RI Business Plan Elevator Pitch contest, December 8, 2009

Providence, RI
Joshua Gigantino, 2009 Creative Commons license.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered to listen to and have a panel critique young entrepreneur’s 90-second pitches on Tuesday, December 8th. Great job to everyone involved!

First Aerial Photo taken in America
First Aerial Photo taken in America
Garret opened the event. Each pitch was enthusiastic and provided an interesting look into the minds and goals of Rhode Island entrepreneurs. Got there a little late and couldn’t find a program so some of the names are misspelled or wrong, corrections are welcome. Direct any other questions to http://www.ri-bizplan.com

So here are notes from some of RI’s start-up community:

#3 – UFund.com or youfund is for low-income, high achieving students. It’s goal is to empower a student’s personal network to help finance that student in school. Founded by seven Brown students with university and community advisers. Create an ever growing cycle of educated students.

#4 – Health and Life – provides help in understanding complex medical issues. Connect visitors with useful products.

critique: what is actual business model, how will you make money?

#5 – Kinetic Energy Recovery – pass

#6 – Z Blok – $3billion in suncreen sales. Major problem with sunscreen is eye-stinging. Z Blok uses zinc oxide for UV protection. Goal is to become generic term in consumer products, the “Kleenex” of sunscreen. A team of sailors tested Z Blok on a long distance race, had no problems with stinging eyes. Wants 1% of sunscreen market.

crit – sailing, go bigger in market goals, sailing as product test, power of a story, any IP, patent or trademark issues?

#8 – Univercity – Kendra Davis, compares music scene of Boston and Providence. Providence as the Creative Capital still has no music institute. Rock, hiphop, jazz, krunk experimental will all be available at Univercity.

crit – Less problem, more solution. Nice pitch with no notes. Who is audience?

#12 – Behavioral Energy Solutions – save your time, money and the world. World is full of crisis with global warming and other things, crisis and source? No, it is us. Needs to do our fair share. Imagine a light switch, a master switch. Program it to turn off unneeded outlets. It will lower electricity costs, give you a fatter wallet and a better planet thanks to BEH. All this is made easier with BEH.

crit – good and passionate, what is the exact to-market?

#13 – Sparamus – $92 billion lost to overhead inside non-profits, Sparamus has a philanothropy “AdSense” with HopeRank feature. Developed with Carnegie Mellon University it provides blog, mailing and social media integration that leads to 60% better donation rates. Goal is to be market leader in 2 years.

crit – good integration of needs and markets.

#14 – E3 Resource Center – Berelli. Our E3 device provides reliable classroom document exchange. Today faculty have trouble managing documents. The E3 has 24 USB ports for file exchange – unit pays for itself in one year over photocopies.

crit – need to ask how is it this better than email?

#15 – Vicinity Housing – C West – Green modular housing, Vicinity Housing profits on economies of scale from offsite manufacture. Provides custom houses in a wide range of options – compares a house to Mr. Potato Head, just add the features you want. Website will have options for all the choices from classic Victorian to very modern, colors, facilities and options like a ground floor in-law apartment. pilot in PVD and…

crit – How does this affect a land shortage in urban areas? Makes sense, analogy is good, Where does VH sit in the process? Architect, general contractor, manufacturer? How long does it take from ordering to delivery of house?

#16 – International Standard Testing Academy ISTA – Muhammed – This is for the 600,000 international students in the USA. While SAT tests are standard in the US, both the tests and preparation are hard to get in other parts of the world. This is a huge untapped market. ISTA is a team of international students and teachers that are recruiting high school (returning college?) students on summer break to teach SAT prep classes. This will be both in-person at local schools and online. ISTA because every student deserves a chance.

crit – World is huge, where to start? Hard to blanket the whole planet in 12 months. How will you be the low cost provider once the model becomes standard? Value and need are obvious, how to scale it?

#17 – Moms – “Close your eyes” imagine a place like home. Moms gives college students a relaxing place with great atmosphere. Not just a restaurant a place you can feel at home.

crit – college food is known for being awful so a might make sense – somewhat unproven market that might have trouble scaling? Is it Starbucks for college students? rest. business is challenging How will you be better than the local pizza joint? Differentiated menu, good details; conceptual differentiation.

