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Haven (f/k/a PorchLight) Secures More Than $1M in Seed Funding Round

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Investment enables company to accelerate product development, add employees, and fuel marketing efforts

(October 21, 2014)– Haven, a mobile and web application focused on improving the way homeowners care for homes, announced today the company has completed a $1,025,000 oversubscribed round of seed funding. In addition to sixteen angel investors, both Elevate Ventures and the Innovate Indiana Fund participated in the round. The capital will be used to continue enhancing the product, add employees, and fuel marketing efforts.

“As Americans, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year taking care of and improving our homes, yet almost every aspect of it is frustrating,” said president and co-founder Jim Brown. “This investment gives us additional resources to continue with our vision of enlightening and empowering homeowners.”

Haven is a free, intuitive mobile app and website that equips homeowners with predictive technology to be better homeowners. It provides value to both do-it-yourself inclined homeowners by providing an individualized reminder and tracking system, as well as homeowners who need help, by providing licensed, insured, pre-vetted service professionals, scheduling services, and accepting payment–all without ever leaving the app. Haven gives homeowners confidence and peace of mind to be responsible and proactive in home maintenance decisions.

“The Haven team has developed an impressive product vision based on a deep understanding of customer pain points in a sizable and growing market,” said Ting Gootee, chief investment officer of Elevate Ventures. “We are excited about the potential in their passion and well-rounded capabilities to capitalize on the opportunity.”

As a result of the funding, the company has tripled its workforce with plans for additional growth in 2015 after the official product launch. The Haven app is in the final stages of beta testing and will launch in Apple and Google Play stores in January.

“We are constantly faced with the struggle of personal work-life balance, and finding time to mow the lawn instead of watching your kid’s soccer game is a difficult choice,” said Ken Green, managing director of the Innovate Indiana Fund. “For others, having someone clear the driveway of snow before work would be ideal. We all want to do more, and Haven gives homeowners the tools to achieve our own personal balance.”

To learn more about Haven, sign up as a beta user, or receive additional information about becoming a partner, visit www.joinhaven.com.

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About Haven

Haven, a Fishers, Indiana based company founded in 2014, is a free, intuitive mobile app and website that equips homeowners with predictive technology to be better homeowners through enlightenment and empowerment. Haven is the manual that should come with a home as it keeps you organized, teaches you what to do, and helps you maximize the value of your largest asset. And, when help is needed, Haven is there with handpicked, personally vetted home service experts. More information is available at www.JoinHaven.com.

About Elevate Ventures

Elevate Ventures is a private venture development organization that nurtures and develops emerging and existing high-potential businesses into high-performing, Indiana-based companies. Elevate Ventures accomplishes this by providing access to capital, rigorous business analysis and robust advisory services that connect companies with the right mix of resources businesses need to succeed long-term. To learn more about Elevate Ventures, its team and its funds under management, visit www.elevateventures.com.

About Innovate Indiana Fund

The Innovate Indiana Fund has been established to invest in companies with a meaningful connection to Indiana University and to help those companies achieve commercial success. The Fund helps companies in its portfolio reach commercial goals using a wide array of tools including infusions of capital, recruitment of management, market research, next-stage capital and an extensive network of experts in the public and private sector. For more information, visit www.iufund.iu.edu.

 

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MainSource completes acquisition

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GREENSBURG — MainSource Financial Group has completed its $35 million acquisition of MBT Bancorp, part of a further expansion in the geographic triangle of Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Louisville.

MBT, based in West Harrison, is the parent company of The Merchants Bank and Trust Co., which has six branches in Dearborn County and the Cincinnati region.

MSFG, based in Greensburg, is the parent company of MainSource Bank. The company in the last few years has nearly doubled its annual profit through rigorous closing of less successful branches and through careful geographic expansion, exemplified by the MBT acquisition.

Daryl Tressler, president and CEO of MainSource Bank, has said that the bank typically tries to expand in areas that have seen some disruptions. In Columbus, for example, where the failure of Irwin Union Bank created a vacuum, MainSource opened three branches between 2010 and 2012.

MainSource officials also have said that the trend of small acquisitions is typical for the industry because the complexity of government regulations is making it more difficult for smaller financial institutions to succeed.

MainSource Financial Group President and CEO Archie M. Brown Jr. said in a press release this week that the company was more excited about the MBT acquisition today than when it was announced six months ago.

“This merger reflects our commitment to expand our community banking model to adjacent markets and nearby metropolitan areas and it complements the commercial banking investment we have made in Greater Cincinnati during the last 15 months,” Brown said.

