Troy Knauss focuses on entrepreneurship ecosystem

Photo of Troy Knauss

Troy Knauss speaking to a group of entrepreneurs and investors in Florida.

Photo of Troy Knauss speaking in Greensboro, North Carolina

Troy Knauss concludes an Angel Resource Institute workshop in Greensboro, North Carolina to an audience of local investors and entrepreneurs.

As an accredited investor, Troy Knauss has built a diverse portfolio of angel-only backed deals with some successes, a few failures, and a whole lot of opportunities. In addition to these deals, Knauss has spent time growing companies and volunteering on boards that benefit the entrepreneurial ecosystem. His recent boards include Vice Chairman of the Angel Resource Institute, a spinout of the Kauffman Foundation, the Greensboro Partnership’s Entrepreneurship Connection, The Launch Place, and Wake Forest University’s Advisory Council for the Center of Entrepreneurship. According to Knauss, “There is no greater reward than helping a fellow entrepreneur realize his/her dream. It doesn’t matter if that dream is to simply start a company to build an income or to grow a high-value business with the ability to create major wealth creation when it is sold.” Knauss expects to continue to invest in 4-5 deals per year.

One of his latest ventures is E&I Risk, an insurance company that offers affordable and complete policies to early-stage and startup companies. According to Knauss, “Most insurance agencies don’t understand the inherent risks of a startup and, given that many startups don’t have significant revenue, many insurance agents aren’t willing to put in the time and effort for a low-priced policy. That’s where E&I Risk enters the field. E&I can provide very competitive quotes that include comprehensive coverage needed to protect entrepreneurs and their investors.” Check out E&I Risk. Click here for a quick quote on a Directors & Officers insurance (D&O) policy.

If you are interested in meeting with Troy to discuss your current business or opportunity, visit

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House Leaders to Vote on Crowdfunding, Angel Investing

WASHINGTON—House leaders said they have scheduled votes Tuesday on two more bills that are part of the GOP’s broader initiative aimed at reducing burdens on startups, spurring innovation and creating more U.S. jobs.

The two bills, tied to angel investing and equity crowdfunding, are among more than 20 pieces of legislation rolled out under an “innovation initiative,” announced in April.

A number of the bills in the innovation…

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South Africa Launches New Business Angel Network. Here’s Why …


In South Africa’s environment of high unemployment and low economic growth, private angel investor groups already exist to fund great entrepreneurial ideas and turn them into businesses that create jobs.

Little is known about their efforts.

A new, national nonprofit network of angel investors — a first of its kind — aims to not only stimulate more investment in South African startups, but increase the data available on early stage market players there.

This week’s launch of the South African Business Angel Network (SABAN) is an effort to bridge the gap between the money donated by family and friends at the base of the funding pyramid and the post-revenue, venture-capital stage of funding, according to Ventureburn.

A professional association for the South African early stage investor community, SABAN is part of the Mauritius-based African Business Angel Network (ABAN), a pan-African nonprofit that supports startup around Africa.

The U.S. State Department helped launch ABAN — a “network of networks” — and has supported its activities through Africa, including the launch of SABAN.

Connie Tzioumis, director of global partnerships in the office of the Secretary of State at the U.S. State Department, works to bring entrepreneurs, governments and businesses together in Africa.

“We are committed to economic growth as a path towards prosperity and peace, and successful entrepreneurship is one key aspect of ensuring this,” Tzioumis said, according to Ventureburn. “If there is one thing that the U.S. knows about, it’s how to create partnerships and policies that support entrepreneurship and we want to share that and support growth in Africa.”

Why you should care

Entrepreneurship can solve big problems, and the U.S. government isn’t supporting it enough in its foreign policy, said Steven R. Koltai, author of “Peace through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development” (Brookings Press, 2016).

Entrepreneurship reliably generates jobs. Joblessness — especially among youth or in failing states – is probably one of the most significant root causes of extremism threatening American security today, Koltai said in a guest column in Harvard Business Review.

Firms less than 5 years old have for decades accounted for nearly all net job creation in the U.S., said economists at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a leading U.S. entrepreneurship think tank. In 2007, young enterprises created almost two thirds of the U.S.’s 12 million new jobs.

It is company age, not size, that matters for job creation, and economists at the OECD affirm this across the rich world. Job creation “is driven to a large extent by the entry of new startups as well as higher growth rates of young firms that survive,” Harvard Business Review reported.

In less mature economies and fragile regions of the world, entrepreneurs are just as critical, if not more so, to livelihoods and development, Koltai said.

