Troy Knauss Photo
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

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (File Photo/Microsoft.)
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. (File Photo/Microsoft)

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been quietly working on a project that he describes as a “10-K for government,” a reference to the annual filing that public companies make with the Securities Exchange Commission, chock-full of data for investors to evaluate the performance of businesses.

ballmercoverBallmer’s interest in applying the same approach to government is one of the tidbits in a great interview by Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff with the excitable L.A. Clippers owner, optimistic Twitter investor, and rabble-rousing Microsoft shareholder. Ballmer dishes on his life as an NBA owner, his relationship with Mark Cuban, his thoughts on what Satya Nadella is doing with Microsoft, his belief in Twitter’s potential, his interest in angel investing, stake in a sports-tech company, his post-Microsoft life, and more.

Asked by Rosoff about the “10-K for government” idea, Ballmer says he has been working on the project almost since the time he left Microsoft, first on his own and now with a group of people, and they’re developing a website with additional data.

“It’s mostly an exercise that I find might be thought-provoking,” he says in the interview. “Right now I’m pretty fired up and there’s some interesting stuff in there.”

“It actually turns out to be much harder to really understand government across state local and federal.  … But if you were CEO for a day at the government, would you have tools and reports and wherewithal to look at government the way a business would look at its lines of business, its spending, its revenue?”

Ballmer stops short of calling the project a startup or a company, noting that it doesn’t have a name. However, a quick check of Washington state corporations filings shows an LLC under his name called “PolPat,” first registered in November 2014, with a mailing address in Bellevue, Wash. One former Microsoft corporate finance executive, Brandt Vaughan, lists himself as CFO of that organization on his LinkedIn profile.

Read the full Business Insider interview with Ballmer.

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Steve Ballmer TBI Interview illustrationMike Nudelman / Business Insider

Steve Ballmer stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft two years ago, handing over the reins to Satya Nadella.

Microsoft has made some notable changes since his departure, in practice and rhetoric, including an enthusiastic embrace of cloud computing and a more cooperative stance toward computing platforms from other companies. The market seems to like the change: The stock price has gone up around 40% in the last two years even as earnings have stayed relatively flat.

Ballmer, meanwhile, has carved a new life for himself as the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, where he shows his enthusiasm from the sidelines at many home and away games.

We caught up with Ballmer to ask him about his life after Microsoft and his thoughts on technology and the game of hoops.

Matt Rosoff: How’s life? Are you adjusting to not working insane hours at a high-stress job anymore?

Steve Ballmer: I loved every minute of my time at Microsoft, but I had always envisioned having another phase of life just because I thought that would be interesting. It had never been my plan to work until I literally didn’t want to do anything and then hang it up. For me, and certainly — yes, the time is less.

But the No. 1 thing is that life is just not as interrupt-driven as when you’re running a company. When you’re running a company, you have employees — lots of them — that can interrupt your schedule. You have customers that can interrupt your schedule. You have a certain obligation to wave the flag because people expect to get out and wave the flag. The number of ways that others can command your time is high. At this stage, I get to pick and choose a little more. Not that there aren’t some things that have to be done, but I get a little more control over my time.

I’ve found three or four things that are quite interesting to me that I’m focused on. That’s been fun.

The Clippers is obviously one of them.

I’ve been doing lot of work, and hopefully will bring it to fruition in a way people can see it, really understanding — this is going to sound funny, but what does government really do, how is it really funded, and what measures exist to evaluate how it does at what it does? No forecast, no policy, no prediction, just a realistic perspective on what is. Call it like a “10k for government” we’ve been working on with a website, with additional data.

Rosoff: What’s that called?

Ballmer: It doesn’t have a name; we’re kind of working away on it. It actually turns out to be much harder to really understand government across state local and federal. It’s a little harder to understand, and the ability to understand it in a way I would want to … “There’s no CEO for the government.” But if you were CEO for a day at the government, would you have tools and reports and wherewithal to look at government the way a business would look at its lines of business, its spending, its revenue? I’ve actually been working, first by myself and then with a group of people, on then on and off, and now much more on, almost since the I time left Microsoft.

It’s mostly an exercise that I find might be thought-provoking. Right now I’m pretty fired up and there’s some interesting stuff in there.

Steve_Ballmer_Basic Ballmer BioBI

Third, my wife spent a lot of time on what we do from a civic contribution giving perspective, for a number of years, I’ve really joined her in that. We’re focused on issues in the United States, particularly issues with people who have been trapped in neighborhoods in what I might call intergenerational poverty. It’s not clear what kind of real contribution we can and should make, but we’ve been spending a lot of time focused in on it and it builds off work my wife has done, particularly focused in on child welfare.

Last but not least, I’m a shareholder in Microsoft Corp. of some size, and while I don’t work for the place anymore, I think a lot about that investment, how — as an outsider — might I add value or not add value? Do I believe that things are headed in a good direction? So I wouldn’t say I spend the majority of my time on that, but I spend some time on that as well.

Rosoff: What’s your relationship like with Microsoft today? Do you talk to new CEO Satya Nadella or Bill Gates often, or are you truly checked out?

Ballmer: First of all, I’m not an insider. I’m not on the board. I’m an outsider. That implies a certain kind of separation … because the company can’t, without an appropriate nondisclosure and trading rules, share confidential data with me that it would not share with any other shareholder. You could say that implies a certain kind of separation.

