Archive

Posts Tagged ‘free office space’

Capital Innovators Graduates First Class of Entrepreneurs

February 1st, 2012 02:03 admin View Comments

Tonight in downtown St. Louis the second group of companies to be funded by Capital Innovators will be announced. These will receive $50k in seed funding and free office space and credits toward other useful services as part of their acceleration program. We wrote about their innovative program last fall here.

Some of the first companies have launched products or services or are in the process of getting there, according to their entrepreneurs. Most have felt the program worthwhile and given them a jumpstart on their operations.

For example, Sam Glines says, “Effectively, NorseCorp, while led by me, born and raised in St Louis, was a stranger in its own town. I spent very little time here in my professional life, so my local business connections were limited. Capital Innovators accelerated access to and recommendations for vetted service providers, two of which we have brought on, one of them is serving a critical role in a new Norse service offering in Web security.” The company has some innovative security offerings for payment card processors that we will be covering in the near future. They also signed Global eTelecom as a customer, one of US’ largest check processors at the end of December. “Our plan is to have seven figure revenues and be profitable by Q3, in addition to to seven new hires by end of the year,” he says.

Jim Dolan, the CEO of Action Online, is looking to launch in May and redo their YoJo.com site. Since joining the program, he has seen an increase in ad sales and also received new investment capital.

Anthony Favazza, CEO of DiningCircle has hired a CTO that will be overseeing a rebuild of our product in early 2012. “We also have an intern from Washington University helping with customer satisfaction and retention, and one of the marketing partners from the program was able to deliver a comprehensive marketing plan for us that included a new logo, website, print marketing, mailers, and a clear message.”

Ryan Bell, the CEO of Gremln.com says, “We continue to have advisory meetings to discuss how we will convert free users into paying customers. We have begun the sales cycle with a number of potential clients and are nurturing these relationships during private beta stage and are looking to white label our product.”

Jim Eberlin, the CEO of Jbara says, “We are continuing to make enhancements to our current product as sales are increasing. Current customers have helped to improve our analytics. Our customer base pipeline is growing as we’re in the process of closing several contracts. We are currently the sole sponsor of a meetup and users group for customer success executives. The group is led by Marqueto, and Exactly, one of our current customers. We have two strategic partnerships in the works that could lead to potential exits. These are in addition to our currently existing partnership with SalesForce.”

The new ventures include:

  • Bonfyre is a location-based mobile application exclusively for college students that helps them find what’s hot around campus, keep up with friends and save money. Bonfyre was created by Off Campus Media, a company focused on creating value for college students and highly relevant advertising opportunities for local merchants and national brands.
  • BusyEvent is a profitable live event CRM company monetizing some of the 10 million annual face to face transactions at conferences, trade shows and business to business events. They track buyer behavior and present that data as actionable information that multiple stakeholders pay for.
  • Click With Me Now makes 1-click web-sharing for consumers possible; with no cost, no downloads & no frustrations. Supporting businesses that connect with consumers online, they provide tools that let their customers instantly invite friends to co-browse with them. Their SaaS-based, platform-independent solution results in richer experiences, greater conversion, and increased sales.
  • Material Mix owns and operates an exchange for reusable industrial byproducts. Each year, US manufacturers pay to dispose of 176 million tons of waste, 34% of which is reusable. The online trade of these recoverable materials represents an unrealized $13.2 billion market opportunity.
  • RollSale is reducing the need for expensive middlemen in the used car supply chain by providing dealers with a simple, inexpensive, mobile-centric social network for buying and selling inventory.
  • Systematic Revenue provides growing businesses with an easy to use and affordable marketing automation software application to consistently follow up with all prospects and customers in a meaningful and relevant way.

Source: Capital Innovators Graduates First Class of Entrepreneurs

New Accelerator Launches In Europe Offering Valley Road Trip

January 31st, 2012 01:54 admin View Comments

Accelerators, Accelerator, Accelerators! There’s a rash of them appearing everywhere, and the latest is the Rockstart Accelerator, a new startup program aimed at Europe’s most promising startups that want to hit a global scale (but then don’t they all?). However, this one has some credible partners in the shape of Google, Microsoft BizSpark, Mozilla WebFWD and StartupHouse in San Francisco.