#18 – DTester – Brown students. Critical health issue is vitamin D. List of D-deficiency diseases. Existing tests are expensive and require blood sample. DTester provides instant, cheap results. The team has a significant tech lead. Product will be a device and test strips sold on a “razor and blades” model. Huge growth potential.

crit – Market eduction needed on this product, don’t get nervous pitching, why won’t it get copied?

#19 – The Good Marketplace – E Daulton – represents hundreds of social enterprises, #1 challenge in non profits is lack of marketing – a lack of knowledge and expertise in marketing. the Good Marketplace is an online destination of vendors and buyers. TGM makes money on market services, gives a place for social enterprise to grow.

#20 – iReceipts – how much money, trees and ink are wasted on receipts that just get thrown out? iReceipt’s main clients will be retailers such as Walmart, Target, etc. Already have CVS and another onboard. Card swipe goes directly to your online receipts. Useful for tax, holiday and others. Charge a business transaction fee to retailer, iReceipts is attached to customer-loyalty cards.

crit – retail has thin margins, what advantage does it give businesses? Any issues with transmitting sensitive information?

#21 – uhoot.com – design your own goods. Print photo-quality images onto phones, skate boards, etc. Online designer for users to makes their own.

crit – good presentation. What is the model? how do you differentiate from similar services? Youth market is good choice. Branding needs to be stronger… (ulu, uloop, youhoot)

#22 – Vibrational Device for Pediatric Needle Pain – everyone remembers going to the doctor as a kid and hating getting shots. A team of Brown undergrads have engineered a handheld, noninvasive device. It uses high-frequency, mechanical vibration analgesia to quickly number an area of skin. 60,000 pediatricians in US. $30million market. Seeking $100k for prototype and patent.

crit – good articulation of problem. 100k is 1/10th what will be needed, $30m market not a big enough number. Good structure and research.

#23 – Visible.com – only 16% of software development is on time and on budget. Visible.com is in the business of servicing software tools. Filming 125 hours of software instruction combined with a new generation social network, promises to help you deliver software 100% of the time.

#24 – YarEnergy – Cassie from Brown, provide cell charging stations via banana-to-methane power in Uganda, each charge is $0.25. cellular is changing the world.

crit – attention getting, more on electricity from banana peels, very Back to the Future. Needs to cover more on food issues, and developing nation’s electricity needs.

#25 – EduKits – EduKits as building blocks for developing genuine liking of science and math. Each kit has a complete experiment. Physics kits with others in development for primary and secondary school students. In-store retail segment.

crit – education toys is a big market. Place in home schooling? Full packaged kits make sense.

#26 – Leotus Inc – K Hardy, home cooling AC with full access to window. Modular 3-part green AC. Inside, outside and bridge. Unit is self-balanced. Dyson of air conditioners. $400K needed to go from current prototypes.

#27 – Van Waffels – (shakes MC and judge’s hands) – everyone loves Dutch Waffels, huge market gap because they simply are not available in US. Have been importing them and selling out near Brown. Wants to make the cookies here, bring in machinery and mass produce.

crit – manufacturing and marketing that product is hard. Crowded space so a better model might be to continue importing?

#28 – RI Pirate Players – KC Dorman, RI’s only history group teaching about RIs’ pirate past, works w/ schools, libraries, in ’10 want to do full pirate education center.

crit – great presentation (he was in full pirate costume, mates), what is the end game? How will pirates make money?

#29 – Industrial Trust Building Museum – Noah Schwartz, let’s talk about very old tech. Airships. Meant to carry a few people very far. First aerial photo in the USA is of Atwels Ave, Providence. The Narragansett Bay Industrial Trust Building was completed with an airship dock in 1923(?) then Lindberg crossed the Atlantic and airship were relegated to history. (holds up postcard of airships over Providence), It will be the greatest museum of its kind.

crit – Put museum toward the front of pitch

#30 – Shady Lee Farms – Susan – with the economy going green, wants to turn the farm at corner of Rt 1 & 4 into a green learning farm and restaurant. Will teach about recycling, compost, grow into having a bakery. Big enough restaurant for reunions and functions.

crit – good for kids, work on presentation, be concise. Was recently asked “Daddy why don’t we live on a farm?”. Could be bed-n-breakfast. Don’t wane off toward end, try to find similar local businesses as example or if none, as a needed market.

