Sunday, December 27, 2015

8 Startups Disrupting Multiple Industries From The World's Largest Startup Accelerator.

Startup Insider is a series of articles with the goal of helping aspiring founders and entrepreneurs understand the ins and outs of starting a startup. You can sign up to stay up-to date with this series here.

Startup Insider got to visit Mass-Challenge, which is said to be the world's largest startup accelerator. Each year, Mass-Challenge takes in 128 startups and provides them with resources that allow them to take their startup to the next level. During our visit, we sat down with 8 different startups from this year's batch. These startups were tackling problems in various industries from healthcare and education to art and media to agriculture and food.

MIT PhD Students turned 3D Entrepreneurs 

Matthew Hirsch, Tom Baran and Daniel Leithinger were all Ph.D. students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) before they ended up meeting at a bar and discussing their research projects. Then they asked the big question, 'what if we combined all our research projects?'

This is where their startup Lumii was born. Lumii has created the first commercial light field glasses-free 3D display engine. They hope to take 3D displays mainstream by replacing optics with software intelligence.

From Startup Weekend Latin America to Mass-Challenge

The next founders I got to interview were Saul Gonzalez and Luz Ynfante who came all the way from Latin America to join Mass-Challenge with their startup Quiro, which uses video game technology and design to deliver realistic and interactive medical training worldwide.

Saul and his first co-founder Robert Valerio had met through the Startup Weekend program, which they ended up winning. Luz then joined the team as well to provide more support in the medical part of the company. This gave them enough momentum to join Wayra, which is one of the top accelerators in Latin America. After finishing that program, they decided to chase the American dream and apply to Mass-challenge.

Saul emphasized the importance of the mentors they have gained access to by joining Mass-challenge. He shared, "Success is one thing in Latin America and success here is completely different. Mass-Challenge has opened so many doors for us here."

Using Stories of Hope to Help Empower Artists 

Liz Powers had been working with homeless and disabled artists in Boston, running art groups in local women shelters. After noticing how art works in these types of programs were you usually thrown away, she decided that she wanted to help tell the story of these people---this led to the birth of ArtLifting.

Starting out with just four artists, ArtLifting quickly got a lot of traction and press with the artworks of these four artists being sold for thousands of dollars. ArtLifting continues to help artists in these shelter and disability programs showcase their work through their website and exhibitions. Artists receive 55% of each sale.

Powers shared, "The reason why we're able to get so much press is because of our artists' stories. It's just such powerful stories of hope." She gave the example of one of the artists named Frank who was formerly a homeless veteran but was able to overcome these challenges and find himself in art through Artlifting.

Nobody Is Expert At Everything, Ask Questions.

Bringing Data Analytics to the Farming Industry in the US

When you think about the farming industry, you don't really think about disruption and technology, but the rise of big data and Danilo Leao's background in agriculture and business was enough to lead to the start of Bov Control, a data collection and analysis tool that improves performance on meat, milk and genetics production.

Bov Control hopes to utilize data analytics to increase food production and help farmers improve their operations. Bov Control uses technologies like cloud computing and RFIDs to track different factors and data points which are then translated into information that allows these farmers to make better decisions.

While Bov Control initially started out in Brazil, Hannah Raudsepp joined the team this year to help bring Bov Control to the US, which is the second largest commercial herd in the world.

Increasing Access to Oral Healthcare

Hitesh Tolani was goin0g through dental school in Harvard when a lot of his undergrad friends would ask him if they could read their X-rays. He even had friends from Botswana who started asking him for his help. As he started digging deeper into why he had so many friends asking for his help, he realized that first, the increased access to the Internet allowed his friends to send these X-rays to him. But more importantly, telehealth wasn't really being used yet in the dentistry industry.

Hitesh wanted to lead the revolution especially because of the fact that oral healthcare is a growing problem that people don't really care about. He shared, "Oral health care is actually tied to a lot of systemic problems and it's a 250B problem. It's like a silent epidemic."

This revelation led Hitesh to decide to start Virtudent with the help of the Harvard Innovation Lab. Virtudent helps increase access to oral health care through telehealth technologies and pop-up dental clinics

Creating a Support System and Network for Teachers

David Meyers had been in the education sector for the longest time as a teacher, principal, professor and thought leader when he decided to make a slight shift and become a founder and CEO of a startup. The only catch? It's still in the education space.

After seeing the challenges a lot of young teachers face, David decided to create TeachersConnect, which is an online support network that gives new teachers a platform for them to ask urgent questions and get answers from a network of fellow teachers and mentors.

He shared, "A lot of teachers would describe their first year teaching as absolutely overwhelming. A lot of times they also feel isolated and lonely so we want to help them have a support network." TeachersConnect also works with teacher preparation programs, providing these programs with a platform that allows them to continue helping teachers and monitoring their progress.

A B2B Marketplace for Food Waste

MIT has become a startup hub especially for graduate and post-graduate students working on interesting research problems. This was the same case for Ricky Ashenfelter who was finishing his MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management where he was concentrating on the cleantech and food industry.

