Monday, January 30, 2012

Hosting Ohours Sessions

This past weekend I had the opportunity to host my first Ohours session ( In my Ohours profile, I mention that I'm willing to talk about a range of topics, which include: startups, finance, private equity, venture capital, investing, tech trends, non-profits and healthcare. Anyone can log onto the site and sign up to meet and chat about any topic, which provides a great way to meet new people who share the same interests.

This week I had the founder of an online fantasy sports league website sign up to go through his business plan as he is getting ready to pitch to angel investors. I was impressed with his story and how he got started and came up with the idea for his startup. As a corporate lawyer, he had followed and read about the new online gambling regulations that started to come out in 2006 and he noticed that one of the loop-holes in the law was related to Fantasy Sports leagues online. He waited a few years to see if the government would come in and add any new regulations after a few of the initial sites started to pop up. Today there are about a dozen websites that let you bet on fantast sports, but he has come out with a platform to extend fantasy sports leagues online to just about every type of sport including tennis and golf as well as college sports. The most interesting part of the platform will be its ability to extend betting between people outside of sports to reality television as well. This way people can also start to bet on events such as who will make it to the next round of American Idol or Dancing with the Stars and they will also be able to capture a target audience outside of just the adult male population.  The one thing to look out for will be the potential for the government to see how profitable these companies will become and then they may start to tax the revenue these companies are making, since right now there is really nothing in place for this industry. The other potential concern I would have as an investor would be the acquisition cost for each customer. Since there are several competitor sites, these companies may have to spend more and more on advertising online in order to capture additional active members. It's also still unclear how long active members remain members of these sites since the oldest site is still only two years old. Overall, it still seems to be a pretty convincing business model with a very scalable platform and low operating costs, so hopefully his idea will get some traction with the Chicago angel investors in the coming weeks.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Female Angel Investor Bootcamp

I've been keeping tabs on the Pipeline Fellowship since it first started last year because I thought it was such a great idea and potentially something I would want to apply to down the road. The goal of the Pipeline Fellowship is to train female philanthropists to learn how to become good angel investors and invest in woman-led social ventures. Similar to a female startup accelerator, which aims to promote more female entrepreneurs, the Pipeline Fellowship's goal is to increase both the number of female investors while helping female entrepreneurs raise money. The Pipeline Fellowship just announced their new class of 20 fellows and all the women have very impressive backgrounds:

They also just recently opened a second location outside of NYC in Boston. The investment they made last year was in a company called PhilanTech, which provides an online grants management system. It will be very interesting to track how the group does as they make more and more investments in female-led for profit ventures.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Female Startup Accelerator in Chicago

I received a call this past week from the founder of DigitalDiva 2.0 ( I'm excited to start working with her to help initiate a new female startup accelerator here in Chicago similar to Y Combinator and TechStars, etc. but focused on promoting more female founders in the startup community. I'll be attending their event next month and I look forward to learning more about their vision and how they plan to get started. Both Silicon Valley and NYC now have female startup accelerators, so it's about time that we start one here in Chicago!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Investing in Yourself

I’ve always been a big believer in the fact that the most important investment you can make is the investment in yourself by constantly trying to learn new things.

This year, I will be much more focused on this idea of investing in myself and I’d like to share a few helpful resources that I’ve discovered in order to go about this new goal:

A Dozen Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free: provides several great resources online to learn more about everything from Science and Health, Business and Money, History and World Culture, Law, Computer Science and Engineering, Math, English and Communications, etc.

SkillShare: Join classes online on just about any topic you can think of

50 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do: Learn to be self-reliant with these key lessons Keep track of all your short-term and long-term goals – you also have the option to make them public to keep you more motivated

 MentorMob: Organizing the How-To’s of the web to allow you to learn anything for free

Stanford Technology Ventures Program: Great videos, guest speakers and courses on entrepreneurship

Stanford Engineering Everywhere:  Sign up for free Stanford engineering and computer science classes online

MBA Mondays: Comprehensive list of topics for entrepreneurs, VCs and startups

Codeacademy: Learn to code for free online and sign up for Code Year as your New Year’s Resolution

Open Yale Courses: Get access to Yale courses ranging from Biomedical Engineering to Art History

