Why VC Is Attracting a Whole New Set of Players

Earlier this year, Boston-based 3-D printing company Voxel8 raised $12 million in Series A funding. Among the windfall were contributions from Autodesk’s Spark Investment Fund — the software company’s $100 million 3-D printing investment initiative — and In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture fund for intelligence-related innovations.

Wireless intercom company Nucleus scored more than $1.6 million in seed investments this year, $100,000 of which came from Philadelphia’s $6 million StartUp PHL fund, which makes equity investments in local entrepreneurs. And Back to the Roots, a San Francisco-area sustainable-food company, raised $650,000 two years ago from Fund Good Jobs, a $2.53 million philanthropic venture fund focused on job creation.

These unconventional VC groups aren’t anomalies. In recent years, corporations, municipalities, university alumni groups and philanthropic groups with agendas beyond reaping financial rewards have jumped into the equity financing game.

Take corporate venture capital, which is on the rise. By year’s end, U.S. corporate VC groups will have outpaced the $12.31 billion in investments they made in 2014, according to VC data clearinghouse CB Insights.

“A typical party line is that you want very smart institutional investors from typical VC groups,” says Daniel Oliver, co-founder of Voxel8. “But on the strategic investment side, you can also get really great input.”

In fact, Autodesk partnered with Voxel8 to develop a design tool that helps people create devices for 3-D printing, and In-Q-Tel is interested in using the printers Voxel8 is developing.

Mike Collins, co-founder of Launch Angels, a VC firm that creates and manages university alumni investment funds, credits technological innovations with the rise in nontraditional VC groups. With geographically diverse investment committees easily able to meet by Skype or Google Hangouts, managing alumni investment teams is a cinch, Collins explains.

What’s more, the ubiquity of tech startups — and the decreased financial barrier to entry — has prompted Philadelphia and Detroit, among other cities, to begin offering venture capital in an effort to boost economic development, create jobs and attract young people, says Archna Sahay, Philadelphia’s manager of entrepreneurial investment.

“The existence of early-stage capital is missing in the ecosystem,” Sahay says. And with traditional venture funding not always available to young companies, it makes sense for entrepreneurs to consider the alternatives.

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Building a Can’t-Miss Video Advertising Campaign for 2016

Have you been trying to brainstorm the “next big idea” for your 2016 marketing strategy?

What if I were to tell you that you could get several thousand views from your target demographic for pennies on the dollar with video remarketing?

With video remarketing, you can get 1,666 views on your video advertisement for just $50! ($50 ad spend  / $0.03 cost per view = 1,666 views).

You are all familiar with the concept of remarketing, right? Just to refresh your memory, a remarketing advertisement allows you to deliver your branded ads to people who have already visited your website.

A hundred million Internet users watch online videos each day, so if you are not investing in video marketing, you are behind the eight ball.

Combining your rich media with remarketing advertisements can yield a tremendous return on investment for your business this upcoming year.

Example: Let’s Go Surfing

Let’s say you own Sam’s Surf Shop in Malibu. You have tourists from all over the country on your site seeking a place to rent surfboards for their trip to the Golden State.

Tom from Michigan can’t wait to escape the cold weather up north and catch some waves in sunny California. He visits the website for Sam’s Surf Shop and is ready to make a purchase, but he realizes he has to pick his son up from hockey practice. So Tom drops off the Sam’s Surf Shop site.

This is where video remarketing can be super effective. Tom the Michigander might rent from one of Sam’s competitors when he goes back online if he was not reminded of Sam’s Surf shop with a custom video ad.

With a video remarketing advertisement, you can serve a customized message to people that drop off of your site to lure them back in.

Hopefully now you understand the process and how video remarketing can be effective, but how do you set up a campaign? I’m going to walk you through this simple process.

8-Step Process

1. Come up with the messaging for your remarketing video.

If you know this advertisement will only be served to people who visit your website, the messaging should be catered specifically to lure them back to your website.

2. After you create your script, the next step is to actually film the video.

You want to make sure the video is high-quality so it properly reflects your brand image. Including a strong call to action at the end is crucial.

3. Make sure you upload your video to YouTube after the editing process is completed.

This will allow for you to easily integrate your video advertisement with Adwords.

4. Within your Google Adwords account, you will click on the “shared library” tab and create a remarketing list from audience section.

This will provide you with an Adwords tag. You will want to add this tag to all of your web pages, right before the tag. If you are not familiar with coding, just shoot this over to your developer. It will not take them more than 10 minutes to implement and can be customized based on your goals.

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My Worst Mistake as an Entrepreneur

My mentor taught me to be hard on the issues and soft on the people. Even after 15 years, I am still learning to do so. It is easier said than done. The first time I understood the advice was in 2001. My first company, started after college, underwent a face-saving acquisition after the dot-com bubble burst. During that time, I was brash and arrogant with my co-founders and colleagues. I was mean and harsh with people who bet some of the best years of their lives on me and my startup. I damaged relationships with my team and lost credibility with the acquiring company. It has taken me over a decade to partially repair both. I count my blessings when I am able to have a drink with them and share a laugh as I look back at the mistake. It was the first time I made the mistake, but certainly not the last. I have made different versions of the mistake since then and might make newer versions in the future. Although each one makes me a better person, it seems there is a long way to go. My worst mistake as an entrepreneur is being hard on people.


The only thing that is constant in a startup is change. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, defines startup as “a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty”. Humans have a natural tendency to resist change. In times of uncertainty, when I do not know what happens next, my instinct is to expect the worst outcome for me. I am not alone in being adorned with this instinct. It has taken me years of careful re-wiring of the brain to replace the fear of uncertainty with a sense of adventure, the fear of losing with the opportunity to win bigger. And yet the fear is there, buried deep. In times of adversity, this fear seems to get triggered through human interactions. External events do not have nearly the same lasting impact as the resulting reactions of other people to them, especially people who we count on or those who count on us.

In 1999, we had started the company with certain hopes and dreams, our own version of “complete world dominance”, “changing the way …,” and “making a dent in the universe”. The exuberance of the Internet bubble gave us the ticket to think that way. We were rewarded by the investors and media to be expansive and audacious. When the dot-com bubble burst with hundreds of loss-making public Internet companies losing their value on Nasdaq stock tickers for everyone to watch, things changed. Startups reacted with the usual merge with a competitor, pivot from B2C to B2B, downsize and focus on profits, raise down-rounds from existing investors or recapitalise the company value. For those in the startups, this meant dealing with tremendous personal change, while at the same time waking up to the old reality in a disillusioned state. My team members were dealing with having to move from Powai to Bengaluru, while the founders were traveling to the Silicon Valley headquarters to integrate the acquisition. It did not help that the acquirer was itself going through a business and management transition at the time.

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