Ricky would team up with fellow MIT MBA graduate student Emily Malina in starting Spoiler Alert, an app that helps businesses manage surplus food and organic waste.

Ricky shared how being at MIT with a full course load actually helped him build out Spoiler Alert. He shared, "I was able to tailor my coursework to something I was passionate about. I knew quite a bit about the food industry but I've learned so much more about how food is distributed and so when I had the opportunity to make a difference and dig deeper, I decided to take the leap and see what would happen."

Financial Education for the 21st Century 

Rebecca Liebman was a senior at Northeastern University when she decided that she wanted to help other people overcome their fear of finance the way she did with the help of her brother who had worked in finance before he decided to join Rebecca in starting LearnLux, a startup that makes online learning tools to teach personal finance skills.

Rebecca's brother and co-founder Michael Liebman was a bank teller at the age of 15 and is still currently attending Bentley University where he majors in Finance. Rebecca and Michael would always have these conversations about finance and they would eventually start a blog talking about finance, entrepreneurship and other things young people don't usually learn in school--this would be the genesis for the idea behind LearnLux.

Rebecca shared, "The challenge is we're creating the product that we wish we had and unlike anything ever created. We're creating educational pedagogy that people want to use because there are so many deterrents so we have to give you a reason to."

Disclaimer:- Following article come from Huffingtonpost

Monday, December 21, 2015

Leading A Startup With The Strategy & With The Employees.

There is no single reason why employees join a specific startup. Motivations can range from the technology vision and track record of the founders to job titles and commute times. And the promise of an equity payday is always a factor.

But regardless of the initial draw, the reason why these employees stay comes down to one thing: how well they understand, contribute to, and feel a part of advancing the vision/mission of the company. That adds up to some interesting initial challenges for startup CEOs.

Be The Decider

There is no single style of leadership that translates into success for CEOs of early-stage companies. Founders can range from transparent to ultra-secretive in personality. Some create perk-rich environments while some go with spartan surroundings. Management wise, they can be consensus-driven or top-down.

But one of the major predictors of long-term success is how decisions are made and communicated to the company. Not only are these initial decisions critical from a business and technology perspective, they establish a cultural tone at the same time.

Ask any startup employee and he or she will say that they not only want to be involved in these early decisions. More than that, due to their investments in the company—time, reduced salary, quality of life—they feel they deserve to be involved in these decisions.

That poses a conundrum for startup CEOs: Some of the people most valuable to a company in its earliest stages are also the last people you want helping you make business-critical decisions.

What Matter Is That Your Employees Feel Included
Don't Hate, Participate... If You Can Afford To

Simply put, decision making isn’t for everyone on the startup team. There are a number of factors that a CEO has to be mindful of before he or she makes that critical first major decision.

Early employees are often narrowly brilliant in their particular technical domain but are extremely limited in business acumen.

Many startups today have gone virtual, with key employees allowed to work remotely as a recruiting incentive. But even when a startup is mindful of this distance and tries to bring these employees in through video conferencing (and this is a distinct minority of startups we advise), these remote employees are rarely as involved or as knowledgeable as their on-site compatriots.

Startups are always on, always moving. It’s a pace and environment not given to deliberation or self-analysis. Making decisions is like changing a tire on a moving car—maybe it would be better to pull off the road and do it right, but who has the time?

Aim For Inclusion, But Keep Control

Given the above considerations, how does a CEO fulfill her obligations to shareholders while establishing a decision making process that creates a sense of involvement and ownership within the employee base?

This is where things get a little cynical, where we advise our CEOs on how to open the decision process to the entire company while we still maintaining ultimate control in the hands of the management team.

Here’s our four-step formula to participative decision making:

Get as much diverse input as possible. It’s been proven that the more diverse your group—in background, ethnicity, and gender—the better the output. If you’re smart, you’ve already got a diverse team; now is the time to reap the benefits.

Instill ownership across the entire team to motivate employee engagement. Ownership is a trait that startup leaders need to foster and reward, but only if it’s genuine. Even if a CEO is seriously top-down in her/his decision-making, we encourage her/his to find areas of genuine ownership, however narrow, for each employee.

Make critical decisions with a small group of business veterans who’ve been around the block.
Summarize for the entire team what you’ve learned in open forums with all employees. Be sure to communicate back to the company in another open forum—creating the sense that employees been active participants in the process all along.  

Ultimately, if employees feel like their ideas are solicited and considered, and if decisions and their results are announced on a regular basis, employees will feel engaged in their startup rather than excluded from the decision process.

And once they get past the fake-it phase, we encourage our CEOs to hire professional managers who can build strong teams and move participatory decision making from altruistic goal to active reality.

Disclaimer :- Following article come from readwrite

Monday, December 14, 2015

From Smartphones to Smartcars, Here's Ratan Tata's 2015 Startup Shopping List

Local services marketplace UrbanClap announced on Thursday that Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata had invested in the firm. This is just one of the many high profile investments by Tata, who is quickly becoming a familiar face in Indian startups, bringing a certain Midas touch with him.