Oscar Kneppers, founder of Rockstart says the program is for startups from the whole of Europe. Based in Amsterdam, it’s looking for 10 teams of founders and will subject them to 99 mentors for 100 days, and combine that with an additional three-month summer program that culminates with a 25-day Silicon Valley road trip. That last point is probably not a bad idea, for obvious reasons, though Seedcamp has done this for the last few years.

Teams will stay a the Startup House in San Francisco as a base and will vist Google headquarters in Mountain View for a few days, meeting the Google developer team and meeting Don Dodge, Developer Advocate at Google. The usual Microsoft BizSpark sweeteners are being offered and the Mozilla WebFWD people will be offering one-on-one mentoring with “Mozillians”.

Seed investment in the startups includes up to $20,000, six-months of free office space, and a three-week road trip to Silicon Valley. Rockstart Accelerator asks eight percent equity in the startups that are selected. It starts on March 22, 2012 and is now open for applications and closes today.

How does this compare with the some of Europe’s leading accelerators?

Well GammaRebels in Poland offers a predefined equity investment of up to €5,000 (PLN20,000) in exchange for 10% equity, mentoring support and office space during the program.

This is a low stake and a high percentage compared to Springboard in the UK and Seedcamp, but then the costs (staff, offices, living) in Poland are much, much lower.

The well known Seedcamp meanwhile puts in around £50,000 per team and takes a variable stake of around 8%-10% of its startups, while a brand new one, Ignite100 in the UK, puts in £100k per team and takes a set 8%.

Source: New Accelerator Launches In Europe Offering Valley Road Trip

Why Would a Newspaper Company Launch a Startup Incubator?

January 4th, 2012 01:45 admin View Comments

inquirer-ipad-logo.jpgFor most print publishers, the transition from ink to pixels has been at least somewhat painful. Over the last few years, the industry has seen widespread layoffs, furloughs, bankruptcies and newspaper closures. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are no exception. The company that previously owned the two daily papers filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and ended up selling them the following year. The new owner, a company called Philadelphia Media Network, has since been trying to reposition its publications for the twenty-first century.

Today, PMN fulfilled a promise it made last year by doing something few would expect a newspaper company to do. Project Liberty, the company’s tech startup incubator, is now open for business.

Project Liberty is launching with three hand-picked local startups, all of which are recent graduates of the DreamIt Ventures accelerator program. The companies will be housed in the same building as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com for the next six months. During that time, each company will receive free office space and access to resources within the building. The products they’ll be building all have a potential future home at PMN, but there are no guarantees.

Digital Tools Fit For a News Publisher

cloudmine-logo.jpgCloudMine, one of the companies enrolled in the incubator, is a mobile backend-as-a-service provider for developers. It offers a pay-as-you-go API that hooks into their hosted server-side platform, freeing developers up from having to code custom backends. Why would a newspaper company have any interest in the success of such a tool? In PMN’s case, a service like this could aid the company’s ongoing efforts to bolster their mobile products and tablet strategy. Last year, the company made headlines by offering a $99 Android-based tablet with specialized news-reading apps for the Inquirer and Daily News. It was a bold move for a print media company, even if its earliest iteration was largely based around print-to-digital shovelware.

snipsnap.jpgAn even more obvious choice for a newspaper is SnipSnap, a smartphone app that lets consumers scan printed coupons to save and redeem later. SnipSnap CEO Ted Mann, a veteran of the newspaper industry, left his position as Digital Development Director at Gannett New Jersey last year to launch the startup. Today, Mann returns to the newspaper world, however temporarily, as he and his team set up shop in the Inquirer building. They will work alongside the newspapers’ digital sales team, although SnipSnap is not officially a product of PMN.

electnext-logo.jpgThose on the editorial side will have the opportunity to collaborate with the folks working on ElectNext, a Web app that helps voters choose the best candidate in an upcoming election on the local, state and federal levels. The app works by asking users a series of questions about social and political issues and then matches them with the appropriate candidates.

