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At the Oct NEF Pitch Pit Competition, three entrepreneurs faced off and presented their business ideas to the panel of judges. Anthony Azzi of Deelio was declared the winner. Here is what he had to say about his experience.

Interviewer: What was the Pitch Pit experience like for you?

Anthony: My favorite part of Pitch Pit was meeting everyone there! There were so many interesting entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and engineers to meet. I got so caught up in conversation with all of them beforehand, that I almost forgot I was there to pitch! It was a great experience, and a unique opportunity to network with people of diverse professional backgrounds.

Interviewer: How did the Tech Town Detroit DTX Launch prepare you for this presentation? 

Anthony: Our pitch would not be what it is today, without DTX Launch. They taught us how to identify our customer segment, and understand their problems. This all goes into crafting a pitch. You need a deep understanding of your customer, and their problems, so that you can convince a panel of judges, or investors, that your business is viable.

Interviewer: How has customer discovery helped you?

Anthony: Customer discovery has been such an important process for us. You learn so much by getting out of the building, and having a face-to-face conversation with a potential customer, in her own place of business. You gain insights that you cannot find on Google, or anywhere else, other than by actually talking to people. By doing so, you are building a set of proprietary data that no one else in the world has.

Interviewer: What was it like to win the $205 Pitch Pit prize? 

Anthony: We were very happy to win Pitch Pit. Knowing that over half of the prize actually came from small audience donations, makes it even better. We are very thankful to NEF, and to everyone in the audience who contributed. The money will be put towards our server costs, which allows us to host our website https://deelio.co and support our mobile app.

Interviewer: What are your next steps in growing Deelio? 

Anthony: Our next step is to launch our beta in 2018. This is where we can put everything we have learned from customer discovery to the test. We have some businesses that we are very excited to work with, to test out Deelio in the real world. We hope that the businesses included in our beta act as the seed to the Deelio Network, and that we can continue to grow and expand to various cities in Michigan and the United States!

Sam Savant was the NEF Showcase presenter for TwoScoreTwo a blockchain commerce company. Sam described the problem and his unique solution to global commerce: data leaks and tampering, payment security, and impersonation.

“Recent studies have found that nearly a third of companies in the US had their supply chains breached over the last year. Each instance of breach cost the company an average of $2.7 million The Association of Financial Professionals has estimated that US companies lose about $928 billion in annual revenue to fraud.”

TwoScoreTwo’s Minerva solution “brings together all global supply chain participants from different companies into a single digital community” that is unhackable and undetectable while letting in only authorized users. Similar to Google drive, users can store and transfer data to other authorized users. All data is digitally signed and encrypted such that only the sender and recipients can access the information. Our solution eliminates the possibility of modifying invoices, contracts, and other business critical information.”

Blockchain technology is revolutionizing the way organizations share and update data that is impervious to tampering. Conceptually, it is similar to a Google spreadsheet that is shared multiple times, even thousands of time across a network. The blockchain network is used to update the spreadsheet as users update the content. On the network, there is no “original” for a hacker to alter; thus, the genius behind the technology. Visit TwoScoreTwo at http://www.twoscoretwo.com.

On Nov 16, Accelerate Michigan will host its annual business competition at the Masonic temple in Detroit. They are the premier event in the Great Lakes region for high-growth companies and venture investors awarding $1,000,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

New Enterprise Forum (NEF) is proud to have members participate in this event and have the prestige of having coached 10 of the 36 semi-finalists. It is critical that entrepreneurs learn what is important to investors when pitching their business for funding. New Enterprise Forum has been helping entrepreneurs get noticed by investors for over 30 years.

NEF Graduates & AMIC Semi-Finalists:

Alchemie Solutions Inc.

Altality, LLC dba SpellBound

Ash & Erie, Inc.

Circadian Risk, Inc.

Foodstand, Inc

Mi Padrino

MySwimPro, Inc.

Parabricks, LLC

Ripple Science Corp.

