Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November 2011 Technori pitch

Yesterday Technori hosted its November pitch event with 6 new startups: Grabio, Weatherist, DreamChamps, MentorMob, EditHuddle, and Restaurant Bucket List.

My quick first impressions of them are as follows:
Grabio ( – basically Craigslist combined with foursquare. Many people in the audience seemed concern about protecting their privacy when selling things using this app. The app doesn't show your exact location, but shows a pin on a map in your general area. I think the best feature of the app is that it can notify you if you’re ever close to someone selling something on your “wishlist.” ( – claims to be one of the most accurate/probable sources for weather by tracking all the different weather forecasts in your city and using a proprietary calculation to average the most reliable forecasts for: high temperature, low temperature, chance of precipitation, and amount of precipitation. This seems like something I would use, especially if they come out with an iPhone app, since right now it's just web based. Right now, I check every morning, but I’m starting to use to compare and see how close the two sites are with their forecasts. The one big disadvantage is that doesn’t have an hourly forecast, which I care a lot about because during the week I’m usually only outside early in the morning and later in the evening during specific time periods and that’s when I would like to know how cold it will be or if it'll be raining around that time.

DreamChamps ( – resource for recent grads and young professionals looking to join companies with strong cultures focused on the happiness of their employees. It basically lists companies that meet specific criteria that the founders think are important factors to consider in order to achieve happiness at work. The problem is that so far there are only a few companies listed and not many represented across a variety of industries. However, I did enjoy watching the demo video on their website and I would love to have all my friends find jobs that make them happy instead of settling for a job they don't like. I'm hoping they will be able to expand and spread the word on college campuses, but it will be hard to convince people to consider company culture over salary and compensation.

MentorMob ( – think Khan Academy, but anyone can create lessons on any topic using any resource on the web. I love teaching myself new things and always have a running list of something new I want to learn how to do. I’ve already started going through the topics on the site and I've saved a few playlists I want to come back to. I can't speak to the quality of the playlists/lessons yet, but hopefully they are pretty reliable and helpful.

EditHuddle ( – a way for blog readers to point out errors or mistakes to the blog writers. The reader is able to notify the writer of the blog by sending them a message through the application in order to let them know that there might be an error. Even though I’m new to blog writing, I can see this as something that would be really helpful for blogs especially ones with lots of readers and those that aim to be a reliable news source. I’m actually going to look into including EditHuddle on my blog and I've signed up to receive a beta invite. Right now they are mainly on WordPress, but looking to expand to all types of blogs soon.

Restaurant Bucket List ( – this is a new facebook application that allows you to share the restaurants you want to check out with all your facebook friends, so that you can find out which of your friends also want to go to the same places. Most people I know keep a running list of the restaurants and bars that others recommend, so this app now allows you to share that list and find other friends who would want to go with you. I was really excited about the app after the pitch, but when I went on facebook to check it out, I was actually getting a lot of errors while I was trying to add restaurants to my "list." Granted the app just launched yesterday, it’s still a little frustrating that I’ve been having so many difficulties with it. Hopefully, they fix the bugs and more people I know start using the app, so that I can begin taking advantage of it. 
I'm already looking forward to the next event during the last week of January! It's worth looking into to see if there are any startup pitch events near you and find out when they take place because these are great opportunities to learn about the latest tech trends and meet innovative and passionate entrepreneurs.

Intro to Technori Pitches

I first heard about the Chicago Technori start-up pitch meetings on the Built in Chicago website and I had a chance to go to my first Technori meeting the last week in October. The event consisted of about a half hour to network with entrepreneurs, investors, and others interested in start-ups and then 7 founders presented pitches. Each person had five minutes to talk about their start-up and then another 5 minutes to answer questions. From the October Technori meeting, I thought the most promising start-ups were Utellit and JumpRope.

