If you’re living in Seattle you already know how great of a city it is. We’re close to water in every which way, it’s an easy drive into the mountains for any kind of hike you’re looking for, and our tech scene is impressive–that means jobs. Even more impressive is that Seattle now ranks third in the list of best US cities for startups. As a company that supports those startups, we loved hearing that. Commercial Cafe, a commercial real estate blog, went to review the 50 most populous urban centers to find the top 20. Sitting at No. 3 means Seattle has a lot going for it, but most noteworthy is that it attracts the most millennials. According to the data, 32% of the population here is in this age cohort and it makes up a significant portion of the workforce. We come in second place for Tech Education, and one of the many other factors used in rankings that thinkspace was feeling good about was coworking costs.

As a somewhat new Seattleite, I can share that the tech scene was one of the biggest reasons my family moved out West. Though ranking third is excellent, one category noted was that Seattle has room for growth in the creation of new business; it simply isn’t on pace with with the amount of talent coming in. Additionally, while there is a great sum of funding covering startup businesses in the region, the article cites that more than 50% is coming from VC outside of it.

We see startups everyday at thinkspace; some of whom we’ve been able to celebrate as they move from full-time coworkers to moving into window offices, and sometimes they even grow beyond our walls. It’s great to see their successes. We also have the opportunity to celebrate with them as they secure funding and grow to do the amazing work they’ve put in years of hard work for, and that’s really exciting.

At thinkspace we also have many relationships with organizations, groups, and individuals who support the growth of startups. It’s a great opportunity to share these partners to help connect you when you are in need. Check out our list and reach out for an introduction. Seattle is quite the populous city but can be made much smaller when you have community that wants to support you. Let’s create more reasons to be in Seattle.

Some of our Partners to Check Out!

Keiretsu Forum, a global angel investor network with more than 2500 accredited investor members throughout 47 chapters on 3 continents.

Techstars, a seed accelerator and worldwide network supporting entrepreneurs’ success.

Madrona Venture Labs, a startup studio based in Seattle. We partner with founders to build meaningful companies from scratch.

Startup Haven, educational resources, in-person networking events and leverage to network effects to bring value to growth-oriented startup founders and investors.

CoMotion Labs, part of CoMotion, removes barriers for startups, and provides valuable industry connections in order to help our members take their innovations to impact. They provide a multi-industry labs system hosting startups from inside and outside the UW community ranging from pre-seed to Series A.

Rachel Azaroff

Rachel Azaroff of Alliance of Angels

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.

Prepare, Prepare and Prepare Some More

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.

10 Minutes or Less, Guaranteed!

thinkspace members working in groups on their elevator pitches

thinkspace members working in groups on their elevator pitches

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.

The Anatomy of a Pitch Deck 

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 9.18.33 PM


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.

Market Size

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.

Go-To Market Strategy 

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.

Business Model

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?

Practice Makes a Perfect Pitch

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.

 Want to learn more?

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.

aviel-ginzburg-what-is-a-high-growth-startupYesterday, we spent the afternoon kicking off Seattle Startup Week with Aviel Ginzburg of Simply Measured, which recently raised $20M in venture capital funding. Aviel joined us in our Fremont location to talk about what a high growth startup really means. During his presentation, he mentioned Simply Measured’s first incarnation, Untitled Startup, Inc., which, as Aviel described it, was pretty much two guys with $150K in funding from Founders’ Co-Op “throwing ideas at the wall.”

Which begged the question:

“Why would they put money into you when you didn’t even have an idea or specific plan?”

Aviel smiled and quickly responded, “That is a phenomenal question. You should ask Andy Sack that question.”

But then he explained what investors are really investing in: people. Aviel had a proven track record as a software engineer at Appature, and, during a Startup Weekend, he and Simply Measured co-founder Damon Cortesi built an application called TweetSum. This app utilized something called the DBI, which, no joke, stood for Douche Bag Index. (Now, keep in mind that this was before social media analytics like Klout existed.) The DBI would score your followers from 1-100, letting you know how big of a douchebag they were. The catch?  The only way to see your own score was to tweet it. TweetSum ended up trending on Twitter for four straight days, and Aviel and Damon ended up being approached by Madrona Venture Group.

