How do I begin meeting angels?

We hear from a lot of companies who request our staff time to have coffee. It’s a common getting-to-know-you routine here in Denver as in many other towns. We used to be able to do this regularly, but as our investment numbers reached $15M in 2012, and the word got out that companies can get funded through RVC, we simply don’t have time to drink that much coffee!

Included in RVC’s mission is an important bit about helping entrepreneurs attain their goal of meeting angels. Sorry, we cannot simply send you a list of angels email addresses. Apply to pitch!

[pullquote align=”right” textalign=”|right” width=”30%”]We are a non-profit, and we really are here to help. Please check out our resources first, then come to us with your remaining questions. [/pullquote]

On a daily basis both Peter and I get between 1 and 8 emails from companies who want to get involved or get noticed by investors. I’m not even counting Linked-in messages. I don’t know how Peter feels, but I get a pang of guilt every time I have to tell an entrepreneur that I can’t spend an hour at a coffee shop telling them how RVC works. I wish I could!

What a grand luxury it would be to walk each company through the RVC process. We’d have to raise our event prices to exorbitant rates to get that kind of people-power. We are lucky to get more deal-flow than some of the local venture capital offices and it’s hard to directly meet with each person who wants information.

We are a non-profit, and we really are here to help. Please check out our resources first, then come to us with your remaining questions.

We post information on this website guiding you along. Read Peter’s 12 Ps of preparedness, find out why we charge pitching companies for their tickets at conferences, read the ongoing Investor Pitch Deck Series, or what happens after you pitch to investors at RVC. If you still have questions, feel free to send me an email nicole@rockiesventureclub.org so I can point you in the right direction.

There are four ways that entrepreneurs can get positive RVC attention:

  1. Read up on our process. (see links above) Requesting our undivided staff time to tell us about your company isn’t really fair until you’ve done your own homework on us so you know if we can help you.
  2. Take the self-assessment so you know what your company’s strengths and weaknesses are. BE HONEST. No company is perfect. Find your opportunities for improvement.
  3. If you are ready to raise money, apply to pitch. There is no way around this. We need your company’s information in a standard format so we can use it in investor meetings. If you don’t fill out the application, we will be looking at a blank form when your name comes up on the agenda.
  4. Come to events!  We have events all the time – between classes, pitch meetings, and mastermind meetings, there are a lot of ways to show us your face. Besides, you should probably get to know the community if you expect to ask for money.

 

 

Art and culture at Thrive LoDo

Guest post by Griffin Ignelzi, Thrive LoDo

Art in a Thriving Business

Art: Local Denver artist, Moses “Sonny” Valdez established his artistic roots over the course of 20 years working as a custom automotive painter. During his time as a renowned custom painter he has had more than ten cars featured in high profile national automotive magazines, most notably in Low Rider magazine, where he was honored with the cover and featured centerfold. His experience as an auto painter inspired the, “Contemporary Abstract Art,” he creates today. His work can appropriately be described as the fusion of sleek ‘industrial’ design that encompasses the flare and visual vibrancy seen inside elite showrooms on the custom body work of high-end vehicles. Using sheet metal as his canvas, Sonny creates unique and reflective modern artwork. The surface of each piece is uniquely etched with various grinding patterns that is then accented and finished with the experienced personal touch and masterful usage of a variety of vibrant, “candy coated” paint colors. The aptly named, “iCandy” artwork is currently on display at THRIVE.

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Venue: Rising local business, THRIVE– a premier LoDo Denver Co-working office space, has taken its appreciation for the arts and incorporated it within the daily business culture of its progressive workspace. THRIVE’s goal is to provide a creative and innovative environment that enhances membership and stimulates business growth by showcasing the inspirational works of local artists inside its walls. Thrive is currently displaying the vibrant, “iCandy” wall art by Sonny Valdez- the first of many local talents to be displayed within their within its energetic and rapidly evolving modern workspace.

In addition to enhancing the everyday experience for members and visitors with lively artwork, THRIVE stretches its daily operations past the monotony of the traditional workplace by regularly hosting after hour meet-ups, networking and social events designed to bring people from the professional community together in an appropriate setting to market, pitch, educate and expand their businesses.

