Tag Archives: startups

Dallas Startup Happy Hour Tomorrow

Dallas Startup Happy Hour is tomorrow @ 5pm!

Big in Japan and Architel announced the speakers for the inaugural Startup Happy Hour 2.0, to be held Wednesday, Oct. 27, at Campbell Centre, will include Blake Burris of CoHabitat; Gabriella Draney of Tech Wildcatters; Danica Mathes of Ignite Dallas; and Joey Pomerenke of Startup Weekend.

More than 250 entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and others interested in the Dallas/Fort Worth startup scene have RSVPed for the event.

Here are bios for the speaking lineup:

Blake Burris, Cohabitat

Blake is the founder of CoHabitat, a startup community and hacker co-working space that’s become a hub for startup entrepreneurs, developers, and creatives. Blake also founded Dynamo Labs, where he and his team develop solutions for the rapidly changing clean energy marketplace. Dynamo Labs was the first recipient of fbFund, a grant fund operated by the Founders Fund, Accel Partners, and Facebook. Blake has long been involved in the Dallas startup scene, having helped organize the first BarCamp Dallas in 2005.

Gabriella Draney, Tech Wildcatters

Gabriella is co-founder and managing partner of Tech Wildcatters, a Dallas-based seed accelerator. Previously, she was with HP Growth Partners, an early stage venture fund in Dallas. She co-founded an aircraft scheduling software company in 1998 that ended in a profitable exit. Gabriella went on to work for Morgan Stanley in private wealth management. True to her entrepreneurial roots, she left to follow her passion for nutrition by opening a specialty foods retail store, while simultaneously consulting with numerous Dallas-based startups on strategic planning and finance.

Danica Mathes, Ignite Dallas

Danica is an entertainment, intellectual property and new media attorney with Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP. She represents and counsels clients with respect to traditional trademark, copyright and other intellectual property protection and exploitation matters, preparation, review and negotiation of contracts, and formation of appropriate business entities. Danica was an adjunct professor of entertainment law at Washington University School of Law for five years, and she has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 2007. She is one of the inaugural organizers of Ignite Dallas and is actively involved with the Dallas International Film Festival.

Joey Pomerenke, Startup Weekend

Joey is an entrepreneur, startup enthusiast and travel junkie. He currently manages events for Startup Weekend, the Seattle-based non-profit organization that has become one of the leading catalysts for startup creation and entrepreneurship education in startup ecosystems around the world. Startup Weekend is currently represented in over 100 cities in more than 25 countries.

The first three Startup Happy Hour 2.0 events will be held Oct. 27, Nov. 24 and Dec. 22. The events will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with speakers beginning at 6 p.m. The location is 8350 N. Central Expressway, Suite 250, in the north tower of Campbell Centre.

To RSVP and/or join the discussion about Startup Happy Hour 2.0, visit http://www.meetup.com/Dallas-Startup-Happy-Hour.

(The content for this post was 99.9% ripped from Big in Japan’s blog post.)

The Contract ROI Trap

Several weeks back, 37signals asked “Employment Contracts: What are they good for?” on Signal vs. Noise. Basically, they questioned the value of their employment contracts since they have never had an employment dispute:

“Why have we become so dependent on lawyers to control every relationship inside our companies? Why is “just in case” the default answer when asking questions about contracts? It sounds more like insurance than legal counsel. And the premiums are sky high.”

I get it. No one likes to pay for anything without receiving a quantifiable ROI.

For example, I’ve worn my seat belt, bought cars with airbags, and paid for car insurance since I was 16. But I’ve never had an accident, moving violation, or even a parking ticket. Where’s my ROI?

But should I ditch my seat belt and/or car insurance because I’ve never been in an accident?

I am lucky that I haven’t gotten into a car accident. Who knows when and if my luck will run out? Also, my lack of tickets and accidents could also mean I’m just a really cautious, alert driver. I suspect 37Signals is just a really good employer, and maybe they have been a bit lucky to avoid employment-related issues thus far.

The best way to prevent employment issues is to install good employment practices (i.e. be a good employer). But if the shit hits the fan, you’ll be much better off with a great employment contract. Much like you’d rather have insurance, an airbag, and your seat belt on if you get into a car accident.

