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 www.troyknauss.com.

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VC funding might be down, but angel investments saw a rise of 62 pc in FY 16

On Tuesday, venture debt firm InnoVen Capital announced the release of the ‘India Angel Report 2016’, which analyses and puts across the investment trends of the major angel groups of the country.

Although not comprehensive, Ajay Hattangdi, Group COO and CEO of InnoVen Capital, believes the report is an effort to highlight the key trends of the Indian angel investment industry.   He says,

The main objective is to keep the VCs informed, to avoid mispricing in the future. It is also an ongoing inquiry into the dynamics of the angel investment industry. This report acts as a bellwether for VCs as deals funded by angels will later be funded by venture capitalists. We hear more about the trends in VC funding and less about the angel investment landscape in the country. This report bridges that gap.

Image credits: shutterstock

The findings 

Created in partnership with the Association of Indian Angel Groups (AIAG), the report makes sense of the data provided by member angel groups including the  Mumbai Angels, Indian Angel Network, Chennai Angels, Hyderabad Angels and Calcutta Angels.

Citing interesting trends, some of the key highlights from the report show that:

 

  • There has been a 62 percent rise in angel investments in financial year 2015-16 (FY 16) from financial year 2014-15 (FY 15), garnering a total of almost Rs 114 crore in commitments by angel groups. FY 15 saw a little more than Rs 70 crore in commitments.

 

  • There were close to 69 deals inked across last year

 

  • Delhi and NCR was the geography which saw the maximum activity.

 

The number of deals in the NCR were claimed to be 25; followed by Bengaluru seeing 14 deals; Mumbai saw nine deals while other cities closed 10 deals. The value of the deals was also higher in Delhi-NCR, grabbing a strong 36 percent share, followed by Bengaluru with a 20 percent share of the total investments made.

 

  • The pre-money valuations (the valuation of a company prior to investment) rose by 10 percent last year, with the median (or middle) valuation being almost Rs 10 crore.

 

  • The consumer internet, Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES), food, e-commerce and logistics sector saw high interest from the angel investors.

 

There was Rs 21 crore invested in the consumer internet and mobile sector, which witnessed a total of 14 deals; next was Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES), seeing Rs 19.4 crore being invested in the sector through a total of 10 deals, with the food sector seeing close to Rs 15 crore in angel investments.

 

  • With regard to demographics, 28 percent of the founders who received angel funding were serial entrepreneurs, and 24 percent of startups funded by angel groups had a female co-founder.

 

  • Another key metric which stuck out was that 71 percent of companies funded by angel investors last year were revenue generating, while 49 percent of the total data set had existed for more than 24 months before raising funds.

 

According to Ajay, the report clearly shows that angel investment is a workable hypothesis in India. He states that the rise in investments clearly indicates a healthy trend of added confidence amongst the angel community. Further, looking at the successful exits of some companies, High Network Individuals (HNI’s) are now acknowledging angel investment as a viable option to have, apart from the traditional channels of investment like bonds and funds.

43 percent of the companies funded by angels in FY 11 (2010-11) have already seen successful exits.

According to Ajay, these available data points will help the quantum of investors and risk capital in the ecosystem grow for early-stage companies in the future.

While outlining some key trends for the future, Ajay said,

There also needs to be some caution taken by an angel investor while investing. A lot of individuals are investing and not fully pricing in the risk. Therefore, there is a need for angel groups to be diligent in educating the investors about these risks.

But, with the same old sectors being funded, angel investing in India is a classic example of tried and tested models. But then again, one needs to see if the right infrastructure and environment is in existence before investing in a business. Ajay adds

It is all about the right time, the right product and the right place when it comes to investments.  Angel investments is a percentage game, one needs to make enough of them to make them click.

Following are the other findings, from the report:

(Source: InnoVen Capital)

Graphics by: Niranjan

Article source: https://yourstory.com/2016/07/angel-funding-fy-16/

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Angel investing network BANSEA-IIPL enter into partnership, to co-invest in startups

Angel investing network BANSEA has entered into a partnership with Infocomm Investments (IIPL), a venture capital (VC) firm linked to the Singapore government that manages a US$200 million ICT-focused fund.

The partnership will see them co-invest in startup ventures to accelerate their growth.

Founded in 2001, BANSEA connects angel investors to early stage startup ventures for investment and mentorship opportunities and also hosts educational conferences, workshops and networking events with other angel groups worldwide.