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Event: Friday, February 22nd at 7:00pm- THRIVE will be hosting an Open House to promote local arts and bring together local business professionals, community and Denver nightlife. “iCandy” art will be on display, accompanied by a silent auction, music, food and beverages. [THRIVE at LoDo- 1830 Blake St. Denver, CO. 80202)]

Griffin Ignelzi is the Office Manager at THRIVE Workplace Solutions, when he isn’t writing blog posts for Rockies Venture Club, he just stares at the mesmerizing art on the walls. 

Keystone Memberships for Entrepreneurs

Involving the world through successful crowdfunding campaigns

Have a great idea or are you launching an innovative business? Where do you turn to find the resources to grow your company and get it to thrive? Here’s one answer: Ask the world for help. We look to one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns for a pathway.

You can expose the masses to your product or project on the Internet and ask for money to help you reach your goals through crowdfunding platforms. There are many options out on the internet where you can perform your dog and pony show with the hopes of impressing and attracting the right audience. One such site is Indiegogo. It’s a place to show your stuff and gain funding.

You can just create a campaign on Indiegogo and throw your hat into the funding ring. While anyone, an entrepreneur, artist, or a sick dog can ask for money, actually raising the money and meeting monetary goals depends on how well you present the project. Unlike Kickstarter which requires that a campaign fulfill funding goals before any money changes hands, Indiegogo allows you to keep all raised funds. They do give one financial incentive for a completed campaign; the platform charges you a whopping 9% of funds raised if you don’t fulfill the campaign and only 4% if you do meet your fundraising goal.

Cynaps is a great example of a successful campaign on Indiegogo. This is a product you will surely slap your forehead for not thinking of it first when you hear about it. Here it is: ever get annoyed by the earbuds, headphones, and other paraphanalia required to use your phone or listen to music? Well, the creators of Cynaps devised an ingenious product to eliminate those issues. Their hot new product is getting quite a bit of press (on SoundCtrl, Digital Versus, Nibletz, Techhive, and Neuredings) and more importantly, ample funding through Indiegogo!

Yes, that last article is in German for those who wish to brush up on their Diskussion über Technologie möchten.

MaxVirtual, the company that created Cynaps, was in the middle of big project designing a virtual reality game. They realized that the Cynaps technology was a great stand-alone product. The technology is a Bluetooth-enabled, bone conduction headset that fits discreetly in any hat. It makes it easy for anyone to listen to music on a run, or talk on the phone while working around the house. It’s a hands free, wire-free, dream product. Based on hearing aid technology, Cynaps transfers sound through skeletal structures in the head more clearly than with earbuds or earphones. Once installed in a hat, there is no need for connective wires, earpieces, and so forth. Hands are free for other tasks and your ears are unplugged so you remain aware of other, potentially dangerous, noises like cars and sirens.

In campaigning on Indiegogo with a fundraising aim of $20K, Cynaps has already raised 174% of its goal and it has become the most popular project hosted on the site as of late January 2013. In fact, MaxVirtual’s campaign has done so well that they have been able to maximize their success with six fundraising days left. On January 28, 2013, they started a Stretch Goal of $50K with additional perks to investors if they meet this new aim by the end of their campaign on February 2, 2013!

So what did this company do correctly to succeed in gaining financial assistance? In comparing Cynaps and other successful campaigns with ones that failed, a clear picture of great innovation and campaigning emerges.

As its name suggests, MaxVirtual is a company focused on creating virtual reality experiences. During a recent game development project, designers realized a new product in working on wearable technology devices made to free the hands and ears. The gamers were using a bone conduction headset to function freely within game parameters. The device worked so well in this context, that designers made the logical mental leap to its practicality in the real world. They created Cynaps for ordinary folks who bike, work on a computer, and so forth while needing to talk on the phone or listen to music or sit in on conference calls. Then MaxVirtual capitalized on extraordinarily successful products like iPhones and portable music players and made Cynaps compatible with them.

