Breakfast was served in Dallas and Oklahoma City at our third Black Box Breakfast event this year. Attendees at both locations enjoyed coffee, juice, pastries, and inspiring entrepreneurial stories together as the two cities were linked via web conference.
Our breakfast discussion topic was delivered via video by mentor and board member, Mike Whitaker. Thanks to all who came out to the breakfast! For those of you who did not make it, here’s a breakdown of what you missed:
“One of the challenges that we had with professional services was that we had a lot of turnover. So I tried hiring an industrial psychologist who helped to stop the turnover process, but it was a very labor intensive process. After I sold that network integration company, I was trying to figure out what to do next and I decided that it was worth exploring that field. I did some research, put a little money together, and off we went. Basically, the premise was to build software to help companies reduce turnover.”
“It took a lot of trial and error. We call it kissing frogs. We kissed a lot of frogs. We eventually figured out that these big companies had a lot of employees and a lot of turnover. That turnover was costing them money. So, if we can go in and solve that problem for them, it would be worth a significant amount of money.”
“When I launched [MEDIBIS] is hired two people: a key person and a salesperson. You have to think about selling before day one.” “It is crazy when you start getting customers all over the country and you’re making mailbox money. And every year, if you just keep your customers happy, the pie just gets bigger and bigger.”
“Your success isn’t about you. It’s about how well you work through others, how you build others around you and you build them up and make their lives better. If you do that, they will go to the mat for you. Then you realize that all of these people depend on me and it’s what I do everyday that helps them buy cars and put their kids through school. The pressure is great, but that reward, that feeling, at the end of the day, you just can’t beat it.”
“In 2008, we sold [MEDIBIS] so I went back to being an employee for three years. When we sold the company, we had about 500 customers paying a monthly subscription fee. It was the right time to sell. I wanted that experience of building a software company and selling it. You have to be a fighter. You have to be a gambler and stand up for what you believe in.”
The March breakfast topic, “Startup Seed Funding After Pitch Day,” was presented by Mike Whitaker all the way from Seattle, Washington. Mike’s presentation provided startup entrepreneurs with advice, from an investor point-of-view, on how to build Series-A round funding after Pitch Day: “The goal beyond a startup just beginning is to get a really good round of funding. Sometimes that round never happens and there is a pretty common reason why.” Why does this happen and how do you keep from losing a deal post-Pitch Day?
- Pitch Day is the midpoint in building a round of funding, not the finish line! “Showing proof of concept and proving that your product works is just the beginning. You have to build investor confidence. Investor confidence culminates in those additional round discussions following Pitch Day.”
- Investors are looking for someone who can execute plans and deliver. “It’s not just about the company operating plan or business model, investors respond to follow-trough and commitment to deliver on deadlines.”
- Investors need continual updates and progress reports: “Give them something to chew on. Continue to build excitement with weekly progress reports and milestone achievements. It has to be ramping up toward a launch.”
- Don’t stop selling! “Now the selling is just beginning. Now the investor is looking for reasons to kill the deal, reasons not to invest. They have good instincts. Don’t give them any reason not to invest. Give the investor measurable progress. You have to build excitement. You have to not be too humble. You have to be confident. And, you have to do what you say you are going to do.”
- Have more than one investor looking at your deal. “Investors like competition.”
- Let them know what you expect up-front to avoid deal fatigue. Talk about timelines and expectations on both sides of the deal to make sure that your expectations match.
Big thanks to our Black Box Breakfast sponsor, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, and Morgan Stanley for providing a few mid-breakfast sponsor remarks:
“Over the past three and a half years, interest rates have hit a 200 year low. We have never seen so little opportunity in bonds. Or, so much risk in bonds. So, we’ve had to adapt and one of the ways we’ve done it is by getting equity exposure. We’ve done it with safety nets. One of the safety nets that we use is annuities.” – David Cary
David introduced Steve Hatton from Ohio National who spoke about how insurance companies can help you mitigate two different kinds of financial risks:
- Longevity Risks: “What we mean when we talk about longevity risks is the risk that you outlive your assets. Previously, to meet this risk, our parents or grandparents would work for a company for 30 or 40 years and retire with a pension. The great thing about a pension is that they guarantee lifetime of income no matter how long you live. Unfortunately for us, the prospect of pensions in the private sector are [not good]. They are not very popular right now. In fact, they are on the wane. We offer what we refer to as personal pension plans in which a person can take a portion of their assets that they have set aside and have been saving for retirement and they can earmark them for a personal pension plan that will grow over the years. If it ever does run to zero, then the insurance company steps in and guarantees a lifetime of income for you and your spouse. It’s overcoming that longevity risk.”
- Market Risks: “The risk that over a set period of time, ones investment will decline due to the market. It is very popular with business owners because they have so many business assets. So, they tend to not want to take a lot of risk with their personal assets. We have guarantees that allows individuals to invest in the markets for a set period of time. And, if the market is down over a ten year period, the insurance company insures against any of the loss. So, if they are under water after that period of time, they can still walk away with their original investment.”
David A. Cary, First Vice President
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management 7500 Dallas Parkway, Ste. 500 Plano, TX 75024