MSFG reported net earnings of $26.3 million last year. For the most recent quarter, ended June 30, the company recorded net income of nearly $7.8 million, up about 5.9 percent from a year earlier.

Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; boris.ladwig@greensburgdailynews.com.

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Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund Launched to Support Purdue Startups

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Qualified Purdue-affiliated startups have two more resources to advance their companies through a three-year, $2 million fund as well as the addition of two new entrepreneurs-in-residence through a collaboration among the Purdue Foundry, Elevate Ventures and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

"There are three critical assets a startup needs to be successful: a viable product, strong leadership and funding," said Kip Tom, member of the Elevate Ventures Board of Directors. "The funding for the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund and the entrepreneurs-in-residence will give an added boost to help the entrepreneurs translate technologies into innovative and growing companies."

The Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund will be operated jointly by the Purdue Foundry and Elevate Ventures.

"Two levels of funding are available to support startups that have licensed Purdue University intellectual property or that will leverage other Purdue assets such as research collaborations," said Greg Deason, executive vice president of the Purdue Foundry. "Like the Foundry Investment Fund established earlier this year through an agreement between Cook Medical Group and Purdue Research Foundation, this fund, along with the addition of entrepreneurs-in-residence, will further expedite the translation of life-changing intellectual property to the commercial sectors."

Specifics about the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund include:

  • Two tiers of funding: the "Black Award," a $20,000 convertible nonrecourse note, and the "Gold Award," for up to an additional $80,000 debt or equity.
  • In addition to an affiliation with Purdue, qualifying startups must be a Purdue Foundry client and have gone through the startup process.
  • It is anticipated six to eight companies will receive a Gold Award annually.
  • A six-person investment committee comprising equal members from Elevate Ventures and Purdue Foundry will determine awardees and funding amounts.
     

Startups can apply for the Black Award in October, March and July. Startups that have received the Black Award become eligible to submit for a Gold Award after they have completed the Black Award milestones as determined by any of the entrepreneurs-in-residence in the Purdue Foundry, which is located in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

The first application period for the Black Award will conclude on Nov. 15, 2014. To apply, visit http://www.elevateventures.com/apply/epff

For more information, entrepreneurs can contact an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Purdue Foundry or John Hanak, Purdue Foundry venture funding relations officer, at 317-616-1860, jmhanak@prf.org.

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Trends IN Entrepreneurship: What is Happening in Indiana

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By: John Wechsler - Founder, Launch Fishers

Over the past 12 months I have spent time throughout various parts of the state talking with entrepreneurs, connectors, space makers, university leaders, economic development specialists and elected officials all in pursuit of building entrepreneurial capacity throughout the state and working to connect our vibrant startup. 

First the fruits of my labor: Launch Fishers. Launch Indiana. And most recently, The Indiana CoWorking Passport. All are public works. Twenty-first century infrastructure of sorts. The traditional factors of production -- land, labor, capital and entrepreneurship -- are not enough to compete in the modern global economy. Today's businesses succeed as part of a local and broader interconnected ecosystem.


Victor Hwang, author of "The Rainforest" establishes that “natural rainforests do not predetermine the certain evolution of new and valuable species, but they provide the right setting to foster their serendipitous evolution.”

In discussions with our "entrepreneurial ecosystem players" -- the following are observations I've made, trends I believe have some momentum and companies I think have a little something special going on.

1. Coworking

The emergence of coworking spaces and non-traditional office spaces as legitimate spaces for credible launches of startups. From MatchBOX in Lafayette to Velocity in Jeffersonville, we are seeing "placemaking" at its best. You see the future superstars of our entrepreneurial landscape being created in real time. And all of this supercharged by the Indiana CoWorking Passport which gives members of the 20 participating coworking spaces and innovation hubs access to other member locations statewide.

2. Collaboration

This is the year that major ecosystems players have made a concerted effort to work together for betterment of the statewide startup ecosystem. The State consolidated its entrepreneurial efforts under the Lt. Governor and the Office of Small Business & Entrepreneurship (OSBE). OSBE, ISBDC, Launch Fishers, Launch Indiana and Techpoint have worked hand-in-hand to create programs to help innovation driven entrepreneurs accelerate their growth and increase their chances of success, including the Tailwind program that looks to connect companies with investors and customers in-state.

