About Tien Wong

Chairman & CEO, Tech 2000, Inc. Chairman, Lore Systems (lore.net) & Opus8 (opus8.com) Serial entrepreneur, angel investor, community servant. Speaker, writer, mentor, YPO/WPO member. Champion of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education. My Passion is Excellence. Boards: Maryland Venture Fund Authority Center for Innovative Technology's GAP Fund Startup Maryland Potomac Officer's Club FounderCorps Advisory Boards: Parature Transactis DataRPM SpydrSafe CirrusWorks SmartCEO Magazine cadre Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, Entrepreneur in Residence

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons and Other Recommended Reading

People, especially students, often ask me for recommendations of great books to read. A few days ago, the Washington Business Journal, asked me for a list of 5 books.  Here’s the LINK to the Article.

Following is the full text of the piece with my comments in bold italic.

Digital Producer-Washington Business Journal

Tien Wong, chairman and CEO of Opus8 Inc., talks the best business book he ever read and which book can help you win a major.

1. “Topgrading,” Bradford Smart

“The best business book I have ever read.”  Why?  Because you can’t build a great team without a methodical recruiting, measurement and retention process. When we had 2300 employees at CyberRep, we found this book and it became our “Bible” for managing human capital.  I liked it so much, I have bought over 300 copies of the book to give to colleagues, partners and clients.  Awesome book.

2. “Five Lessons: The 5 Fundamentals of Golf,” Ben Hogan

“Every business leader should work on his or her golf game. Master this book and you can win a major. Just ask Larry Nelson. “There’s no disputing that a ton of business still gets done on the golf course.  I was a tennis player growing up, and kind of looked down on golf as not being a “real sport.”  What I totally missed as a kid is that learning to play at a young age is invaluable for business.  Why?  Because many, if not most, business people love golf.  And while it’s not a requirement to carry a single-digit index, it’s important to be able to play decently and not embarrass yourself when a boss or client invites you out for a golf outing, or vice versa. Having not played until my early 20s, I found myself playing “catch up” and having to learn the game through a lot of practice, lessons, and reading books.  Ben Hogan’s book is concise and simple.  It teaches the basics, the fundamentals, which can not only help anyone become a decent player relatively quickly, but create a Master’s champion like Larry Nelson.

3. Anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Because nobody could put together a sentence like him. His writing is pure beauty.” Anyone who’s read Fitzgerald knows what I am talking about.  I was lucky to have studied him in college and found myself reading his books twice, once for the story and once to appreciate the way he constructed his sentences.  The upside is that my writing improved…a lot.

4. “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill

“It’s not just about making money. It’s a classic ‘how to’ guide for achieving your goals.” Countless business leaders give credit to this Napoleon Hill’s classic as a big reason for their success.  The book lays out a blueprint for achieving your goals, and I like to read it and review its words of wisdom every few months.

5. “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” Clay Christensen

“This book proves why companies who don’t innovate become extinct.”  Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor and I recommend not only this book, but the many YouTube videos of his talks.  His work is excellent and provides a lot of truth for all kinds of companies, but especially tech companies. 

Seth Goldman of Honest Tea headlines CONNECTpreneur Fall Forum

Seth Goldman, Co-Founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FALL FORUM will be held on September 10, 2013 at the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea will do a fireside chat to discuss his new book, Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently – and Succeeding.

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forums are quarterly gatherings of 250+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

InTheCapital says CONNECTpreneur events are “essentially the be-all-end-all of networking events in the city”

Presented by LORE Systems and Tech 2000, Inc., this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, because of the high quality of our attendees, speakers and presenters.