“Our government has not adequately leveraged this American-as-apple-pie tool in its foreign policy,” he said.

The SA environment for angel investors

Private angel groups and small syndicates do exist in South Africa, but SABAN is the first national nonprofit angel network, according to Venture Capital for Africa (VC4A), a Netherlands-based community of business professionals in 159 countries dedicated to building companies in Africa.

There is little data regarding business angel activity in South Africa, VC4A reported. There’s an estimated 20 to 50 publicly known business angels. SABAN plans to work closely with them and their related investing groups to increase data available on early stage market players in South Africa.

VC4A has identified individuals and organizations supporting the creation of the South African Business Angel Network. These include: Audrey Mothupi (NFBAN Board Member), Craig Mullet, Anthony Farr, Vuyisa Qabaka, Alexandra Fraser, Dean Cannell, David van Dijk, Ben White, Tomi Davies, Llew Claasen, Matsi Modise, Elizabeth Gould, Garreth Bloor, Anthony Record, Christophe Viarnaud, Rebecca Enonchong, Abu Cassim, Candace Johnson and Baybars Altuntas.

Among those supporting SABAN so far are the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, Newtown Partners, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation, Entrepreneur Traction, GBAN, Silicon Cape, SiMODiSA, VC4Africa, Clifftop Colony, Knife Capital, SA Enterprise Development, DEMO Africa, Venture Networks, French Tech Hub, Methys and Jozi Angels. The South African Department of Trade and Industry also showed support.

SABAN’s goals include raising awareness of angel investing; training; networking; research; accreditation; seeding angel groups; lobbying for regulatory improvements; and recognizing angel investors.

South Africa-based entrepreneur Chris Campbell was on the front line of SABAN’s creation. Through his experience pitching and going through funding rounds, he saw the need to make it easier to connect South African entrepreneurs and business angels, according to a report by EBAN, the European trade association for business angels.

Campbell was inspired to get involved personally after attending the EBAN Winter University 2014 in Helsinki, Finland, where he saw what was being done in other countries and that it could help South Africa.

The Finnish Business Angels Network and Lagos Angel Network both provided examples to follow in creating South Africa’s business angel network. At the Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2016 in Medellin, Colombia, several South African stakeholders including Campbell acknowledged that the angel investment ecosystem in their country would be difficult to grow organically unless a catalyst such as a national network was introduced, according to EBAN.

Entrepreneurship and prosperity

The Legatum Institute, when aggregating data from the World Bank, the U.N. and elsewhere to formulate its Prosperity Index, found that of its many indicators, entrepreneurship and opportunity correlate most strongly with a country’s overall prosperity. According to Harvard Business Review:

All this demands consideration as policymakers grope for solutions to the terrifying threats troubling the world today. The cradle of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and extremist ideology – the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region – suffers from the world’s highest youth unemployment rates, rates exceeding 40 percent. It’s such dark economic circumstances that prompt Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto to plead, “The West must learn a simple lesson: economic hope is the only way to win the battle for the constituencies on which terrorist groups feed;” and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman to attribute “disorder” to forces of globalization, not cultural conflict; and Egyptian-American investor Ahmed El Alfi to urge, “We have to give people something to live for, instead of the guys that pitch them something to die for.”

Tomi Davies, a seasoned angel investor, is co-founder of ABAN and the Nigerian Business Angels Network.

“Yes, we have problems,” Davies said in Ventureburn, “especially in the space of education, power and security. But we have something else — a growing middle class with cars and university degrees and a youthful population with energy and drive. The rest of the world is excited about what we can achieve and ready to support us. But first we must support ourselves.”




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Trends in angel investing

“Tell me about your cap table?” I asked the founder of an early-stage startup. He was clearly passionate about his business, and had assembled a top-notch team to help him achieve his ambitious vision.

But the grit and determination that helped him overcome the challenges of his current and former startups seemed to falter a bit as he considered his response. He had a dirty cap table and he knew it.

With some reservation he said, “Our initial angel investors own 60 percent of the company. I have 35 percent and the rest is split up between the team.” He then went on to explain that their aggressive valuation was based on the growth since the last round of angel investment, in which the above-market revenue multiple the angels had chosen set the precedent.

I soon found out that this team had struggled to raise money from the other venture capital firms with which we like to syndicate — because they, too, were dissuaded from the conditions that the angel investors had created: small runway, fragmented cap table, high valuation and little strategic support. He described with some frustration how he felt stuck, and that his “angels” no longer fit the heavenly metaphor; rather, the situation felt more like hell.