Steriology, LLC

Registration for the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition can be found at: http://acceleratemichigan.org

The Sep. panelists were: Prem Bodagala, Director, Invest Michigan (MI Pre-Seed Fund 2.0); Mike Flanagan, Director of Capital Programs, Ann Arbor SPARK; Stewart Nelson, Angel Investor and CEO, Mayasil, LLC; along with Bill Mayer, Vice President Entrepreneurial Services, Ann Arbor SPARK, serving as moderator.

Term sheets are confusing. Here are several tips from the discussion:

  • The top four items to have on a term sheet – valuation, type of instrument, min/max amount of raise, and governance/board structure
  • Companies can raise too much money too fast where the financials do not support capital needs. As a result, entrepreneurs can give away more of their business than they have to.
  • Have the convertible debt convert time for about 18 months, and negotiate to 24 months if you can.
  • Basic two types of instruments are used:
    • Convertible debt where a company borrows money from investors which is later converted to equity. It is difficult to value companies with little traction. Investors are favoring priced rounds where the company has enough traction to value it. Being over or under valued can hurt the company. Investors look to double or triple the valuation between investment rounds so the ‘price needs to be just right’ – the Goldie Locks principle.
    • Direct investment in the company
  • Executive Summary dos & don’ts
    • Financials, include number of customers or units sold along with revenue figures
    • Be able to justify your sales ramp up figures
    • Have an experienced management team
    • Do not try to be everything to everyone, be focused
    • Thorough market strategies are helpful
    • EBIDAs > 50% = red flag that financials have significant errors
    • Underestimated marketing expenses are a red flag, count on around 60% - 70% of sales
    • Include the cost to acquire a customer and the life time value of a customer to understand customer churn rates
  • Solicit investors that can help the company by adding value with operations in addition to money
  • Advice to entrepreneurs to increase their funding chances
    • Prepare yourself
    • Know who & what kinds of investments the investor invests in
    • Have rehearsed answers to probable questions
    • Have a good presentation
    • If you do not have an answer for a particular question, say you are working on it
    • You may have to take longer to grow the business if you are ahead of the market
    • Continue running the business while raising capital

Many thanks to the panelists for their insightful expertise. 

Daniel Young, Founder, and CEO of Circadian Risk explained what his business was all about. Circadian provides “risk software to enhance and empower physical security consultants.” Here is a brief summary of the problem and solution Circadian addresses:

“Every company evaluates the risk of a physical undesirable event in hopes to mitigate or prevent that incident. Until now, risk professionals have used paper based assessments and methods to analyze this risk. By using paper based methods, vital data has been lost that would allow experts to understand risk dynamically. As a result, the industry is reactive and usually waits for incidents to happen, then responding, due to the lack of predictive analytics. There is also an absence of overall standards due to fragmented sectors. Companies and buildings need to know their TRUE RISK to prepare correctly, to reduce loss, and save lives.”

“Circadian Risk creates iOS platforms to empower security consultants and professionals with technology and analytics that increases their efficiency and effectiveness within the $2 Billion risk assessment industry. By sharing sector-specific intelligence data with companies, insurances and government, events can be prevented.”

Learn more about Circadian at: http://www.circadianrisk.co

 

Blog, by Mike Flanagan, Michigan Angel Fund

“It’s simple, it’s just not easy.” -unknown

The pitch deck (a slide presentation designed to attract investors) is a necessary tool for tech startups trying to raise money. In addition, developing a good pitch deck can be a powerful exercise in helping you improve your thinking about your business and refine your plan. I stress this second point because many entrepreneurs view the pitch deck as an annoying, but necessary evil. Most entrepreneurs are running 100 mph and have many varied and complex issues to address. But if you slack on your pitch deck, it will show. And it’s often your first appeal to investors (hopefully not your last). The real bonus is that it forces you to slow down briefly and see the forest for the trees, and take a more objective view of your business. In that sense, it’s probably helpful even for entrepreneurs not planning to raise outside money. Read more at: http://blog.annarborusa.org/tips-on-how-to-improve-your-pitch-deck 

A team of coaches was requested by Crain’s Detroit Business to coach teams participating in the upcoming Detroit Homecoming pitch competition.