I talk every quarter to the CFO. I meet with Satya what probably amounts to four or five times a year — either to brainstorm something or just as a shareholder, we’ll sit down and chat. That’s always quite helpful for me and hopefully him in terms of thinking things through. I still have a number of friends and colleagues who occasionally want to brainstorm or chat about something, and that’s always fun.

bill gates steve ballmer and satya nadella greet microsoft employeesMicrosoftBill Gates, Satya Nadella, and Steve Ballmer talk to employees on the day Nadella was named CEO.

But I can’t say I’m checked out because I do spend lot of time thinking about the place as an investment. And at the same time I’m not an insider or board member who’s trying every day to hold the management team directly accountable and/or input into product strategy. I feel free to interject the things I can see from my vantage point. Certainly I’m not shy about sharing those.

Rosoff: Can you share some of those things? What do you think about the state of the company today? It looks like it’s doing pretty well. They had a solid last earnings report. The stock went up about 5% after that.

Ballmer: Since I’m not a seller of the stock, I don’t really care what it is today. In many ways I think the company’s doing quite a good job. If you look at the transition to Office 365 we started when I was there, I’m excited about that and I think the company’s doing a great job on that.

When you take a look at the transition from server software to Azure, what’s going on in terms of cloud infrastructure, the company is absolutely the No. 1 company serving enterprise backbone needs, which is fantastic. It’s making the migration to cloud. We started a good thing with Azure, and the company has made well more than two years of progress in terms of being able to compete with the right cost profile, margin structure, and innovation versus Amazon.

There’s still a lot to do on that. It’s not like the company rides the same momentum. I think the company in terms of the investments it’s making in evangelizing those products, supporting those products technically, I think it’s really doing a good job. That’s a big challenge. Amazon has also done a very nice job with AWS. In some senses it’s part of the nomenclature now, particularly in the startup community even more than in the enterprise community. I see that in some of the startups I’ve been involved with just in the sports arena.

Steve_Ballmer_Microsoft since BallmerBI

From a client perspective, I really think the work Microsoft’s doing with Surface, with HoloLens, with Xbox, that stuff’s absolutely essential to the company’s future. Because innovation in the future will either be from the cloud out to all devices, or from devices as supported by software in the cloud. I think it’s important for Microsoft to participate both ways. I think you see that with the work the company’s pioneering with Surface, even more so with HoloLens and Xbox.

In terms of the public positioning of the company, Satya’s done a very good job. He sort of pivoted in a way that I don’t think would have been possible for me to do even if I’d seen it that way, to really talk about this mobile-first, cloud-first world. He’s right. You might say it’s obvious, but it was an important perception point. I think he’s done a brilliant job on that, which is outstanding.

I love the fact that he’s checked the checkbox for cross-platform for a number of our services. I still think it’s very important to do the right kind of innovative integration across Windows and our hardware platforms with our cloud services. I think the company’s doing a lot of good stuff. Real competition in AWS. Real competition in terms of the clients, particularly from a hardware perspective, there’s also [competition] from Chrome. But all in all pretty good.

As a shareholder I have expressed my frustration with not getting more information about revenue and margins from the cloud.

And the company really has to chart a direction in mobile devices. Because if you’re going to be mobile-first, cloud-first you really do need to have a sense of what you’re doing in mobile devices. I had put the company on a path. The board as I was leaving took the company on a path by buying Nokia, they kind of went ahead with that after I told them I was going to go. The company, between me and the board, had taken that sort of view. Satya, he’s certainly changed that. He needs to have a clear path forward. But I’m sure he’ll get there.

Rosoff: You invested in Twitter. What’s the potential there? They’re kind of at a low point there in terms of the stock, they have a new CEO. Why do you like Twitter?

Ballmer: If you look at companies with upside potential, Twitter’s right there. They’ve established a brand in a world where it’s extremely difficult to establish a brand. It’s a global brand, people recognize it, people want to let you know what their Twitter handles are, etc.

steve ballmer twitterTwitter

No. 2, I think there are lots of opportunities to improve the product. When you read the press, people say, “Oh, the product needs improvement.” I look at that and say, “Hey, that’s an exciting thing to get behind!” Because they can improve that product. That leaves more upside from an innovation and revenue potential than you’re gonna find in [a] lot of places. So you could say that’s a downside, I see that as an opportunity.

No. 3, … you look at the cost structure, Jack’s already started taking some steps. The cost structure probably does have opportunities to be improved, both in terms of the cost of running the services, and the number of headcount it takes to build them and market them.

So I see a lot of upside of the power of very important service with a very good brand. They have had a bit of a tough run from a stock-price perspective, but over the longer run, I think they’ll continue to be a great company. I think they’ll improve what they’re doing, and I’m pleased to be a shareholder.

Rosoff: A lot of folks when they step down from running a company do some angel investing. Are you doing much of that? What are you seeing out there?

Ballmer: In general, I’m pretty busy with the other things I charted … I bought a piece of a sports-tech company. We do a lot of work with at the Clippers. I think that’ll be great. We’re really looking at the possibility of extending and building a real over-the-top distribution channel with value-added services for the Clippers, that could lead to other partnerships and investments. But most of the stuff I’m looking at isn’t because I say, “Hey, I want to invest.” It sort of comes around from the work we’re doing with the Clippers.