So why did a company without an idea or a specific plan get funded? According to Aviel:

“We had this track record of being people who could execute and who had interesting ideas…For an investor, it’s like, these guys are going to do something. I want a piece of this.”

For those who were unable to attend the event, watch the full video here:

Seattle Startup Week is in full swing! Join us for one of our upcoming events. Each will focus on scaling up and will feature a speaker sponsored by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization:

Wednesday, October 22 @ 8am | Scaling Sales & Marketing on a Shoestring Budget with Matt Heinz
Thursday, October 23 @ 1pm | Everything I Screwed Up While Scaling up with Andy Liu + Russell Benaroya
Friday, October 24 @ 1pm | Random Acts of Cupcakes with Jody Hall

Seattle Startup Week may be over, but we’re still basking in the event afterglow. Check out these recaps of our other events:

Matt Heinz explains why you have to fail in order to succeed
Russell Benaroya talks night runs and how to ease the loneliness of entrepreneurship
Angel investor Andy Liu illustrates the importance of building rhythms




After much speculation and anticipation, Facebook went public in May 2012. Facebook’s IPO is one of the most infamous stock let-downs in recent history – making a huge splash and ultimately disappointing thousands with disappointing numbers. Since the public launch, Facebook has rolled out several ways to better monetize their website in creative ways and ultimately improve their IPO.

Since it has always been a free-to-join service, most of Facebook’s revenue comes from ads. However, a site can only have so many ads before they begin turning off users to the point where they quit. In order to keep their IPO rising, Facebook has had to resort to micro-fee monetization tactics to earn more revenue.

Increasing Facebook’s Revenue Through Promoted Posts

With a simple click of a button, business and personal users have the option to promote a post for a small fee ($5-$10 or more), which makes the fan page or a particular post highlighted on followers’ news feeds. Promoting a post is not only helpful to highlight high-level messaging and direct more pointed traffic to their pages – but also steadily increases a fan page’s following.

Facebook has also increased the reach of sponsored posts by increasing the budget amount. Previously, promoted posts and pages were limited on how much they could spend to promote. This budget increase allows businesses with large social media marketing budgets to pay more to improve a post’s visibility.

Personal profiles also have the ability to promote posts to their friends. For a small fee ($7 as of Spring 2013), personal users can highlight significant posts. Many users are taking advantage of this for fundraising for their personal hobbies, work-related items, and more.

Facebook Gifts

In late 2012, Facebook launched a feature that allows users to buy their friends gifts for special occasions, like birthdays and marriage announcements. Gift suggestions are based on the recipient’s likes, and include things like gift cards for iTunes and Starbucks.

This not only allows Facebook to make a little cash, but also creates an opportunity for users to quickly buy a friend a gift at the last second if they forgot about a loved one’s birthday until the day of the event. In the future, Facebook will likely be expanding the types of gift that are available for purchase.

Monetizing Messages for More Revenue

One of the other ways Facebook is increasing their revenue is through paid messages. In the past, if a user was not connected to someone and they sent them an email, there would be a potential for that email to go into the recipient’s ‘other’ inbox, which acts as a sort of spam filter and is rarely checked. Now, If a users is not connected to someone, they can pay $1 to ensure their email goes directly to the person’s Facebook inbox rather than their ‘other’.

Users have been highly divided about having to pay for a message to be received, but so far thousands of Facebook users are using the service.

All of these new changes are adding up. Facebook’s revenue shot up 40% in Q4 2012 over Q3 2012, however as of Q1 2013, their IPO has remained steady at $25-$30/share. Facebook is continuing to find creative ways to monetize the website, and users expect to see more of these changes roll out in the coming years.


Starting a new project can be very stressful for a startup. Investors typically want to see a product, or series of products before jumping on board to help the business grow. Part of the early stages of a startup involves finding the funds you need to get those initial projects off the ground. Not everyone is capable of bootstrapping these early initiatives, and the risk involved with doing so can far outweigh the potential for success.

