Is Zoe Barry’s ZappRx the cure to over-the-counter pharmacy blues?

Zoe Barry
Zoe Barry

By Dennis Clemente

There are not that many female tech founders let alone someone as young as Zoe Barry. The 29-year-old former hedge fund analyst found a cure to mishandled prescriptions. She created and patented an e-prescription app and management system called ZappRx.

“With 30% of pharmacy checkout delays being attributable to issues with health insurance, we made checkout a breeze by allowing patients to manage their health insurance, payment, and prescription information all on their phone in a secure and HIPAA-compliant app,” she said.

How does it work? Whenever a pharmacist receives a prescription that needs clarification, he or she can simply communicate with the provider directly through the system. And when a patient fills that prescription, their provider is instantly notified, which helps keep everyone in sync.

“It’s a mobiile boarding pass in an airport applied to pharmacy,” Barry said.

The idea came to her when she accompanied a friend in college to the pharmacy only to find out she didn’t have any medication order. Barry’s friend contacted her doctor but he could not send a prescription, because it would cause problems with the electronic medical records.

Before launching ZappRx, Barry remembers how her work at the hedge fund company ended abruptly in only 10 months when it folded.

Barry recalls the time of her struggles. She ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, let the investor she was talking to at the time treat her to lunch and didn’t pay her credit card for a full year. “The investor was treating me lunch because I was at the point of starving.”

The candid founder spoke at The Hatchery meetup last October 25 at the American Management Association building.

Passionate about her startup, Barry likes to intone, “If I can figure out how to automate one thing, I can crush it.” With $750,000 funding, she has room to grow the business and improve a healthcare system as we know it.

She raised $160,000 from family and friends alone–$60,000 from one, $40,000 in another and so on and so forth. “You would be surprised to find out that friends and family want you to succeed,” she said. Atlas has invested in her twice already.

If there’s one thing she likes to emphasize, it’s how startups should find a champion on the inside. “Ask him for coffee or have him talk to you in a neutral location.”

Don’t lay down your cards right away, she added. “Don’t ask them for money (in the beginning). This sets an alarm bell on their heads, which makes them more curious about you. Have them be intrigued by you. For example, do not exchange cards in an event where you meet them.”

Barry warns us how competing investors can be worse than sorority girls. “If they don’t like each other they won’t play together.”

She recommended going to angel investors and incubators, but suggested not to go to accelerators. “You won’t raise money in 3 months in those accelerators,” she said “Accelerators are a farce.”

Barry said some investors will test you to see if you will blink. They will ask you about your startup’s market size to test you, but it won’t even matter if there’s no realistic way to pin this down. “You can just have a potential.”

Being the sole founder, Barry admitted to some challenges. You may want to do everything, but she knew she couldn’t do some things, like “be a lawyer and be a developer.”

She figured out to write the patent but there are other legal matters that were not readily available for her. As for developing the app, she had it outsourced.

Her ZappRx app is actually 3 tech functions in one–one for the doctor, one for the pharmacy and one for patient. It allows healthcare providers, patients, and pharmacists to more easily interact and communicate. When a provider writes an e-prescription using ZappRx, the patient instantly receives the prescription on their smartphone and can easily fill, transfer, or renew it.

Barry learned enough about healthcare in her old job, where she admitted being miserable but it also served as a launching pad for her idea. She graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University in 2007, but she found something and crushed it, as she likes to call it.

As for that credit card, she told her investors right away who then helped her settle it right away.

The rest of what she learned and conveyed to her audience:
• A patent is not what’s going to make you successful. It’s only as strong as your pocket is deep. Her patent was just a defensible strategy for pitching to VC
• Single best decision she made: Hire an executive chair—a CEO coach , because it allowed us to accelerate quickly
• Hold on to power. When an investor asked for 30 minutes of her customer time, she said no. She also doesn’t suggest creating a board, even if you have million-dollar funding, because the board will fire you.
• Beware of zappers (or naysayers)—those who take away your energy

NY Video presents Interlude, Drama Fever, Entertainment Hound and apivids

New Girl video
New Girl video

By Dennis Clemente

Last October 22, NY Video meetup host Steve Rosenbaum welcomed back Interlude.fm, a presenter years ago, with good news to share. It recently got a second funding, this time from Intel Capital.

