreneurship through the eyes of founders and CEOs. It might be surprising to those who have always “founded” or “executed”, but experiencing an inspiration to set the shoes of an employee aside for a moment, and look at the business through the eyes of a leader, sheds a new light at your own role in the life of the company. It’s an understatement to say that the promise of “innovate, inspire, ignite” was delivered at Iconic. But as Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of IndieGoGo said today, “Innovation is not the point. It’s the mean, not the goal. Ignite, inspire, innovate are only tools.” – now where you take them, and how you use them, is on you.
If you had a chance to attend, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the experience. Bonus question: what’s your opinion on the value of opening the doors of “C-level insights” to your employees?
With Bellevue’s continuous efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs, Eastside set an optimistic scene to the annual GeekWire StartUp Day. Peter, Katie and I heard honest lessons from Seattle’s leading entrepreneurs, and we are excited to bring them back to thinkspace.
CEO of LiquidPlanner set the tone for an aspect that was shining through every presentation of the day. It was made crystal-clear by each of the entrepreneurs on stage that day: who you hire, and how you build your team, are the most important decisions you will make. Errors in operations and strategy can be fixed; you can bootstrap and emerge from failures; and you always have 101 opportunities to turn to when your back is against the wall.
Nick Huzar, CEO and co-founder of OfferUp, explained that “the only thing you should obsess about is finding ‘Just The Right People’” and he put an emphasis on searching for “Swiss Army Knives” of skills and knowledge to infect them with your will, passion, and motivation. Even venture capitalists and angel investors confirm: “People invest in other people. It’s a bet on the team that is starting in front of you, believing in their ability to execute” says Greg Gottesman, VC and co-founder of Pioneer Square Labs. “For early stage pitches, you’re betting on the person, almost irrelevant of what they’re pitching”.
GeekWire StartUp Day made it obvious that the future of Seattle’s entrepreneurs will be exciting. “I’m very ambitious about Seattle” said Heather Redman, angel investor and VP of Business Operations for Indix. “If you look around the metrics that surround Seattle, we have more engineers than anybody else. We have a huge dominance in cloud, good footprint in health tech, virtual reality, and many other areas. If you look at the 20 top most admired brands in the world, 5 of them are headquartered in Seattle. That’s a lot of entrepreneurial DNA”.
With the events and inspiration of that day still buzzing in me, I’m infected with optimism about the future of Seattle’s tech scene and filled with gratitude for being a part of the startup community. Where will you and your startup be when Seattle takes over the tech industry?
Last Saturday, Katie and I had a chance to participate in Melody Biringer’s co-storming session, which immediately qualified as one of the most energizing and inspiring experiences. “Co-storm” is Melody’s original initiative where you lay down your project, its roadblocks, and its mission in front of another professional – who might be completely unrelated to your field – and start from there. A great round of feedback follows, and because Melody has a great way of finding just the right people to work and connect with, you find yourself in a buzzing conversation filled with ideas, advice and strategy.
A crowd of about sixty women from various professional backgrounds gathered in downtown Seattle, and divided into small groups guided by a mentor, they stormed their initiatives. With professions in the fields of IT, marketing, business development, and everything in between, each of us had 30 minutes to storm the struggle we needed a new perspective on. Afterwards, the group discussed it from their own point of view, trying to come to constructive solutions – or at least ask the right questions. The idea might seem simple, but the results are no less than extraordinary.
Both Katie and I focused on perspectives for thinkspace in 2016, but went in with a different project to pitch into the discussion. We had a chance to talk to brilliant mentors whose fields of expertise were very closely related to the answers we were looking for, or with experience and knowledge so distant from our problem that they offered a view from a completely different, unpredicted perspective.
One advice that has stuck with me since Saturday was given by Mikki Kingrey, authentic sales strategist and the owner of Real Results Mentoring, who urged me to look for answers to two questions:
And that should mark the clear, sharp starting point for the strategy in marketing, sales, business development, and content creation. You can iterate and pivot afterwards to expand your chosen niche, but you want your initial message to be clear. Focusing on a wide, murky group of addressees automatically dilutes your message, content, and initiative, spreading them too thin to create visible effects.
