Techstars Ventures Announces Investment in ConnXus

We’re proud to be an investor in ConnXus, a supplier diversity technology platform. Techstars Ventures led the $5M financing in ConnXus, with participation from Serious Change L.P., Impact America Fund and The Social Entrepreneurs’ Fund (TSEF).

CEO Rod Robinson founded ConnXus as a result of his personal experience and frustration with the complexities associated with locating qualified diverse suppliers, tracking spending, tracking diversity certifications, and reporting reliable results in accordance with corporate and government mandates.  ConnXus now solves this problem with its simple to use, cloud-based, technology platform.  

We made a seed investment in ConnXus last year, and when Techstars launched several internal diversity initiatives – including the Techstars Foundation – we invited Rod to join the advisory board given his deep domain expertise. Rod has been a huge help to the Foundation. It’s a classic #givefirst story of Rod helping out with the Foundation that enabled us to get to know him better and ultimately, led us to make a larger investment in ConnXus.

Not only does ConnXus align with our initiatives to serve high-performing, emerging technology companies, but it has created innovative software that directly improves diversity in the supply chain for startups and corporations.

Techstars Ventures is the venture capital arm of Techstars with $265 million under management. We primarily co-invest alongside venture capital and angel communities in Techstars accelerator program graduates, new companies started by Techstars alumni, and companies formed by Techstars mentors.

Welcome, ConnXus, to the Techstars family!








Meet South Central Ventures

South Central Ventures (SCV), the manager of ENIF, is open for investments in startups in Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This October, the fund officially started operating with offices in Belgrade, Zagreb and Skopje. The Skopje team, led by Managing Partner Tatjana Zabasu, with Investment manager Ivana Stankovic and Associate Irena Efremovska, is responsible for covering Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.

How can Macedonian startups approach the South Central Ventures office? 

South Central Ventures tend to be “start-up (or entrepreneur) – friendly”, so it should be quite easy to get to us. The best place to start from is definitely a recommendation, but we will also be present in as many events as possible, so start-ups can feel free to approach us and present their businesses. In fact, we’ll be at the upcoming Startup Weekend Skopje.

South Central Ventures do not operate like most of the accelerators that periodically invite start-ups to apply to get into their programs and get their funding. One can approach us whenever they feel ready to present their business. We would therefore use this opportunity and invite companies to approach us before they run out of money and desperately need an investment to continue operation, so that we can get to know them and learn more about what they do.

What kind of startups do South Central Ventures invest in?

The main focus is on startups and early stage companies that exploit new web, IoT, SaaS and similar technologies, catering to global client base, primarily with their B2B business models. Life science or nanomaterial companies are among those which are out of the scope of South Central Ventures, since those are too much capital intensive industries.

The wanted startup DNA: dream and do it BIG!

South Central Ventures is open only for startups that dream and do it big. Target are the most promising, high growth tech companies that aim to take their business global. Basically, South Central Ventures want to see the most ambitious, fresh-thinking, brave and relentless teams that work on conquering international markets. This is a fund for Earth-shakers, building solutions that disturb their industry and serve large global client base. Startups that limit their ambitions to local markets only are out of SCV’s investment focus.

What comes first: excellent team or good product?

Technology evolves fast, markets change… What remains constantly valued is an exceptional team of problem solvers, who are fully dedicated to international growth and expansion of the business. Thus South Central Ventures due diligence process is thus focused on the team, not only to the technology and solution.

At what stage are the investments made?

South Central Ventures is dedicated primarily to early stage and growth investments.Within the fund’s ‘seed pocket’, 1.5 million EUR are allocated to investments of up to 100 000 EUR per company. The majority of the funds is allocated for early stage and growth investments ranging from 0.5 – 2 million EUR per company. These investments should fuel the international business expansion and growth of the most promising tech startups that can show traction and prove their potential to “make it big”.

More than just money!

South Central Ventures go beyond financial investments and add additional value by leveraging the experience, knowledge and social capital of its ‘Founders’ Club’ members. The startups get smart money and are able to tap into the pool of the successful entrepreneurs, investors and mentors with extensive experience, and global personal networks. Hence the SCV motto is: Regional expertise – global reach.