Under the partnership, BANSEA ONE will make seed investments in the range of S$50,000 (US$37,156) per startup venture, which may be complemented by additional co-investment capital from IIPL’s fund.

BANSEA ONE was created on 6 June 2016 as a syndicated investment initiative open to BANSEA executive members which will invest across industries into scalable, high potential startups with a minimum viable product (MVP) and preferably incorporated or intend to incorporate in Singapore.

Also Read: IIPL head Alex Lin on how Singapore came to be a vibrant startup ecosystem

Singapore must build more innovation-driven enterprises:Alex Lin, IIPL

In response to the partnership, Dr Mark Hon, Chairman of BANSEA said, “The formation of BANSEA ONE encourages members to invest in the ecosystem collectively. The start-ups that BANSEA ONE invest in will get to leverage on the knowledge, skills and broad networks of our members. The ability to count on IIPL’s option to co-invest gives us and the companies we support significant and sustainable long term added value.

“We strongly believe that this partnership provides us and our members with the opportunity to effectively act as a greater catalyst within the ecosystem. We look forward to this fruitful collaboration with IIPL,” Hon continued.

Commenting on the partnership, Dr Alex Lin, Head of IIPL said, “IIPL is happy to be partnering with BANSEA, through its investment unit, BANSEA ONE, in seeking out potential early-stage start-ups for seed investment. Our start-up ecosystem has matured significantly over the years, we now see more and more start-ups coming through IIPL’s Clinic@BASH weekly.”

“A few years back, we would have been ‘hunting’ for start-ups. Providing seed investment into some of these young companies continues to support their growth not just financially, but more importantly, in our combined resources in networks and mentorship,” Lin added.

Article source: http://www.dealstreetasia.com/stories/bansea-iipl-enter-into-strategic-partnership-to-drive-ecosystem-growth-47021/

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Angel Investing Networks Injected $133M Into Canadian Startups in …

MONTREAL, QUEBEC–(Marketwired – July 13, 2016) – The National Angel Capital Organization (NACO) released the sixth annual Report on Canadian Angel Investing Activity. The data collected paints a vibrant and buoyant Canadian Angel Market. The report, which is based on a survey of 32 Angel groups across Canada, reveals that these groups made 283 investments, amounting to over $133 million, with an average deal size of over $1 million. The largest Angel deal was $22.7 Million.

“Angel groups are becoming a well-established and important part of the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem. Through the collaboration they create among investors, they are helping to improve access to capital through various stages of the Canadian Innovation Funding Continuum,” says Yuri Navarro, CEO of NACO. “Canada has seen a boom in startups which is made possible by the larger concentration of investors in major markets in Central and Western Canada. We are excited to see this community continue to develop across the country as we further invest in growing and professionalizing the ecosystem of Canadian Angel investors.”

NACO ANGEL 2015 RANKING

Across Canada, 32 Angel groups participated in the 2015 survey, representing over 60% of NACO investors coast to coast. Angels tend to invest in close geographic proximity, with a majority of 67% of Angels located in Central Canada, 28% in Western Canada, and 5% in Eastern Canada. Angels are essential to the Canadian economy, driving innovation and fueling job creation.

For the fourth year in a row, the Northern Ontario Angels are the number one group in Canada by number of investments made.

“It’s not just about rocks and trees anymore. Most people think big things happen in big cities. We take a lot of pride that we lead in number of investments across Canada,” Says Mary Long-Irwin, Northern Ontario Angels Executive Director. “Northern Ontario is strong and supportive of small businesses and the result is a solid growing economic base.”

Over the last three years, investment activity has continued to increase substantially. The almost 50% increase in the amount invested in 2015 was largely accounted for by follow-on investments, which more than doubled over the previous year.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises are key drivers of economic growth and are crucial to Canada’s long-term innovation goals. The Government of Canada is a proud partner and contributor to NACO’s report on the state of Canadian Angel Investing Activity, which provides insight into trends in investment in SMEs,” says the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism. “Angel groups across Canada contribute to building successful companies and ultimately propel entrepreneurs from the start-up phase to international success.”

NACO 2015 Report

Angel groups are now a fairly well-established part of the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem with 72% established for more than five years. Interest and participation is continuing to grow, and this year six Angel groups, that have been operating for three years or less, are part of the report.

Over 63% of Angel funded startups fall primarily within 2 sectors: ICT (information-communication technology) and Life Sciences (health related companies) distantly followed by energy.