Enter Kickstarter, a popular alternative to publishers and investors that allows you to find the funding you need by appealing directly to your potential customers. A lot of startups use Kickstarter as a combination marketing tool and pre-order system. Your prototypes may be complete and all you need is some extra funding to initiate the first round of production – or your startup may have a great idea that just needs some extra funding to hire on the extra hands needed to make it a reality.

No matter what your needs are for these funds, Kickstarter is a great way to generate them without giving up a piece of your company to do so.

Here are a few ways startups can prepare for your first Kickstarter project.

Overestimate Your Needs

Offering rewards for various donation levels is great, but it could set you back more than you think. A lot of project founders use Kickstarter with a goal in mind that will just meet their needs, but forget the amount Kickstarter, Amazon, and the rewards take away from that total.

You don’t want to ask for $1,000 when you really just need $500, but you do want to make sure that what you’re asking for is enough to meet your needs. Failing to deliver on a promise made in a project can have a long lasting negative impact on your reputation. It would make it almost impossible to successfully launch another Kickstarter project in the future, and could result in legal action.

Be Honest

Every interaction you have with Kickstarter backers will have a direct impact on your reputation. Your first customers are the ones that pre-order whatever it is you’re putting on Kickstarter, and that means you’re pulling double duty as both a PR and customer service representative.

If you can’t meet the estimated delivery date, explain why in a video and combat pushback with transparency. Kickstarter is a very social experience, and so you definitely want to control the message.

Under-promise and Over-deliver

If you make your project look like the best thing since sliced bread, but know that it won’t realistically be as amazing as you claim, then you’re probably going to end up with a lot of disappointed customers which will be more hesitant to back your project(s) in the future.

Imagine the buzz that would surround your product when it comes out in stores (thanks to the Kickstarter funding) and pre-order customers are eagerly showing their friends and family what your product can do.

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

Don’t be cheap with your rewards, and spend a little money producing a decent pitch video. This is the first time your company and/or project is being introduced to the world. First impressions is everything, and very few people will be inclined to back (or spread the word about) a project that has no visual representation beyond a few photos and rewards backers poorly.

Let’s face it: A bumper sticker is a terrible reward for someone willing to cough up $25. Consider your needs and calculate the reward into the project total. See if you can’t sweeten the deal with additional content and information. Offer a digital download, exclusive bonuses, and cut the price on your product from what you would expect to get out of it retail. These customers are your front line in generating buzz once the product launches.

Consider Alternatives

Indiegogo is an increasingly popular alternative to Kickstarter. Not only can you start a project and receive funds if you don’t actually hit your goal, but many users reluctant to back Kickstarter projects (for whatever reason) may be more inclined to do is in the socially-rich environment of Indiegogo.

Not every project has to be funded by the crowd. There are still plenty of wealthy investors out there willing to invest in your project, and perhaps even help your startup get on its feet. Kickstarter isn’t (and should never be) used as a startup funding source. It’s intended to fund projects, and that’s a limitation many startups have a tough time working around.

No matter what your reason for seeking this additional funding may be, consider Kickstarter as a lot more than a source of revenue. It could very well be the catalyst that allows you to generate the buzz you need to make your project the next big thing.

No doubt, these three companies will change the social media world in the next year to three years. If you want to be ahead of the curve, check out what they do and why we think they they will be so important below.

social media, social media vocabulary, social networking1. Diaspora: Diaspora started to a lot of hoopla and continues to generate buzz after some students from NYU raised over $100,000 in less than a month using the Kickstarter funding platform. Diaspora aims to be an ‘open’ alternative to Facebook. Basically, Diaspora wants to put the control over your social network in your hands. The company stresses Choice, Ownership, and Simplicity. Diaspora is for those that think Facebook takes too many liberties with your data and lets you keep ownership of whatever you add to the network. The interface will look more like a WordPress blog editor than a typical social network and will give users near complete control of how they connect with others.

The model Diaspora is pursuing is almost opposite to that of Facebook’s and they believe that as people become increasingly aware of their lack of control on other sites, Diaspora will provide them with a solution. Open is certainly the way of the future in Web 3.0, but Diaspora is very ambitious. Their values will certainly affect the social media world in the near future even if comes in the form of another project.