Cornell Prendismo: video clips from business experts

SmartBriefs: Industry newsletters emailed to you daily on over 100+ topics Free online courses on just about any topic that are emailed to you on a daily or weekly basis

Quora:  Find answers to everyone’s questions. The question of how to go about investing in yourself was also posted on Quora a while back and there were a few good responses that I recommend checking out:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Most Undervalued Resource - The Library Card

As one of the few people my age who not only still has a library card, but also continues to use it regularly, I’m able to easily keep up with the latest business books. I recently finished reading “From Values to Leadership” and thought it was by far one of the better books I’ve read on leadership in a while. As full disclosure, I actually work with the author of the book at my PE firm, but I’ve only had the opportunity to interact with him on occasion. However, I truly believe he is a great role model for all CEOs and leaders because of how well he has been able to balance and integrate all his commitments and passions, from sitting on the boards of several companies, teaching as a professor at Kellogg, and still finding time to get involved with several non-profits.
One of the better pieces of advice I found in the book was the suggestion to track and implement what he calls “Life Buckets.” By tracking how you spend your time across the most important areas of your life, you can really take a step back and see how balanced your life really is. Since I’m still relatively young and in the initial stages of my career, my distribution is slightly different than the example he provides for himself in the book, but I’m sure that as I get older the buckets will continue to shift:

Career: 60 hours (36%)
Family/Friends/Relationships: 15 hours (9%)
Spirituality/Reflection: 2 hours (1%)
Health/Sleep/Exercise: 59 hours (35%)
Fun/Recreation/Reading: 22 hours (13%)
Social responsibility/Making a difference: 10 hours (6%)
Total: 168 hours (100%)

I encourage others to take time and reflect on the balance in their own lives and if you’re not happy with where it is right now, start taking steps to shift the balance more towards what you value most.

Did I also mention, I’m a huge fan of Martin Seligman and his theories of Positive Psychology? (That’s actually also why I decided to call the blog Positive Ventures – combining my interest in positive psychology with new ventures!) It’s definitely worth learning more about and all his books are also very insightful.

Here is also a very comprehensive list of some great business books to add to your reading list:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Angel Investing Trends for the New Year

There was a recent article on the Fox Business website about Angel Investing Trends for 2012. I have to agree with the fact that investors must be getting frustrated with seeing the same type of startups over and over again.  One investor mentioned they are very tired of seeing companies related to social networking, group commerce and music sharing. One trend they did mention that I also think is going to be big this year is technology geared toward baby boomers. Especially with the growing aging population in the U.S., this is a great segment for new companies to target.

Also, the use of such websites as Gust and AngelList have grown significantly in the startup and angel investing community, so if you’re looking to raise money or connect with early-stage investors and company founders, these are great resources to start using.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Starting Your Own Non-Profit

As an investment banker for two years in NY, I had relatively little free time outside of work and keeping in touch with friends. In the few hours I did have on the occasional Saturday, I enjoyed volunteering through New YorkCares (Chicago friends can check out Chicago Cares). I had the opportunity to help out with a variety of activities that were often one-time commitments ranging from tutoring math and science skills, creating art projects with autistic students, and engaging in recreational activities with children with disabilities.

One of my favorite activities that I participated in more regularly was attending workouts with Achilles International because not only was I able to combine my passion for running with volunteering, but I also gained an appreciation for the positive perspectives on life in the face of hardships and challenges that individuals with disabilities faced.
The mission of Achilles International is to enable people with all types of disabilities (including amputation, cerebral palsy, cancer, multiple sclerosis, organ transplants, paraplegia, stroke, traumatic brain injury and vision impairment) to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote personal achievement, enhance self-esteem, and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life. I first became interested in helping people with disabilities after taking the biomedical engineering design course, "Devices for People with Disabilities” class my senior year in college. After enjoying my volunteer experiences with the New York chapter of Achilles International, I was disappointed when I found out that there was no chapter in Chicago. After contacting the national organization, I was able to gather a few other people interested in starting a chapter in Chicago, and I’m happy to announce that we are on track to launch the new chapter of Achilles Chicago this spring. If you’re interested in participating or getting involved, feel free to reach out to us at I promise it will be a very rewarding and inspirational experience training and running marathons with Achilles members!