“As a national funding partner of NACO, BDC Capital has once again supported the production of the Report on Canadian Angel Investing Activity. The report indicates that Canadian Angel groups are growing in maturity and are becoming increasingly strategic financiers,” says Jérôme Nycz, Executive Vice President, BDC Capital. “These findings are encouraging. We believe that membership in Angel groups that adopt investment best practices should increase returns for individual Angels and enhance their impact on the Canadian economy.”

NACO Report History

The Angel activity report conducted by NACO examines Canada’s Angel investor community, and identifies key industry trends and best practices for investors and entrepreneurs.

Since 2010, the report has captured 995 investments, in 635 companies. This represents a remarkable $403 million injected into the Canadian entrepreneurial ecosystem, with over $220 million invested over the last two years.

The 2015 Report on Angel Investing Activity in Canada: Scaling Up Angel Capital to Drive Canadian Innovation, the sixth of its kind, is released in partnership with the Government of Canada, KPMG Enterprise and BDC Capital.

Read the Full Report

About the National Angel Capital Organization

The National Angel Capital Organization accelerates a thriving, early-stage investing ecosystem in Canada by connecting individuals, groups, and other partners that support Angel-stage investing. NACO provides intelligence, tools and resources for its members; facilitates key connections across networks, borders and industries; and helps to inform policy affecting the Angel asset-class. For more information please visit www.nacocanada.com or follow us on Twitter @AngelCapCanada.

About BDC Capital

With more than $2 billion under management, BDC Capital is the investment arm of BDC, serving as a strategic partner to Canada’s most innovative and high potential firms. It offers a range of equity, venture capital and flexible growth and transition capital solutions to help Canadian entrepreneurs scale their businesses into global champions. To find out more, visit www.bdc.ca/capital.

About KPMG Enterprise

KPMG Enterprise was formed in 2004 to respond to a growing need for a professional service firm that focuses on private companies. We were the first to dedicate a team of advisers exclusively to entrepreneurs, family businesses, and emerging fast growing companies. Our global network of trusted advisers are well positioned to respond to the specific needs of private companies. We bring extensive resources and expertise in audit, tax, and advisory services, scaled to the needs of our clients. We provide financial, operational, and strategic advice during any stage of the business lifecycle. For more information, visit www.kpmg.com.

Media Inquiries

For more detailed data and/or to arrange an interview with Canadian Angel Investors or NACO’s Executive Director Yuri Navarro, please contact:

Backgrounder

Canadian Angel Investors

  • 32 Angel groups across Canada, representing 1,545 active Angels made 283 investments amounting to $133.6 million.
  • Of these, a majority of Angels are located in Central Canada, 1109 investors – $105.6 million in 200 investments

Western 459 investors – $27.5 million in 65 investments

Eastern Canada 85 investors, $0.43 million in 18 investments

  • The average deal size fell slightly to $1.16 million.
  • 63% of funding falls within 2 sectors: ICT (information-communication technology) and Life Sciences (health related companies).
  • 89% of the deals are syndicated, involving capital outside the Angel group and receive more investment.
  • 12 positive exits (from 9 companies) of which six were MAs and two were an IPO.
  • Central Canada continues to be the hotspot for Angel investment activity with 71% of investments made in the area.

Funding Success Funnel in 2015

  • 4473 startups applied for Angel Funding
  • 1139 companies presented*
  • 407 companies went through due diligence
  • 283 companies were funded

*based on 28 groups that reported the number of presentations held

Article source: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/angel-investing-networks-injected-133m-into-canadian-startups-in-2015-48-increase-2142178.htm

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Angel investing growing quickly here, report says – Winnipeg Free …

This may not be the epicentre of activity, but angel investing is alive and well in Manitoba.

Last year, Manitoba companies raised about $30 million from at least three groups of angel investors.


According to a report released this week by the National Angel Capital Organization, nationally there was almost a 50 per cent increase in the amount invested by the angel investor groups the group is getting data from.

The report, called 2015 Report on Angel Investing Activity in Canada: Scaling Up Angel Capital to Drive Canadian Innovation, says 1,650 active angels from 32 angel groups made 283 investments amounting to $133.6 million.

That compares with 237 investments amounting to $90.5 million from 30 groups in 2014.

The average deal size has gone from $150,000 six years ago to $1.2 million in 2015.

