|In This Issue of the Catalyst
Celebrate Three Years and Get Inspired by Roy Reiman October 6th at Boerner Botanical Gardens!
BizStarts Milwaukee announces its Third Anniversary Party Thursday, October 6th from
4:30-6:30pm at the beautiful Boerner Botanical Gardens in Hales Corners.
Our inspirational entrepreneur speaker is Roy Reiman, founder of Reiman Publications. Roy’s remarkable journey began with starting a magazine that expended his financial resources; this experience led him to innovate. He began launching new magazines on the national stage that generated literally millions of subscriptions and millions in revenue, all without charging for advertising – a feat once considered impossible. He will share his journey with you.
If you haven’t read his book (called I Could Write A Book, which he certainly proved), you’re missing the key formula on how to launch a successful business.
Our Third Anniversary Party is your chance to meet him and listen to his advice as we honor this Iowa farm boy turned successful Wisconsin entrepreneur with our “Inspirational Entrepreneur” Award, and celebrate three years of BizStarts working to help entrepreneurs launch companies – and become future “Inspirational Entrepreneurs.”
Please join BizStarts staff, entrepreneurs, service providers, friends and more from across the region on October 6th amidst the horticultural splendor of the Boerner Botanical Gardens. We look forward to seeing you there!
Please RSVP to Monica Graham (Monica.Graham@we-energies.com)
Innovative Workshop: Bootstrapping Basics for Young Companies
On Wednesday, September 21st, the BizStarts Venture Track program conducted a workshop focusing on bootstrapping and other
methods to finance start-up businesses. Representatives from nine companies discussed best practices and the positives and negatives of various approaches in a lively discussion.
A huge thank-you goes out to Ernst & Young for hosting and to E&Y’s William Fleming for moderating and sharing his experience and expertise. We would also like to thank panelists Ophir Ben Yitschak from Scopia Technologies and Brian Cole from Innovative Sports Strategies .They shared their perspectives with curious Venture Track entrepreneurs, who continue to innovate and work hard with BizStarts staff and advisors to move towards successful launches.
BizStarts partners with the newly-announced MiKE Initiative
We are excited to announce our partnership with the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s new initiative, MiKE, aka Innovation in Milwaukee. The goal is to focus on developing talent for innovation, enhancing economic development opportunities for existing companies and startups, and developing future technologies and applications. Partners in the initiative include Art Milwaukee, Creative Alliance Milwaukee, Spreenkler Talent Labs and the GMC Talent Dividend.
MiKE will be based out of the Shops of Grand Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. MiKE is funded by a $500,000 grant from ArtPlace, an initiative of 11 of America’s top foundations working with the National Endowment for the Arts and seven federal agencies. Its aim is to drive revitalization across the country by putting the arts at the center of economic development. BizStarts’ role in the joint effort will be to guide and advise starters in their quest to develop high-growth, innovative companies.
“What’s great about the MiKE initiative is that it develops the creative talent we have. Creative people meet people who know business, technology and markets. Combine those things, and you have an innovation ecosystem that’s crucial for long-lasting economic development,” said Eric Paulsen, BizStarts’ executive director. “We welcome MiKE with open arms because it shows that Milwaukee is serious about nurturing talent to create leading companies for the future.”
Venture Track: Chillin’ Buddy and Procubed present to an Ugly Baby Panel
An audience of Venture Track advisors and staffers offered feedback to the founders of The Chillin Buddy and Procubed at the latest Ugly Baby Panel, which took place on September 8th at our downtown office space, shared cooperatively with Spreenkler Talent Labs inside the Grand Avenue Mall.
The Chillin’ Buddy by Napkin Innovations
Founders: Matthias Bollmus and John Schlick
The Chillin’ Buddy is a unique beverage can cooler designed to look like a sports-figure torso. The unique design operates without electricity or springs to lift and bring the cans to the mouth area of the cooler as the helmet is opened and closed. The Chillin’ Buddy is designed to hold a 12-pack of can, perfect for every sporting event or pre-game activity. The product is targeted toward a market of over 171 million self-described sports fans in the USA. (For more on this company, please read our Story Behind the Startup feature below)
Founder: Jim Maerzke
Procubed was founded in 2004 by Jim Maerzke to design and develop automated machinery using a unique Linear to Rotary Motion (LRM) technology. He has used this technology to develop a new revolutionary manual wheelchair and has a patent pending on this invention. A working prototype of this concept is being developed in conjunction with UW-Parkside, the University of Pittsburgh, and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs.
Story Behind the Startup: Meet The Chillin’ Buddy
The idea seems so obvious that Matthias Bollmus and John Schlick sometimes have a hard time convincin
g people that their product isn’t already on the market.
But the two business partners have done their research, they assure potential investors. The Chillin’ Buddy is an original.
“I thought it was so simple, so obvious, and it’s not out there,” said Bollmus, who got the idea after his brother-in-law accused him of being an armchair quarterback while watching a football game. The insult was unfamiliar to the native West German and got the wheels turning.
Chillin’ Buddy is a beverage cooler designed to look like an athlete’s head and torso and customized with a jersey and helmet of a football player or NASCAR driver. The cooler holds 12 beverage cans and dispenses one or two cans at a time by flipping back the helmet.
