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Venture Capital Deals Today: Opportunities and Pitfalls
January 18 @ 7:30 am - 8:50 am
On January 18th The Center for Free Enterprise hosted our largest event yet – with 116 registrants – making this our 20th consecutive sold out programs so far.
Jennifer Neundorfer of Jane VC, Todd Federman of North Coast Angel Fund and Alex Salashour of 911Cellular discussed VC deal opportunities today, alternatives to Venture Capital and the different approaches to raising capital and growing an early stage business. Each panelist has very different experiences and backgrounds so we had an exciting exchange of views.
Jennifer Keiser Neundorfer is an operator turned investor who has backed over 50 early stage startups. At Jane VC, she invests in visionary female entrepreneurs with the larger goal of building a more robust and dynamic startup ecosystem, one female led startup, tech leader, and investor at a time. As Partner and Cofounder of Flashstarts, an early stage venture fund in the Midwest, she discovered her passion for investing in visionary women at the earliest stage of their entrepreneurial journeys. As an operator, Jen launched and scaled media and advertising businesses at 21st Century Fox and YouTube. She is a mother to two young children and juggles the demands of being a working mom. She has an MBA from Stanford and a BA from Harvard.
Todd has served as the Executive Director of North Coast Angel Fund since its founding in 2006. Todd and his partners have invested more than $30M in 53 companies. Prior to joining NCAF, Todd worked as a full-time independent consultant for the brand strategy team at a leading web services company, co-leading efforts in developing word-of-mouth marketing and experiential marketing initiatives. Previously, Todd worked for DiamondCluster, a global management consulting firm subsequently acquired by PWC. At Diamond, his work included managing the development and launch of a consumer software product, assessing the cost/revenue implications of an enterprise architecture strategy for a leading health insurer, and architecting a new continuous improvement organization for a regional Blue Cross Blue Shield provider.
Previously, Todd co-founded, and remains active with “One With Nature,” an all-natural line of body care products carried in 4,000 retail locations. Todd currently serves on the Boards of Directors for NCAF portfolio companies StreamLink Software, DecisionDesk (formerly CitizenGroove), and Petbrosia. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a Cleveland non-profit that empowers urban teens through job training, placement and entrepreneurship education. Todd holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Kent State University and an MBA from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.
Alex is a Cleveland based technology entrepreneur and real estate investor. Alex focuses his technologies and efforts in spaces that promote personal and public safety. Even before graduating from The Ohio State University in 2010, Alex had successfully started and exited from a tech-venture that promoted personal safety by locking cell phones while driving. Alex chooses to focus on the public safety space because of the growing market size and because of his desire to create technology that betters lives and communities. 911Cellular, with 35 employees, is a focus of Alex’s current efforts.
The panel’s discussion started with Alex. Since this was a panel on opportunities and pitfalls of VC, it was fitting that Alex is an entrepreneur who has not taken on any investor money. He cited autonomy and the ability to independently carry his unique vision from conception to implementation as the main reason for not wanting to bring VC partners on board. He is aware of the pitfalls and dangers of accepted capital, and advises that an entrepreneur must assess the associated risks, at least until he needs more outside capital or finds the right fit. He says that he chases customers, not investors, for his businesses.
Todd then took over, offering his insights on what NCAF looks for in an investment. His NCAF has 200 members and looks to launch and accelerate as many businesses as possible. Prospective businesses need to have a minimally viable product, a base of customers, and a team poised to grow. He said that half of these startups will fail, but that his fund anticipates and strategizes for this. NCAF had two success stories last year, OnShift and Ahalogy.
Jennifer has a new female-focused fund called Jane VC. Her fund invests further upstream, at even earlier stages than Todd. She looks for a big market, at least a small group of customers who LOVE the products, and a strong team that can evolve over time. When it comes to money Jennifer says you need to know why you need the money. Does the business need money alone, or “smart money,” which comes with a lot of advice?
She says when it comes to money, some is smart, and some not so smart – so the entrepreneur needs to do research on the investor to see how they operate and what they bring to the table. Don’t take an investor’s money unless you want them involved in the business. An investor who writes a big check will typically want to be involved.
One thing to think about is whether the dilution in ownership that the investor will cost will be worth it from the standpoint of increased growth and value in the business.
Jen points out that an investor who can actually help the business adds value in multiple ways. Not all investors do.
Todd closed by pointing out that the region needs more of everything in order for the regional economy to succeed.
More investors. More helpers. More people willing to leave their corporate jobs to take the risk of starting a business.
You may also be interested in 100+ Men Who Care About Cleveland.
Original Event Post:
Venture Capital Deals Today: Opportunities and Pitfalls for Investors and Founders
Who should attend? Investors, managers or advisors to businesses.
Please join us at the Cleveland Racquet Club. Check in and complimentary breakfast starts at 730a, Panel starts at 750a. This event is complimentary. Please register in advance. If you like to learn, meet, eat and have fun, then join us.
Moderator: David Brown, co-Founder of the Center, provides merchant banking services to investors in middle market businesses.
Program Host: Ben Calkins, co-Founder of the Center, provides business law services to middle market business owners and investors.
Thank You to Our Sponsors!:
JP Morgan Private Bank: it is a leading provider of wealth management solutions and advice and is an important segment of JPMorgan Chase, the largest US bank and the 6th largest bank in the world.
For more information about JP Morgan Private Bank’s services, please contact Greg Keegan, Vice President, Investment Specialist, Ken Greaney (216/781-2392) Vice President, Banker or John Arrowsmith, Managing Director, Investment Specialist. Here’s a timely JPM piece on the November election.
The Calkins Law Firm is a premier boutique law firm that specializes in business law and focuses on business transactions and business disputes. Please contact Ben Calkins (440/796-4592).
Red Hawk Associates is a merchant bank partnering with investors acquire founder or family owned firms. Please contact David Brown (216/464-8714).
Welcome to our New Sponsor!! Yippee!!:
The Center’s Marketing Sponsor, Mixed Media & Design, Inc. gives businesses a top-notch brand image at affordable rates. This starts with modern website design, and can also incorporate email marketing, social media, multimedia content, and physical marketing materials from postcards to USB drives.
Founder Mike Maimone says, “I enjoy meeting and working with other entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they do.” Clients in a wide variety of industries have found Mike helpful and affordable – financial planners, attorneys, gym owners, artists, landscapers, and more. Visit his websiteto learn about his services and get a quote.
730a Continental Breakfast and Networking
Are there ID requirements to enter the event?
Pre registered guests only, please, due to space limitations.
Is my registration/ticket transferrable?
Do I need to print and bring my paper event ticket?
Where can I contact the organizer with any questions?
Contact David Brown at [email protected] or 216/464-8714.
How do I contact the professionals at JP Morgan Private Bank?
For more information about JP Morgan Private Bank’s services, please contact Greg Keegan, Vice President, Investment Specialist, Ken Greaney (216/781-2392) Vice President, Banker or John Arrowsmith, Managing Director, Investment Specialist.