I’m very fortunate that I get to go to a lot of conferences around the country, but the chief complaint I always hear is being stuck in a hotel and not getting an opportunity to experience the city. The Energy Storage Building Efficiency Conference could be held in a hotel but we wanted you to have some adventure and show off a city that you might have never thought of coming to before. We believe that place is important. We’ve had companies relocate to Warren from across the country because the value the city offered them, not just our incubator. Our conference is going to be held on Courthouse Square in Downtown Warren, our breakouts will be at cool local venues and you will get to walk, navigate, and adventure through our cool little city. We’re inviting you to learn and be a part of and share our city for two days and we believe this will make the conversations, and the connections even more powerful. Also, if that wasn’t cool enough, the closing reception will be at the National Packard Museum, so you’ll close out your experience listening to gangster era jazz music surrounded by one of the most innovative cars to ever hit the market. The first Packard rolled off the line in Warren, Ohio in 1899. Innovation isn’t just about the people you surround yourself with, it’s about the inspiration a place can have on the experience. If you’re a startup in the energy sector, you must be here. Did you want to meet first customers like AEP, Dominion, First Energy, Rockwell and Others? Join us. I promise your company will be better for it. Manufacturer’s send your plant managers and Chief Technology Officers. Do you want to learn about cutting edge technology that can lower your bottom line significantly, and make your buildings run cheaper and more efficiently? This conference will give you more than something to think about it, it’ll give you the connections to act on those projects you’ve been dreaming about. Investor’s, do you want to learn about Opportunity Zone investing? We have John Lettieri from the Economic Innovation Group, the guy who partnered with Sean Parker of Facebook fame, here to tell you how to make good deals better and how to invest in companies and projects in places that your money can not only earn a return for you, but make a real impact in communities you care about. Beyond that, meet a plethora of investable startups and learn what they are doing to get your attention. Listen to early stage investors on how they make decisions, and what opportunities are out there. We consistently talk about how important it is to get our companies more access to capital, we need to talk more about how important it is for you to make sound investments into companies and projects that have a real impact. We’re excited to have you.
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: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/281416 References: https://www.sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan https://neilpatel.com/blog/get-startup-off-ground/
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. PillPack 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 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 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. Dropbox 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 References: https://venturebeat.com/2014/07/13/the-history-of-rap-genius-from-rap-lyrics-blog-to-annotation-powerhouse/ https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/23/y-combinator-notched-its-first-ipo-with-dropbox.html https://www.techstars.com/content/accelerators/pillpack-techstars-class-22-acquired-amazon/ https://www.sphero.com/about/
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: This Week in Startups 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. Recode Decode 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. Coaching for Leaders 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: The Energy Gang 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. Experts Only This …