Based on the inputs provided by startup data tracker Tracxn, of the 23 entities that Tata has invested in overall, four are unicorn startups (that is, valued at over $1 billion). He has made one investment at the seed level, while the rest are late stage investments - most have seen a notable increase in valuations, according to a Livemint feature published earlier this year.

His past investments include wind energy start-up Altaeros Energies, e-commerce marketplace Snapdeal, online jewellery seller Bluestone, online furniture seller Urban Ladder, and healthcare startup Swasth India. In just 2014, he's invested in 14 companies, and many more besides. Here's a look at at Ratan Tata's investments in 2015:

1) CarDekho
Feb 2015
Ratan Tata invested an undisclosed sum in automotive portal CarDekho shortly after it raised $50 million in VC funding. acquired price comparison website in April, and Times Internet's in September this year. HDFC Bank also picked up a minority stake in the company in May.

2) Paytm
March 2015
Ratan Tata's investment in Paytm came a month after Alibaba Group acquired a 25 percent stake in One97 Communications, Paytm's parent firm. Paytm claimed a userbase of 100 million in August, and 75 million monthly transactions in its latest funding round. (Disclosure: Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma's One97 is an investor in Gadgets 360.)

3) Xiaomi
April 2015

Ratan Tata's investment came in after it was valued at over $45 billion in its last round of funding. Xiaomi's Redmi 2 Prime smartphone carries a 'Made in India' label on the back of the box, and is Foxconn facility in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. The company has sold over 3 million smartphones in India.

4) Kaaryah
June 2015
Kaaryah, an online store for women's formal wear received a seed level funding round from Ratan Tata in June 2015. The startup recently a pre-series A round of funding from Mohandas Pai and The Saha Fund this month.

5) Lybrate
July 2015
Ratan Tata invested in healthcare startup Lybrate in its Series A round with Tiger Global and Nexus Venture Partners. Lybrate provides an online and mobile-based platform that lets patients book an appointment online, ask health related queries from doctors and read health tips given by trusted doctors.

6) Ampere
July 2015
Coimbatore-based Ampere, a manufacturer of electric vehicles, saw an undisclosed sum of funding from Ratan Tata. Founder Hemalatha Annamalai aims make Ampere a Rs. 100-crore company in the next three to four years.

7) Ola Cabs
July 2015
Ratan Tata invested in taxi aggregator Ola two months after it raised $400 million (roughly Rs. 2,645 crores) in its its Series E from DST Global. In November, Ola raised $500 million from Baillie Gifford, Tiger Global, SoftBank Group, making it the most funded startup this year.

8) Infinite Analytics
August 2015
Ratan Tata invested an undisclosed amount of funding in predictive marketing and analytics firm Infinite Analytics to help scale up its operations. Founded by MIT graduates, the startup is also backed by Tim Berners-Lee.

9) HolaChef
September 2015

Ratan Tata made a personal investment in Mumbai-based food startup Holachef, after it raised a seed round from Kalaari Capital. Holachef is available in Mumbai and Pune, and has apps for Android and iPhone devices.

10) Abra
October 2015
Ratan Tata also invested an undisclosed sum in the the Silicon Valley-based startup, his first investment involving digital or virtual currency. Abra is a digital cash, peer to peer money transfer network that lets consumers deposit and withdraw cash from the Abra app anywhere in the world.

11) LetsVenture
October 2015
LetsVenture, an online deal-making platform saw an investment from Ratan Rata following its Series A investment round from Accel Partners. LetsVenture claims to have funded over 50 startups, with over $17 million (roughly Rs. 114 crores) in investments seen on its platform.

12) Sabse
November 2015
Sabse Technologies Inc is a Wi-Fi first telecom carrier founded by Hotmail founder Sabeer Bhatia. Ratan Tata's investment size wasn't disclosed. The company offers Wi-Fi only calling plans on its network at $5 a month, and Wi-Fi + Cellular plans for $10 in US and Canada. Phones on the Sabse network only access the mobile network when Wi-Fi connectivity is not available.

13) Crayon Data
November 2015
Crayon Data's flagship product, Maya helps enterprises deliver personalised choices to their consumers using big data. The startup is developing a global consumer taste fabric, which currently maps choices across 15 categories, using complex machine-learning techniques and proprietary cognitive thinking algorithms. The Chennai and Singapore-based big data startup raised an undisclosed sum of funding.

14) UrbanClap
December 2015
Ratan Tata's investment in UrbanClap comes after it closed its Series B round in November. Currently operating in five cities, the startup plans to extend its offering to 25 cities and 100 categories over the next year.

Disclaimer :- Following article come from Gadgets360 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Looking For Startup Success? Find What Works In One Industry, Then Apply It To Another

Over the past several years we've seen the steady growth and popularity of business incubators such as Lightbank and Sandbox Industries and startup accelerators such as Y Combinator and Tech Stars. AngelList currently lists 467 startup accelerators and Forbes recently noted that the U.S. has over 300 business incubators alone.

