Archives for May 2012

Customer Crowdfunding: Not So Fast, Entrepreneurs

Wil Schroter is the co-founder and CEO of Fundable.com which is a crowdfunding platform for startups, so it is not entirely surprising that he would pen a very pro-crowdfunding piece in GigaOM recently. In the piece, he righty calls out a few of the advantages: customer-sourced funding does allow you to test the market before you build, and it does allow you to fund the product before it is built avoiding the need to amass dilutive capital on a speculative basis, and it does allow you to engage with and build buzz amongst your potential customers even before they are your customers. (The recent hysteria about the Pebble Watch is a good example of this.) But what is totally misleading, even disturbing, about Schroter’s GigaOM article is that it so utterly and completely misses the bigger picture.  [Read more…]

Like Peanut Butter & Jelly: PowerHouse Dynamics and Solar Power [Video Interview]

[This post is part of a series about our net-zero residential solar project – see a list of links to the full series here, a list of frequently asked questions here or click here to bring up all Green-related postsPrevious Post in Series.]

[Update: Here’s a link to another video interview Martin just did with TMC’s Rich Tehrani.]

I have been tweeting a bit about my negative (as in credit to me!) power bills recently (e.g. minus $64.44 in April), but it has been a while since I have done a solar update.  Because I just recently caught up with Martin Flusberg, CEO of PowerHouse Dynamics for my Video Interview Series, and I needed to publish the video (below), I figured this was a great excuse to get into a little more detail on the awesomeness of my PowerHouse Dynamics eMonitor system.   I’ve mentioned it a couple times in earlier posts (here and here), but its time for a real explanation. (Disclosure: I am an investor in PowerHouse Dynamics.) [Read more…]

Martin Flusberg – Entrepreneur Video Interview Series

[This post is part of an on-going series of video interviews with members of the start-up community – see a list of links to the full series here.]

Martin Flusberg is a serial entrepreneur with a twist. Not only has he started several companies, he has also been an angel investor for several years as well. This gives him a great perspective on the challenges of getting a company off the ground, communicating with investors to get it financed, and helping it grow. I am a friend and admirer of Martin’s, and an investor in his current company, PowerHouse Dynamics. I am also a very enthusiastic user of the product – for a full discussion of using the PowerHouse Dynamics eMonitor with a net-zero solar system, see this post.) The other thing about Martin that people may not realize [Read more…]

MassChallenge 2012 So Far

MassChallenge 2012 is off to a great start. They received almost twice as many first round applications this year as last (this year included 1237 startups from all over the U.S. plus 34 other countries). As one might expect, the increased volume has raised the level of activity and complexity significantly, but it has had another entirely beneficial effect: as the winnowing proceeds, it is clear there are more great companies in the mix. The first round applications I read were naturally a mixed bag, given the raw numbers, but the second round survivors are, on average, much higher qualitythan the equivalent companies last year. It will be interesting to see this unfold as the class is winnowed to 125 later this month. Meanwhile, here’s a few photos of the second round judging to give you a feel of the process. (Photo credits: Jodi-Tatiana Charles, Media/Community Outreach Coordinator for MassChallenge). [Read more…]

Ralph Sheridan – Angel Video Interview Series

[This post is part of an on-going series of video interviews with members of the start-up community – see a list of links to the full series here.]

A chemist turned turned IT security and clean tech expert, Ralph Sheridan has been buying and investing in companies for over 30 years. For the last five or so, he’s been concentrating on doing it with his own money as an angel investor. Ralph’s a thoughtful and intelligent investor who is always wiling to make time to speak with an entrepreneur (see the video at the 1:30 mark if you don’t believe me!). He’s also been a great source of advice and counsel for me, so when we got together for breakfast recently, I figured it was high time to add him to the video interview series. This conversation was recorded in May 2012. (Email subscribers, click here for video.) [Read more…]

Reinventing Paper and Rock & Roll

Launchpad portfolio companies have been busy this week. We just closed a $1.1M Series A round with JamHub, which they will use to accelerate the rollout of their very cool rock & roll products. They make a family of devices that allow bands to plug in and jam together with incredible and finely controlled sound quality for each player, but without the noise of a traditional amplified rehearsal. Silent and neighborhood-friendly rock & roll that sounds awesome to the musicians, but doesn’t wake the dead. Fantastic team – we are really pleased to be working with them. (Mass High Tech story here.)

And speaking of reinventing long-standing traditions, portfolio company Vizibility has done a radical rethink the humble business card. This week they launched their new line of NFC-enabled business cards to compliment their online identity management platform for professionals. For situations where you want to quickly pull up the contact info, LinkedIn info or Google results on someone you have just met, you no longer need to manually search or scan a QR code with your phone’s camera. One tap of the NFC enabled card will allow you to bring up the information directly. Very cool. TechCrunch wrote about it here, or you can check out the company at vizibilty.com.

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Jean Hammond – Angel Video Interview Series

[This post is part of an on-going series of video interviews with members of the start-up community – see a list of links to the full series here.]

Jean Hammond is an institution in the Boston start-up community. She’s a Sloan MBA with a ton of entrepreneurial experience in the digital signal processing and networking space who eventually found her passion in early stage investing and coaching. She is a prolific investor with a good eye for ideas (she was one of the first investors in ZipCar) and member of Launchpad Venture Group and Hub Angels. She was also the co-founder of the Boston chapter of Golden Seeds, and angel group focusing on women led businesses. Despite being as busy as a one-armed paper hanger, Jean always has time and advice for an entrepreneur, and no matter how dire the circumstances, can always find something good to say about their plan. She is a tireless champion of startups and a good friend to those of us in the early-stage investing community, so it was high time that we sit down together for my video interview series. [Read more…]

Pitch Clinic at MassChallenge (Video)

Christopher Mirabile warming up the crowd.

Ham Lord, Gail Hoffman and I recently held a pitch clinic at MassChallenge.  The entrepreneurs were good sports: both Claudia Espinola of Casa Couture and Krishna Ramchandran of UberSense bravely gave rough, outdated pitches to allow the critiques a bit more bite.  It was a lot of fun, followed by a great Q&A.  Video below (case-sensitive password is Round2Pitch). [Read more…]

Entrepreneur at Work: Caine’s Arcade

Ordinarily with a story like this, I’d just tweet it or stick it into one of my Links You May Have Missed posts. But this is such a sweet and inspirational tale and the documentary is so well done, that I think it deserves its own post. Using tape and recycled cardboard to build his own arcade, a young kid in East L.A. follows his vision and his passion with enough determination and ingenuity that he teaches the world some important lessons. (The fantastic video documentary by Nirvan Mullick appears below). [Read more…]

The Long Road to Instant Success

Portfolio company Crocodoc made a huge release this week to great press coverage. The enterprise version of their product has popped out into the world fully-formed and seemingly perfectly-timed. An instant overnight success. Except that it wasn’t overnight. Success almost never is. These guys had to work and work and work and start over numerous times to get where they are now. [Read more…]