Rosoff: You’re a math guy. You were a math major at Harvard. How are you applying that to the Clippers? Are you trying to apply rigorous data analysis to make the team better? Is it possible to take a sabermetrics kind of approach to the NBA?

Steve_Ballmer_4 big projects todayBI

Ballmer: The level of analytics support in basketball is super high already. We have very good people using the data.

If you want to know statistically every pick and roll — you know there’s 12 kinds of pick and roll? So every pick and roll involving LeBron James and Kevin Love of a given type against a given kind of opponent with a given defense and what the expected score rate was, that’s a query we can pose. And if you want to see video of every one of those pick and rolls, boom, that can be drawn up.

The company I invested in is probably a leader in that area. They’re a company called Second Spectrum, which happens to be based in LA but was started by two USC computer-science professors. It’s filled with guys who love sports, who played sports, but really look like programmers.

Every NBA arena has six cameras in the ceiling. The question is what does the software do with video feeds? How to surface that in a set of analytics? There are some “playbooks,” but in most sports these days what you really want to share out with coaches and players is a set of video that lets you visualize what’s going on and what’s the best way to do things. So you sync the video, the software can process the video feed, and the software can learn. It can learn, “Ah, that’s this kind of pick and roll.” Doing that work, it’ll become more automated, it’ll become more real-time, all of which will be valuable, both in terms of the analytics function, but also in terms of changing the viewer experience for a sports event.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer poses for a portrait in Culver City, Los Angeles, California September 24, 2014.   REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson Thomson ReutersBallmer is a fairly active owner with the Clippers.

There’s a huge crowd out there that basically will go nuts recommending to every coach on the planet, “Hey, coach, I’ve been playing with the analytics. I think you should do X, Y, and Z.”

That said, analytics only goes so far. Basketball, more than baseball, for example, is really a team sport. Baseball is a set of individuals doing their thing in the same team, but it’s much more individual. In basketball people are making real time decisions about who gets the ball, do we trust everybody out on the court, and the analytics certainly don’t show you all those subtle dynamics, but they’re very important.

Rosoff: It also seems like there are a few types of players that can’t be analyzed, like, say, Steph Curry this year. How do you beat him?

Ballmer: Well, a couple guys have beaten him. If you look at who played him really well, we happened to lose both games, but we were ahead in the last few minutes both times in Golden State and in LA. You could fairly argue he played them better than anyone in the league. With Blake [Irving] in the lineup — that’s important, and he’s out right now. A lot of people say they’re unbeatable. I’d say, hey, we’re the guys who can beat them. Whether we will or not, that’s why they play games.

It is interesting to note, the last time they got beat in the playoffs, we beat them. That was two years ago, but the last playoff series they lost, they lost to us. Also, it’s interesting to note, the last playoff series the [San Antonio] Spurs lost they lost to us. So we’re certainly an elite team. I’m not taking anything away from either team. They’re great teams with great players.

Rosoff: Talk to me about your relationship with Clippers coach Doc Rivers. Is it like working with a manager at Microsoft? Are you more or less involved?

Ballmer: I’d characterize it as similar, but a step more remote.

[At Microsoft] I had many years of experience and history and seeing connections. With my direct reports, the job at Microsoft was to delegate and then be able to properly review, but not to micromanage. To have a way of connecting and integrating without getting in the way. At the same time, I had a broader perspective, I could help put things in context, and had a lot of experience.

I don’t have a lot of experience running basketball teams, and frankly Doc sees the whole playing field in terms of what players are available, how they might play together, certainly the way to architect how the team plays, what kind of style we play, what kind of plays we run. I won’t say I’m in the middle of any of that. I’m just trying to get smart enough even to understand everything going on. As much of a fan as I am, I haven’t played the game since ninth-grade. If you told me when I bought the team that there were 12 kinds of pick and rolls, I would’ve told you I have no frickin’ clue about that.

If you told me when I bought the team that there were 12 kinds of pick and rolls, I would’ve told you I have no frickin’ clue about that.

Rosoff: Do you have any particular rivalry with Mark Cuban, given your mutual tech backgrounds?

Ballmer: Not with Mark. But the thing this summer with DeAndre Jordan — is he going to Dallas? — we kept him. I think there’s a storyline about the Mavericks and the Clippers, which is fine. Mark himself is a good owner, he’s constructive in terms of his participation in league meetings, and I think the league benefits by having Mark as an owner.

Rosoff: On behalf of my old friends in Seattle, will they ever get a team?

Ballmer: Sure. The only question is when. I wouldn’t anticipate that happening in the near future. The league certainly doesn’t have — at least as far as I know, there’s been no discussion of expansion.

I can tell you first-hand from my experiences with Sacramento, the league does try to honor the fan bases it has, and encourage teams to stay in their home markets. The last case that didn’t happen was the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City. And I think that’s a good practice. It’s fair to the people who invest their lives, whether it’s in the Sonics, or the Clippers, or the Sacramento Kings.

Rosoff: Bill Gates has said his guilty pleasure is his airplane. What’s yours?

Ballmer: A plane is a guilty pleasure. I have one. It’s a great luxury. I appreciate it. I couldn’t do what I do. It’s not something you can write down as anything other than, “Wow, I can’t believe I have this and I’m absolutely spoiled and entitled.” On the other hand, I have one and I use it.

