VC Teten’s criteria for investing in your startup idea

Handshake? A handstand is better.
Handshake? A handstand is better.

By Dennis Clemente

How do you know if your startup idea is worth pursuing? “If your idea can be stolen just by you speaking about it for 20 minutes, it’s not worth pursuing,” says David Teten of ff, a VC firm with $3.5 million investments. “Have an edge and be able to better execute your idea over someone else in the same space.”

Last March 25, the monthly Startup Grind hosted by Peter Crysdale featured Teten as its guest speaker. Teten said ff invests as early as the napkin stage and as late as the revenue stage. In a convivial mood, he cautions men about how “Seinfeld startups” never work. These are men who think of startups for finding beer and women. “In my time, we always found a way to meet women.” He’s in his late 40s.

Kidding aside, he said he is looking for people with an edge and proof that his or her idea is better than anyone else.

Below is a more comprehensive list of Teten’s/ff’s criteria for investing in a startup:
1. Team. What qualifies you to execute your idea successfully and better than five other companies in your space: Work history, network, and skills are key
2. Demo. Be ready with a demo or at least a mockup.
3. Market. What is the problem, why does it exist, and how big is the opportunity?
4. Solution. Your value proposition—how you solve the problem faster, cheaper, smarter.
5. Business model. How do you make money? Who pays, how much, from where?
6. Customer/user. Who are they and how many. How will you reach/acquire them
7. Competition. Know every competitor and why they aren’t addressing your market adequately. List major competitors; understand their processes, and what your competitive advantage is.
8. Financial overview. What are the expected revenues, expenses and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) three years out? How long will this round’s cash last you?
9. Funding. How much are you raising and how are you going to use the money—to grow a team, to support overhead, to expand. How much have you raised thus far and from whom?
10. Milestones. What is your vision for the future, measured in milestones for the next 3 years? This is crucial, because ff will evaluate your progress against these milestones in board meetings.

Teten could have read this aloud while doing a handstand as he did at the end of his talk. He is a practitioner of parkour, a holistic training discipline using movement that developed from military obstacle course training.

Developing for Google Glass needs to be a pleasant surprise for users

Zach Freedman wit his Nerf gun.
Zach Freedman with his Nerf gun.

By Dennis Clemente

Is everything worth seeing—and developing?

For the main speakers at the Google Glass NYC meetup, “Intro to Developing for Google Glass” last March 20 at the Google offices, the answer was obvious; it was right in front of the audience and on their eyes. It’s the Google Glass they were wearing. It’s what we’ve been hearing about but where many of us have not yet tried or worn, let alone tinkered with (as if we own one).

Allen Firstenberg, the first speaker, asked, “How many of you have visited” Firstenberg was described as the very first Google Glass developer outside of Google. Visit his site at

“(Google) Glass is different from anything we’ve done before,” he stressed, as he emphasized how it requires a different set of challenges.

To those wearing Google Glasses, he asked, “How long do you stare at it?” “Less than five seconds at a time or a fraction of a second?” That’s about it, which certainly makes our desktop or laptop computer time feel like an eternity.

“(Google Glass) is a micro interaction, a ‘glanceable’ interface,” he said, as he elaborates on how it is meant to be there when you want it and out of the way if you don’t. “If a phone call came on, I would want to be able to glance at it and to ignore it.” Like Google Now.

To elaborate, Firstenberg says designing for Google Glass is about reading people’s minds, anticipating what they want. You don’t want to get a message alert at 3 am about an early bird special. It’s another thing altogether when that same message is delivered to you at the precise moment you’re at the supermarket. “When you need to deliver something, it has to be a pleasant surprise.”

Another example of a pleasant surprise is getting traffic updates or subway delays before you even make that trip. “Keep it relevant. Anticipating what will they see next and deliver it.”
He stressed how important it is to remember that you’re building for people. “Glass is meant for people to live in their world. You are not inviting them to live in yours.”

In a post-Snowden world, is Google Glass going to be a big thorny issue when it scales up? That remains to be seen, although the medical world has found some great uses for it.
Zach Freedman, the next speaker who looked like Robocop with all the gizmos around him, encouraged people to build Bluetooth devices that connect to wearables. “You can design hardware, firmware and Glassware that work together to create unforgettable experiences.”

