Monthly Archives: March 2012

5 Tips for Getting Funded on Kickstarter

Kickstarter is one of those ideas that grabs you by the lapels shoulders and makes you pay attention. That’s especially so now that Kickstarter boasts three projects that have raised over one million dollars (that’s $1,000,000+ for numerophiles). Of those three projects one is a video game, one is a design project and another a comic (seriously). A fourth, which is still in the funding phase, has already raised over $1M; it’s another video game.

Yesterday, we had a post about a CSUF Entrepreneurship alum who is trying to raise some money through Kickstarter. While doing some research for that post I was able to get a pretty good idea about what separates the ideas that get funded from those that do not. Here’s 5 tips on how to raise money off of Kickstarter:

1. Have a large network

According to the Kickstarter blog, the project that has raised the most money to date did so with 71% of the people being “first-time backers” of a project on Kickstarter. That seems to be the biggest hurdle because without a lot of people willing to put in a decent amount of money the project will never get funded. Sure, smaller projects in the range of $1,000 to $5,000 can get away with not having a large network backing it up but if you want more you have to have the manpower to back it up.

2. Give back

In this instance “giving back” doesn’t mean doing charitable work. In this instance giving back means you need to act like PBS and give awards for different levels of backing. And these awards have to be cool, useful and exclusive. For Double Fine Adventures, the game that raised over $3M, a $15 backer would get a computer version of the game while a $10,000 backer would get lunch with some of the creators, a tour of their offices and all of the other awards for different donation levels as well. It’s hard to get more exclusive than that.

3. Do an awesome project

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder but awesome isn’t. The Elevation Dock, which is the design project that raised over $1M, is awesome. It’s a dock for your iPhone and all units “…are individually CNC machined from solid billets of aircraft grade aluminum, no expense spared.” Taking the ubiquitous iPhone/iPod dock and making it useful and a piece of art makes this project awesome. While something may be awesome for you please check with others to make sure that your awesome-meter isn’t in need of some adjusting before resting all of your dreams on funding from Kickstarter.

4. Be reasonable

One of the ingenious rules of Kickstarter is that if a project does not reach its funding goal at the end of the funding period then the project gets nothing. Conversely, you don’t want to put the goal really low and promise a lot of great gifts to your backers because then it surely will get funded but you will probably not have enough funding to do what you say you are going to do. Perhaps the best way to go is to plan out your project (including costs) and strip it down to the barest necessities (including costs). That would be a good amount to ask for on Kickstarter. If the community latches onto your idea there’s no rule against ratcheting up your idea later on, which is something the big projects have done.

5. Be compelling

Copy writing is boring but it’s absolutely necessary. Take a look at any of the big projects that I have linked to throughout this post and you will see that they have written some compelling stories. And that is probably the key: make your quest for funding a story. Double Fine Adventures made their pitch into an “us versus them” kind of scenario between independent publishers and the behemoth publishers. Being compelling means writing a great story. It also means making a great video. Tell your story well enough to make others believe in you and fund your project.

Bonus Tip: Get the word out

While I was working on the Kickstarter post from yesterday I ran into a major problem. I wanted to put the video into this WordPress blog but couldn’t (before you go on about how to embed videos into a WP blog let me stop you, it just wasn’t going to happen using my work computer). Here’s the point: put the word out there and make it easily embeddable. Put your video(s) on YouTube (which makes videos really easy to embed), give updates on your blog or company’s website, post these things on Facebook, link to it on Twitter, make a mention of it on LinkedIn. You should also run your idea by bloggers in your niche (or close enough to it) and try to get them to write a post or two about it. Kickstarter, like many other things, is a cold numbers game. Only a certain percentage of people interested in your idea will be willing to fund your project so the more people you can get interested in your project the better are your chances for getting funding.

There are a lot of other tips out there for Kickstarter. In fact, Kickstarter has a long list of posts regarding to tips. So, if you have a great idea that you need to get funded I have already put you on the right track, the left is up to you.

Your Resume Tells a Story About You

For those of you who are on the hunt for a new job, you know how important first impressions can be. Before you meet a potential employer, you dress up. You’re all polished, primped, and ready to go. You arrive early with a notepad and prepared questions for your potential employer. You know that every detail is important because you want to present the greatest version of yourself.

Now, let’s pause for a moment. Is this really your first impression? Let’s rewind to see how we got to this point in the first place.

The function of a resume is merely to get your foot in the door. The resume might get you a phone call, which can lead to an interview. Even though it will be you who gets the job, a good resume can get the attention you need.

These days, an employer probably receives countless resumes, all of which describe the work of individuals with respectable work experience, internships, and education. It is often estimated that most employers don’t spend more than a few seconds glancing over a resume. How can you write yours in such a way to set you apart from the rest?

