LaunchBox Digital Starting in the Triangle This Fall

After a few weeks of email discussions and meetings lead by CED a local group of entrepreneurs and investors have thrown their support behind LaunchBox Digital and Triangle Startup Factory, two RTP based startup company incubators who will join forces under the LaunchBox Digital brand. I’m really excited to see the incubator model coming to the Triangle and starting with an established brand name with LaunchBox means that some of the early ground work has already been done. For instance, upon the graduation of recent LaunchBox Digital classes TechCrunch has provided good coverage and exposure for the graduating companies and their products/services. The announcement of LaunchBox starting up in RTP is no exception. I look forward to being involved either as a spectator, adviser, or mentor to the startups and the incubators as they work together to create the next great companies in this part of the country.

SaveRegD: Show Your Support for Entrepreneurs

A few of my favorite entrepreneurial groups (NC Spark and have been buzzing in recent weeks about the current Chris Dodd financial reform bill. I submitted my support for one of the online petitions collecting signatures against this proposed legislation this evening. I am strongly against the suggested 120 day waiting period before a startup could receive funds raised from investors. I am also strongly against the increased bar on accredited investor status which is proposed to be raised from $1M in net worth to over $2M in net worth. Some estimates say that the accredited investor requirement change would remove nearly 70% of the options that startups have when raising money from wealthy individuals referred to as angels. Here are the details I included as I signed the petition this evening:

Adding anything that slows down the process of raising investment capital for startups is counter productive. These companies embody the American Dream and the current flexibility in the system attracts innovation to our country. A 120 day waiting period and a higher bar for accredited investment status will slow innovation and job creation in startups in this country. In this economy, as we are all starting to dig our way out, these new restrictions pose one more challenge to new ventures.

Below is the message that sent out to its nearly 15,000 members this evening. Please get involved, sign the petition, and spread the word about all of the damage that this proposed legislation would do if it becomes law. The brilliant entrepreneurs who create new ventures don’t need anything else making the challenge even more difficult and our community doesn’t need another roadblock standing in the way of new job creation.

Save Angel Investing
The US Senate Committee on Banking chaired by Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut is proposing changes to angel investing buried within the “Financial Reform Legislation” on the floor of the Senate now. The reforms will effectively double the standard to be an “accredited investor” in the US, which most estimate will reduce the pool of accredited investors by over 70%. Additionally, the proposed legislation requires that financings, whether accredited or not, must be registered with the SEC, and the SEC has up to 120 days to respond. If the SEC does not respond, the financing goes to the applicable State organizations for review.

Reducing the number of accredited investors, slowing down the investment process significantly and adding considerable cost to small financings will decimate angel investing. For all US Members, unless you want to wait for months to get a wire after your next financing is closed, please take a moment to spread the word and call Senator Dodd, as well as your own State Senator.

– Amend Section 926 to exempt startups from SEC filing, state regulation, and 120-day review.
– Strike Section 412 to prevent 77% of current angel investors from losing their accreditation.

– DC: 202-224-2823
– CT: 800-334-5341

– #SaveRegD

Wireless Electricity Update

wireless electricity update

I have been following wireless electricity in this blog for some time now, through these previous posts:

Wireless Electricity Update Summer 2009, and

Wireless Electricity (multiple updates within)

Here’s the most recent installment of news on the topic.

It looks like the folks at WiTricity, of whom I am their biggest fan, in Massachusetts are well on their way to having a commercial wireless electricity product on the market within the next 12-14 months. Based on this timing it will just miss the 2010 Christmas shopping season.

I wonder if this is a commercial product that can then be integrated into other manufacturers devices through OEM arrangements (ie: iPhone, now compatible with WiTricity for wireless charging) or a direct consumer device that you can either purchase individual device interfaces for or that will have multi-connector functionality built-in. Since the whole point of wireless charging is about removing chords and the concept of proximity of devices to power sources I hope they are able to offer individual device interfaces at launch and then eventually become so important to the market that they will get the OEM arrangements, like BlueTooth has done.

