Sunday, November 09, 2014

FAST-PITCH CHALLENGE: LESSONS LEARNED

Allow me to share a few lessons I learned while participating in a fast-pitch challenge at the Resilience Innovations Summit in Honolulu this past September.

 “Access to $40 Billion in World Bank Innovation Funding”.  Seriously?!  Beware of conferences that market access to funding and/or exposure to motivated investors – the returns may not be as advertised...

Ok, I admit I wanted to be swept up by the lure of participating in a competition at a conference in Hawaii to pitch to the World Bank with over $40B to throw at new innovations.

That’s why I half-consciously ignored advice not to go (because such events are more beneficial to idea pilferers than for obtaining grants) and why I chose to make only a half-assed attempt to validate the “$40B” claim (yes, World Bank did have this amount budgeted for 2014 grants but attempts to confirm their attendance fell on “deaf ears”).

So yes, I am as guilty as the next human in making “buy” decisions with emotion and not logic… That’s how humans roll. Period.

That said, I believe true bootstrappers and entrepreneurs are able to turn good and bad decisions into tangible value such as the lessons learned below.

BACKGROUND:
My company is focused on developing (and most recently attempting to license) innovations with potential for extraordinary impact on people and the planet.  Leading up to the Hawaiian fast-pitch challenge, we were working on two related innovations (both at the proof-of-concept stage}:
  1. pECO BamBooster - A toolkit that  poverty-stricken individuals or families can use to transform natural bamboo of any length and diameter into standardized building components, and in turn, into  green products such as…
  2. pECO Pollinator - A craft-kit for constructing habitats (eg, a butterfly “motel”) that attract and rejuvenate pollinators and sustain a healthy ecosystem.

LESSONS LEARNED:
·         Attend “Investor Conferences” With Eyes Open – As mentioned, this Summit was billed as one that would be chock full of investors seeking to fund new innovations. In fact, once there, I prospected the Summit and full attendee database and turned up zero, nobody, nada that even resembled an investor! Lesson: Don’t expect investors to be present unless you get specific names in writing from conference organizers…
·         Leverage Conference Attendee Database – If the conference offers access to the list of attendees, use it to get a read on who is attending and to set up meetings pre-, during- and post-conference.
·         Rallying Points Spur Support – having one or more rallying points made recruiting resources and financial support much easier. Once support begins to materialize, others are more willing to assist. For example,
a.       A good-cause  - Since our innovations reverse poverty and increase resilience of food supply we were able to garner support from empathetic people and businesses
b.      A competition with perceived prize - ie, fast-pitch challenge with potential for investment (particularly key to obtaining spousal support in my case ;-)
c.       A real & urgent need with a clear deadline – communicating that my fast pitch would not happen if support did not materialize by the 7/31 commitment deadline helped spur action
d.      A cool/edgy activity - trip to Hawaii which eventually paved the way for a Treehouse Masters TV spot contingent on funding
·         Dare to Be Different – Look for opportunities to stand out and be different. For example, Treehouse Masters TV celebrity, Pete Nelson, never would have offered to build us an R&D treehouse field lab out of bamboo in Hawaii if I didn’t approach him with the concept at the Austin Fall Home & Garden Show while wearing a farmers hat with butterflies on it and red, white & blue suspenders – OMG how embarrassing but effective!
·         Bootstrapping Takes A Village – Within a one month time window the following support contributed to our eventual success
a.       over 50 people (spanning family, friends, existing business network and new acquaintances),
b.      over 10 organizations and
c.       over 7 key networking events
d.      but, zero Craig’s List responses and zero inquiries/support via our website (albeit in its infancy)..
·         Pitch One Simple Concept – Effective articulation of a single innovative concept in 7 minutes is a challenge. I was attempting the impossible, namely, to communicate two relate concepts which caused significant pitch churn and diluted some of its impact in the end. That said, I may not have been selected as a finalist by focusing too narrowly in the proposal stage.
·         It’s About YOU, Not the Slides – My fast-pitch went through 11 significant adjustments that included several complete slide deck rewrites, a zero-slide pitch two days before pitch-time to the final 12-slide pitch that was eventually delivered (the last full day was spent in front of a mirror to ensure accurate, effective and well-timed delivery). That said, what I realized through all of this (thanks to excellent coaching by Barry Thornton) is that the fewer slides the better (eg, zero to one slide is best.) Bottom line is, you want the audience to buy into and remember YOU. If you end up using a slide make it a “sticky image or message” they can easily associate with you.
·         Does Practice Make Perfect? – The jury is still out on this one for me. Yes, I spent considerable time in front of the mirror perfecting my pitch which according to feedback I nailed and was well received. That said, it almost felt too rehearsed  (ie, not engaging). It wasn’t until the unrehearsed Q&A portion did I feel true audience mind-share.
·         No Free Rides – Via the aforementioned networking effort I was able to defray ~70% of the cost to participate (ie, ~$3500 of a total estimated $5000 cost). That said, spending $1500 was well worth the benefits not to mention name, product and cause recognition that flows from such networking.
·         Silver Lining in the False Lure of Investors - OK, so it would have been nice if my fast pitch actually contained an audience of investors as was billed by the Summit organizers. That said, I never would have engaged in this activity if not for that lure. It motivated me to submit a fast-pitch challenge proposal in the first place and when selected as a finalist, with hand on heart, helped sway my wife and others to support my efforts. Even though no grant funding materialized, the following did:
·         Message refinement and reusable fast-pitch materials
·         Reusable showcase booth set ups
·         Two solid business partners
·         Many new business collaborators
·         A Reality TV spot contingent on funding
·         A network of over 25 new connections & supporters (some of whom live in Hawaii)
·         New valuable mentorship resources
·         A provisional patent
·         Follow-on funding discussions with the Dean of Agriculture at the University of Hawaii,  Manoa, with the Oahu Island Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and with other Hawaiian businesses
·         New business leverage based on the above