Rebranding the “Newspaper”

Beyond the nature of the companies being incubated, there are few other obvious reasons for a newspaper company to make a move like this. For one, it serves as a marketing tactic to help rebrand a print publisher as a forward-thinking, tech-savvy multimedia company. By selling news-reading tablets and housing tech startups, PMN can paint itself as a media organization of the future rather than a soon-to-be relic.

Another formerly bankrupt news company, the Journal Register Company (now known as Digital First Media), is taking a similar approach this year by launching a tech incubator of its own, which will be geared toward startups specializing in advertising, editorial content and audience development. Like PMN, this move helps Digital First Media find innovative potential future partners and fits in with a larger strategy of rebranding itself for the twenty-first century.

inquirer-digital-screenshot.jpg PMN’s experiment may be the first of its kind at a big city daily newspaper, but its not the first time that any publisher has tried incubating startups. Hearst and Conde Nast have both launched digital products built by in-house startups, some of which have nothing to do with the publishers’ traditional businesses.

A few years ago, moves like this would have been seen as particularly revolutionary and forward-thinking. Today, they’re still to be considered smart, but are more about survival than thinking ahead. As print revenues continue to decline, traditional news publishers desperately need to find new ways to both build their audiences and monetize their efforts in a way that can make up for the cash they keep hemorrhaging on the print side. The Web has made the former significantly easier than the latter.

Incubating tech startups may not lead to an explosion in revenue overnight, but it’s a smart step in the right direction. As PMN CEO Greg Osberg said during a presentation at Temple University last year, “I want us to find the next Foursquare and house it at Philly.com.” In time, revenue growth is more likely to come out of innovative efforts like these than from clinging to print and milking hideous Web banner ads for every last nickel.

Newspapers and Startups: A Two-Way Incubation

The intimate relationship PMN is establishing with local startups serves not only to fuel the growth of those new companies, but it may also help adapt the culture within the host organization itself. A lot of “future of news” types like to talk about how old media companies should adopt a startup culture if they want to survive. As anybody who’s ever worked at a legacy media organization knows, that’s far easier said than done.

Having had no other choice, PMN has already started the process by making moves like this, merging its newsrooms and demoting a top editor that they saw as not being digital-savvy enough. What better way to encourage a startup culture than by bringing startups down the hall from the newsroom?

Source: Why Would a Newspaper Company Launch a Startup Incubator?

Have a Good Kinect Hack Idea? Microsoft Has $20,000 For You

November 25th, 2011 11:15 admin View Comments

Some large technology companies frown upon developers hacking and reworking their products. On the far opposite side of the spectrum, there lies an unexpected organization called Microsoft. After some initial hesitation, the tech giant is now actively encouraging developers to tinker with its Kinect hands-free user interface accessory for the XBox 360.

Until now, those hacks have been encouraged for non-commercial purposes only. But the company took things to the next level this week when it announced the Kinect Accelerator, a program for startups who want to build creative uses for the Kinect into their businesses.

Ten winners will enter into the three-month program next spring and set up shop in Seattle. Companies will get a $20,000 investment from TechStars, free office space, access to Microsoft’s BizSpark program, and mentorship and training from Microsoft executives and investors. It also includes the Windows Kinect SDK and XBox development kit, of course.

So what sort of things will developers build with the Kinect SDK? Sky’s the limit, says Microsoft, but it has to have a valid business idea behind it. We’ve already seen quite a few creative hacks, including everything from medical uses such as helping stroke patients to interactive art installations. There are educational applications that put today’s “smart” classrooms to shame, among many other examples.

The finished product must be an application of some kind that runs on either Windows or Xbox, even if it’s an alternate view of an app that also exists in the browser or on mobile devices. It can be for use in education, medicine, industry, entertainment, art or just about any use case developers can dream up.

Given what’s already been done with the Kinect just for fun, it should be interesting to see what kinds of things get built with the support of a startup incubator and Microsoft’s ample resources.

Source: Have a Good Kinect Hack Idea? Microsoft Has $20,000 For You

Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

April 8th, 2011 04:53 admin View Comments

Google has announced that it will be launching a startup incubator in Cape Town, South Africa, called Umbono. The incubator aims to support the local tech ecosystem in South Africa by offering local startups access to seed capital, Google mentorship, and angel investors.