As with so many innovations, Cynaps, too, is a logical progression of existing technology. Making electronic devices essentially part of the body or its attire is the future. Wear what you use and function freely while employing it. Piggybacking off widely used products and creating something that will make its use easier or better is a key driver in entrepreneurial success. It just makes sense.

Besides creating an innovative, smart product, MaxVirtual had to design a fundraising campaign convincing enough to lure backers. It chose Indiegogo as its only funding platform and used effective techniques for introducing Cynaps. The product presentation starts with a clear description of what Cynaps does and how it works. Furthermore, in a brief video clip, there is a demonstration of the functionality and practicality. There are also presentations of the people behind the design and manufacture of Cynaps, challenges the product faces, and an address of “what if” type questions. Finally, investors can actually buy Cynaps in a variety of packages based on funding amounts with an estimated delivery of February 2013. Anyone considering backing Cynaps on Indiegogo is motivated to do so in several ways – what better product to invest in than one that is smart, innovative, needed, supported with established sales and manufacturing relationships, and managed by a responsive, analytical team?

Finally, beyond the innovation and campaigning, MaxVirtual has spread the word about Cynaps through their Facebook page, at electronics conferences, and in interviews with the product developer, Mike Freeman. Their regular updates about Cynaps keep investors and customers abreast of current events and future directions such as Cynaps’ most popular status on Indiegogo and the company’s new aim to design their own running hats with their own logos based on popular demand (versus the use of Nike Dri-Fit hats).

The future for Cynaps almost sounds too easy. Surely there are competitors. As it turns out, not too many. There is one main competitor to Cynaps – Aftershokz. It is a bone noise conduction device as well, but it is still a headset. The only difference between Aftershokz and regular headphones is that it doesn’t sit in or on the ear, leaving ears free to hear other sounds. Aftershockz has but one choice in design – the black headset piece that goes around the back of your head and sets over the tops of the ears. The advantage Cynaps has over Aftershokz is its invisibility and flexibility. It fits in any hat you choose to wear and remains out of sight.

Lots of folks outside of Indiegogo are taking notice of Cynaps’ potential too. MaxVirtual presented Cynaps at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January where it received quite a bit of attention. With other hot topics in the room Tech News Daily, Nibletz, Tech Hive, and other gadget web sites took note and quickly reported on Cynaps, consistently mentioning it as unique, smart, and practical.

So maybe MaxVirtual can keep the rose-colored glasses on its face and march forward with Cynaps, straight toward success. Designing the right product for the right time in the right way, using Indiegogo’s funding platform, and soliciting well have laid a seemingly golden path ahead of MaxVirtual. The future will tell if Cynaps becomes the next movement in innovation – it’s definitely off to a great start.

Stacy Gregg is the new Communications Manager for the Rockies Venture Club. She lives in Littleton with her husband and two young children. She dreams of a day when she can get her hands on a Cynaps so her foothills trail runs can be safe and entertaining.

 

Why Coworking?

Article by Griffin Ignelzi, Thrive LoDo

Every day there are more people forming and operating small businesses out of their homes or having to utilize the local coffee shop as a meeting ground. Sound familiar? While this option has proven viable for the startup in the short term it has become abundantly clear that this office situation is not ideal and can lead to your growing business having a tainted image in regards to professionalism and sustainability. The logical step in advancing the home-run or startup business is to get out of the living room and into your own office space; coworking spaces stand superior to their private, financially-heavy, “corporate” office counterpart.

Coworking is rapidly becoming the future standard, especially for small and startup businesses office needs. There are numerous advantages to a coworking environment. The culture that is created in a shared office setting vastly improves your businesses productivity, output, and networking reach. By surrounding yourself in close proximity to likeminded business professionals from varied backgrounds and expertise, one can vastly increase their business’ ability to flourish by taking advantage of collaborative opportunities with neighbors in close proximity.

Share your unique skill set, learn from those surrounding you and lift your business to new heights by taking advantage of the resources and professional community shared offices creates. Shared office spaces are far more affordable and include more services, features and potential for business growth than otherwise offered in generic private offices. Not only will you pay less on rental space when you sign up for a shared work environment, but you place yourself in prime real estate and become centrally located in the heart of your city’s downtown business district – the epicenter for business recognition, growth and success.

