By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
Irina: How many companies do you plan to fund and accelerate this year?
John: It depends on how much we invest per company. We’re looking at something in the 12 to 15 range initially. We’re funded over the next several years.
Irina: At what stage of development should they come to you for acceleration?
John: We’re quite willing to entertain very early stage entrepreneurs. They may not have built a product, yet, but they have a good concept and have fleshed out the concept to a point where they can articulate it well. I have on our site now a 13-slide pitch training program. It’s an online training program on our site, under mentors, so that they can efficiently pitch us on what their ideas are, even if they haven’t actually built [anything].
We’re willing to entertain that all the way to somebody who has a product that is either in beta or has gotten it to market at some early stage. But we’re looking for people who, from a funding point of view, haven’t yet done their first A round or equity round, since we’re using convertible debt.
Irina: Would you describe the ideal company that could benefit from what you offer?
John: As I said earlier, we are looking for companies that are horizontally oriented in their solutions. This solution may apply to both consumers and business. Within business, it’s not necessarily vertically aligned to any one industry because we’re infrastructure oriented.
We’re looking, in this current global challenge, to find solutions that are using the latest technologies, which is a combination of mobile … the application may be run in a regular browser on a desktop or laptop, but it should also run in a mobile solutions, like a tablet or a smart phone. That’s where most of the world is or is going to in the near future. On the back end, what’s the big news? The cloud, of course.
We’re looking for people who are combining those things using the latest client technologies as well as the back-end technologies, cloud capabilities, to design useful solutions that also take into account behavior.
What I think separates some of the most interesting things coming along today compared with years ago is that successful entrepreneurs and startups have some insights into how people behave in particular use cases.
Therefore, they can apply those technologies then to either take advantage of those behavior patterns or even modify those behavior patterns by making something easier for people.
We talk about frictionless applications or solutions. That’s where the world is at the moment. The world’s gotten more complicated in some ways. We have more ways to access data and more devices. By making it as easy as possible for people to take advantage of these applications and access the data and information, I think those are the winning solutions we’re looking for.
Irina: You said you’ve already accepted some companies?
John: We’ve completed three investments since the beginning of the year. The first one that we did is a company called Primadesk. They are based here in Silicon Valley. Their solution is focused on finding and managing your content in the cloud … across clouds.
So, you may use different mail services from Gmail to Yahoo! to maybe you have corporate email [system]. And for your personal assets, like photographs or videos, you may have certain services you use. You may have storage services you use, like Dropbox or Box.net or others. Primadesk gives you the capability to have an interface across all of those and not only find things but also move things across cloud services.
Our second investment is a company called One World Virtual (OWV). They’re based on the East Coast in Washington, D.C. They are very early stage and are creating a new 3-D interface for collaboration.
When you say 3-D, people think about flying avatars, that type of thing. That’s not what we’re talking about. This entrepreneur comes from the film business. He’s using his knowledge on how people interact with screens, essentially, to create deeper, more interesting collaborative efforts that are more efficient as well.
Our last investment … we just closed it on Friday, so we haven’t announced it, yet. I have to hold back on that one. I’m talking to the entrepreneur today about how we’re going to release the information publicly. So, I have to hold off a week or so on that.