They have a mutual goal of transforming the wedding industry using technology, but completely different ways of going about it. And that's why a new partnership between Raleigh-based WedPics and Durham's SimpleRegistry makes so much sense.
The two companies have generated a lot of traction in the two years since each launched their platforms for brides and grooms. About 150,000 couples around the world have used WedPics's free app for crowdsourcing wedding and wedding-related event photos from guests. The startup is hoping to grow its 8 percent U.S. market share this year, and is exploring international expansion. It also raised money, which ExitEvent reported last May.
But a big goal of the year is to start generating money. And SimpleRegistry plays right into that strategy, says David Cullen (pictured right), WedPics business development officer.
SimpleRegistry, meanwhile, had about 15,000 couples register for gifts using its site last year, but founders, Brandon Warner (pictured left) of Durham and Tony Alexander of Cincinnati are preparing for faster growth in 2014. The men have deep experience in the wedding industry. In 2004, they built one of the first honeymoon registry sites Traveler's Joy, now the official honeymoon registry partner of the three largest wedding information sites.
As Traveler's Joy grew, the co-founders saw an opportunity to bring the entire registry online and launched SimpleRegistry in 2012 (I wrote about its funds-raise for the Cincinnati Enquirer that year.). SimpleRegistry makes it easy for couples to register for items anywhere, from Etsy stores and independent bricks & mortar boutiques to Crate + Barrel and Home Depot, using a mobile app and a 'Pin It'-like button for gifts. It's also easy for groups to split gifts. And it doesn't involve shipping; the couple gets the cash value of the gifts to make purchases themselves. --Read On
Automated Insights grew so quick last year that's it's offering $5K to anyone who refers the startup's next employees.
The Durham company of 25 workers expects its software that turns data into stories to write more than a billion pieces this year for companies like Yahoo Fantasy Sports, the Associated Press, Bloomberg and Microsoft. That's up from 300 million in 2013.
Windsor Circle, meanwhile, contracted with its first reseller just a week ago—the email marketing company Silverpop. It joined industry leader ExactTarget's marketplace last year, and began to release some compelling white papers about its retention marketing platform—helping e-commerce companies hit records for one-day sales and annual sales from targeted e-mail.
American Underground's Adam Klein says traction and capital efficiency won these two companies a spot to pitch at Google's first Demo Day in Palo Alto next month. They'll be up against eight other startups from Nashville, Ontario, Chicago, Detroit, Denver and Minneapolis, all in different stages of development, all hoping to raise money.
They've been promised at least 100 investors will be in the audience. --Read On
If the founders of Daylight Books can pull off their latest feat in art industry innovation, then they'll help dozens of emerging contemporary artists and photographers around the world add new fans and revenue streams for their work.
And they'll help museums, galleries and upscale lifestyle brands embrace art in the digital world.
It might sound like an ambitious goal for a nonprofit gallery and art photography book publisher in downtown Hillsborough.
But founders Michael Itkoff and Taj Forer have spent the last decade making a name for Daylight among the most celebrated artists and photographers in the contemporary art world. They've raised investment for the new business—a multimedia art content platform called Daylight Digital—from Accel Partners partner and former Groupon President Rob Solomon, the San Francisco-based Alchemist Investment Fund and local angels Lee Buck and Peter Bourne.
And they happen to be in a niche of technology getting attention from the globe's most notable investors. The high-end art-buying site Artsy has raised $7.3 million from investors like Peter Thiel and Jack Dorsey and Andreessen Horowitz put $8.8 million into the photo-sharing site for professionals called 500px. Art auction sites Auctionata and Paddle8 have raised $20.2 million and $10 million, respectively.
“There is this marriage of art content and technology and consumer marketplace,” Forer told me in an interview yesterday. “There is a changing art market because of the accessibility afforded by digital platforms and a need for those that disseminate content to respond to consumer demand at a lower price point.” --Read On
In case you missed the breaking news on TechWire today, Durham has two companies representing in Google for Entrepreneurs' first Demo Day in Palo Alto next month.
Matt Williamson of Windsor Circle and Robbie Allen from Automated Insights will get an all-expense paid trip to Google headquarters to pitch alongside eight companies selected by Google's six other tech hubs from across North America. Google is promising at least 100 investors in the audience.
So naturally, we're wondering what our hometown boys are up against. Can they win the hearts of investors and Google? Who else is vying? I spent a couple hours this afternoon digging up as much as I could find about the other eight companies. Here's the scoop:
Docalytics was born at a Minneapolis Startup Weekend in early 2012 as a way to help people find sales and marketing materials about a potential vendor without having to commit to the sales process. The tool collects data about the documents and the way they're used, collecting potential sales leads and data about what content works and what doesn't. The company completed the city's gener8tor accelerator program and raised $319,000 from Confluence Capital late last year. --Read On
The first real startup I worked for (excluding bands and lawn moving services) was Upromise.
Founded in Boston, the company's mission is to help families afford the rising cost of a college education. I started as a customer service rep and answered call after call with the tagline, “Thanks for calling Upromise, the way to save for college. My name is Bill. How can I help you today?”
After partnering with a large number of grocery chains, consumer brands and e-commerce retailers to provide cash back when our members bought select products, we started to see the results trickle in. But often, enthusiastic members who changed their shopping behavior to buy from participating brands called to say that after 3 or 4 months of shopping, they had less than $5 in their Upromise account to use for their son or daughter's education.