Defining your anti-niche is just as important and impactful. A message that alienates or disturbs no one, is probably weak enough to interest no one.
Without a doubt, every woman attending the co-storm had her own “ah-ha!” moment, that – if executed with the same palpable determination that was filling the air on Saturday – will be enough to push the projects we came with to their successful endings. We braved the storm, came out ahead, and will be bringing the results and conclusions to build a stronger community in 2016.
[sched sidebar=”yes” url=”http://seattlestartupweek2015.sched.org/”]Seattle Startup Week Schedule[/sched]
Whether you’re new to drinking craft beer or a longtime fan Seattle Beer Week is your chance to join thousands of others who want to enjoy what the market has to offer. The ten day celebration kicks off today with dozens of bars, pubs, and breweries hosting dozens of events showcasing a variety of hop based beverages. It’s no coincidence Seattle Beer Week is successful. According to the Brewers Association, Washington State ranks second in the nation in the number of craft breweries creating batches of a drink first created in ancient Mesopotamia.
Among the dozens of business owners participating is Burc McFarlen, who runs The Beer Authority in Lake City. Like a sommelier speaks effortlessly about wine, Burc knows his beer. With 13 taps that are constantly changing, more than 400 bottled beers, Burc estimates he’s tasted about 75% of his inventory. He uses descriptions like “floral notes,” “hoppy,” and a “hint of vanilla” when explaining the subtle differences in beer you can find at his bar. He’s looking forward to Seattle Beer Week and is hosting a few events starting with a golf tournament. “The first four days we’re only pouring Washington beer to keep it local,” he explained.
Burc also partnered with Alaskan Brewing Company to offer a unique event on May 15. Customers can try grilled Alaskan salmon marinated in the company’s amber ale. Exotic meat like reindeer sausage from a butcher shop in Juneau is also on the menu. “We’re going to do a vertical tasting of their smoked porter,” Burc added. It will be from 2014, 2012, 2010, and 2008. Burc raved about the beer comparing it to “drinking smoked salmon.”
“It’s been fun watching it grow. Although it makes it harder to get into the events that I want to go to,” Jennifer Schweitzer shared with a smile. “It’s a good time. You get to see everybody in one place.” She has nearly two decades worth of experience as a bartender and has watched the evolution of Seattle Beer Week since it began in 2009. She knows firsthand the amount of work required to handle the event.
This year she won’t be behind the bar and is especially looking forward to Sour Fest hosted by Brouwers Café in Fremont. When asked why she loves the variety that’s growing in popularity her answer is succinct, “because sours are the magical unicorns of beer.” According to Jennifer there’s a wide variety of sour beers that are pleasing to many palettes, “the profile ranges from really sweet and fruity to tart and citrusy to boozy and funky. It’s just fun.”
As the craft beer market expanded, Jenn took an interest in the specialty beer about ten years ago. She wanted to know more about what she was serving and the interest has paid off. She’s able to make recommendations and help others give new beers a chance by providing “guidance not judgement.” Last year 252 craft breweries called the Evergreen State home according to the Washington Beer Commission. That’s up from 202 in the previous year and there’s no signs of the trend slowing down. “It’s happening everywhere especially in Ballard. You can’t turn a corner without seeing a brewery,” Jenn added.
As Seattle Beer Week expands Burc thinks there’s room for improvement. He’d like for there to be less focus on major distributors and see it go back to its roots – offering more educational events where people can “nerd out” and really learn about the intricacies of craft beer. His partnership with Alaskan Brewing Company is a reflection of what he’d like to see as a craft beer maven.
Whether you’re a novice or have advanced knowledge of craft beer Seattle Beer Week is a great opportunity to try new beers and share a toast with friends or strangers. “Craft beer is the ultimate ice breaker,” Burc shared.
