Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Starting an Angel Network at Your University—Some Key Lessons

I’m glad to say the Baylor Angel Network is up and running and running dealflow. We have over 10 members already signed up with another 10 in the works and we’re reviewing deals in preparation for our first dealflow meeting at the end of this month. It’s great to see the acceptance of the group but then again, in these economic times how many new angel groups are forming and bringing fresh capital to the table.

I’ve learned a great deal about how to start an angel network in a university setting. The first lesson is to get sponsorship by a well-respected faculty member. In Baylor’s case Bill Petty who the National Entrepreneurship award last year serves as our anchor. The second lesson is to get two to five alumni backing the idea and promoting. In Baylor’s case, Robert Brewton and Pat Horner championed the idea and encouraged their compatriots in the alumni association to join. The third lesson is to get buy-in to the idea from the university’s legal department. They don’t let just anyone use the name and colors of the university.

An angel network is a great way for an alumnus to give back to the university. In addition to investing funds, the angel member can also invest time and expertise in deals that come out of the university.

If you know anyone who wants to foster an angel group at their university, please let me know as I can share with you my experiences.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Chris Treadaway of Notice Technologies Talks about His Startup

Chris Treadaway of Notice Technologies Talks about His Startup

Where are you from originally?
Born and raised in south Louisiana

What university did you go to?
BA Louisiana State, MBA University of Texas

What brought you to Austin?
I first moved to Austin in 1997 when I was on the Founding Team of I was responsible for building out the web site, developing content strategy, etc. After two more startups, I got my MBA from the University of Texas in 2004 and spent just under 3 ½ years at Microsoft in Redmond, working in Developer Marketing and Web 2.0 Strategy. My wife and I moved back to Austin in October 2008 because we love it here, and there are a lot of advantages to starting a company here in Austin. But over and above all else, Austin is home.

What is the idea behind your startup?
Local businesses know that their customers are increasingly moving to the Web, but they generally have no idea how to advertise themselves on the Internet and social networks. Meanwhile, people are forsaking their Yellow Pages/newspapers/etc. for the Internet. We believe that every ad that you see in a newspaper, a billboard, or on a chalkboard in a restaurant should be online – indexed, searchable, available on portals and location-based services, etc. Right now, you have to read page 3D of your paper to see an ad… you have to pass by & notice the billboard… and/or you have to walk into the restaurant to find what the lunch special is. That model is woefully inefficient and it will change.
So we are actually launching two products – 1) a location-based advertising network called MinutesNotice, and 2) a complimentary consumer coupon/local business deals site called The two products go into Closed Beta in the next 7-10 days. We’ll spend that time learning as you can imagine.

What need does it fulfill?
It fills needs on both the business side and the consumer side.
In a recession, every business needs effective ways to reach more customers. We are finding that local businesses spend a lot of money on ineffective advertising because they understand how it works (i.e. buy a ¼ page ad in the newspaper, pay $1,000, and it can reach as many as 175k people in the Statesman.) It’s simple, so people adopt it even though they intuitively know that a lot of folks won’t see the ad on Page 3D. We want to make things similarly easy for the Internet. Pay one low monthly fee, and you can advertise on the Web and social networks in four easy steps. We make Internet Marketing easy for busy managers of local storefronts. Ultimately, we think this becomes the “easy button” to help local businesses find a local customer.
On the consumer side, everyone is trying to save a few bucks in a recession. We help consumers find great deals in their area without requiring them to call or walk into a local business. We want to make this data available in as many passive ways as we can… we don’t want to be intrusive or offensive as many e-mail marketing campaigns tend to be.

What exactly does your product do?
For MinutesNotice, we provide a simple interface that helps companies broadcast real-time deals, specials, clearance items, and/or open appointments on the Internet. Four easy steps take about 5 minutes at the most, and a local business is advertising on the Web. Offers are made available on, RSS feeds, Twitter, and Facebook. We are also working with an emerging LBS company to make offers available when someone is within say 300 yards of a business. There are a lot of opportunities in this area especially when you combine a location-based service with a location-based ad network like ours. is a “Craigslist-style” listing of local business offers where people can search or browse by category, zip code, city/metro, etc. Consumers can subscribe to updates of any of these via RSS, e-mail, or SMS.

Who is it for?
Local businesses (large and small) and consumers.

What was the most challenging aspect of starting up a business?
Knowing what to do with customer feedback… sometimes customers will be polite with you and other times they will give you hints that you’re really on to something. As entrepreneurs who work in our product all day, every day, we can assume that the feedback we get is the latter when it is often time just politeness. You just have to listen, internalize what you hear, and be willing to make significant changes so you don’t build the wrong product.

What is the next step for you and your startup?
Scale… we need to quickly move from perfecting the product for our first customers to selling more broadly. We are spending a lot of time on channel partnerships in an attempt to reduce customer acquisition costs. This business doesn’t work if we sell individual local businesses one by one. Fortunately, we’ve gotten a lot of interest in this area from partners who at this stage appear to be rather patient and willing to work with us.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Don’t believe your own hype until you get a significant number of customers in agreement to the point that they’d happily pay for your product and evangelize it to peers.

What Austin-based resource have you found to be the most helpful and why?
I think there are more entrepreneurs per capita here than anywhere else I’ve been. It’s a very supportive community. I spend at least one early AM hour per day meeting new people, and I learn something from just about every interaction. This is a great place to start a company.

Best regards,
Hall T.