Compare and contrast this situation with a scenario that has become familiar because of its frequency within our portfolio of Peak Ventures-backed companies, in which an angel investor known to our team (and often an LP in our fund) introduces us to the founders of a company that he or she has backed (usually at an appropriate valuation for the stage) and we lead the next round.

In this situation, the company has what I think is the best of both worlds: A passionate, helpful angel investor supported by the rocket fuel and capital connections of an institutional investor. The closer angel investors are to institutional funds, the better they can construct the terms of their deals to entice these funds to come onboard.

As I reflected on these experiences, I wondered what was going on in the broader landscape of angel investing. To my delight, I discovered that Willamette University has just released the latest version of their Halo Report, which studies angel investing across the United States. I found some of the trends interesting.

Angel equity has settled around 20 percent

Six years ago, angel rounds diluted founders by 25 percent, on average. Look at the yellow line in the chart below to see that this gently fell over the years to land at 20 percent. What does this mean for entrepreneurs who are aiming for massive growth, but need initial capital to get things started?

Use 20 percent as a benchmark to keep your cap table clean. An angel shouldn’t own a majority of your company unless they come on in a dedicated, operational role. Also, an angel should be worth more than just their money — they should add measurable value to your business.

Angel investors are taking part in bigger rounds

You can see this in the chart above in the size of the blue bars and green dotted lines having a 67 percent growth in just one year. What is even more impressive to me, however, is the chart below, in which you see that the median valuation of angel-level deals is now the highest that the Halo Report has ever tracked.

Reading between the lines, I believe there are two reasons for this:

  • Angels are becoming increasingly comfortable investing alongside institutional investors (and vice versa).
  • Angel groups are rallying together to meet entrepreneurs’ funding needs in capital-starved geographies. So what does this mean for entrepreneurs? Keep your relationships with angel investors strong. They are more than just initial funding, and can be the facilitators of future rounds and growth.

As a data point on angel groups rising in undercapitalized markets, check out the chart below showing the 12 most active angel groups. Notice how many of them are outside the traditional hubs of venture capital.

So do angels make life heaven or hell for entrepreneurs? It seems from market trends that angels are becoming more sophisticated, more organized and more integrated into the capital ecosystem that supports early-stage startups. I think this is a good thing, especially when angel investors are tightly coupled with institutional investors.

Featured Image: Sketchy Bytes/Shutterstock (IMAGE HAS BEEN MODIFIED)

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Evi founder invests in AI startups after $26 million Amazon …

Evi founder William Tunstall-Pedoe in front of a piece of art that was designed by an AI.Sam Shead/Business Insider UK

A Cambridge entrepreneur who sold his company to Amazon is increasing the amount of angel investing he’s doing now he no longer works for the e-commerce giant.

William Tunstall-Pedoe sold Evi Technologies, his voice recognition startup to Amazon in 2012, for an undisclosed amount that TechCrunch reported to be around $26 million (£20 million).

Following the acquisition, Tunstall-Pedoe became part of the Amazon family. However, his investment activities have been somewhat limited over the last four years.

“I did a bit of investment while I was in Amazon but obviously that was constrained by Amazon legal; I had to get permission if it overlapped at all with anything Amazon did and most things overlap with something that Amazon is doing,” Tunstall-Pedoe told Business Insider at his home in Cambridge.

“Since February I’ve been much more active,” he added, saying he’s backed a total of 13 companies, including Magic Pony Technologies, which was acquired by Twitter in June for $150 million (£113 million), and mental health startup Big Health.

The Cambridge computer science graduate, who is currently on a career break, states on investor website Angel List that he’s “primarily interested in advancing the state-of-the-art of what computers can do in a way that has an enormous positive impact globally.”

Tunstall-Pedoe, whose IP sits at the heart of AI assistant Amazon Alexa and the hardware that supports it, Amazon Echo, has also become a fellow at a startup incubator in Canada called the Creative Destruction Lab, where he “might be” making some personal investments.

“They have a very big machine learning track,” he said. “I’m basically going to go to Toronto every couple of months for the next year, immersing myself in many 10s of AI machine learning startups.

“They’ve got this very very capitalist mission which is to maximise the equity value of the companies that pass through them. They’re trying to create hundreds of millions worth of dollars of value but they themselves are non-profit.”

When asked about UK incubators, Tunstall-Pedoe said he’s interested in London-based startup factory Entrepreneur First but that he keeps missing their demo days.

Tunstall-Pedoe said he’s gently thinking about what to do next in his career, adding that it’s quite likely to be another AI startup.

