To be serious or wear stilettos…or both?

September 14th, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

Silicon Alley is quickly accumulating more companies in the fashion/retail space founded by women seeking to be taken as seriously as their male seemingly geekier counterparts! Who dictates women bearing stylish garb are automatically less intellectual or techie compared to those dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of fleeces, jeans and tevas? The Mark Zuckerberg’s and Steve Jobs’ s of the tech world are known for their success as entrepreneurs but certainly not for their fashion sense!

To my readers, a quick disclaimer: not all female entrepreneurs are involved with fashion startups. Companies founded by women consist of a myriad of different concepts, many, which are far from fashion centered!  Female CEO’s are not all stylish, in fact, many, seamlessly fit the geeky techie mold!

When fashion focused companies start the funding process, they not only have to pitch their decks but also have to translate their concept to an audience usually far from their targeted demographic (note: the majority of tech startup investors are men).

While some men ponder why fashion can be intriguing to women, I struggle to grasp the rules and obsession men have with the NFL! Despite my effervesced to appreciate the excitement of tackles, fumble and sacs, I remain utterly perplexed why men devour this sport. On the other hand perhaps I am not making an effort to understand the rules. Don’t you think the average male investor scratches his head attempting to see the importance of a virtual closet? Of course he does, this is why the drier cycle exists for many female founded companies in stereotypically feminine spaces!  If women strive to see the importance of male-geared subjects like football perchance men in Silicon Alley should attempt to understand women & fashion?

In a recent NY Times article titled Techies Break a Fashion Taboo, Claire Miller hit the nail on the head, “Silicon Valley has long been known for semiconductors and social networks, not stilettos.” Chief Executive of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer claims, “designing software and products isn’t all that different from the design of clothes.” Perhaps if the geeky world of startups saw parallels/an intersection between the world of fashion design and technology product design, fashionistas would have more clout in the startup world.

Fashion technology is on the rise and can provide huge opportunities for investor success! Harvard MBA women such as the CEO’s of Gilt and Rent the Runway have confirmed users desire for fashion online. Speaking of runway, I believe female fashion companies face challenges taking off not because of unsound ideas but due to investors lack of understanding/knowledge of the intended their user experience! Successful female entrepreneurs need to angel invest and help their fellow females rise to the top!

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Eating Our Own Dog Food (1 of 2)

September 12th, 2012 by Jay Levy View Comments

As investors we get great pride in being able to show off our companies, especially thru our own use of the products. The consumer facings companies are easy for us to use, I buy stuff on Fab all the time (just take a look at our waiting area), regularly check my influence on Klout (yes you have a higher klout and more followers that I do, you won!), and determine what to eat for dinner on FoodSpotting, but some of the B2B companies can be a bit more difficult for us to implement.

Given that, I’m always excited when we get to use one of our B2B companies and we recently were able to implement RJ Metrics.  RJ Metrics is a hosted business intelligence platform that allows companies to better manage, analyze and report data / metrics. What impressed me most about RJ Metrics is the ease of setup (I’m not a coder/database guy or anything else of the like and got my stuff up and running in about an hour), the ongoing creation process (RJ Metrics allows you to easily create deep, complex and powerful charts with no tech knowledge) and lastly the UI is perfect for what RJ Metrics in intended for.  By providing RJ Metrics with some basic data about each of our investments (company, $ invested, market value, location, etc) we are able to quickly understand key data points about our portfolio.

If you are looking for a great tool to manage and report data across your organization take a look at RJ Metrics.

Don’t just take my word for it… here are some posts from Jason at Fab about how they are using it.

- Behind the Scenes: How Fab Raised $40 Million with a lot of Data and Not Much Pain

- Betashop Joins RJ Metrics

One more thing… in the coming week’s ill be announcing a new project i’m working on that is allowing us to use 10+ of our portfolio companies.

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What Zelkova Expects for a Pitch Meeting

August 28th, 2012 by Jay Levy View Comments

Bryce Roberts over at O’Reilly Ventures wrote a post about the state of startup pitch meetings. One of the commenter’s made a valid point, we investors should be more open to what our expectations are.  The following are our recommendations on what entrepreneurs should be prepared to present in an initial pitch.

First off, be on time, on and on time I mean come 5 minutes early to the meeting.  Next we typically will let you get setup in our conference alone, I just think its less awkward to give you some time to get your self ready and situated without other people in there (yes we have working wifi).  From they’re its critical you have materials that are used to guide the discussion.  Typically these materials include a presentation that is best displayed on projector.  At some point during the presentation hop over to some type of demo if possible.