Program Highlights:
  • We expect 250 business leaders, includng 150+ CEOs & Founders, as well as 60+ angels & VCs
  • Conversation and BOOK SIGNING with SETH GOLDMAN, Co-Founder and TeaEO of HONEST TEA
  • Attendees will receive a COMPLIMENTARY copy of Seth’s brand new book,Mission in a Bottle
  • All-Star Panel of INVESTORS
  • SHOWCASE of Emerging tech companies
  • Heavy NETWORKING before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tysons Corner Marriott in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.
A plated breakfast is included.
CONNECTpreneur is a quarterly networking mashup, which has been attended by over 1200 business leaders in the past 18 months.  This event promises to be our best one yet!
DATE:  SEPTEMBER 10, 2013
 
AGENDA
7:00–8:15 am - ARRIVAL / NETWORKING
8:15 – 8:20 am - WELCOME
S. TIEN WONG, CEO of Tech 2000, Inc. and Chairman of Lore Systems, Inc.
8:20 – 9:05 am - ALL STAR INVESTOR PANEL – “State of the Capital Markets”
 
MODERATOR:  JOHN BACKUSFounder & Managing Partner, New Atlantic Ventures
 
EVAN BURFIELDManaging Partner, K Street Capital; Co-Founder, 1776and Chairman, Startup DC
 
 
DOUG GILBERTGeneral Partner, DFW Capital Partners
9:05 – 10:15 am  –  COMPANY SHOWCASE
APPNETIC
CONSCIOUS VENTURE LAB
10:15 – 11:05 am - FIRESIDE CHAT with SETH GOLDMAN, Co-Founder and “TeaEO” of HONEST TEA;  Co-Author, MISSION IN A BOTTLE, The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently – and Succeeding
11:05 SETH GOLDMAN BOOK SIGNING and NETWORKING
Attendees will receive a complimentary copy of MISSION IN A BOTTLE
 
EXPECTED INVESTOR PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
We expect 60+ angel and VC investors including Grotech, Novak Biddle, Core Capital, New Atlantic Ventures, Edison Ventures, Updata, Saratoga Investment Corp., DFW Capital Partners, Farragut Capital, Revolution Ventures, CIT, New Markets Venture Partners, Leeds Novamark, Maryland Venture Fund, TEDCO, DFW Capital, BluVenture Investors, 1776 / K Street Capital, Acceleprise, US Boston, VentureCross Partners, Berman Enterprises, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, Saratoga Investment Corp., Multiplier Capital, McLean Capital, Angel Venture Forum, Endeavor DC, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Great Falls Capital, Hafezi Capital, and Keiretsu Forum.
EVENT PARTNERS:  
 

MindShare Still Pumping Up Washington Tech CEOs

Following is the unedited version of my December 19, 2012 Blog Post in the Washington Business Journal.

News flash:  Contrary to some reports questioning its relevance in the DC Tech community, MindShare is alive and well!  This “exclusive forum” for CEOs of young and emerging tech companies is, in fact, thriving and very active!

Mindshare Organizing Board with Mindshare Class of 2012 Graduates
MindShare Organizing Board with MindShare Class of 2012 Graduates

In early December, I graduated along with 51 other Classmates.  Over 200 people including MindShare alums, Organizing Board members, VIPs and sponsors packed the upstairs dining room for the ceremony at Clyde’s in Tysons Corner.  We now have 665 alums, with notables including Charlie Thomas (Net2000 and now Razorsight), Phillip Merrick (webMethods), Amir Hudda (Entevo and now startup naaya), Rick Rudman (Vocus), Reggie Aggarwal (Cvent), Joe Payne (Eloqua), and Tim O’Shaughnessy (LivingSocial), and Henry Sienkiewicz (DISA and Open Travel Software). Nominations for the Class of 2013 closed in mid-December, and demand was super high.

MindShare History – In 1995, Harry Glazer and Anne Crossman, with the support of Kathy Penny, were chairing the Northerm Virginia Technology Council’s Emerging Business Committee, which sponsored informal “coffee and bagels” meetings for regional entrepreneurs.  They attracted great speakers, and the format was very similar to the format used by MindShare today. At the beginning of each meeting, attendees would introduce themselves and give an “elevator pitch” on themselves and their companies. These intros would be followed by speakers, and then end with further networking.

