Entrepreneurial

Would you let a robot care for your mother?

Michelle Owusu is a contributor for Reuters.com

The idea of sticking their parents in a nursing home weighs heavily on many Baby Boomers. Martin Spencer has a solution: robots.

“Many people quit good paying jobs to keep their beloved mother or father out of the horrors of a nursing home,” said Spencer, who created the CareBot, a 4-foot, 100-pound, robot with a screen for a face and wheels for legs that reminds owners to take their medication.

If necessary, the CareBot calls emergency contacts and dials 911 and is fitted with a webcam to allow purchasers the ability to monitor and have video chats with their elderly relatives from anywhere.

Spencer said the CareBot – the lone product of his Atlanta-based startup GeckoSystems – should be available next fall for between $12,000 and $15,000 – a price point he said should alleviate pressure on family budgets by paring down the “hidden costs” of the aging crisis. Spencer added the financial hit of quitting a full-time job to become a caregiver or putting a loved one in a retirement home quickly runs into the tens of thousands. The cost savings and peace of mind will guarantee CareBot a spot in the burgeoning personal robot market, he said.

The CareBot should be available by the second or third quarter next year said Spencer, who expects to sell 6,000 robots in the first 12 months. In-home trials have to date been successful. However, the firm still needs to raise $750,000 to build and market the first robots.

A startup financing strategy that works

– Kenneth H. Marks is the founder and managing partner of Raleigh, North Carolina-based High Rock Partners. He is also the lead author of the “Handbook of Financing Growth”. The views expressed are his own. –

Statistically no one gets venture capital. The ratio of the number of companies started each year vs. the number of companies funded is minuscule. For most companies it’s just plain unrealistic. So, how do the 99.9 percent of startup businesses get funded?

The financing strategy is bootstrapping in stages based on iterative phases of success and only doing what must be done to get to the next phase with minimal capital. This is a resourceful and practical approach:

Entrepreneurship void felt in Jackson Hole

– Jeff Bussgang is a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Harvard Business School. He is the author of “Mastering the VC Game” and writes the blog “Seeing Both Sides”. The following is an abridged version of a blog that originally appeared on PE Hub. The views expressed are his own. –

I love Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s one of the most extraordinarily beautiful settings in the world. One cannot help being in a good mood when observing the breathtaking wildlife, open sky and the awe-inspiring Grand Tetons.

Thus, reading the reports from last weekend’s annual economist confab in Jackson Hole could not have been more depressing. If the practitioners of the dismal science sound this pessimistic amidst such an uplifting setting, what will their attitude be when they trade in their cowboy boots for green shades and return to their drab offices to stare at spreadsheets? A usually staid Allen Sinai sounded positively hyperbolic, yet apparently spoke for many at the conference, when he told the New York Times, “I’m more worried than I have ever been about the future of the U.S. economy. The challenge is unique: poor and diminishing growth, a sticky unemployment rate, sky-high deficits and a sovereign debt that makes us one of the most fiscally irresponsible countries in the world.”

Pilot trades 747s for water taxis

SecondAct contributor David Ferrell is a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the author of the comic baseball novel “Screwball”. This article originally appeared on SecondAct.com. Top photo by Veronica DeLuca

Pilot John Voishan devoted a long career to flying travelers across the globe. He loved to gaze down on mountains and rivers as he guided massive 747s to cities in Europe, Australia and throughout the Americas. His final assigned route – from Los Angeles to Sydney – took 14 1/2 hours and spanned 7,500 miles each way, with hundreds of people reading and napping in the cabin behind him.

Though retired now, at age 65, Voishan hasn’t quite given up the passengers. But he’s traded in jumbo jets for a slow, boxy, open-air vessel known as a shoreboat, a water taxi that serves Santa Catalina Island. The rugged fleet of shoreboats – each slightly smaller than a bus – is one of the distinctive features of the picturesque island 22 miles off the Southern California coast.

Toura finds niche, now must exploit it: experts

Toura’s Web-based tool that creates virtual museum tours for handy download onto a visitor’s mobile device is exciting, but experts said founder Aaron Radin needs to get some more big-name clients on board and ramp up sales to fully command the space.

Radin, who launched Toura with co-founder Sayoko Knight Teitelbaum 18 months ago, has already created apps for the Art Institute of Chicago, Washington’s the Smithsonian Institute, the Pace Gallery in New York and the London Royal Academy of Arts. In addition Toura’s app publishing platform has been used to produce some shopping and travel guides (read the original story here).