Why the increase in these business model concepts? The answer is simple. They offer lasting solutions that are often faced by a budding entrepreneur in starting and launching a successful business. They build confidence and provide tools for the entrepreneur to solve real problems faced in the early days of operation and allow real-time access to industry experts that mentor the entrepreneur through many start-up challenges. And as the business grows, the relationships and growth learned in the incubator, increases the chances for critical funding.

Business incubators are often associated with tech start-ups. However, incubators are emerging in many industries such as manufacturing, fashion, culinary, and some all-purpose incubators regardless of industry.

It's Not About Ideas, It's About Making Ideas Happen.

Let's look at the beauty industry as an example. Regardless of the number of years a salon professional has been in the business of making others beautiful, going out on their own can be terrifying, not to mention the risk and exposure from signing long-term retail lease. All of their hard-earned money and precious time will be channeled into this new venture with very little room for error being granted from the landlord, the bank, and their new customers.

A business incubator in this industry provides a solution that will truly disrupt the traditional salon industry, as we know it. With the right space, mentoring and shared learning, a salon studio incubator includes everything needed for a salon professional to launch and operate their own salon. Beauty industry entrepreneurs bring their clientele and professional tools, and within days, they are up and running in no time, ready to focus on growing their business.

By sub-dividing large retail space into smaller, more affordable studios, the incubator business model shares resources across an entire group of professionals and allows them to spread their business wings safely so they can focus on serving their clients and not fret about the details of creating and managing a brick and mortar space. Typical startup costs are minimal and tools such as an arsenal of ready-to-use marketing materials (business cards, menus, postcards, rewards cards, gift cards, etc.), and ongoing business training is provided as the entrepreneur's confidence is nurtured. Training and mentoring is focused on areas such as marketing and retention, break-even analysis; market pricing, tax preparation, selling retail and social media marketing strategies.

Business incubators are an innovative model that is continuing to prove value to the entrepreneurial community and the country's economic engine. Incubators are not a fad, but rather a lasting change in securing sound business sustainability.

Disclaimer :- Following article come from Huffingtonpost

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tech Startup Crowdfunding Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be. (High-growth firms face powerful disincentives to use JOBS Act provisions)

Allowing everyday Americans to invest in today’s high-growth startups—picture grandma and grandpa putting a portion of their retirement savings into the next pre-IPO Facebook —has long been the dream of advocates of so-called equity crowdfunding. This dream was supposed to be enabled by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which became law in April 2012. Three years later, after substantially more wrangling than anyone anticipated, Title III of that act is finally codified as rules written by the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to those rules, as of May 16, the floodgates of equity crowdfunding will be officially open.

Imagine if all the people who backed the Oculus Rift VR headset—which raised $2.5 million on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in 2012 and was sold to Facebook for $2 billion in 2014—had gotten a piece of the company, instead of just early access to its headsets. ​​

But if you talk to people building startups around equity crowdfunding, you’ll discover an open secret: As a mechanism for funding startups like Oculus, it is basically a nonstarter.

This is apparently deliberate. The SEC, responsible for creating the rules designed to fulfill Congress’s mandate in Title III of the JOBS Act, included rules—known collectively as the 12g rule—that are a powerful disincentive for high-growth startups to use what the SEC calls “regulated crowdfunding.”

Don't Count The  Things You Do, Do The Things That Count

These rules stipulate that any company that takes on more than 500 individual investors or grows to a size greater than $25 million in assets must start filing regular disclosures just like a publicly traded company. It is all the pain of an IPO without the benefits of the IPO
“When you say the SEC was putting in things to make sure equity crowdfunding isn’t used for high-growth startups, it’s these rules that are the killer,” says Kevin Laws, chief operating officer of AngelList, a portal that currently allows only accredited investors—generally those with a net worth of more than $1 million—to link up and invest in early-stage startups.

These​ new​ rules also limit the amount that any individual can invest. If you have less than $100,000 in annual income or net worth, each year you can only put $2,000 or 5% of your net worth or income, whichever is less, into crowdfunded startups.

“Given the disclosures that are required, I doubt a lot of tech companies are going to want to use regulation crowdfunding,” says Erin Glenn, head of Quire, one of the startups that hopes to enable businesses to raise money through regulation crowdfunding. Instead, says Ms. Glenn, she sees small and local businesses—think of coffee shops and hair salons—using equity crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, which is also enabled by Title III, to gather funds that in times past might have come from a community bank.

Some are still determined to bend the SEC rules into a shape that will allow them to be used for tech startups. One such portal is Wefunder. “There’s the intent of Congress versus what the SEC wrote,” says Nicholas Tommarello, founder of Wefunder. Mr. Tommarello is confident he has found a workaround that means all kinds of startups, including tech startups, will be launching on Wefunder soon after the May 16 date on which the SEC rules go into effect.

“One way to get around this is a broker dealer can hold all the securities ‘in street name,’ which counts as one shareholder of record for purposes of the exchange act,” says Mr. Tommarello.

