Welcoming New Sponsor Jacob del Hagen

Please welcome our new sponsor Jacob del Hagen to RVI!

Jake is the CTO at Big Voodoo Interactive and the founding partner of HelixSix LLC. He holds 20+ years of experience creating internet software & data advertising technology. He is an expert in large scale internet software architecture, data marketing analytics, and mobile app development.

Before his time at Big Voodoo Interactive, Jake was a founding partner at Techistry Inc, and worked as a private consultant for the Earth Day Network out of Washington DC.

We are very excited to welcome Jake to the RVI family. You can check out more about Jake on his LinkedIn page.

Your VC Needs A Billion Dollar Exit. You Do Not.

Crunshbase published this excellent article “Your VC Needs A Billion Dollar Exit. You Do Not.“

Some key quotes for me:

  • “The economics of many VC funds require billion dollar exits. The economics of founders’ lives do not, so don’t let your investor’s business model drive irrational behavior in fundraising, spending, or selling. Remember that selling a company for $30 million can sometimes lead to better returns for the founder than selling for 10X as much.”

  • “Before going out to raise more money, founders and investors should have ‘the talk.’ Is it time to sell?”

  • “Instead of thinking of an acquisition in terms of dollars, think of it in terms of years. How many years would it take you to grow into the valuation being offered or solicited?”

Read the full article here.

If you are a successful entrepreneur or business executive and are interested in joining us in finding and investing in exciting startups, contact us.

Hat tip to Seraf

RVI Invests in 4 Companies Founded in Western MA

In 2018 RVI invested in more companies founded in Western MA than ever before. Those companies were:

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  1. CAMBRIDGE BLOCKCHAIN (VVM Alum, founded in Western MA)

    Cambridge Blockchain offers proprietary software stack that has the potential to dramatically strengthen identity verification tools. Earlier this year, the company won the Distributed Ledger (DL) Challenge, which included a $15,000 cash prize.

  2. VALT (based in Western MA)

    Valt Visual Password Manager is a new approach to password management. Based in North Adams, MA.

  3. NEW ENGLAND BREATH TECHNOLOGIES (VVM, based in Western MA)

    New England Breath Technologies provides fast screening of diabetes via breath analysis.

  4. LAUNCH413 (Our manager Paul Silva’s newest startup, based here in Western MA)

    We Are Serial Entrepreneurs And Veteran Executives Dedicated To Helping Startups Become Profitable Engines Of Prosperity In Our Region.

If you are a successful entrepreneur or business executive and are interested in joining us in finding and investing in exciting startups, contact us.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for January 16th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 1/16, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Meenta - Meenta is a scientific equipment-sharing platform for B to B that is revolutionizing how scientists access capital equipment [ACA Syndicated] [Western MA]

  • OnSight Vision - OnSight Vision conducts comprehensive eye exams and sells glasses and contacts at corporate offices and other workplaces.

  • Meetcaregivers - Meetcaregivers is a technology platform that connects families with qualified caregivers for seniors [ACA Syndicated]

RVI's invests nearly $1 million in 2018 and adds 9 new members

2018 was a record-breaking year for our angel group, having invested nearly $1 million across 8 startups (prior record was 6):

  1. 3DFORTIFY

    3DFortify designs and manufactures custom, reinforced, and affordable composite materials and products using our patented magnetic 3D printing technology.

  2. CAMBRIDGE BLOCKCHAIN (VVM Alum, founded in Western MA)

    Cambridge Blockchain offers proprietary software stack that has the potential to dramatically strengthen identity verification tools. Earlier this year, the company won the Distributed Ledger (DL) Challenge, which included a $15,000 cash prize.

  3. VALT (based in Western MA)

    Valt Visual Password Manager is a new approach to password management. Based in North Adams, MA.

  4. NEW ENGLAND BREATH TECHNOLOGIES (VVM, based in Western MA)

    New England Breath Technologies provides fast screening of diabetes via breath analysis.