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African Angel Investor Summit returns to Nigeria in November

The third edition of the African Angel Investor Summit will return to Lagos, Nigeria, in November, celebrating the growing angel investing ecosystem across Africa.

The Summit will take place on November 17, organised by a trio-partnership between the African Business Angels Network (ABAN), the Lagos Angel Network (LAN), and VC4Africa.

The theme for this year’s event is still to be announced; but ABAN said the event will once again bring together leading investors and thought-leaders from around the continent.

“We look forward to celebrate the growing angel investing movement across the continent. Angel investors provide capital, business acumen and market access to early stages businesses when the risk of the business failing is still exceptionally high. Angel investors invest their own funds so they are free to absorb as much or as little risk as they would like,” said David van Dijk, ABAN director general.

“ABAN represents a sector that can play a vital role in Africa’s future with the ABAN community members fuelling Africa’s growth through the creation of wealth and jobs.”

Two special guest organisations will also feature at the summit. Ingressive’s Tour of Tech will make an appearance; while a selection of entrepreneurs currently participating in the She Leads Africa accelerator will also be showcased at the Summit.

“We’re really excited to be a partner for the Summit, so we make sure there’s strong representation of female led businesses pitching at the Summit,” said Yasmin Belo-Osagie, co-founder of She Leads Africa.

Disrupt Africa reported last year’s summit focused on the theme of “the African Opportunity: Angel Investing in Africa”, and encouraged the promotion of a culture of angel investing across the continent.

Last year’s event celebrated the one-year anniversary of the formation of ABAN, which was created as a result of the 2014 investor summit.


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Which Type of Financing is Right For Your Startup? The Pros and Cons of Angel Investing

– 2 days ago

Having a great idea for a business is one thing. Getting the financial backing to grow, scale and make it a success is quite another.

Most entrepreneurs approach funding in stages, starting by dipping into their own savings, going cap-in-hand to friends and family, taking advantage of government grants, crowdfunding and potentially seeking angel and venture capital.

The best funding option depends on the business, its track record and growth plans. Some companies stay self-funded forever, while others need the capital injection and expertise from outsiders. Getting the right investment, in the right sums at the right time can often make the different between a startup’s success or failure.

Techvibes has put together a list of common investment options for startups, and pros and cons or each. It will cover the following:

  1. Bootstrapping
  2. Government grants
  3. Angel investing
  4. Crowdfunding
  5. Equity Crowdfunding
  6. Venture Capital


The term “angel” was first associated with funding decades back when, as the story goes, it was used to describe wealthy people who provided financial backing for Broadway theatre productions. Then, in the late 1970s, professor William Wetzel, founder of the Center for Venture Research in the U.S., used the term in a pioneering study on entrepreneurship to describe investors that gave seed capital to startups.

Angel investors remain a godsend for many startup founders to this day. These are private and by law accredited investors who invest their own money into a company in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt. The accredited investor exemption allows startups to raise any amount from qualified investors (see accredited investors link above). “In addition to the accredited investor exemption, there is a separate exemption that is specific to non-arms length relationships (family and friends),” says Yuri NavarroCEO and executive director at the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO). “This means it’s not illegal to take money from your dad if he’s not accredited (love money) but it is to take from someone you met at a party for example.”

Angel investors often include friends and family members or already successful entrepreneurs looking to make a bet on the next generation of startups.

There are also a growing number of angel groups that have become a “fairly well established part of the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem,” according to NACO’s recently released 2015 Report on Angel Investing in Canada. While its impossible to track all angel investment activity in the country, the report says angel groups tracked invested more than $130 million in Canada in 2015, a 48-per-cent increase from 2014.

“The big increase in the amount invested in 2015 was largely accounted for by follow-on investments, which more than doubled over the previous year,” the report says.

Almost every startup relies on an angel at some point in their history. Some continue to use it through various stages of growth. Below are the pros and cons of taking money from angels:


There are a lot of potential angels: An angel investor can be your parents, friends, other entrepreneurs or even complete strangers, if they have the money and meet the qualifications or exemptions (see accreditor investor qualifications and exemptions above) and willingness to back your big idea. Typical angel investments are between $25,000 and $1.5 million, according to

You’ve got backers: If you have an angel investor it means someone else believes in your idea, and is willing to put their own money behind it. That can be very motivating and empowering for entrepreneurs.

“You have capital that is at risk with you,” says Navarro. “This investor is taking a bet on your idea and ability to execute and the team you built. They are in it with you: If you lose, they lose. If you win, they win. There is a very direct incentive.” What’s more, if one or more of your angel investors is an entrepreneur with experience in the trenches, you can benefit from his or her experience and advice.