By 1997, Harry and Anne formalized these meetings into MindShare. The mission, from the start, was to provide a forum for CEOs of emerging technology companies to get to know the leaders of other early-stage companies, to learn from each other, and to interact with experts on subjects that were relevant to their growing businesses. At the end of the first year, the Organizing Board of senior leaders in the community decided that the members of the group would “graduate” and become alumni, and a new “class” of members would be selected for the following year. The organization quickly began to develop serious awareness and cachet as Washington Technology referred to a MindShare invite as “the hottest ticket in town,” and the group had no problem recruiting 40-50 CEOs from the region’s most promising early-stage growth companies. Even as the tech bubble deflated, MindShare continued to grow more prestigious and continued to attract the most promising entrepreneurs in the region.

Fast forward to today – the MindShare alumni network is a thriving “Who’s Who” of tech entrepreneurs and CEOs in the region.  Events and reunions are incredibly well attended, and alums stay connected and help each other through the ListServ, which is one of the most valuable and effective databases of its kind in the region.  At December’s CIT GAP 50 Entrepreneur Awards, 45 of the 93 finalists (and 11 eventual winners) were MindShare alums including several from recent Classes.

So I guess I am saying that MindShare is one of the anchors of our community.  It’s played and will continue to play a critical role in binding together the region’s top tech CEOs, and helping the “next generation” of tech companies succeed.  With 665 alums, the vast majority of whom are still active as CEOs, angels, mentors, and Advisors, MindShare is a force for good, and as one of the cogs in the wheel that is the DC regional tech community.  I am very grateful to benefit from all the great things that have come out of MindShare.

Congress Badly Needs a Shot of Churchill

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I am so sick of it.  Every businessperson I know is sick of it.  Every taxpayer I know is sick of it.  “It” is the political gridlock, posturing, cowardice, and selfishness which Congress has been exhibiting in supposedly trying to find a solution to the impending Fiscal Cliff.

This collective failure to find a compromise is costing the Country billions of dollars.  Do they not realize this?  Businesses will not hire or make investments in a climate of uncertainty.  Government agencies and their contractors cannot plan for the future not knowing whether their programs will be funded.  Investors will sit on the sidelines until they can quantify what their tax rates are.  The economic recovery is stymied because overall confidence diminishes when things are uncertain.

Our elected representatives are certainly not looking out for Main Street, or Wall Street, or small business.  What Congress needs is a shot of Winston Churchill.

Yesterday, I received an awesome greeting card from Philip Niedermair featuring 5 of his favorite quotes from The British Bulldog, as Philip writes, “so that you may arm yourself for the coming year and be best positioned to succeed in the market place of ideas and opportunities!”

1.  Courage:  “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.”

2.  Listening:  “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.  Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

3.  Commitment:  “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.” 

4. Loyalty:  “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

 5.  Simplicity:  “All great things are simple, and many can be expressed in single words: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” 

These inspirational quotes caused me to wonder why so FEW of this generation’s politicians exhibit the courage and moral imperative to do the Right Thing.

For the sake of the Country and the economy, I hope they step up and get a deal in place so we can all move forward and get off to a good start in the New Year.

Featured image courtesy of johnnycon7, licensed via Creative Commons.

Four Challenges of Hypergrowth

This is the unedited version of my December 5, 2012 Blog Post which was published in the Washington Business Journal.

I’m really thrilled to start writing a weekly Blog post for the Washington Business Journal as of today.  Thank you Roger Hughlett and Alex Orfinger, Publisher, for the opportunity to express my opinions and thoughts about a wide range of business ideas and topics.

As a novice and inconsistent blogger, I now have a “boss” and weekly deadline, so there are no more excuses NOT to post consistently.  And to have the WBJ platform distribute my content?! What more could I ask for?