3. Commercialization

Further market validation and support for the efforts by Purdue and IU to be national leaders in the commercialization of research developed in the university environments. Purdue's Foundry has spawned several dozen startups and IURTC's SpinUp initiative took top honors in the 2013 Innovation Showcase and fielded a half-dozen entrants in The Innovation Showcase 2014.

4. Apps as a Service

The emergence of the Mobile Apps as a Service "MAaaS" marketplace is underway. Some of us remember the late 90s, when you wanted to deliver an email campaign you had to find someone who knew how to use sendmail and other complicated tools, build your HTML emails from scratch and execute it on your own. And do it all again when you had something else to tell your customers or prospects. Then ExactTarget and others defined the marketplace for a managed service that did all of that. Much in the same way, BlueBridge Digital provides an infrastructure companies can license for the creation, management and ongoing enhancement of mobile apps (arguably the first place most organizations should be building for anyway). This is not only creating a juggernaut of a company but is defining an industry that is still in its infancy. And for the DIY-set, App Press has a pay-as-you-go monthly service and they will even help you get your app in the app stores!

5. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy startups are getting interesting. Lumen Cache scored “Innovation of the Year” at the 2014 MIRA awards and is showing great promise in introducing micro-grid technology to the "middle two billion people on the planet." Hydrogen on demand firm AlGalCo has a functioning prototype for it's patented energy storage system that could "fuel the hydrogen economy." Two potential change-the-world companies based right here in Central Indiana.

6. Continued Marketing Automation Leadership

Further extension of the Indy-area's leadership in marketing automation. Our startups and growth companies continue to demonstrate innovation and thought leadership. Formstack has grown into a 35-person leader in online data collection, Tinderbox is leading the industry for "proposal automation" and startups Adproval and Porchlight are blazing new trails in online advertising and proactive home maintenance (respectively). These all extended our deep roots in marketing automation.

7. Crowdfunding Emerges

The emergence of online portals for investors. LocalStake, Potluck Capital and FNEX are changing the game when it comes to private investors gaining access to alternative investments. FNEX alone has more than $40B in alternative investments listed in their marketplace for accredited investors. Further enabling things, the State of Indiana's new crowdfunding rules make it easier for Indiana entrepreneurs to take up to 5K from Indiana investors.

CONCLUSION

As exciting as all of this is, it's important to recognize that we can't force innovation to happen. And we aren't guaranteed that innovation will occur if we invest in making the environment favorable for innovation to occur.

Innovation requires a unique environment. Anything we can do to make our environment more favorable for innovation to occur increases our chances of success. And in success, we see a wonderful opportunity to repatriate wealth back to our state through the organic creation of companies that grow into regional, national and global leaders.

John Wechsler is an entrepreneur and Founder of Launch Fishers.

 

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Ivy Tech president previews presentation for Commission for Higher Education

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Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana President Tom Snyder plans to tell the Indiana Commission for Higher Education that Ivy Tech has a crucial role in the state.

Snyder showed a presentation to the Ivy Tech state board of trustees during its meeting Thursday at the Ivy Tech Bloomington campus. At the commission’s Oct. 9 meeting, Snyder will give the presentation as part of Ivy Tech’s request for $83.1 million in additional funding from the state.

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Business Management Degree Website Publishes List of 50 Most Innovative Business Schools in the United States

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Colleges and universities on 2014 list are recognized for their ability to meet growing trends in the business industry

PR Newswire

NASHVILLE, Tenn.Sept. 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Business education website Business Management Degree has released its list of the Top 50 Most Innovative Business Schools in the United States.  The schools listed in the article were identified based on their understanding of the importance of what a creative, innovative, leading edge college or university means to its business school attendees.

You may view this list in its entirety, along with photos of each school and the descriptions of what makes their business module innovative, at the full article: http://www.business-management-degree.net/50-innovative-business-schools-america/

What makes a business school progressive is its recognition of the key elements of this growing trend which includes sustainability, a broad sense of innovation and fresh, new ideas as a whole, cutting-edge research, employing faculty whom are respected leaders in the business industry, and, of course, empowering their students with state of the art technology.

According to lead researcher and writer, Yusuf Laher, "The business world is constantly evolving.  It's therefore vital that business schools adapt their curricula, incorporating emerging trends in areas such as innovation, new technology and entrepreneurship to ensure that students have the skills necessary for success.  We compiled this list to spotlight the most forward-thinking U.S. business schools and hopefully inspire business students to become innovative future leaders."