There are other ways I think of myself as spoiling myself … I … get a massage once a week. Other people can, I didn’t used to, and I can now.

It’s the luxury of time that lets me in some ways now spoil myself. I get my workout in every day. I get a good, long sleep every day. I won’t say they’re guilty pleasures. When I first left Microsoft, I would say I spent the better part of a year saying, “OK, how do I get as busy and crazy and manic as I was at Microsoft?” Since then I said, “No, I’ll make a bigger contribution in this phase of my life by being able to pick and choose, not being so manic, having time to step back, a little more time for what I’ll call discernment rather than just activity.”

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US jobless rate

The United States added 292,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate held at 5 percent, the government said last month. New numbers for January will be released on Friday morning.


First Friday on the Cape

The Cape Cod Technology Council is having a monthly breakfast meetup on the subject of commercializing ocean technologies. The director of technology transfer from the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute will present. Friday, 7:30 to 9:30, Hyannis Golf Club, 1840 Iyannough Road #2, off Route 132, Exit 6 South. $15 for members, $20 for non-members.


Mobile crisis response


Mobile Monday Boston is having an event and QA session with speakers from global health organizations Dimagi and Partners in Health. They will discuss how mobile technology was used to combat the Ebola epidemic, and how apps can be used to stem future pandemics. Monday, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, 1 Memorial Drive, 1st Mann, Cambridge. Free.


The business of food

Branchfood The Capital Network are having an event for entrepreneurs looking to break into the food and beverage industry. The event will explore topics like angel investing, debt financing, and how to expand a new venture. Monday, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., CIC Boston, 50 Milk St., Floor 17, Milky Way Conference Room, Boston. $30, $20 for students.


New tech around town

Boston New Technology is having a meetup that will feature seven new product presentations. The event will have opportunities for networking. Monday, 6 to 9 p.m., IBM Innovation Center, 1 Rogers St., Cambridge. Free.

Events of note? E-mail us at

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2015 was a breakout year for Australia’s tech start-up ecosystem, with governments at all levels across the country finally developing policies to try and capitalise on the momentum that had been building for years. Start-up success stories Atlassian, Canva and Nitro all had cracking years while venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives all focused their efforts on innovation at a scale that had never been seen. But that was last year; what does 2016 hold? Here are some predictions from some of Australia’s start-up leaders and trailblazers.

Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy

“Throughout the course of 2016, we’re very excited to see Turnbull’s innovation and science agenda rolled out, which will deliver a comprehensive approach to the Australian innovation ecosystem in its entirety.

“In 2016 I predict we’ll see more Aussie expat entrepreneurs from places like Silicon Valley looking to do more business back home and invest as angels back here in Australia. We’ll also see a number of entrepreneurs spun out of companies that have had great success overseas — like Atlassian — move back into the Australian innovation ecosystem in their own start-ups.

“I think we’ll see a significant increase in capital raised — with 2015 putting us in good stead. I think that there really is a framework for significantly raising venture capital funds in 2016. I think we’ll also see a significant uptake in angel investing and a very strong outreach from Australian entrepreneurs into our region, particularly in Northern Asia where one billion people are coming into the middle class.

“There will be a broader national conversation about how innovation will strengthen the Australian economy and how we hand it over to the next generation of Australians — a country that has more opportunities, not less and a clear focus on our rock star entrepreneurs inspiring the next generation, particularly our incredible female founders.

“I think 2016 will see significant breakthroughs in our natural strengths of biotech, renewables, resources and agriculture. There are some big advances happening in agitech, particularly around automated robotic farming, which is being implemented across the country — I think this year we’ll see some big leaps in this space.

CEO and founder of Pureprofile, Paul Chan

“I think the world will start desiring electric cars because of Tesla, and this will be the catalyst creating higher-profile start-ups based around new technologies that have previously struggled with investor and public appeal.

“Drones will move out of being cool toys to serving practical commercial purposes. Platforms will start to form that allow simple but exciting commercial application and starups will continue to flock to the opportunities being created.

“I think that internet of things (IOT) products, especially in the home-automation space, will start to deliver a few winners and begin to become more commonplace. This is the beginning of a much bigger revolution driven by the IOT.

“We’ll continue to see solutions to problems driven by the consumer. People-driven apps like Uber and Air BnB have paved the way for new, rapidly-scaling business models to evolve. These people-driven solutions to everyday issues will create vast opportunities for start-ups. While unfortunately only a very small number will succeed, those that do are likely to win big.”

Head of Strategy and Advocacy at StartupAUS, Alex McCauley

“2016 is going to be a huge year for start-ups. Thanks to the government’s innovation policy agenda, Australian start-ups are progressively starting to operate in a level playing field with their international competitors. That’s going to lead to lots of flow-on effects. We’ll see more start-ups forming, and more capital available to help them grow. Hopefully we’ll see more talent moving towards start-ups too as they create high-paying jobs in fast-growing companies.

“2015 was the year start-ups went mainstream in Australia. 2016 will be the year they steal the spotlight. Technology start-ups can be the central part of a new growth engine for Australia’s economy — and if we do it right, the ideas boom will pick up where the mining boom left off.

“Expect to see both sides of politics vying for this space in the lead-up to the election later this year. It will be a core part of the economic policy platform for both major parties. Everyone will want to make it easy to build and grow game-changing businesses in Australia, because success will mean nothing short of transformation of the national economy and years of continued prosperity.