#31 – Clean energy – Kinsdale, all green power generation except hydro is unemployed when the sun or wind is out. Magnetic generators solve these problems. How would you like history to remember you?

#32 – NewCo – undergrads @ Brown, PCR thermocycles for biomed and genetics. Heats a small part of DNA, normally made of blocks of silver, NewCo uses aluminum and carbon to produce the same component for less with superior properties. Currently have protos, want to distribute to manufacturers of devices.

crit – describe the problem better to non-technical audience. Good but complex explanation.

#33 – Semtec – ever stayed overnight in a hospital? 10 major dangers in hospitals, ventilator assisted infections(?). Unlike standard tubes, Semtec’s tube is 36 times more antibacterial. Can generate $100 million in first sales year.

#34 – Todd Baraka, West Bay Collections – (the repo man) In tough economic times they have made $190K in first year. Don’t qualify for SBA or bank financing. Need working capital to start call center.

crit – congrats on good start, explain issues in more upbeat terms. What else can you do to grow?

#35 -Solubricin – urinary catheters and monitoring issues. Urinary infections are 42% of all hospital infections. Lubricin is a protein discovered by Brown doctor who holds patent. Solubricin can be applied as a preventive. Looking to further research.

End pitch from the organizers: Write business plans for the 2010 competition on any of 3 tracks: Student, Entrepreneur or Small Business.

Winston Churchill was being driven to Parliament during World War II. He sat in front of the building, pausing, “Just a moment, I’m practicing my off-the-cuff remarks.”

After a break the winners were:
$50 – Behavioral Energy
$50 – Vicinity Housing
$50 – ISTA
$50 – DTester
$50 – The Good Marketplace
$50 – iReciepts
$200 – Beat the Wheat Bakery
$200 – Sparamus
$300 – Vibrational Pediatric Device for Needle Pain

News release from event via RI Business Plan Competition

Identifiable near-term space markets, part 1

Providence, RI, December 2009. By Joshua Gigantino, Creative Commons License.

Commercial space development through the early 21st Century has involved mostly large business working with government or multinational corporation to provide defense, communications or Earth-sensing (weather) satellites along with the launchers and ground infrastructure. While extensive, the existing space market is hampered from growth by large upfront costs and risk aversion. Private space development had seen limited successes through the 80’s and 90’s but nothing on the verge of what had been promised in the the Apollo era. In 2004 the Mojave, CA based aeronautics inventor Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites successfully won the XPrize by sending SpaceShipOne into a ballistic arc that crossed the 62 mile high threshold of space.

With the success of SpaceShipOne the traditional “giggle factor” of space diminished significantly. A new era of space development appeared imminent. New startups headed by engineers and wealthy Angel investors have come into being and made great strides. Regulatory uncertainty was removed with the creation of the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transport or AST. With the rise of companies such as SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Orbital Outfitters and others including ULA’s interest in commercial launch and a plethora of small-sat manufacturers, a new way of doing business in space has begun to dawn. Recent deals between Solaren and Pacific Gas & Electric show that there is a new way of doing business in space.

The next step is twofold for real success. First is convincing the public that space has real impacts on their lives beyond GPS and weather satellites. We need enthusiastic and educated people willing to do hard, exciting work, some of it in dangerous places. Second is we need many new companies and institutes to form to push the boundaries outwards with new space applications, products and destinations. The goal should be 1,000,000 new aerospace jobs (I didn’t make the video but definitely support the message). Growing an industry intent on providing energy, entertainment, feedstocks and colonization solutions will spur new wealth creation here on Earth. It can create a 4th Industrial Revolution.