The group gathered in a conference room of Crain Communication’s headquarters in Detroit, where the entrepreneurs presented their two-minute pitches to the coaching panel, which consisted of Barbara Boldt, Gary Hazen, Stew Nelson and Stefan Sysko. The entrepreneurs received advice on perfecting their pitch, and on improving their presentation skills. The teams represented a wide variety of industries and stages, from tech startups to established non-profits and retail businesses looking to expand.

The NEF coaches were impressed by the teams’ businesses, and their enthusiasm and commitment to the city of Detroit. “The entrepreneurs were all very open to our observations and suggestions,” said Stefan Sysko. “It was truly a pleasure hearing their plans for starting or growing their Detroit-based businesses. We also enjoyed supporting an event as important as Crain’s Detroit Homecoming.”

Now in its fourth year, Crain’s Detroit Homecoming is an annual gathering of Detroit expats who are invited back home to Detroit to reconnect via a three-day immersive event filled with seminars, networking and tours.

Detroit Homecoming IV takes place from September 13th to 15th.  For more information on Detroit Homecoming, visit www.detroithomecoming.com. The event is invitation-only. 

September 21     New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting (www.newenterpriseforum.org) at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For this month:

  • Showcase Presenters:
    • Circadian Risk – Dan Young (www.circadianrisk.co):  Circadian Risk dramatically improves the physical security risk analysis process so Security Consultants and their clients (organizations) can actively reduce the probability and severity of security incidents.
  • Panel“Term Sheets - Understanding What Your Investors Want”

September 23     Introduction to the Lean Startup and Customer Discovery Basics

Time: 8:00 am - 11:00 am Location: Lawrence Tech University, Southfield, MI

What is a “lean” startup? This workshop begins by introducing the concept and principles and outlines the methodology of lean. Avoid spending inordinate amounts of time, energy, and money only to fail for reasons you could have predicted. We then move to how you determine whether there’s actually a money-making business around your great product idea. Come to this workshop to learn about “Customer Discovery:” the process of validating your hypotheses to quickly determine how to move forward for success.

Pre-reading: Documents will be sent to registered participants before the workshop.

A continental breakfast and light lunch will be available.

There is no cost to attend, but you must register in advance.

http://www.ltucollaboratory.com/events/introduction-lean-startup-customer-discovery-basics/

September 30    Blue Water Start-ups and Entrepreneurs:  Startup School (https://bluewaterstartups.com/event/startup-school) at SC4 Fine Arts Theater, 323 Erie Street, Port Huron, MI. 

October 19   New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting (www.newenterpriseforum.org) at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For this month:

  • Showcase Presenter:
    • TwoScoreTwo – Sam Savant (www.twoscoretwo.com):  TwoScoreTwo is a cloud platform built on Blockchain technology that that enables implementation and management of secure chain-of-custody, commercial trading, and low cost financial transactions.
  • Pitch Pit:  Several early start-ups give a brief pitch for exposure and feedback in front of judges in a ‘shark tank’-type environment.  It is winner-take-all for contributions from the audience.

October 26   Pitch Yspi Pitch Competition (www.pitchypsi.com) at Growing Hope’s Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace in the heart of downtown Yspi.  This is a pitch competition hosted by regional business leaders throughout eastern Washtenaw County.  The top 5 ideas pitch live at the Finale on October 26 for a chance to win $5,000.  It is open to enterprises that want to start or grow with a strong preference for entrepreneurs living in 48197/8 or are active EMU or WCC students.  The submission deadline is September 15!

November 16   Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition (http://acceleratemichigan.org) at the Masonic Temple, Detroit.   Accelerate Michigan is the premier event in the Great Lakes region for high-growth companies & venture investors, awarding $1,000,000 in cash & in-kind prizes.

November 30   New Enterprise Forum Monthly Meeting (www.newenterpriseforum.org) at SPARK Central, 330 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor.  Our monthly forum provides an evening of learning, sharing experiences, and making essential business contacts.  This free meeting opens at 5:00 pm with networking and appetizers.   Around 5:45 pm, the program portion of the meeting begins.  For this month:

  • Showcase Presenter:
    • TBD
  • Panel“Entrepreneur War Stories”

Any entrepreneur will tell you that raising funds is not easy. Founders wonder why, with such a great idea, outstanding team and great plans, investors aren’t returning their calls. What is the problem?