2. Empire Avenue: Very basically, Empire Avenue is a social stock market made up of you and your friends. The higher your influence in social media, the higher your stock price. You can add your various social networks and social media activities you do will all contribute to your overall influence score. We talked about Pay With A Tweet a while back and this plays on the same idea that individuals and their network have value. You can buy and sell friends or anyone in the virtual stock market. Additionally you are free to choose what kind of advertisements you carry with your profile and the site has a very rewarding revenue sharing set-up.

As social media users continue to become more aware of the power they posses and can build up online, start-ups like Empire Avenue that help them turn that into an actual return will explode.

3. OneTrueFan: This may be the most influential start-up of the three. They have been described as ‘foursquare for web pages’ and they love that description. This takes the idea of check-in and applies it to web page. Like Foursquare, you are awarded points for checking-in and participating with a venue, only with OneTrueFan, the venue is a web page. This has the potential to be a powerful social layer for businesses to use on their site to get more participation from their most active fans. The name comes from the idea that each site will have one true fan, in other words, a mayor. People will compete to the be the number one fan through activities placed on the website and by checking in upon visiting. Look for almost every even semi-social website out there to have a check-in system in place within the next three years at most.


GlobalMojoGlobalMojo is the new tech startup that scored $1.15 million in angel investments and venture capital, including substantial backing from Founder’s Co-op. GlobalMojo CEO Daniel Todd is committed to making a difference and uses technology to do it. The Redmond based small business and thinkspace member company develops apps for web browsers that let people direct money to charities and causes of their choosing.With almost $30 billion spent online every month in the U.S. GlobalMojo helps people browse with purpose, allowing them to use online purchases to direct money to deserving causes.GlobalMojo is literally changing the world through web browsers. Buying something online for your mother-in-law’s birthday is now the socially conscience thing to do.If GlobalMojo were a cartoon character, they’d be a cross between Superman and The Pink Panther—saving the world, in a very slick way.

GlobalMojo CEO, Daniel Todd has some advice for entrepreneurs looking to start their own slick startup: have advisers, hire great talent, and get feedback. Todd has a team of advisers who he can “beat up ideas with” and who aren’t afraid to hurt his feelings. This honest feedback allows him to make quick adjustments and produce results.

Feedback from consumers is also priority and people can stay in touch with GlobalMojo via Twitter, Facebook and The Mojo Blog. Asking users what’s meaningful to them inspires ideas and helps create a browser product worth using. But Todd doesn’t just listen to users, he’s also in touch with his talented employees. Employee culture matters around GlobalMojo, and “hiring the right people is one of the most fundamental pieces of long term success,” Todd says.

And just to test how hip Daniel Todd really is, we used the universal measuring stick: Mac or PC? “I’m stuck as a PC, but I’m seeing the light. It’s only a matter a time, and then I’ll make the jump. So, I guess I’m a PC, soon to be Mac?” Can’t argue with that.

Since returning from MIT back in June I’ve been focusing on the growth of the company. It has been pretty much on mind non-stop for months now. The part that I’d like to zero in on is when you’ve got a high growth company what are some of the best practices out there to distribute equity to the founders, advisors, and employees?

Equity for Founders

The Founders’ Pie Calculator by Frank Demmler, an Associate Teaching Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University invented an interesting way to divide equity between founders in a way that is both logical and fair. Sometimes when people start up a company they make decision to divide up the equity evenly because it’s “fair”. Demmler’s approach is a bit different in that the calculator provides a way to quantify the elements of the decision making process, and that it appears to be logical and fair. The elements of the decision making process are 1) Idea; 2) Business Plan Preparation; 3) Domain Expertise; 4) Commitment and Risk; 5) Responsibilities.

The idea behind the calculator is to come up with a weight for each of these five elements and then assign a value to each founder on a scale of 0-to-10. Then you take the weight and multiple it by the founders score to come up with the weighted score. From there you can get the percentage of equity. I like this a lot better than splitting things equally because it allows you to quantify what is important. See table below for example of how this works.

[table “11” not found /]

Equity for Board of Directors and Advisory Board

When figuring out how to provide equity to advisors, you can use this chart as a guideline. Typically for an Advisory Board it ranges from 1/10th of percent to 1/2% and for Board of Directors from 1/2% to 2%.