Interlude.fm is a crowd-pleaser of an idea. Its authoring platform, Treehouse, allows video creators to map, build and publish Interlude videos on Web, mobile and social platforms.

Think how you can just easily switch the colors of the car commercial you are watching. Or pick the musical instrument you want to hear among the band playing different instruments.

You can certainly go wild with the customization but Alon Benari, VP Creative & Innovation, likes the idea of threes –the frequency which takes us to have a song stuck on our head, anyway.

Israeli musician Yoni Bloch is the founder which makes this a great avenue for musicians who like making unique videos, but it’s clearly more than that. Licensing the technology to media companies, video production companies and ad agencies has been a cinch. Its roster of prestigious clients includes Fox’s New Girl and Subaru, among others. It’s free for personal use.

The NY Video’s other guests at the meetup included Drama Fever, Entertainment Hound, and apivids.

Romanos Fessas, VP Product and Sung Ho Choi, product manager, talked about the new advertising display opportunities for its online video site, Drama Fever, showing how they can put ads front and center. “We are able to do sponsorships and fit videos around advertising,” Fessas said who claims to have 50,000 subscribers on the site so far.

Drama Fever is an online video site for international video content. It streams movies, documentaries and TV shows on demand with subtitles. It reportedly has 60 content partners across 12 countries.It is available on a variety of devices, including iPad, iPhone, Android and Roku.

First launched beta in 2009, it has raised money from MK Capital, AMC Networks, Bertelsmann and the founders of YouTube, Machinima, Google, StubHub and others.

Clearly new in the scene, next presenter Entertainment Hound is a social discovery platform for films. It recommends videos from all films and then shows you where you can legally stream, download, rent, and own them from your favorite places, such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Wal-Mart and Target.

Elliott Koss, the sole founder and also the developer, said, “We clearly need help in improving the site.” Koss worked in film distribution for six years, encoding digital content when he came up with the idea of having a social discovery tool for movies.

“The discovery process works like Pinterest,” Koss said. “When clicking on a title, the site shows the services you can watch a movie.”

Plans to have books and TV shows are reportedly afoot.

General manager Philippe Collin presented apivids, a cloud-based ad tech platform that advertisers and media agencies use to create, distribute, deliver, optimize, manage, track and report on the most complex and video campaigns.

From his presentation, apivids looks ready for primetime, coming on the heels of its promotion in Europe. It is reportedly available on any screen (desktop, mobile, tablet, IPTV), in any format (in-banner, in-stream, in-read [IAB or non-IAB]), any publisher (premium, ad networks, ad exchanges, SVA platforms) and any campaign (branding, direct response and anything in-between).

“We’ve never seen one publisher refuse our ads,” he claimed.

Previously held at Columbia University, Rosenbaum said the NY Video Meetup is now going to hold its monthly meetups at the Made in NY Media Center in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Do due diligence because there’s no divorcing investors

Adam Quinton
Adam Quinton

By Dennis Clemente

You’ve heard it before and angel investor Adam Quinton is going to repeat yet again for you. You won’t be able to get rid of investors once they’re in. It’s like marriage but without divorce. This is why it’s important to choose the right investor.

“You should be thinking ‘due diligencing’ the investor as much as they are ‘due diligencing’ you,” said Quinton, CEO of Lucas Point Ventures at The Hatchery meetup last October 18. Quinton has invested in at least eight companies.

Quinton likes to limn his thoughts philosophically. “Due diligence, you can do it mechanically or do with deep thought.”

On how relationship is like with an investor: “If an investor invested $250,000 that would mean you’ll need to be intimate with them compared to someone who invested only $10,000. But if the former gives you pain, it’s not worth it. Go with an investor who is going to be your friend for a long time.”

On the most important way for startups to get funded: “Traction is the new IP (intellectual property.) In the conventional sense, he is really talking about the non-existence of IP and how investors give more weight to your startup’s traction. “(IP) It’s not going to help you in the short term.”

For startups looking to get noticed, Quinton said it won’t hurt to feed investors updates about your company’s progress and that includes people you just hired. “There’s nothing that keeps people more interested than traction. (You can probably do that) once every six weeks through emails or newsletters (to investors). Don’t overdo it or risk being annoying.”