“Expect to see lots of very successful Australian start-ups come out of the woodwork in 2016. We already have a long list of tech start-ups worth more than $100m. Almost none of these companies are well known. That list will grow fast, and lots of those companies will come into the public eye with highly sought after IPOs.

“Australia’s mature and highly valuable professional services market will lend itself to rapid growth in companies seeking to change the way professionals work. And our big financial and agricultural industries will see a boom in fintech and agritech businesses. These are all areas in which Australian start-ups could lead the world.”

Anna Rooke, CEO, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) helps creative ventures start, grow, scale and connect. CEA is Australia’s only dedicated accelerator and start-up fund dedicated to creative industries.

Anna is a Director of Metaverse Group Pty Ltd, Fame Partners Pty Ltd and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Anna is part of Advance Queensland’s Industry Expert Panel and has over 20 years experience in start-up incubation and investment.

“The rise of creative entrepreneurs: In the face of global market uncertainty in traditional sectors, Australia needs to play to its emerging and existing strengths in creative industries which are conservatively valued at US$2.25 trillion globally and more than $35 billion to our Australian GDP. The rise of creative entrepreneurs, in wearable tech, design, games, screen and music are the ‘hot’ start-up hubs to watch in Australia given their unique combination of technology and creativity to pioneer new ‘digital human’ experiences.

“Augmented reality will hit its stride: Not exclusive to Australia, investor confidence in US and Europe in augmented reality is one of the key growth markets given its potential to revolutionise the retail experience and markets. Global brands are all looking to build and create a new touch points and retention tactics with consumers globally enabling greenfield opportunities for Australian start-ups. In Australia, we have frontier companies like Metaverse Makeovers who are changing the landscape for augmented reality, combining fashion nails with virtual reality to create wearable tech products.

“Australian Startup Growth: The start-up scene in Australia will grow further in visibility and confidence given the increased investment and policy focus at a Federal level and through initiatives like Advance Queensland but we can’t afford to be complacent. The level of investment in other countries including the US, UK, Singapore and Israel for building both a vibrant start-up ecosystem and a culture of entrepreneurship has been sustained at a significant level over decades.

We should continue to build more support to encourage more entrepreneurs and investment to retain and attract talent.

“Australia will increase its global start-up status: With an increased national focus, Australia will start to become higher profile and ‘on the map’ as an emerging player in the global start-up ecosystem in 2016. We have a unique opportunity to build our international brand profile on the back of major success with leading creative tech start-up business successes including Halfbrick Studios, Shoes of Prey and Canva.

The focus for Australia’s start-up community will be targeted and in niche verticals where we have existing global capability like creative tech. Australia has always been known as ‘the lucky country’ so in 2016, we will put that to use in building a global emerging start-up hub.”

Investor and Entrepreneur Steve Baxter

“We will see government exert a lot more influence within the start-up community this year. The Federal Government’s Innovation Statement and its policies are the most recent example of this. This is also evident at a State and local government level with a recent case in point being the Advance Queensland state government reforms and Brisbane City Council’s $5 million innovation hub for the CBD. We will see more Federal plans and initiatives this side of the election.

“This is more on the wish list than a prediction — I’d love to see Australia with a billion dollar Australian tech company listing on the ASX to demonstrate to all Australians the value of such success stories.

“This will be the year of the working ‘hub.’ Start-ups have driven the practice of collaborative working hubs for some time and this model is maturing into a sophisticated work option for businesses at varied stages of their development. In 2016, we will see this practice migrate into broader working communities as corporates try to get a slice of the action and energy that comes out of this shared space model.”

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Having an innovative idea is one thing. Having the money to make it a reality is a whole other ball game.

That’s why CONNECT, a innovation company accelerator in San Diego that helps create and scale companies in the technology and life sciences sectors, has announced the start of its FrameWorks CapitalMatch education track. The  series will provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and their mentors to learn more about the fundamentals of executing early stage investment deals. 

The introductory workshop, Angel Investing Basics for the Start-up Community, will provide content essential for start-ups seeking capital by the Angel Resource Institute and will be held on Wednesday, February 24 at CONNECT’s headquarters in University City.

“Presenting this new education series is a natural next step for us as we work to identify and create ways to support the fundraising efforts of start-ups in San Diego,” said Shawn Richardson, senior director, Match Programs at CONNECT. “So many of our Springboard companies, mentors, and entrepreneurs in residence (EIRs) are in the program getting ready to raise capital, so we are proud to be able to provide relevant and instructive information to prepare them for the discussions and issues they will experience in their capital raising efforts.”

Angel Investing Basics for the Start-up Community, presented by Troy Knauss and Susan Preston of the Angel Resource Institute, is designed for entrepreneurs and their mentors who want to be prepared for raising early-stage investment capital. This full-day seminar provides a sweeping overview of how the angel investing process works. The workshop is an interactive classroom style format that includes presentations, a panel discussion, and case studies.

Angel Investing Basics for the Start-up Community covers the following topics:

  • An overview of angel investing
  • Due diligence
  • Valuation of early stage companies 
  • Term sheets 
  • How to connect to angels 

Event details are as follows:


·      Wednesday, February 24, 2016

8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.



