Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Qualtré closes on $5M A round from Matrix

Qualtré, a company working on advanced motion sensors, has closed a $5 million Series A round from Matrix Partners. Mike Slawson, a VentureLab Fellow, built the company based on research from Farrokh Ayazi in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (among others). The company was initially funded through grants and loans from the Georgia Research Alliance as well as a DARPA contract.

Qualtré was in our latest round of VentureLab graduates, and is now a member of ATDC.

You can read more in the Tech Journal South story here.

This makes a nice compare-and-contrast to the Appcelerator saga that has dominated the Atlanta tech blogs lately. There's not a single right answer for everyone, and different companies will take different paths. For now, I'm just happy to cheer on Mike, Farrokh, and the rest of the Qualtré team!


Monday, August 18, 2008

How will your pitch go over at the pool party?

We've all done it. Corralled an investor and pitched him on our spectacularly brilliant concept for a startup. Anybody with half a brain would rush home to get their checkbook, right? But, of course, that never happens.

Think about why people invest in startups. Especially people who haven't known you for 20 years. I'm primarily thinking of angel investors you're introduced to. An angel investor has already won the lottery. They created a startup and it went big. Or they got in early on a company that went IPO. Or they made a killing as a real estate developer. Or they're the only orthodontist in a county with especially un-straight teeth.

An angel is not just trying to make money by investing in startups. They want to feed their ego. And in order to do that, they have to brag about the cool company they've invested in. This being the case, there are two absolute musts if you want an angel to invest. First, it has to be a sexy idea. Nobody will brag about investing in company that makes lower cost polyalkylene glycol.

Equally important, your idea must be easy to share. If an investor is to brag to his neighbors, his friends at the gym, to his wife, they have to be able to explain it simply. They need to show how smart they are by getting in on the deal early. They need a story or a simple explanation they can share at the pool party.

Don't think just about your pitch to an investor, think about how they share your idea at a pool party.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Hollywood Startup Model

Have you ever thought about how movies get made? Here's the simplified version. A producer finds a script that they think would make a terrific movie. They option the script and then work to put a team together that could make the movie. They find a director. And stars to play the key roles. Then they approach the studios for financing of the movie. Once they have everything in place, they pull the trigger and the movie gets made.

Think of your startup in the same way. You are the producer. You have an idea which you've turned into a business plan (the script) and it is your job to pull together the other pieces to make a successful startup (the movie). Can you get a CEO to commit to the project (your director)? Can you find engineers to design the product and salespeople to sell it (the actors)? Once you have all the pieces lined up, you go look for funding from VC investors (the movie studios).

Some movies are independent films, not financed by the studios, but by outside investors (angels). If you want to get the backing from a studio, you have to have a top director and recognizable actors and a incredibly tight script? Does your movie have that?

There's nothing wrong with independent films, that's how most producers and directors and actors get their start. After you've made your first successful picture, it is far easier to gather top talent and get studio backing. They might even give you a development deal and pay you to put deals together (Entrepreneur In Residence).

If you think of your startup, and your serial-entrepreneur career arc as being similar to a movie producer, it might all start to make much more sense.

(btw, can you tell what movie is being filmed in the pic?)


Summer's over. Ga Tech is back in session

Fall is still a month away. It's 88 degrees outside. But school is back in session starting Monday. A whole new crop of graduate and undergraduate engineers coming in. And, there's going to be a few startup companies in there. VentureLab is here to help.

(btw, do you know who's dorm room that is?)