The business colleges and universities noted in this list are the catalysts that are helping to transform the future of business higher education. Through ground-breaking, pioneering ideas and approaches to teaching, the schools have seen the importance of developing curricula that will enhance the learning experience for their students.

Schools making the list include:

50. College of Business, Stony Brook University - Stony Brook, New York

49. Lally School of Management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Troy, New York

48. Stuart School of Business, Illinois Institute of Technology - Chicago, Illinois

47. School of Business Administration, University of Vermont - Burlington, Vermont

46. Wesley J. Howe School of Technology Management, Stevens Institute of Technology - Hoboken, New Jersey

45. D-Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University - Boston, Massachusetts

44. Daniels College of Business, University of Denver - Denver, Colorado

43. Poole College of Management at North Carolina State University - Raleigh, North Carolina

42. Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego - La Jolla, California

41. Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University - University ParkPennsylvania

40. College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Champaign, Illinois

39. Sceller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology - Atlanta, Georgia

38. Eller College of Management, University of Arizona - Tucson, Arizona

37. Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University - Nashville, Tennessee

36. Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University - Provo, Utah

35. Coles College of Business, Kennesaw State University - Kennesaw, Georgia

34. Naveen Jindal School of Management, University of Texas at Dallas - RichardsonTexas

33. McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University - Washington, D.C.

32. McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin - Austin, Texas

31. Foster School of Business, University of Washington - SeattleWashington

30. Kelley School of Business, Indiana University - Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana

29. Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame - Notre Dame, Indiana

28. Goizueta Business School, Emory University - Atlanta, Georgia

27. Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland - College ParkMaryland

26. Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota - MinneapolisMinnesota

25. Quinlan School of Business, Loyola University Chicago - Chicago, Illinois

24. The George Washington University School of Business - Washington, D.C.

23. UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, North Carolina

22. Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University - Cleveland, Ohio

21. John M. Olin School of Business, Washington University in St. Louis - St. Louis, Missouri

20. Thunderbird School of Global Management - Glendale, Arizona

19. Boston University School of Management - Boston, Massachusetts

18. Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University - Ithaca, New York

17. Fuqua School of Business, Duke University - Durham, North Carolina

16. Darden School of Business, University of Virginia - Charlottesville, Virginia

15. UCLA Anderson School of Management, University of California, Los Angeles - Los Angeles, California

14. Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

13. UC Davis Graduate School of Management, University of California, Davis - Davis, California

12. Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Ann ArborMichigan

11. Yale School of Management, Yale University - New Haven, Connecticut

10. Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College - Hanover, New Hampshire

9.   NYU Stern School of Business, New York University - New York CityNew York

8.   Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley, California

7.   Columbia Business School, Columbia University - New York CityNew York

6.   The University of Chicago Booth School of Business - Chicago, Illinois

5.   Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University - Evanston, Illinois

4.   The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

3.   Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University - Stanford, California

2.   Harvard Business School, Harvard University - Boston, Massachusetts

1.   MIT Sloan School of ManagementMassachusetts Institute of Technology - Cambridge, Massachusetts

Business-management-degree.net is an independent online web publication that is committed to enhancing the information available to students when choosing a business management school.  The editors of Business-Management-Degree.net collect the most important and relevant data about schools and degrees available from various highly respected sources and offer them in an easy to digest format.

Contact:

Linda Weems

http://www.business-management-degree.net

Phone: 731-614-7655

 

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Ivy Tech will get $2.5 million for new degrees

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Ivy Tech Community College is getting $2.5 million from the federal government to train workers in information technology and cybersecurity, the Obama administration announced Monday.

The grant will help expand and improve the community college system’s School of Computing and Informatics, which launched this fall.

“A well-educated workforce is essential to strengthening Indiana’s economy, and this generous grant will help us continue to provide educational opportunities in career fields showing large growth across the state,” Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder said in a statement.

The funding will help pay for laboratories, data centers and professional development and will help create a career advising system.

Ivy Tech, one of the nation’s largest community college systems, is among the almost 270 community colleges sharing $450 million in competitive grants announced Monday. The schools must partner with businesses, labor groups and others to educate students in skills needed for in-demand jobs in such industries as health care, information technology, energy and advanced manufacturing.

“This is not some kind of gift,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This is an investment in school leaders, in businesses, in people who are trying to do things in a very, very different way.”

Ivy Tech, which has campuses throughout the state, announced in June the Indiana Commission for Higher Education had approved seven new degree programs to meet the growth of Indiana’s IT industry. Those degrees were combined with an existing computer science program to create Ivy Tech’s new School of Computing and Informatics.