I’ll be blogging on leadership, entrepreneurship, technology (all kinds), strategy, private equity, venture capital, international business (particularly in China and Brazil), and probably a bunch of other random stuff.

Last week I had the pleasure, along with Devin Schain of CampusEd and Mark Richardson of CASE Building and Design, of speaking to Professor Andrew J. Sherman, Esq.’s University of Maryland class on Entrepreneurship.  The topic: Challenges to Growing Your Business.

I co-founded and ran CyberRep, Inc., a call center/customer relationship management business which, over a 12 year period,  grew from 0 – 2200 employees and $0 – $80 million in revenues.  So I broke down the types of challenges we faced into 4 categories:  1. Keeping Clients Happy, 2. Keeping the Culture Pure, 3. People Issues, and 4. Personal Growth Challenges.  These 4 types of challenges are all integrated and interdependent with each other.

Keeping Clients Happy - When you are small, it’s relatively easy to focus on thrilling your clients.  As you hypergrow, you start working on lots of other very important things in addition to client matters.  Things like capital raising, shareholder matters, hiring and staffing, technology issues, etc. start to command your attention.  It’s natural.  As a hypergrowth company, we had our share of growing pains and glitches especially with people, processes, and even technology.  What was key for us was that “Client goals are our goals” was our #2 corporate core value and “Client satisfaction” was one of our “4 Pillars of Success” so we were able to ingrain this client-first thinking into our culture.  When hypergrowing, it’s critical to never forget who signs your paycheck – your clients!

Keeping the Culture Pure – As CEO, my job was to establish, evangelize, and enforce the Company culture.  As we  grew, and acquired 3 companies, and hired people from competitors and companies which didn’t have our company’s value set, we risked diluting our culture.  When a company loses its culture, it will eventually die.  We kept the culture pure by repeatedly dispatching our senior leadership team into all of our offices (we had 10 in 6 states) to evangelize like crazy.  We lived by our “Top 10″ core values and developed our own lingo and reward systems to train all associates on what was important to the Company.  Very tedious, grinding work – very challenging, but it did pay off.  Our leadership team studied Jack Welch and the GE way, and what GE was doing at Crotonville, and we were inspired by their commitment to nonstop repetition in inculcating culture into the organization.

People – Dealing with people issues is one of the toughest parts of running a business.  As you grow, your people necessarily must grow…or they will be left behind or worse.  I would say that less than 1/3 of our first tier of management were able to “keep up” with company growth and client demands as we grew from $5 million – $20 million in revenue.  We saw the Peter Principle at work for dozens of our managers.  It pained me to have to let some of them go, especially the ones who had been with us from early on.  Others just stayed in their jobs or grew a little more slowly than the Company.  The bottom line here was not sacrificing quality or settling for less than excellent performance.  So that meant lots of training, reorganizing the org chart appropriately and often, and being able to recruit new talent for the right positions.  The main challenge was maintaining focus on what was best for the Company, and putting those needs first and ahead of any one team member.

Personal Growth Challenges – This set of challenges may have been the most trying of all for me.  At each stage of our growth, our executive team and I were all in uncharted territory.  We’d never grown a company this fast or this way.  As startups hypergrow, the Alpha Male or Female startup entrepreneur has to develop into a professional executive.  I have seen many fail at this.  So, I had to make the transition from manager to leader, and I had to develop soft skills and become more diplomatic.  The realization that my decisions could affect 2200 families was another eye opener, and I was forced to deal with the psychology around that fact.  Also, as our company progressed, we had to all become more thoughtful, analytical, and process-oriented.  Company and CEO must both face this reality of “growing up.”  The challenges are too many to enumerate here but these were just some highlights.

So that ends my inaugural WBJ blog post.  Please comment or email me your thoughts and experience.  I’d love to hear of your personal experiences and challenges in hypergrowing your company.  Thanks for reading!

