Creative background noise with Coffitivity

CoffitivityFor those working too hard or too late to make it to your local coffee shop, Coffitivity may be just the trick to keep the creative juices flowing. 

Coffitivity.com is a virtual environment provider centered around a recent academic study that determined different spaces have specific properties to improve and enhance creative cognition. Theses great creative work environments typically have a volume of about 70 decibels of constant ambient sound. The best example of such a place: a coffee shop.

Thanks to Lisa Harris at Lisa Harris Pantry for sending this my way.

Venture Hunt LI now on Amazon

Amazon StoreWe are always being asked what the best resources are for forming a startup and raising capital. While many resources are less tangible such as introductions, events and blogs, there are some core educational tools that can really give your startup efforts a boost.

To keep the process simple we have created our own Amazon affiliate store, which will feature a curated collection of products that make startup life a little easier and more fun.

We are kicking off our new store with 2 of best books we have come across in the last year on making introductions and pitching your company to investors (Pitching Hacks By Venture Hacks) and going through the process of raising capital with Venture Capitalists (Venture Deals By Brad Feld, Jason Mendelson)

Social Media Design Cheat Sheet [INFOGRAPHIC] by imFORZA

imforzaAfter you’ve put enough time into your first product development cycle and it is time to start generating buzz and building your tribe, social media is a box that needs to be checked off. One of the biggest pains is getting all your social media art work to fit correctly into various layouts of Facebook, twitter, google + (the biggest pain), etc.

imFORZA has created this great infographic to help you out. You should also check them out for their other services, because if they’re willing to put this much effort into giving back, just think about how much value you get when you’re a client 🙂

I just used their cheat sheet to get 3 of my project’s social media graphics in order (including Venture Hunt LI)  and all the numbers were spot on.

 

 

Creating A Slightly More Tangible Virtual Product

Box Shot 3DIf you are looking to add a little bit of tangible value to your software, or yet to be created retail product, Box Shot 3D can make a real impression on investors and prospective customers.

Simply put this windows and mac application will convert a few images into a 3D rendered image to represent what you would see on a retail shelf. Most importantly no 3D graphic designer experience required. 

You can create many 3D boxes including.

  • Software Boxes
  • Ebook Covers
  • CD & DVD Boxes
  • Reports & Binders
  • Images & Cards
  • Brochures
  • Bottles & Cans

To create your your own 3D box art  go to Box Shot 3D.

CrunchBase – The Tech Startup Database

CrunchBaseCrunchBase is the free database of technology companies, people, and investors that anyone can edit. It is managed very similarly to Wikipedia by crowd sourcing knowledge and fact checking on all things related to tech startups and the people who fund them.

Aside form drooling over page after page of the latest startups to receive a round of funding, there is plenty of useful things you can do with CrunchBase to increase your chances of getting on their list.

Gauge Valuation Trends

Because you can search by industry and round level, you can start to get an idea of what similar firms to yours are able to raise at certain stages of development.

Find Investors

Part of raising capital is finding investors that believe in the macro and micro forces that are driving the market demand for your company’s offerings and not just the numbers. This means you are far more likely to raise capital from investors that have invested at least once and preferably multiple time in the same industry as your venture is in. CrunchBase can help you smoke out these believers. 

Source Talent

Need a top engineer from Twitter or a financial whiz from Google. Well, you can find out who just left organizations like these or even one of your competitors (wink wink) and you might just be able to seduce them to join your startup. 

Competitive Research

There are competitors springing up in your market all the time. With CruchBase you can track competitors and find new ones with their built in notification services. It gives new meaning to the quote “Only the paranoid survive.”

Below is example of the power of CrunchBase.

Seeing Is Believing – Using wireframes to save time, money and even seduce a technical cofounder

SwordSoft Wireframe Youtube
A wireframe of Youtube using SwordSoft Layout

We’v all heard the campfire stories of businesses being funded based on a sketch on napkin, but when the occasion calls for more than a sketch to convey the power of your new web application, mobile app or any device with an interface, wireframing does the trick.

Wireframes allow you to storyboard your application without needing the skill of a coder or the eye of a designer by allowing you draw basic elements that represents the skeletal framework of an application.  The wireframe usually lacks fancy font types, refined color pallets or any life-like graphics for that matter. This forces both the creator and audience to focus on the functionality and priority of the content displayed on the various screens throughout the application.

Wireframes can be as simple as a collection of drawings on graph paper or as complex as fully CSSed website minus the database connection. I personally found a happy medium with an application called SwordSoft Layout (available for Mac and PC).

By keeping things digital it allows you to quickly replicate screens so you only have to change a few elements each time to build out the application. The real party piece of SwordSoft Layout however is the ability to activate any element (buttons, pictures, links, etc.) so that when clicked on, it takes the user to the next appropriate wireframe. THIS IS HUGE!!! for replicating the usability and user experience of the app before a line of code is even written.