The Only Way To Win Is To Learn Faster Than Anyone Else

If Mr. Tommarello is right, or if subsequent legislation from Congress clarifies or expands crowdfunding, it is possible at some point we’ll still arrive at the original vision of equity crowdfunding, which is giving everyday people access to high-risk, high-reward assets. “Our entire brand is, this is a lottery ticket,” says Mr. Tommarello. “My attitude is, you can go to Vegas or you can put it in a startup.”

The problem with that attitude, says Charles Moldow, a partner at venture-capital firm Foundation Capital, is that “the idea that a nonaccredited or even accredited investor is going to somehow be successful at early-stage venture capital strikes me as challenging.”

The worry, voiced by many, is that the pool of startups using equity crowdfunding will consist mostly of lower-quality companies that couldn’t get funding by other means.

It’s also true that, while it might not be appropriate for most high-growth tech startups, equity crowdfunding will almost certainly be huge for some startups as a type of marketing, and a way to demonstrate market interest to traditional investors. It is similar to how ​companies on​“traditional” crowdfunding sites such as​Kickstarter and Indiegogo​demonstrate interest in their products today.

The next Oculus might not launch on an equity-crowdfunding platform, but it might offer some shares in the company as a way to stoke interest. Given the number of restrictions put on equity crowdfunding, though, it certainly seems as if good old-fashioned crowdfunding—with virtually no screening of companies or their finances—is the most likely place for early-stage companies to find that kind of support.

The current regulations, as written, seem almost draconian in their cautiousness. If you’re worried equity crowdfunding could yield the 21st-century version of penny-stock pump-and-dump schemes, that’s a good thing. But if you think that attitude is patronizing, there is always the chance that the SEC’s rules might someday be judged by Congress to be contrary to the original intent of the JOBS Act. ​ ​

Whatever rules finally get us “Kickstarter but for shares in a company”—and whether that is even a good idea—is years away from being sorted out.

Disclaimer :- Following article come from WSJ

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The One Thing That Separates Startup Winners From Losers.

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How important is it for startups to be in Silicon Valley?” is written by Gene Wang, cofounder and CEO of People Power.

I’ve been in five startups, including three that I’ve founded in Silicon Valley. And although Silicon Valley has a legendary mystique when it comes to startups, founding a company there is less important now than it used to be.

In order for startups to be successful, they must target a compelling market need, build a superstar team, access capital to fund operations, create world-class products or services that win customers, and eventually have a successful exit. Silicon Valley has no real advantage in discovering what a market needs. In fact, living in Palo Alto, I sometimes feel that I live in a bubble, separated from the rest of the world by a reality distortion field.

Leaders Know How To Be a Successful Entrepreneur

Startups need great teams of people. And it’s true that there are lots of great people in Silicon Valley, particularly in technology. However, it’s also easier for these people to move on to other shinier startups when times get tough. And every startup encounters tough times.

Capital is the lifeblood of a startup. And it’s certainly true that Sand Hill Road is lined with VCs giving out money for a living. However, these VCs invest in perhaps 1% of the startups that they see. And according to CB Insights, almost $15 billion in venture financing was invested so far in 2015 from investors outside of California and New York. Furthermore, there are startup incubators everywhere, crowd funding, helpful angels, government grants, and eager corporates who may be easier to work with. My company People Power just successfully raised Series B from a number of great Chinese investors, who bring with them important go-to market connections in China, today’s largest economy by some measures.

Silicon Valley certainly has no inherent advantage when it comes to building great products. In fact, my company develops world-class products and services using a distributed team of talented engineers with our chief technical officer in Seattle, vice president of engineering and chief architect both in Toronto, chief experience officer in Portland, and a growing team of talented Chinese engineers in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. The cloud gives us the freedom to develop from anywhere 24/7, and group collaboration tools keep us connected, supplemented by regular face–to–face meetings.

Similarly, our customers are everywhere—they are not consolidated in Silicon Valley. As People Power is an Internet of Things company, and most “things” are manufactured in China, having a strong team in place to help drive China’s growth is a huge advantage for us over our competition.

Eventually a successful startup goes public or gets acquired by a larger company. As a four-time CEO, I have successfully exited my last three startups: One startup went public (Computer Motion based in Santa Barbara, later acquired by Intuitive Surgical); a second company was sold in two halves (Photo Access based in Mountain View—hardware acquired by Agilent and the photo–printing service now part of American Greetings); and a third startup was sold to HP (Bitfone based in Orange County, acquired by HP for 16 times trailing revenue). I believe People Power could be my most successful startup yet, but not because we are headquartered in Silicon Valley.

The main thing that separates startup winners from the losers is persistence. Never give up and never surrender, as there is always another move. While Silicon Valley will always have a mystique and continues to offer advantages, there are disadvantages as well. Startups everywhere can and should be successful. The key success factors are in creating a great solution to a big need, building an awesome and committed team, accessing capital from the many places it is offered, winning customers to drive sales, and finding the right exit at the right time for you. Good luck wherever you are.

Gene Wang is currently the CEO and co-founder of People Power. He was previously chairman and CEO of Bitfone, an industry leader in mobile phone device management—which sold to HP in 2007 for $160 million—and CEO and chairman of Photo Access, which sold to Agilent in 2000. Gene was CEO of Computer Motion, a leader in medical robotics, which he led through a successful IPO in 1997.

