Positioning Your Startup for Market Traction with David Goetz

On Tuesday, July 16, 10:00 a.m., ID Members are invited to hear entrepreneur and serial founder David Goetz talk about Positioning Your Startup for Market Traction. Goetz’s informational and interactive talk will help answer questions about branding your startup so you will take away how to:

  • Understand the eight positions of positioning power
  • Position your brand in your category
  • Develop the messaging architecture for your startup
  • Connect your brand positioning with creative

    About the presenter: Dave Goetz is president of CZ Strategy, a strategic marketing agency that he founded in 2000. He is the author of three books, including one on messaging strategy and another on fly fishing. He also founded RealityRN, a social community for new nurses; Big Snowy Media, a publishing imprint; and “2 Guys and a River,” a fly fishing podcast.

    When you go:

Place: Innovation DuPage
Date: Tuesday, July 16
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
RSVP ID@innovationdupage.org

Michael Medema Mentor Workshop: Flip-flops and Fast Facts

For a man who has started seven companies (with four successful exits) and is currently running three companies simultaneously, Michael Medema seemed pretty chill. Medema sat down in t-shirt and flip flops to chat with ID members about his experiences scaling startups. His resume includes company sale prices valued at a cumulative $54 million.

His current company, Keono, a digital marketing company which he started in 2011, claims revenue of $18.5 million and has been listed on INC. 50 four years in a row as a “Best Workplace in the U.S.”, among other accolades he said. Medema is a serial entrepreneur with chops. As an ID mentor, he’s willing and able to help others, so ID members were listening closely.

Stay Debt Free
In a staccato delivery style, all business and fast facts, Medema advised ID members to avoid debt if at all possible. He said organic growth is the best growth and the way to achieve organic growth is through personal selling. He said it’s okay to start small, and not to spend a lot of money on marketing at first. For super small companies, if there’s a little money—like $500-$1000 per month to spend–founders are better off hiring sales reps, even 1099 sales reps, to follow up on leads and close deals.

Hook a big client, do something great for them and then leverage that success on to the next. He said to be realistic with financials and remember “Cash and data are king. Debt is crippling.”

Focus on One Thing
No one can be all things to all people. As an example, Medema said his particular strength is on building great companies and teams—fast—and then getting out. “I’m not the CEO to take a company to the next level. My sweet spot is from scratch up to $25 million.” He said to focus on doing one thing great and figuring out how to scale fast.

focus on doing one thing great and figure out how to scale fast.

Get a Great Team
While you’re lasering in on the thing you do best, he advised company leaders to hire slow/fire fast to cultivate a capable team, a powerful network and a high-functioning company culture. Founders have to do everything alone at first. But when it’s time to hire, he said to try to pay on results as much as possible (see paragraph three). Use consultants and 1099 them. Find and hire interns to help. They’re willing and able to work to gain experience. (Hint: the ID partner colleges and universities are full of them!)

Be Ready to Change
“If you’re not changing, you’re dying. I change quickly. I’m always looking over my shoulder,” Medema asserted. The people in the team change, the customers change, the product changes and the markets certainly change. Founders need to be prepared for that. Founders also must “Constantly share their vision, direction and plans with clients, vendors, team members, investors and so on. Keep the vision strong and continue to ask questions and challenge the norm,” he said.

Use the Network
Medema was impressed with the level of talent and vision in the room. He recommended that business founders and owners at Innovation DuPage take the headphones off and work together. ID members could share knowledge and resources and even combine resources to hire needed talent, if possible.

He said, “Most of the companies all have similar issues so leverage the group and discuss key issues together (i.e. prospecting, hiring, etc.). Although the companies are unique and in different stages, sharing ideas would be greatly beneficial. I’ve learned a ton from business partners, friends and other business owners, so network more so you too can learn the ropes.”

This rope is one every ID member will want to swing on! ID Member Symone Lewis, founder and CEO of Barelastics, said “This was amazing and worth every minute.” Stay tuned for the next mentor workshop on Tuesday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. to noon with Dave Goetz.

 

 

Justin Mayer of Encube

How Serendipity Led to Encube’s Founding

Justin Mayer, a cofounder and chief marketing officer of Encube, was working in product management for a manufacturer when he realized there was a gap in IT project management platforms in the marketplace that opened an opportunity for a new solution.

After developing his own prototype for a solution, Mayer met with venture capital firm Symphony Alpha Ventures. Symphony Alpha was already working with another company tackling a similar problem in the Agile development space and connected them with Mayer. Mayer, Symphony Alpha and two Atlanta-based developers—who called their collaboration Encube—met to explore the possibilities of working together.

They found alignment in their goals and values as well as complementary skill sets: They needed each other to achieve success.

They found alignment in their goals and values as well as complementary skill sets: They needed each other to achieve success. From that serendipitous meeting, a reformation of Encube resulted with Justin taking the lead on marketing, sales and business development.