Sit down and let me tell you a tale of a place like no other. Where the beer flows like high speed internet, where the wine flows like beer, and where no two business cards are the same. Sounds like a dream right? Wrong. This is New Tech Eastside and it is very, very real.
The night kicked off on quirky note, as Katie Walvatne acknowledged that she didn’t resemble the photo on the big screen, and joined Brett Greene on stage as a Peter Chee impersonator. To get things started, Brett and “Peter” introduced the interactive portion of the evening: Community shout-outs! Following pleas to beta test, review, and join teams of techies, three startup weekends were advertised. If you are interested in building a product geared toward B2B sales, health innovation systems, or Latino markets, visit http://startupweekend.org to learn more about how you can participate!
Kicking off the presentation portion of the night, Brandy Rhodes from NTE sponsor 9Mile Labs introduced her company as one that “invests in people with smart, innovative tech ideas” before turning the floor over to iMovR.
Ron Wiener from iMovR made a compelling argument, advocating the value and the usability of his treadmill desks. In his words, iMovR is “in the business of office fitness.” Ron says that getting people out of their seats is what drives his company. For those of you that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, don’t knock it ‘til you try it! Like Ron said, “Jimmy Kimmel can do it… Even Peter Chee can do it!”
With an arm like Babe Ruth, the aim of Annie Oakley, and the stage presence of the Three Stooges, Frontier demonstrated a mean curveball t-shirt toss to reward correct answers to trivia questions about Seattle. Coming in hot behind this energetic interlude was Trent, the man behind the mouse(flow).
Trent Scott launched Mouseflow in 2009. His aim? To revolutionize the way people view website analytics data using heat maps and real-time playbacks of visitor activity on websites. Aggregating that data onto a sexy dashboard, Mouseflow takes cyber-stalking to a whole new level by making it easy for a company to analyze the behavior of actual visitors on their website. Mouseflow provides companies with the data they need to optimize how they organize and present their information virtually. Since its launch, Mouseflow has spread over nine countries and provides service to companies like Pepsi, Frontier Airlines, and the Weather Channel.
Papa Smurf made a cameo appearance to represent SendinBlue, a NTE sponsor. Offering an alternative to companies like MailChimp, SendinBlue facilitates the efficient sending of newsletters. Papa Smurf gave Sailesh from Mobisante a warm New Tech welcome.
Giving a real-time demonstration on stage, Sailesh Chutani with Mobisante validated the gadget that has earned him several awards, and worldwide press. Traditional ultrasound machines conservatively cost $35,000, weigh as much as a chubby rhinoceros, and are about as portable as a grand piano. Mobisante has created the first-ever mobile diagnostic ultrasound machine, offering users clear and accessible ultrasound imaging on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Because of this technology, ultrasound imaging is now made available to previously underserved populations, including climbers on Mt. Everest, soldiers in active duty, and organizations that provide healthcare in remote areas of the world. The basic unit costs less than $5,000, weighs less than 12 ounces, and its counterpart app is so easy, a caveman could do it.
Wake up on the WrongSide of the bed because you’re sick and tired of being just another dot-com? Maybe it’s time you try RightSide, the company that brings you access to an encyclopedia of unique domain names such as “.rocks” or “.ninja.” Shawn from RightSide introduced the last presenter of the evening, GoDaddy.*
What do you get when you mix heavy slides of coding language, intricate descriptions of platform updates, and a captive audience of techies? I have no idea. I’m not a developer. What I do know is that GoDaddy is in the business of individuality. GoDaddy has a cult following as the go-to website for landing the perfect domain name to provide you with the unique online presence you crave. For example, my domain name might be email@example.com. See how that works?
Arriving fashionably late to the stage, Peter Chee (the real one) joined Brett on stage to thank the presenters for the evening and give the attendees a proper send off. Cheers to another night of entertaining presentations, techies turned stand-up comics, and near-miss merchandise tosses! Until next time, Eastside!