“It was clear to me that any museum has content or has access to content and either through lack of technology or access to technology, they did not necessarily have a way to take that content and distribute it to what is obviously an increasing audience – peoples’ mobile devices,” said Radin, who offers his proprietary Web-based publishing tool – The Toura Mobile App Producer – to clients for free in exchange for a 50-50 split of the revenues from each downloaded app, which ranges from 99 cents to $5.99.

Grocery magnate learns from personal failure

The following is a guest post by Stew Leonard, founder of Stew Leonard’s, the Connecticut-based grocery and wine retailer with upwards of $300 million in annual sales. His recent book, “Stew Leonard: My Story,” details the challenges and triumphs in building a company and legacy that his children would inherit. The views expressed are his own.

My son Stew Jr. delivered a bit of news at his college graduation that almost broke my heart: He had been recruited by Price Waterhouse, the big accounting firm, and decided to work for them instead of joining the family business.

Despite our disappointment, my wife Marianne and I felt he had earned the graduation present we had chosen for him: a round-the-world tour. It was 1977, and at $2,500 just for the airline ticket alone, it was an expensive gift. But it turned out to be a wonderful investment.

Alignment between entrepreneurs and VCs

–- Jeff Bussgang is a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, an early-stage venture capital firm in Boston, and author of the book “Mastering the VC Game”. This post originally appeared on Bussgang’s blog www.seeingbothsides.com. The views expressed are his own. –-

Alignment.

You hear this word thrown out frequently in business conversations. It’s a wonderful thing to aspire to, but very hard to achieve. Perhaps even harder to achieve in entrepreneurial settings between the venture capitalist and the entrepreneur, where the stakes are so high and the ever-present risk of dysfunctional behavior leading to a “Start-Up Soap Opera”.

Ever since I began the research for my book, I have been spending time thinking about why VC-entrepreneur alignment is so elusive. And so when the Kauffman Foundation asked me to give a presentation to their recent class of young VCs, I decided to take the opportunity to develop a few thoughts that teed up the key issues.

Hot Prospects: Ken Howery, Founders Fund

– The following profile is an abbreviated version of Venture Capital Journal contributor Deborah Gage’s piece for the the VCJ’s series on “Hot Prospects” within the venture capital industry. –

Ken Howery’s first office after college was in a broom closet at 3000 Sand Hill Road – and no, he wasn’t the janitor. He and his new boss, Peter Thiel, who was running hedge fund Thiel Capital International, wanted a Sand Hill Road address. Even though the broom closet was the only space available, it was still on Sand Hill, and the more prestigious part at that.

“The broom closet was maybe 10 feet wide,” Howery said. “We had a desk, and any time somebody had to go to a meeting, they had to suck in to get out the door.”

Hot Prospects: Phin Barnes, First Round Capital

– The following profile is an abbreviated version of Venture Capital Journal contributor Tom Stein’s piece for the the VCJ’s series on “Hot Prospects” within the venture capital industry. –

Phin Barnes’ first entrepreneurial endeavor did not exactly go according to plan.

In 2003, the former college basketball player co-founded ResponDesign, a developer of fitness games for consoles like the Xbox and Play Station 2. With its first game, Yourself!Fitness – which was based on Barnes’ concept of a “virtual personal trainer on a game console” – the company blazed trail for a whole new category of fitness games, including the wildly popular Wii Fit.

Hot Prospects: Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate Fund

– The following profile is an abbreviated version of Venture Capital Journal senior editor Joanna Glasner’s piece for the the VCJ’s series on “Hot Prospects” within the venture capital industry. –

Ann Miura-Ko has been in the epicenter of startup innovation since the fifth grade. That’s when the now 33-year-old partner in newly formed Floodgate Fund (formerly Maples Investments) moved to Palo Alto, California, where her father worked as a rocket scientist at nearby NASA-Ames.

After graduating from Yale, Miura-Ko followed a well-worn VC path, taking a job with consulting firm McKinsey & Co. A couple years into that job, Miura-Ko met her future mentor, Ted Dintersmith, a partner at Charles River Ventures. CRV had posted an ad for an analyst on the McKinsey job board, and Miura-Ko applied for and won the position.

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