Tien Wong is a serial entrepreneur and private investor.  He is CEO of Lore Systems, Inc. an enterprise network engineering firm specializing in cloud computing and network infrastructure for commercial, nonprofit, and government clients.  He also heads Opus8, an investment and strategic advisory firm.  His Twitter handle is @tienwong and the web address for his blog “Winning Ideas – On Leadership and Hypergrowth in the Entrepreneurial Economy” is tienwong.wordpress.com.

“The Power of Entrepreneurship” at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business

One of my greatest sources of joy is being able to get into the classroom and interact with groups of smart, ambitious, idealistic people.  I love the energy, the passion and creativity that awesome academic institutions like Georgetown foster among their students.

I was invited by my good friend, Professor Jeff Reid, head of Georgetown University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative at the McDonough School of Business to speak to his MBA class today about the “Power of Entrepreneurship.”  Jeff is a national leader and pioneer in Entrepreneurship education, having built one of the world’s top entrepreneurship centers at UNC; and now he’s building an amazing entrepreneurship program at Georgetown.

Jeff (@hoyapreneur) tweeted “Identify a real painful problem and solve itpic.twitter.com/W9iUVk8t when I talked about how and why I started Unitel/CyberRep.  (Short version: My co-founders and I worked in sales and we HATED making cold calls.  We figured that if we found making cold calls very PAINFUL, then many others would too, so why not start up a business that specialized in making cold calls? That’s what we did!)

Embedded image permalink
Georgetown U presentation Sept. 26, 2012
The class consisted of about 40 MBA students, about 2/3 of whom intend to start their own business either now or in the future.  I only got through about 20% of my originally planned remarks because of the questions and great dialog that ensued.  We covered a lot of ground including making a go/no go decision on starting a company, sacrifice and hard work, life balance, challenges of growth, dealing with employees who can’t keep up, getting inspiration to start a business, doing business in Brazil…and China, etc.
I am fortunate to speak at MBA and undergrad classes at Georgetown and Maryland relatively often.  Just last week, I spoke in Professor Will Finnerty’s class on Entrepreneurship, one of the highest rated and highest demand classes at the McDonough School.  Will teaches as much about life as he does about business, with a focus, passion, and attention to detail which I have rarely seen in a classroom.
Always, I end my talks in the classroom with a slide entitled “Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs.”  Here are the bullet points:
Integrity
Do it now
Great people
Focus (on your customer)
Be flexible
Build a culture early
Be persistent
Overcapitalize
Have FUN!
More details on these bullet points can be found in two of my prior Blog posts:  Winning Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs Part1 and Part 2.

DC “Networking Jackpot” – Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall Forum, September 13, Tysons Corner

LORE SYSTEMS is pleased to host our quarterly Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum, one of the most exciting angel and entrepreneurship networking forums in the DC Region on September 13, 2012 at the Tysons Corner Marriott.

InTheCapital called our June Forum “The Best Networking Event in DC.”

We also appreciate InTheCapital’s latest article on our upcoming Fall Forum: “Three Reasons Why You Should Attend the Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum.”

Please come out!  CLICK HERE to Register via the Eventbrite link.

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur FALL Forum is a “NETWORKING MASHUP” of 210+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.  Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.

Presented by LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our program and unprecedented networking.

Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!

Program Highlights:
  • Over 210 attendees, includng 120+ CEOs/Presidents and 40 angels/VCs
  • Conversation with CEO, VC Advisor, & Angel Investor Christopher M. Schroeder
  • Discussion with UBER Tech Entrepreneur David A. Steinberg
  • SHOWCASE of Emerging tech companies
  • NETWORKING sessions before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tysons Corner MARRIOTT.  A plated breakfast and unlimited coffee are included.