A task force of representatives from businesses and industries provided guidance on developing the school, and Ivy Tech said Monday it will continue to collaborate with the business community to review the curriculum, assess student performance and help graduates find jobs.

The school said it expects more than 4,000 students will get at least one credential and get a new job during the next four years.

Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the old paradigm was “train and pray” — the government would create training programs and pray there would be jobs.

“Today, we are totally demand driven,” he said.

The grants come from a $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training program to help schools expand and improve education and career training programs that can be completed in two years or less. The programs must be suitable for workers who are eligible for the federal program that retrains U.S. workers who have lost jobs because of foreign competition. And the programs are supposed to prepare graduates for high-wage, high-skill jobs.

Vice President Joe Biden said the nation is going to need 1.4 million information technology jobs in the next decade. Although a software developer, who makes an average $60,000 a year, typical needs a four-year degree, a computer network specialist, who makes almost the same amount, may need only a two-year degree, he said.

“We need to rethink how we’re helping more folks move toward the opportunities that already exist and the ones that are coming,” Biden said.

Ivy Tech, which serves almost 200,000 students annually, was the only Indiana recipient in the latest round of TAACCCT grants.

Last fall, Purdue University Calumet got $2.7 million to provide advanced manufacturing training for at least 300 people.

Indiana institutions received $10.7 million in previous grant announcements.

Perez said the grants are not easy to award because the proposals “keep getting better and better.”

“What we are in the middle of is an unmistakable revolution and a transformation of how we are educating our people to compete for the jobs in the 21st century and punch their ticket to the middle class,” he said.

Contact Maureen Groppe at mgroppe@gannett.com or @mgroppe on Twitter.

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IU Kelley School's Leading Index for Indiana rose again in September

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Driven by good news in the housing and auto sectors, the Indiana University Kelley School of Business' Leading Index for Indiana made solid progress this month with a reading of 102.0, up from a revised August reading of 101.5.

All the components of the index contributed to the robust rise. Of particular note is homebuilders' sentiment, which rose to its highest reading since November 2005.

"If trends continue in the auto sector, this looks to be a banner year for automakers," said Timothy Slaper, research director of the Indiana Business Research Center in the Kelley School, which produces the monthly index.

There were 1.6 million light-vehicle sales in August, up 10.5 percent from July 2014 and better than August 2013 by 5.4 percent. The August 2014 seasonally adjusted annual rate for light-vehicle sales was 17.5 million, a first for this year.

But Slaper buffered the good news with caution.

"Based on Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index and the Small Business Optimism Index, sentiment for consumers and small business has hit a flat patch -- in essence, taking a wait-and-see posture," he said. "Perhaps the average consumer and small business owner are finding it hard to hope for the best."

Drivers of change

Builders in many locations across the country reported improving buyer interest and increased traffic, which translated in a 4-point jump in the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Just the same, the NAHB notes that builders are still not seeing much activity from first-time homebuyers.

The Institute for Supply Management’s Purchasing Managers Index indicates that the manufacturing sector expanded in August for the 15th consecutive month. The PMI rose by 1.9 percentage points from July's reading of 57.1 percent. This month's PMI reflects the highest reading since March 2011.

Unfilled orders for automotive bodies and parts, which is the auto component of the index, rose only by 0.2 percent. "That said, auto sales are on a tear," Slaper said.

The transportation and logistics component of the LII, the Dow Jones Transportation Average, increased a convincing 3.2 percent.

Next month will be the last regularly released edition of the LII. This is because the interest rate component of the index relies on Federal Reserve policy, which has been unchanged. The yield spreads that once foretold changes in economic growth are less reliable.

About the Leading Index for Indiana

The Indiana Business Research Center in the Kelley School of Business, with offices on Indiana University's Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses, produces the monthly index. The LII was developed for Hoosier businesses and governments to provide a signal for changes in the general direction of the Indiana economy. In contrast to The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index and other indexes that are national in scope, the LII uses national-level data for key sectors that are important to the Indiana economy. The reason the LII uses national level data is because national data are timelier than state-level data.

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Startup prodigy Jaramillo started at age 7

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Entrepreneur Santiago Jaramillo found himself in the living room of job prospect Adam Weber one weeknight in September 2012, pitching his 1-year-old application software company Bluebridge to the established sales executive and his wife. Weber, 31 at the time, had two children and a nice job with a digital marketing firm. Jaramillo, 22, had a vision.