A good resume tells a story about who you are and what you can offer. Before writing out your resume, take some time to reflect on yourself. What are your strengths? What are you passionate about? As you meditate on these questions, you will likely come to some fundamental truths about yourself.

Try to come up with a thesis that will tell an employer about who you are and what you have to offer a business. Keep this main point in the forefront of your mind as you write your resume. Every bit of experience you mention will then function as evidence for your thesis. By doing this, you will project an accurate, positive image of yourself to your potential employer. No matter where her eyes fall on the resume, it should reflect the main idea you want to get across.

Rather than focusing on the different tasks you performed, emphasize the impact you made at your previous jobs. Instead of merely writing out job descriptions, use your resume as an opportunity to paint a picture of who you really are. Celebrate your uniqueness.

Be sure to head over to the CSUF Career Center, which offers complimentary help with resumes to all CSUF students.

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship

Kickstarter: Project Natalia

Kickstarter is a company that we have written about before. Basically, what it does is connects people who want to do a project with people who are willing to help fund that project. That’s where Project Natalia comes in.

Our film will introduce the world to a young woman [Natalia] who exudes passion, enthusiasm and positivity in everything she pursues. An ultimate survivor, Natalia uses the extreme challenges of her life to fuel her insatiable desire to help others. She may be a victim of CP [Cerebral Palsy], but she is not a victim.

This project will follow Natalia’s journey from travel to treatment, through recovery and its life-changing effect…. The procedures will be performed at a world-renowned hospital in Shanghai, China. Each treatment requires a four-month stay at the hospital’s recovery facility.

We are aware that asking for $500,000 to fund Project Natalia is a hefty sum for a documentary. Please keep in mind there are multiple laws for filmmaking in China that significantly increase production costs. Accompanied with travel expenses that come with spending four months overseas, the total cost of this project will most likely exceed our goal.

Project Natalia

Here is a picture of Natalia from her video on the Kickstarter website

This is an audacious goal but it looks like it is worth doing. She is an immigrant, heading off to China for cutting-edge treatment of a debilitating disease; that’s compelling fodder for a documentary. Wouldn’t you be willing to pay $25 to see how this all ends up?

Actually, you can. That’s basically how Kickstarter works. Somebody or some team, like Natalia and her team, have an idea, post it on Kickstarter and ask for funding. In exchange for certain levels of funding the donor will get something in return somewhere down the line as long as the project gets completed.

In this instance, if you donated $25 to Project Natalia you would receive a DVD of the documentary when (and if) it gets completed. If you really wanted to support this project and donate $5,000 you would get a role in the documentary.

As of the writing of this post Project Natalia has not raised much money. Their goal is to raise $500,000 and they have only raised $1,435 to date and they only have 39 days to go before the funding window closes. Raising the rest of that money is a tall order but with a little help she might just be able to make her documentary.


Innovative start up DishClips visited the CSUF Entrepreneurship classroom this week. Very cool!

DishClips is a Newport Beach-based startup that offers an innovative way for diners to get to know restaurant and the food served. The company has created a website and mobile platform to assist local restaurants in presenting what they are best known for – their delectable dishes.

DishClips has set out to become the leading online video library for local restaurant menus.

Check out their blog.

John Bradley Jackson
Director, Center for Entrepreneurship

Looking for ideas up and down the Value Chain

There is quite a bit of academic research that says entrepreneurs start companies in industries in which they have work experience. They can leverage their deep knowledge of the industry to come up with a way to add value. A great way to brainstorm business ideas within an industry is to use the value chain.

As seen below, the value chain lists all of the primary and secondary activities that any given business must perform. But not all of these have to be performed in-house. Therefore, opportunities for new ventures may exist by providing one or more of the activities listed on the value chain or offering services that bridge two or more aspects of the value chain together.

Porter Value Chain

To come up with new business ideas, do the following:

  1. Look at the industry in which you have experience to see where most of the businesses in an industry fall in the value chain.
  2. Brainstorm opportunities to service those other businesses by focusing on the other activities in the value chain.

The goal is to think about where the most value can be added because if a business does not add value then there is no reason for it to exist.

Let me illustrate this process with an example. A rapidly growing segment of the restaurant industry is the food truck sector. In cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City, food trucks are all the rage. The “roach coaches” of old have been replaced by food trucks that serve cuisine that rivals many fancy restaurants. While many entrepreneurs have been launching food trucks focusing on different cuisines, some are starting businesses that help food trucks thrive.

First is, which is a firm that offers catering services by partnering up with a host of partners, including food trucks. In other words, this firm is giving customers the ability to enjoy food from a food truck without trying to track it down on twitter. And the food trucks are no longer limited to selling their food only to the people who walk up to them. The net result is a win-win for both the foodie and the food truck owner.