Disclaimer :- Following article come from Fortune

Sunday, November 29, 2015

E-Commerce Startup Jet Raises $350 Million, at $1.35 Billion Valuation. Inc. said it had raised $350 million of fresh equity in a new funding round that values the e-commerce startup at $1.35 billion.

Mutual-fund giant Fidelity Investments led the round, joined by previous investors.

Jet said it expects to raise another $150 million “shortly,” bringing this round to $500 million.

In addition, Jet it expects to obtain $125 million in debt financing, including a $50 million increase in a credit line from Silicon Valley Bank and $75 million from venture debt investors. It also plans a smaller amount of “strategic financing.”

Jet founder and Chief Executive Marc Lore declined to name any other new investors in the round, nor the source of the venture debt or details of the strategic financing.

Jet is challenging Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other e-commerce players with an array of household items, electronics, pet supplies and more. It initially planned to sell $50 annual memberships for access to discounted prices, in hopes of attracting more customers to the site, but abandoned that plan in October.

Before the latest financing, Jet had raised about $195 million of equity and debt, said Mr. Lore.

The funding provides a badly needed infusion as the company had been running low on cash.

The Wall Street Journal reported in early November that a recent financial plan showed the company projected it would have $63 million of cash on its balance sheet by the end of October and was forecasting a cash drain of $76 million in November and December. Mr. Lore said Jet now expects to burn less money before the end of the year and to consume about $417 million during 2016.

The membership fee was supposed to help fund Jet’s big marketing budget — which Mr. Lore said on Tuesday should be about $270 million for 2016 — with whatever was left providing the company its profit margin. Instead the company will now charge more for products, hoping to break into the black by 2020 when it reaches much larger scale.

The new business model is more “retail and brand friendly,” said Mr. Lore. Jet doesn’t want to alienate suppliers who don’t want their items to appear on a discount site that might undercut other distributors. At the same time, it needs to advertise low prices to attract customers away from rivals like Inc.

Mr. Lore said customers will be attracted by “smart cart” savings that Jet offers when they add multiple items to their order, for example. He said Jet hopes to save on shipping by getting more items into each box sent to customers. He said the average customer order includes 5.5 items and they are shipping 3.1 per box.

Thus far Jet is struggling to break through with consumers despite a large marketing budget that includes TV commercials and outdoor ads in big cities. For instance, Jet’s mobile app is currently ranked #63 in the Shopping category of Apple’s App Store in the U.S. according to research firm App Annie.

Disclaimer : Following article come from WSJ.D

Monday, November 16, 2015

Funding roundup : A chill in startup funding

Conversations across startup ecosystems, from Bengaluru to Silicon Valley, are increasingly about the coming winter in startup funding. The chill seems to be here already, with a drastic fall in deal value week-on-week.

The number of deals in the second week of November stood at 16, with the value at $10.6 million. We are also revising our numbers for the first week of November with the addition of the fund raise done by food startup Yuvi Hospitality. The $15-million investment takes the total number of deals for the week of November 2 to 8 to 19 and overall value to $54.5 million.

But every single deal in the second week of November fell under the angel, seed or Series-A categories. This shows that early-stage investors are still quite optimistic—a sentiment that later-stage investors do not seem to share. This does not seem to be just year-end funding blues. Last year, Zomato had raised $60 million in November.

An appetite for food and foodtech

It is interesting to see that two food and foodtech companies have raised early-stage investment at a time when the news cycle has been dominated by the shut down of some foodtech startups and firings at many others. Chef’s Basket raised the biggest amount, at $6 million, in the week under review. It raised Series-A funding from venture capital firm SAIF Partners and existing angel investor Haresh Chawla, a Partner at India Value Fund Advisors. The three-year-old company offers ready-to-cook, multi-cuisine dishes that are retailed through hypermarkets and e-commerce sites.

Delight Foods, an e-commerce platform that curates mostly regional and unique food brands from across the country, was the other food company that raised funding.

Considering the fact that the week saw only early-stage deals, it is not surprising that only three companies crossed the $1-million funding mark. Apart from Chef’s Basket, skill training startup iStar Skill and beauty and wellness marketplace BigStylist raised funds.

M&As bring cheer

It is not all doom and gloom, however: four startups were acquired in the second week of the month. Three acquisitions—Shadow fax-Pickingo, Car Trade-CarWale and Indian Grahak-Dyscover—saw competitors merging. The Shadow fax-Pickingo deal was primarily an acquire, though according to reports, there was a cash component. This acquisition follows a reported falling through of funding by Zomato into Pickingo. Car Trade’s buyout of Car Wale has given an exit to the latter’s investor Axel Springer, which sold off its 91 percent stake in the company. Both platforms will operate independently. Kolkata-based online hyperlocal grocery delivert startup Indian Grahak acquired Jamshedpur-based hyperlocal marketplace Dyscover. JetSynthesys, the digital and technology subsidiary of JetLine Group of Companies, acquired online and offline fashion retailer Rudraksh. Rasika Wakalkar, founder of Rudraksh, will head the fashion vertical of JetSynthesys.