Why is this important? For Quinton, “I may say no now, but I may say yes next time.”

Quality over quantity as a startup’s cache: “Some people are divided between these two distinctions. I’ve tended to go for quality. I look at the characteristics of the founders. With quantity, you’ll be bogged down by analytics. Six months from now, (you’ll have to study new data yet again).”

His thoughts on this pertain to how analytics keep shifting and therefore not always reliable, but he gave some fair share of warning: “Just be prepared when you raise money.”

As for fundraising, Quinton was generous with his tips:
• Be prepared. Document everything.
• Assign those who will take care of the startup information—and who will have ownership of specific tasks
• Don’t advocate people spending time on a business plan
• Have market analysis and market strategy. Have a go-to marketing plan
• Have you financials, especially in summary form
• Include a spreadsheet analysis on your pitch deck

Who to hire in your startup? “Get people who can make quick decisions,” he said.

ON how you can make a quick good impression? “Most of the decisions investors make are highly emotional. You got to be super-organized and super-focused. You get things done. Due diligence is part of due diligence. You can do half-ass fundraising or full-on fundraising.”

On equity and convertible notes, he has this to say: “I’ve done both equity and notes. I know people who will not invest in a convertible note. because someone had a bad experience. People who like control usually don’t like convertible notes. I’m ok with notes.”

“What you want is not somebody always with money, but those who know terms that make sense. And if you’ve got the lead investor, then you’re on your way,” he stressed.

Some cautionary words: “Ninety percent of the time angel investors say no. If you’re early, you may prejudice yourself, if they don’t know you.”

What are red flags for investors? “A disorganized startup, issues on a startup’s individuals or team. (Those with) unpaid debts: If you have any history like that, assume it will be found out.”

Proceed or pivot? 8 presenters find out at Ultra Light Startups

By Dennis Clemente

No-holds-barred feedback from investors may just be the drawing power of the Ultra Light Startups pitch meetups. Last October 16 at the Microsoft building, more than a hundred people watched as a total of eight startups found out if they were going to proceed or pivot with their startups.

The audience also judged not just the startups for their pitches but also the investors in terms of who provided the best advice. The startup that got the most votes was Nerdy Data with its search engine for source code.

The investor-judge who won was Nikhil Kalghatgi of SoftBank Capital. The other investor-judges were Ryan Armbrust of ff Venture Capital, Owen Davis of NYC Seed, and Brendan Dickinson of Canaan Partners.

With a two-minute presentation for each startup, it was hard to find out more about the eight companies. But the judges nevertheless provided substantial yet critical feedback that they can bring home with them.

Being the best pitcher of the night, though, Nerdy Data can accelerate their startup’s progress with prize credits, a month of co-working space, cloud services, and bids to VCs lined up for the startup.

Steven Sonnes of Nerdy Data introduced himself as a search engine consultant. “We want to open up API for everybody.”

Kalghatgi sees its potential, “Every company wants a shortcut. Work with large organizations. Spend more time making killer apps then go deep dive.”

Davis agreed, “I love what you’re working on but commit to an area.”

The other presenters included iArea.net’s James Decrescenzo whose company aims to enable users to work from anywhere. One of the judges helped him call it more clearly as a virtual office IT reseller.

“We’ve been building this platform for 10 years. We have 1,000 users and we have our own software,” Decrescenzo said.

Dickinson was not convinced, saying, “You’re going to have a hard time getting funded.”

Kris Kniaz pitched next with SchoolEmpower, a global school management and class registration software that just went live last April. “We have an easy-to-use interface. For a dancer-teacher with her own studio, she will have an easy way to calendar her appointments, and make it easy for customers to pay,” Kniaz said. .

Davis disagreed, “You are in a unique position to drive traffic. Give it away for free.”

Dickinson took both sides but stressed, “You got to figure out your customers. If its payment processing, nail that.”

Jason Liang of BringMeThat is all about online food delivery for small and medium-sized cities. “We utilize proprietary algorithms to acquire restaurants rather than use a sales model. We now have over 20,000 restaurants online.”