Second, a company called Off the Grid is working to help food truck owners become successful. They work on almost every aspect of the business – from getting the right permits to leveraging social media to improving the cuisine. The firm is already working with over 100 food trucks in the San Francisco area and many food truck owners say they would not have been able to survive without the services of Off the Grid.

To use terminology related to the value chain, is adding value for food truck owners by helping them with outbound logistics (i.e., delivering their products to customers) and marketing and sales. While Off the Grid is also helping food truck owners with “marketing and sales”, they also assist with many of the support activities, such as setting up the business’ infrastructure, procuring resources, and managing technology.

Both these businesses are thriving because they focused on opportunities in other parts of the value chain and created something of value to many others in the industry. Hopefully this idea-generation technique can be of use to you as well.

Dr. Atul Teckchandani is an Assistant Professor of Management at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton. He teaches courses in entrepreneurship, provides student advising and is involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship within Mihaylo College. He has a PhD in Business Administration (Management of Organizations) from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin.


Tech Coast Angels Fast Pitch Competition

If you are looking for a great networking event or if you have a business idea that you want to test please read on:

The 7th Annual Fast Pitch Competition
April 24, 2012
Korn Hall at UCLA Anderson School of Management

 Tech Coast Angels Presents:

 The 7th Annual Fast Pitch Competition

  Tuesday, April 24, 2012
4:00 pm PT
Korn Hall at UCLA Anderson School of Management

Now in its seventh year, the Tech Coast Angels Fast Pitch event has come to symbolize true entrepreneurial spirit and innovation.

The participating companies represent a wide variety of business models, original thinking and, at times, disruptive discoveries that go on to change entire industries. Finding these companies and helping them reach the next level is at the heart of Tech Coast Angels’ mission.

Applicants interested in competing in this year’s event must submit an application online by midnight on March 31, 2012. After an initial screening, chosen applicants will be invited to an initial try-out in mid-April where they will undergo extensive training and coaching to hone their 90-second pitches.

Then, 10 finalists, out of approximately 150 applicants, will be invited to compete in the April 24th event where they will each have 90 seconds to make their best pitch to a panel comprised of Tech Coast Angels members, founders of leading accelerators and incubators and other start-up experts. The 10 finalists will be competing to win the following categories:

  • Best Overall
  • Best Fundability
  • Best Presentation

Many of the companies that have participated in Fast Pitch have received funding from Tech Coast Angels and several venture capital firms. Overall, Tech Coast Angels has funded more than 200 ventures and raised over $1 billion for portfolio companies from direct investments and follow-on investment partners.

This year’s keynote speakers will be Andrew Chung of Khosla Ventures and Barry Cottle of Zynga. Andrew is an investment partner at Khosla Ventures, one of Silicon Valley’s premier venture capital funds started by Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems. Barry is executive vice president of corporate development at Zynga, the dominant player in casual online gaming that recently went public with a multibillion dollar valuation.

Andrew Chung is an investment partner at Khosla Ventures one of Silicon Valley’s premier venture capital funds started by Vinod Khosla,  founder of Sun Microsystems.  Andrew is a director on the boards of Lanzatech (biofuel), LS9 (biofuel), EcoMotors (transportation), Pellion (storage), Biodiscovery (agriculture), and a stealth company (mobile).  He is interested in developing leading companies in cleantech, Internet, mobility, education, and genomics and also leads the firm’s China activities.  Andrew started his first company at age 19, and incubated UberWorks, which was acquired by a public company.  He also worked at Bain and Co., as well as Lightspeed Venture Partners, where he helped drive and manage the firm’s investments in Solazyme (NASDAQ: SZYM, biofuel), Stion (solar), LS9 (biofuel), Coaltek (clean coal), Leyden Energy (storage), Orbis Education (nursing), and Personalis (genome interpretation).

Barry Cottle is executive VP Corporate Development of Zynga, the dominant player in casual online gaming which recently went public with a multibillion dollar valuation.  Barry has over 20 years of experience within technology, games and entertainment building and leading business and corporate initiatives. He was executive vice president of EA Interactive, where he oversaw digital gaming properties including mobile, social and casual online games., Barry also held executive roles, including: CEO of Quickoffice Inc, COO of the Wireless and Content division at Palm Computing Inc., as well as chief internet officer at Palm. He served as SVP of marketing at Disney Televentures and CMO of Americast for The Walt Disney Company.

Los Angeles is also undergoing something of a transformation as a number of business accelerators have set up shop here setting the stage for the next generation of home-grown technologies, innovations and scores of entrepreneurs. The Fast Pitch competition is a microcosm of this activity and represents what Tech Coast Angels does on a daily basis.