*I now see the irony of this lineup.
Last night Rachel Azaroff of Alliance of Angels stopped by our Seattle space to help some of our members prepare for successful angel investing pitches. She pointed out it’s a different animal pitching to an angel investor vs. pitching to a venture capitalist, so it’s important to be prepared. Angel investors aren’t professional investors representing a fund; these are people writing checks right out of their personal bank accounts, so the format can be radically different. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s important to know whom you are pitching to. Research your particular angels. You need to know what stage these angels are investing at and what type of investments they make. For example, Alliance of Angels generally invests in early stage startups, and tends to invest in life sciences, consumer goods, IT and clean tech.
Angel investors tend to have ten minute or less pitch sessions, and believe me, they go by faster than you think. Alliance of Angels advises:
Be clear about your value, be compelling and back up your plan with numbers.
You want to find the sweet spot where you can thoroughly explain your idea, but without going into too much detail and running out of time to make the sale. Investors aren’t going to write you a check today, so Rachel recommends that you focus on getting their attention with the goal of scheduling a follow up meeting.
Always begin your pitch by describing the problem your idea solves. You want to make sure to define the problem, identify who feels the pain, and illustrate the size and severity of the pain. Rachel says:
Focus on making the pain tangible.
Once you clearly outline the pain point, deliver your value proposition. This is one of the most important slides in your deck, so it may be necessary to use multiple slides in order to fully explain the features and benefits that solve the problem.
Ultimately, it’s important to dive into the specifics of your initial target demographic, but you also want to make sure you paint a clear picture of your potential by highlighting the total addressable market. Be realistic, but also sell it. Back up your numbers with third party facts and figures.
Explain who your customer is. If you can, be specific. For example, in a B2B scenario, you might use logos from the companies you plan to sell to. If you have any existing customers, make sure to highlight them as well. The potential pipeline is also an important part of your customer base. Display customer growth in a realistic and precise way.
This is another key part of your pitch. Angel investors want to see exactly how you plan to get users or customers, so it’s important to be clear and strategic with your go-to market plan. If you can, outline the sales cycle and key decision makers–the more specific in this area, the better.
Rachel also suggests outlining any key partnerships. This doesn’t apply to most, but if your business hinges on relationships, be sure to include them in your go to market plan. Show any traction you’ve already made.
Startups tend to let the business model “fall out” of the company, meaning the money making part will just naturally work itself out. Remember, angel investors are writing you a check from their personal account; they want to see you are interested in not only returning, but growing their investment. Clearly state how you plan to make money.
Don’t ignore your competition. Address your competitors head-on. Leverage the competition by showing how your product will solve more problems and ultimately be profitable.
You want to give the investors confidence that you and your team know what you are doing, so highlight your key players. Be sure to outline their experience and why they are in their position. If they have prior exits or startup experience, Rachel recommends including that information in your pitch.
Rachel says this is one of the harder slides, because finances can be convoluted. Stick to three main financial points: revenue and profit, annual projects and key operating drivers. When it comes to the financials slide, ask yourself this question:
How many questions does it answer vs. how many questions does it create?
As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect. That holds true for an angel investing pitch. Rachel says one of the biggest issues angel investors see in pitching is the presenter not being confident with the presentation. She recommends presenting your pitch to various crowd sizes and in many different spaces. The more variables you are prepared for, the better your pitch will be.
Be sure to catch our next event on startup funding at Lunch & Learn: Techstars. You have two opportunities to attend: Friday, April 10th at thinkspace Seattle and Tuesday, April 14th at thinkspace Redmond. Find more information and register for these events at thinkspace connected.
Techstars is the gold standard for startup accelerators. At the core is our massive interconnected network of over 3,000 successful entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and corporate partners helping the most promising startups do more faster. With 13 programs worldwide, the mentorship-driven accelerator program funds the best companies in the most entrepreneurial communities. Since 2006, over 70% of the 500 companies from almost 40 Techstars programs have prospered, representing approximately $2 billion in market capitalization. Techstars is currently accepting applications for their program in Seattle until April 30th and this is your opportunity to meet with Jaren Schwartz, Program Manager for Techstars and learn more about how Techstars can help provide funding for your startup.