NOW, who wants to partner with us in an Hawaiian paradise, living and/or working in a bamboo treehouse field lab and get a little TV exposure to finalize products with the potential for extraordinary impact on people and the planet?! Only bootstrappers, entrepreneurs and investors need apply…:-)

Stay tuned for a follow-on post on our plans to secure the elusive licensing agreements and/or funding we need..

Tom Baum
Founder, TRACEe



Monday, March 18, 2013

Journey Capital

In this previous post, we identified Bootstrap Capital as: social + working = bootstrap. 'Social' always felt like a clumsy term that didn't quite encompass the entirety of the situation. Journey Capital does.

The modified equation is:

journey + working = bootstrap

Monday, September 10, 2012

Future and Current Challenges in STEM Education

"Math and science are the engines of innovation. With these engines, we can lead the world." - Dr. Michael Brown, former Nobel Prize winner for medicine.

It is a critical time for the U.S.: our standard of living will change unless we change our way of living and produce more workers trained in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We all must take part. Come hear a panel discussion on STEM efforts in the U.S. and Austin's role in shaping a better future for our country.

Pre-Registration offer ends 09/14/2012
https://ricemba.wufoo.com/forms/stem-education-event/

Topic
The most important resource fueling growth of the global knowledge economy is a STEM-trained and experienced professional. Georgetown University recently reported that the U.S. economy is already demanding many more STEM professionals than are currently supplied, and though only 5% of U.S. jobs today are in STEM fields, this figure should rise to more than 30% over time. As the Austin/San Antonio corridor continues to grow we are acutely experiencing this shortage.

This panel discussion will feature various regional and national voices experiencing and working to address this challenge. Panelists will present perspectives on advancements in STEM education in K-12, higher education, and non-traditional education models. It will also look at investment in this space and the challenges and demands of various technology sectors. The panel will explore critical innovations that are needed to advance STEM education, and whether Austin has the right combination of resources to adequately meet the demands of the economy moving forward.


Panelists
Joel Trammell is currently the Austin Technology Council Chairman, CEO of CacheIQ, Inc and co-founder of NetQOS Inc. Mr. Trammell was also a 2006 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award winner and the Austin BusinessJournal's 2005 Private Company Executive of the Year. Mr. Trammell's achievements in information technology span two decades and also include... read more

Jeff Sandefer started his first business at age sixteen. After earning an MBA he founded Sandefer Offshore, an oil and gas company that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in less than five years. He then ran Sandefer Capital Partners, a half-billion dollar energy investment fund... read more

Jeremy Robbins is a Policy Advisor and Special Counsel in the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, the bipartisan coalition of more than 450 business leaders and mayors making the case that smarter immigration laws will help our companies better compete and create American jobs. One of the Partnership’s primary legislative agendas is to reform our immigration laws to... read more

Allyson Peerman is AMD’s Corporate Vice President of Public Affairs, responsible for the company’s Government Affairs, Community Affairs, and Corporate Responsibility efforts worldwide. In her role as President of the AMD Foundation, Peerman provides strategy and tactical counsel for AMD’s successful games-based learning initiative... read more

