June 24th, 2013 Entrepreneurs Roundtable 59

On Monday, June 24, 2013, OLC attended Entrepreneur’s Roundtable 59 featuring speaker Alan Chung, an angel investor, and the founder of iAmaze, Zenbe, and the current CEO of Perka. Five presentations were also held, to which Alan gave feedback.
Alan Chung: I’m a serial entrepreneur. I have founded four startups and three have had good exits. I’m not only an investor and an advisor—I’m also the CEO of my fourth company. I’m in the trenches, just like you. 
I missed my first $1 billion exit with my first product—Vizio took the technology and sold it to Microsoft. My second product was used by Apple. Anyway, I spent three years at JavaSoft and then I realized that there has to be a better way of using this software. I started iAmaze and fooled around with JavaScript. In 2000, AOL acquired my technology and I stayed there for about two years. I was very proud of the team and the technology that we had created.
I started my third company and focused on collaborative chat boards. We released, in the Spring on 2008, and made a good exit. Perka is my forth company and that’s sort of my background. 
It’s a lot easier today to be entrepreneurs than when I first started. One of the things I think is harder for you guys is the input you guys get from all of the people you talk to. It’s well intentioned, but they can be 100 percent bad advices. The hard part is the lot of advice, but you have to take into account the context behind it. It’s really the job of the entrepreneurs—there’s no playbook—to take different inputs, internalizing it and coming up with the best answer for you. Advisors like me haven’t walked in your shoes, like you have. You know yourself the best.
You know the saying, “Fail fast, fail often”? I don’t like to fail. “No fail, no fail.” When it comes to mid-stream companies, to have that as a crutch, it is destabilizing. It’s not a good idea to give up and pivot. Startups are grinds. It’s a slog day in and day out. You should really think about the problem you are trying to solve. You should be analyzing the situation and figuring out what fundamental problems you are trying to solve. You have to think about side the box. My advice to you is to trust yourself. Don’t get thrown off by a person who has already tried it. They’re in different shoes.
From here, the microphone was handed off to the first presenter, Michelle Spiezia, who pitched Bespoke Atelier.
Bespoke Atelier is a tool for creatives to discover and share and curate content in a single platform. “Over 10 years of working in my profession, I’d hear the same thing over and over again,” Spiezia said. “Content chaos.” Today, according to Spiezia, creatives have a difficult time managing their content, and Bespoke Atelier is the solution to that problem. 
As a comprehensive platform, it focuses on content management, privacy, control and much more. “Bespoke has two main function,” she said. “Inspiration Stream and Inspiration Books.” With the Inspiration Stream, Bespoke users can use a live RSS feed to curate content very easily. The content that is pulled can be distributed and clipped into Books. “Books can become a portfolio or shareable documents and so much more,” Spezira said. “Our app is a tool to create a meaningful partnership between the creatives and the clients.” Bespoke Atelier will monetize through subscriptions and their target market is the 40 million creative professionals in the United States. Spiezia is raising $750,000 for further research and development.
AC: I think the collaborative space is interesting, but incredibly challenging. I think the problem isn’t interfacing, but how to make yours running the longest. It’s whoever stays in the game the longest. Marketing, finding how to stay alive, these will be a challenge.
Vanessa Dawson pitched Evry, the social platform for the group planning process. “Every group has a person who takes charge of planning group events,” Dawson said. “That person is our target.” There are two steps to use Evry. The first is the organizing process. The second is the payment process. “At Evry, we coordinate the group and make it so that payments are easy and secure. We’re eliminating the social and financial risk for events and planners. This is not only good for group events, but for small businesses and medium-sized businesses as well.” Dawson is raising $350,000 to get a team of developers.
AC: I think it’s a crowded space. Just through casual browsing, there’s a number of companies that have done this—Eventbrite and Meetup for instance. You said you are focusing on single organizers and businesses? It’s tempting, but don’t do it. Focus on one side or the other.
Krishna Malyala presented TLCengine, a new way to search for the perfect home based on lifestyle. “The biggest thing I found is that there’s more to buying a house than just mortgages,” Malyala said. “About 72 percent of income goes to transportation and mortgages. You need to take into account taxes, commuting, mortgages—there’s so many factors. I created an Excel spreadsheet for me to calculate the cost. So I created this app using 31 variables to calculate your actual cost.” According to Malyala, real estate agents spend $1,200 a year for products. TLCengine targets these real estate agents. “We’re targeting the top 20 percent community markets. We’re a B2B and a B2C company. This alleviates Quality Mortgages for banks,” he said. TLCengine has three products that will be released simultaneously: TripTLC, HomeTLC and AgentTLC. Malyala is looking to raise $750,000 to help meet deliverables by January.
AC: The economics isn’t lined up. I think your customers will be kicking tires. We fall in love with ideas. That’s the entrepreneur in all of us. A lot of the times, they don’t do backend research. It’s hard to launch three products as a startup. That’s almost suicidal.
Mikael Hveem presented Commune, a bulletin board for your neighborhood on your mobile device. “We’re a mobile neighborhood initiative,” Hveem said. “We’re digitizing what’s going on in the grassroots level. We built a platform that lets you address problems to other people.” The key to Commune is access. They are going completely mobile-first and making the app simple to use. “Our business model is freemium in a way,” he said.
AC: Counting on your merchants or neighborhood libraries to put up your information or signs about you is a very high expectation. It’s very difficult to convince them. I wouldn’t count on that type of marketing. You might have a fundamental assumption about what your users are. Instead of getting an app, you can experiment on Twitter using hashtags. You’d be leveraging a tool that is already in smartphones.