Looking forward to meeting all the great teams and ideas at Startup Weekend Skopje!








Education Entrepreneurs Partners With Imagine K12

Entrepreneurship is a Journey

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ve all heard this phrase used to set the context for those about to take their first leap into entrepreneurship, and I think most seasoned entrepreneurs would agree with the point it’s trying to make. The development and sustainment of a successful startup doesn’t just happen overnight; it takes months upon years of hard work, sacrifice, discipline, and execution to produce a venture that’s secured product market fit and established a solid foundation to ensure its livelihood for years to come. Due to the various obstacles entrepreneurs will have to overcome and the wide range of emotions they will experience trying to turn their vision into reality, some might argue that entrepreneurship is neither a marathon or a sprint – it’s moreso a marathon, a sprint, an Ironman Triathlon, Tough Mudder, and Tour de France all rolled into one, while carrying 50lbs on your shoulders.

No matter what you compare it to, the fact is, becoming a successful entrepreneur and building a successful startup is quite the arduous process. Success doesn’t just happen; large amounts of time and energy must be invested over extended period of times, and throughout various stages of the company’s development. Recognizing this, UP Global, created The Entrepreneurs Journey. Broken up into six stages, The Entrepreneurs Journey outlines the specific phases every entrepreneur goes through in pursuit of creating a prosperous venture. In order to ensure entrepreneurs’ needs are met at every stage, UP Global has created complementary programs for each one, including Startup Digest, Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Week, and Entrepreneurs Across Borders.

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Education Entrepreneurship is Unique

Recognizing that entrepreneurs aiming to build education businesses face unique problems (e.g. developing products that align to both the needs of students and teachers, securing pilot opportunities in schools, navigating government policy around student data), UP Global developed Education Entrepreneurs. The goal of Education Entrepreneurs is to create a suite of programs and resources specifically to meet the needs of education entrepreneurs. Beginning with the popular “turn your idea into a startup in 54 hours” program called Startup Weekend Education, Education Entrepreneurs offerings have expanded to include Startup Digest Education, Bootcamps, and Summits. Whether interested in exploring different options to innovate in education, excited by the opportunity to build a prototype in a weekend, or ready to jump full steam ahead into the world of being an official edtech founder, Education Entrepreneurs is giving more people than ever the opportunity to utilize entrepreneurship and technology to solve problems in education.

 

Partnering With Imagine K12

In the past year alone, Education Entrepreneurs has expanded from 12 to 74 events, 9 to 59 cities, 3 to 24 countries, and 2 to 6 continents. This means nearly 7,000 people around the world have joined our community and are engaging in the innovation process. As we help increasingly more people enter education entrepreneurship, we want to make sure they have access to the best resources, mentorship, and funding opportunities throughout their journey. Earlier this year, we partnered with edSurge, the leading source of news and resources on education technology. This partnership has provided our community with access to important and timely content, valuable resources, and unique opportunities.

Today, we’re excited to announce that we are partnering with Imagine K12, the leading edtech accelerator. This partnership will give our education entrepreneurs better access to crucial mentorship and funding opportunities to scale their ventures and ensure the solutions they develop actually reach the learners they were designed to help.

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Since 2011, Imagine K12 has cultivated hundreds of edtech entrepreneurs and companies by providing them with funding, mentorship, connections, and incredible guest speakers, like Mitch Kapor, founder of Kapor Capital, Eric Ries, founder of The Lean Startup, and Paul Graham, founder of YCombinator. Here’s some data highlighting Imagine K12 results to-date:

  • Launched more than 70 companies

  • Imagine K12 companies have raised more than $120 million

  • More than 10 million students and more than 1 million teachers are using Imagine K12 products

  • Award-winning companies:

