Six Steps to Starting Your Startup, Step One: Write a Business Plan

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

This post is the first of a six-part series on some recommended steps to launching a startup business. However, there is no one way to start any business, so you should always consult multiple sources on what your business may need before you start it.

What is a Business Plan?

In short, a business plan is a plan for what you want your business to become and how you will get it there. It generally outlines the first three to five years of your business. Not only does a business plan help you identify the direction you want your startup to go in, but it allows you do so in a more tangible way that is understandable and approachable by other people.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan?

A business plan helps other people to understand the purpose and goals of your business. Once people understand your business, you can use your plan to obtain access to important financial resources like investment capital and loans. Access to capital means you now have the means to continue launching your startup.

What Goes Into a Business Plan?

Depending on your needs, you can write either a lean startup plan or a traditional business plan. A lean startup plan covers high-level items and only the key elements of your business, and takes as little as an hour to write. On the other hand, traditional business plan is very detailed, comprehensive and takes a considerable amount of time to write.

Where Do I Start?

Well, a good place to start is with the Small Business Administration’s guide to business plans (see the references at the end of the article). Another helpful tool for people residing in Ohio is the Small Business Builder from Gale. To access it, you’ll need a free library card from the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County. You can then go to Research>Business Resources>Research & Information>Business Plans and you’ll find the Small Business Builder. Click, sign in using your library card number and you’re all set to start using the free and intuitive tool for planning your business.

More Reading:


What is a Coworking Space?

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

TBEICArtboard 1Infographic

What is Coworking?

Coworking is, put simply, a variety of people getting their respective work done in a shared space. These people may be entrepreneurs, freelancers or even employees of larger companies whom work remotely. The shared space, referred to as a coworking space, is often designed specifically with its users and their intent to work in mind, possessing amenities and resources to meet their various needs. But another key component of any co-working space is the sense of community between co-workers which is facilitated by the space or the co-workers themselves.

The Benefits of Coworking

Coworking presents many benefits over working in typical spaces like home, a coffee shop or even your usual workplace. The first of these benefits is the space’s dedication to the purpose of work makes it a better place for people to get things done, free of the noise and distractions that typically accompany a coffee shop or home office. Coworking also makes dedicated work space more accessible for entrepreneurs and free-lancers who usually lack access to office space due to its cost prohibitive nature. The variety provided in a coworking space can make individuals more productive for those working remotely for their regular job in a coworking space. Lastly, the sense of community developed in co-working spaces can create a greater sense of purpose and build professional networks and personal connections between people who may not otherwise interact.

Who Uses Coworking Spaces?

As previously mentioned, coworking spaces are usually inhabited by entrepreneurs, freelancers and employees working remotely, among others. The common thread between these people that finds them utilizing a co-working space is their need for a place to work. While the possibility of using a library, coffee shop or similar space exists, these spaces often lack amenities like access to a variety of resources such as high-speed WiFi, printing and private meeting space. These amenities, though not always necessary to complete work, can definitely make working easier.

How to Find a Coworking Space for You

The first step in finding a coworking space is by doing a simple web search with the location you want to work in along with “coworking space”. You can also search on platforms like Facebook, and other sites that host business listings. The next step is to carefully examine the coworking space’s listings and website to see which one offers the amenities you need. Once you’ve picked a coworking space – or a few, you should contact them for pricing information. Oftentimes, coworking spaces offer you a free first day of coworking so you can try the space before you make any commitment. If you decide you like the coworking space, sign up and get to work!

More reading:

What is Coworking? | Coworker

Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces | Harvard Business Review


Notable Startups to Come from Incubator Programs

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

About (Change)

Business incubators have churned out a lot of successful startups. While not all startups engaged in incubator programs are successful, some startups have experienced explosive growth from the help of an incubator. You may even be familiar with some startups to have come from incubator programs and the work they’ve done in the time since they’ve worked with an incubator. Today we’ll discuss four startups that came to success out of two of the most widely known incubators. PillPack and Sphero both came out of Techstars while Genius and Dropbox were members of Y Combinator’s program.


TJ Parker and Elliott Cohen started PillPack in 2013 at Techstars Boston. In starting PillPack, their mission was to alleviate the complexity of managing multiple prescriptions and simplify the entire pharmacy process. During their time in TechStars’ three month program they raised $4 million in seed funding, followed by a total of $117 million in Series A through Series D funding. Perhaps the most notable of PillPack’s accomplishments, aside from working continuously towards their mission, is their acquisition in 2018 by e-commerce giant Amazon for $1 billion.