As a phone rep, I tried to explain that over time the savings could help defray expenses associated with books, housing, meals and so forth, but the reality was that we weren't really achieving our mission. --Read On
This is one of my favorite phrases. It can bring a succinct wisdom in a host of situations. For example:
“Drinking that much Diet Mountain Dew can't be good for you.” …. “Maybe. But it's all relative.”
“Given the effects of recent events on global dynamics, do you think the U.S. can play a successful role negotiating peace talks in the Middle East?” …. “Well. I think it's all relative.”
I find it most useful, though, when used to actually analyze something. So when I started to write about Triangle angel investing, I approached it from a perspective of relativity.
The obvious transition here is to compare the Triangle's angel activity to that of, say, Silicon Valley. I'll get to that later.
But first, I want to compare our region with itself. Angel Craig Stone (pictured above, on bottom) and I recently sat down and talked about how Triangle angel activity has changed substantially in a pretty short period of time. Here's his perspective:
Triangle Angel Flashback
It's 2005 in the Triangle. Stone has for years invested in the Durham angel investment group Atlantis Group (a now-closed early ChannelAdvisor investor), and wants to continue investing in early-stage Triangle startups. But there are no local angel funds raising. So instead, Stone puts his money in the later-stage Southern Capitol Ventures Fund II.
Fast forward to 2008. Stone still wants to do angel investing but continues to see no outlet to do so. He talks to a friend about starting a new angel fund; his friend is in; and the pair finds a few other founding members.
The problem is that it's 2008. The market plunges. Stone's wife has a baby. The fund is put on pause. --Read On
Drive from one end of Silicon Valley to the other and you've trekked nearly two hours, about the same distance as a drive along I-40 and I-85 to Charlotte.
That's one reason Devin Collins wants more Triangle-area companies as applicants in this year's Charlotte Venture Challenge. If the two regions act as one, they can take advantage of each other's unique resources and better promote North Carolina as a state for startups.
Today is the last day to apply for the annual May pitch competition and startup showcase at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. It's an event unique to the state, where 40 pre-selected startups get to network with each other, pitch before investors and meet executives at Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, manufacturers like Electrolux, SPX and Ingersoll Rand and locally-headquartered retailers like Family Dollar, Belk and Lowe's. There's also cash on the line.
"What we hear from corporate folks is they want to see the best ideas and the most ideas all in one place," says Collins, the competition's organizer and assistant director of business and entrepreneurial development at the university's Charlotte Research Institute. "The main goal is giving these startups access to customers." --Read On
A cheaper and faster way to detect breast cancer, a drug that eliminates or improves diabetes and a method of modifying genes in crops to someday remove allergens from foods.
Read these ideas one more time and you'll realize the life-changing potential of some of the innovation in life science happening in this region and around the state.
One of our goals at ExitEvent is to cover a broader section of the entrepreneurial community—from software developers to textile manufacturers to craft breweries to drug developers—with the only caveat being that they have high-growth potential and national or international-in-scale plans.
The CED Life Science Conference last week gave me the perfect opportunity to dive into some of the region's best opportunities in life sciences. It can be difficult to attend events like this—the presenters are talking to a highly scientific audience, not a bunch of entrepreneurs in different industry sectors (or a reporter without a PhD).
But these founders have a lot in common with those in less-scientific industries. They're trying to disrupt multi-billion dollar industries. They're inventing products that have to be tested, proven and sold. They're recruiting teams capable of executing their vision.
And, they need to sell investors on a lot of promises. --Read On
I like to imagine that there's a person somewhere who keeps a book with a long handwritten list of the dumb mistakes that entrepreneurs make (even though we should really know better). Mixed in among valuing ideas over execution, giving up too much equity to seed investors and hiring bad employees there's an entry, written in all caps, that reads: HIRE AN ADVERTISING AGENCY.
Repeat after me: Don't. Do. It.
Advertising agencies are good at many things, but like trying to drive the Autobahn with a learner's permit, hiring an agency as an early-stage startup does little more than set you up for disaster. That's not to say that advertising agencies are all bad (disclaimer: I own an advertising agency and have worked in the industry for nearly 15 years, so admittedly I may be a bit biased), but spending what monies you have in the bank on agency retainer fees and advertising media is about as far from smart as you can get.
Here are five reasons your early-stage startup should run, not walk, from advertising agencies. --Read On
A decade of training to become a gastroenterologist taught Lisa Jones the lessons now guiding her newfound career at the helm of just-launched healthy living digital news site,CurvyGirlHealth.
First, she's learned that personal struggle can inspire passion.
Second, that passion in one person inspires passion in another and third, that passion in both inspires business.
Oh, and you don't have to follow the rules if you can come up with your own way.
CurvyGirlHealth is a place where Jones, now a part-time physician at the Hospital at East Carolina University and the Durham VA Medical Center, can recount a 23-year struggle with health and weight that began at age 11. It's where other women are encouraged to share their own struggles.
Jones emphasizes that the site is not about prescribing one way to be healthier. It's about being honest about the struggle and letting women offer up what's working or not working for them.
“I don't think we'll have a success story on the site, because I don't think that exists,” she says. “People work their way through challenging problems and come out of it with perspective. But it's a never-ending journey.”
CurvyGirlHealth didn't come about randomly. Jones moved to Maryland from Trinidad and Tobago when she was 10 and her parents ran entrepreneurial home-based businesses (like Mary Kay). Her parents encouraged her to think big about her future, and so she decided to do something important—become a doctor. She attended Duke's medical school, completed a residency at the University of Pennsylvania and came back to Durham for a fellowship. --Read On