The group has been working hard at collecting data to share best-practices ideas, deal flow, access to information if members want to syndicate deals or raise larger pools of capital, but its CEO, Yuri Navarro, knows they’re still only scratching the surface.

“Angel investing in Canada has come a long way in four years, but it’s still quite nascent,” Navarro said. “It’s still early days, but we are trying to accelerate the process through the development of a network.”

In Manitoba, there are at least three active groups: the Manitoba Knights which is very closely associated with the Manitoba Technology Accelerator (and which does not report its activities to the national organization); Mean Eyed Cat, which is an aggregation of a number of angel investors from outside Winnipeg; and the Winnipeg chapter of Alberta-based VA Angels.

It’s not clear how much investing VA Angels did in Manitoba last year, but Rob Warren, who co-ordinates activities for Mean Eyed Cats’ 52 investors, said the group placed about $15.5 million in 2015, about 90 per cent of which went to Manitoba companies.

Warren said, “The group invests in everything from metal-bashing manufacturing companies to fintech companies.”

One of its biggest deals in 2015 was $1.5 million in a Winnipeg company called SiteDocs, a company that has developed digital tools for companies to successfully maintain, manage and build their workplace safety programs.

“We like this one because management has done this before, and they know how to use this type of money,” Warren said.

Mean Eyed Cats was only formed at the beginning of 2015, so comparable rates of investment are really not available for that group.

But Manitoba Knights has been around for about five years, and its investment activity has gone up dramatically.

The group was formed by Marshall Ring, the CEO of the Manitoba Technology Accelerator.

“The Knights invest through MTA clients,” he said. “They have the same investment criteria that the clients at MTA have, which is J-curve potential technology companies with globally competitive advantages.”

Last year, about 10 Manitoba Technology Accelerator companies raised a total of $12.6 million compared with $4.1 million the year before and about $3 million the year before that.

Ring said not all those funds came from the Manitoba Knights, but a good portion of it did.

In fact, the Knights’ presence as investors helped leverage additional funds, which is part of the dynamic that the National Angel Capital Organization is trying to foster.

Navarro said organization was really only able to capture the data from 25 groups that accounted for the $133.6 million in deals last year. But he said data suggest there are about 500,000 accredited investors in Canada, which is the minimum requirement to legally invest in startups. He said if you assume about 10 per cent of them “have the stomach and the experience to do angel investing,” that means there are 50,000 potential angel investors in the country.

“We only represent about 3,000 of them, so only five to 10 per cent of the total, and we figure just in our membership alone there is probably close to $400 million to $500 million in deals done outside the angel system,” Navarro said. “So in total we would be comfortable with a conservative estimate of between $500 million to $1 billion in angel investment each year in Canada, and I would say that is still low.”

The national group is looking to professionalize angel investing activity while many angels still prefer to keep a very low profile. By trying to bridge that gap between the lone wolf investor and the startup looking for funding, the national group’s efforts are certainly worthwhile.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Article source: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/business/angel-investing-growing-quickly-here-report-says-386735621.html

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America’s game: apple pie, baseball… and angel investing

On Father’s Day weekend, I indulged a bit in watching the last round of the U.S. Open golf tournament and the last game of the NBA Finals. My lovely wife, who doesn’t exactly share my interest in sports (other than college football), opined that she found the sports to be boring — except right at the end when you find out who’s going to win.

She went on to remind me that the most egregious offender in the sports world for her is baseball, recalling the games I recently watched during the NCAA Tournament. For her, it seems to be a very long game with perhaps a few brief moments of excitement, until finally, there’s a winner. As we discussed it further, she insightfully compared baseball to my work in angel investing. Not that it’s boring — but it is a long game punctuated with intense episodes before determining the end result.

Since we are entering the most American of holiday weekends, and since America’s game — baseball — is the last remaining active major sport in the U.S. for the summer (at least until the Olympics), I thought it was a fitting time to extend her analogy. While you’re celebrating our freedoms and enjoying your apple pie and baseball this Fourth of July weekend, you might consider how America’s pastime on the field is much like that other important American institution of angel investing.

Swinging for the fences

 

Perhaps the most obvious comparison starts with at-bats. Much like batters, angel investors are taking swings with each new startup investment, hoping to hit a “home run” that generates a return of several times their investment. Given the risky nature of startups, a strikeout (complete loss of investment) or out (partial loss) is the most likely outcome, but with enough at-bats and discipline at the plate, angels can accumulate enough extra base hits and home runs to generate very attractive returns — and a batting average that bests the .350 mark of the best hitters in the Major Leagues.