“My wife opened it up by saying, ‘So you just graduated college and you want to hire my husband?’” Weber recalled.

Yes, that was exactly what Jaramillo wanted.

rop-jaramillo-092214-15col.jpg
From left, Bluebridge employees Ian Illig, Brock Glaze, Ben Kinney and Seth Paladin listen to CEO Santiago Jaramillo’s presentation. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Weber is now head of sales at Bluebridge Digital LLC, and Jaramillo is still its CEO. The Fishers-based company creates and manages apps primarily for not-for-profit organizations, and it’s one of the first app companies to operate on a subscription model. Bluebridge recently raised $1 million in venture capital and plans to double its workforce to about 50 next year.

The fact that Jaramillo, now 24, is already a CEO has come as a surprise to some, but not to those who know him well. The South American native is known for his unyielding drive and keen market perception, close acquaintances said. He was his own boss well before mobile apps and smartphones even existed. He started his first business at 7.

“There are a number of people you meet who, within that first meeting, you realize have the ‘it’ factor,” said Tim Kopp, former chief marketing officer at Indianapolis-based ExactTarget Inc. Jaramillo interned there starting in the summer of 2010.

“It was probably that first meeting where I really had a feeling that this guy was going to be CEO of his own company one day,” Kopp said. “Little did I know it would be just a few years later.”

Long before being named to Inc. Magazine’s 30-under-30 entrepreneurs list or getting venture capital support from Kopp and Aprimo founder Bill Godfrey, Jaramillo was a slim Colombian boy who sold five-gallon jugs of water to his neighbors.

jaramillo-santiago-mug
Jaramillo

These days, he’s dealing with problems like where to fit the next dozen or so employees he plans to hire by spring or where to move when Bluebridge reaches capacity. His brother Felipe Jaramillo, three years younger, suggested that luck wasn’t the only factor in his brother’s success.

“Luck has to be met with competence, drive and determination,” he said.

An early entrepreneur

The Jaramillo family grew up outside of Cali, Colombia, in a well-off, secluded, community. They came to Florida in 2000 partly because a guerilla group kidnapped more than 100 people from their church at a service the year before. The Jaramillos happened to skip church that weekend, a rare absence for them.

No matter where he resided, Santiago Jaramillo has had a knack for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Tap water in his South American hometown wasn’t deemed safe for consumption, and a Coca-Cola truck delivered water jugs to the front of the gated community.

At age 7, under his own initiative, family members said, Jaramillo used his little red wagon to deliver the hefty jugs to residents’ doorsteps for a slight profit. He had glowing eyes; a tall, lean build; and could often be found in his green and gray school uniform, family members said.

“Any day of the week, he was available,” said his mother Olga Jaramillo, 51, adding that she still has the red wagon.

She also has fliers from his other childhood ventures, including his hurricane-related window shutters business and his music lesson business. He started the shutter venture around 11 and started the lessons around 14. Jaramillo ran a couple of businesses in college at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, too.

“His ideas came from trying to figure out what the need is,” his mother said.

Bridging the gap

The idea for Bluebridge came in the spring of 2011 after Jaramillo interned at ExactTarget, where he noticed a boom in mobile device usage.

“When I saw smartphones taking off, that was my calling,” he said. “The fact that people are starting to use smartphones more than computers is the most fundamental shift that I’ve lived in my lifetime, and I want to be part of that.”

jamarillo-factbox.gifJaramillo studied abroad in Australia in that spring, and worked for ExactTarget there as well. Even though he still had a year left at Indiana Wesleyan, he decided he wanted to move to Indianapolis and start a company in the mobile space. He didn’t have a company name at that point.

Before heading to the United States, he detoured to New Zealand to clear his mind. His plan was to make a south-to-north trek of the country, which is split in two by the Cook Strait. The Bluebridge Ferry transports cars between the two islands. The name stuck.

Upon returning, he launched the company here, then ran it from Marion when classes resumed for the fall.

“Consumer usage is spent in apps and in smartphones, yet organizations have no idea what to do with them,” Jaramillo said. “And they’re not doing much with it. So we’re bridging the gap.”

Lessons learned

Before delving into tech, Jaramillo ran a moving and storage company in college called University Storage, through which he rented storage facilities in bulk and paid people to transport student valuables.

He did that for one summer in 2009 and things weren’t so swell. He ran out of money to cover delivery expenses and had to fly to school early to deliver the items himself.

“That taught me great important lessons about cash flow, projecting cash flow and understanding expenses,” he said, adding that he also learned he didn’t want to go into transportation logistics.