As you begin to look around for the different spaces out there, it is good to know about companies like Pivot Desk, a Boulder run group that connects people who are looking for existing spaces with availability. The spaces they promote range from a simple desk to multiple rooms.

Officespace.com and websites like Sharedspaces.com are good resources for discovering local office space available today and how much they cost to rent.

Another approach to looking into centers with available office spaces that work for you is to see what local businesses offer services in networking and other offerings that bring you closer to other like-minded entrepreneurs. Groups like Thrive Workplace Solutions are located in the heart of Denver’s (LoDo) Business centers host regular meet and greets, networking opportunities and provide unique and customizable workspaces geared towards the needs of business professionals. Thrive combines modern architectural design, comfort, ambiance, sound masking techniques and customizable individual spaces to provide the optimal environment from which your business will produce the highest caliber results.

More Resources:

http://www.deskmag.com/
http://wiki.coworking.com/w/page/16583831/FrontPage

Colorado Life Science Night

Rockies Venture Club and the Colorado Bio Science Association are teaming up for an exciting night of life science information, interaction, instruction, and investing.

This will be a popular event, so be sure to register early. We have an exceptional lineup of life science companies pitching this month.

Please Register for Colorado Life Sciences Night

Tuesday, November 13th from 5:00-8:00pm

Location: 1700 Lincoln, Denver, Wells Fargo Hershner Room

5:00-5:55pm – Networking Happy Hour
5:55-6:45pm- Transitioning Your Management Team with John Kelley, CEO of Cerescan
6:45-7:30pm – Pitches: Neuro Assessment Systems, Securisyn Medical, KromaTid, Willowcroft Pharm, LLC.

Angel Investor Forums:
As always, this event will be followed by investor
forums for accredited angel investors. If you have
been curious about learning about angel investing,
this would be the event for you.
Denver Tech Center Thursday 11/15 7:00 am
Boulder Friday 11/16 10:30am

Peter's 12 Ps of Investment Readiness

Peter Adams, RVC Executive Director, taught two courses during Denver Startup Week. He culminated the presentation with the 12 Ps of fundraising preparedness. Is your company ready to raise capital?

Are you prepared to begin raising capital for your company? Use this checklist to determine how ready you really are. Not all companies will have all 12 of these readiness factors, but the more you have, the more ready you are.

Package – Investors are buying a piece of your company. When you present your investment opportunity to investors be sure that you are presenting the whole package, not just the product or technology.

People – The management team is incredibly important. If your company is still small or can’t afford to hire a complete team, be sure to add people to your deal in the form of volunteer advisors. Can you name 10 people who are willing to publicly be affiliated with your company?

Plan – Failing to plan is planning to fail. Of course you won’t follow your business plan exactly and everything will change next week. Write the plan anyway, then keep improving on it.

Proforma – Investors love to see the numbers. It’s better if you can provide validated numbers that reflect a few of the big decisions you are going to make.

Prototype – Can you put your product in an investor’s hand? Better yet, is it a working prototype? Prototypes show you are another step closer to revenue.

Product – Do you have a finished product? Even better.

Promotion Strategy – You may have the best product in the world and if no one knows about it, your company fails. How are you going to get your product into the world? Provide specifics about your strategy such as, “work with Marketing Company X, beginning March 2013”.

Partnerships – No company is an island. Partner with other companies toward a common goal of increasing revenue. A great example is Zappos which partnered with UPS to provide free shipping. Zappos gained customers through their always free shipping gimmick and UPS increased volume of their shipping business. Obviously, Zappos paid UPS, at a bulk discount, to ship.

Paying Customers – Have you convinced anyone to pay you for your product? Even if it’s only two customers, flaunt all sales.

Proof – Proof of concept and proof that your business model is a valid one comes in many ways. The more proof you have that your company can make money, the more likely you can get investors excited about your company.

Pitch Deck – You have to communicate your business to investors in a short period of time. Your message must be clear or you can lose credibility fast. You really do only get one chance to make a first impression.

