As my regular readers know, I frequently serve as a panelist in pitch events. Recently, I decided to start writing about the startups from each event that caught my attention. As someone who has been on both sides of the stage- previously as a founder seeking capital, and now as an investor listening to the visions of the next wave of entrepreneurs, I want to share my learnings. My intention is to acknowledge their hard work by providing useful feedback and advice. Ultimately, this all ties into the mission of my company, where we support founders on their entrepreneurial journey by offering technology strategy, product development, and software manufacturing. Click here to partner with us.
Josh Paul – Push Auto
This startup brings a novel idea to a well-established business model. Push Auto aggregates prices for new cars from a network of dealerships, generates financing quotes from lenders, and enables the user to complete the transaction online. While CarMax and Autotrader offer a fairly robust online buying experience, neither of them handle delivering the car physically to the customer. The company has done about $200k in sales since launching in Los Angeles three weeks ago. They currently partner with seventy dealerships who pay a subscription fee, rather than a commission.
First off, kudos to Paul for coming to pitch with a functioning proof-of-concept. In addition, I like that he is taking a concept that has already succeeded, and bringing it to a new industry. On that note, however I advised Paul to look into why isn’t this being done already? The answers could indicate consumer preferences such as a desire to test drive the car before purchasing. Quite possibly there could be greater challenges such as legislation or special interest groups that would prevent this company from growing.
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Akbar Ahmed – Delixus
Already a seasoned entrepreneur, Ahmed pitched his latest idea for an edtech software for training users of SAAS products. User training is a pain point for many companies; sending employees for a full day of training isn’t effective in terms of cost and learning retention. Delixus’ edtech solution offers “micro-training” on specific software features as the user browses through them. The solution also includes monitoring usage and analytics to identify user competence and weak points.
This is an interesting idea and it will certainly add value for SAAS companies, but it still seems to be very early stage. It took several rounds of questions for us investors to fully understand Ahmed’s idea and how he expected to implement it. The takeaway from this for founders: format your pitch as though you will present it to an educated fifteen year old. In most elevator-style pitches, you won’t know the background or technical knowledge of investors.
Zeki Gunay – Cratus
Cratus is a subscription-based IoT company for monitoring shipments. It combines hardware sensors with software to collect and analyze data on transportation conditions. Two industries in dire need of this technology are agriculture and pharmaceuticals: there is a tremendous amount of waste due to damage from rough handling and poor temperature control. Cratus is currently working with several companies to conduct field tests.
The concept is solid and I’m looking forward to seeing a working model. However, the pitch left room for improvement. As with the previous founder, Gunay also used excessive technical jargon. Remember, investors are smart people, but not all of them are engineers. Many of my fellow angel investors from the Kereitsu Forum are from diverse professions such as real estate and health care. If they don’t understand what you are saying, they won’t listen, and they definitely won’t invest.
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Rick Baker – Omveria
Omveria is a do-it-yourself mobile app publishing system for small businesses. Users simply need to download one app that functions as a drawer for all of the unique apps. The drawer is location based so only apps for nearby businesses will be visible. The company has already launched in Lexington, Kentucky, with almost nine thousand active users. Now, Baker is seeking funding to launch the platform in Silicon Valley.
I like the idea of only having to download a single app to access several. But does every small business really need its own app? I’m not convinced that adds value to the customer’s experience. My feedback to Baker was to have a case study; tell me about a hairdresser whose revenue increased from customers using the app.
Matthew Sole – Elliot
Founder Sole describes himself as an avid cruiser and coder. He developed the idea for a marine navigation platform during his year-long sail around the globe. Elliot combines several tools, such as weather updates, tide reports, and logbooks with a navigational software similar to Waze. The app uses maps created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and crowd sources information on the best routes and points of interest. Competing navigation systems cost several hundred dollars and require extensive installation. Sole plans to offer the app as a monthly subscription for five dollars.
This is a fantastic idea – there are millions of recreational and commercial cruisers, the maps are readily-available, and the data is crowd-sourced. Something that I am slightly concerned about is scaling the app internationally. I don’t expect many developing nations to invest in regularly surveying their waterways or to publish updated maps.
That’s all for today – of the several pitches, these were the noteworthy companies. If one of the pitching founders is reading this, please take it in spirit. Like I stated earlier, I write so as to offer guidance, not to dissuade entrepreneurs from pursuing their visions. If you would like to partner with Brown Deck Innovations, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
Click here to read my blog from the previous event.