Entrepreneurial

Chicago incubator hopes to SPARK startups

Think you can form a technology company from scratch in just a week? That’s the idea behind SPARK, a new incubator program launched by a group of Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

The program is aimed at seeding viable ideas for Web-based and mobile applications during an upcoming startup competition that runs from July 22 to 27 in the Windy City.

“SPARK is about doing, not talking,” said 29-year-old Maliha Mustafa, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and SPARK co-founder. “What we’d like to do is actually execute.”

Toward that end, Mustafa and her fellow co-founders, including Seth Kravitz – who started a Web design company from his dorm room at Ohio State that later grew into a 55-person operation – are winnowing down contest applications to 60 participants.

During the six-day competition, the chosen candidates will form teams, decide on business models, build working prototypes and present their elevator pitches in front of angel investors and venture capitalists.

5 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Navy SEALs

– Jeff Bussgang is a former entrepreneur and partner at Flybridge Capital Partners. This article originally appeared on his blog Seeing Both Sides. The views expressed are his own. –

There has been a surge in interest with the world of the Navy SEALs since the Osama bin Laden action (this piece in the WSJ was a particularly good profile) and I confess to being caught up in it myself.

One of my portfolio company CEOs, Will Tumulty of Ready Financial, is a former Navy SEAL (1990-1995). Will was kind enough to introduce me to a SEAL classmate of his, Brendan Rogers (SEAL 1990-2000), who joined me and 20 NYC CEOs/founders from the tech scene recently to talk about the SEALs – the training, the planning and the operations behind their combat operations – as well as draw out some relevant lessons for entrepreneurs. Brendan went on to HBS and McKinsey after the SEALs and then started his own hedge fund with a partner, so he had an interesting, multi-faceted perspective.

An entrepreneur takes on LinkedIn – and Facebook

The Facebook logo is displayed on a computer screen in Brussels April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Thierry Roge

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Entrepreneur Rick Marini has a lot to be thankful for, including smart, connected friends who’ve supported him in the launch of two of his businesses. The most recent of these is BranchOut, which leverages Facebook to help people find business connections and that has an enviable list of backers and advisers.

Best practices for raising a VC round

An employee counts money at a foreign currency exchange in Tokyo. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Chris Dixon is co-founder of Hunch and founder of Founder Collective, and an investor in many early-stage companies like Skype and Foursquare. Previously he co-founded Siteadvisor, which was acquired by McAfee. This blog originally appeared on cdixon.org. The views expressed are his own. –

Having raised a number of VC rounds personally and observed many more as an investor or friend, I’ve come to think there are a set of dominant best practices that entrepreneurs should follow.

Dave McClure: SEO still relevant

A T-Mobile G1 Google is shown photographed in Encinitas, California January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Dave McClure, venture capitalist and founding partner of the Silicon Valley tech incubator 500 Startups, remains a staunch advocate of search engine optimization and its benefits. He shares some of his thoughts about SEO with Reuters.

Q: Do you think it’s harder for startups to gain traction with SEO now that Google and other browsers seem to be more quality focused?
A: People can build a history in three to nine months. It’s not forever. There’s quite a bit of traffic being driven by search and quite a bit of monetization.

Scoutmob tries to outdeal Groupon

Despite Groupon’s virtual stranglehold on the group-buying space, David Payne thinks it’s vulnerable.

The co-founder of rival startup Scoutmob said Groupon’s margins aren’t sustainable and feels he has a better solution for deal-crazy consumers and businesses.

“When people look at this space they see it as a zero-sum game,” said Payne, who has heard all the naysayers since launching his Atlanta-based company last year. “They see it as Groupon’s raised a billion dollars in private capital and some (other) companies have raised one, or ten or twenty (million)… how can they compete?”

Eight up-and-coming VCs worth knowing

– Mark Boslet is a senior editor for the Venture Capital Journal, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article appeared on PE Hub. –

Last week, Forbes published its Midas List of venture investors with Jim Breyer of Accel Partners edging out Sequoia’s Michael Moritz and Greylock’s Reid Hoffman for the top spot.

This closely followed list of VC moneymen has become something of a Who’s Who of the business. Its focus is the highest-profile GPs with the best track records.

3 ways to help your startup succeed

– Stephanie Rabiner is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

The number of startups has been steadily increasing, with 2010 boasting a 15-year high with 565,000 new startups each month.

Experts pin the growth on unemployment and dissatisfaction, but, according to CNN Money, experts also caution that starting a business out of desperation is not the right path to startup success.

Blippy co-founder contemplates next move

– Connie Loizos is a contributor to PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

As a little boy, Philip Kaplan, the serial entrepreneur long known as Pud, was “force fed” Ritalin. Kaplan says this with a laugh, but even today, the 35-year-old admits to having trouble focusing for too long on any one thing. “My wife says I’m like a kitten with a ball of yarn,” he shrugs.

Kaplan’s attraction to the next shiny new thing has led him to start dozens of companies in his lifetime, including F*ckedCompany, which famously chronicled dot.com busts and saw 5 million monthly unique visitors at its peak a decade ago; AdBrite, the advertising sales and services network; and Blippy, a controversial social network that asks users to share their credit card and online purchases.

Startup incubators multiplying like “mosquitoes”

– This is a Venture Capital Journal article that  appeared on PE Hub – both are Thomson Reuters publications. –

There’s no denying that an incubator rebirth is taking place, thanks in large measure to Y Combinator.

Y Combinator clones are everywhere. Several dozen of them already exist and insiders expect more than 100 such incubators will be operating nationwide before long. And they’re busy churning out plenty of startups. This past week, AngelPad held a demo day for its startups to pitch VCs, its second demo day in less than six months.

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