  5. FREEDOM WIND TUNNEL

    Freedom Wind Tunnel is opening an indoor skydiving facility at Patriot Place.

  6. LAUNCH413 (my newest startup, based here in Western MA)

    We Are Serial Entrepreneurs And Veteran Executives Dedicated To Helping Startups Become Profitable Engines Of Prosperity In Our Region.

  7. PATHWARE (VVM Alum)
    Pathware is creating hardware and software to simplify digital pathology workflows.

  8. SPRINGLOADED TECHNOLOGIES
    maker of the world’s first bionic knee brace.

We also added a record number of new members (9). Their expertise and connections will help us better find, vet, and invest in exciting startups.

If you are a successful entrepreneur or business executive and are interested in joining us in finding and investing in exciting startups, contact us.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for December 19th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 11/21, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Sistine Solar - Solar with curb appeal - the world's only solar designed to blend in with your roof, no matter what color, pattern, or style.

  • CourseStorm - SAAS registration and marketing platform that streamlines access to informal education.

  • Walch Education - We are developing an intelligent "Curriculum as a Service" platform with resources and tools so that school districts and teachers can edit and develop their own coherent, aligned and effective instruction.

Read More

Portfolio Company MachineMetrcs Raises $11.3 Million

We are proud to share that RVI portfolio company Machine Metrics just completed an $11.3 million Series A round. Our hats off to the team!

At MachineMetrics, our mission has always been to provide manufacturers with the data they need to increase productivity, win more business, and remain globally competitive. Of course, achieving a successful mission for any business requires an incredible dedication, perseverance, and unwavering belief in yourself, your team, and what you stand for.

Today, we’re excited to share with you one of our greatest successes to date:

MachineMetrics has raised $11.3 million dollars in venture capital funding to continue leading the endeavor to bring analytics to manufacturing.

Portfolio Company Pixm Emerges From Stealth

RVI portfolio company Pixm emerged from Stealth Mode…

BOSTON and NEW YORK, Dec. 5, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Pixm, the industry’s first endpoint-based anti-phishing solution, emerged from stealth today with next-gen spear-phishing protection in the company’s flagship solution. Through advanced computer vision technology, Pixm shuts down phishing attacks at the point of the user’s click regardless of their location, device or phishing link source.

Co-founded by Chris Cleveland, CEO, and Arun K. Buduri, President, Pixm was created to address the significant hole that exists in the anti-phishing ecosystem. Today’s popular anti-phishing solutions rely on blacklisting to stop only the already known phishing attacks but do little to address new attacks. Pixm’s solution is designed to detect and shut down a new zero-day phishing attack within the browser at the moment the page is opened in real-time using computer vision.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for November 21st

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 11/21, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Sistine Solar - Solar with curb appeal - the world's only solar designed to blend in with your roof, no matter what color, pattern, or style.

  • CourseStorm - SAAS registration and marketing platform that streamlines access to informal education.

  • Walch Education - We are developing an intelligent "Curriculum as a Service" platform with resources and tools so that school districts and teachers can edit and develop their own coherent, aligned and effective instruction.

Read More

River Valley Investors Invests in Freedom Wind Tunnel

Western-Massachusetts based angel network River Valley Investors (RVI) completed an investment in Freedom Wind Tunnel, an indoor skydiving company from Boston.

Freedom Wind is installing a brand new indoor skydiving facility at Patriot Place in Boston. The company is planning to provide an entertainment experience to patrons of all ages. With the help of Freedom Wind, Boston may soon give Chicago a competitor for the title of “Windy City”.

“This is not a ‘normal’ deal for angel investors. Neal’s depth of knowledge and ability to build coalitions took an idea that we would have avoided into one we were excited about. His model for financing and absolute commitment to keeping us informed closed the deal,“ said RVI Manager Paul Silva.

Freedom Wind CEO Neal Gouck said, “River Valley's Leadership in this round allows for the construction and commissioning of the facility at Patriot Place.”

