Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Porch in Winter

We have this great big social porch at our house. My friend and fellow entrepreneur Sean Neville lists this porch as one of his 5 favorite places. It's really about the people, conversations, atmosphere, and beverages that happen there.

To extend the porch's usefulness as the weather turned, my dear wife had the brilliant idea of getting an outdoor heater. It's a hit! Not only were we comfortable outdoors as the weather turned colder, but now we have a conversation piece with any of the neighbors who walk by and feel its warmth. They usually stop and say "Hi", which adds to the porch's ambiance.

Enjoying the Tropical Warmth of an Ithaca Winter

Sadly, the snow got ahead of us and we had to shut down porch living for the season. If you stroll by in the early springtime, stop to warm your hands. We'll be back!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Linking Communities

One of the goals of the Upstate Venture Connect is to link the different entrepreneurial communities in Upstate New York. Last night, we all got together to grab some beers and watch the Syracuse vs. Cornell basketball game. We had entrepreneurs from Sound Reading, PiXL, Widetronix, Zetroz, Mezmeriz,, and Bear Claw, as well as representatives of the Seed Capital Fund of Central New York, Syracuse University iSchool, and The Syracuse Student Sandbox. Also along the way we ran into our friends from CenterState CEO.

Our Syracuse hosts hooked us up with phenomenal 2nd and 4th row tickets. From that distance, we couldn't miss how big and fast the 'Cuse players are. The Orange were in control for the entire game. The Ithaca contingent was pleased that the score ratio wasn't a ridiculous blow out, so we'll just mark this one up to a rebuilding year for the Big Red. It did give us more time to catch up on everyone's startups, so that's something.

Carrier was the tech entrepreneur who funded this Dome

It's get togethers like this that creates a broader, stronger community. I personally learned a lot more about the Sandbox and, and I think they learned more about the state of high tech in Ithaca. The other guys had similar experiences.

By the way, check out this link that with one click will open the websites for everyone involved: is a free website service which allows you to combine multiple url's into a single, small link. Handy for Twitter, Facebook, and blogging!

Next game is in Ithaca for Big Red Hockey. Who's wants to join us?

Friday, October 29, 2010

$250,000 and a Great Experience!

Now it's fifth year, the Creative Core Emerging Business Competition is bigger than ever! This year, there is a quarter of a million dollars on the table for startups that are located in Central New York State.

Just a few short bites to the $250K seeds

With all that said about winning all that money, I think these competitions are a great way to focus an entrepreneurial team on a specific goal with a specific deadline. I have seen many strong business plans get written by people who were under the time pressure of a strict deadline.

One of the things every business plan needs - but doesn't always have - is a discussion of the main parts of a business. For those who are thinking of entering, here is the table of contents to the business plan we submitted and won with in 2008:

    Table of 1
    Executive Summary...........................................2
    Business Plan
  1. Company Mission..............................................6
  2. Technology & Product Description..........................6
  3. Market Size & Potential......................................8
  4. Market Validation.............................................9
  5. Competitive Analysis........................................10
  6. Management Profile.........................................12
  7. Revenue Projections & Operational Expenses............14
  8. Intellectual Property........................................16
  9. Risk Assessment..............................................17
  10. Stage of Development & Operational Steps...............18
  11. Financing Plan...............................................18
  12. Regional Economic Impact and Potential.................19
  13. Contact Information........................................19

Good luck!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Teddy would love this place

I was recently invited to attend the annual board meeting of the Central Upstate Regional Alliance. They wanted to hear first hand from emerging businesses in upstate New York. It was a great opportunity to share the our perspective on the current environment for emerging companies, and to ask for some assistance from those who influence the decision makers in Albany.

What was unique about the meeting was the setting. Instead of the normal bland conference room with a grey table surrounded by grey chairs in a beige room, it was held in a massive log cabin that looked like Theodore Roosevelt decorated it himself.

Here, have a teddy graham

The location was Savannah Dhu. Greg from Sound Reading and I drove up in the pouring rain and parked in the underground garage, where you get a first glimpse of what his place is like. Over each parking spot was a mounted animal, mostly deer and boar. And everything was either stone or "log cabiny". You enter next to the wine cellar, which is flanked by a full action scene of a stuffed moose in a fight with stuffed wolves. Up the stairs past the magnum-sized bottles from their private winery, you enter a cavernous room built from whole tree trunks, rough hewn beams, and lit by a massive wrought iron chandelier. In all parts of the room were spectacular examples of wildlife, from a polar bear, to massive stags, moose, elk, white deer, as well as grizzly bears, bobcats, and a rafter of wild turkeys in full strut.