It’s a big issue for founders with 75% of their time taken for up to three months or more, raising money can be a time sink for any founder.

Stew Nelson can tell you what the problem is and how to fix it. Well known in SE Michigan, Stew is an investor, past president of NEF, CEO and founder of Mayasil, and partner in the consulting group, MODG. On Wednesday, September 6, Nelson unpacked this problem with the “Entrepreneur’s Equity Roadmap™: Raising Money Without Giving Away the Business” at Spark Central in Ann Arbor, MI.

The problem is the gap between founder’s expectations and the investor’s expectations. Called the Milestone Gap™, by Nelson and co-writer Gary Hazan, it refers to the gap between what a founder sees as a milestone (completing a prototype, for example) and what an investor sees as a meaningful milestone (achieving financial goals or valuation). Like ships passing in the night, founders and investors have a brief encounter, but then drift on with the founder wondering, “What happened?” “There’s a gap between what the entrepreneur wants to show vs. what the investor wants to see,” Nelson says.

Closing the gap? Following are some of Nelson’s basic rules the founder needs to understand to close the gap.

For a start, founders need to address their pitch in the investor’s language; learn about the investor’s side, and deliver a message that considers questions the investor will have. Too often, the founder pitches their great idea, plans for the business, and thinks it is what will persuade the investor. Better to take a deep dive into understanding what the investor wants to know about your business. Make sure the goals you outline in the pitch are the goals an investor wants to see achieved. An investor will want to see that the funding round you are asking for will take the founder’s business to the next round of funding. Nelson calls it creating an “updraft.”

The investor wants to know about the monetary needs of the business and how the founder plans on addressing them. Monetary needs include product development, costs to do marketing and sales, and head count costs.

Of course a successful funding raise comes with it’s own costs—giving away equity and control. For a lot of founders the hardest one to swallow is the loss of absolute control. “Think of it this way, do you want to be rich or king?” Nelson said. It’s important for the founder to understand that in their relationship with an investor you must play by the “...Golden Rule: he who has the gold makes the rules.”

The Entrepreneur’s Equity Roadmap™ is far more detailed and thorough than the scope of this article can cover. It’s easy to learn more: all you have to do is visit the NEF website, NewEnterpriseForum.org, and go to the Resources page. You’ll see a link to the PDF on the right side. While you’re on that page check out the other great resources NEF has for founders.

Commercialization time for start-ups in the automotive mobility space can take 2 to 3 times that of the start-ups in the Innovation / Consumer Electronics space. From 1910 to 2010 typical times have dropped from 16 years after patent award to 14.  The Global Automotive & Mobility Innovation Challenge (GAMIC) cuts this in half.

The GAMIC organizing committee is made up of auto industry executives with close ties to decision makers at all major OEMs and many Tier 1 suppliers as well as experienced entrepreneurs.  Building on such a rich network, GAMIC offers over $300,000 in auto industry professional guidance – from business development to IP support to PR, as well as assistance with key high-level industry connections.  These benefits are the invaluable key to accelerated commercialization by opening doors that the cash prizes by many other competitions simply cannot.

A number of GAMIC alumni are already in production as 2nd tier suppliers; others have licensed their technology to major Tier 1 suppliers, received development contracts from industrial partners, and/or received government funding for further product development.  All semi-finalists receive exposure to multiple Midwest-US and Canadian angel groups.

GAMIC is pleased to announce that it is open for applications for its 10th annual competition. 

Who should apply?  Companies that fit the following criteria:

  • Innovation space: Automotive and/or mobility applications
  • Innovation type: physical (mechanical, chemical, electrical), and/or digital product/systems, testing, manufacturing or other enabling innovations
  • Revenue: Less than $500,000 in funding or revenue to date
  • State of innovation advancement: Developed a proof-of-concept and/or a working model
  • State of business planning: Developed an initial business plan covering the technology and a go-to-market plan
  • Location: Willing to present in-person or via video conference at quarter-finals  in Northern California; Southeast Michigan; or Ontario, Canada

You can find more information on the applicable technology sectors for GAMIC and application instructions at GAMIC website.  Due date is 15 October 2017.

For more information, please visit GAMIC 10th Annual Competition.

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