Sphero started at Techstars in 2010 with a seemingly simple idea that would ultimately prove popular among many: a robotic sphere that could be controlled with a smartphone and used as a toy. The popularity of the idea allowed Sphero to create a BB-8 (from “Star Wars”) branded Sphero toy after a stint in the Disney accelerator in 2015 and secure over $90 million in funding as of 2016. Beyond their popularity as toys, Sphero’s robots can also act as tools for education, encouraging STEAM-based learning curriculum in grade schools.


Genius, started in 2009 as “RapExegesis”, and later renamed Rap Genius, joined Y Combinator in 2011 as a site to annotate rap lyrics so people could better understand the songs they listened to. Eventually, Genius moved beyond rap annotation to every genre of music, poetry, news and the Bible, before dialing in its focus purely on music. The same year it joined Y Combinator, Genius secured $1.8 million in seed funding, followed by $15 million in funding in 2012 and an additional $40 million in funding in 2014. Now, Genius enjoys increased exposure through annotation integration with Spotify.


Drew Houston founded Dropbox, and shortly joined the Y Combinator program, in 2007 when he struggled to find a cofounder. 4 years later, the popular digital file storage solution obtained funding from venture capitalists at a valuation of $4 billion. This growth, while astounding, is even more significant as Dropbox went on to become the first Y Combinator company to go public in 2018 with a valuation shortly after its IPO of more than $11 billion.

Further Reading:

Techstars Startup Success Rate Sets

Y Combinator Top Companies List


How to be the Smartest Person in the Room

Sara Daugherty Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Advice for Energy Storage Novices

Energy storage is new to me. Occasionally when people ask about my interest and background in energy I can say a few quick anecdotes so that I’m not completely dismissed. I’ve taken more courses than what is godly reasonable on environmental land use law so I know a lot about power system placement, nuclear waste storage, and the most fun of cocktail chatter: eminent domain. I used to hang out with people from IEEE because they were in and out of the planning school I attended and were OBSESSED with grid modernization. I had a short stint as an intern for an international development organization identifying solutions to Europe’s dependence on Russia’s natural gas. That’s about it. So, when I started at TBEIC, I’ve done what I’ve always done to be able to hold a conversation. I downloaded some podcasts.

I’ve been a podcast evangelist for over ten years. It started when I was living overseas and needed a way to passively hear my mother tongue. It deepened as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine, where I’d download a few hours from itunes on to my ipod (remember those days) for 12+ hour train rides to Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv and Simferopol. Back home, they became my entertainment when I didn’t feel like being social and have escalated to the point that I have to have one on in the background regardless of what I’m doing.

Over the past six months, as I’m becoming more acclimated to the work of TBEIC and its potential, the downloads have further increased in numbers. I find that I have little time or energy to read something and fully absorb it (says I as I type a blog post). I’d like to share some of the podcasts that have helped me transition to a new career in energy storage, the Internet of Things, and entrepreneurship:

Startup Culture:

Hosted by Jason Calacanis, a founder, angel investor, and LAUNCH accelerator partner among many other titles is like a Muppet movie. He has factoids that are for the kids (newbies just learning how to get their evaluation together) woven in to sage advice for serial entrepreneurs. This Week in Startups is about an hour per episode and typically goes into one or two areas in great detail. Sometimes, companies pitch to him and then he gives immediate feedback. Other times he just rips Facebook advertising. What I like about this show is how its inspiring but also realistic, providing tough lessons when metrics aren’t being met.

Not really a startup podcast but it’s one of the first I press play on when a new episode drops. Kara Swisher, a Silicon Valley journalist of Vox with a rich history of documenting the emergence of tech over the last three or so decades is an incredible interviewer. On the show she’s interviewed Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Mark Cuban along with executives across corporations, philanthropy and politics. What I like about Kara is she always says that tech founders could benefit from a good liberal arts education and boy do I find that ever so to be true. I find that often founders are pigeon-holed to be both masters of one thing and everything and this show pushes towards what is most important as a society in how and who gets to control technology.

I call this podcast my fake MBA because of how much I’ve gotten out of it over the past few years. It’s so powerful that it is one of the reasons I left my old job to start at TBEIC. Dave Stachowiak is a consultant who works with top-level managers to build their leadership capabilities and amplify their strengths. His show is typically under forty minutes or so and provides a mixture of interviews and advice. Through this podcast I’ve learned to speak with radical candor, delegate, better read people’s emotions and in general continuously improve.

Energy Storage:

Greentech Media hosts this weekly overview on all things energy from policy to founders. Recently, the Energy Gang had an incredible interview with CEO Gene Berdichevsky of Sila Nanotechnologies, the creator of a lithium-ion battery that really put into context how hard it is for tech-enabled energy startups to get a footing and have a win within the first decade (I’m learning you should get excited around Year 12). This podcast also drives my LinkedIn searches to connect with people I must get to know and follow in the cleantech field.