We all sat in a circle in heavy wooded chairs appointed with red leather and sipped coffee from cups that said "Savannah Dhu 1984" on them. Other than feeling like this place was from 1874, the rest of the meeting and day was normal. We got some work done, shared a lot of good ideas, and enjoyed being dry and warm on a wet autumn day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Smith on Logos

Our friends over at Smith Marketing Services are running a neat promotion. If you send in your logo, they'll give you an 100 word analysis about what your logo says about your company. We recently changed the Mezmeriz logo, so I was interested to hear what they had to say about it.

" Eye-catching. Unexpected. Dynamic.

Mezmeriz' logo, like Google's, suggests the company / service / product provides a lively, entertaining EXPERIENCE. The compelling central shape radiates color splashes, reminiscent of stylized people in a group, that are neither sequentially nor hierarchically arranged but illustrate movement. The shadow indicates something tangible. The logo type is futuristic and streamlined in an elegant, tech-based treatment. The source verb mesmerize connotes varying levels of fascination.

Your logo communicates that the Mezmeriz experience includes an engaging, even fascinating, technology that can be shared, an appropriate and positive message.

Scalability and color choices may be issues."


SMS groups logos into three categories: CORPORATE, EXPERIENCE, or PROMISE. I'd tell you all about it, but I don't want to steal their thunder. Click here to learn more from the good folks at Smith Marketing Services, and how to get your own logo analysis

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Barn Poker, Post Doc

We've had a long running poker game in Ithaca between the MBA's and the PhD's. We typically play in the barn of our friend Steve. It's out in the country and smells like sawdust. The game is more about the company then the stakes. If it's good night, you'll lose $20. If it's a bad night, you'll lose $20. The poker isn't nearly as important at the conversation.

I got this one, Oui?

We talk about the latest research in behavioral physiology, and ruminate on what we would or would not do for a Klondike bar. We have also been known to harass people's idiotic game play, and to question the manner in which a few of the homely guys ended up with supermodels as wives. And we have a special meaning for the phrase "Booyah", which I can't share, but it is way beyond R-rated.

The games have become less frequent as our PhD friends have taken jobs around the world, but every so often one of them will find their way back to Ithaca and we'll have a game with as many of the old crew as we can pull together. We recently invited back our friend Kevyn, who now teaches in France. It was good to see him, except that he took all of our US money.

Zut alor!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Orthogonal is out to win the $1MM MassChallenge

Ithaca based Orthogonal Inc. has advanced to the second round of the MassChallenge startup business competition and they need your help!

Pointing to Good Green Things

Based on patent-pending Cornell research, Orthogonal is a specialty chemicals company whose products enable electronics manufacturers to produce the next generation of electronics that are unbreakable, wallpaper thin, and environmentally friendly. Furthermore, not only are the things they make good for the environment, but using their chemicals, the WAY they are made is good for the environment.

So here's how you can help:

The MassChallenge is a new global annual startup competition with the objective of promoting innovation, collaboration, and commercialization. You can help Orthogonal win the competition by registering with MassChallenge and giving Orthogonal a 5-star rating. Go here and check "Supporter" to get started. Once you register, type Orthogonal into the search bar and you'll find their page. Then give them 5 stars! It will just take a few moments, but will mean a lot. Thanks!

A Mass-ive Opportunity

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Congressman's view of Entrepreneurs

This week the Ithaca entrepreneurs had a chance to meet with our man in Washington, Congressman Maurice Hinchey.

Listening to the Roots of Economic Growth

The Congressman was gracious enough to meet with an entire group of Ithaca entrepreneurs - not knowing what he was getting into. We felt the same way.

It was a good session. We asked the Congressman to help us grow the economy in the region. We also asked him how we can help him create economic growth. Entrepreneurs create a LOT of jobs, but we are largely invisible because we don't have lobbyists or special interest groups to petition the Feds. He responded by telling us that he wanted to know more, and to stay in touch.

It was a great jumping off point. We listened. The Congressman listened. Now our challenge is to grow the area together. Though Ithaca boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, we want to say "Don't ignore us and consider this area solved", but rather "We are doing something right. Let's not compare ourselves to the rest of the state, but to the rest of the country. Let's grab this momentum an fuel it to make it one of the country's growth areas"

We think he listened, and we thanked him for his time.

Thanks Congressman Hinchey!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

John Jaquette, Friend of the Entrepreneur

Today I had the honor of presenting the 2010 Finger Lakes Entrepreneurship Forum's Cutting Award. This is an award the entrepreneurs use to say "Thank you" to the folks who help us make it happen. This year's award went to John Jaquette.