4790 Eastgate Mall, Suite 125

San Diego, CA 92121


·      Pre-registration (available until February 22, 11:59pm): $500; $250 for current and graduated Springboard companies and current CONNECT ERIs

·      Registration (after February 23): $500 for all

Additional topics that will be covered in the 2016 series include Pitching to Investors, Valuation of Early Stage Companies, Trends in Raising Capital, Due Diligence, Term Sheets, Capitalization Tables, Post Investment and Boardroom, and Early Stage Exits. All courses will be taught by the Angel Resource  Institute, which was started by the Kaufman Foundation. 

To register for the event, click here. For more information on CONNECT, please visit

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The Capital Series: The ABC’s of Angel Investment

Are you an entrepreneur looking for funding who needs a better understanding of how angels and angel groups operate?
Are you thinking of becoming an angel investor?
Do you simply need a better understanding of how the angel investing process works–beginning to end?

Join Rick Vaughn, Managing Director of Mid-America Angels for a peek behind the curtain of the investment process. Learn about typical angel investor characteristics and requirements, why angels are the best source of early stage capital, what angels want and need in an investment, how the investment process works, why it works best in a group setting and what it takes to be successful.

This workshop is presented by the Enterprise Center in Johnson County in partnership with Mid-America Angels and the Women’s Capital Connection.


This post was replicated from another site’s calendar feed.

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On Monday, Google briefly overtook Apple as the world’s most valuable company. As Google posted its quarterly results its shares were up by five per cent, giving it a valuation of around $544 billion. Apple’s market capitalisation at this time stood at $534 billion. It was just a few years ago when the world’s biggest companies were in the field of fuel and natural resources. In 2011, Apple overtook Exxon to become the world’s most valuable company. As Google moves onto the path of world domination we tell you some of the unexplored things about Google and why it will continue to lead on the path of growth.


Moonshot ideas – This is what keeps Google on the edge. As companies grow, they tend to leave innovation and get into a routine. It is a rarely seen situation where top executives of a company invest a lot into ideas that have a slim chance of coming to reality. Google started investing its resources in such ideas but when it became too much to handle, the company separated its core businesses from its moonshot ideas.

Project Loon – Project Loon is a moonshot idea that even Google thought was crazy enough to be called ‘Loon’. Project Loon is an ambitious project by Google to provide Internet to the whole world using balloons released into the stratosphere. These balloons have a lifespan of 100 days and are presently used in New Zealand on a pilot basis.

Google Self Driving Car
Google Self Driving Car

Self-driving cars– Self-driving cars have been the fancy of tech companies for a long time. However, apart from Google no other company has been able to put a self-driving car on the road. Most accidents these self-driving cars have been involved in were due to human error.

Project Vault – Project Vault is another ambitious project by Google which aims to fit an entire operating system on your memory card. The USP of Project Vault is the security that comes with it. Many people have tried projects which will create an operating system on a box, but few have succeeded with it. With the reach Google has, it is quite possible that it might actually succeed at it.

Tremor-free spoons – Lift Labs, a startup acquired by Google, developed a spoon for patients of Parkinson’s disease to help them with tremors. The spoons detect tremors in the hands and then stabilises itself accordingly, to prevent the food on it from spilling.

Project Calico – Project Calico is another crazy idea that Google is supporting. Project Calico aims to increase the lifespan of humans by identifying the factors which lead to ageing of cells and tissues. The projects is still in the research phase and has not led to any substantial results so far.

Contact lenses – Contact lenses that help people see better are a thing of the past. Google is also developing a set of contact lenses that will be able to monitor the glucose in their tears, thus effectively identifying the sugar levels in people who are suffering from diabetes.

Things to know

The angel investors – Angel investing in Google was a dream of many investors and only four investors were able to achieve it. Ram Shriram, Jeff Bezos, Andy Bechtolsheim, and David Cheriton. All four investors garnered over a billion dollars from their investment in Google.

A billion users – On Monday, Sundar Pichai announced that Gmail has reached over a billion monthly active users. There are currently seven Google products which have over a billion users now. Apart from Gmail, Google Search, Android, Maps, Google Play, YouTube and Chrome browser have exceeded billion users. There has been rarely a company in the history whose products have been so widely used.

Internet access – Apart from providing Internet access to people using balloons, Google is also helping people by providing Wi-Fi at 100 railway stations in India, with a plan to expand to over 400 railway stations. Google has already started providing Wi-Fi services at Mumbai Central Railway station.

With so many moonshot ideas and projects, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is actually putting its money where its mouth is. It has already lost over $3 billion on them but that doesn’t make it shy away from innovation. Few companies dare to take on new ideas and keep working on them despite failure.


So, is it Apple or Alphabet for you?

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BRACEBRIDGE – Big stakes, threats and “childish behaviour” were all part of Paul Maasland and his colleagues’ business dealings leading up to his murder on Aug. 30, 2010.

At Todd Howley’s trial on Friday, Jan. 29, the court heard about the correspondences between Howley and Maasland, who was eager for his “angel” investing company Verdant to invest in Howley’s bioenergy-producing technology.

The Crown called to the stand Tom Wallace, Verdant’s chief financial officer, and Michael Gainer, a consultant helping with due diligence work. Both men were heavily involved in proving Howley’s bioreactors were up to snuff for future investors.

“I am enthusiastic about this opportunity (with Howley),” said Maasland in an email to Gainer in February of 2010. “This technology is nothing short of an epiphany for me.”