FINAL AGENDA
7:00–8:00 am - ARRIVAL / NETWORKING
 
8:00 – 8:10 am - WELCOME
 
8:10 – 8:45 am - Conversation with Christopher Schroeder,
Renaissance Man, Entrepreneur, CEO, Advisor, Angel Investor, and Author
Author, Arab Inc(ubate)
Co-Founder and CEO, HealthCentral, formerly DrKoop.com (an InterActiveCorp company)
CEO, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
CEO, LEGI-SLATE
 
8:50 – 9:25 am  –  Conversation with David A. Steinberg,
UBER Tech and Marketing Entrepreneur
Chairman & CEO, CAIVIS Acquisition Corp.
Founder, Chairman & CEO, InPhonic / Simplexity (NASDAQ:INPC)
9:30 – 9:45 am - NETWORKING BREAK
9:50 – 11:15 am - COMPANY SHOWCASE
11:30 am - NETWORKING
CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
Over 120 CEOs/Presidents, plus 40+ angel and VC investors including New Enterprise Associates, Novak Biddle, Core Capital, CIT, Blu Venture Investors, Blue Water Capital, Dingman Center Angels, Neuberger & Co. Ventures, Saratoga Investment Corp., Washington DC Archangels, Angel Venture Forum, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Maryland Venture Fund, National Capital Companies, Enhanced Capital, White Hall Capital,  MTECH Ventures, Mosaic Capital, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, Starise Ventures, Blue Heron Capital, Duncaster Investments, Private Capital Network, Next-Stage Development Group, Berman Enterprises, Grindstone Partners, Next Stage Development Group, Atlantic Capital Group, Lancaster Angel Network, Harrell Partners, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, Skada Capital, Great Falls Capital, Bayberry Capital, Hafezi Capital, Keiretsu Forum, and CADRE.
EVENT SPONSORS:  
 
LORE Systems
BDO
Wilson Sonsini
Deloitte.
Cooley LLP
Meltzer Group
AH&T Insurance
McBride Real Estate
Ryan & Wetmore
Washington, DC Archangels
Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship
Angel Venture Forum
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“The Best Networking Event in DC” – Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Summer Forum, June 6, Tysons Corner, VA

LORE SYSTEMS is pleased to host our quarterly Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum, one of the most exciting angel and entrepreneurship networking forums in the DC Region on June 6, 2011 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner, VA.

InTheCapital calls this Forum “The Best Networking Event in DC.”

Please come out!  CLICK HERE to Register via the Eventbrite link.

EVENT IS NEARLY SOLD OUT!!

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Summer Forum is a “NETWORKING MASHUP” of 165+ of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.  Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.

Presented by LORE Systems, this UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our program and unprecedented networking.

Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!

Program Highlights:
  • “TURBOCHARGING Entrepreneurship” Discussion
  • “ART OF THE PIVOT” with “UBER” technology entrepreneur Reggie Aggarwal of CVENT
  • 9 Emerging tech companies seeking funding will briefly tell their stories
  • Networking sessions before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Northern Virginia’s premier private business club.  A plated breakfast and unlimited coffee are included.
AGENDA
7:00–8:00 am - ARRIVAL / NETWORKING

8:00 – 8:05 am - WELCOME

8:05 – 8:45 am - SESSION 1 – “TURBOCHARGING ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE DC REGION” with Uber entrepreneur and angel investor Doug Humphrey, CEO and Founder, CIDERA;  Co-Founder, DIGEX

8:45 – 9:20 am  –  SESSION 2 – “THE ART OF THE PIVOT” with Uber entrepreneur Reggie Aggarwal, Founder and CEO of CVENT
9:20 – 9:45 am - NETWORKING BREAK
9:45 – 11:30 am - SESSION 3 – COMPANY PRESENTATIONS (all confirmed)
AthleticMD
DeviceCloudNetworks
Glimpulse
HITCH
11:30 am - NETWORKING (ATRIUM)
EVENT SPONSORS:  

InvestMaryland Wins Big, Raises $84 million for VC program

Last week, the State of Maryland became the first state in the USA to use an online auction to raise funds for a venture capital program.  The auction yielded $84 million, a whopping 20% more than the original forecasted goal of $70 million.  On September 24, 2011, I wrote a brief summary of the InvestMaryland program.