This is also why I highly recommend SwordSoft Layout over Microsoft Powerpoint or Apple’s Keynote because those applications are really only good for linear presentations. Wireframes at their best can transform skeptics into believers and at their worst, open the door to brutal feedback. Both outcomes are great in my opinion. So let’s recap and tie this back into the original hook of this post. 

Wireframing Saves Time

  • Developers spend more time asking the tough questions, not on fluff 
  • The time before getting quick feedback from friends and advisors is close to zero (you can do this in a weekend)
  • Wireframe allow you to show a visual aid for investors to “get it”, instead of just blabbering on

Wireframing Saves Money

  • You’ve cut 25 to 50% of the development cost in miss communication overruns
  • You can do it in your spare time without relying on costly professional help
  • You can do it for free with a pen & paper or my preferred SwordSoft Layout app
  • You’ll be able to see if it worth moving forward with your idea or pull the plug before your put serious cash into the project
Wireframing Can Seduce A Technical Cofounder
 
There are countless ways for those without the technical skills to make their technical idea work. Most fall into 2 camps: focus on how to become that technical person (learn to code) or acquire a team with the necessary skills (raise money to hire someone or bring on a technical cofounder).
 
Being a semi-technical guy, wireframing helps in the discussions dealing with hired guns or evaluating taking the plunge with a technical cofounder. By having wireframes in your pocket you instantly have more street credit with coders and can get down to the business of fleshing out the next steps. More importantly the talent you are trying to seduce knows that while you may not be able to speak fluent code, you know how to communicate on technical-ish level. That is usually enough to hook them for an initial meeting.
 
Recommended Tools
 

 

Post any questions below and I’ll get right back to you. I’m especially interested in other people’s favorite apps/methods for wireframing.

Google Patent Search

Broom Machine Patent - Long Island New York
Broom Machine - Patent Number: 2323420 - Jul 6, 1943 - Long Island, New York

If you’ve been involved in projects that have included patent work, you know it can be quite costly and time consuming. Depending on where you are in the process of your venture, you may be searching, filing, waiting, reworking, owning or protecting (suing or being sued). All of which cost money.

Back in 2006 Google stepped in to make at least the searching of patents much less intimidating, and true to form, it’s called Google Patents

Everything in the database is pulled  from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and covers the full collection of issued patents and millions of patent applications issued in the 1790s through the present. 

Patent searches from the pros typically cost $500 – $1500 and what you should be getting for the money is their expert eye of knowing if similar looking patents are really similar and what really constitutes a uniquely patentable product or function. Look to Google Patents simply to get a feel for competing or similar patents for free.

Most importantly don’t get down on yourself and throw in towel if you see something close to what you are doing. Again, the real pros can advise you on your options in both actual design and description changes to be unique enough to file, or how to work with patent holders to obtain the proper license to use the existing patent.

Learn more about Google Patents >

Search Google Patents >

 

The Deck

Venture Hunt Investor Deck Template v3

We’ve all heard the stories of deals being done based on ideas sketched on a napkin, or a chance meeting that leads to a million dollar round of funding.  They make for great entrepreneurial campfire stories, but the reality is that such deals maybe make up 1% of the funded deals which would  be 1% of 1% of pitched deals (probably worse odds than this).

Moreover, if you look who was involved in the deals, it usually involves seasoned entrepreneurs, industry insiders and an already warm introduction or existing relationship.

So if you think of yourself as the 1% of the 1% you don’t need this deck. For the rest of you, what this Investor Deck template provides is a simple yet comprehensive way to organize the necessary information to have an intelligent conversation with a prospective investor. Here on Long Island most intro meetings go down at a diner which usually buys you an hour, but in NYC you have 15 to 30 mins and you can’t afford to blabber for 20 mins on one point.

Whether you plan to pitch at formal capital forums, with individual investors or your first friends and family round, everything you need to cover to make a solid first impression is included…

  • Cover Page
  • Introduction
  • Management
  • Market
  • Solution
  • Business Model
  • Customers
  • Building Market Share
  • Strategic Relationships
  • Competition
  • Barriers to Entry
  • Financials
  • Use of Proceeds
  • Milestones
  • Funding

Don’t think I skimped out and just provided a bunch of slides with titles either. Each slide is broken down into key items that should be covered on each slide. 

Some of you may find this template constrained and others liberating. Regardless, this format forces you to cover your ass on the basics. Also keep in mind in the less formal settings where you are presenting to one group or an individual they will most likely want to skip around to focus on their concerns. You may never hit every slide, infact you may spend an entire meeting on just one issue. Almost every issue they can come up with is related to one of these slides, so at the very least you’ll have some information to work with.

I will be going in-depth on each slide on later posts, but the last point I’d like to make is that if you can’t fill out all the slides with sound reasoning, you are not ready to solicit investors. Now I’m not saying every aspect of your business has to be 100% perfect, but if you don’t have the answers to get  past the 1st meeting you will not get to the second meeting and raising capital takes lots of meetings.

So if you’re struggling to organize your pitch or you know someone who could use some help download the deck.

Like any template, there is always room for improvement. Drop a line with any comments or questions.