The money comes quick: When you’re startup you need money now. Angel investors usually invest quickly and provide lump sums that can be used immediately to help grow the business.


They’re hands on, maybe to a fault:  Don’t expect to get money from an angel investor and then never hear from them again. They’ll most likely want to know what you’re doing with the funds overall, including every penny they provided. Many of them will also offer advice on to run the business, even if they’ve never done it themselves. Parents and friends tend to offer a lot of unsolicited advice, too. You’ll see.

They want to see returns, and they’ll take some of yours: Remember, an angel investment isn’t a loan. Those investors want their money back, and then some. Also, because their money gives them a stake in the business, you’ll be providing them a portion of your future net earnings.

It can get personal: There’s a reason why people caution never to do business with family or friends. If money is lost or the business goes sideways, the personal relationship can change forever. Avoiding friends and family may be easier said than done with startups, many of which can’t make it without the initial support and financial backing of loved ones.

But be warned, it can get emotional, says Jonathan Bixby, a serial entrepreneur, active angel investor and startup advisor. He recommends entrepreneurs think it through clearly: “Are you willing to look a friend or family member in the eye and take their money for your startup?” His advice, to keep the peace, especially when it’s in the family: “Never take money in an angel round that someone can’t afford to lose.”


Most startups would never survive without the support of angel investors. But unlike a loan, angel investors are getting a piece of the company and expect a return on their investment. There are also many strings attached, both business and personal. Unlike venture capital, angels are investing their own money, not a pool of someone else’s. Understand what you’re agreeing to with angel money and if you’re business is ready to take it on, use the proceeds wisely.

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Winston-Salem Ranked as Top City to Start a Business

By Staff


Winston-Salem was recently nationally ranked as a “best large city to start a business.” The study was conducted by Wallethub, an online source providing tools and information consumers and small business owners need to make better financial decisions and save money.

In order to help aspiring entrepreneurs — from restaurant owners to high-tech movers and shakers — maximize their chances for long-term prosperity, WalletHub’s analysts compared the relative startup opportunities that exist in the 150 most populated U.S. cities. They did so using 16 key metrics, ranging from businesses’ five-year survival rate to office-space affordability to educational attainment of the local labor force. Winston-Salem came in 11th overall out of 150 cities, and came in 3rd for the highest average growth of number of small businesses.

One of the things that makes this small town with skyscrapers a great place for business is it is a great place to live. Winston-Salem’s cost of living is below the national average. Combine that with the amenities the city offers: a bustling downtown, parks and greenways, live theater, a symphony and opera, the Children’s Museum and SciWorks, RiverRun film festival, Black Theatre Festival, museums like SECCA and Reynolda House, an arts district and Innovation Quarter – and you have a great city with small town appeal.

Being in the right city when starting a business is important for a more reasons than just how nice it is to live there. Chief among these factors is access – to talent, investors, office/manufacturing space, and training. Winston-Salem excels in these areas.

With four colleges/universities and a nationally recognized community college within the city limits, the Camel City is regularly attracting and producing top talent in fields as wide-ranging as medicine to the arts.

Access to funding is supported by a variety of banks, including locally based BBT, providing small business loans, and entrepreneur funds such as the Piedmont Angel Network, providing investment funds.

Winston-Salem has high-quality office spaces all along the spectrum from co-working spaces to single occupancy buildings. There is also manufacturing space available in multiple locations around the city. The city boasts a great arts district with artists studios, and retail facilities downtown and throughout neighborhoods and shopping areas.

In addition to these necessities, there are multiple opportunities for training and mentorship available to entrepreneurs. Flywheel  a co-working space located in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, regularly offers free and low-cost events and trainings for those seeking to start or expand a business. The Small Business Center at Forsyth Tech  offers regular free ongoing business education, including assistance in creating business plans, peer mentors, and clinics. The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship  in Greensboro offers a business incubator as well as SCORE mentoring programs. Winston-Salem Business Inc  provides assistance to businesses desiring to re-locate or start here. The Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce  also provides assistance to entrepreneurs and established businesses, providing research, data, and networking opportunities as well as legislative and policy advocacy on behalf of business.

Allan Younger, Director of the Small Business Center at Forsyth Technical Community College, stresses the importance of both startup and ongoing business education. “All current and prospective small business owners should commit to on-going opportunities to enhance their skills. This is true whether they are considering starting a business, have recently started one, or have been in business for many years.”