InvestMaryland will invest in the State’s promising start-up and early stage companies, as early as this summer.  The $84 million raised was generated through an online auction of premium tax credits to 11 insurance companies (including Hartford Insurance, New York Life, Chubb, GEICO, and Met Life) with operations in Maryland.  The inaugural round of investments will be made in innovative companies this summer through several private venture capital firms and the State’s successful Maryland Venture Fund (MVF),

Said Governor Martin O’Malley, “Our State is well-positioned to be a leader in the new economy as a global hub of innovation – a leader in science, security, health, discovery and information technology. That’s why last year, together with business leaders from across the State and the General Assembly, we chose to invest in our diverse and highly-educated workforce and the skills and talents of our people for the jobs and opportunity of tomorrow.”  

The InvestMaryland program is being implemented through the Maryland Venture Fund Authority, on which I am very proud to serve, as well as the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED).

Earlier this year, the Authority selected Grant Street Group to prepare for and run the tax credit auction and also recently selected Altius Associates, a London-based firm, to oversee the selection of three to four private venture firms to invest the InvestMaryland funds. The private venture firms will be responsible for investing two-thirds of the funds, which will return 100 percent of the principal and 80 percent of the profits to the State’s general fund. The remaining 33 percent will be invested by 17-year-old Maryland Venture Fund (MVF).  The Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) will also receive a portion of funds for investment. Returns on the funds invested through the MVF will be reinvested in the program.

InvestMaryland has the potential to create thousands of jobs in Innovation Economy sectors – life sciences and biotechnology, cyber security/IT and clean/green tech and attract billions of follow on capital.

Maryland has an outstanding infrastructure to support an Innovation Economy. The Milken Institute ranks Maryland #2 in the nation for technology and science assets. According to study results, while Maryland received high rankings in human capital investment, research and development inputs, technology and science workforce, and technology concentration and dynamism, it lagged behind other states in risk capital and entrepreneurial infrastructure, demonstrating the need for InvestMaryland and other programs.

How will Altius select the Venture Capital firms?  Altius will be evaluating venture capital funds based on management experience, firm experience, investment performance and criteria defined in the legislation.

When will the firms be selected?  Venture capital firms will be selected starting June/July 2012 for a projected18-month period and make first round of investments in summer 2012.

What is the investment return to the State? The selected venture firms will return 100 percent of the principal investment by the State before taking any distribution of profits and will then pay 80 percent of the profits to the State.  Any returns on investments made through the Maryland Venture Fund go back into the fund for an evergreen program.

What is the projected average investment with venture capital companies? Investment will likely range from as low as $250,000 upwards to $10M.

Is there investment funding available from MVF?   Maryland Venture Fund will continue to invest in early stage companies (tech, biotech, clean energy) from $50,000 to $500,000 as initial investments.

Maryland Venture Fund Authority (MVFA) will perform a monitoring role to ensure that  investments and reporting meet the legislative guidelines.

In summary, as a member of the MVFA, and as a resident and business owner in Maryland, I am very excited to see this InvestMaryland program being implemented:

  • This program brings great benefit for taxpayers.  It helps create the jobs and companies of tomorrow and builds an economic climate where the most promising ideas and innovations have a chance to mature.
  • This is a win-win for all constituencies within the State of Maryland. Through this initiative, we can:
    • Infuse much needed capital into our seed and early stage companies
    • Recapitalize the State’s successful Maryland Venture Fund
    • Ensure no up-front cost to taxpayers
    • Provide a tax benefit to insurance companies who bid today, who can begin claiming credits in 2015.

Thanks for reading.  I’d appreciate any Comments or feedback you may have on InvestMaryland.

