Next week July 31st we have the “Geek of the year 2012” showing up to share some thoughts. We will be on the sunny back deck of Graham and Dunn Law firm doing some networking and listening to a local CTO/founder star. Startrup Grind is hosting Oren Etzioni. He was working with Big Data before Big Data was cool. He has a broad base of technical knowledge as well as some great stories about starting companies. He is not the normal CTO
For those of you who plan to attend the next Startup Grind event on June 26th at 6pm you will be hearing from someone who had an idea to help others and walked away from a stable career at Amazon then started Vittana.org. He has since helped thousands of youth get an education across the globe. Come learn insights from someone who had an idea and made it happen in a very big way. To RSVP and pay.
Kushal Chakrabarti is the founder and board co-chair of Vittana, a non-profit that fights youth poverty in developing nations. It pioneered the Vittana Loan — a $750 student micro-loan that can triple a girl’s income. An award-winning organization, Vittana works in 13 countries,helps 1,000+ youth escape poverty every month and its impact is regularly highlighted in world press including the Economist, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and many others. To RSVP and pay.
Previously, Kushal ran technology for a $1 billion team at Amazon and is the author of 20+ patents and papers. He was recently named Social Innovator of the Year, one of Seattle’s Top 40 People Under 40 and voted the #1 Game-Changer in Philanthropy by 1.7 million readers on Huffington Post. Kushal is a frequent speaker on youth poverty, education and social entrepreneurship including SOCAP, Pop!Tech and TEDxBrussels.
In his free time, he races triathlons, takes pictures and works with dogs. Kushal lives in Seattle with his 2-year-old German Shepherd puppy.
May 22 will be an exciting day at Graham & Dunn Law Offices. Startup Grind will be hosting Chris DeVore, Startup Guy, Seed Stage Investor, and a good human. Chris will be on the hot seat for a 75 minute interview to answer questions and share some of the insights from someone who has seen hundreds of deals, thousands of pitches and million of dollars invested over his career. He likes investing in very early stage deals so he can help move the company along faster and hopefully with less mistakes along the way.
Chris helped start Founders Co-op in 2008. They help extraordinary founding teams located *outside* Silicon Valley build companies that the best venture capital firms in the world choose to back. We’re also the guys behind TechStars Seattle, the region’s #1 accelerator program. Most important, we are a community of fellow founder-operators with hard-fought experience + personal networks spanning every aspect of building, scaling and exiting a high-growth technology business.
He also co founded Judys Book what seems like light years ago. He left in late 2007 and then started Founders Co-op. He has more stories about starting, executing and exiting than most of us would have time to listen to but he will be at Startup Grind to share his experience with 75-85 fellow entrepreneurs at 6pm on May 22nd. Be sure to come ready to listen, meet and be inspired by someone who absolutely loves the Seattle tech community. Chris believes this is the best place to start a company and has proven that you can be a successful investor as well as founder. Come join us and enjoy the people, wine, food and interview with Chris.
This week I was lucky enough to interview Greg Gottesman from Madrona Venture at the April Startup Grind event. First off it was a great turnout, we had 85 people there and people standing in the back… so I am happy our event continues to get the recognition it deserves. We ran low on food but that is an easy fix and one big bonus was since we had outstanding weather, we had an absolutely stunning view from the deck at Graham & Dunn. Enough about the venue…
The reason I am posting this is I wanted to recognize Greg as being one of the more humble and open VC’s in Seattle. He is of course extremely smart and a big supporter of the startup ecosystem in Seattle. But he is very true to his word and is not afraid to answer any type of question in front of a crowd. He has been in front of many many startup groups in Seattle over the years so he has his normal things to say about how great Seattle is to start a company, how hard it is to be successful and you need to cultivate relationships with funding sources over time. But I think what you get from Greg that you may not get from another VC unless of course you know them personally, is a complete understanding of how he wants to help you run your company only when you need the help. He doesn’t want to stick his nose in where it is not wanted or needed. I am not speaking from experience working with him but I sure have worked with other investors who are not that way and have an ability to really mess things up very quickly.
Greg shared a couple of things that I want to share; you have to build trust with your investors and vice versa. This trust will be invaluable as the rough spots show up… and they will show up. There is a certain level of trust or they wouldn’t have invested in your company, in the first place but this trust has to grow and you need to cultivate that trust. It is on the CEO’s shoulders to gain the trust and to facilitate meetings, etc that will build the trust. As that trust grows and investors see you are doing what you say you are going to do… many will (some will still keep their nose in your business) back away and let the CEO do what he or she is there to do. This trust will grow over years and different projects and if you are lucky enough you will always have a source of capital. As Greg stated it… there are some people that you would write a $25,000 check before you ever heard the idea just because you knew the founder and trusted their instincts. That is what many strive for and very few achieve. Greg could think of a few people he would do that with.
The second thing is focusing on customers in a pitch to an investor. Talk about customer experiences with your product. Tell stories about how your customers that are using your product. He said you cannot talk enough about the customers. If you have a lot of customer stories then you must have a lot of customers… which would be a great thing. Limit the discussion on possible uses but actual use cases by actual customers you have talked with.
One other point I would like to make is I interviewed Michelle Goldberg from Ignition Partners in March and one thing that she echoed was that even if you don’t have deep industry knowledge of your chosen company if you have deep customer knowledge that will make up for the lack of industry knowledge. As she put it… you can’t know too much about your customers. Michelle has a deep belief in making things easier for consumers at every level and if you have a startup then you should get an introduction to her somehow. That is a sniff test with many VC’s. If you can’t find a way to get an introduction to a local investor then maybe you are not made to be an entrepreneur.
We are lucky to have Michelle Goldberg come visit us from Ignition Partners on March 27 at 6pm (register). Not only is she a veteran of the VC industry but she is a huge fan of entrepreneurs. She acts as a mentor to entrepreneurs and executives in digital media and the consumer internet. Michelle has a fascination with how the internet works and brings her experience investing in SEO, social media, advertising analytic and digital commerce to understanding the trends that will next fuel the web. She loves to advise companies and fund entrepreneurs who are defining digital and what it means to our on and off-line lives.
Everyone should be able to get some very interesting insights from Michelle because she has seen many different deals over the past 13 years and is willing share things that were successful for her and things that we not. Michelle currently sits on a number of boards, including SEOmoz, Glympse, Visible Technologies, and Ice.com and is an observer on Avvo and Trover. Michelle is a Founding Advisor to Julep and Jenni Hogan Media. Also Michelle was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in Technology by the Puget Sound Business Journal, she was a “40 under 40” Honoree. Enough about all these awards, she obviously knows what she is talking about when it comes to helping others start, grow or fund their company.
We all should be so lucky to be able to call Michelle a mentor of our organization or a champion of your company’s technology. She has both the technology chops and the connections to help you and your company or idea get to the next level.In addition to her work as an advisor and VC, she is an active fundraiser in early childhood education and sits on the board of the University Child Development School. Michelle is also a member of the WWF, not that one, this one- Washington Women’s Federation. She has a soft spot for women who are leaders in their organization and understands the issues that come with being a women in todays high tech world.
Come listen and meet Michelle at Startup Grind this month, you will be glad you did and you might even learn a thing or two.