“We make 15 percent. With the average order at $20 dollars, we earn $3,” he said.
“Plan is to localize every region.”

Davis said, “I am curious if the restaurants will love or hate you…if you’re going to add customer experience. There is a relationship established in some of the restaurants in small towns.”

Dickinson considered the branding and positioning challenge: “It is going to be incredibly expensive to drive people to your site.”

James of Passivemetrics presented his company as an analytics tracking tool for Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Kalghatgi asked, “Hootsuite owns this space. What’s the game plan?”

“The face of analytics has changed. I run Localytics before. Think of how you can differentiate. Say you’re earning 75K a month, you can continue on growing that, focus on enterprise sales,” he added.

Katie Bambino of The Dating Ring, a former project manager of Zynga, said her site, is kind of “Netflix meets Millionaire Matchmaker.”

Kalghatgi thinks “no one is successful in real-world dating. {It’s) also hard to scale,” while Dickinson said “it’s hard to maintain the inventory of the site. I would think hard about that.”

Davis advised, “Look into experiential sites. (Know that it’s) painful, painful, painful, expensive, expensive, expensive.”

Jussi Kaasinen of Sports Tracker said he wants to help train well, connect through sports, and live healthier happier lives. “We have organic growth. We have 10 million downloads.”

“We sell accessories. We have our online shop and distribution networks. We have developed interfaces and all kinds of third party devices,” Kaasinen said.

Davis’ tip, “Start offering discounts and make sure people find this useful.”

Dickinson said, “You got to have a plan, a partner or have a diet plan. Otherwise, you’re going to be in trouble.”

Goldman: 3Hs all startups need in a team–hustler, hipster, hacker

Shai Goldman
Shai Goldman

By Dennis Clemente

What do you need to be a successful startup these days? Venture partner Shai Goldman of 500 Startups, a global seed stage VC firm, boils it down to three types of people. You need a hustler (salesperson), hipster (creative designer), and hacker (engineer) in your startup team.

Goldman was speaking at the Friday fireside chat The Hatchery at the American Management Association building near Times Square. “A hustler must know how to acquire a customer. “More and more we’re looking for a sales/distribution/customer acquisition person. We also ask if you can make, say, $10 million in revenue.”

How do they decide on which startup to invest in? Goldman said it varies by quarter.
“For mobile apps, you should at least have 5 million downloads to get Series A funding.”

“We usually invest about $I00,000 to $150,000 syndicating with other VC firms,” he said. 500 Startups is known to invest about $250,000 in early seed stage companies with about 600 investments made on a global scale, 150 of them in New York, including the 3-D company based in New York, Makerbot.

Beyond the team, what does it take to get funding? Like Goldman and most VCs and accelerators will tell you, “You need a (good) product and traction, lots of traction.” Even if you’re from abroad, he still thinks you can get funded if your product has traction. “The founders don’t have to be in the United States,” he added.

Some things he doesn’t mind overlooking is when a market size is hard to define—and that means the share economy. In this case, he “looks at revenue opportunity than market size.”

Goldman is not too concerned about the rising number of crowdfunding sites. “It doesn’t really affect VCs because those fundraisers coming from, say, Kickstarter, will need to raise another round of funding (as they grow).”

How do you market your startup these days? Goldman is a big fan of email marketing. “Email is a great tool for (targeting) new and existing customers. You can easily find or buy email listings online. Then focus on the content, frequency, ad exchanges and call to action messages in your email.

Here are more suggestions:
• Use LiveIntent
• Buy ad placements in somebody’s email content
• Tap Pinterest, Facebook, Linkedin
• Try different channels to see what works for your customer base.
• And what not to do: “If you all do is Twitter, that’s a red flag for us.”

Goldman provided some tips for startups not to repeat common mistakes:
• Optimize for SEO on landing pages. “Lots of startups fail to drive people to the landing pages (of their websites).”
• If you’re in the fashion space, you must use Instagram. And don’t forget to add caption to those photos.
• Make use of Vine or follow example of ipsy.com with its how-to YouTube videos

One has to be careful about how to use and manage seed money. Goldman said the worst you can do is have a poor forecast. You have to manage capital well in, say, 9 to 18 months that you need while trying to gain traction. If you have capital that lasts up to 24 months while trying to gain traction, that’s the best way you reduce your failure rate.