This podcast is unique in that it covers a topic that I’ve found hard to wrap my head around and get much good information on: capital raising and funding for cleantech companies. I thought impact investing was just a buzzword for people in energy to feel like they “got it” but it’s a real thing. This podcast has a nice variety of founders, philanthropists, venture capitalists, incubator staff and others to really learn about the ecosystem.

Hosted by David Hunt, an entrepreneur, this podcast interviews startup and scale up founders and industry leaders in energy storage, mobility, renewables and smart cities among others. It’s a nice overview of how cleantech can and will impact all aspects of life and each episode includes an incredible notes section with links to topics and individuals. This podcast is a great overview for generalists as well as those wanting to not reinvent the wheel when starting and scaling a cleantech company.

Internet of Things:

First off, these podcasts need new names. They are really hard to find and differentiate. I find IoT fascinating as a talking point because often it starts with a big idea and quickly becomes a conversation about AI and computing storage power… for some reason I find this disappointing, like we find out what the wizard looks like. I guess I’m trying to say is as this field matures and centralizes, I hope there is more substance in the media produced around it.

This podcast features interviews on broad topics such as the platforms used for IoT and how they are applied for supply chain management, smart buildings and robotics. I like how it thinks through the business development of IoT software and how in turn they are adopted.

This series is similar to the previous podcast in providing a blend of broad topics mainly on smart cities but also includes interviews with hardware companies and goes into depth on project implementation of IoT solutions.

I like this podcast for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it’s hosted by a woman, Stacy Higginbotham. There are so few women interviewed in IoT and I love how excited she gets about it. Second, this podcast mainly focuses on consumer IoT like light bulbs and things like Alexa and Nest. Before listening to this podcast, I didn’t realize how many people are like my husband and enjoy tinkering across technologies and code them for things like nighttime security light optimization. This podcast also showcases how quickly consumer tech can be the center of attention and rapidly fade because of competition and/or planned obsolescence.

Sara Daugherty is the Director of Operations and Economic Impact at the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center.

Takeaways from TBEIC at JumpStart’s Startup Scaleup 2019

Daniel Sylak Uncategorized Leave a Comment

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About JumpStart & Startup Scaleup

JumpStart is a nonprofit organization based in Cleveland, Ohio made up of diverse entrepreneurs, investors and business experts who believe entrepreneurs can transform lives and communities through innovation.

Their annual event Startup Scaleup, also known as SUSU, celebrates the growth of Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and showcases the array of local resources and connections available to help entrepreneurs succeed while supplying them with new skills and knowledge to further their entrepreneurial endeavors.

This year’s festival-style SUSU was held in Cleveland’s Flats East Bank neighborhood. The neighborhood played host to more than 50 workshops, panels, sessions and networking events across 13 different venues.

How TBEIC Took Part in SUSU 2019

Not only is TBEIC one of JumpStart’s partner organizations, but we also sent three team members to SUSU 2019: our marketing intern, myself; our CTO, Bill Whittenberger; and our CEO & President, Rick Stockburger.

I spent my day attending sessions and taking photos of the TBEIC team in action. I found the Digital Marketing in the Morning session led by Cleveland’s Zangardi Studio to be the highlight of my day. Patrick Zangardi of Zangardi Studio discussed the importance of determining the perfect balance between traditional and digital marketing for your business and how to balance different digital marketing platforms based on target customers.

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In the afternoon, Bill moderated The Future of Energy, a panel on massive changes coming to the energy landscape in the near future consisting of energy executives , Randall Frame (the Regional President of Ohio Edison), Subin Mathew (Innovation and Technology Manager for American Electric Power) and Nick Pero (Innovation Accelerator at Dominion Energy) (left to right).

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Rick wrapped up the team’s day by leading Tesla Talks, a discussion with the Midwest Business Development Manager of Tesla, Tiara Thurston. The talk covered a broad array of aspects of present-day energy innovation and Tesla’s role in innovation, from electric vehicles to solar panels.

The Entrepreneurial Magic of SUSU in Action

Aside from the various workshops, panels and events offered throughout Startup Scaleup 2019, another priceless resource was made available to everyone present for the day: the ability to network and expand your connections.

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No one knows this better than Dave Martin, President and CEO of Intwine Connect, a TBEIC portfolio company. Dave had the opportunity to network and talk about his company’s innovative product with energy executives Subin Mathew and Nick Pero prior to The Future of Energy panel. Ahead of Intwine Connect’s upcoming product launch, this was an important moment Dave seized to let key players in his industry know about the hard work he’s committed to developing an innovative product. It’s the ability to create and encourage moments like these that are at the heart of what Startup Scaleup is about: empowering entrepreneurs.