I thought Utellit presented an interesting way to keep in touch with friends. I’m always looking for new and better ways to do this – check out some of my favorite start-ups that help you keep track of your contacts and friends: Gist and FellowUp. Utellit aims to bring voice into our social media interactions, by allowing people to leave voice messages on friend’s facebook walls (i.e. instead of writing the usually “Happy Birthday!” on a friend’s wall, Utellit gives you the opportunity to leave a personal voice post instead). It also allows you to send voice text messages. Although, more recently, I’ve started to hear of a few other apps that are trying to bring voice into messaging as well like Voxer Walkie, which aims to turn your phone into a Walkie Talkie. At first I thought this was a great idea, until I started to think more about my own reaction to receiving voicemail. I rarely take the time to listen to my voice messages and instead I choose to either just call the person back and let them know I didn’t get a chance to listen to their message yet, but wanted to check what was going on, or I’ll check my email to see the Google Voice transcription. I signed up for Google Voice last year to get a 312 area code number, and now I love getting my voice messages transcribed (it also makes me laugh to see Google try to transcribe a message when it’s in a different language…). So this made me realize, if I don’t actually take the time to listen to my voicemail, what makes me think that my friends or I will take the time to click on every voice message on my Facebook wall to listen to it? It’s so much easier to just read a message and it's not as meaningful as receiving to an actual phone call from your friend instead. All in all, I thought it was an interesting idea but I questioned how much I would actually use the app.

The other interesting start-up that I learned about at the October pitch was JumpRope, which allows people at bars and clubs to skip to the front of the line by paying a specific amount of money up front to the venue through the app. A lot of the prices for some of the nicer clubs in Chicago ranged from $20-$30 to cut to the front of the line, which seems a little steep to me. I know females tend to have the advantage of getting into clubs relatively easily, but I can see how this app would be helpful for guys who have a little extra money to spend and don’t want to waste 30 minutes to an hour or more waiting in line. I can also see JumpRope really catching on in a city like New York where the club culture is big and more people like to show off their status by getting into exclusive places or buying bottle service. And for people interested in buying bottle service, they can actually buy the bottle through the app as well. Although I actually think this is a bit of a disadvantage because often times you can cut to the front of the line anyway when you tell the bouncer you’re buying a bottle or some club owners will negotiate on the price of bottles so buying one through the app might not be the best way to go about it. So far, I’ve really only used the app to get a sense of places to go out in Chicago and it's given me an idea of what clubs/bars tend to be more crowded or popular. I don’t actually see myself trying to pay to cut to the front of the line though.

Overall, I had a really great experience at my first start-up pitch event and I decided that I would try to go to these events more regularly, which is why I decided to go to the November pitch event as well...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Should Charities Operate Like Businesses?

For a while now, I’ve been interested in getting involved in non-profits where I believe I can add value and really help improve, develop or expand the organization. When I first moved to Chicago, I didn’t know too much about the non-profits in the area, so I decided to create a profile on Through this website, organizations that were looking for additional help from someone with my skill set and background could reach out with potential opportunities to get involved.

About a month later, I was fortunate enough to be contacted by the executive director of GlobalYouth for Education & Change. After learning a bit about each others' backgrounds and the goals of the organization, I was very excited about the opportunity to get involved and join the board.  GYEC was founded in 2007, so it’s still a relatively young organization and we tend to view it more as a non-profit start-up because we are facing a lot of the same challenges that young businesses face when they are first starting out. Not only are we looking for sources of funding from high net worth individuals (i.e. angel investors), but we are also reaching out to celebrities, corporations, grants and even the PE/VC community. We also have a fairly large goals and a broad vision, so it’s important for us to prioritize our goals and projects, while really demonstrating measurable accomplishments that can lead to further funding and revenue in order to continue to expand our projects to other countries and expand our reach. Being a board member of GYEC has been a challenging and rewarding experience so far, but I look forward to helping the organization develop its strategic plan and continue to succeed by positively impacting the communities it targets.
It’s also worth noting that yesterday, the WSJ came out with several articles in the Personal Journal section with interesting perspectives on non-profits that I recommend reading if you’re interested in learning more: “Before You Join ThatBoard…” and “Should Charities Operate Like Businesses?”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Initial Thoughts

After reading and subscribing to more than 200 blogs over the past 6 years, I’ve finally decided to take the initiative and start my own blog about early-stage investing and venture capital, while providing thoughts and updates on my experiences advising start-ups and working with non-profits in Chicago.

I will also be providing a female perspective on the finance and VC industries. I’m constantly reminded through various articles (the latest ones from this weekend were in The Economist and Miami Herald) about how there are too few female entrepreneurs, executives and investors. By sharing and learning more about current female entrepreneurs and VCs, hopefully we can inspire the next generation of young women to start their own companies, act on their ideas and learn to make successful investments. 

I’m looking forward to sharing and interacting with other entrepreneurs and investors by exchanging ideas and trends in both the non-profit and start-up communities.