In the spring of 2010, two tests were done on Howley’s technology, which used carbon dioxide to grow algae in bioreactors, said Gainer to defence lawyer Breese Davies. The algae grown could be burned alongside coal to produce energy, in effect creating a close-looped system.

The team was excited about getting involved in a possibly revolutionary and lucrative business venture.

“I assumed other businesses and universities had big budgets to spend on developing technologies like Howley’s,” said Gainer.

“I got involved because Paul wanted competent testing done quickly and as inexpensively as possible.”

The camaraderie began to unravel when two tests of Howley’s technology yielded widely different results, dividing the team on what should be done next, said Wallace to Davies. The first test produced less algae than Howley predicted. The second test results were too good, as much more algae was produced than anyone expected.

Gainer and Wallace thought a third test was absolutely necessary.

“We had to ask ourselves, what work was done to substantiate Howley’s claim? Did we test his technology properly?” said Gainer to Crown attorney Mike Flosman.

Wallace wanted the qualifying transactions thoroughly done because it was a “huge, huge project with lots of warts on it,” he said. “It would have been better to go with a smaller company that was actively generating revenues and had profits.”

Howley and Maasland, however, were confident they could get enough investors on board to start a $25-million pilot project without testing a third time, Wallace said.

“I felt by this time (July), Todd was defensive of the second test’s results and he wasn’t really wanting to find out what happened to create such divergences,” said Gainer.

Maasland didn’t want to put more money into testing if he didn’t have to. After all, he had already put in tens of thousands of dollars of his personal money into Howley’s business, said Wallace.

“Were you aware Todd’s business was existing month-to-month and he was always looking for money to keep creditors from his door?” said Davies.

“Yes and I was aware Paul was advancing him money. I learned that before Paul’s death,” said Wallace. “Paul’s lending created a conflict of interest because now he had personal and professional stakes in Todd’s company.”

Emails presented to the jury showed the disagreement came to a head in July when Maasland considered firing Gainer and Wallace threatened to resign from Verdant if Maasland did so.

Finally on July 31, Maasland emailed the other three men and said, “Let’s do this as a team. Let’s forget the chatter and childish behaviour.”

From then on, based on email correspondence, Howley appeared to be on board, said Gainer.

Test three was finally scheduled for Monday, Aug. 30 – the day Maasland’s body was found at a public boat launch in Bracebridge. It never went ahead.

After Maasland’s funeral at the beginning of September, Gainer and Wallace attempted to keep working with Howley and reschedule the third test. By mid-September, however, Howley was no longer responding to their emails, said Gainer.

“If the third test didn’t produce results that wouldn’t have been the end of our relationship with Todd,” said Wallace. “We wouldn’t have walked away, but would have worked with him for the next generation of Verdant.”

The trial is expected to continue for at least three months.

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Randi Zuckerberg, CEO of Zuckerberg Media, spoke to Shelley Singh and Anumeha Chaturvedi in an interview on the sidelines of the Airtel-Economic Times Global Business Summit about the digital divide, Facebook and women in technology. Edited excerpts:

What’s the focus of Zuckerberg Media? Do you plan to start operations in India?

At Zuckerberg Media, we’re creating digital content across media — TV, digital networks and mobile. We are doing several TV shows on technology that will appear this year. We have a children’s TV show coming up this fall. If there are broadcast partner opportunities in India or Indian media companies that are creating original content, then we would love to partner with them though we have no plans to set up an office in India at present.

What should be done to enable more people to come online?

It’s something that has to happen because more and more jobs are revolving around technology. Industries are adopting artificial intelligence and robotics. For people who don’t have any access or knowledge of tech, it will really limit potential job opportunities in a decade from now. As a society, we owe it that as many people as possible get internet access. The digital divide can be bridged by partnering with private companies who can do that or government incentives to deploy internet access and broadband connectivity to remote regions. I worry about a world with digital haves and havenots. Digital haves whose children get access to technology the moment they are born and the digital havenots whose generation is going to be so far behind. Can they ever really catch up?

Do you miss your days at Facebook?

I miss it like you miss a great vacation you went on once. You know if you went back to that same place you could never recreate those memories but you feel so happy for them when you look back at the photo album.

People suspect the goal of large companies in providing internet access. They feel it’s against net neutrality. The company in question may have access to information it’s not entitled to.

Right now some internet is better than no internet. If we get people online and help educate them about the value and benefits, like access to education, medicine and connection to the outside world, it will be great. As we introduce people to internet we also need to educate them on their data and what they’re sharing. It’s important to inform people on the benefits and also the trade-offs without creating a scare among them. There are a lot more benefits to being connected to the world rather than downsides.

There are very few women in technology roles.

That’s something I think about a lot. The positive answer is that it’s much better today than it was a decade ago when I started working at Facebook and Silicon Valley. You are starting to see a lot more female startup founders now and even in India. But yes, the numbers are so poor, so much worse than they need to be. At the top tech companies, fewer than 15% of the employees are women and very few of the executive team and leading engineers building the products are women.

But if you look at sites like YouTube, it’s mostly women consuming content and how could there be no women creating or managing that content. It’s not just YouTube but it applies to all tech companies. Women are the majority users of all of these tech companies. For me, diversity is a real passion area. And gender diversity is just one type of diversity. Diversity is an area that we need to expand upon.