Anticipate curveballs and errors

 

Continuing the at-bat analogy with a slightly different twist, investors (and entrepreneurs) have to anticipate curveballs. When it comes to launching and growing a young company, the market rarely throws fastballs right down the middle. Instead, startups and their investors have to keep their figurative eye on the ball, clearly focused on discerning when and where to use their limited resources (swings) and not chasing wild pitches (seemingly shiny new opportunities that can quickly drop out of the strike zone). In the field, when things don’t go as planned and inevitable errors are committed, they must quickly regroup from the mistakes and focus on closing the next sale (getting the next out).

Play the long game

 

The nine innings of a baseball game — and the 162 games in a season — require a long-term strategy for success. If a team burns up a pitcher’s arm in the early innings or early in a season, the short-term benefit can be disastrous for long-term wins.

Similarly, investors must approach their angel portfolio with the long view in mind, as most investments take several years to reach the ninth inning. If the investor deploys available capital too quickly on too few pitches, the chances of long-term success are drastically diminished.

With the right discipline, process and mindset, winners in both baseball and angel investing can amass big wins and give us legendary tales of victory. Similarly, losers can be quickly forgotten — but they can also learn valuable lessons from the losses that translate to better outcomes for the next game. I will refrain from further belaboring the analogy here, but suffice it to say there are countless other ways we could compare baseball and angel investing.

And of course, every analogy eventually breaks down if carried too far. Sometimes a startup doesn’t get to play the full nine (or extra) innings, as failures or early exits could occur in any inning along the way. The maximum value of a home run can’t exceed four runs, but there’s no theoretical limit to the size of the returns on an investor’s at-bat. When the startup is the pitcher trying to land an investment, straight fastballs are the order of the day instead of the curveballs to be anticipated from the market. This list goes on.

Despite the obvious limitations, the comparison of baseball and angel investing is an instructive one for investors to consider — and despite my wife’s view of the game, a fun one to think about during the dog days of summer. As you enjoy your apple pie and other Americana this weekend, perhaps you’ll think of additional parallels and be inspired to play ball yourself.

If you’d like to join up with our angel investor team, we’d be happy to provide you with coaching and plenty of at-bats. Check out our lineup at upstateangels.com.

Article source: http://upstatebusinessjournal.com/innovate/americas-game-apple-pie-baseball-and-angel-investing/

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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…

Article source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/house-leaders-to-vote-on-crowdfunding-angel-investing-1467331326

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NC A&T Students develop mobile apps from coding dreams

There’s a good chance that most of the students at NC AT State University know Everette Slocum and Keenan Smith on sight, especially if the two collegiate entrepreneurs are sporting their Aggiesland t-shirts.

Slocum is an imposing figure. A standout in high school football in Miami, Florida, the 6’4” offensive tackle had multiple college football scholarship offers until he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Undaunted, Slocum threw his effort into track and field, earning a scholarship to AT as a member of the track team. Showing a glimpse of the innovative spirit that would later make him the brains behind a mobile app that would take the campus by storm, Slocum learned to throw discus and shot put with his left arm to overcome the damage to his right.

Smith, who hails from Chesapeake, Virginia, also came to AT on a track scholarship. He’s excelled at the triple jump and the 400 meters, falling just short in the 400 of qualifying for major national events. A picture of Smith in midflight in the triple jump graces the university’s track and field website.

Slocum and Smith met as freshman in 2012. The combination of power, innovation and determined effort resulted in what many say is one of the best examples yet of college students in Greensboro taking advantage of the entrepreneurial support network that has grown steadily in the city over the last decade.

The duo created Aggiesland, a website that connected students to campus events, that first semester. The site morphed into a mobile application that now has some 3,000 registered users. As the popularity of the app soared, Slocum and Smith developed additional concepts, aided by a growing team of talented code experts. But it wasn’t until the team attended an Idea Slam at Geeksboro last summer that the world of business opened up and the students realized the type of success that possibly waited in the future.

To say that Slocum and Smith make a powerful pair doesn’t quite capture the palpable energy present when they get started talking about their projects. Smith is the positive, at times giddy, spokesperson for the company they recently formed, BrownBoxWorks. Slocum, who describes himself as “an old soul,” is more measured and philosophic, already focused on future business success and professional motivation.