I don’t counsel new startups to vest their founders shares so that I can increase my “insurance premium” charge (and for what it’s worth, I don’t charge any more or less for drafting a stock purchase agreement with vesting or fully-vested shares). I counsel new startups to vest their shares since I’ve seen plenty of startups fail because their shares didn’t vest.

And I’m guessing 37signal’s lawyers have seen many clients go through painful employment-related disputes.

(Disclaimer: The author of this post gets paid to draft contracts.)

Startup-Advisor Dating

I get about 4 emails a week from law students and attorneys with questions about launching a law practice. It’s an awkward and humbling experience for me. I’m not a law practice management expert and several years ago I had many of these same questions. But I try to answer as many emails and calls as I can.

I wish more startup veterans would do the same and provide mentorship to new entrepreneurs, such as taking a seat on a startup’s advisory board. A lot of the startups I work with placer a higher value on mentorship than investment capital, and would have no issue with a small equity grant to a good advisor. Do you really think startups flock to TechStars and Y Combinator for the cash?

Why does it feel like most successful startup participants have their success and fall back into the shadows of the city? Maybe it’s just Dallas. But I’m pretty sure this problem exists in most startup communities.

There are successful startup veterans in every community. They just don’t engage with the local startup scene for one reason or another. But I’m willing to bet these startup veterans received good advice along the way–or wish they did–and would be willing to return the favor.

I think it’s time to start a Startup-Advisor Dating service, in the spirit of Founder Dating. In addition to the hacker meets pixel pusher events, how about hacker & pixel pusher meet advisor events?

Maybe there’s one around that I’m missing. Anybody?

Oppose Colorado HB 1192

Why don’t federal, state and local governments make it easier for startups to launch, grow and thrive? Colorado’s governor is proposing fast-tracking a software tax to be effective March 1.

I realize these various governments need to raise tax revenue. But they end up with asinine and short-sighted “solutions” to do so, since no politician has the balls to propose an income tax increase. They know doing so would be political suicide. (Of course, governments could reduce expenditures, but I’m not holding my breath.)

So rather than making (almost) everybody pitch-in via an increased income tax, politicians are going to tax various segments of American society. The segments that will be targeted for taxation are those that carry the least pull or don’t speak out against the tax. Thus, it’s imperative people speak out against Colorado HB 1192.

I have no connection to Colorado other than this blog has received 160 visits from the state in the last 30 days. But I am afraid other tax-revenue desperate state lawmakers will catch wind of this tax. Only about 12 states in the country have this type of tax–it should be zero.

Learn how you can speak out against Colorado HB 1192 here.

White-Label is the New Black for Startups

I’ve been seeing a lot of white-label deals for startup clients in the past couple months.

For example, Big in Japan struck a deal with CBS Interactive (CNET) to white-label ShopSavvy as the custom app “CNET Scan and Shop.” Also, ParaTweet came to terms with Royal Caribbean on a white-label custom app used for a private Rihanna concert on board Oasis of the Seas — the world’s largest cruise ship.

A white-label product or service is a product or service produced by one company (the startup) that another company rebrands for their own use or distribution. The company desiring to rebrand the startup’s product or service may just want to overlay their custom skin on the startup’s app. More frequently, the company will also request the development of new features for the white-label app.

Here’s my completely unsupported thesis of why large companies are approaching startups to do white-label deals:

2007 – Large company learns about social media and smartphones.
2008 – Large company learns about social media apps and smartphone apps.
2009 – Large company determines it would be nice to have large company-branded social media and smartphone apps & that it would be easier to strike a deal with a startup rather than start from scratch.

White-label deals can be great for startups because it allows the startup to obtain cash, recognition, and/or a strategic partner. The startup can expand their network and extend their runway without giving up equity. And if the startup is hoping to attract venture capital or other investment, the client and revenue is a bonus.

Startup Weekend Dallas Video Recap

Check out this great video recap of Startup Weekend Dallas 2009.  If you weren’t able to make it this Startup Weekend, hopefully you can make it out in April 2010.