At the Wearable DevCon in San Francisco recently, Freedman connected a Nerf Longstrike with a videogame-style HUD on Glass—the same Nerf gun he demonstrated at the Google offices.

How to protect your startup’s intellectual property

By Dennis Clemente

You often hear about startup founders saying there’s no way to protect yourself, but what if there was some kind of intellectual property protection you have not explored fully, because you’re used to hearing there is no such thing as protection online. What If you just didn’t bother to ask until it was too late and someone already tweaked your idea and co-opted it?

Last March 20, the Entrepreneur & Small Business Forum hosted a meetup billed “Protect Your Startup’s Intellectual Property” with guest speakers Calvin Chu, managing director of R/GA Accelerator, John Hempill of Sheppard Mullin who talked about copyright and trademark design and Gary Walpert of Byrne Poh LLP who talked about design patents at the Lee Hecht Harrison offices at Met Life at Grand Central Terminal.

In most legal talk about protection, many on the receiving end always find themselves hearing general assumptions, for the reason that the law is specific to one case over another, but Chu pointed out that keeping these three things in mind—copyright, design patents, trademark design—can go a very long way. He calls it “one very good combo.”

For copyright, Chu said you are protected immediately when you’ve expressed design in tangible form (the way Apple has obsessively done so); the advantage here is immediate protection. How does it stack up? It doesn’t protect against independent reverse engineering. And when it comes to raising the infringement issue in this matter—you’ll need to prove that the offender had access and substantial similarity.

With regard to design patents, protection begins when it’s issued. The advantage you get is that it prohibits others to use your design regardless of how they arrived at their own design. Even better, it protects you against independent reverse engineering. How does the infringement work? If the design of the article is similar, you have a case.

As for trademark design, protection begins when it’s used in commerce—and it’s an immediate protection against use of your design as a trademark. You can even chase someone’s trademark if it’s likely to cause confusion (Toys R Us against Adults R US, for instance), to protect yourself.

Having that “combo” helps you protect yourself. Everything else is relative. There’s no one-size fits-all scenario.

NY Tech Meetup audience has app favorites different from the rest

NY Tech Meetup

By Dennis Clemente

With 9 startups presenting at the NY Tech Meetup almost every month, it’s likely one will stand out. But it’s getting harder to tell who is going to make it these days. Last March 4, for instance, some of the more than 600 people at the NY Tech Meetup at Skirball Theater had different favorites with their favorites challenged by the people seated beside them.

Is replacing the QR Code with simple color codes the answer? Peatix from Japan is not saying that but it may be another way of looking at it, the way it is offering color in ticket confirmations. Just raise your phone with the color confirmation in, say, a bar entrance and if it matches the doorman’s color in his tablet or other mobile device, you’re in.

People later said the color could be faked, even with an earlier Peatix assurance or challenge, “You could try?!”

What about turning the tables on dating sites and using it in your search for the perfect team? Collaborizm matches the entrepreneur and creative minded based on aspects of team building psychology, personality type, and collaborative interests. Not all friends are created like-minded; you need a team up to build and ideate together.

Since we’re in New York, how about solving the perennial problem of finding apartments?

If you’ve seen the movie When Harry Met Sally, Billy Crystal talks about how people check the Obituaries to find which apartment will hit the market. It’s a morbid thought played for laughs back then. You never know if people watching it this time will think how it makes perfect sense. We don’t know for sure if RentHackr is doing that, but it connects with the best apartments before they hit the market. Call it stalking an apartment.

With 9 startups and almost no technical hiccup for many months now, the NY Tech Meetup may have been due for one when the Wi-Fi failed on two other presenters—ScoreSync and Ziggeo but the presenters and the audience laughed it off; it relaxed the crowd.

ScoreSync is a collaborative digital sheet music that aims to revolutionize music education, rehearsal, and creation. It was one Brit guy’s favorite and why not? Wouldn’t it be cool if people from different parts of the world composed great music together?

And if it will help musicians create, ScoreSnyc could use Ziggeo‘s API. It’s video recording and playback (just 2 lines of code). You can add videos to user profiles, feature video comments and message, or come up with new uses of video.

Ziggeo could also work then with Shodogg. The latter offers a patented technology that connects digital content to any number of web-enabled screens in the world.

Other ways of connecting was presented by Sense Health, an organization tool that helps health professionals connect with their clients and Verbalizeit, a translation platform with thousands of translators on call anytime.