Considering the fact that people use chord-based charging stations to power up their mobile devices now, the move to wireless electrical charging will also cause a new problem which is “I can’t find my [insert device name].” When it comes to cell phones you will at least be able to call your phone, assuming it isn’t on vibrate, to locate it within your house since the battery won’t be dead… as long as you’re a member of the younger generations who never turn their mobile phone off. It amazes me how often my parents and those of their generation (early sixties now) still turn their mobile phones off at various times. Anyway, my point is that for devices other than mobile phones (battery powered vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, and especially smaller ones like watches, hand-vacs, etc) an audible locating feature might be a great addition. You could use a central WiTricity panel to cause each device to beep at you for a bit to remind you where you hid it last.

The WiTricity system sounds like it will give you enough freedom to fully misplace your items without any concern of them losing a full charge. What a fun problem to have.

Wireless Electricity Update Summer 2009

This is an update on recent developments in wireless electricity. I’ve been writing about wireless electricity for several years now and have corresponded with Marin Soljacic at MIT on one occassion regarding his progress as well.

The MIT Technology Review is doing a good job of following along with the race between their team (now operating within the independant VC funded startup WiTricity) and Intel (who appears to be building on top of some of their own technology) to bring a wireless electricity product to market first . Thanks to my buddy Jim for pointing me to this article last week. The article talks pretty much all about Intel and their June 18th presentation at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. At the event they showed a wireless electricity prototype which charged an iPod speaker at a distance of one meter using a 60 cm diameter loop transmitter and a 30 cm diameter loop receiver both tuned to a frequency (electrical current oscillation) of seven megahertz. Electrical power was transmitted with 80% efficiency through the specific arrangement they demonstrated.

This display is similar to one they showed in the Fall of 2008 which lit a lightbulb over a similar distance with only slightly less (75%) efficiency. Because of the small improvement in efficiency (5% increase in 10 months) I wonder if they are approaching a unique design limitation or a fundamental limitation with the transfer of a magnetic field through the air. It’s also worth wondering whether the 20% of energy lost is falling out as the magnetic field passes through the air (currently a distance of one meter) or through the process in which electric energy is converted into magnetic energy and back within the wire loops that comprise the transmitter and receiver. I figure the magnetic field transfer through the air is to blame for most of the energy lost in this model. Does anyone know?

I also haven’t heard anyone talking about efficiency gained or lost when a single transmitter is used in combination with multiple transmitters. If a transmitter is able to send a magnetic field out in multiple directions (which I don’t know if it does) then it seems to me that a receiver in a location far away from another receiver would not reduce the ability of the other receiver to be driven by the magnetic field. Could this technique be used to increase efficiency to a level that the current energy losses would be more than compensated for? I don’t see why this wouldn’t work… but my physics knowledge is based mostly on Physics 26 and 27 in the undergrad program at UNC from eight years ago 🙂 At least the classes did include sections on electricity and magnetism.

Another note about WiTricity, the company pushing MIT’s research forward that I mentioned earlier, their website contained a few things I found interesting:

1) It mentions that WiTricity has an exclusive license to the wireless electricity prototype intellectual property developed by Marin Soljacic and his team at MIT. There are also some other interesting details on the about us page of the WiTricity website as well.

2) It contains a nice illustrated description about how wireless electricity works which is a great read for a wireless electricity novice and probably great content for a lesson plan if you are a teacher.

Get Discount Tires Faster With MyTireMonkey and Make Money Too!

Our friend Tully over at created a nice video today that explains how their unique system works and how partners can get involved in their private label program for online tire sales. Right now they’re running an offer with no upfront costs to become a private label partner. This is a great opportunity for local service stations, general automotive providers, and even corporations to extend the offer of discount tires to their prospects, clients, or employees… and make some money in the process.

Check out the video of Tully describing how it all works below.

Facebook Co-Founder Speaking at CED Venture Conference in Three Weeks

Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder and Obama insider is speaking at CED’s Venture Conference in April in Pinehurst. The recent announcement of Chris’ addition to the lineup makes this conference a whole lot more interesting. I’ve blocked off the dates on my calendar and will be attending now. His short bio is on the CED Venture website now. I also learned a lot more about him (his Obama campaign involvement, etc) through a quick Google search . There’s a good article on FastCompany about him as well.