After the event, dinner and drinks will be served, and attendees will have ample time to network with Tech Coast Angels members, venture capitalists and other industry experts.

Why should you attend Fast Pitch LA 2012?

  • Connect with more than 400 professionals from the venture capital industry and start-up community
  • Listen to business leaders discuss the most promising early stage companies in Southern California
  • Gain invaluable industry insights from veteran start-up CEOs and angel investors and VC experts

Orange County Entrepreneur Story: Adela Beltran

Last week I met one of our students, David Beltran. He is a member of one of our Student Consulting Teams and their client just happens to be his mother, Adela Beltran. David told me a little bit about her and I was very impressed with what she has accomplished in her life. David was even kind enough to send us a short biography of her along with some pictures of his award winning, entrepreneur of a mom. Here is the entrepreneurial story of Adela Beltran with some pictures of her meeting with our Student Consulting Team.

CSUF Entrepreneurship Student Consulting Team talks with happy client, Adela Beltran

Adela Beltran has an incredible story.  To this date, she has managed to earn the respect of her peers and influential people in her industry.  Her journey began in La Barca, Jalisco.  At the young age of eight, she started running her family’s small market so that her brothers and sisters could pursue an education.  She worked at the register, and learned to purchase and stock the inventory.  She would soon manage the stores finances entirely.  But still, after all her hard work; her large family continued to struggle financially.

As a teenager, she had dreams of having a family of her own, and earning her own financial stability.  She wanted to provide her kids with the opportunities that she wished she had growing up- the chance to be a doctor, a lawyer, or even a senator.  Finally, at the age of 19, she convinced her mother and grandmother to come to the United States in order to fulfill her dream.  Her family moved, but soon after, they were hit with the harsh reality that it was not as easy as it sounds to make money in the United States; nonetheless, she would still accomplish her goals.

CSUF Entrepreneurship Student Consulting Team walks with client

She found a job sewing cloths at a factory working hours on end.  She made no more than the bare minimum at the time, but she caught the attention of her employer by proving to be self motivated and competent.  Still, this was not the America she had dreamt about.  During her employment at the factory, she had three children and took every opportunity to educate herself.  She enrolled in English and a typing class at the local community college and asked questions whenever she could.  Along the way, she asked a friend of hers, who had owned a wholesale clothing store in Los Angeles’ Fashion District if she could buy some cloths at wholesale.  He agreed and she started on her path as an entrepreneur.

She sold those clothes everywhere she went: on the bus, door to door, at school, and at work.  After a few years, she saved enough money to start a few businesses.  She tried ventures ranging from a travel agency, clothing boutique, land lord and then finally took a somewhat bigger risk.  She opened a car dealership.  The first lot was located in East Los Angeles on Atlantic called America Auto Sales.  The dealership grew and she quickly established a large base of loyal clients.  Her clients were so loyal in fact, that they consistently recommended friends and other family members to buy cars from her.  She took her strong work ethic into this business and worked with banks to approve people who had a difficult time getting approved at other dealerships, and eventually carried some of the loans herself.   This sort of diligence lead her dealership to be one of the top sellers on the Avenue.  Adela was no stranger to obstacles, but one would come that would define a new paradigm in her life.

Early in the year 2000, the county issued eminent domain in order to remove Adela from her business location.  The county was soon going to be build a new school on the site where she had a successful growing business.  She was forced to find a completely different location, and fast.  After much searching, she found a vacant lot in Downey.  Though intimidated by the large size of the lot, was reminded of the dream she had when she was younger as well as the many jobs she could create in this new location.  Quickly, she found out that with this lot too, there were obstacles to overcome.

There was already a company in the process of purchasing the property.  However, she also discovered that the city had been hesitant on approving the construction because the company in question was a storage facility which they didn’t want on a main boulevard.  Adela went quickly into action.  She had an architect draw up plans for a new and beautiful dealership, and pitched the idea to the city council.  The council approved her idea, and she was able to find her new location within the time frame that she was being kicked out of her original lot.

A few contractors, tons of headaches and two years later, the construction project was finally completed.  The aesthetics of the building are now recognized by locals as being a thing of beauty and definitely a gem in the city of Downey.  As a proud resident and business owner in the city, Adela continues to show her commitment to improving the growing Latino community by having her dealership serve as a polling location for elections, contributing to Warren High School’s soccer and football team, and participating as a sponsor in various community events such as Downey’s annual Holiday Parade.

CSUF Student Consulting Project Client's business.

Thank you David for that wonderful story and we wish you and your family all the best in the future! If you want to find out a little bit more about Adela Beltran’s business click here.