In a nation that is desperate for visionary leadership that truly embraces the possibilities of the 21st century, it’s refreshing to hear such focused young men talk about their goals for the future. That they cite Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as examples to follow is no small thing.

“We have huge plans for where we want to go with the company,” Smith said. “We’ve evolved more from just college kids with the Aggiesland app. In the future, what we will be able to do with the BrownBoxWorks is just … hopefully in the future we can have the same impact on the world as Steve Jobs did with the ideas that we have.”

It’s a bold
statement to be sure, but when you realize the potential of the
concepts their team is currently working on, it doesn’t seem
far-fetched.

Slocum
came to Greensboro in 2011 as a high school athlete to compete in a
national track and field event at AT. The track coach recruited him
on the spot and Slocum came to campus in the fall of 2012. He roomed
with four upperclassmen at University Park Apartments on East Lindsay
Street. The upperclassmen would often schedule parties in the apartment
and would let the freshman know about it out of common courtesy.

“I didn’t have any say. I was only a freshman so I couldn’t tell them ‘no, no party’ or anything like that,” Slocum said.

But
the idea of having some advanced notice is actually what gave him that
first conceptual spark for what evolved into Aggiesland. Slocum decided
to make a website, something he had experimented with in high school in
addition to being on the robotics team.

“That
was the original goal, just for parties,” Slocum said. “I sat in my
room day in and day out and I was building the website. After I had a
small version done, I put it in one of our Facebook groups for AT
and the students just loved it. It made me feel good, so I continued to
just work on the project.”

Both
Slocum and Smith said the campus culture at AT is grounded by a
vibrant social life, with students often looking to connect, kick back
and have fun. But even as freshman, these two weren’t that deep into the
party scene. Eventually, however, they found a way to harness the power
of the social culture on campus.

The pair met in an entry-level computer science class.

Interestingly
enough, both men came to computer science after pivoting from their
initial fields of interest. Smith’s initial interest was in video and
film, and later engineering. Slocum also wanted to be an engineer,
expecting it to be a hands on field of study to take advantage of his
natural instincts.

“I
was always the kid to break toys, or get a little motor and put a
battery on it and let it fly,” Slocum said. “When I came here I thought
that was what I want to do, hands on, but when I found out it wasn’t
just hands on—it was math and science—I realized I would have to pivot
here.”

Smith said after moving toward engineering, he too realized it was not his best course.

“I
wanted to be a hacker, really,” he said. “That didn’t really pan out
the way I wanted to because engineers have to take chemistry and that is
not my strong suit.”

They
ended up in a basic computer class taught by Dr. Kenneth Williams.
Slocum showed Smith his idea for Aggiesland, and it was on from there.
Students had shown great encouragement toward the concept.

“I
got a lot of good feedback from students,” Slocum said. “They were like
‘yea man, this is something we really want to use. Just keep it up.’”
During that first year, Slocum said he made 15 to 20 versions of the
website. He added an email list and a login to begin collecting user
data, a move that would be pivotal to the project’s growth once the
mobile app was ready.

Both
men realized that first year that creative vision was their strength
and that by teaming with true computer science experts they could bring
their ideas to reality.

“I
wanted to create this platform for college students to have and know
about campus events—sporting events, nightlife, party stuff—things that
college students want to know about,” Slocum said.

The
key to taking the concept to the next level occurred when Slocum and
Smith met Neegbeah Reeves, a fellow computer science student who was
just then learning iOS, the operating system for Apple devices. Reeves
explained how he could turn the Aggiesland concept into a mobile
application. The team discussed the project for a month and then Reeves
rolled out a beta version.

The
team was excited about the app, but needed several graphics tweaks
before rolling it out sometime near the Greatest Homecoming on Earth
activities that year in 2012.

Before the app dropped, the website had generated considerable buzz.

“Even
when we first started people were just signing up for the website
because they wanted to be a part of it,” Slocum said. “People were
signing up everyday. They were telling their friends about it. The
incoming class of freshman was telling their friends about it.”

The student response to the Aggiesland concept was a major factor in the development of BrownBoxWorks.

“For
me, I think it was just knowing that people wanted to use something
that I created,” Slocum said. “So even just the first few, I was happy.
When you get those initial users, just to know that people are using
something that you made, I was happy about that.”

The
app dropped that October and the team pushed it out to users who had
signed up for the website email list. Smith said he was amazed at how
fast they cleared 1,500 users.