There have been rumblings and warnings of an imminent slowdown in funding for quite some time and now we are seeing deals, especially growth-stage ones, dry up. How bad is this funding winter going to be?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Sources of Start-up Capital

When thinking about funding for your start-up, it is important to understand different types of potential investors. Not every wallet is right for you.

Figuring out who to raise money from and why will save you time and yield better results. Here are some potential investors to consider for your start-up.

1. Friends and family

Often, the first check comes from a family member or a friend. In theory it is a lot easier to close them because they already know you. In practice sometimes this is awkward, and may lead to awkward situations in the future. For example, if a friend gives you $10,000 and the company goes belly up, you may lose this friend. 

Think carefully before taking money from family and friends. It can be awesome or could be bad.

Every situation is different. Another thing is that friends and family members may not clearly understand the risk and how start-ups work. Take the time to educate them, and if they get it and still want in then you are all clear.

2. Angel investors

Angel investors put in between $10,000 to $100,000 (lower is more common), and can participate in priced or debt rounds. Angels can be valuation sensitive. It is important to distinguish between active or professional and occasional angel investors. 

Ask them how many deals they do per year, and look them up on Angel List. If someone only does a few deals a year, only talk to them if they approached you, someone gave you a warm intro or they have relevant experience and background in your space. Otherwise, infrequent investors should not be on your target list. Occasional angels will take longer to close, and will be more flaky.

Active or professional angels do at least six deals per year. Expect to close them within the first three meetings. It is totally fine, and a good idea, to ask them if they are interested at the end of the first meeting.

Before you meet an angel understand what they are interested in. Don’t go after people randomly. It will be a waste of time. Confirm with whoever introduces you that the introduction makes sense. Target well.

3. Angel groups

An angel group, as the name implies, is a pool of investors sharing deal flow. Angel groups can do priced rounds, and if a significant percentage of the angels in a group are interested, they can lead your deal. 

Angel groups meet regularly, and have regular pitch processes. Some do more due diligence than others, but typically several members of the group would be assigned to do the diligence if your initial pitch goes well.  

Your check will typically range from $50,000 to $500,000. These groups are not syndicates, and unlike AngelList syndicates, they don’t have carry fees. Angel groups are also valuation sensitive, and will typically price the rounds lower compared to venture capitalists.

Start-up With Some Advice Is Always Better

4. Angel List syndicates

Angel List syndicates are the most effective way these days to raise money on Angel List. Syndicates are formed by influential angels, and investments range from a few hundred thousand dollar to more than a million. The key thing is to identify investors who have significant syndicates on Angel List and get in front of them.

If you can get such angels excited, he or she will run the syndicate. For example, the angel might put in $50,000, and then another $250,000 will come via a syndicate. The amount raised via syndicates varies, and is not guaranteed.

5. Micro VCs

These investors are either individuals writing $100,000 or more checks or a firm with $10 million to $50 million under management. They are basically angel investors with larger amounts to invest. They will commit to invest or will say no after two or three meetings. They may lead, and be comfortable with either debt or equity.

Micro VC funds will likely take longer, and would not be too far off from a typical VC. Micro VCs in New York City typically invest $250,000 to $500,000 and can price and lead your round.

These investors care about ownership, but to a lesser extent than a typical VC. They are not looking for 20 percent of your company, but more likely 8 to 10 percent and then invest more in the next round (depending on the size of their funds).

Like with angels, you need to decide if a specific micro VC is right for you. Spend time studying their portfolios. Not only do you need to understand each fund, you need to understand each partner. Partners have different experiences and focus areas and different preferences for companies as well. Target specific partners at a specific fund.

6. VCs

Traditional VC firms have funds ranging from $100 million to $500 million. For seed deals, they would do as low as $250,000 to as high as $2 million. Typically, between $500,000 and $1 million is these investors' sweet spot.They really care about percent of ownership, and would likely only do the seed if they think they can do series A as well. That is, they would want to buy up the ownership to be at 15 to 20 percent after a series A round.

Note that some funds may not have the capital because they are in between funds, but they would spend the time with you anyway. It is probably not the best use of your time though.

Figure out who will be the partner on the deal. With larger firms it is not always obvious. Look at how many companies they are involved with and ask them how many companies they typically manage. In a $150 million to $300 million fund, a partner is investing in eight to 12 companies at any given time. Research how many investments the partner has to understand your chances. 

Ask them what their process is like and how to best follow up. Each firm may have a unique process and you need to understand it up front so you can know what to expect. Set up clear next steps and follow ups. Be direct, and ask if they are interested in continuing the conversation. Try to avoid the vague state of maybe.

7. Mega VCs

Mega VCs are firms that have more than $1 billion under management. These include Andreessen, Khosla, Kleiner Perkins, Sequoia and Bessemer. Research if the fund has a seed program. If they do, figure out who runs it and what the process is.

It is likely that there is a partner in charge of seeds and the process is compressed compared to raising more capital.