Umbono will focus on web and mobile-based startups building solutions to local problems, which also have regional appeal, in an effort to help them “transform their ideas into companies”, according to Google SA country manager Luke Mckend. Fittingly, “umbono” happens to be the very Zulu word for “vision” or “idea”.

The South African incubator will be structured as a 6-month program, in which 5 startups chosen by Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google representatives will receive a seed investment of $25K to $50K. The teams will also have access to Umbono’s free office space, bandwidth, and a mentorship network of Google experts, ready to advise the startups on issues from “product design and commercialization to legal incorporation and valuation”, Google said of Umbono in its announcement.

Local bandwidth is expensive in Cape Town — so this will likely be very attractive to young tech startups in South Africa. Not to mention the added bonus of $25K.

Umbono’s home city of Cape Town, located on the southwestern shore of South Africa, has for years been attempting to position itself as a hub of innovation and technology in subsaharan Africa. The Cape IT Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing information and communications technology in South Africa, has been lobbying Google (and others) to locate their incubators in Cape Town for some time.

Along with Cape IT, Cape Town is home to Silicon Cape, a similar initiative aimed at fostering tech entrepreneurship in South Africa, as well as veteran incubators, like the highly-regarded, 10-year-old Bandwidth Barn.

South Africa has also produced its fair share of successful (and well-funded) startups, like Yola, a website creator that has raised $25 million, MXit, an instant messaging app with over 27 million subscribers, and Twangoo, Twangoo, a group buying club, which was acquired by Groupon earlier this year — to name a few. And now the country’s startup ecosystem adds another notch to its belt by luring Google’s business development talent to its shores.

When I asked Umbono spokeswoman Julie Taylor about why Google chose South Africa and whether or not it has plans for incubators elsewhere in Africa, she told me that, at this point, Umbono is a pilot project. The incubator will test the African waters, and if the model proves to be viable — and beneficial –Google will look to expand into other emerging markets.

“South Africa is recognized as one of the innovation leaders on the continent, particularly with tech startups,” she said, “so we are enthusiastic about the possibilities here”.

Source: Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

Chile’s Grand Innovation Experiment

December 18th, 2010 12:00 admin View Comments

Regions all over the world have spent millions—sometimes billions—of dollars trying to create their own Silicon Valley. They drank the same Kool-Aid and used the same recipe: start with a research university; build a fancy tech park next to it; give tax breaks to chosen companies to locate in the park; attract venture capital by offering matching investments; and watch the magic happen.

Unfortunately, the magic never happened, anywhere.

All government-sponsored tech-cluster efforts—everywhere in the world—either have failed or are on life support (though some pretend they are not). That’s because they all used the wrong ingredients. It isn’t real estate, universities, or VCs that make innovation happen; it is entrepreneurs. To create a tech center like Silicon Valley, you need to first attract smart entrepreneurs from all over the world. Then you have to create entrepreneurial networks; instill a spirit of risk-taking and openness; and build mentoring systems. You also need to provide seed financing to startups. The money is easy; everything else requires a change in culture that usually takes decades.

But Chile is trying a radical new experiment that I helped conceive, to short-circuit this process. It is importing entrepreneurs from all over the world, by offering them $40,000 to bootstrap in Chile. They get a visa; free office space; assistance with networking, mentoring, fundraising, and connecting to potential customers and partners. All the entrepreneurs have to do, in return, is commit to working hard and live in one of the most beautiful places on this planet.

The program, called Start-Up Chile, is still in the pilot stage. Chile has selected 25 teams to receive grants.  Seventeen of these teams have already moved to Chile’s capital city, Santiago. The program will be officially launched on January 13, 2011. It will then be opened to the next batch of 100 startups. Chile expects to “import†around 1000 startup teams over the next three years. The program is headed by Nicolas Shea, who reports to Chile’s Minister of Economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine.

To review the progress of Start-Up Chile, I travelled to Santiago this week. I came back convinced that Chile has a chance to become the first region in the world that will build a tech center out of nothing at all. And it will achieve this feat for a much smaller investment than other regions have made in efforts that failed.