Goldman hinted at the following trends 500 Startups and everyone else is watching:
• Online companies building brick-and-mortar shops
• Shopping trackers; technology in retail stores
• Bay Area investors exploring the New York food space
• Enterprise mobility and e-commerce
• Latin America with opportunities in the middle-class market

500 Startups’ early-stage companies with up to $250K in funding are included in their startup accelerator program, and unique events like SmashSummit, UnSexy, and GeeksOnaPlane. With hundreds of experienced startup mentors around the world, a creative work space in the heart of Silicon Valley, and a vibrant community of startup founders. Their investment team and mentor network has operation experience at companies including PayPal, Google, YouTube, Yahoo, AOL, Zynga, LinkedIn, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook. It has 30 employees of different nationalities.

The meetup was hosted by Yao Hui Huang.

Establishing and preserving your startup culture

Jonathan Ages
Jonathan Ages

By Dennis Clemente

Your startup culture is crucial to your startups’ long-term success. But how do you make company culture your own and how do you preserve it as you grow?

Last October 9, Michael Balzigos, psychology professor at Columbia University and Global Head of Product Development at McKinsey & Co., led the conversation into the topic with one startup founder and two organizational leaders at Alley NYC giving both an unstructured and structured view of company culture.

Jonathan Ages is the CEO of Blood, Sweat & Cheers, which provides free daily email for active men and women striving to be fit. The startup reportedly has about 100,000 daily email newsletter subscriptions and boasts 2013 Webby Awards for running ad campaigns on Crunch, Red Bull and Mike’s Hard.

The two other guests were Brett Morgan, director of business change and transformation for Wyndham Hotel Group and Iva Karolina Raisinger, organization leadership consultant at IBM

Raisinger thinks efficiency becomes a question if there are no written rules. For her, the importance of company culture resides in “the persona of the corporation as enacted by its employees and leaders.”

Ages agreed, “(Company culture) is the glue and fuel of the startup. It’s about working toward the same goal and having fun while doing it.”

How do you inculcate culture in your company?

Ages has an interesting structure in place in his company. “Tuesdays, I do walk-in talks. I walk around with them. Make sure they are valued. Thursdays, we have think and drinks. It’s an opportunity for us to share what you’ve been doing. We even talk about dating, as long as it doesn’t devolve into small talk but leads to a brainstorm. Fridays, we work from home with as little interaction as possible.”

Morgan said you must start it right—have a mission; be consistent; get employees involved and learn adaptability. “In two years, you’ll be in a better place.”

As for keeping customers, Morgan believes in keeping it simple like Johnny the Bagger, the story he likes talking about. “Johnny offered a Thought of the Day to the customers who liked it and always chose the counter he manned as a result. You can change culture, whether it’s engineered or organic.”

For Raisinger, it’s far more complex. “You cannot change culture through training,” suggesting a need to go deeper into the core. “Be honest. I am not even using the word authenticity, just honesty.”

Morgan interjected, “What will not work is ramming culture on people’s throats. Nobody will listen to you. You need to start small.”

But how do they handle people resistant to change. Coming from the publishing industry he left behind, Ages said the higher-ups remain there (in the company), because they are masters at keeping things unchanged.”

“They want the gates closed, because cultural shifts are challenging for them,” he added which compelled Bazigos to say, “The road to the future is a guarded by a thousand guardians of the past.”

What do they think of the most divisive of all–open office? Is it good or bad?

In most of his studies, Balzigos has noticed how employees hate open space. As a solution, he has also observed how some companies pump up the ambient noise or white noise in their offices.

Ages said one time he moved developers to a quiet area where they could not hear marketers making phone calls, they became more productive, but they lost connection with other people, unfortunately.

If it’s any consolation, Balzigos thinks of it this way: “If you’re in finance, you have more in common with someone in the same section or position in another company.”

Ages creates some space between colleagues from the neck part up and by suggesting having headphones on to allow them to work without distraction, from people or his environment.

Morgan tells how our environment can influence the company’s culture, but he calls for striking a balance when it matters. “Be careful that culture does not get in the way of your goal.”

Balzigos pointed out the leader’s imprint in the culture of an organization is key, but he also cautioned about how some founders struggle letting go of some responsibilities and losing sight of the goal. “Answer this question, are you ‘entrepreneuring’ or managing. It’s important to figure out how to trust your team.”

Ages said he is able to trust his team because hires smart people and allows them to do their thing. “I do the recruitment and then try to get out of the way unless some troubleshooting is needed.”

Selecting and keeping the right people is vital, and Morgan bases his decision on their knowledge, skills, ability and adaptability to culture.

For Ages, “it’s important that you allow them to audition and give a real-world opportunity to do their role.”

To keep and get them excited, Balzigos said, “Sell them greed. Show them ROI, the company’s projected growth in a few years.”

Warby Parker’s prescription for success

dave gilboa
Dave Gilboa

By Dennis Clemente

Never judge a man by his prescription glasses, especially one wearing Warby Parker.

Dave Gilboa, CEO of Warby Parker, is one adrenaline junkie who likes to be transformed by his adventures. He woke up one morning in a flamingo costume to run the marathon (if records mean anything, he was the fastest in that category), climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, backpacked in Thailand where he lost his $700-worth prescription glasses but still continued his Southeast Asia trip without it, nearly blind.

Last October 8, Gilboa appeared before us looking all scholarly with Warby Parker eyeglasses, unassuming and shy in contrast to his adventurous ways; which is really why you should never judge a man by his prescription glasses.

Gilboa was at the Startup Grind meetup at AOL Offices to talk about his other transformation—the designer eyewear everyone is talking about because of its two-pronged offer: revolutionary prices and social consciousness. For every eyepiece sold, a pair goes to someone in need.

The idea itself is revolutionary to think of how it is competing head-on with the giant eyewear company, Luxottica, which has the monopoly on eyewear (the popular brands you can think of plus the stores) with a $26b market cap.

Still, it is precisely because of its David-and-Goliath approach to the business that has endeared it to the press which has made the eyewear startup a huge success (the GQ piece in time for its launch proved to be the game changer), online at first and now with brick-and-mortar stores. From four people, Gilboa now runs the company with Neil Blumenthal as co-CEO. The founders have raised $55 million from venture capitalists SV Angel, Lere Ventures, Menlo Ventures and First Round Capital.

Starting a company with friends can be tricky. But it didn’t matter Gilboa and his Wharton MBA schoolmates. “We trusted each other. We knew we could spend 24 hours together. None of us were even technical.”

But how did they pull it off and compete against Luxottica? The first hire was a 20-year veteran with the right connections; next was getting independent manufacturers to come onboard. They admitted to being initially paranoid about getting investors, because they wanted to maintain control of the business as long as possible before getting capital.

“We bootstrapped. All four of us pitched in and started with $120,000,” he said. “We operated the business for 14 months before we got our first round of funding. In our first round, we got 100,000 customers.”

Asked how you can get your startup funded, he said, “You have to have enough traction. Show them user revenue and profitability.”

Gilbao credits the fashion editorial PR firm they hired for giving them the media push, especially the feature on GQ. “We did it mainly to get credibility,” Today, he said the company wouldn’t be where it us now if they didn’t hire the PR firm. “PR has had a massive impact on our business.”

It was not smooth-sailing at all. Gilboa recalled not having their site up yet when they got a call from GQ saying the mag was going to hit the newsstands early. They managed to make the site work but not with all the bells and whistles they wanted.

He said their biggest mistake was not planning for extreme scenarios. Once the site was up, he had his phone setup to receive orders. They didn’t realize the site was going to get so much traffic. “We were blown away by the traffic.”

It didn’t occur to them that they didn’t have a ‘sold-out’ functionality. “We got somebody from odesk to add a ‘wait-list’ button in 10 minutes.”

To make amends to their customers, they gave everyone discounts. “We just wanted to make sure they would go back to our site.”

What he learned in that experience is that “you’re allowed to screw up, as long as you make each one of them happy.”

That first year, Gilboa said the company hit its sales target in three weeks. “I remember staying all night packing boxes and having strangers in my apartment looking at the eyeglasses.”

Proof of their customer service? WP tweets back a day after the article came out.
Proof of its outstanding customer service? WP tweets back a day after the article came out.