    • Remind, 2014 Educators Top Messaging App

    • Code HS, 2013 NBC Innovation Challenge

    • Hapara, 2013 NYC Schools Gap App Challenge

    • Raise Labs, 2013 GSV/ASU Education Innovation Summit

    • LearnSprout, 2013 MBA Impact Investing Network

    • Bloomboard, 2012 SXSW LAUNCHedu K-12

    • NoRedInk, 2012 NBC Innovation Challenge

    • ClassDojo, 2011 NBC Innovation Challenge

Over the past three years, several Startup Weekend Education and Startup Weekend alumni have been admitted into the Imagine K12 cohorts, including the founders of Class Dojo, NoRedInk, Blendspace, Plickers, Learning Jar, and Tioki. With a goal of connecting even more Startup Weekend Education alumni to valuable funding and mentorship opportunities, our new partnership with Imagine K12 will give all first place winners of Startup Weekend Education events a guaranteed interview with Imagine K12’s investment team, if they choose to apply. All teams participating in Startup Weekend Education events as part of the Education, Empowered Track during Global Startup Battle this weekend and next (November 14th-23rd) are eligible for this opportunity, and local Facilitators and Organizers will be equipped to answer participant questions.

As Education Entrepreneurs grows over the years, it is our goal to support education entrepreneurs at every single stage of their journey, and we’re excited that our partnership with Imagine K12 will help us achieve that.

More About Imagine K12

Imagine K12 is a startup accelerator for companies that are creating innovative technology solutions to enrich and transform K-12 education. Starting a company is hard, and the education market presents unique challenges. Imagine K12 has a singular goal: improving your company’s chances of success. They do this through a combination of strategic advice and mentorship; supportive networks of investors, educators, and entrepreneurs; and a small amount of initial funding (about $100,000). Over the past three years, Imagine K12 has helped to launch 70 companies, which have collectively raised over $120 million in funding and reached millions of classrooms around the country. Read why Imagine K12 is excited to partner with Education Entrepreneurs.








Reevaluating How Angel Investors Collaborate With Startup Communities

Written by Simon Huang.

Entrepreneurs have long known the key to startup success is collaboration. Behind every billion dollar IPO and every glitzy product launch stand years of shared ideas, partnerships and long hours bouncing ideas off neighbors in co-working spaces. No startup is an island. These lessons, however, have been slower in coming to the angel investment community.

With AngelSummit.io, the first ever convening of the country’s angel investors and community leaders, coming up in November 12-13 in Dallas, it’s important that we reevaluate how angels can collaborate – not just with each other, but with America’s vibrant startup communities.

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Image Credit: Halo Report

Case in point: Upstate New York. The region boasts some of the country’s best engineering talent – produced by the likes of Cornell, the University of Rochester and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Taken with the area’s low cost of living, along with the presence of tech giants like IBM, and Upstate’s entrepreneurial potential is promising.

It could be even higher with more and better angel interaction, says Mitchell Patterson, Upstate New York native and one of its most active entrepreneurs and investors. As the Founder of Startup Weekend Syracuse and former Vice President of Armory Square Ventures, a local VC fund, Mitchell has a front-row seat watching how investors interact with Upstate ventures.

The relatively modest cost of living, Patterson claims, makes Upstate New York ideal as a kind of “runway” for the larger markets of New York City and Boston. But while plenty of companies start in the area, they often aren’t able to scale, leading them to relocate prematurely. “Companies that we can grow, when they need more capital, it isn’t there, so they move to Manhattan or Boston or San Jose. Companies often don’t end up growing here.”

Given the reputation of startup ecosystems for energizing local economies, this is an unfortunate trend. However, the arrival of more capital isn’t a cure-all either. The small size of Upstate New York and similar markets means that the methods that worked in New York City or San Jose don’t quite fit. “There are some investors who try to use what they used in previous regions,” Patterson observes, “who try to make the community fit the model rather than making their model fit the community.”

So how should an angel interested in the promise of lesser-known markets make their approach? “I don’t like to try and reinvent the wheel. I look at what someone else has done and how I can use that as a tool in my own arsenal, making modifications.” This is precisely, Patterson continues, what a convening like AngelSummit.io can offer to both the angel and entrepreneur communities. Gathering the country’s angel investors and founders can only help close the gap between vision and execution.