Now for what should be in the presentation, here is what we would like to see:

  • Team Overview
  • The Concept / Product
  • The Market
  • The Competition
  • Current Business Status
  • The Ask
  • Use of Funds / Objective / Targets
  • Current Funding Status

Pet Peeve’s During a Pitch Meeting

  1. Being Late – yes we are in midtown and traffic sucks, account for it
  2. Expecting me to watch a presentation on your computer or your ipad, when we could just put it up on the screen and be more comfortable
  3. Entrepreneur Not Leading the meeting… take charge
  4. Going significantly over on time, typically figure 45 minutes
  5. Coming in if you are sick…  reschedule we will respect it more

Remember the point of the first meeting its to engage us enough that we want to sit down and talk further, if you are expecting to walk out with a check you are going to be let down.

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Dream It Ventures Demo Day

August 13th, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

On a sunny New York summer day, a room filled with bustling investors and bouncy entrepreneurs illustrated startup dreams can be fulfilled by a fairy godmother disguised as Dreamit Ventures. While the number of tech startup incubators in the USA is quickly climbing, Dreamit has a unique approach incorporating teams from both the USA and Israel. Founded 3 years ago, Dreamit Ventures’ mantra stands to “help great people with great ideas build great companies.” Not only is funding imperative to a budding startup but also support, help and guidance are crucial or success. According to DreamIt founder, when the management team scrupulously sifts through applications, they “look for the people behind the company,” they “want to see a team and people who are extraordinary.” Like many other incubators, Dreamit realizes mentorship is a factor in the evolution of startups, which is why the 15 companies who participated in this past class each receive one-on-one mentorship as well as other professional services (legal, accounting and administrative help). The Dreamit program provides each company with seed funding of up to $25k, connections to investors, a community of other entrepreneurs as well as weekly speakers series and checkins with designated mentors. Founder of Dreamit explains their secret sauce is: when you strip away many obstacles for entrepreneurs (e.g. legal issues etc), support them and place them all in a room together, “a little bit of magic might happen.” The presenting companies appeared to be full of magic as they pitched a breadth of businesses from relighting couples’ sparks to a personal automated assistant. DreamIt extended their program to 5 Israeli companies who contributed to the 15-company class this past year. DreamIt strives to make dreams reality for all different types of entrepreneurs, encouraging everyone to participate in the startup revolution. The 5 Israeli startups spend 1 month in Israel, followed by 3 months in NYC and 2 more months in an Israeli workspace. DreamIt tries to sew up any loopholes it sees in the startup world, shaping its decision to close the market gap for Israeli companies bringing them to NYC.

The 15 companies are as follows:

Tripl creates the first ever travel graph by consuming all the geo tags in your social networks. Based on your friends’ geo tags stories about their travels as well as users connection to specific places is a created.

www.tripl.com

IndieWalls brings together venues’ walls and artists work, creating rotating exhibitions. The art displays not only help artists sell their work but also attract visitors to hotels, restaurants and other spaces where Indiewalls are displayed.

www.indiewalls.com

Cargo Networks is the first beauty subscription service to target the unique needs of specialty markets such as African Americans, Hispanics, Indians and fashion conscious men. After filling out a grooming profile, users receive a box of travel size products, which they can purchase directly from Cargo Network.

www.carbonetworkscorp.com

Bazaart is an ipad app, which reinvents fashion catalogs for the digital era. Bazaart takes the beauty of fashion catalogs and combines it with people’s interest for the iPad. It is a personal fashion catalog where users can shop directly on their created pages.

www.bazaart.me

Weesh helps couples that desire to break their routines by learning about fun new activities from other couples. It is an event discovery platform in a social network community for couples.

www.getweesh.com

Cubiez is a marketplace of apps for PC’s. Users can choose aps from the market place and with one click they are added neatly to your computer minimizing the amount of open windows on desktops.

www.cubiez.com

KidNimble is the first social search engine that aids parents in the discovery of programs for their kids. Parents can manage, organize and process their children’s activities as well as find feedback on specific programs.

www.kidnimble.com

Saborstudio is a gaming platform, which focuses on location, revolutionizing mobile games. Saborstudio’s technology allows them to make beautiful, engaging games, quickly and cost effectively.

www.saborstudio.com

Winston is an advanced personal assistant app. The speech-enabled personal assistant summarizes the content users have selected, which it dictates in a story telling manner along with your schedule and local weather . Users can also personalize their own channels, which recap social activities of specific people in their social networks.

www.winstonnetwork.com

TopShelf is fashion intelligence, which analyzes consumers shopping behavior and sends them personalized looksbooks created by stylists. If users wish to have more than weekly lookbooks, they can purchase a premium subscription model, which helps busy women save time shopping!

www.topshelfclothes.com

Teamalaya encourages employees to play games and engage with others on their interactive platform. The company promises that members of the workforce who use this will become more motivated!