The environmental technologies needed to colonize space will directly help Earth’s ecology. Space based Solar Power Satellites (SPS) will have the next great impact on how we live on Earth and the Earth itself. Once we can build 1 SPS we can build 1000 and begin to seriously consider not needing fossil fuels for power. Commercial SPS will create novel opportunities for powering new spacecraft and systems.

Suborbital space tourism and research flights will be commonly available in the coming few years from Virgin Galactic or XCOR. Orbital tourism, while expensive, has been available for nearly a decade. These are fairly known but potentially elastic markets especially with a reliable craft. Space Adventures has provided an exciting 6-month training, 10 day flight time orbital Space Flight Participant program profitably for a decade. Scaled and Virgin Galactic are flight-testing their SpaceShipTwo designs now.

With commercially available building blocks of space components, an enterprise will be able to put together complete space systems from communication satellite clusters to new space station in exotic locations. Bigelow Aerospace will have commercially available station modules available in the coming years. Organize, purchase a BA-330 and SunDancer, fly them on ULA or SpaceX rockets and start your own space station – hotel, casino, research or exploration basecamp. A space station will still be a capital project but they will be available in quantity, soon, placed in the orbital slot or interplanetary transfer orbit of your choice. On a smaller scale, today you can buy a CubeSat, an open-source 1-kg satellite, and fly it for $40,000. Planetary landers and crewed tugs are available with little more than a phone call and the money. These components are becoming readily available to mid-size and smaller organizations.

Elements in this nascent ecosystem can be readily combined to exploit new economic niches. With the components described above and others combined with enough money in the next decade will enable interests to place outpost anywhere in the Inner Solar System. Enablers such as small flight-ready nuclear plants or VASIMR style engines can have an amplifying effect but just Bigelow modules plus commercial launch can put significant numbers of people in space, doing all sorts of things, within a decade. Space will cease to be a place of missions or data transmission and become destinations, ports of call, outposts, basecamps to go further.

Part 2 will cover some specific next-generation niches and space applications.

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Panel Discussion: Mobile Internet, From There To Here, Nov 4, 2009, RInexus/RIEDC

Mobile Internet: From There to Here
Location: RIEDC
Panel: Jack Templin, Jonathan Stark, Anette Tonte, Joel Evans plus Brian Jepson
Jack: Whats happening, the tech, why and why you should care.
Brian Jepson: Overview. First smartphones were very simple. New ones such as G1 or iPhone are very advanced – games, Augmented Reality, etc. What has changed?
2002 – now (2009): Great user experience, 3G networks, always-on phones
Though April ’08, no Apple programming book sales at O’Reilly. Release of iPhone, Apple book sales spike. From 50 to 2500 books per week 1 year later.
Challenges: walled gardens, technology and user lock-in, spotty 3G coverage, half-assed app stores.
Google/Android and Apple “get it”.
Apps: opening iPhone, Android choice up. Unlocked phone (both cell and ability to install your software on your device), growth driven by good app stores. Brian has seen growth in other mobile programming books but iPhone is dominant in book sales.
Panel Intro:
Jack Templin, RINexus and Providence Geeks, Moderator.
Jonathan Stark, writer, strategist, book available online now. Comes to mobile from web to telecom. Platform fragmentation is awful. Write with standard tech and wait for the phones to catch up.
Anette Tonti, CEO Mofuze, Bluestreak ad server, time is now for mobile web for midsize business so that non-technical people can manage mobile sites.
Joel Evans, owned geek.com, CEO Cronk Software. Has been making mobile software for over a decade. Microsoft is not out of the mobile game yet. Cronk makes games and apps for iPhone, deep apps not broad apps. Compared to MoFuze, Cronk’s software uses the compass and other custom hardware, requires custom code.

JT – The technology, adoption rate and pricing all coming together, key moment in mobile Internet.
AT – 1000s of MoBlogs @ MoFuze, growing subscriber base of US and international businesses. $7.95/month for a mobile, hyper-local site.
JE – Apple transformed industry, Microsoft had the first app store years ago but Apple is setting the standard. Easy and fun to use, answers “What do I want to do when mobile?”