Customer satisfaction is a big part of Warby Parker’s success. Holding employees accountable for how they treat customers can be a challenge, but they make it possible by using Net Promoter, a loyalty metric and a discipline for using customer feedback.

Today, the company has 350 people in its Soho store with showrooms in other stores all around the country. It just signed up an 80,000 sq ft lease for another store.

For Gilbao, Warby Parker is more than an eyewear, it’s a fashion brand.

The meetup was hosted by Startup Grind’s Bryan Park.

What to do when you run out of startup money

Dane Atkinson
Dane Atkinson

By Dennis Clemente

What to do when you run out of startup money?

Find ways to pivot, according to Dane Atkinson, CEO of SumAll and lawyer Randolph Adler, Jr., the special guests last October 4 at The Hatchery meetup at the American Management Association building near Times Square.

“If you want to save your startup, give your problems some distance. If your story is not working, take the weekend off, step back, come back to face your demons and challenges, or pivot,” Atkinson said.

Every CEO makes mistakes. Atkinson was never more empathic than the relationship between CEOs and employees where the problems may actually lie. “People who work for you are your employees. Ask them to do work and that they have serious obligations to adhere to.”

“Ask for help. Your customers are an amazing lifeline. 9 out of 10 people will help you,” he added.

If all else fails, Atkinson suggested how it is easier to start a new concept. (Don’t) feel like you’re giving up on yourself. Even if you have failed, they (VCs) can still fund you next time.

Adler, for his part, thinks being honest about yourself is key. “If you’re running out of money, shut it down. If you have debt, (realize) there are angel investors who may want to ‘collaterize debt.”

Atkinson and Adler just hope the experience serves as a learning lesson when you pivot or start another idea.

In the casual fireside talk, Atkinson said, “VCs (venture capitalists) are predicated on compression of time. So work your a—off if you’re a startup.”

Randolph Adler
Randolph Adler

All investors want something that can change the world.

Taking off from there, Adler said VCs have bosses who want ROI. So in the beginning you’ll have to put yourself in the shoes of the VC and ask some tough questions, “If you are a VC, would you invest in your company?”

Adler called also for some perspective. ”We see the success story but not the others who have failed. You may need a gut check.”

As Atkinson talked about how much VCs fund startups, Adler told the audience what could be the most insightful tip in their talk. “What do these figures tell us? Nobody knows the value of a company or how much one is worth.”

It may also be the reason why, when a startup fails, it is still a surprise for some people. “Consider VCs not as a guiding force but as part of the environment,” Atkinson concluded.

If you want to get funded in your next idea, Atkinson hopes it’s not a lifestyle business. “No investor will touch a lifestyle business.”

Atkinson is a co-founder of SumAll. Previously he has served as CEO Squarespace and CEO Sensenet. He’s a serial entrepreneur having founded 6 startups over the course of his career, achieving five exits. He also is an advisor/ investor and board member to a dozen more companies.

Adler is managing partner and co-founder of RK Adler LLP. Adler represents technology, new media, fashion and other similarly situated startup, ventured-based, emerging companies at all stages of development.

The meetup was hosted by Yao Hui Huang.

Tales from startup founders who became venture capitalists

By Dennis Clemente

Do you think everyone in New York’s tech scene wants to have his own startup? Not everyone, it turns out.

Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures Arie Abecassis of DreamIt Ventures and Brian Watson of Union Square Ventures spoke about their decision to be venture capitalists at Capital City’s meetup last October 3 at General Assemb.ly offices in midtown Manhattan.

charlieodonnell
Charlie O’Donnell

O’Donnell recalled a question about his ambivlance sometime back, “Why would anyone choose to be a venture capitalist when you don’t do anything?” Punctuating humor in his answers, O’ Donnell said, “When you’re a VC everybody likes you whereas when you’re an entrepreneur, you try everybody to like you.”

Being a VC works for O’Donnell who was also candid enough to say, “I have a (limited) attention span.” Whether he was kidding or not didn’t matter, because if there’s anything anyone needs to know about some of these VCs is that they genuinely like to help people succeed in the same way teachers prefer to teach instead of working for corporations. O’Donnell used to teach at Fordham and more recently, at NYU-Poly. Business Insider also named him on the 100 Most Influential People in NY Tech.