You have spoken out against cyber bullying in the past. What can be done to curb this?

I’ve spoken out pretty loudly against online anonymity. I realise it’s easier for me to say this living in the US where there is freedom of speech and there’s protection. I don’t speak for everyone. But in democracies… we need to be responsible about what we post online. And how can you want all the benefits of internet without taking any responsibility for your actions and words. I found in my work at Facebook and Silicon Valley and now elsewhere that people behave more responsibly when their actual name and identity are tied to what they’re saying online. Anonymity brings out the worst.

Are you interested in investing in startups in India?

I am doing a lot of angel investing. I’m very interested in startups started by women. I’ve not yet invested in any company in India, though I could meet companies. My plate is full right now but I always make room for exciting founders.

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The innovation statement tax incentives and Atlassian IPO millionaire effect will create a new wave of tech startup investors in 2016.


These are the strategies I wish someone had shared with me when I first started my angel investing journey.


This is a discussion around risk management and deal flow, not specific advice. Please consult your financial, tax and legal advisor before you make any investment decision.


Use a portfolio approach

I have seen investors bet big on one single startup, then when the startup didn’t work out the investors would claim that angel investing is complete bullshit.


The portfolio approach minimises this risk- you can invest the same amount in 20 companies over a number of years. Evaluate if the company can return 20 times the investment.


This way, you can be wrong 19 times and still get your money back. If you get two right, congratulations, you have made a 100% return on your whole fund.


Set aside capital for follow-on investments

Startups send monthly updates to their investors. While reading the updates, investors usually have two different reactions. Either “Damn, I wish I hadn’t have invested in this disaster”, or “Damn, I should have put more money into this gem”.


To double-down on the good companies, you can invest the same amount in 15 companies over a number of years, and set aside some capital to invest in the next financing round (usually Series A) of the top five companies.


This way you can concentrate on the winners and you’ll have more confidence in the team after tracking their progress and execution for a while.


Make sure it’s a group effort


Some investors are like great poker players: they can quickly categorise founders and they can call a bluff.


Some investors can tell if the excel spreadsheets make sense or not. Some investors can look at the tech stack and know if the development team is doing a good job. Some investors know how to achieve a good balance on the investment terms: not too predatory while having enough down-side protection. Are you all of them?


Angel investor groups are great because you get to meet people with different domain expertise. I am a member of Sydney Angels and I have learned a lot by participating in the syndicate due diligence meetings over the years.


This way, you get to see the different perspectives, hear about the different investment theses and then get to your own conclusion. This is also an economical way to go, unless you can afford to hire an expert team to do the investigation for you.


Look at accelerator programs

Do you have the time to read through 200 pitch decks every year, meet the founders for coffee, evaluate their businesses, call some experts for a second opinion and get to an investment decision?


That is about one deal a day if you don’t plan to work during Christmas.


Accelerator programs are great because a group of smart and experienced mentors filter through 200 applicants each year, the mentors interview 20 of them, and eventually take 10 startups through a six months program and give them access to the mentors’ international business network.


You can pick a company from the batch of 10 at the demo day and follow up.


There are more than 10 accelerators in Australia now. A simple way to assess the quality of an accelerator is by looking at the number of companies that have successfully raised money after the program. You can also ask founders that have been through the program for a reference.


I work with Startmate and muru-D. Subscribe to their newsletter and they will let you know when the next demo day is.


This way, you only have to look at the vetted top 5% companies that have the support and network to progress further, the cream of the crop.


Get referrals from founders


Startup founders work closely with other startup founders – they are constantly evaluating tools that could help propel their businesses.


As a result, founders are more likely to come across a really good product before an investor does. This is especially true for the business software and developer tool category.


If you are likable and can add value to a startup, founders will refer good teams and products your way. This way, you will be able to keep your finger on the pulse of the market and the ecosystem better than anyone else.


Follow the super angels


Super angels are usually entrepreneurs that have successfully built, scaled and exited their previous businesses. Armed with a lot of time, cash and experience, they now want to actively invest and help the next wave of Australian entrepreneurs.


Super angels are the most valuable kind of investors because they have deep empathy for the founder’s journey. They know how to solve a problem because they have done it before, and they have relevant business contacts that can help.


Leave it to the professionals


Proximity is very important for angel investors, if you are not close enough to the best deal flows, the startup you get to meet will likely be the “left overs”.


The best investors attract the best companies because they help the companies to sign up anchor customers and partners, hire super star employees and close later-stage investors. If the best investors pass on the opportunity, the companies will talk to the next best investors – simple as that.


Venture fund managers are the professional investors with the big cheque-book and brand presence. The best startups usually talk to them first. You can invest directly into a venture fund, or cherry-pick and co-invest in some of the deals with them.


There are 17 registered ESVCLP funds in Australia now. A simple way to assess the quality of a venture fund is to look at their IRR, try to aim for at least 20% net IRR. You can also ask founders of their portfolio companies for a reference. I invested in Blackbird Ventures and I am always very happy when they send me my NAV statement.


This way, you can piggyback off the fund managers’ hard work and still learn a lot by reading the investment updates. They are also more likely to find the successful bootstrappers before you do because this is their full-time job.


Rayn Ong is an angel investor and a member of Sydney Angels, working closely with the Startmate and muru-D accelerator. This piece was originally published on Medium.

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