Dr. Timothy P. Scott is an associate professor of science education policy and currently serves as associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Science at Texas A&M University.  Dr. Scott also holds a joint appointment as an associate professor in the Department of Biology.  His research focuses on teaching and learning in science and student success.  Dr. Scott is co-director of... read more

Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Time: 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Location: AT&T Conference and Education Center
Salon C, third floor
1900 University Avenue, Austin, Texas 78705


Registration Fees:

Pre-Registration (Offer Ends Friday, September 14, 2012): $25.00
General Admission: $30.00
Student pre-registration with valid student ID: $5
Student walk-up registration with valid student ID: $10 (space permitting)


Register Here

https://ricemba.wufoo.com/forms/stem-education-event/


Monday, August 06, 2012

Rice Alliance Austin Chapter - Distinguished Professor Event

It is Rice Alliance - Austin Chapter's great honor to have the opportunity to host this event in Austin, TX. Please join us for food, beverages and a presentation by James M. Tour on Carbon Nanotechnology.
For more information, please follow this link: 

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Time: 6:00 - 9:00 PM
6:00 - 6:45 PM: Networking and Refreshments
7:00 - 8:00 PM: Presentation by Dr. James M. Tour and Q&A
8:00 – 9:00 PM: Optional Networking

Location: AT&T Conference and Education Center
Salon A, third floor
1900 University Avenue, Austin, Texas 78705


Registration Fees: (registration is limited)
Pre-Registration (Offer Ends Monday, August 20, 2012): $20.00
General Admission: $25.00
Students: $5.00

Register Here

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Small Business Health Care Option

Are you a small business owner who wants to provide health insurance for your employees but can't seem to find an affordable plan? Perhaps, you want your business to remain competitive in Austin and attract the best employees while keeping your current employees from exiting through that revolving door? Or, maybe you are a small business owner who just wants to do the right thing for your employees by offering a health plan? If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, the solution is TexHealth Central Texas. TexHealth Central Texas is a local, non-profit organization dedicated to helping small businesses provide health benefits for its employees and owners at the lowest possible price. Wednesday, July 25th at 9AM or 6PM. 


Register at www.austinsmallbiz.com.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seminar: Designing the Future of Your Business



You're invited






Business Seminar: 
Designing the future of your business

We are living and working in a rapidly changing world. Business tactics put in place 10 years ago have no place in this new fast paced world. 

Adaptation is the key for your business's continued success, but how will you plan for the future? How did early adopters successfully set the course for their business?

This seminar will address how your company can break down the barriers to collaboration, and introduce the tools you need for a successful transition into this future. We will cover the new aspects of attracting and retaining the best employees, and how technology will influence your business strategies. 

Join turnstone and Cospace to learn more about working in the future. 

Date: Thursday, June 14, 2012
Time: 9:30am - 4:30pm
Where: University of Texas Club



Meet the Speakers


Founder and Brand Futurist
Nancy has spent her career building, shaping and reviving many of the country's most prestigious brands. As a brand futurist, she sees the powerful possibilities that exist at the intersection of cultural, demographic, and values trends. 
Nancy


Director and Designer
Jeff guides organizations to unlock their creativity and develop implementable and sustainable solutions, allowing them to adapt and to lead in our exponentially shifting world.
Jeff Sharpe


Group Director 
Aaron is a blogger, video podcaster, serial tweeter and co-author of Location-Based Marketing for Dummies.  In addition to his knowledge of the interactive and social media landscape, Aaron has more than 18 years of online marketing and advertising experience. 
Aaron


CEO, Co-Founder
Ray has successfully launched multiple new technology businesses and has led them all to profitability. He has a 25+ year track record of achieving business success globally.
Ray Wolfe


Manager
Lekan currently manages Digital Strategy and New Media for the small-business focus of Steelcase Inc.  He has built and managed a network of content creators around the country and continues to search for technology tools, platforms and partnerships for turnstone.



CEO and Co-Founder 
Paul has led interactive marketing for HP's eCommerce business, and directed advertising programs at Yahoo!. He has been involved in the launch of start-ups in crowdsourcing, mobile payments, and online communities, and is currently a Director at Cospace.

Paul O


Chief Strategy Officer 
Peter is a leading advisor on social business and drives global industry discourse on the topic through blogging and Twitter. He co-authored the book Social Business By Design
Peter Kim


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