O’Donnell admits to failing one time in his own startup. “I founded a startup, spent $150,000 and (when it failed), I had to do a tax write-off. I wasn’t good at it,” he admitted.

That opened up his eyes to what he knew he could do best, “I like the idea of being an investor more. I am more comfortable with myself that I am not the one building. I am supporting the one building. That’s the role I like more, because it fits my personality.”

brian watson
Brian Watson

Watson acknowledges how the “best investors are past operators,” if by operator he means startup founders, on top of them having a bird eye’s view of technology.

Abecassis said he likes hanging around people smarter than me. But he is also riding on the emergence of startups in New York. “There is a democratization of investments now. We are really in interesting times.” He also likes the nuances of being a VC, although he does have a startup called appstori.com.

But having talked about being VCs, what does it take to be a startup? Where other responses to this question in other talks generate only motherhood statements, O’Donnell told us a story about a guy named Raul Gutierrez, tinybop founder.

arie abecassis
Arie Abecassis

“Here’s this 40-something guy, former entertainment guy, who knows storytelling storyboards. He knows how to recruit his design team. He looked at every app in the iTunes store, and meticulously studied them. He knows about branding for kids and it comes off when you talk to him. That’s what convinced me. “

Watson said a startup founder who has empathy and who is not only in it for the money and has data to back up (his claims). “Having empathy will also show in the product.”

Below are some more tips from the three guest speakers on how to talk to VCs:

O’ Donnell: Be very clear with your expectations. To do this, ask yourself, “Why me? Why are you the right person for this business?” It has something to do with your background that gives you insights when talking to a VC.

Watson: Think of choosing a VC as you would treat online dating. Get to know them. See how they interact with their family. If you rush it, you’ll have problems. Do an investment thesis, because you’ll need to fit some criteria.

Abecassis: Have leadership ability. You’ll need to communicate through conviction. Also be prepared with due diligence, knowing your market and having proof points.

The meetup was hosted by Suits to Silicon Alley and moderated by Sam Hysell of Fueled Collective.

Featured app: Quotiful inspires downloads

Quotiful mockup

By Dennis Clemente

Sometimes the simplest ideas just work. Even EV Williams of Twitter would agree with that. At the recent XOXO conference, he said, “The real trick is to find something that’s tried and true — and to do it better.” That would run counter to the mindset of many tech startups in New York where breakthrough ideas rule, but nobody would argue with Williams for creating Twitter.

A few days ago, Nicole Raymondi launched her app called Quotiful. It’s a simple idea. It’s about inspiring picture quotes. It looks like any other similar app out there, except Raymondi focused on the one thing people with apps always ignore: the user experience. Sometimes it’s all about that.

So far, her app is getting 100 to 800 downloads a day. As of press time, the ranking is a perfect 10. It helps, of course, that Raymondi knows design—graphic, digital, mobile—and that she learned also from the company she used to work for as its marketing director.

Here’s the thing: Most of the apps get bogged down in design because people focus on functionality, not realizing design (and lately even social tools) is part of functionality. The Quotiful app makes quotes social by allowing users to discover, create and share picture quotes. But the difference is that the quotes can be custom-made and yes, you can make use of the photos in the app as background. The potential for mining pop culture and the entertainment industry is there.

At present, 75 percent of her customers are women or girls, with ages ranging from 13 to 24 and covering North America and even as far as the Philippines and Pakistan. But there’s nothing wrong with that if we also consider that Pinterest attracts 75 percent of women, too—and they’re doing well.

Williams’ idea of doing something that’s tried and true is working now for Raymondi, who recalls an initial venture back in 2010 when she created a woman’s racing apparel line—and it didn’t work. She said it failed because of inefficient marketing and time management.

That experience didn’t faze Raymondi one bit, because a year later with Quotiful, she took out a business loan, borrowed money from his father and, hard to admit but true, got into credit card debt to fulfill a dream of having her own app – and her own business. She thinks she has learned her lesson, which is why she is doing it again. It’s safe to say she was inspired by her own inspiration quotes.

Raymondi presented Quotiful at the Startup Jackpot at Alley NYC last September 28.