“We
didn’t do any major paid marketing, it was just students telling other
students ‘this is something you guys want to use,” Smith said. “The
students just attacked it. We started to get downloads everyday. Some
days it would be 30, other days 100. When this past freshman class
(2014) came in we got at least 400 new users on Aggiesland. That was
really good.”

After
the group sponsored an event on campus, and began wearing their
Aggiesland t-shirts, the visibility challenged their otherwise private
personalities. Invites to parties and clubs began rolling in. The staff
at Club Lotus gave them VIP treatment and promoted Aggiesland.

Slocum
said that they began getting random handshakes and shout outs on
campus. People would stop and thank them for the app, or ask about
joining their team. The party invites became constant.

“Now
it’s like we don’t look for the parties, the parties look for us,”
Smith said. “It kind of brings us out. Every time we go to a party we
think about how could we make the app better? What are they doing in
here and what could we add?” Slocum smiles when he refers to it as
“doing research.” Over time they added additional features to
Aggiesland, such as bus routes and university announcements. Local
entrepreneurs wanted to place articles on the app. Businesses wanted
advertising space.

That’s
when they knew they needed to form a company. Their first concept was
Crumbs Software, but that didn’t stick. Soon they came across
BrownBoxWorks, an idea taken from an unusual source.

Slocum
and Smith laugh when they describe the episode where Spongebob and
Patrick find a plain brown box and play inside making sounds. Outside
the box, other characters hear symphonic high-definition sounds, but
when they look inside the box, it’s just Spongebob and Patrick. One of
the characters asks them how they are creating such sounds.

“Spongebob pops out and says ‘imagination,’ and he makes a rainbow,” Slocum said. “That’s where the name came from.”

From
there they decided to get serious about business. “We didn’t know that
Greensboro had this amazing Triad Startup Lab, or Collab, or The Forge.
We didn’t know that any of that was here,” Slocum said. “We thought we
would have to move to (Silicon Valley), but we knew we couldn’t just up
and move to the valley right then.”

Smith
was researching angel investors in California and eventually came
across an idea slam in Greensboro. The event, sponsored by the
Greensboro Partnership’s Entrepreneur Connection, was held at Geeksboro
Coffeehouse last summer.

The
BrownBoxWorks team had several new app concepts, and pitched a couple
at the slam. The response was overwhelming, with tons of requests for
app development and people shoving business cards in their hands.

“Everybody
wanted their own mobile app developed, basically,” Slocum said. “We
were still young. We didn’t exactly know how to go about any of that. It
was just nice to get all that feedback.”

By
the time Slocum and Smith returned to their apartment that morning,
Kathy Elliott, who was then with the Greensboro Partnership, had called
to ask if they wanted to meet with potential investors. Elliott, who is
now an assistant professor of entrepreneurship at High Point University,
said she was inspired by their drive and passion.

She’s had the BrownBoxWorks team speak to some of her classes at HPU.

Elliott said she was impressed that busy students were hard at work on so many viable ideas.

“They
were confident, clever, and took criticism and advice,” she said. “They
understood the possibility of failure, but they kept going. I have
known them for a few years now and they continue dreaming and executing.
I believe they will be very successful one day.”

Elliott
connected the team with Troy Knauss, a local entrepreneur who is
vice-chairman of the Angel Resource Institute based out of Willamette
Valley, Oregon. Knauss lives in Summerfield and is involved in several
initiatives that support emerging business leaders. Knauss said he likes
to support a handful of projects each year being pursued by
entrepreneurs coming out of college. He tries to mentor them and see
where they might go.

Knauss
had attended the idea slam event at Geeksboro. “I really liked how
positive they were and I wondered what would happen if we put a little
money behind them,” Knauss said. “The thing that really drove me to them
was how creative they were, and ultimately the fact that they had a
full team involved was also a positive.”

Over
the course of a few months last fall, the Brown- BoxWorks team settled
on their next project, a platform for positivity, inspiration and
gratitude that they dubbed TWAGD, or Today was a Good Day. Slocum
described it as a positive version of what YikYak is, plus pictures.

The concept has expanded now into a platform on which a social network for family attractions, such as zoos and
museums, could be developed. After months of planning and design, the
team is beginning to market the concept to viable institutions.

