Archive for 'Local News'


Ringstrase

Posted on 26. Nov, 2015 by in Local News

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49ers gaining fast on forbes business value list

Posted on 09. Nov, 2015 by in Local News

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Why a (gray) guy like me is in a (coworking) place like this

Posted on 02. Aug, 2014 by in Colearn, Coworking, Coworking Day, coworkingweek, Detroit, Local News, Startups

Why a (gray) guy like me is in a (co-working) place like this

As you can tell by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, I’m not a San Francisco twenty-something. My goatee is gray. Yet I share my workplace with people my daughter’s age. I may actually be the oldest living occupant here.

So what’s a guy like me doing in a place like this?

The place is Citizen Space, a San Francisco co-working location and one of the first of some more than 3,000 similar shared office chartoperations that have sprouted up around the world just since 2005.  And for sure, I’m part of a rapidly expanding cohort — by 2013, there were more than 160,000 space sharers like me — up from zero just 9 years ago.

What’s behind the growth? Coworking is a cost-effective alternative, for sure. But consider three other more inconspicuous, but inexorable, trends.

  • Burgeoning number of independent workers.  The number of consultants, contractors, and so-called “solopreneurs” will have soared 50 percent from 2011 by the time they reach an estimated 24 million in 2018, according to an annual workforce report by MBO Partners.
  • Rise of micro-enterprise. We’re more productive because we’re so much more connected and technologically enabled. Duh. But not so duh is this:  The average size of a small business is shrinking from about 7.6 employees in 1991 to about 4.7 in 2011, or so says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You don’t have to be a MBA to see why co-working makes so much sense to startups and other micro-enterprises like my own MediaArchitechs.
  • Emergence of the ‘sharing economy.’ After this last great recession, we’re all being forced to do more with less. And a number of new, disruptive ventures have arisen out of finding ways to match demand with hyper-economical or underutilized supply — witness Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, TaskRabbit, ODesk, and, yes, coworking spaces, too.  My company has sprouted out the same landscape. Only instead of vacation housing, rides, or personal, contract services, or shared office space, we’re building targeted exchanges for expert advice. The first of these: Our CloudBase3.com, a contextually relevant, magnet media property devoted to helping the nation’s 28M SMBs connect with the 1 million consultants, independent IT service providers, and tech contractors who can provide one-to-one advice for buying services in the $174B cloud-computing market. (Did I just give an elevator pitch?)

But that doesn’t explain why I’m such an unlikely member. Which brings me to the real reason.  It’s this: “If you really want to enjoy life,” my favorite novelist Mark Helprin wrote, “you must work quietly and humbly to realize your delusions of grandeur.”

I might share space now, but once I didn’t. I held lofty titles at big companies that bestowed me with my own comfy digs on the upper floors of soaring corporate office towers. It all changed when I did something extraordinarily bold — or certifiably stupid. I started my own company  — and at a time when many of my peers are starting to smell the roses of retirement.

So now I spend my days sans the Aeron chair, the ergonomically correct desk, and the door to my own domain. But here’s the thing: I’m fine without these appurtenances, because I’m finding something better in their place — networking with a raft of new contacts far beyond the insular world I occupied at companies such as Yahoo and CNET.  And while your expertise and character are keys to success, don’t downplay another key factor, kids — your ability to build relationships.

soloSo now I’m hanging with people like Citizen Space owner Toby Morning, a fellow entrepreneur who has his fingers in as many businesses, I swear, as Warren Buffet.  Or take Manish Panjiar, who’s building a disruptive new telemarketing platform. Or how about Sebastian Zontek. He’s an entrepreneur from Poland who’s building a predictive advertising platform. In his case, I’m connecting him, because I spent more years in the media business than I want you to know.

What’s a guy like me is doing in like this? Here’s what: He’s turning away from the cosseted corporate confines that once possessed him and turning to a place where he consorts with others as young at heart, as full ambition, and teeming with hope as he is.

(Patrick Houston the Founder and CEO of MediaArchitechs, a San Francisco Bay Area startup devoted to unleashing the power of free enterprise by making one-to-one advice affordable and accessible to the smallest enterprises in every corner of the world.)

Convertible royalties: An alternative to the equity model for accelerators

Posted on 02. Oct, 2013 by in Coworking, Detroit, Local News, Startups, venture capital

Written By: Alexander Torrenegra

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Instead of earning equity from the businesses they accelerate, accelerators could earn royalties from the revenues of such businesses. This could enable accelerators to help entrepreneurs grow and bootstrap their business instead of forcing them to raise capital.


My wife and I co-founded the Voice123 brand ten years ago. Today, it’s a successful business with 30 employees. Its success didn’t depend on angels, accelerators, or venture capitalists (VCs). In fact, had we listened to any of them, Voice123 would not exist today. There are thousands, maybe millions, of entrepreneurs like us out there. The current model made popular by Silicon Valley is suffocating many of them and killing startups that could also become successful. This article explains how and offers an alternative.

v123The current Silicon Valley model has one major flaw – it creates an ecosystem that asks entrepreneurs to shoot for the moon rather than build a sustainable business. VCs won’t waste time working with companies that are likely to sell for less than $50 million (I don’t blame them as their business model needs such scale). Angels and accelerators exist because VCs exist. They work as a bridge between the startup and the VC. Although some angels prefer capital efficient businesses that don’t need much VC to avoid dilution, many angels won’t invest in startups that aren’t likely to scale to the $50 million valuation level because they’re afraid VCs won’t invest. Given that most accelerators follow the angel/VC/exit model too and measure their success based on the level of funding startups get, many entrepreneurs with great ideas and companies are being told to pivot to try “bigger ideas”. In fact, they don’t even consider bootstrapping, which actually works! Unfortunately, forcing first-time entrepreneurs to “dream big” and execute on $50 million ideas is no different than asking a first-time driver to compete in a Formula 1 race. It is very risky, to say the least. The concept of “Go Big or Go Home” may work for some, but it should not be a rigid mantra, especially in emerging economies.