“One of the problems with a lot of investment initiatives over time has been that everyone wants to replicate Route 128 or Silicon Valley and culturally, these regions are all different.” Call it a cultural exchange, or one of best practice – angel investors who want to keep a finger on the pulse of the Startup Revolution will be well served to find themselves in Dallas next month.

For more information, visit: http://www.angelsummit.io/

 








Education Entrepreneurs: New Name, Same Awesome Community & Programs

Since 2010, we’ve been developing programming to support individuals interested in leveraging entrepreneurship to improve education outcomes. Recognizing that education entrepreneurs face unique problems that require unique solutions, we’ve focused our energy on increasing the quality and range of our offerings to ensure entrepreneurs feel supported at every stage of their journey. Centering on Startup Weekend Education, a 54-hour experiential learning event, education entrepreneurs can also take advantage of education-specific reading lists, bootcamps, meetups, resources, and a global network of Community Leaders, who specialize in education innovation.

Action-Based Programs

Community-Generated Resources

Opportunities to Connect and Grow

See our flagship program, Startup Weekend Education, in action

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The Community is Driving Growth

Any opportunity that people get to engage with our programming is due to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteer Community Leaders dispersed throughout the world. Community Leaders are those special individuals who want to bring people together to collaborate on the creation of education solutions. They strategically use our programs, resources, and global network to support the development of an education innovation community in their city. It’s because of these Community Leaders, that more people than ever are gaining access to key information, skills, and a network that’s been shown to play a pivotal role in the development of successful education entrepreneurs.

Growth Over Past Year

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A Few Success Stories

  • Several education entrepreneurs that participated in Startup Weekend/Education have gone on to develop edtech products and teams that have been admitted into some of the most prestigious startup accelerators in the world (e.g. Imagine K-12Y Combinator). Here’s a few of them: Sam and Liam of Class Dojo, Dan of Clever, Jeff of No Red Ink, and the team of Experiment. These entrepreneurs have all created effective solutions to significant pain points of teachers and/or administrators, and their impressive traction has resulted in several million dollars being invested in their companies in recent years.

  • As a high school social studies teacher, Eric Nelson had a problem of his students being disengaged & disinterested in geopolitics. At the recommendation of his mentor organization, 4.0 Schools, Eric pitched Fantasy Geopolitics at Startup Weekend Education Chicago in 2013. A year later, his product is engaging over 10,000 students and 500 teachers in learning about the world in which they live via a fun “fantasy football” type of game.

  • Ed an internet entrepreneur, Simon a graphic designer, and Paul an educator built Night Zookeeper during Startup Weekend Education London in 2011 to improve creative writing and literacy skills in young children. Night Zookeeper is now used in more than 5000 schools by more than 500,000 children, and they’ve raised about $900,000 to-date.

  • At Startup Weekend Education New York City in January 2014, three female developers, Alexandra Diracles, Melissa Halfon, and Leandra Tejedor, teamed up to get more teen girls excited about technology. Feeling a mutual charging that the tech world is still heavily male-dominated, these entrepreneurs wanted to find a way to teach girls that coding and working in tech is creative and fun. What resulted was Vidcode, a video coding app that is not only self-expressive, but paired with a hobby that teen girls love – creating and sharing videos. Today, their Kickstarter Campaign has already reached its goal, with five days still left to go!

Recognition from the Broader Education Community

What’s even better, our successful and seasoned entrepreneurs often times return to our events as Mentors, Speakers, or Judges, guiding the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs, and strengthening the “pay it forward” culture our Community Leaders have established.

The Name Should Reflect The Community

Recognizing that our Participants, Community Leaders, and Mentors are just as much the drivers for success as the programming and resources themselves, we have made the decision to move forward with a new name that shines a light on exactly who is responsible for this growing education innovation movement: people passionate about education entrepreneurship. As of today, we are officially retiring the Startup Education name and establishing ourselves as Education Entrepreneurs. Clear, to-the-point, and representative of who we are, our community is excited to carry this message forward:

We are Education Entrepreneurs, a global and diverse community that uses entrepreneurship to improve education.