All of the teams that I met raved about the opportunities they had gained by being in Chile. They told me they have gained valuable time to perfect their technologies before having to raise capital from Angels or VCs; that they’d found Santiago to be a really cheap place to live; and that they benefit by being able to network with each other, are appreciative of the support that the Chilean government is providing by connecting them to local businesses and investors, and enjoy the high quality of life and wonderful scenery and climate. They also find the natives to be very friendly and eager to learn from them.

I thought it best to let these entrepreneurs tell you their stories, themselves.  So I recorded a video and had them collectively edit this. I must warn Chilean men not to watch this. They won’t like what Karina Aguirre (a Chilean who recently joined a Start-Up Chile team) has to say (or not to say) about them.

These are some of the companies featured in the video:

Aeterna Sol. produces modular, cybernetic, and dual-axis tracking systems for solar panels. These improve efficiency by 30%, cut installation costs by 50%, reduce installation time by a factor of ten, and require half of the land of other dual-axis tracking technologies.

Entrustet allows you to make a list of your digital assets (online accounts and computer files) and decide which accounts should be transferred to heirs and which should be deleted when you die.  Entrustet also notifies partner websites when one of its users dies.

H2020 taps the power of collective and artificial intelligence to find new solutions to global water problems.  Think internet-of-things meets crowdsourcing meets state-of-the-art analytics; add in a dash of social entrepreneurism and a team undaunted by the impossible.

CruiseWise is a travel company that is bringing cruise-booking on line. It provides a better user experience than existing cruise exploration and booking options by simplifying a complex product and bringing together information from a variety of sources.

Piehole.ie is an online directory of voiceover talent.  Its slightly irreverent site provides voiceover talent to advertising agencies world wide but is most popular in Dublin and London.

Tripeezy aims to be the ultimate resource for planning independent trips and discovering local culture during your travels abroad.



Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. You can follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa and find his research at www.wadhwa.com.

Source: Chile’s Grand Innovation Experiment

Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Google has announced that it will be launching a startup incubator in Cape Town, South Africa, called Umbono. The incubator aims to support the local tech ecosystem in South Africa by offering local startups access to seed capital, Google mentorship, and angel investors.

Umbono will focus on web and mobile-based startups building solutions to local problems, which also have regional appeal, in an effort to help them “transform their ideas into companies”, according to Google SA country manager Luke Mckend. Fittingly, “umbono” happens to be the very Zulu word for “vision” or “idea”.

The South African incubator will be structured as a 6-month program, in which 5 startups chosen by Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google representatives will receive a seed investment of $25K to $50K. The teams will also have access to Umbono’s free office space, bandwidth, and a mentorship network of Google experts, ready to advise the startups on issues from “product design and commercialization to legal incorporation and valuation”, Google said of Umbono in its announcement.

Local bandwidth is expensive in Cape Town — so this will likely be very attractive to young tech startups in South Africa. Not to mention the added bonus of $25K.

Umbono’s home city of Cape Town, located on the southwestern shore of South Africa, has for years been attempting to position itself as a hub of innovation and technology in subsaharan Africa. The Cape IT Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing information and communications technology in South Africa, has been lobbying Google (and others) to locate their incubators in Cape Town for some time.

Along with Cape IT, Cape Town is home to Silicon Cape, a similar initiative aimed at fostering tech entrepreneurship in South Africa, as well as veteran incubators, like the highly-regarded, 10-year-old Bandwidth Barn.

South Africa has also produced its fair share of successful (and well-funded) startups, like Yola, a website creator that has raised $25 million, MXit, an instant messaging app with over 27 million subscribers, and Twangoo, Twangoo, a group buying club, which was acquired by Groupon earlier this year — to name a few. And now the country’s startup ecosystem adds another notch to its belt by luring Google’s business development talent to its shores.

When I asked Umbono spokeswoman Julie Taylor about why Google chose South Africa and whether or not it has plans for incubators elsewhere in Africa, she told me that, at this point, Umbono is a pilot project. The incubator will test the African waters, and if the model proves to be viable — and beneficial –Google will look to expand into other emerging markets.

“South Africa is recognized as one of the innovation leaders on the continent, particularly with tech startups,” she said, “so we are enthusiastic about the possibilities here”.

Source: Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

YOYOYOOYOYOYO