Recognize that VC funds need to deploy large amount of capital per deal to be able to return their massive funds. Rather than spending time trying to get their attention for your seed round, it may make more sense to start building relationships with them for a series A and B round.

Disclaimer : Following article come from Entrepreneur

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why Funding is not a Parameter for Startup Success.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about startups: funding or customers?
A startup comes into the limelight after raising the first round of funding. Just talk to founders of a funded startup and they will tell you that funding just gave them extra leeway for proving their success. Success, however, is still far away.

A company can be successful only when its customers are happy. Your potential customers don’t care about the amount of funding you raised; they only care about their problems and how your product can heal their pain points.

Funding will solve one issue: you will have more fuel to run your company for a little longer period. You will have some more time to find more customers and make them happy. Ultimately, you will have to improve your cash flow and start making profits.

Remember that funding is borrowed money and you have to return it to your investors (multiple times of what you have raised). Your investors expect more than market returns because they put money in your company at the riskiest time. You know that banks do not lend money to startups even at 20-25 percent interest rates.

If your company bank balance is going low and you failed to become profitable, then either you have to shut down your venture or raise another round of funding. If you raise another round of funding, then you will return the money of your previous investors, but now you will be obliged to pay a bigger cheque to your current investors.

If you failed to raise money and shut down your startup, then no VC will give you money for your next startup. No one is going to trust you again and it will be a rough journey for your next initiative. Once you’ve accepted funding, you will always be on the marathon of raising money until you become profitable.

Leadership Leads To Success With Team, Patientce etc;

What, then, do you need in order to become profitable? Lots of happy customers who are willing to pay for your solution.
So when and how can funding help you?

When you figure out how to find customers and make them happy. A big bag of money can help you extend what you are doing. You can hire a couple more developers to fix the bugs, a bigger sales team, bigger budget on marketing and ability to provide quick customer support.

You can do more with everything. But, beware; if you are already making mistakes, chasing wrong customers, hiring wrong team members, doing wrong marketing, then you may do more wrong with more money.

The money will not help you set the right direction; it will just propel you with more force in whatever direction you want to go.

Funding can help you go from 100 customers to 1,000, if you know where to pump investors’ money. If you have not found your initial customers yet, or are still wondering how to make them happy with your solution, then funding is not going to solve your issues.

You probably need a mentor at this stage or a right mix of the team that can execute the plan.

Disclaimer : Following article come from YourStory

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Intel Puts $22 million in 10 Startups.

Intel Resources, as we all know the arm of venture arm of tech has announced $22 million in new investment over 10 startups. The news of it has been conveyed at the company's annual global summit and it is also news that it would invest half a billion dollars in total this year.

This is kind of both profit and loss. As fact of comparing the same event of last year, Intel has announced $67 million of investment in 16 startups, but the total of 2014 investments was $359 million.

Just this past September Intel invested in Chinese startups with the same amount $67 million, looks like it's lucky number.

Today’s investments cover a range of companies running from later stages in larger and more established startups through to newer companies and emerging technologies, and come from five countries: China, Israel, Taiwan, the UK, and the U.S. Intel is not disclosing the value of any individual stake today.

China, Israel, Taiwan, the UK, and the U.S are the five countries where there startups running in larger stages, where it is established via newer companies and emerging technologies.

Freedom-Pop, a provider of 'free' wireless voice and data services that makes its money on options like voicemail, extra data allowances and much more. It's strategic investment Freedom-Pop, which is planning to use the money to broadband services that will challenge the Google Project Fi - precisely, it will use Intel's new SoFIA platform to launch a Wi-Fi based smartphone with free mobile services.

There is a part of Intel's $125 million Diversity Fund, it's LISNR maker of Smart Tones, which sends data over audio using high-frequency, inaudible technology that makes speakers and other media into beacon.

Sckipio, the first ever company which delivers 1Gb p/s with a long range. It also announced and ship commercial chip-sets for modems.

There is a platform of 'addressing' which provides exact location than GPS, it's 'what3words'.

Body Labs, which is for collecting, digitizing and organizing data of a human body shape, pose and motion. Its job is to transform the human body into a platform which digitalize and designed a goods and services which can be produced, bought and sold.

Micro-program Information, an internet thing startups which is contain a turnkey hardware and software solution and back-end information management services for transportation services like taxis, rental bicycles, and mobile sale systems.

Perfant Technology, out of China, develops imaging and video technologies with 3-D reconstruction and virtual reality for artificial intelligence.

KMLabs, a creator of laser systems for research and industrial applications, including multi-photon imaging, spectroscopy, OCT, THz-generation, CEP, micro-machining and attosecond, coherent soft X-Ray etc, as well as 'tabletop x-ray laser' light source.

Prieto Battery, a 3-D advanced battery provider " focused on commercializing a patented Lithium-ion battery technology that delivers transformational performance at a competitive cost using non-toxic materials with the ability to customize shapes.

Intel has also invested in Parallel Machines, for the machine learning startup on an early-stage predictive analytic, but they didn't contained in $22 million/10 startups total.