I (and many of my colleagues) am fatigued from “demo days,” that, judging by recent trends, should be renamed “PowerPoint Days,” where panelists, primarily made up of investors, tell entrepreneurs that their companies are “not good enough” simply because their firms wouldn’t invest in them. I’m tired of VCs dismissing entrepreneurs because their startup is a “lifestyle business” (as if being a VC isn’t a lifestyle business!). I don’t want to continue seeing emerging economies trying and failing to copy the Silicon Valley model, teaching entrepreneurs how to raise angel capital when there are still few successful exits, if any (I’m looking at you, Colombia).

This should change. Entrepreneurs with good ideas, even if they are “not-so-big” ideas, should feel comfortable building “not-so-big” companies. This is especially relevant for first time entrepreneurs. It’s okay to build a bootstrapped company that “only” sells $1m per year and grows 20% year-to-year. Sure, no VC will get rich with them, but the founders will be happy and they can have a significant social impact.

Can angels and accelerators help? Unfortunately, their current business model depends on VCs. If a company they fund is not backed by a VC, it’s going to be very unlikely for the angel and/or the accelerator to get their money back. The solution? There could be many, but the one I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks:convertible royalties.

When an accelerator or an angel invests in a company (whether it’s cash or, more importantly, mentoring), they could start getting a small part of the company’s revenue as a royalty. Of course, the revenue may be insignificant initially, but after a couple of years and some growth, the revenue may be high enough to justify the original investment. As with convertible notes, convertible royalties could become equity upon the occurrence of certain performance or time-based milestones. For example, hitting a certain level of aggregate sales, receiving a certain amount of funding, or getting acquired.

I’m calling it convertible royalties because of its similarities with convertible notes. Unlike convertible notes, though, the business model of accelerators and angels wouldn’t depend on the company getting acquired to be viable. In fact, convertible royalties may open the door for accelerators to promote bootstrapping. The convertible royalties idea may allow accelerators and angels to invest in companies that nowadays are not even considered for acceleration: bootstrapped companies, companies that don’t need additional capital, service companies, non-for-profits, etc. It may even allow services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to start offering some kind of return to crowdfunders. I dream of the day when accelerators stop forcing entrepreneurs to improve their pitch for investors, and instead help them improve their pitch for clients and sell more.

Some are experimenting with related concepts. Adobe Capital, a social venture fund in Mexico, uses subordinated debt that is repaid by collecting a percentage of sales. Some call this model “revenue capital”. Nevertheless, many entrepreneurs don’t need venture capital. They need education, mentoring, connections, and strategy.

Of course, the convertible royalty model won’t be perfect and may not work for every situation. For example, the royalties may need to be different for different companies depending on their business model. Royalty payments may need to be postponed initially to allow all company revenues to be reinvested into the growth of the business. Also, if royalties do get paid out, the equity or the potential conversion to equity, may need to be reduced so that the entrepreneur doesn’t need to “pay twice”.

What do you think? What drawbacks do you think the model could have? If you’re an entrepreneur would you be willing to pay 0.5% in royalties instead of giving the traditional 5% equity to accelerators? If you’re an accelerator, would you consider using the model? Will it work in emerging economies? Will it work in Silicon Valley? Should the convertible royalty agreement have a deadline? Will this model encourage accelerators to push entrepreneurs to increase sales in the short term while sacrificing long-term strategy? Let’s start a conversation.

——

P.S. Wondering what makes me a qualified person to talk about this topic? To be honest, I don’t know if I’m experienced or articulate enough. Some may call me ignorant or wishful. They may be right. Nevertheless, here’s a little about me: I started my first business in Colombia when I was 14 and bootstrapped it to 25 employees. I moved to the US in 1998 and since, I’ve co-founded multiple companies here, including an incubator. We bootstrapped some of them. We raised angel capital for some. We raised venture capital for some. Some failed; some are successful. I’ve invested as an angel in several startups, as well. I’m co-founder of HubBog, the largest campus for startups in Bogotá, as well as co-founder of the two largest tech meetups of Latin America. I mentor many startups through several accelerators. I am the CEO of Bunny Inc (owner of Voice123, VoiceBunny, and BunnyCast), a successful bootstrapped company with 35 team members in Bogotá and San Francisco that is doubling sales this year. I never had an eight-digit exit, yet I am a happy entrepreneur.

——

Thanks to Leonardo Suárez, Shaun Young, Patrick McGinnis, Dan Gertsacov, Dan Green, and Tara Tyler for reading and commenting on drafts of this article.

 

Silicon Valley Code Camp 2013

Posted on 04. Aug, 2013 by in blog, Classes, Code Camp, Colearn, Coworking, Designers, Detroit, Developers, Local News, San Jose, SOMA, startup camp, Startups, SVCC, Tech Clinics

This code camp though is not a “one day and your done” code camp. On the contrary, this FREE code camp is unique in that is it lasts ALL WEEKEND. That’s right; you have 2 days to make it out to this FREE event. The Silicon Valley Code Camp will be held this Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 and this Sunday October 4th, 2009 at Foothill College in Los Altos, CA.

There is slated to be 150 sessions at this year’s code camp covering over 75+ topics. Add to that there are already over 1,200 people registered for this year’s code camp. So if you live or will be in the Silicon Valley area and are interested in networking with other developers and learning new skills (and in this tough economy, who isn’t?), then you should make it out to the Silicon Valley Code Camp.

 

For more information, please visit: http://www.siliconvalley-codecamp.com

 

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