Saturday, March 24, 2012

Entrepreneurs Unpluggd – The Founding Team Edition

This week I attended the Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event in person and found it to be a really great experience with a good crowd. If you haven’t heard of Entrepreneurs Unpluggd, check them out here.

They post all the videos of the entrepreneurs that speak at their events on the website so if you ever miss an event you still have the opportunity to hear the advice and stories from the speakers afterwards. Each of the speakers at this month’s event brought a different perspective on whether to start your company as a single founder or co-founder. The key takeaways that I learned from the event were:

1)      If you’re going to start your business as a single founder, you almost have to be very personable because you should realize that people will really only buy from you if they like you. You also have to do just about everything yourself from selling, hiring, firing, operations, etc. until you build out the rest of your team, which can take a while if you’re looking for high-quality employees. So overall, going at it alone takes the most discipline, but, of course, the upside is that you don’t have to worry about giving up any of your equity to another co-founder.

2)      The benefits of having a co-founder include increased chance of upside through an exit (you both can brainstorm and find different/creative ways to grow and expand the business), decreased risk (you can both spot each other’s blind spots), and differentiated responsibilities (you each can focus on specific aspects of the business).

3)      Why take venture funding vs. creating a lifestyle business? Take a look at your unit model and if you think you can take outside funding and see explosive growth by scaling that unit model very quickly then it just might make sense to take a smaller piece of a larger pie vs. bootstrapping all the way which can slow down the growth potential.

4)      Good entrepreneurs make mistakes and learn from them quickly. They’re able to figure out how to have more of a growth mindset vs. fixed mindset (check out book “Mindset” for more on this concept).

5)      The last speaker was a VC and he was asked what makes a good investment for him during the Q&A. His answer was hands down it’s always going to be the team. They have to be humble enough to listen and learn, have determination/desire, and strong relationships that can help them persevere through tough times. This seems to be a reoccurring theme, since Y Combinator also recently announced that they are accepting applications from teams even if they don’t have an idea. Investing in people/the team is usually the smarter investment strategy. I’ve only been on the PE investing side for less than a year now, but it’s very clear how important management and leadership is for a successful investment.

Keep a look out for the next Entrepreneurs Unpluggd event - The Startup Law Summit on April 14th at the new 1871 working space.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Where are all the Female Angel Investors?

According to this article on peHub that was published this week, only about 5% of all the angel investors listed on AngelList are women. That’s pretty surprising considering about 9% of senior employees at VC firms are women, 7% of senior employees at PE firms are women, and about 20% of today's engineering degrees go to women. Based on other sources, females make up closer to 12% of all angel investors, which seems to be more in-line with what you would expect, but still much lower than is ideal for the investing community.

There was a good quote in the article by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy where she mentions, “Women underestimate themselves, while men overestimate themselves. You have to sort of lean into risk and have a higher confidence bias, rather than a confidence gap. And I don’t think that gene is bred into women.”

I do agree that this is one of the major problem that female investors have to face. The issues that female investors face have more to do with self-confidence in picking good investments and their risk tolerance. You’ll also find that this is probably why there are so few female traders on Wall Street.

In the November 2011 “Women in Alternative Investments” survey by Rothstein Kass and 85 Broads, one of the key findings was that the factors most critical to female investors’ success were strong professional networks, strong mentoring relationships, willingness to take risks, strategic career planning and strong support networks.  Clearly each of these factors can help address the confidence gap and risk-averseness that may hinder many female investors.

The author of the peHub article also went on to list seven female angel investors that are worth knowing. Check out the link here to see all the bios for each of these female investors: Esther Dyson, Cyan Banister, Andrea Zurek, Brit Morin, Ruchi Sanghvi, Joanne Wilson, and Julia Popowitz. Although I had only heard of two of these angel investors previously, I’ll be sure to keep a look out for some of their future investments.

Friday, March 16, 2012

WSJ Article on Chicago's Startup Scene

The WSJ article published the other day about Chicago’s startup scene is a great sign that the movement here is started to get noticed by investors across the country. According to the article, last year startups in Chicago raised $654mm in VC funding, which represented a 40% increase compared to 2010. While this is still a relatively small amount compared to NY and Silicon Valley, the growth in the startup scene in Chicago is still pretty astonishing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Study Finds Women Account for Increasing Senior Roles at PE Firms

A study conducted by Prequin last month discovered that in North America females account for 9.2% of senior employees at private equity firms. The percentage of senior roles held by women at VC firms vs. PE firms is actually surprisingly pretty different. The study found that 9.7% of senior members of VC firms are women vs. only 6.9% at buyout PE firms. Overall, Prequin did find that the proportion of senior roles held by women has been increasing compared to last year (9.2% in 2012 vs. 8.9% in 2011). While this is a good trend in the right direction, it's clear that there is still plenty of room for more female investors to join the top ranks at private equity firms.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CareMerge Interns

I'm helping to lead the effort to find an intern to help out with CareMerge's marketing efforts in the next few months/summer as we're getting ready for trade shows and ramping up customers.

See below for the Company's website and short description:

Caremerge is a provider of world’s first complete set of web and mobile apps for senior living facilities. Our solutions help reduce costs, improve market differentiation and increase regulatory compliance We help our customers accomplish this by improving communication and collaboration with on-site / off-site decision makers (doctors, families, etc.) and streamlining paper.based care coordination workflows through software automation. (

I'll be at Chicago's Booth B-School Start-up Networking Night on Wednesday, April 4th, so if you might be interested, feel free to stop by and learn more about CareMerge and other local startups who are looking to hire interns.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Women Taking Over in Business?

I think we probably still have a ways to go for women to take over in business, but I found this infographic pretty interesting and inspiring for female leaders and entrepreneurs:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Favorite Ways to Expand Your Network

Are you ever looking for something new to get involved in or a way to meet more people? Having moved to a new place a few times now, I’ve found a couple easy and fun ways to meet people and explore the city.
You may have lived in the same place all your life and feel like you’re an expert, but it’s never too late to get involved in something new or be open to meeting other people in the city. The following three recommendations are my favorite ways to meet new people: (1) Volunteering (2) Meet-up groups (3) Sports leagues and community classes are all great ways to become both more active and social, while expanding your network.

One of my favorite ways to discover new volunteering organizations is through Chicago Cares (note that other cities have very similar websites such as New York Cares). This is a great way to explore new neighborhoods with one-time commitments ranging from volunteering at a senior center, homeless kitchen, tutoring, or helping clean parks, etc.

Another great way to volunteer is through tutoring or mentoring programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and Minds Matter. I got involved in Minds Matter and I’m now a mentor for five Chicago inner-city high school students, which is not only extremely rewarding, but also a great way to meet other young professionals in the city. – If you’re interested in taking on a leadership role by joining the board of directors of a non-profit, this is a great website to check out. You can go online and post your information about your work experience and skills and find opportunities that interest you on this site. Through this website, I got involved with Global Youth for Education & Change and joined the Board of Directors last year. It’s been a great way to meet other motivated and passionate individuals who share similar goals in trying to improve the communities we live in.

Meet-up Groups/Grub With Us/Mac N’ Cheese – good way to join groups online based on your interests. I've found a lot of great groups that focus on startups and entrepreneurship, which has been an amazing resource for keeping up with the startup scene (two of my favorites are Chicago Health 2.0 and Chicago Lean Startup Circle)
Grub with Us – explore new restaurants with complete strangers or other people that share the same interests as you. You can create a profile online, follow different interests, and then pay upfront typically about $20-30 for dinners (excludes drinks)
Mac N’ Cheese Minglers – get on Saya’s mailing list, bring something to the potluck (costs $15), and you meet about 20-40 random people – for networking, professional, social or relationships

Sports & Community Classes
Chicago Area Runners / Achilles International – for people who enjoy running and looking for a group
Chicago Sport & Social Club – check out the kickball, flag football, soccer leagues etc. – get a group of friends together and form a team!
Old Town School Classes – great for art, music, dance and theater classes

And by expanding your network with these different activities, you're bound to meet others with great ideas and new ventures!