If you are thinking of starting a business in Winston-Salem, be sure to click on the links provided above, and check into these upcoming opportunities to access some of the great supports offered to entrepreneurs:

The Small Business Center at Forsyth Tech


A variety of presentation-based educational opportunities. Topics include social media, marketing, starting a business, grant seeking/writing, and more. The expected outcome is the acquisition of business information.


Interactive discussions about a variety of topics such as customer engagement, networking, productivity, business growth, and more. The expected outcome is the acquisition of best practices leading to increased success.


These experiential learning opportunities allow business opportunities to practice their skills regarding presentation, business research, sales, LinkedIn, and more. Clinics are designed for repeated participation. The expected outcome is business skill development.

In addition to our face-to-face opportunities, online training is also offered. HP LIFE (Hewlet Packard Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs) is a free, online training program. HP LIFE is a global program that offers aspiring entrepreneurs and small business-owners valuable business skills. HP LIFE offers participants a path to realizing their business dreams. This program is self-paced, making it possible for more aspiring entrepreneurs to participate. It will help you gain the real-life business and technology skills you need to start or grow your business.

For more information, visit their website HERE to learn about various educational events. It only takes about two minutes to register for the opportunities of your choice.

An example of the events hosted by Flywheel at 525@Vine include:

Idea Tap is one part networking, one part pitch refinement, and a heap of startup support in one event! Presenters are selected in advance and have 5 minutes to pitch their startup. It can be an up-and-running company, the seeds of a someday-company, or an idea for a product—the stages of development are all over the map. With potential partners, investors and clients in the audience it’s a great opportunity to get feedback in a low pressure environment. Light snacks, drinks and great company provided!

Register to attend Idea Tap Tuesday, May 10th, from 5:30-7:30 HERE.
“How to Finance a Startup” featuring Troy Knauss, professor in the Wake Forest entrepreneurship program and one of the most successful investors in the region.

This course will provide an overview of what every founder needs to know about financing options, setting financial milestones and attracting investor capital. Learn how to get your startup investor-ready and what investors expect at seed and later stages of development. You can register for each session separately, or take the whole series at a discounted rate. More Info Registration for these classes in June HERE.

Title III Crowdfunding Crash Course:

What entrepreneurs need to know before startup financing changes forever.

Starting May 16th, small investors will be able to purchase securities from startups through registered crowdfunding portals. This means that startups will have a whole new market of potential investors to woo. However, with this new opportunity comes a slew of new rules and regulations.This is a crash course in what you need to know as a small business owner who may be interested in using this revolutionary new form of financing.

Jon Mayhugh, attorney and clinical fellow with the Wake Forest Community Law and Business Clinic, will present from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday May 11th. This presentation is sponsored by Wake Forest University and the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office. Light snacks and refreshments will be served. This course is free, but please RSVP if you plan on attending. Register to Attend HERE .



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Partnerships Give Students a “Taste of Real Life”

A framed poster hangs near an entrance of Cottrell Hall, showing an eagle spreading its wings alongside a seven-word message as familiar to students as their favorite song.

“Instilling The Entrepreneurial Spirit. It’s In Our DNA.”

Kathy Elliott, the director of HPU’s Belk Entrepreneurship Center, makes sure of that.

She brings in entrepreneurs and local business people to work with students and speak to classes and members of the school’s Entrepreneurship Club. These professionals are part of Elliott’s large network of contacts, and they unveil to students timeless lessons about leadership, networking and career growth.

Elliott has a phrase for this ongoing partnership: “a taste of real life.”

Students hear about success and failure, unfulfilled risks and fulfilled dreams. They get pointers on what angel investors look for and how an entrepreneurial future will be.

Next spring, Elliott will launch a YouTube channel that will showcase the online presentations students have produced for her classes. The presentations become a part of a student’s portfolio and a point of pride for anyone to see.

Meanwhile, in the fall and spring, students participate in two events that can earn them start-up money for their potential businesses. They go before a panel of judges to pitch their idea. If they win, they get money. But students pocket something better than cash.


“This real world influence helps students see and dream that anything is possible,” Elliott says. “Think about it. Enough young entrepreneurs have heard enough people say, ‘Really?’ But when, when they meet people like Troy, they hear people say, ‘Really!’”

That’s Troy Knauss, a local angel investor who has 45 companies in his portfolio. He’s an adjunct professor at Wake Forest University, and he visits at least 15 colleges and universities throughout the Southeast to talk to students about his work.

High Point University is one. He has spoken to classes, acted as a judge in contests and has helped student entrepreneurs fine-tune their ideas.