This is River Valley Investors first investment in Freedom Wind Tunnel.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for October 17th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 10/17, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included four presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Southie Autonomy - Tell a robot what to do, let the robot figure out how to do it. Boost ROI for high-mix repetitive kitting tasks

  • Prolific Works - reduces the time spent and out-of-pocket cost for self-published authors to write more and better books.

  • Emerging Artist Network - Early-stage music technology company creating interactive mobile / fantasy games powered by our existing proprietary data analytics platform

  • Traction Technology Partners - We connect large enterprises to emerging technologies through innovation discovery services and our startup relationship management platform.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for September 19th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 9/19, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included four presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Defendify - We make cybersecurity possible for Small Business with our all-in-one cybersecurity platform.

  • Zyppr, Inc. - the first Artificial Intelligence driven complete Real Estate Sales, Marketing and Transaction Platform for Offices and Brokers.

  • Groupize - an easy to use end to end platform for planning, sourcing, managing and measuring simple corporate meetings and events.

  • Launch413 - an alternative venture fund investing our expertise, connections, and passion in fantastic entrepreneurs so they can execute & scale.

Welcoming New Member Richard Tillberg

We are pleased to welcome Richard Tillberg as our newest member of RVI.

Richard Tillberg, New RVI Member

Richard Tillberg, New RVI Member

Richard Tillberg comes to RVI with 25 years of consulting experience, primarily in mediation and real estate development. For the past ten years, he has been running his own consulting company called Richard Tillberg Consulting. His company provides mediation services in all areas, concentrating on real estate, business and legacy disputes. He also facilitates public input or citizen decision-making, primarily with local municipalities.

Before starting his own venture, Richard was Vice President of Urban Futures Inc., Where he consulted for local municipalities relating to public/private real estate development projects.

Richard holds a certificate in Mediation from UC Irvine, an MA in Urban Planning from Morgan State University, and a BA from The College of William & Mary in History and Philosophy. To learn more about Richard, check out his LinkedIn profile here.

Welcoming New Sponsor Rick Kosakowski (Ware Fressola Maguire & Barber LLP)

New RVI Sponsor, Rick Kosakowski

New RVI Sponsor, Rick Kosakowski

Please welcome new sponsor Rick Kosakowski (Ware Fressola Maguire & Barber LLP) to RVI!

Rick Kosakowski is a registered patent attorney with 30 years of Intellectual Property legal experience working in law firms and at various business units of United Technologies, including being Chief IP Counsel at Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand.  Prior to that, Rick worked for 10 years as an engineer and technician.  Currently, he is a Partner at the Connecticut boutique IP law firm of Ware, Fressola, Maguire & Barber LLP.

Rick counsels clients in all aspects of IP law, including patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights.  He has prepared and prosecuted hundreds of U.S. and foreign patent applications in a wide range of technology areas for clients including IBM.  Rick also focuses on emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain, IoT and Cybersecurity.  Many inventions in these technologies and in more traditional technologies are embodied in software, which is of significant current interest given the recent case law involving subject matter eligibility for obtaining patents on these inventions.  Rick helps clients navigate through this rapidly-developing area of law and secure patent protection for their software-based inventions.

Rick earned both his law degree and his B.S. in electrical engineering from Western New England College.  He is a mentor with Valley Venture Mentors.  Rick resides in East Longmeadow with his wife, Nancy. To learn more about Rick, check out his LinkedIn profile here.

Welcoming New RVI Members Aarush Manchanda and Nick Gardner

We are pleased to welcome Nick Gardner and Aarush Manchanda as RVI's newest members.

Nick Gardner, New RVI Member

Nick Gardner, New RVI Member

Nick Gardner is the Owner/President of NGM Services Inc, a mechanical services company specializing in plumbing, heating, welding, construction, and Residential, Commercial and Industrial equipment installation.

Nick is a certified Master Plumber and Welder, and has twenty years of experience in mechanical contracting. Nick is an alumnus of Westfield State College and Greenfield Community College.