“That was the philosophy early on: Get as much experience as possible. Fail as much as possible. Learn as much as possible. And that allows you to play at different levels of the game as your skills and knowledge increase.”

Acquaintances said that and other experiences helped fashion Jaramillo into the person he is today—an ambitious entrepreneur who’s confident but not boastful and is willing to take risks.

After graduation, he could have pursued safer paths. He passed up job offers from Google and ExactTarget to focus on his own business.

“He’s a very scrappy person,” Kopp said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win within ethical boundaries.”

Almost pulled the plug

When Jaramillo got back from New Zealand in June 2011, he had free-lance developers on deck to work on apps, but he didn’t make one sale that summer. One problem: He had no proof of his capabilities.

“You can promote the business on social media all you want,” Jaramillo said. “If you don’t have any sales, you don’t have a business.”

He made a news aggregator app and ultimately landed time in front of the Kokomo Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was one of those last-ditch efforts, he said, as he was getting ready to pull the plug on Bluebridge and start job hunting. The Kokomo CVB became his first client that November.

Before he graduated in the spring of 2012, Bluebridge went on to rake in $100,000 in revenue, which Jaramillo reinvested in the business. He also won $23,000 from Taylor University’s business plan competition in 2012 and used that money “to essentially not take any jobs after college.”

Some market traction

Jaramillo found Weber in 2012 after reading one of his blogs. The two set up a coffee meeting, where Jaramillo picked Weber’s brain and shared his ideas for Bluebridge. Weber reached out to Jaramillo a few weeks later with ideas about how to scale the company. He, like Jaramillo, believed in selling apps as a service as opposed to just making them and leaving the maintenance to clients.

“So I mapped out this plan for him, I walked him through it, and I get finished and he’s like, ‘You’ve got to do it. I want you to do it with me,’” Weber said.

Weber quit his job at SpinWeb, taking a pay cut in the process, and joined Bluebridge that October. A month later, the company brought on Mitch Shields as the third partner, who leads the tech division and removed the need for free-lance developers.

Once the trio was together, Bluebridge’s real liftoff came in January 2013, Jaramillo said. The company sold 110 app contracts in 2013 and closed the year with 13 employees.

“It was a really big year for us,” Jaramillo said. “It confirmed our business model.”

Strategic growth

The $1 million private equity offering was part of an effort to accelerate growth. Jaramillo said investors offered to put in an extra $400,000, but Bluebridge turned down the excess capital, which was debt that could be converted into equity.

jamarillo-timeline.gifBesides the venture capital help, Bluebridge received taxpayer assistance. Last December, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. said it would grant Bluebridge $1.85 million in conditional tax credits and up to $50,000 in training grants based on Bluebridge’s pledge to add 199 workers by 2022.

Bluebridge operates out of an office park off USA Parkway, where the town of Fishers initially subsidized some of its rent based on hiring commitments. Bluebridge paid $750 its first month in October 2013. This October, when the declining subsidies reach , Bluebridge is scheduled to pay $5,625 a month. The lease ends in August 2015.

Asked whether he planned to stay in Fishers—where the company also used the Launch Fishers coworking space—Jaramillo said the town has been great but, “We’ll see.”

Location is just one of the issues on the table. Overall, Jaramillo said, he’s working to enhance the customer experience and guide growth strategically.

“Uncontrollable growth is just as big a problem—if not worse—than no growth,” he said.

Nearly two years after signing on, Weber said he’s more than satisfied with his decision. The concept had promise, and the market for Bluebridge was there. But what really sold him was Jaramillo.
 

“He has good vision. That was the key thing that stood out to me,” Weber said. “He was pretty convinced on what he wanted to do, and there wasn’t much that could shake that. And when people have vision like that, it’s pretty contagious.”•tartup prodigy Jaramillo started at age

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Crowdfunding site Localstake sees surge in deals

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Localstake LLC, a crowdfunding startup that connects investors with small businesses, has seen business activity take off as it enters its second year, even as the crowdfunding industry at large awaits the finalization of federal rules.

The seven-employee Indianapolis firm launched in June 2013, raising funds for two companies in its first six months. Over the following eight months, it brokered funding for eight companies and has eight in queue. Localstake’s investor count tripled from August 2013 to August 2014 to more than 3,100, and they’ve poured more than $3 million into various small businesses so far.