Knauss says he has been impressed with what he has seen.

He loves that HPU offers majors in sales and entrepreneurship because he believes it’ll help students navigate the ever-changing world of business. But he also loves what he finds beyond the classroom and the contests.

He discovers students who are a lot like him.

They come from families who have started and run businesses, and he knows how they were raised — sitting with family, absorbing what they hear and figuring out how ideas take root and grow.

Knauss learned that from his paternal grandfather. He called Donald Knauss Grandpop.

When he turned 18, Knauss received a gift from his grandfather. His grandfather gave him money and told him to invest in businesses to find out firsthand how deals are done, how trust is earned and how people can work together.

So, like the framed poster in Cottrell, Knauss knows the entrepreneurial spirit is part of his DNA – as well as the students he meets at HPU.

Winners of the 2015 Elevator Pitch Competition

“A lot of kids at High Point have that same ability, and like me, they sat at the dinner table and heard their parents talk about it,” says Knauss, a married father of two in his mid-40s. “But they don’t know they have it. But then, they walk into a classroom, and they remember. High Point brings it out in them.”

Gary Simon sees that.

He’s a third-generation jeweler who has run a business in High Point since 1988. In 2009, he started the Business Accelerator Fund at HPU to support a contest in which judges give students money for the best two-minute business pitches.

Simon is one of the four judges, and he likens the Elevator Pitch Competition to a kinder, gentler version of the popular ABC show, “Shark Tank.”

“There is no better soil for an entrepreneur to grow than what you find at High Point University,” says Simon.

Two weeks ago on a Monday night, inside the ballroom at Cottrell Hall, Elliott stood in the back and watched 40 student entrepreneurs she knows well receive a first from the university: a pin.

The pin, which honors their hard work and accomplishments, has a rising star on a dark-blue backdrop with three words: Ready for Success.

Kathy Elliott, director of the Belk Entrepreneurship Center

Following the ceremony, Elliott sat four rows back as yet another entrepreneur – High Point interior designer Jason Oliver Nixon – came to campus to give tips to students and talk about his professional journey.

Nixon’s talk reminds Elliott of the first-floor poster she loves02 inside Cottrell. It’s not the one with a flying eagle. It’s the other one on the first floor, one that references a phrase HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein says often.

“You cannot be a job taker,” Qubein tells students. “You have to be a job creator.”

Elliott does love that idea.

“In essence, the students I see have this sense of responsibility, this feeling of ‘This world is mine,’” Elliott says. “Students here embrace that. So, I find myself not only working with students, but I’m working with the next generation of business ideas, and it makes me feel like I’m part of the future.

“They are thinking of the next cool thing. Heck, I don’t know what the next cool thing will be, but when I watch them, I know something cool will come about. That leaves me speechless.”

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Launch Place announces 10th local investment with telematics device

A company that is creating a telematics device will alert car owners — and their service providers — when their vehicles need servicing.

Troy Knauss, chairman of the board of the Launch Place, said CAARMO will connect vehicle owners with their service providers when diagnostics show a potential problem, allowing vehicle owners to make necessary repairs before the vehicles actually break down.

The Launch Place announced Wednesday it is investing $50,000 in the business that will make Danville home to company headquarters. The announcement marks the 10th investment The Launch Place has made in the last two and a half years.

Vinay Raman, founder and CEO of CAARMO, said he was traveling with his father several years ago when their car broke down on the Delaware Memorial Bridge during Memorial Day weekend.

“The car was well maintained; we paid to keep our vehicles in good condition,” Vinay said of the frustrating, unexpected experience that brought traffic to a crawl and earned him very unfriendly comments from drivers trying to get around them.

The weekend was ruined for his family, all over a $10 part, Vinay said.

Vinay said he and some friends got together and compared their vehicle breakdown experiences, then started brainstorming about how such experiences could be avoided.

The goal with CAARMO is to set up a program that would install a chip in vehicles that would give both the owner and service provider up-to-date diagnostics that would signal the need for maintenance to take place before a part or system failed completely.

CAARMO’s plan is for service providers — car dealers, franchises and independent service providers — to install the chip and sign people up for the admittedly top-shelf service, Raman said, while CAARMO would provide the data and programming to make the chip work.

Raman said he is pleased with the business atmosphere in Danville and appreciated the help his company can get from the Launch Place. He has agreed to make Danville headquarters for the company and to hire two people in the next 12 months, then at least three more in the following two years.

If he meets all of the goals laid out and the product meets expectations, CAARMO could be eligible in an additional investment of up to $200,000 from the Launch place.