PPM –  A Private Placement Memorandum is a legal document that includes an engagement letter, term sheet, and everything your company needs to issue stock in accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The document details the summary of the offering, financial data, industry overview, management, etc. Companies with a PPM tend to close on their rounds faster than those who don’t.

If you are feeling a little overwhelmed at the extent of preparation that is necessary to raise funding, don’t fret. Fundraising is a process, very few companies have all of these when they begin seeking capital. Often companies set aside a year when they decide that it is appropriate to begin fundraising. They spend some time gathering the information for the proforma and PPM, begin to create a pitch deck, and start spreading the word that they are interested in investment. A great investment takes time to prepare.

 


Social/Environmental Impact Investing Does Not Have to Mean Low Returns

There is a common misconception that social and environmental (S/E Impact) companies can’t return the same type of investment potential that high tech companies can. In fact, this belief can create limiting behaviors on the part of social and environmental impact companies. When they feel that they are not bound by the same rules as the companies that they are competing with for investment dollars, then S/E Impact companies limit their potential.

The Rockies Venture Club once supported non-profits as a part of the Angel Capital Summit. As a non-profit ourselves, we saw the value in supporting non-profits and yet it somehow didn’t feel “right” in an investment event.  People are in a different mindset when they are pursuing philanthropy than they are when they are investing – even though one person may do both from time to time. Our goal is to create opportunities for investments that have philanthropic outcomes but also return venture-grade returns on investment. These returns allow serial philanthropists to create “evergreen funds” that are replenished by investment returns and which can then be re-invested to do even more good.

There is, in fact, a blurred line between pure philanthropy and some S/E Impact investments. But there is also a blurred line between impact investments and high growth investments. The differences should be based on the investor’s objectives. Impact investors are following a global trend towards enabling communities or producing long-term sustainable environmental products vs. dwelling in an endless cycle of donations that only results in continued poverty.

With a huge global demand for impact investment and a diminishing availability of aid, a revolution in how aid is delivered is needed. Impact Angel Investing is one key to filling that gap.

How we measure the outcomes of our investments is the key to understanding impact investing. Traditional investments looked at Return on Investment in terms of multiples of investment, IRR or other purely financial means.  We now have sophisticated Triple Bottom Line metrics that allow us to measure not only economic returns, but also social and environmental returns. Corporations are increasingly measuring their results using Triple Bottom Line approaches and it makes sense that this kind of thinking should also apply to Angel Investing.

Attend the Impact Angel Investing event December 11th and find out more how we all can benefit from impact investing and see four great impact entrepreneurs pitch their businesses – and you can decide for yourself.

Kindara: Pushing Fertility Awareness Forward

Article by Kevin Davis from REbound

Editor’s note: Kindara pitched at the RVC Summer Pitchfest in August. At the time of printing they’ve raise a significant amount of their round and intend to close the round in October.

Will Sacks and Kati Bicknell are huge supporters of the science behind the Symptothermal Method of fertility awareness. In fact, they’ve successfully used the method as contraception for the past 3.5 years. However, what started as one couple’s natural, data-based approach to avoiding pregnancy now helps millions of couples do just the opposite: make babies.

Will and Kati are a husband-wife team that founded Kindara, a smartphone tool designed to monitor and educate women about their own fertility. Kindara provides a user-friendly dashboard for inputting morning temperature and other fertility signs, all used to monitor where women are in their menstrual cycles so they can increase (or decrease) their chances of getting pregnant. The tool removes the hassle associated with daily monitoring thus enabling Sympothermal Method adoption and the science behind it.

Now, as a 35 year old, bootstrapping entrepreneur, I myself can get behind the benefit of natural contraception. I’m in no way ready for children. I can also see how Kindara would have been a huge benefit to friends who’ve spent thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. However, my true excitement for this product stems from its public health benefits. Kindara’s hidden beauty is the millions of data points aggregated into what Will and Kati hope will be the world’s largest consumer fertility database. That’s information worthy of the medical industry’s attention.

Anonymous data acquired by Kindara will help identify fertility trends based on age, ethnicity and geographical region. This resource could be pivotal for public health groups attempting to solve recurring fertility issues. For example, Kaiser Permanente has a group dedicated to identifying negative, demographic-based health trends and deriving preventative solutions to address them. To Kaiser, this data enables easier trend identification and quicker preventative action, steps that lead to overall medical cost reductions.