“I think some of the recent regulatory changes have helped shed some light on this opportunity,” said co-founder Brandon Smith about what’s fueling growth. “We’ve definitely seen an influx in business activity and businesses that are interested in pursuing this type of financing.”

Smith Smith

Nationally, one of the most common crowdfunding platforms is Kickstarter, where backers contribute to a project in exchange for a gift. Localstake and other platforms take a similar approach, but instead of a T-shirt, the return on investment is monetary.

Localstake has done some equity deals, where investors get a slice of ownership, but it has honed in on debt financing, or so-called crowdlending. Small businesses looking for capital can list a securities offering on Localstake’s website, and investors with as little as a few hundred dollars can invest. The money is repaid with interest through revenue sharing.

The federal JOBS Act of 2012 paved the way for some of what Localstake does. But the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hasn’t finalized all the rules from that federal legislation, industry observers said, particularly those allowing non-accredited investors to engage in crowdfunding.

Accredited investors are organizations or institutions with at least $5 million in assets or individuals with at least $1 million in liquid net worth.

“We’re hopeful those rules are finalized this fall so that we can have equity crowdfunding for everybody early next year,” said Jason Best of Miami-based Crowdfund Capital Advisors, one of three co-authors behind the crowdfunding investment framework used in the JOBS Act.

Localstake nonetheless has been able to carve out a niche in the nascent industry. In 2013, the SEC lifted restrictions on the public solicitation of private securities offerings, expanding their reach beyond personal investment banking networks. That allowed Localstake to post offerings online.

And in July, Indiana enacted its own rules allowing non-accredited investors join the crowdfunding fray. It’s one of 12 states that have taken that step, according to crowdcheck.com.

These investors can only invest within state borders, but the two law changes paved the way for Localstake to advertise private offerings to a broad audience and attract a variety of investors. So far, Localstake has brokered investments between $250 and more than $100,000 in companies including Indiana-based Moody’s Butcher Shops, FastTrack Student Loans and Biologics Modular.

It also helped channel capital to two Michigan companies and one Wisconsin company.

The interest in alternative financing, including raising cash through crowdfunding, has been driven in part by small businesses’ struggles in obtaining bank loans.

“If you go talk to 10 small businesses in your community that are successful small businesses with cash flow and profit,” Best said, “I would assume that no more than two of them could get bank financing today.”

localstake-bars.gifThe path to financing may be rockier for startups. Bloomington-based Cardinal Spirits, which was founded in 2012, had considered venture capital firms and other alternatives before settling on Localstake.

The company hasn’t sold its first bottle of Vodka yet, president and co-founder Jeff Wuslich said, although it generates revenue by selling ancillary products. It was able to raise $850,000 through Localstake last summer and currently is building its micro-distillery.

“There are very few deals a year,” Wuslich said about venture capital firms, “and very few are interested in Indiana in a non-tech-related startup or a non-life-sciences startup.”

Localstake is not the only online lending platform out there. Websites like Funding Circle USA and Lending Club, both based in San Francisco, also facilitate capital to small businesses in need.

But Smith said that in many cases, such peer-to-peer lenders are more interested in the loan information—purpose, grade, interest rate—than in the company.

“This is more a pure financial transaction,” Smith said. “With crowdfunding, you are investing in a specific business and learning about that particular business as a part of your investment decision.”

The capital raised through Localstake doesn’t come cheap. Smith declined to provide effective annual percentage rates, but said the deals crafted so far allow investors to get anywhere from 1.5 to 2 times their investment back.

The terms vary because the loan payments are a percentage of gross income. So if a company is doing better than expected, it could pay off its loan sooner than expected, and vice versa. Smith said the target term is about 5 years.

“We do believe there’s added value in that you’re marketing your business through this method and you’re gaining potential customers as well,” Smith said.

Smith said Localstake encourages investors to be evangelists in the companies they fund, as opposed to being passive lenders. And thanks to new rules for unaccredited investors, it also empowers business owners to put their investment opportunity in front of people they already know.

Lauren Leibowitz, a member-administrator with the National Crowdfunding Association trade group, said Localstake stands out in the crowdlending space because its co-founders are broker-dealers. The designation allows them to facilitate the securities transactions, not outsource them.

Besides Smith, the other co-founders are Ryan Flynn and Kevin Hutchen. While the website is their primary tool, the three don’t have backgrounds in tech but come from the investment banking world.

“I really like Localstake because they promote that they have that financial industry experience,” Leibowitz said. “But the funding portals, if they do have it they don’t put it out there. They’re really just soliciting the deals.”

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