Featured image courtesy of Anosmia via Creative Commons.

Persistence and Commitment at HONEST TEA, a guest post by Marissa Levin

Guest Blog Post from Marissa Levin, CEO of Information Experts and Founder of Successful Culture, a new business dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and business leaders build successful cultures within their organizations.

Marissa was a guest at Lore Systems’ Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum on March 7, 2012 and Seth Goldman, Co-Founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea, was one of our featured speakers on the “Entrepreneurship with a Higher Purpose” panel.

This post was written on March 13, 2012 and can be found on Marissa’s awesome new Blog, Successful Culture.

Honest Tea CEO Seth Goldman Takes Persistence & A Commitment to Mission to New Heights

Imagine pitching your idea to 1,000 investors. Over and over and over again. A little insane, right? Not if you’re Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea. When we think of Honest Tea, we think of a delicious beverage, and a wildly successful business.

Dig a little deeper into the roots of Honest Tea, and you’ll discover an entrepreneur who is forever committed to the mission of “changing the way people eat, drink, think and live.”

Seth shared the struggles of his early days with 300 business leaders at the sold-out ConnectPreneur Event in the DC region, architected by global serial entrepreneur and angel investor Tien Wong, CEO of Lore Systems (www.lore.net).

Building an Empire One Brick at a Time

As a bootstrapped entrepreneur who has never sought outside funding, I was amazed at Seth’s relentless quest for angel investments when he launched Honest Tea. “I did over 1,000 pitches and landed 120 angel investors. I took $25,000 at a time,” Goldman said. “There were plenty of times when I was financially out of business. But you need just enough fumes to keep things going.”

The question on everyone’s mind – which was asked – was, “How did you keep going?” All entrepreneurs seek the answer to this question from others that travel the path of business ownership. What is the magic bullet -the secret sauce – that gives us the strength to keep pushing when we are seemingly out of options?

Always Return to the Mission

“What kept me going is I always believed and still believe in my mission. I believe we have to change the way we eat, drink, think, and live. Quitting was never an option.”

In addition to the initial 1,000+ calls, Goldman had to ruthlessly follow up with potential investors. Follow-up apparently is just as important as the initial contact.

“You need to be ruthless with your follow-up. You can’t ever quit. Your follow-up is a good indication of your commitment to what you are trying to build, and to your work ethic. Some we talked to for years before they came on,” he said.

Seth’s tenacity is an inspiration to anyone trying to make their entrepreneurial mark. Equally inspiring is his commitment to his core values, and his refusal to relinquish what matters most to him – providing healthy products that consumers feel good about drinking.

Coca-Cola now owns 40% of Honest Tea. The mammoth company’s management is like a bull in a china shop. This, however, doesn’t sway Goldman from his values. “Coca-Cola wanted me to remove “No High Fructose Corn Syrup!” from our labels. I asked if this was a legal or regulatory requirement, and it wasn’t,” he explained.

Goldman continued, “Because their products contain this ingredient, our label wasn’t a positive reflection of their brand. I refused to remove it it. The discussion made its way to the very top of the executive ladder, and I refused.”

Finally, Coca-Cola relented, and conceded that as a minority owner, they couldn’t force Honest Tea to remove the labeling.

All Natural Ingredients for Successful Entrepreneurship

Goldman boiled successful entrepreneurship down to the two basic tenets that we all inherently know: 1: A steadfast, laser-focused, driven commitment to what we are building, in which we will do whatever we need to succeed, and 2: A passionate belief in the change we are trying to make.

Thanks to Tien Wong (follow him on Twitter: @tienwong, and subscribe to his blog – Winning Ideas at (https://tienwong.wordpress.com/) for helping to quench the entrepreneurial thirst for learning with a great event!

And thanks to Seth Goldman (@HonestTea) for showing us what happens when you never ever ever ever ever give up.

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” ~Napoleon Hill