Now, according to Kindara, the fertility test kit market is a $500M/yr and the fertility treatment market is worth $4Bn/yr. These statistics clearly illustrate couples are willing to spend on fertility solutions. Adoption of a less invasive, less expensive alternative will be no exception. Kindara is a solution that A) helps couples avoid confusing, fertility kits that don’t tell a couple anything about their cycle and B) provides a natural option prior to expensive medical intervention.

The Kindara application is free, but advanced services will generate revenues. Users can pay for advice on various fertility products vetted by Kindara’s medical advisors or subscribe for personalized email support from the Kindara support team of fertility counsellors. As of October, Kindara has 15,000+ downloads and 5000+ returning users. The Kindara team is currently accepting seed investment during the month of October to expand and monetize their userbase. If you’re interested in investing or just itching to increase your fertility knowledge base, track down CEO Will Sacks at the Colorado Capital Conference. He’ll be happy to chat.

Contact: Will Sacks (CEO), will@kindara.com
Website: www.kindara.com
Funding Round: Seed

Green buildings material manufacturer to pitch at the Colorado Capital Conference

esBITS™, an encapsulated PCM solution for building materials

Article by Russell Muren, Rebound-tech

Editor’s note: PCM Innovations will be pitching to investors at the Colorado Capital Conference on Tuesday, October 9th at 2:30 in the Equus Room.

PCM Innovations develops esBITS™ the encapsulated PCM solution for energy efficient wall, ceiling, and molding building products. esBITS™ (energy storage bits) enable building product manufactures to enhance the thermal properties of their existing products without major changes to their manufacturing or installation processes. These esBITS™ enhanced products, once in buildings, can significantly reduce peak energy consumption by maintaining temperatures in the occupant’s comfort zone.

PCM building materials save energy by decreasing a buildings tendency to change temperature with the weather. The PCM in the buildings wallboard, ceiling, or floor is charged/absorbs energy when it gets too hot outside and gives off energy when it is too cold. It does this by melting and freezing at a carefully selected temperature. Picture enjoying a cold glass of ice water outside on a hot day; the air around the glass is hot, but the water stays very cold until all the ice is melted. The same thing happens with PCM enhanced building materials: as the temperature outside goes up, the inside temperature stays at a comfortable level until all the PCM has melted. During that time, the room stayed comfortable and the air conditioner could stay off.

PCM Innovations got its start in PCM building materials while working with a larger British PCM supplier. After their supplier was acquired, PCM Innovations emerged with no ties to any one encapsulated PCM or building material. Without these constraints, PCM Innovations was free to work on developing a wide array of building products with various configurations and temperatures. This is where esBITS™ demonstrate their value. As CEO Joe Parker puts it, “we can optimize it for a particular application in a particular market place”.

To this end, PCM Innovations has demonstrated a wide array of products including: wall boards, attic blankets, custom molding, direct foam board bonding, and direct integration into 3rd party building materials. These products can use any off-the-shelf encapsulated PCM or a mix of two or more to meet the demands of different climates and industries.

In spite of its product portfolio, pushing the envelope of integrated building PCM technology is not without challenges. PCM enhanced building materials are not well understood in the building material marketplace and they do not match well with the industry’s metrics. For example, esBITS™ enhanced products do not have an R-value comparable to typical foam or fiberglass insulation. This can frustrate building material manufactures that rely on these metrics when deciding what technology to incorporate in their products.

To overcome this challenge, PCM Innovations approach each customer with an educational attitude. The first step is making sure the customer understands, on a basic thermodynamic level, what the PCM is doing and how its different then normal insulation.  Only after the customer understands how esBITS™ work, can they help PCM Innovations determine the optimum product configuration that yields the best performance with minimal changes to the manufacturing or installation process.

esBITS™ offer a new way for building material manufactures to increase the thermal inertia and energy efficiency of their products. PCM Innovations has positioned itself as a supplier to the mainstream building materials manufactures with a versatile, safe, and effective product.