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So What’s Next?








9 pasos para conseguir inversión en tu emprendimiento

El acceso a capital no puede ser soló para unos cuantos con apellido rimbombante o con los contactos correctos. Para que tu idea de emprendimiento no se quede en la papelera, aquí van 9 tips.

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Tengo que confesarte una cosa: creo fielmente que el emprendimiento es la fuerza más poderosa para generar impacto y bienestar en las personas.

Es por eso que quiero compartirte aprendizajes que he tenido como emprendedor social y tecnológico que ha levantado inversión, como CEO de Crowdfunder Latinoamérica, apoyando a emprendedores e inversionistas a cerrar rondas de capital y, últimamente, también como inversionista ángel con un enfoque amplio en industrias y etapas.

Gracias a estas experiencias, he visto que en un país en desarrollo como México, donde el ecosistema emprendedor y de inversión en etapas tempranas es incipiente y centralizado en las ciudades más grandes, la mayoría de emprendedores que consiguen inversión lo han hecho en una de las siguientes maneras:

  • A través del papá o el tío rico
  • Hablando con potenciales clientes, proveedores o aliados que terminan invirtiendo
  • Y unos cuantos a través de aceleradoras, fondos de Capital Emprendedor e inversionistas ángeles

Mi conclusión es que esto no puede seguir así. El acceso a capital no puede ser solamente para unos cuantos que tienen el apellido rimbombante, que tienen las conexiones correctas por sus circunstancias geográficas o socioeconómicas, o para los que simplemente tienen suerte.

Muchos emprendedores tienen empresas, conceptos e innovaciones interesantes que se pierden en el camino por necesidad de capital inteligente. Una de las dificultades que tienen es no saber cómo se ve el proceso para conseguirlo. Para que a ti no te suceda esto, te presento 9 pasos básicos para estructurar tu levantamiento de capital en etapa temprana y generar momentum:

1.        Definir el vehículo de inversión: Los emprendedores más experimentados definen cómo quieren levantar capital de acuerdo a sus metas de negocio, antes de salir a pedirlo. Si eres una empresa de alto potencial de crecimiento, puedes usar notas convertibles o una ronda de equity. Si no piensas crecer 50x, quizás lo tuyo es ofrecer un reparto de utilidades, o si ya tienes historial operativo, es posible que la mejor opción sea un financiamiento tradicional.

2.        Analizar implicaciones legales e impacto fiscal: Pide referencias de un abogado con experiencia en inversiones en etapas tempranas para que te explique sobre definiciones legales que afectan la gobernanza de tu empresa y sobre impactos fiscales. En México, una venta de acciones, un reparto de dividendos y muchas cosas más generan impactos fiscales. Sí, tendrás que pagarle a un abogado para conseguir una inversión sana y bien estructurada.

3.        Crea tu presentación y tu resumen ejecutivo: Cortos y concisos, contestando por qué alguien debería invertir en tu empresa y cómo va a ganar dinero. Estos documentos te abrirán las puertas para tener reuniones con inversionistas.

4.        Prepara tu documentación: Cada día somos más los inversionistas que no prestamos atención a planes de negocio largos y que no forzosamente solicitamos estados financieros, sin embargo, te recomiendo estar preparado para aportar documentación y respuestas concretas sobre cualquier punto de tu modelo de negocios y ejecución.

5.        A negociar y generar momentum: Es importante que contactes a varios inversionistas para tener capacidad de negociación y para que decidas cuáles son los que pueden aportar más valor para tu empresa, además del capital. La mayoría te preguntará: “¿con quién más estás platicando?”, y es importante tener buen momentum para que tengan confianza y tomen una decisión más rápido.

6.        Definir valuación e inversionista líder: ¿Encontraste a tu media naranja? Este inversionista dará validez a una valuación inicial de tu empresa, que automáticamente definirá el porcentaje que estás vendiendo a cambio de X cantidad de dinero.

7.        Cerrar coinversionistas con tu líder: Un buen inversionista líder te ayuda a conseguir coinversionistas estratégicos de su red o de la tuya, hasta cerrar tu ronda de inversión por completo.