To learn more about Nick, check out his LinkedIn profile here.

 
Dr. Aarush Manchanda, New RVI Member

Dr. Aarush Manchanda, New RVI Member

Dr. Aarush Manchanda is in the trenches of heart disease and precision medicine every day--and has been for over 10 years. After receiving his medical degree from most prestigious Medical College in India, he immigrated to the United States where he completed his internship and residency at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

He earned many top awards as a student, resident, and researcher, including the Resident of the Year Award from George Washington University and the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Washington D.C., and the Best Resident Research Award from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania for consecutive years. He continued to be a leader amongst this colleagues serving as a chief fellow at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania.

After graduating from fellowship in 2010 and being board certified in five specialties: internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, nuclear cardiology, cardiac computed tomography, and echocardiography., he took the role of Medical Director of Cardiovascular Services at Intermountain Cedar City Hospital--in Utah.

In this role, he brought comprehensive cardiology services including state of the art multimodality cardiology, once thought to be only a fantasy for the rural community of Cedar City, into the realm of everyday practice. Dr. Aarush Manchanda has made it his life's work to facilitate a health-conscious community and is at the forefront of shared decision making and personalized medicine. He strongly believes this to be the mantra for "precision cardiology", a term coined by him. His first step towards precision cardiology is educating people about the heart and how it works (https://www.theartisansapproach.com) and continuously seeks ways to make understanding complex health issues accessible to everyone. Aarush published a book in 2016 entitled “Your Heart House: An Artisan’s Approach™ to Understanding Heart Health”.

Dr. Aarush Manchanda (https://www.linkedin.com/in/aarushmanchanda) is an active investor with widespread interests, ranging from healthcare and wellness tech solutions using digital health, genomics & precision medicine, telehealth, artificial intelligence, iOT, biosensors, nanotechnology to fintech and ride sharing companies. He is a Board of Director at Portable Genomics, an adviser at Massive Bio, Fruitstreet, and sixsents, and a Co-Founder of a telemedicine startup called This American Doc.

He currently works as a cardiology faculty at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield MA, affiliated with University of Massachusetts.

Dr. Aarush Manchanda lives with his wife, two daughters and son in Longmeadow, Massachusetts and spends his leisure time skiing, playing golf, and meditating. To learn more about Dr. Aarush Manchanda, you can find him on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.


 

How Much Due Diligence Does An Angel Really Need To Do?

Due diligence (AKA “doing your homework” on a startup to see if investing is the right call) should clearly take time… but how much? Marianne Hudson, executive director of the Angel Capital Association (the trade association for angel investors in the US) wrote an article on this topic. Her full article (with her permission) appears further below.

 

One of the biggest debates in the angel industry is how much due diligence investors should do before they invest. From “rank and file” angels to rock star investors like Ron Conway or Mark Cuban, opinions differ vastly from literally doing none to conducting formal processes that take months.  So how do you decide what the right amount is for you?  And what are the factors you really need to check out?

Count me in the camp that believes that doing due diligence is a very important.  For me, it is about being comfortable as an investor that the team, market and product have a chance for success, that there are no red flags pointing toward failure, and better understanding the company’s capital needs over time.

As I’ve posted before, angel investing is risky.  Due diligence doesn’t completely “de-risk” a deal, but it helps eliminate deals in which there are clear problems that lead to failure – things like products with no real customers, CEOs with integrity issues, and no true right to sell the innovation.

A 2007 study found that angel investments in which at least 20 hours of due diligence was done were five times more likely to have a positive return than investments made with less due diligence time.  Put another way, while 45 percent of investments in deals with 20 hours of diligence resulted in a loss, 65 percent of the investments with less diligence took a loss. That is pretty compelling.

The point here isn’t that an individual must do at least 20 hours of due diligence for every opportunity you seriously consider.  Instead it is to understand that due diligence can help you make better decisions and increase chances for a good return. And you don’t have to do all of the work yourself – many times you can access diligence information conducted by other investors you trust.