www.teamalaya.com

Dejamor sends monthly care packages to couples that want to enhance their love lives. Two packages are sent to users, one for her eyes only and one for his.

www.dejamor.com

WineMe revolutionizes the wine discovery experience for consumers and enables them to purchase recommended wines locally. Based on purchase history and a taste graph, WineMe tell users what to they would like, acting as a personal sommelier.

www.winemenow.com

Branch.ly looks at people in your social networks and organizes them into lists based on requests and interests of users. Branch.ly strives to answer the question of “do you know anyone who does this…”

www.branch.ly

Vantageous turns 3 phones into a 3-camera studio. Vantageous enables multi-angle videography to be easy and affordable! In other words, anyone with 3 smart devices can create professional looking videos.

www.vantageousvideo.com

In the concluding remarks, DreamIt founder quoted Wayne Gretsky who said you “miss 100% of the shots you never take.” All the entrepreneurs who comprise the 15 companies are taking shots, congrats to them and all those who made today’s demo day possible!

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Techstars Demo Day June 2012

June 20th, 2012 by Caroline Scheinfeld View Comments

On June 14, Techstars NYC exhibited their 3rd class of graduating startups at Webster Hall. The demo day featured 13 companies chosen from a talented applicant pool of 1600 other businesses.

Investors, press as well as other members of the tech scene eagerly listened to the 13 companies pitch their brainchildren in the hopes to secure fundraising. The CEO’s ranged from college graduates, serial entrepreneurs, college dropouts, international entrepreneurs as well as one Brazilian who sported a 3-year-old beard! As a female, I am excited to share 5 out of the 13 CEO’s were indeed women!

Spearheading Techstars NYC, David Tisch, seamlessly led the demo day with opening and closing remarks focused on the growth and evolution of the NYC tech scene. To date, Techstars NYC has funded 36 companies and has created a deeply entrenched network of passionate entrepreneurs and mentors. Through active participation and mentorship, many Techstar alumni have remained deeply intertwined with the incubator.

During a brief intermission, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared the ingredients he deems necessary for the creation of great companies. The fundamental parts of the success equation according to Hsieh are great corporate culture and a higher purpose beyond profitability. Following Hsieh, Tisch confirmed the importance of corporate culture sharing Techstars’ core focus to foster and construct a foundation based upon community and culture.

Here is a quick preview of each of the 13 companies:

Smallknot is a platform, which allows people to support their neighborhood by investing locally. Through Smallknot, users can fund and connect with the small businesses they engage with on a daily basis.

Wander aggregates all your memories, aspirations and travel experiences in one easy to use platform. Wander believes they have revolutionized to how people discuss locations through an additional layer of nostalgia and detailed suggestions.

Moveline has created a different way to move leveraging facetime and other mobile app features. Users can use technology to inventory the goods they wish to pack and move as well as find the right movers in a more seamless fashion.

Rewind.me enables users to manage their digital history through an online platform. Rewind.me serves to make large date personal and make personal data powerful.

Bondsy is a single platform for sharing and bartering. It its not only a marketplace but also a serendipitous place where users can use their social graph to buy, sell and trade an array of different items.

Marquee reorganizes how content is currently delivered on the web. Marquee strives to create a friction-less platform, where the need for developers is absent and users can create beautiful and profitable content.

Classtivity serves as a one stop-shop location for users to find recreational as well as fitness classes available in their neighborhood. Classtivity also enables class providers to market directly to their target audience!

10Sheet re-invents bookkeeping by removing companies reliance on humans to complete their books. 10Sheet prides itself as the first digital bookkeeper by automating 95% of the work previously done by human bookkeepers.

Pickie publishes a personalized magazine updated daily based on products mentioned by friends, as well as other preferred influencers. Pickie stresses how social proof greatly influences consumers purchasing decisions but also is currently fragmented and unstructured in today’s market.

Lua is a communication and project management service platform for mobile workforces. Lua strives to replace walkie talkies as well solve problems with coordination and file distribution.

Karma is the world’s first software focused mobile provider, which lacks subscriptions, monthly fees as well as no surprise fees. Users can bring their own bandwidth, which is not tied to a device or a network.

Poptip is socially integrated real time feedback allowing brands/companies to connect with the audiences they wish to target. It is the first native social feedback, where users can have their voice heard!

C1 has created a new way to view video content through an immersive experience. Through C1’s technology, video is no longer a passive experience but an evolution from still images.

In the fall, Techstars NYC held their 2nd demo day where Bloomberg petitioned and shared his contagious support for NYC to be a startup hub. This spring’s demo day confirms Bloomberg was right, NYC is on to become a head on competitor to Silicon Valley!

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About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »

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