At StepNW’s event in Bellevue on Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel in the company of fellow coworking representatives from Orange Studios, extraSlice, and Impact Hub. Picture a room full of entrepreneurs, executives looking to find their perfect startup match, community representatives, creatives, and resident experts on Seattle’s startup culture. The space was loud, the mics were soft, and the handshakes were good and firm. The venue was buzzing with disorganized, high energy, caffeinated humans…much like a startup!
One question posed to the panel challenged the value of being plugged into coworking space. Specifically:
“Why should an entrepreneur consider coworking space?”
To answer this question, I referred back to a study executed by the Kauffman Foundation that quantified the two most important resources entrepreneurs need to be successful. This study showed that the most impactful catalysts to success in a startup can be boiled down to building relationships with other entrepreneurs, and building relationships with support organizations, such as Angel investors, mentors, and service providers. Opportunity for building these connections naturally multiplies by physically plugging into a coworking community. Moreover, by being involved in a coworking space, there is an instant connection to people (like me!) whose mission is directly dictated by these two key needs. In building the fabric of support around entrepreneurs, I seek to connect people with the resources that will help them to solve their biggest pain points.
The previous topic begs the question:
“What are the biggest pain points of an entrepreneur?”
Dan Kihanya from Impact Hub says that the three most common concerns he sees are difficulties finding talent, connections, and funding. With coworking spaces popping up all over the Seattle area, I expect to see these anxieties alleviated.
In response to the first pain point: Hiring talent. Who wants to be stuck with a social loafing coworker who has a bad habit of stealing your yogurt out of the fridge? Not I! That’s why companies like thinkspace offer recruiting services—to weed out the yogurt-eating, money-embezzling, resume-exaggerating applicants and provide companies with the (actual) top talent Seattle has to offer.
Moving on to pain point number two: Connections. There are only so many times you can view someone’s LinkedIn profile before things get awkward. This is why thinkspace, Impact Hub, and Orange Studios are all involved in organizing networking events that provide ample opportunities to meet other entrepreneurs face-to-face and make meaningful connections with experts in a variety of fields.
As for pain point number 3: Funding. As much as money trouble is a fun party topic, it isn’t always as easy to solve this problem as game of tic-tac-toe against your six-year-old nephew. History has shown that participation in coworking space leads to an increased probability of meeting co-founders, angel investors, and partner companies. This translates to: Cha-CHING!*
As our panel came to a close, the locals appeared restless… and hungry! Reminding me that in the world of entrepreneurs, there’s no time to buy groceries. Offering opportunities to be social, studious, and inquisitive, StepNW did the community a great service by providing education and networking opportunities to the greater Eastside community. Cheers to another night of connections, ravaged buffet tables, and illegible nametags!
*Cha-CHING: Increased opportunity for growth and revenue
A wise food blogger once wrote, “Valentine’s Day will be over soon, but chocolate is forever.” So take those words to heart, and join us for some cocoa confections as we showcase thinkspace member Mobisante at our monthly Campfire Show & Tell event! It’s all taking place in the second floor lobby at our Redmond location on Wednesday, February 18 at 1:00 pm.
Mobisante is the company responsible for bringing portable ultrasound diagnostic imaging to your smartphone or tablet. And they’re doing it at a fraction of the cost of other expensive portable ultrasound systems. As Mobisante puts it:
We’ve put the power of diagnostic imaging in the hands of the world. On a smartphone or a tablet from Mobisante or a Windows-based device of your own. Not just in the emergency department or the bedside, but on the street, in a home or a remote village.
And at a price for everyone.
Make sure you get there on time! Sailesh Chutani, Mobisante’s CEO & co-founder, will begin the event with a brief presentation, followed by Q&A, networking and—of course—chocolate.