Wearable tech for your dog, the ‘march of penguins’ to help you raise capital

By Dennis Clemente

What do dogs and penguins have in common? They were the topic of two presenters at the “TiE New York: Fostering Entrepreneurship Globally” meetup last May 8 at the Loeb & Loeb in midtown Park Avenue. The two presenters were Fitbark for dogs and DreamIt Ventures’ Arie Abecassis who explained why you need the concept of the march of penguins to raise capital for your startup.

Fitbark launched what it billed dog parenting 2:0, a tiny wearable contraption that helps owners monitor the activity of their dogs, with the resulting data captured, stored and viewable on any iOS devices. It claims to give real-time insights about their pet’s activity and energy level. Pre-orders are now available.

From that presentation, the meetup sequed into how to raise capital for your business idea—and yes, it does have something to do with the march of penguins.

“It’ s a world of lots of ‘maybes’ and few ‘no’s’. So the trick is how to get the ‘maybes’ to say ‘yes,’”” Abecassis said. “You wait for the first penguin to jump into the water. Once that happens, the rest (of them) just jumps in.”

“It’s a similar phenomenon with investors. When investors perceive their risks are mitigated, they’ll jump right in,” he added.

Attendees at TiE meetup
Attendees at TiE meetup

Abecassis acknowledged what everyone knows to be true. “It’s not about what you know but who you know. It definitely helps to get to the right people, but it’s important that the relationship builds up. If you’re planning to raise money next month, it’s too late to pitch to VCs.

“Build the relationship by sharing your progress. And as you progress and update them, you will notice the conversation changing, especially when they see you’re comfortable in the positioning of your product. They’ll see how you are demonstrating the job you are supposed to do.”

“It’s especially important to tell them (VCs) why they’re a fit, why it’s a good opportunity for them and why they can help,” he said.

For him, making a connection with a VC is about connecting the dots. He almost singled out LinkedIn but later in his talk, he mentioned other social networks and for those running in the same circles, he said find out if you went to the same school.

On crowdfunding, he said it is “probably the single most exciting development in the world of entrepreneurship right now, because it holds so much potential to unleash millions of dollars or capital into the startup space.”

It was refreshing to hear him acknowledge how Kickstarter and Indiegogo have a strong foothold in this regard without mentioning his company, AppStori, which does the same in principle but only skewed to apps.

These platforms are being developed to open investor opportunities. “In 2014, the average American household may not need to meet stringent criteria to invest in a startup. That’s going to open up a ton of capital,” he said.

“This could raise the bar for VCs, but all good for the entrepreneur,” he added.

When it comes to raising capital from VCs, addressing those non-binding term sheets are crucial, as it establishes the valuation and terms of an investment and basically reflects the economics and control for capital and guidance.

“For those just starting their business, the good news is that VCs have become entrepreneur-friendly and less aggressive on some terms,” he said. “Besides, there are other ways for companies to assign value to itself.”

He advised the startup, though, that it’s not always about going for the highest bidder. “Value what investors are bringing to the table.”

Abecassis also talked about the aspect of governance in a startup, which covers board size, its composition, protective provisions and the roles of directors and observers, even the role of an independent, to the business. Governance should improve investor returns, he said.

How does one make use of the raised capital? Abecassis suggested the following: build product or service; build sales; expand marketing channels and take care of operations like legal and accounting work.

“You have the ability to use the Internet as your infrastructure,” he said. He doesn’t need to tell us what should follow next is customer acquisition.

How to get noticed in a marketplace overflowing with apps

By Dennis Clemente

How many apps do you have on your smartphone? How many do you actually use? In a 2010 study by Localytics, 26% of apps downloaded were just used once. The problem persists to this day with nearly 7 billion mobile apps downloaded, but with one in four apps never used again. Consider that Apple has nearly 800,000 apps—and growing; we haven’t even mentioned the fact that most of them are free, not counting other apps made for Android and other devices. How do you get people to notice your app?

Still, app developers have a reason to be optimistic, when sales of apps, in-app purchases and subscriptions across smartphones and pads combined are projected to hit $36.7 billion by 2015, according to Canalys. Total of apps now is 1.7 million.

The potential to earn from apps is there as long as consumers can find you. For advertising, that’s a creative challenge. For a news hound, that’s a story. For a startup, that’s a daunting one that requires entrepreneurs of the app kind to come together.

Last April 30 at the Alley NYC, they gathered together to find out “How to get noticed in a marketplace overflowing with apps.” Jake Ward, executive director of the Application Developers Alliance, served as moderator, with guest speakers Arie Abecassis, co-founder of AppStori; Mark Ghermezian, CEO of Appboy; Louis Simeonidis, CMO of Applico; Michael Ludden, senior technical marketing manager at Samsung Developers; and Glen Nigel Straub, director of Global Monetization Solutions at Millennial Media.

Guest speakers at Alley NYC
Guest speakers at Alley NYC
Abecassis led the panel of speakers—and rightfully so, as his company AppStori serves a higher calling for the rest of us who may want to have our own app but can’t afford to do so. It’s kickstarter.com for apps, a crowdsourcing and funding platform that connects mobile app consumers with developers.

Abecassis talked about the importance of lead-generation marketing your mobile apps, from concept to completion. He cited the importance of relationships with bloggers and app review sites as well as cross promotions. He suggested appflood.com, the only 100% transparent and 100% commission-free platform for trading app installs. “Favorable reviews can create appvocates.”

If one has an advertising budget in place, he suggested pay per click mobile advertising, which can increase an app visibility and rate of conversion. Constantly tracking and analyzing your success or progress is also highly recommended.

“Don’t fall in love with your idea too much. Test as many tools as possible to see which tools yield the most downloads and usage for your apps,” he said.

Beyond marketing, it was also discussed how improving the experience for users may help promote apps more effectively. Would it, for example, be a good idea to try an app before downloading it? Should there be a better curation of all the apps?

And how much does it cost to succeed in this business?

It’s a question that proved to be the hardest to answer. For Ghermezian, it’s about choosing the right team, which everyone at the panel agreed. But everyone was also in agreement that you just can’t get the best team right away, so it’s essential that you launch an app project, even with all its imperfections.

Ghermezian was emphatic about just having your app out there instead of constantly tweaking one’s app.

Straub said creating apps for Microsoft and Blackberry, being new to the marketplace, could pay off. Ludden mentioned developing for Samsung, while Simeonidis said Facebook is another option.

“More than the cost, it’s the sweat equity you put in,” added Straub whose mobile ad company Millennial Media identifies the best ad types, features and actions that most effectively engage consumers.

The event was organized by the Applications Developers Alliance Emerging Technology & Research Working Group. Visit devsbuild.it for resources to grow and analyze your business.