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March 19, 2014
Start 'em Young: DC Tech's Next Generation
Over 40young entrepreneurs (we don't mean boyishly charming yet already a millionaire--we're talking high school age) gathered at EverFi's Georgetown HQ to plot out how they could turn their interests into business ideas. Mark Zuckerberg better watch his back.
Meet the inaugural class of Bisnow Ventures' GEN Z program. It brings together high school kids interested in business and exposes them to successful DC-area entrepreneurs during a half-day Saturday workshop. The group heard how entrepreneurs like EverFi's Tom Davidson and Parature's Duke Chung have turned their own ideas into revenue-generating ventures with backing from top investors. They also learned the art of networking and how to pitch business ideas.
Tom played a lot of sports in high school, worked on the student newspaper, and had average grades. While a senior at Bowdoin College in Maine, he won a seat on the Mainestate legislature. In the early days of EverFi in '08, Tom and a small team of sales people drove around the country in an RV, meeting with potential customers, and sleeping on hotellobby couches to conserve money. Growing the edtech company to 150 employees and wooing investors like Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Twitter founder Evan Williams also made Tom a source of great advice: always write handwritten notes; don't listen to the 80% of friends and family who will think your business idea is dumb; and don't be afraid to ask for help.
When Duke was a Cornell student in '01, Internet access was something you plugged in and dialed and at least two people were needed to move a computer monitor across the room. Duke and his college friends started a chat product that was intended for college students to communicate but was picked up by small businesses that used it for their customer service communications. Parature, recently acquired by Microsoft, has since evolved to a web-based CRM system with over 70 million end users. But it hasn't always been easy. Duke says his worst day on the job was once laying off 20% of the Parature workforce. Duke's advice: Focus on building a great business, then think about raising capital.
Riide founder Amber Wason talked about her e-bike startup to this group of young female entrepreneurs. Last year, China sold twice as many e-bikes as cars. Yet they weren't selling in the US. Why? There were being marketed to seniorscitizens--and the bikes were heavy and clunky. Amber saw congestion in cities and a hole in the market. She knew if she could make a light, cool bike, it would be a hit with young, urban folks who don't want a car. Her DC company set a $50k goal on Kickstarter and got there in one day. Her lesson: Don't do it alone. Have someone help and support you when you start a business.
GEN Z has more events on the calendar. Check out the site for details.
Behind The Deal: Encore's Seed Round
Encore Alert founder James Li hit a major milestone this week: his Arlington, Va., startup raised its first round of institutional funding. The $390k seed round was led by NextGen Angels, along with other investors like Clarabridge's Sid Banerjee, Google's Tyler Peterson, and CIT. It was also James' first time raising money, so he shared some lessons from the five-month process:
1. Be disciplined. Overly prepare for meetings, track the progress of relationships with potential investors; and follow-up within hours of meeting an investor. James also recommends writing hand-written thank you notes.
2. Obsess over the pitch deck. Investors aren't looking at business plans anymore, says James, so the pitch deck has to be fairly detailed and clear. Encore's experience in the Acceleprise accelerator also helped make the deck so impressive that many investors told him it was one of the best they'd ever seen.
3. Share the social proof. James showed investors press write-ups, customer testimonials, and names of other investors interested in the company. “Showing them there are other people in the area who are sincerely interested in our product and company goes a long way to influencing people's investment decision.”
4. Talk to as many people as possible. James was told to set a goal of talking to at least 150 potential investors. He came close.
Encore Alert was launched last August by James, Felipe Lopes, and Tammy Cho, while students at Georgetown. The company's software scans thousands of brand mentions and related tweets to identify marketing opportunities like trends, influencers, and spikes. The Consumer Electronics Association was one of Encore Alert's first paying customers. The company will use the funds for product development and to add technical, sales, and marketing people. The only outside funding the startup has received before this seed round was $30k from Acceleprise, the DC enterprise technology accelerator Encore Alert recently completed.
Leukemia Ball Is March 22!
2014 Leukemia Ball senior co-chair Candace Duncan says to expect nearly 2,000 area business leaders at the 27th Annual Leukemia Ball, presented by PhRMA on Saturday, March 22 (that's Candace with last year's comedian, Jim Belushi). The event raises money for innovative life-saving research and patient programs funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Huey Lewis and the News and comedian Ryan Hamilton bring their talents to the 2014 shindig: “Imagine Someday Is Today.” LLS's mission is to cure blood cancers and help patients and their families. The Ball is one of the most anticipated non-political black-ties of the year. Candace, retired managing partner of KPMG's Metropolitan Area, has been working hard with co-chair and BB&T Bank Group president Dan Waetjen. Raffle prize: aMercedes-Benz! For more info and to register, click here.
More $$ For Women Studying Cybersecurity
Not enough women are in cybersecurity. So Applied Computer Security Associates, which sponsors research conferences, is expanding its 3-year-old scholarship program for women studying information security. It includes a $250k commitment from HP and help from the Computing Research Association in choosingwinners. Scholarships range from $5k to $10k and go up to $20k over a two-year period for women studying for their B.S., and M.S. degrees. ACSA scholarship programs director Jeremy Epstein says cybersecurity is rapidly changing and it's crucial to have diverse perspectives and problem-solving skills. (Don't worry, the actual scholarships are more than $40.)
Is your startup raising funds? Tell Bisnow's Tania Anderson about the process.