The last time I attended the Venture conference with CED was a few years back when it was in Pinehurst as well. This was one of the best entrepreneurial networking events I’ve ever attended as the large porches outside of the Inn where the conference is held become crowds of investors and entrepreneurs milling around with drinks and cigars in hand in the late evening. A very neat opportunity to meet folks from all around the country. Drop me a note if you’ll be at Venture and we’ll catch up.

Pre-registration for Venture 2009 closes on 4/16 and you can register online.

Building Philanthropy in the Triangle

My friend Dan is launching a great organization called Triangle Gives Back with the goal of engaging corporations in the Triangle area of North Carolina to give more back to the community. The Triangle area ranks highly in many national lists that compare quality of living, education, business climate, universities, etc but its rankings for philanthropy are a little further down the list. Triangle Gives Back will be a hub for businesses, employees, organizations, and individuals to discuss opportunities for giving and partnering across the divide between for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

As one specific example, businesses will pledge discounts to qualified member not-for-profit organizations who can then take advantage of the service or product discounts. Preation has pledged a discount for Eden Platform’s monthly subscription cost to Triangle Gives Back. Under this arrangement Triangle based charitable organizations can optimize their websites with no technical or marketing expertise required at a low and discounted cost. Eden Platform is offered with no setup fee and no term commitment so not-for-profit organizations can rest easy knowing that Preation has entirely removed the risk from the process of optimizing a website for the search engines. Non-profit organizations use Eden Platform to reduce cost and delays, empower staff and volunteers, and expand the reach and influence of their missions online.

Net Job Growth is Bigger in Texas

The Triangle business journal highlighted a few local cities, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, that ranked in the list of best of national job growth in 2008. Out of the top 88 cities only 15 actually had a net gain in jobs in 2008 with most losing several thousand net jobs within the year. The article didn’t seem to have much to say about the fact that four out of the top five cities on the list were in Texas (Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin). That was pretty impressive to me.

Only Washington DC represented any other part of the nation in the top five. Each of the cities in Texas that topped the list gained ~10,000+ jobs and Houston gained nearly 60,000. I need to visit Texas some more this year and talk to some business owners to find out what’s driving the growth down there. Many of those cities and certainly Austin are known as up-and-coming technology business centers but I didn’t realize the growth was so out of proportion with the rest of the country. Or maybe it was simply that the job loss due to macro economic challenges was less for this region. Regardless, something is different and inquiring minds want to know.

Durham created 1,700 net jobs and ranked 11th which was due in small part to iContact hiring around 80 employees in 2008 which was pretty cool to see.

The Quirks of Entrepreneurs

A friend of mine passed on an article to me tonight on the topic of (warning: some possibly offensive content on this site) dating an entrepreneur and I thought it was good enough to be shared. I don’t believe I ever dated an entrepreneur actually thinking back on it now. These days my wife is becoming a bit of an entrepreneur herself so I guess I’m wading into this situation slowly. In her article Kelli looks at what it’s like to date an entrepreneur, a reflection probably not far from the conversations in the heads of everyone I dated in my single years. I will mention as a marital-peace disclaimer… I do not remember these years.

Entrepreneurs can do very abnormal things but I think they are driven my pretty normal motivations.

I heard a great analogy from John Grinnell of Grinnell Leadership the other day about two different people approaching the same problem from different angles. The story goes like this. Two people with identical assets and situations see a beach house for sale and the first person decides that the monthly payment is simply too much for them so they turn down the opportunity to buy it. The second person sees the beach house and knows that they cannot afford the monthly payment but notices that because of the structure of the house two additional downstairs entrances would easily allow it to be subdivided into three units. Because the property is undervalued two units could easily be sold for the total value of the house which would yield them a free house at the beach. The house is smaller and the risk required to purchase the house and divide it into three separate units may be high… but the reward of a free beach house is high.

The funny stories you hear about entrepreneurs come in the midst of these little projects and I bet many of them rise out of the stress that comes from taking unusual risks. Using money and time carefully and seeing business opportunities everywhere comes naturally to this type. They can also be seen as loners because the large majority of the population thinks like the first person in the example above who would never consider subdividing the beach house.