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Inside Intel’s Progress On Its Bold Diversity Goals

Tech giants in Silicon Valley are known for pursuing big ideas, changing the world through technology and, unfortunately, a fairly extreme lack of diversity.

But at least one company is taking proactive steps in addressing the problem. In January 2015, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich made a bold pledge at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, allocating $300 million to increase diversity within the company and the tech industry at large.

Eighteen months later, the company is making progress on many of its initiatives, while others will require more attention in order to reach the company’s goal of having a workforce that is representative of the U.S.’s working population by 2020.

Intel’s Diversity Progress Report

In the company’s mid-year diversity report, published today, female hires are down slightly from December 2015, from 35.1% to 34.1%. However, 25.4% of Intel employees are female, representing a new record for the company. Underrepresented minority hiring also increased this year, from 11.8% in 2015 to 13.1% in 2016.

“Our mid-year checkpoint shows that we’ve got more work to do,” says Danielle Brown, Intel’s ‎chief diversity and inclusion officer. “This year we have set the goal of 45% diverse [female and underrepresented minority] hires, and we’re not quite there yet, at 43.4%.”

Brown adds that the company is also striving for equal representation among the leadership ranks, as well as equal pay for equal work. Female leadership at the VP level or above grew from 17.6% in December 2015 to 18.7% today, with women representing 42.9% of new leadership hires. Underrepresented minority leadership roles also increased from 6.3% to 6.9% during that time.

“In our last report we did an analysis of gender pay parity, and found that our gender pay parity was at 100%,” says Brown. “Not only have we maintained that gender pay parity at 100%, but we disclosed our numbers across race and ethnicity, and found that we achieved 99% pay equity between our counterpart majority employees and our under-presented minorities, and we have committed to closing that gap and reaching 100% pay parity by the end of the year.”

Tackling The Retention Problem

This past February, as Intel was ushering in a wave of new diversity hires, Fast Company reported that many weren’t sticking around.

African-American workers had a higher exit rate than the rest of the staff, and though the company had recently hired 11 Native American employees, 19 had left the previous year. Brown explains that many of the departures were part of a global restructuring effort that refocused the company on cloud and mobile technologies, but in the first half of 2016, 47 Native American employees, 607 Hispanic employees, and 261 African-American employees left the company, representing a combined 12.3% of the company’s total exits this year. As a point of comparison, 4,590 white employees and 1,552 Asian-American employees left the company during that same period.

“To counter this, we are increasing our rigor and focus on retention and progression of our diverse employees and in 2016, launched programs including a Retention WarmLine to provide additional guidance and counsel to employees who are seeking support and development, or feeling frustrated with the challenges they are facing,” said Brown. “We also completed a Multicultural Progression and Retention study of 15,000 employees that explored the barriers to retaining and progressing our diverse talent. A great deal of work needs to be done inside Intel as well as the broader tech industry to cultivate a fully inclusive environment that welcomes and embraces a broad set of perspectives.”

The Business Case For More Diversity In The Workplace

While Intel has been making incredible strides toward gender and racial equality within its workplace, Brown says there has been some criticism by those who believe that companies should hire the best and brightest, without considering race, gender, or ethnicity.

“I wholly reject the notion that hiring a more diverse workforce means that in any way you’re compromising your standards,” she says. “Not only can you hire an amazingly diverse workforce into the tech industry, but when you hire that amazingly diverse workforce, you find wonderful, well-qualified people.”

Furthermore, as Intel transitions from a PC-centric company toward a broader focus on cloud technologies and smart devices, Brown believes a more diverse workforce will prove advantageous in reaching new markets.

“As we’re entering new markets, calling on new customers, creating new products, we want to make sure our workforce is representative of the consumers that we serve,” she says. “We truly believe that will lead to more growth, more innovation, and better results. Not only is it the right thing to do, but we believe it’s good business.”

In fact, Intel recently commissioned a study called Decoding Diversity, which attempts to quantify the benefits of a more inclusive workforce. The study concludes that diversity leads to higher revenues, profits, and market value.

“In this report, it said that improving ethnic and gender diversity in the U.S. technology workforce could create between $470 billion and $570 billion in new value to the industry, and could add as much as 1.2 to 1.6 percentage points to the national GDP,” explains Brown.

External Initiatives

While Intel has made incredible strides towards diversity within its own workforce it hasn’t stopped there. A number of external programs are helping the company improve the talent pipeline for underrepresented minorities and women in the tech industry, while investing in minority-owned businesses and pursuing a more diverse supplier network.

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