JT – “It’s time to go online.” – narrow & deep or broad & light experience?
JS – It depends on your goal.

JT – Is it possible to support rich web content broadly?
JS – international – go for SMS. Examples include Twitter, Aardvark, GOOG411.
AT – Most apps are downloaded, used twice then never touched again. Some countries have over 100% cell phone penetration (100% plus multiple phones for some). We will not end up with 1 or 2 phone platforms.

JT – Will they all become smart phones?
JE – Less turn over in some markets, Microsoft OneApp, Point-of-Sale via SMS means no need for more advanced phones, J2ME as lowest common denominator in phones means a decent base experience for everyone.

JT – What are the issues behind localization and internationalization?
AnnetteT – Self-service internationalization has led to many Indonesian blogs on Mofuze.
JonathanS – Not a solved problem, Google Wave shared operating environment provides live translation, the “Holy Grail” of telecomm.

JT – The other mobile experience in next 5 years, Augmented Reality – Layars, information and games like “mosquitos”, need better input. These show the very fast changes in mobile.  Augmented reality is awesome, becomes more useful when not looking at a device.
JE -TED, MIT talk projected computing like Sixth Sense – will it go mainstream? Yes.
JonathanS – Bluetooth headsets make you look crazy but so what?

JT – What’s in store in the next 2 years?
JE – With cloud computing, the device does not matter, only access matters. Google Apps as a an exemplary platform.
JS – GMail is “good enough” across all devices.

JT – Devices are hard enough, working with cell networks is even harder – What does RI have for connectiivity?
JE – WiMax rollout coming, iPhone 3G problems – AT&T doing a $4billion build out, Verizon LTE having problems w/ rollout, AT&T’s EDGE through 3G have had rollout issues.

JT – AT&T service in last 60 days (sept-oct) is unbelievably bad. 100% dropped calls for himself, others not much better.
JE – No connections available for iPhones in Manhattan, puts phone on old EDGE network for great connectivity. 4G is 10x speed of 3G, AT&T politics – larger area vs smaller areas – 30% dropped calls in Manhattan.
AT – feature phones as counter point to troubles with iPhone and other smartphones.

JT – RI is the #2 in landline bandwidth.
JE – Cox may go into local mobile market.

JT – will traditional web models profits port over to mobile?
AT – models have to be tweaked to work, definitely not ad banners.

JT – What is the cash potential?
AT – AdTech conference happening in early November, 2009 saw Jeep place the first $1million ad buy for mobile devices. Mobile advertising is part of multichannel plays, very early but growing.

JT – Location based ads sound great on paper. Do they work?
JE – It is the holy grail, done in 90s in Europe and Asia, the biggest stumble is privacy, now people don’t care as much about it. Approach is important, tremendous upsale potential.

JT – Prefer the anonymity of iPhone app’s servers for location services over showing location to friends on Google Latitude.
AT – Phones are 4 billion devices versus 1 billion computers.

JT – Affiliate leads? Does it work?
AT – Guarantee agencies will try it. mentions MoFuze integrating with existing ad networks.


Q – Wifi as alternative to regular cell networks? Other remediation strategies especially for current iPhone users?
JS – Verizon MyFi, creates a hotspot for several devices, monthly fee.
Brian – My MyFi has a $15/day option for lighter use.

Q – When does mobile become the dominant platform?
JS – with the Nook book reader, etc, the web will be standard on lots of devices.
JT – Does mobile/desktop distinction go away?
JE – importance of user experience.
AT – Mobile vs desktop as experience is totally different.

Q – charge per bandwidth on mobile?
JE – Sprint has great prices but loses $$$ monthly.

Q – How do we make all this come together?
JT – RINexus and Providence Geeks.

Statement – People in Africa use cell minutes as currency.

Q – What about hosted apps? Favorite apps?
Brian mentions Augmented Reality and Wikitude.
JS – Google Maps is unbelievable.
AT – Photo Exchange, micropayments using interactive media. Real Estate and other small-mid businesses using technology for advantage.
JE – Red Laser barcode scanner.
Brian – SMS4Africa, diagnosis and treatment.

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