Harkaview

10 Reasons why Boston was a great start-up town in 2011 – Looking forward to a great 2012

In alphabetical order: Artisan's Asylum  – now with 31,000 square feet on the Somerville/Cambridge line, wood shop, welding shop, machine shop, lots of how-to classes and a great mix of artists, machinists, electronic hobbyists, carpenters. You can finally, for little money, build whatever your mind can imagine minutes from Boston. BostonInno , GreenHorn Connect, Scott Kirsner, VentureFizz, Xconomy and many more that I forgot to mention keeping us informed second by second on the local startup scene. Cambridge Innovation Center – The CIC is an incredible space for launching companies and always a friend to the start-up community. Microsoft NERD Center – The NERD center has hosted for free thousands of events in their spectacular spaces. Great to see the corporate giant doing so much for the local start-up eco system. Mass Challenge  - One million dollars in prizes, free awe-inspiring office space. Attracting worldwide talent to Boston. Yowza. TechStars Boston –  A fantastic accelerator program, $100K guaranteed funding, an exceptional training/mentoring program, friendly … Continue reading →

Before You Start a Business, Plan Your Exit

Not usually the first thing you think of when starting a company, but where you want to end up impacts everything you do. I sit on the board of ChatThreads, where we are in the process of raising an equity round to fund the growth of the company. Early in the process, an investor asked what the company could do to accelerate and maximize our exit.  I replied my standard response: “ We intend to build a great business. By building a great business, we create a great exit.” While my answer was accurate and sincere, I owe the investor a more nuanced answer. What Makes ChatThreads Valuable ChatThreads is a media research company that helps primarily Consumer Package Goods (CPG) companies evaluate with a 360-degree view in real time the effectiveness of their advertising dollars.  As an early stage business, with a coveted product offering and broad applicability, ChatThreads can grow in many ways: Maximize the revenue from a … Continue reading →

Why 10 slides, 5 minute pitches and one pagers really matter

Fred Wilson wrote a good post recently on the optimal size for a slide deck. His thesis was skip the slide deck and do a great demo.  I believe in demos, mockups, product samples or any other devices entrepreneurs use to enable investors to understand what you are selling. The more actual the product is, the easier to get people (including investors) excited.  But, this post is NOT about the optimal slide count or pitch length for investors. Rather, it is about building a successful business.  Wooing investors is great, but ultimately selling a lot of product to customers is what makes a business succeed. The 10 or 6 or 3 slide deck (as opposed to a 30 slide deck) is important because it forces entrepreneurs to think concretely about their business.  Early stage business is about efficiency. Doing the few things (maybe one) really well and delighting your customers with the things you do.  The 5-minute pitch or 10-slide … Continue reading →

What will the fall of 2011 look like for entrepreneurs?

It is that time of the year again — the dog days of August when I wax poetic about the prospects for start-up companies in the coming months. This post is a follow-on to my   Summer time or is business slowing post about a year ago.  At that point, things seemed slow, the economy was uncertain, but sentiment was that things would pick up for entrepreneurs. In fact, from last July to this one, things looked promising for those of us who bring new products and innovation to the marketplace. Valuations were soaring, IPOs were picking up steam and Boston was back on the map. In March, I claimed that perhaps valuations were getting too high or bubblicious. In the middle of June, I left TechStars Demo Days feeling like the entrepreneurial scene in Boston was thriving and partying like it was 1999.  TechStars had 12 companies present to hooting and hollering, a rollicking after party with Coolio, oversubscribed rounds – the … Continue reading →

Carnegie Mellon Entrepreneurs Group Boston Early Stage Funding Breakfast

As a proud member of the Boston Carnegie  Mellon Entrepreneurial Group, I helped organize and present at a panel session last week at TechStars/Dogpatch Labs in Cambridge. We had a great diversity of investors on the panel, Bob Crowley, B. Christopher Kim, Jim Lang, and Katie Rae.  Rick Lucash  hosted the panel.  Thanks to the presenters, TechStars for hosting and thank to everyone that attended Take Aways Your network matters. The panel was in universal agreement that investors, particularly in Boston, are not going to take your phone call or read your business plan, if you aren’t introduced by a trusted source. This is not your standard old boys’ – or old girls’ — network. It is a filtering process. If you can't find the kind of investor the project requires, then you probably are not building a business to thrive. If you are building a business, you have got to network, face-to-face, and not virtually. There is no excuse … Continue reading →