The Guy on the Right is the reason for the Guy on the Left

I love a microphone and a captive audience, so I was surprised at how choked up I got doing the presentation. I wanted to talk about all the ways that John has helped me personally, and I have numerous examples, but I was fortunate enough to be able to go to an email I received from former award recipient Tony Eisenhut. Here's what Tony had to say:

"John Jaquette personifies the true meaning of the award and exemplifies those attributes that are Cutting. He is a tireless networker who connects people from all parts of our community because of potential. There are no predisposition about the potential there is only a view towards creating a mutual benefit. This optimistic outlook and commitment to potential is one of the hallmarks of both Dave and Robb Cutting. Additionally, John has a deep love for the Ithaca area and believes endlessly in its capacity to produce world class entrepreneurs."

John is the newest addition to a list of people who have done a lot to promote entrepreneurship in the Ithaca+NY Finger Lakes region. I want to repeat my sincere "Thank You" to all of them!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Sound Group of Entrepreneurs

On May 10th, Ithaca startup Sound Reading won the $200,000 Grand Prize for the 2010 New York Creative Core Emerging Business Competition. Greg and Bruce worked hard to make the dream of winning a reality. One of the key ways they made it happen was by reaching out to Ithaca's entrepreneurial community for support. After the win, they invited everyone from that community out for a party to celebrate. This included other entrepreneurs, educators, venture capitalists, and - most importantly - their families:

Pictured: Support

Their win marks four years in a row that an Ithaca startup has won this event:

2007: e2e Materials
2008: Mezmeriz
2009: Widetronix
2010: SoundReading

A major part of the reason for this trend is that we all help each other. The Sound Reading guys practiced and drilled on getting their presentation precise and their business plan right. Whether it was refining the look and order of the slides, working on getting the presentation under the 7-minute time limit, practicing for the question & answer portion, or working out what to wear and where to stand - they covered everything.

Congratulations guys!

Next year's prize is $300,000! I know of a handful of Ithaca entrepreneurs who are already gunning for it. Who wants to win $300K?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

World's Best Technology is Orthogonal, Inc

Recently Ithaca's own Orthogonal Inc. won the first prize in the 2010 WBT Showcase. Today Orthogonal's CEO Fox Holt received this cool trophy in the mail:

WBT also means World's Best Trophy

This puts Orthogonal in strong company with startups like Mesh Networks (acquired by Motorola), Sensant (acquired by Siemens), and Planning Systems (acquired by QinetiQ). I see a positive trend forming!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Story of a Hat

I recently had a fun conversation with the founder and CEO of, Jerry McLaughlin. Among other things, Jerry asked this question: "SightSpeed bought a lot of hats from us in our early days. Why?".

For those who don't know, they are my preferred source of schwag. The answer to "Why" is simply "quality, service, and cost". The "Why hats?" question is a little more complicated.

Here's my perspective on the schwag hats: They were for tech tradeshows and friends of the company. Specifically, we traveled the world with Intel as part of their "partners showcase". If you have ever seen an Intel booth, you'll know they are large, beautiful, and in the prime location at any tradeshow. We wanted to use the hats for a couple of reasons:
  1. If you give something meaningful away at a tradeshow, you will have a crowd at your booth.
  2. If you have a hat, you can have people put it on right away as part of the condition of getting the hat
  3. If you have a video-cam focused business, you could take video of them wearing the hat.
  4. If the executives from Intel see a crowd people wearing SightSpeed hats in the Intel booth, they are happy because they like crowds, and if those crowds like SightSpeed, Intel execs keep inviting us to tradeshows.
  5. People will continue to wear a hat at the tradeshow, and other people would come find us to get a hat.
In order to get a hat from us, all they had to do was:
  1. Give us a card or email address
  2. Put the hat on.
  3. Record a video mail message and send it to someone. (People really liked that, often sending fun video clips home to their families.)

Making the case

I'll tell you three other stories with the hats:
  1. I almost shouted with joy and lept into the air when I was sitting in an outdoor cafe in Hamburg Germany and saw a random guy walking across the nearby plaza wearing a SightSpeed hat!
  2. The producers of the movie "40 Year Old Virgin" asked our permission to use the hat in the movie (which we granted). I have seen the movie a handful of times and never seen the hat, but it might be in there somewhere.
  3. When SightSpeed was acquired by Logitech, we didn't really have any "company sale souvenir". So I made one of my own by putting the SightSpeed hat in a case and putting it on my memories shelf. That's the hat in the picture above.
Jerry, thanks for reminding me of those memories! All the best on selling more hats.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Predictions Dinner 2010

Each year, the folks from Cornell's Johnson School of Management put on the Predictions Dinner with various alumni clubs around the world. I recently attended the Ithaca event, where I made these predictions:

Swami with a coffee stain

First prize is a Magic 8 Ball! Runner up gets a set of steak knives (say like Alec Baldwin).

My friend and MBA classmate Tom Schryver won this year, and I was a runner up. Another friend and classmate Tim Sallade won last year, and I was a runner up.

Magic 8 Ball, will I win next year?

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