“We’ve
changed it around because initially, it wasn’t designed to monetize,”
Smith said. “There was no monetization strategy. So we had an idea of
how to monetize it and still keep it to its positivity theme that we
designed it for.“ The team recently visited the NC Zoo in Asheboro with a
beta version of the app to conduct a field test. Earlier this month,
the BrownBoxWorks team attended an entrepreneurial boot camp conducted
by the Triad Startup Factory. The event was held at Flywheel in
Winston-Salem’s Innovation Quarter.

A
second project involves virtual reality and geospatial applications.
Users will be able to check in photos and videos, called drops, at
specific locations around campus. Passersby using the app will later be
able to view the drops made within a certain distance of their location.
The app is called ESPI.

“It’s
like discovering campus from other student perspectives,” Slocum said.
“In a sense, if I take a funny picture in my dorm room, people that come
into that dorm room can see the photo once they enter that area. It’s
not really like a feed that you would search, or this curated thing,
it’s just you finding things on campus during your normal day.”

The
BrownBoxWorks team continues to generate app concepts, but have
implemented a strict vetting process before an app gets on the short
list to development. Financial strategy and professional developer
feedback are critical to a project’s advancement.

“ESPI
has never been done before. It will be new,” Smith said. “That’s really
what the concept of BrownBoxWorks is, we’re all about innovating
something. All it takes is for the company to get one of those tens of
millions of dollars investments and we are going to take off and change
the world. Our ideas don’t stop with (the apps). We plan on doing big
things with the company that haven’t been done before. We’re using the
mobile app space right now to get us where we need to go.”

Both
men credit the support network developed by the Greensboro
Partnership’s Entrepreneur Connection as being critical to their
success. The team began working out of the Collab co-working space on
Greene Street.

“It
definitely helped us with company structure and some great
connections,” Slocum said. “When we came in here we were just some guys
going about. We knew what we wanted to do so we just acted on that
instead of mapping out steps to success.”

The real world business knowledge has helped them focus on recruiting what Smith calls “the A-team in Greensboro.”

So
far the BrownBoxWorks team consists of Slocum as CEO, Smith as COO,
Smith’s brother, Kendrick, as chief visionary, and Reeves as lead code
developer. Two new members of the code team spent the summer interning
at NASA. A board of advisors is made up of Knauss, Len Testa, and Greg
Poole.

Working
at Collab allowed them to meet UNCG student Madison Wolf, a marketing
expert that’s already helped the team avoid mistakes.

The
team is trying to gain acceptance into the Triad Startup Factory’s
accelerator program, a 12-week process that could result in additional
cash investment.

Both Knauss and Professor Elliott are impressed with the business acumen Smith and Slocum have developed.

“It
took them a while to find those cofounders that have additional skills,
but it seems like they are moving forward in a nice way,” Knauss said.
“We are learning here in Greensboro that it takes a talented team,
programming and an understanding of markets. You really have to find
your niche and hit it hard.”

Elliott agreed, and pointed out that the two students have already embraced their own role as mentors.

“These
young men get it,” she said. “They have spoken to students across the
Triad. They are passing the baton on to other hopeful student
entrepreneurs.”

BrownBoxWorks
has big plans for the Aggiesland app this fall. They hope to begin
marketing the attractions app next month. Plans are to develop the
geospatial app for launch next year.

“It’s
not what I came to school for, but I can honestly say that Everette and
I have learned more just doing this that what school was able to teach
us,” Smith said. “If we wanted to go into business classes then we
probably wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are now just going out there and
doing it. Just doing it, like ready, fire, aim. That’s what we did.

“We wanted to just come in and make things happen.

Nobody
gave use permission to do Aggiesland, we just did it and people loved
it. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than it is permission.” !

Article source: http://yesweekly.com/article-20263-nc-at-students-develop-mobile-apps-from-coding-dreams.html

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Winston-Salem Ranked as Top City to Start a Business

By Staff

winston-salem

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

Seminars:

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.

Roundtables:

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.

Clinics:

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 .

 

 

Article source: http://www.camelcitydispatch.com/winston-salem-ranked-as-top-city-to-start-a-business-58764/

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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.

Confidence.

“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.”

Article source: http://www.highpoint.edu/blog/2015/12/partnerships-give-students-a-taste-of-real-life/

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NVM Private Equity leads £3.4m investment in Cramlington tech firm Avid

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Article source: https://bdaily.co.uk/technology/05-07-2016/nvm-private-equity-leads-34m-investment-in-cramlington-tech-firm-avid/

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