Getting Started – Key Factors

There are some very good practice resources for angels to learn about comprehensive due diligence, including questions to askchecklists that angel groups use, best practice papers summarizing recommendations from top angel investors, and courses on investment best practices.

Although I always recommend using background resources like these, if you lean toward a faster approach, here are my top three due diligence questions to address:

Is the entrepreneur and team up to the task – and do they have the integrity you need?

A starting point is to ask the entrepreneur a lot of questions and of course check their references.  As you talk with those references, get them to suggest additional people for you to talk with.  Sometimes these are the most important interviews you will do.  In these discussions, Internet research and possibly a background check, you can also find out if the person has had issues in managing money or has been arrested – the kind of red flags that make investors walk away.

Rick Vaughn, leader of the Mid-America Angels in Kansas City, provides some good color about what you’re looking for in assessing the entrepreneur.  “It goes back to that old saying that people get funded, not business plans.  To some degree we are looking at the entrepreneur and thinking, does this person have the vision, patience, courage, creativity and integrity necessary to lead a successful venture?

“Investors are going to be thinking about how they will feel about working with the entrepreneur and the rest of the management team.  Do they feel good about forming a relationship? Investors want our level of trust to increase with each interaction we have with the CEO and the team.  If it doesn’t, that can be a deal-breaker.”

Are there customers or strong potential customers for the product or service?

A company can only grow and make money if they have customers who will pay them money.  If you prefer an early-stage company that has a product ready for sale, then it is important to ensure the company has established customer relationships.  If you like startups that are still developing their innovation, then you need strong evidence that potential customers really see that the startup can solve a pain point that they will pay for.  Generally having two established customers who will confirm that they are buying or will buy the product is a decent hurdle.   Understanding the customer situation also helps confirm or reveal important things about the market for the product and length of the sales cycle by interviewing customers.

Also, as the due diligence best practice paper notes, “Customers need not just the will but also the ability to pay (for these products).  If the venture targets customers without sufficient budget for the product, it won’t matter how badly they want it.”

How much capital does the company really need to get to an exit?

While it is important to dig into the potential exits for a company, it is also critical to get a beat on how much capital the company needs now and in future rounds of growth.  This provides a sense of the hurdles the company will face and how much your ownership stake may be diluted over time.  Many companies tend to underestimate how much money they will really need.  Ask lots of questions of the entrepreneur and financial team to get an idea of how realistic their financial plans are and mine data on companies in similar industries to see their financing and exit trajectories.

So what is the right amount of due diligence for you? Every angel will personalize the process for their own needs.  However, if you are new to angel investing, you can gain a lot by reviewing the wealth of resources available and talking with experienced angels about what is important to them and the processes they use.  Although you’re likely to adjust your approach as you make more investments, you will definitely increase your odds by incorporating due diligence into your investment decision making.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for July 18th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 7/18, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • Gideon - A messaging and predictive analytics platform powered by AI that helps law firms put lead conversion on autopilot. 
  • MedKairos - 1 out of 5 biopsies fail to return a diagnosis. The company's technology intervenes during the procedure so the patient will only undergo the procedure once.  A Valley Venture Mentors accelerator alum company.
  • Fame Intel - Provides end-to-end software solutions for companies who are growing fast, but waste hours trying to keep up. Started by a Valley Venture Mentors alum.

It’s All In The Terms: What To Prioritize In Angel Term Sheets

Terms term terms! Angels, new and veteran alike, agonize over what terms are to ensure the proper incentives and to properly compensate for risk. Marianne Hudson, executive director of the Angel Capital Association (the trade association for angel investors in the US) wrote an article on this topic. Her full article (with her permission) appears further below.

 

An essential part of angel investing is setting and agreeing to the terms of the deal.  Many angels recognize the importance of deal terms, but often wonder which components of the term sheet to prioritize. I’ll reveal the answer, but first some background about term sheets.