Bubblicious – Warning, Entrepreneurs! Social media valuation bubble distorts the entire market

Color raises $41M in a series A round with no revenue.  Twitter is valued at $7.7B with $45M  revenue (171 times revenue) in 2010. Facebook is now valued at $65B up 30% over 6 weeks relative to the valuation when Goldman Sachs invested.  Hiring a couple of hot software engineers today is Silicon Valley is the equivalent of the Red Sox signing Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Another Internet Bubble: that’s what it looks like to me. The difference this time is that the companies have revenue and might be profitable when they are valued at crazy high valuations.  The predicted IPOs of Groupon and Facebook will be for revenue-generating and profitable companies. Google has proven that high valuations can be sustained. However, a bubble — is still a bubble. Can a photo sharing site that hasn’t launched really need or justify $41M? Facebook was reported to have a trailing price to earning (P/E) ratio of 125 @ a $50B valuation.  Today it … Continue reading →

Is first to market really a good strategy ?

Looking at the recent crazy high  $15B  (yes billion) valuation of two year old Groupon got me thinking about why? What did Groupon do correctly? Are they winning because they were first to market with group online discounts ? I don’t think so; Town Hog and Living Social were both founded earlier. I can think of many variants of online couponing companies that have come and gone over the years .  What Groupon has done really right and continues to do really right is make a massive investment in outselling and out hustling their competition. OK raise your hands, how many of you have written, spoken, read or heard the words: “We will dominate the markets we enter by being first to market”. I have written this phrase into a few business plans and have heard it many times from entrepreneurs. Googles nifty word frequency analysis tool shows that “first to market” increased in usage 400% in the last decade peaking … Continue reading →

What if you stopped tweeting and dropped Facebook?

What if you stopped tweeting and dropped Facebook? My last two tweets were Oct 12 and Oct 20. I was not a huge Twitter emitter before that, but I did tweet every day or two during the previous couple months. My last blog post was Oct 6. The last time I spoke publicly was a panel session on October 20. I also have been off TweetDeck and Facebook for most of October, November and December. Clearly, I have not been doing much outbound communication or monitoring what others are saying. This brings up two interesting questions: 1. Why the falloff in my social media involvement? 2. What impact has opting out of social media had on my business and personal brand? 1) The falloff is easy to explain. One of the hats I wear is CEO of BPG Motors and the other is running an early-stage consulting practice, Harkador Partners. BPG has been in serious crunch mode and what was … Continue reading →

Bending iron in a facebook world

I like software companies. I really do. In fact, I sit on the board of a software company, consult to another, advise a couple more and I am in the early stages of building a web based business. Super Angels such as Ron Conway are investing into up to four businesses (generally software/social media plays) a month looking for the next facebook or more likely the next company sold to facebook, Google and the like. I spend a lot of my time in a different world running BPG Motors, a start-up that is building a compact self-balancing motorcycle. My team spends their days bending and cutting metal, whirling motors and designing systems that encompass long lead-time parts. Rapid prototyping a product for us usually takes months if not years and not days. This is not a business where you set up a good developer with a case of Coke, and a Mac Book Pro and you get a working demonstration of your product finished … Continue reading →

Summer time or is business slowing ?

I started conceiving this blog post in August when things were indeed slow. My consulting business had very little new sales activity and I got to thinking: is it me, the economy or just summer. My first approach was to gather some data. I thought for a long time that email traffic, at least the volume of quality (more about quality later) email traffic, was a strong indicator of business activity in general and a good indicator of successful new business activity. Mid month, I found out how to Analyze (My) Email Usage with Mail Trends. Being that August was slow, I took the time to install Mail Trends on my Mac. I went back to my geek days and pulled up a UNIX terminal window and collected some insightful data on the 74,119 emails in my Gmail account. In 2009, email activity dropped to 77 % of the monthly average for July and August. 2010 was a little harder … Continue reading →