While the initial idea was to target football and NASCAR, the partners see endless possibilities for customizing the cooler, such as celebrities or corporate mascots. The partners are aiming for a retail price of around one hundred dollars to include the plain cooler, jersey and helmet.
“I got excited right away about the idea,” Bollmus said. But he needed someone with an engineering mind to help him create the product.
Bollmus, 39, is now an Instructor of Business at Carroll University but was working at a financial services company when he met Schlick, 43, who did some technology contracting there. Bollmus found out that Schlick had a patent pending for a bicycle he invented, and they started talking.
“I love hearing ideas like this,” Schlick said. He also thought, “why isn’t it out there?”
In 2006, they went to lunch and drew out their 50/50 working arrangement on a napkin. Three years later, they formed Napkin Innovations LLC.
Both men have full-time jobs and families and spent nights and weekends working on the project.
In addition to working at Carroll, Bollmus is pursuing a doctorate in strategic management and finance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Schlick owns two other ventures: Business Information Design Inc., a Menomonee Falls database software development firm, and Schlick Cycles, which markets the “Shark,” a bicycle he invented.
They have invested their own money, estimated in the low five figures, in the company.
Napkin Innovations now has two patents pending for Chillin’ Buddy’s mechanical and exterior design and has a marketing video.
Bollmus and Schlick want to raise $375,000 that would allow them to create a prototype with computer assisted design drawings so they can get accurate quotes from a manufacturer and make a small product run.
The investment also would help them work though licensing issues, develop a product web site and hire a part-time employee to handle social media and marketing. They are planning an initial run of 5,000 coolers, which they predict they can pre-sell.
They also are putting together an active advisory board.
They presented their idea at the September Ugly Baby Panel and said they were pleased with the feedback. “Everybody was kind of rooting for us,” Schlick said.
They believe Chillin’ Buddy has wide appeal to both consumers and companies to use as a promotional item. “People see the product and they see themselves or someone that they know wanting it,” Bollmus said.
The partners say they could not have come this far with Chillin’ Buddy without help, including advice and reduced prices for services. “We’ve gotten in touch with a lot of people who are truly interested in seeing us succeed,” Bollmus said.
For more information, visit www.napkininnovations.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avoiding the two common pitfalls to an effective pitch
by Chelsea KrauseDeveloping your business “deck” or presentation, would seem simple enough on the surface: just follow one
of those free pitch templates you can find on the internet and you’re done, right? Wrong. Getting the story right, for the right audience, in the right way takes more thought and strategy.
That’s because with every audience you face, you, the presenter, need to overcome two barriers: limited attention spans and preconceptions.
Look! Something shiny…
The members of your audience have short attention spans. As they sit before you, they are fighting off the urge to check email or calendars. You need to capture their attention and include the “Ask”—that is, what you are asking for—up front, so your audience knows how to listen.
Best-selling author Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) told us many years ago to “begin with the end in mind.” That holds true today. Putting the Ask in front and center conserves cognition time among your listeners and helps them to evaluate your proposition faster.
Here’s an example: “Do you know why (insert company here) just purchased (company here) for x$ million dollars? It’s because consumers are looking for a solution to this (insert pain) in the market, and they are willing to pay big money to get it. We are positioned to answer that Pain even better with our (insert your proprietary solution) and we’ll prove to you in this presentation why we believe this solution is better. We are seeking x$ for an equity stake of x% in our company for the right investor.”
How you introduce your idea depends upon your style, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you need up front and have some fun with it!
Address the “elephants in the room”
Every member in your audience has their own opinions and experiences. These can act as barriers to information. Then there those “elephants in the room.” These are you and your idea’s shortcomings, which the investor is evaluating for possible risk to his/her investment.
For example, if you don’t have significant background in the sector you are pursuing, tell them right away how you’ve addressed that (i.e. you’ve aligned yourself with a partner who does), which establishes your credibility. You might also explain what additional value your experience does add to the company.
Another scenario: If your product is something most of us have experience with and knowledge of, such as a travel website, you should address the following question: In a market already heavily saturated with travel websites, why do we need another one? Then, tell the audience why their preconceived notion doesn’t match up with your findings.
When I was out looking for my first job, I came across a book on interviewing, which noted that behind most queries, is a fear. If you can address the fear behind the question, you establish credibility and build trust and confidence.
A note on confidence: it is important to remember that investors are first and foremost buying into you, then your idea. Confidence, credibility, poise—all of that comes naturally from knowing the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your idea.
The goal of the pitch is to pique interest in the audience so that they ask for more in-depth information, which advances you to the next level of consideration.
Make sure you have answered the obvious questions, put the Ask on top of your stack, and addressed any possible shortcomings in yourself and your plan.
Chelsea Krause will be facilitating the Pitch Practice session at the Wisconsin Entrepreneur’s Conference in Madison Nov. 2-3. For more information on the conference, please see our For the Calendar section below.
For the Calendar Get registered for the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium! WESS is looking for cutting-edge companies from Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest to present to investors at the Nov. 2-3 conference at Madison’s Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center. The deadline to apply to present is 9 AM, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011.
The annual conference gives selected companies the opportunity to make presentations and meet with investors. For many firms, participation in the conference has been a key factor for significant business growth. For more information and to register for the conference, click here.
For up-to-date information on BizStarts Milwaukee, be sure to visit the website: