Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kevin Castello talks about Best Fit Capital

Kevin Castello talks about Best Fit Capital

Where are you from originally? 

I was born in San Angelo Texas.


What university did you go to?

I have an undergrad from Austin Graduate School of Theology and a MBA from Baylor University.


What brought you to Austin?

My family moved here in 1984 so I have witnessed some of the tremendous change the Austin area has seen in the last 30 years.


What is your group’s mission?

Best Fit Capital seeks to help entrepreneurs know which type of investment capital, investor, and process is the best fit for their goals.  I want entrepreneurs to understand what the implications of investment capital are and to be comfortable with the expectations of the investors.


What need does it fulfill?

There are many potholes on the entrepreneurship road and I want to help entrepreneurs avoid the ones related to funding their venture.  No entrepreneur would launch a venture without strategies for development/marketing/sales but many do so without a proper capital strategy.


What exactly does it bring to startups?

BFC helps start-ups to align investment types with their personal goals and to keep it aligned through their end game.


What type of startup would benefit from your group?

BFC wants to help all entrepreneurs in this area.  We offer seminars to allow those with very little capital to get the proper educational information to avoid some of the major issues.  We also offer dedicated consulting to those who are ready for an objective viewpoint during the venture.  BFC wants to be a long term partner with the entrepreneur to help them protect and grow their venture to see their dreams come true.


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?

It is entrepreneurial just like any other start-up.  I have left the comfort and stability of a job to pursue my own goals.  I want to see entrepreneurs achieve their goals and get the funding they need but not take capital they don’t need.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Boot-strap your venture as long as you are able and it is strategically wise to do so.  Once you know you are going to need to raise money then prepare, execute and close your raise.  “Maybe” is the worst thing you can hear from investors as it strings you along.  Make it easy for investors to be able to make a quick, quality yes or no decision so everyone can keep moving.


What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?


The entrepreneurial ecosystem itself.  There are so many resources in Austin:  Capital Factory, Tech Ranch, CTAN, Texas Entrepreneur Network, SKU, professional services, other entrepreneurs and mentors.  Each serves a different entrepreneur in a different circumstance.  It is the accumulation of all of it which makes Austin exciting!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Badria Jabali talks about her new book "The Blueprint of a Successful Business"


Badria is the author of The Blueprint of a Successful Business


What is your background?

I am an internationally qualified and experienced professional with a background that includes accounting, financial management, project management, team building, financial and business consulting.

How do you help startups?

We help clients analyze their business practices and define requirements to strengthen and grow the business focusing on the financial and management aspects of the business. 


What other positions do you have?

I am  the CEO of Global Business Financial Consulting , a US based consulting practice that offers their services in the US, Middle East, Europe and Asia.


What topics does the book cover?

Performing market research, Creating comprehensive business plans, Building an efficient business model, Setting comprehensive financial strategies, Building a brand name, Setting comprehensive marketing strategies, Building business relationships and maintaining credibility, Managerial skills and organizational behavior.


Where can one find the book?

The book is available on the Kindle store at Amazon here with a price of $25.00.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Shelley Delayne Talks about Orange Coworking


Shelley Delayne Talks about Orange Coworking

Where are you from originally?

St. Louis, Missouri. (Born and raised; 4th generation St. Louisian! Have also live in Kansas City, Santa Fe, NM and Los Angeles)


What university did you go to?

Avila College in Kansas City, briefly. 


What brought you to Austin?

When our daughter was born, we knew we wanted to raise her in Austin, near my husband's family.


What is your group’s mission?

To connect and support entrepreneurs, whatever their stage of business, by providing a professional, flexible workspace with events, networking, and resources.


What need does it fulfill?

Entrepreneurs are cut from a slightly different bolt of cloth than everyone else. And starting, running, and growing a business has many challenges. Having a community of like-minded folks around you makes entrepreneurship better, more fun, and more successful.


What exactly does it bring to startups?

Membership-based shared flexible work space with ergonomic furniture and fiber internet, meeting rooms, classes, and connections.


What type of startup would benefit from your group?

Any startup needing a place to focus, whether by themselves, with a small team, or with clients.


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up the initiative?

The most challenging aspect, so far, was finding an appropriate location with sufficient parking, good local businesses nearby. Once we found the location, it's all been a lot of work, getting to opening, but it's all gone fairly smoothly.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Magic happens when entrepreneurs come together in real time, in real places. Get out of your solo office, get out of your house, stop trying to work at Starbucks. Whether it's at our space or another (there are lots in Austin!), give coworking a try. Let yourself be surrounded by other entrepreneurs and independent professionals, and see how that positively impacts your business.


What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?


So many resources have been helpful to me. The first two I think of: the BizOpen program (permitting guidance from retired city employees) has been incredibly helpful. My mentor from SCORE (Celia Bell) is a wealth of knowledge and support. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Steve Kelley of Arganteal


Steve Kelley of Arganteal

Where are you from originally?

I grew up in a suburb of Saint Louis, Missouri


What university did you go to?

I have a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University


What is the idea behind your startup?

We have developed a technology that automates many of the labor-intensive tasks required to deploy applications in the cloud computing environment. 


What need does it fulfill?

By using our technology, systems integration companies can reduce the labor to deploy complex applications like Microsoft Lync by 60% - 70%.  This allows these companies to do deployments more rapidly and with fewer expensive technical personnel. 


What exactly does it do?

The Arganteal system takes information about the client – the number of users, their physical location and network identification – and then information about the computing environment – what operating system, what hypervisor is being used, how many servers of what kinds, what kind of database system – and based on this information create a library of commands that automatically install the chosen applications on the target cloud platform with minimal or no intervention from expensive subject matter experts.   


Who is it for?

We license the Arganteal SaaS to system integrators and consulting companies for them to use to install applications for the end user companies that are their clients.  This enables these companies to finish deployment projects for their clients in less time and at a higher profit. 


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?

Since we know the needs of our industry and we have the expertise to design and develop our product, the most challenging aspect for us is raising the capital we need to effectively market our product and then fund the development of new product features. 


What is the next step for you and your business?

We have identified a number of companies that want to use our technology so our next step is to sign license agreements that generate revenue for us while we also raise money from investors.  With this income we will be able to fund the marketing and development activities to accelerate our presence in the market.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Focus, move rapidly, stay lean and stay flexible.


What resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?


We are a virtual company. The Internet provides a fast and economical communications platform that allows us to speed up our product development, deliver presentations and product demonstrations to prospective clients and investors (usually remotely thereby reducing travel time and cost) and communicate effectively within our own staff.  Because of the Internet we can move quickly, communicate effectively and run a lean and flexible company with greatly reduced capital needs.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Chris Taylor talks about Square Root

Chris Taylor talks about Square Root

Chris Taylor grew up in Pinch, West Virginia. And yes, it’s as rural as is sounds. He attended Carnegie Mellon University, both because it had one of the top Computer Science programs in the country, and more importantly, it had a diverse student base with excellent schools for art, design and architecture as well.

That broad base of knowledge made him interesting to Trilogy, which recruited him down to Austin in 1995. When he finally left in 2005 he had 10 years of experience in enterprise software and a little money in the bank, the perfect time to start a company!

All he was lacking as the killer idea. By performing analytics and strategy projects with large customers, he as able try and test various ideas, finally coming up with CoEFFICIENT, performance engagement software for large enterprises, in 2009. Almost immediately knew that it was the big idea that he had set out to find four years earlier.

From Trilogy Chris adopted the paradigm that data is a tool that should be leveraged to make better business decisions every day. Square Root’s platform, CoEFFICIENT, analyzes large amounts of data to help retail organizations reduce operational complexity and find opportunities to maximize performance.

As he was building the software Chris was also building his company. He realized that “Company culture can make or break a startup. Think about what kind of culture you would like your company to have, then start building it immediately. By the time you've hit 10 people, it's too late.”

Square Root is built around four core values; Thrive, Think Big, Do Bigger, Be Customer Inspired, and Partner.  Says Chris, “Of the four, I think my favorite would have to be Thrive. It’s important to me that the team feel empowered to find the work-life balance that suits them best. We believe it is everyone’s responsibility to make their work environment motivating and fulfilling.”

“This takes communication from the C-level all the way down to our interns. Every Friday we get together for a company lunch, this alone has helped us build a strong report. We have announcements where everyone hears from the executives talk on the progress toward business, and one employee gives a presentation on something he or she is currently working on. It's a great way to make sure everyone is on the same page about our goals as a company, and it makes for a strong team.” says Chris.

Chris says that his goal at Square Root is to have “a positive work environment where ideas can flourish. I want to be excited to come to work every day, I want that for everyone at Square Root.” One way Square Root encourages this is their office environment. Occupying three neighboring houses, and soon to be four, the offices at Square Root could be confused with someone’s home, except in place of couches and chairs there are stand-up desks.

To date Square Root has been completely bootstrapped. But that hasn’t slowed its growth. Finishing 2013 at 20 employees, it’s currently at 40 and plans to be at 70 by the end of 2015. Says Chris, “Bootstrapping a software company is not easy. I’m glad I had to work hard to get where I am today. My upbringing gave me the grounding to truly appreciate the ups and downs of being a CEO, genuinely value the team at Square Root, and be thankful to be raising my family in Austin.”

And Austin has infused the culture of Square Root. They hire UT graduates, sponsor HI-B Visas, and in the last year have tripled the training budget. Says Chris, “Right now Austin has the balance between being too laid back and having no life other than work. There is so much to look forward to at Square Root. We are doing something awesome and doing it with balance.”



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Kevin Stone talks about Austin Photonics

Kevin Stone talks about Austin Photonics

Where are you from originally?

I born and grew up in Dallas, Texas, but I have lived in Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, Moscow and Phoenix, to name a few places.


What university did you go to?

Texas A&M - Physics


What is the idea behind your startup?

Our idea is to provide solutions to ages old problems in lighting and related technologies by shattering longstanding paradigms, including providing high end optical filters on lightweight, flexible and unbreakable polymer films rather than grossly fragile and expensive glass; providing color filtration technologies that limit off-axis chromatic shift and provide an unparalleled range of hue and saturation; creating permanent theatrical color filters that replace expendable theatrical gel and eliminate the high labor costs associated with ongoing replacement while retaining light weight and ease of use; coating polymer optics without the high costs associated with expensive cleanup from outgassing and without undesirable deformation and coating damage due to thermal instability; providing small and lightweight variable color correction for television and cinema lighting; and pioneering new energy efficient technologies such as our laser-phosphor luminaire currently in development.


What need does it fulfill?

Our patents and processes replace heavy, fragile and expensive glass filters requiring large amounts of storage and complex actuating mechanisms with near-weightless, unbreakable and heat resistant flexible polymer filters that require vastly smaller motors for mechanical devices and micro-machines and significantly less storage space. They also increase the utility and viability of many older energy efficient light sources, expanding the useful lives of these technologies. Our laser-phosphor light engine will replace costly light sources such as HMI and xenon lamps whose rated life ranges from a few hundred to a thousand or so hours with an energy efficient 10,000 to 20,000 hour source that solves the problems of collimation and color accuracy that prevent LEDs from penetrating these markets.


What exactly does it do?

Our dichroic polymer filters replace color gel by providing a color-accurate reject-or-pass filter that, due to the lack of absorption of filtered light, does not degrade and burn through like expendable gel filters, while avoiding the shortcomings of heavy, fragile and expensive glass dichroic filters. Our coating technology also allows the coating of other polymer substrates without the costly and time-consuming cleanup due to outgassing that is typical of other vacuum deposition processes. End-use technologies provide highly precise color mixing and unmatched color and saturation range. Lastly, our laser-phosphor technology replaces LEDs with lasers and novel phosphor geometry to produce full-spectrum white light unattainable by LEDs while overcoming the inherent inefficiencies of optical systems designed around LEDs and their planar emitting surface, allowing precise and optically efficient beam shaping in collimating and imaging systems.


Who is it for?

The market for dichroic polymer filters and their end-use technologies is broad, ranging from medical and scientific applications to optical micro-machines to entertainment and architectural lighting to military imaging systems. Our polymer coating processes are applicable to any industry desiring cost-effective and highly accurate coating of polymers and polymer optics. Our laser-phosphor light engine targets any application that requires the energy efficiency and durable long life of LEDs coupled with superior full-spectrum color rendering and highly efficient and precise optics and beam-shaping.


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?

Hands down, the most challenging aspect of starting up is attracting investment, given that most investors have little to no experience in the lighting and optics industries. The challenge is in educating them as to the extraordinary capabilities these technologies impart to existing lighting systems in a simple and cost-effective manner and the vast market potential that these game-changing technologies possess.


What is the next step for you and your business?

Aside from tying up a few intellectual property loose ends, the next step, immediately upon acquiring investment, is to purchase equipment and start manufacturing. A number of markets have already been identified and key players aware of our technology. Moving forward is as easy as fabricating material and taking customers’ orders.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

Don’t underestimate how difficult it may be to attract investment if yours is a product that is specific to an industry suffering from lack of general public awareness. In our case, for example, people take light-producing technologies for granted and have little idea of what does or does not constitute viable innovation.


What resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?


It is probably trite to cite the internet as the most helpful resource, but it’s a great educational tool for making potential customers and investors alike aware of the value of your product.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Andy Tyndall talks about Cross Systems

Andy Tyndall talks about Cross Systems

Where are you from originally?

Born in Atlanta, GA but grew up in Forney, TX


What university did you go to?

East Texas Baptist University


What is the idea behind your startup?

Cross Systems was created after I worked for other companies and witness them completely rip off clients, simply because the clients knew very little about technology.  We specifically teach our clients about the systems they purchase so it directly matches their needs.


What need does it fulfill?

It fulfills the clients need for the technology and the ability to deliver their message to their audience clearly.


Who is it for?

Schools, churches, business, and similar commercial clients needing to deliver their messages clearly.


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?

Developing the brand and getting the word out there.


What is the next step for you and your business?

Expansion to encompass Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?

No matter how hard it may seem, if you have a product that is worth delivering, fight through the hard time and deliver it to the masses

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

At Jobs2Careers Everyone Gets a Window

Bruce Ge was working at Siebel Systems when it was acquired at Oracle.  A year after the acquisition he enjoyed the culture and benefits of Oracle but was bored by the work.  He looked at his path ahead and decided to create his own fork in the road.  So he quit Oracle and started his own company, one that would eventually become Jobs2Careers.

That willingness to change had already served Bruce well in his life so far. Growing up in China he attended the top engineering school in the nation, and then came to the United States to attend University of Illinois at Urbana, one of the top computer science graduate schools in the country.

At first Jobs2Careers was a social job referral program, a social network like LinkedIn. That iteration didn’t get the traction that was needed, but by building it Bruce gained a better understanding of the market. By 2010 Jobs2Careers changed and took shape as a one-stop job search engine.

Jobs2Careers now offers pay-per-application job search advertising. This, coupled with good integration with their customer’s job sites, bring peace of mind to employers when allocating dollars for talent acquisition.

Although outside financing would have helped Jobs2Careers accelerate their growth more rapidly, there were benefits to bootstrapping. Being a smaller organization enabled Bruce to move Jobs2Careers multiple times, finally making the transition from California to Austin.

It also enabled Bruce to focus on the culture of the company. “My job is to keep my employees happy. They want to change the world and I want to focus on supporting that drive.”

One way he is accomplishing that is by moving the company to a brand new office. With bright, sunny offices everyone gets a window. The conference rooms are named after cities where Jobs2Careers was once based, reinforcing their history of movement and growth.

The open office also enables employees to learn and coach from each other. This team collaboration is one of the core values of the company.


Jobs2Careers currently has 35 employees and is looking to double this by the end of 2015. In an ironic twist, even a fast growing job search company has to fight for top talent.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sandra Jensen talks about Kell Partners


Sandra Jensen talks about Kell Partners

Tell me how you got started/involved in this business?

I started KELL 5 years ago.  Having worked with nonprofits for almost 10 years at software companies that provided software as a service solutions, I saw some areas of need and thought I could help address those needs.


Where did you grow up?  

I grew up in Denton, TX, which I always loved.  It is nice to see it going through such resurgence now. 


Where did you go to school and how did you choose where you attended?

I went to the University of Texas at Arlington.  It was close to home, but just far enough away that you would want to live there and not commute.


What does your company do that no other company can do?  

We cater to emerging nonprofit organizations.  Most consulting firms are interested in consulting for large, enterprise clients, but we like to work with the small to mid-size, but growing, clients.  We can have a huge impact at these organizations and there is a lot of personal satisfaction in getting to see the big differences we have made with these organizations.


What need does it fulfill? 

Until KELL Partners came along, I think it was somewhat hard to find a consulting group that really wanted to work with the emerging organizations. 


How exactly does it do that?  

We don’t turn clients away because they don’t have huge budgets.  Instead, we try to find ways to work within their budget and we also offer free SmartPacks, which are targeted solutions that most nonprofits need.


Who do you see your company [product, service] benefiting the most?  

Definitely the small to mid-size nonprofit organizations, as that is where we have placed our passion, drive, services and solutions.


What are the top three values in your company? 

Integrity, compassion, kindness.


Tell me more about the culture here.  

It is important that everyone on our team is passionate about working with nonprofit organizations, as this is what drives us. You will find that most of our team has come directly from working at a nonprofit or they have a rich volunteer history.  This gives meaning to our work and our clients.


What was the most challenging aspect of starting up?  

Funding is always a challenge.  We are a completely bootstrapped organization and we have never had any debt, but growing to meet demand is difficult in any economy, especially with the growth trajectory we have been on since our start.


What was the most challenging aspect of growing the business? 

Finding the right people.  The people that you work with on a daily basis are so important.  I can truly say that at KELL Partners I feel we have all found our work family.  And you would do anything to help family.  Because of this, we have a culture rich in teamwork and care.


What is the next step for you and your business?  

Now that we have the right foundation, people and strategy in place, we are just going to do our best to always anticipate our clients’ needs, so we always have the right people and technology in place to help drive our clients’ missions.


What advice do you have for entrepreneurs? 

Find your passion and make that passion your business.  From there, find people that are just as passionate as you to grow your business.


What resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?  

The Salesforce.com Foundation has been really critical to our growth.  They have been a great partner since the start of our business and are an integral part of our foundation.


If you were to do it all over again, where would you be right now? 

Exactly where we are.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year 2015

I want to thank the investors, the entrepreneurs, and all those who support the startup community in Texas.  Together we made 2014 a great year and look to 2015 as even better because:

Texas continues to be THE place to do business.

Austin continues to grow and will be the next premier innovation center in the US

Dallas will become the third largest metroplex in the US

The state of Texas passed its own intrastate crowdfunding law empowering a new generation of investors and startups

Crowdfunding as an industry has been doubling each year over the last 3 years and will do so again in 2015

TEN's entrepreneurs fundraise surpassed $141M

I wish everyone a happy new year for 2015.