Equity for Employees

It’s important to figure out how much equity you give to your employees. David Crow writes in his article “Founders versus Early Employees“, “Remember the goal is to incent early employees to have an emotional ownership of the product and company they are building. Equally said, potential employees need to understand what they are getting into”. The one thing that I think is missing is distributing equity to every single employee in the company regardless of title. Quite honestly, it takes an entire team to build a company and giving each employee a piece is important so that employees are rewarded in the upside of the company as they have made a decision to work for you instead of some other opportunity. Giving equity to employees also helps foster the “act like an owner” kind of mentality. Below is an example of how some companies may approach distributing equity to employees.

[table “12” not found /]

Number of shares = Meaningless. Just the % Matters

Chris Dixon wrote a blog post about “The one number you should know about your equity grant“. The one number you should know about your equity grant is the percent of the company you are being granted (in options, shares, whatever – it doesn’t matter – just the % matters).

  • Number of shares: meaningless.
  • Price of shares: meaningless.
  • Percent of the outstanding option pool: meaningless.
  • Your equity in relation to other employees: meaningless.
  • Strike price of options: meaningless.

All this information that I’ve gathered up here seems rather logical. Are there other tools that you’ve used that you think would be helpful to share with other entrepreneurs and founders? Are there principles that you live by that you’ve implemented in your startup that have worked really well? How long should people vest – four years? Five years? No cliff? Should founders have anti-dilution rights? I would really like to hear your thoughts on this.

Quite a few start ups begin as bootstrapped companies, using their own out-of-pocket funds and being extremely frugal in their first years of business. Eventually most of these businesses find themselves in a spot where, in order to grow, they need outside funding. Many turn to family and friends for financial support. This can be a great way to help your friends turn a profit and a way for them to show you their support. However, borrowing money from friends and family can become quite a sticky situation.

If you are looking to go down this path, make sure you are prepared for he worst – before it happens. One of the best ways to safeguard a relationship from the possibility of your company’s unrealized financial goals is to tie financing to equity instead of a loan. It can be extremely difficult to dilute your ownership in your company in order to get the capital you need, but can ultimately protect your relationships with those close to you.

I’d love to hear from people who have borrowed from friends and family or are thinking about it and precautions that you took to make sure everything worked out. So, let me know. Have you had any experiences related to this topic?

The Founder InstituteLast week, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dave Parker, founder of Bundled.com and mentor at The Founder Institute. After showing Dave around the thinkspace digs, we sat down to chat a bit. I had never heard of the Founder Institute before, but getting to hear about it straight from one of their mentors was great and brought to light a couple of great points to consider.
1.     They aren’t soft. Founder’s Institute isn’t full of a bunch of people who are going to tell you that your business idea rocks. They are tough, they are direct and they aren’t going to cut you any slack. Less than 50% of the would-be entrepreneurs who start the program finish it. But don’t look at this as a bad thing. Look at this as being a perfect opportunity to test your business idea against some of the greatest business minds in the area. Just think, if you can make it through this, there is a good chance your business will make it too!
2.     They aren’t cheap. Submitting an application costs $50 up front. Founders who actually make it to the program pay $900 for the 16 week course (this covers all course costs and 14 plus meals). The founders who graduate are asked to contribute warrants for 3.5% of their company priced at fair market value into the shared equity Bonus Pool that is split between the other Graduates, the Mentors, and the Institute. And, finally, if the company is successful and raises any significant amount of outside funding, the Institute asks for an additional $4,500 to help the Founder Institue grow.
3.     They might be worth it. Going through the program at the Founder Institute is tough stuff. It’s not easy and it’ll be a pretty penny if you actually make it, but it just might be worth it. Take a second to consider what you get out of this course: the four month program has weekly company-building assignments guided by a network of over 500 Mentors that are business founders themselves. The topics of the weekly lectures range from Startup Legal to Fundraising. I think Dave said it best, “You will have to do this stuff to start up your own business eventually, The Founder Institute gives you the push to do it faster and better than you would have on your own.” Not to mention, if you are a graduate, you get 1% of the Bonus Pool of your graduating peers – not too shabby!