8.        Documentos y transferencia: Ahora sí, es hora de firmar esa nota convertible o ese convenio de compra de acciones (¿recuerdas al abogado del punto 2?), entre otros documentos y a transferir el dinero a la cuenta de banco de la empresa.

9.        Seguimiento, seguimiento, seguimiento: No esperes que los abogados y los inversionistas tengan la misma prisa que tú. Mantén una comunicación continua para asegurarte de que se salven todas las dudas en el proceso legal y el dinero llegue a tu cuenta

Y ahora sí, empieza lo bueno. Prepárate para un viaje con tus nuevos socios donde deberás utilizar el capital de la manera más eficiente, generando crecimiento y aumentando el valor de tu empresa.

Espero que esta información te sea de utilidad. Por favor, compártela con tus amigos emprendedores para que este ecosistema crezca. Te invito a seguir visitando este blog donde compartiré continuamente tips de emprendimiento e inversión para México y Latinoamérica.

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente el Forbes México en abril 27, 2014.








5 Tips For Finding an Investor For Your Startup

Unless you are going into a business venture with your pockets lined, getting your startup started takes capital. Finding the startup capital for your new company means finding investors, which is sometimes like going on a treasure hunt if you don’t know the right avenues to take. To help with the funding hunt, here are five tips for finding an investor for your startup company.

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Rehearse and Re-Rehearse Your Pitch

The way you handle your startup pitch could be the difference between walking every player on the team of pitching the perfect game. Before you step foot in front of an investor, it’s imperative that you practice your pitch until it becomes part of your vocabulary and a topic that you are the authority on.

This means rehearsing, which should basically lay the groundwork for how you will handle meeting with investors. In other words, not only will you have to know your business plan like the back of your entrepreneurial hand, you’ll have to predict potential questions. Don’t go it alone, rehearsing with a friend instructed to give no mercy is a great way to get the kinks out of your startup pitch.

Research the Investors

Obtaining investments for your startup starts with knowing your audience: the investors. Learning about an investor’s ideals, past investments, and overall business mentality will help in securing the funding you need. But don’t put all of your startup’s eggs in one investor’s basket.

If you want to reach the largest audience possible, make a list of at least three potential investors you’d like to pitch to. Then, learn everything there is to know about each investor. Once you get a feel for their sensibilities, set up pitch meetings based on the most desirable to least desirable investment opportunities. By doing so, you’ll know how aggressive you need to be from one meeting to the next depending on your success rate.

Know the Difference Between Investment Types

Put your pitch and list of investors aside for a moment. Before you walk into the shark tank, you need know what type of investment you want to acquire for your startup. Besides, the investment type has everything to do with your potential for success. Private equity and venture capital are the most common types of investments and are made by privately owned institutions and individuals.

Venture capital in particular has the most room for growth because most venture capitalists provide expertise and advice for startups. Angel investing involves obtaining capital from an individual with an upper-level net worth, but it also comes with high interest. If you’re unsure of the approach to take and the interest rates involved, Fisher Investments on Financials can help you navigate the investment waters so you don’t end up with the wrong investment for your startup.

Be Honest About Your Startup’s Potential

One of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to securing funds for your startup is being realistic with yourself and your investors about the startup’s potential. This is hard to do early on because, in most cases, you won’t have any sales under your belt. Likewise, it’s very easy to become starry-eyed about how well your business will do.

In terms of ROI, you need to plan for the lower end of success. It may sound like the will to succeed isn’t there, but by playing it safe on the investment end, you’ll leave plenty of room for better-than-expected results on the business end. Likewise, planning for a smaller ROI takes some of the pressure off, which is extremely helpful when it comes to running a startup.

Let the Government Help

Private lenders can get you most of the way to your investment goals, but in case you need to fill in some funding gaps, the government can help. The U.S. Small Business Administration has an SBIC Program, which helps small businesses connect with investment companies. In addition, the government also offers numerous other loans and grants for qualified startups looking for investment help.

The investment tips above will help turn your startup dream into a fully funded reality.