A term sheet outlines everyone’s intent for a deal. It is typically provided by the angel with help from their attorney. For this article I worked with angel investor Katherine O’Neill and attorneys, Ben Straughan, Partner, and Jim Carroll, Counsel, for the Perkins Coie Emerging Companies & Venture Capital practice. They also shared their insights in a recent Angel Capital Association webinar, The Key Points of Term Sheets.

A well written term sheet is critical because it leads to a great contract and creates investor-entrepreneur alignment needed for a positive relationship because it delivers the returns everyone wants, assuming the company is successful. O’Neill, executive director of Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network, underscores this point: “This is the time you have the greatest opportunity to really control the main factors that allow you to make a good exit.”

So what deal terms are most important to angel investors?  Tapping their years of experience, Carroll and Straughan suggest five critical terms for a series seed preferred investment (otherwise known as a priced angel round):

Pricing: This represents the value of the company and helps determine how much of the company you will own. It is important to get the valuation of the company right in the beginning, which can be an art with startups and early-stage companies with few assets and short track records to build on.

Participation Rights: These define an angel’s right to invest in future funding rounds, often providing the angel with a better chance of a good return. “Angels should focus on participation rights,” Straughan said. “It allows you to double down by continuing your right to invest in future rounds.”

Board and Information Rights: These rights outline whether you (or someone from the investing organization) will be on the board of directors or be an observer at company board meetings. They also determine the information you will receive from the company and how often you will receive it. For example by explicitly asking for quarterly financial statements and annual budgets, everyone can keep their eye on the ball on the status of the business while ensuring the company doesn’t have onerous requirements (because these are documents that a company needs to produce anyway).  Related to these, I like the idea of shareholders having the right to vote or at least have veto rights on key strategic issues such as selling or liquidating the company or developing entirely new lines of business.

Liquidation Preference: If the company is sold, these preferences define what preferred shareholders are paid e.g.  X times the original purchase price before any other assets are paid common stockholders. 1X liquidation is normal for angels.

Redemption Rights: These rights can help angels to achieve liquidity by selling their shares back to the company if management wants to continue running the company but investors want out.

Although these five components provide an excellent guideline for what to prioritize, term sheets can quickly get more complex, and most include many other terms which are also important.

Most experts recommend that angels start with a standard term sheet to help simplify the process and to reduce legal fees.  I’ve provided sample term sheet examples in this article and there are a wealth of other online resources.  These are a few of my favorites:

Angel Resource Institute – Their term sheet resource center includes both example documents and helpful insights. They also offer workshops on understanding term sheets.FundingPost Venture Capital Glossary – This is a glossary of financial terms for angels and entrepreneurs to understand.Hyde Park Angels – How to Read a Term Sheet (and several other great blog posts)Investor IQ – The Kauffman Foundation, ACA and ARI provide a wealth of video and materials on all facets of angel investing from experienced investorsSeraf Investor – Angel Fundamentals: Understanding Equity Deal Terms (Introduction), and many other great and important insights into being an angel investor

Term sheets are critical and that is exactly why they can sometimes be overwhelming. Beyond these resources I always recommend talking to other angels and learning about new approaches, trends and ideas at regional and national angel events. With resources like these there’s no reason to sweat the terms on your own.

Monthly Meeting Lineup for June 20th

This week's RVI meeting (Wednesday 6/20, 8:00am, offices of TechSpring) included three presentations to see if we are interested in starting due diligence:

  • OmPractice - Live, interactive online yoga classes for individuals and companies that can be taken or taught from anywhere. This company is a new graduate of the Valley Venture Mentors accelerator program.
  • Akumina - A software company based that empowers enterprises and system integrators to create personalized, contextual and scalable digital experiences to any audience. Based in Nashua, NH.
  • Knox - A b2c FinTech brand that's going to change the way people build wealth. After a successful exit with Boston Logic, Co-Founder David Friedman is presenting his next venture to RVI.