Encube and AI = Solutions

Together, the trio knew that managing the user stories, tasks and subtasks of a software development team can be a daunting task. Also, they were aware that a lack of unbiased data regarding each developer’s specific technological skills and knowledge resulted in a gap that hindered the management of an ideal software development team. And, while there are many project management tools on the market, these systemic gaps prevent organizations from leveraging the data of the vast amount of project tasks they’ve already completed, limiting their ability to make the most efficient use of their available talent pool.

The Atlanta team had been working on a need for a quicker, more efficient and cost-effective way to manage IT tasks among teams, especially among Agile software development teams.
Encube’s founders also knew how to put artificial intelligence to work in project management. With the goal of revolutionizing an industry, these efforts are at the core of the launch of Encube’s technology. By incorporating the use of a proprietary artificial intelligence engine, Mayer and his team created a tool that can dynamically mine data to create an evidence-based body of knowledge to help large project managers maximize their talent pool and complete more projects, more efficiently.

Making Task-Oriented Decisions
As well as making task-oriented decisions based on experience and knowledge, Encube can also calculate the appropriate replacement of a developer and help estimate the number of IT projects that can be handled at one time before more staff is needed. Encube provides the answers at a users’ fingertips.

Encube’s artificial intelligence saves time and money by referring to evidence-based knowledge demonstrated by its generated resource graph, another Encube breakthrough. The resource graph creates a better way of workforce planning by suggesting the proper expertise for specific tasks that maximizes the efficiency of an IT team. Encube strives to take the tedium out of managing IT teams.

How ID Played a Role
Mayer saw a need for office space and a network of knowledge and resources to help him grow the business. He turned to Innovation DuPage. Innovation DuPage has provided Encube with the resources and an ecosystem that enables Mayer and his growing team to more quickly expand its business. Innovation DuPage is a space where Mayer thrives and collaborates with other entrepreneurs. The story of Encube is still unfolding as the trial version is now online and accepting customers. The future looks promising. Venture capital is in place. A new website effectively communicates the benefits and clearly defines the market. Stay tuned as we report on Encube’s success and provide updates in the months ahead.

By Jack Dore

ID Grand Opening in Video and Photos

The Grand Opening event video documents an incredible day where an estimated 300+ people participated in activities complete with a ribbon cutting featuring local dignitaries and an open house where the entire community was invited to meet and interact with some of ID’s members.

Members Gray Matters Games, GOtivation and Gindo’s offered samples, demos and
taste samples. Not to be outdone by companies starting with G, collaborators Warphole and Quze engaged with hundreds of participants. All of ID’s members are startup and small businesses looking to
get to that next step with collaboration, networking and business education opportunities
provided by ID.

Check out the Flickr photo album for fun photos documenting the day.

Read the articles that commemorated Innovation DuPage’s grand opening:

If you are interested in learning more about Innovation DuPage, call 630-942-3340 or stop in for a tour.

Thank you to everyone who came!

ID’s Grand Opening Open House Was a Big Success

An estimated 300+ people stopped by Innovation DuPage’s new headquarters at the Glen Ellyn Civic Center, 535 Duane Street, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, on Wednesday, May 22, for a Grand Opening.

Be sure to visit Glen Ellyn retailers who are helping celebrate the Grand Opening of Innovation DuPage

People were able to meet some of the start up businesses that are incubating at Innovation DuPage. Also, ID staff offered tours to show off the renovation of the former Glen Ellyn police station and explained how this business development incubator and small business accelerator that is Innovation DuPage will make a big impact on the economic development of the region in the future.

The space is beautiful, the tours take just a few minutes and there are dozens of trendy restaurants and delightful shops to explore in downtown Glen Ellyn!

Participating retailers are offering a free gift through Sunday, May 26, with a minimum purchase of $25 for anyone who stopped by the ID Grand Opening and presents the flyer from the goody bag takeaway.

A big thanks and shout out to these retailers who helped us celebrate our Grand Opening:

Alla Moda Boutique
Blonde Boutique
The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn
Cabernet & Company
Courier Travel
Glen Ellyn Sweet Shoppe
JAYNE
Larc Jewelers
M and Em’s Boutique
Marcel’s Culinary Experience
Marche
Norabella Boutique
Olive ‘n Vinnie’s
Shawn Sargent Designs
Sign of the Whale Antiques
String Theory
Treasure House
UPTOWN

When you go, be sure to take a photo and post to social media with #GO_ID #MyID

How COD Graphic Design Students Created for GOtivation

Portfolio Night 2019 is where design students from College of DuPage and high schools in the community were invited to present their work to a panel of judges and the public. Portfolio Night presents an opportunity to review the work of each student and talk with each artist in person.

One emerging company that worked with COD graphic design students was GOtivation. GOtivation worked with student designers at College of DuPage through their professor, Gautum Wadhwa, to create a series of icons and animated graphics to be used on the GOtivation mobile app. The app helps people get more fit by providing mental motivation through texts and messages to stick with a fitness plan via a game-like interface.

The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use.

GOtivation Founder and CEO Dennis Timpanero said, “The students did a phenomenal job! Not only were they easy to work with, but they provided some great designs in a short period of time. Their effort has already been put to good use. We immediately started using the medals, badges, and other game graphics in the training course this week. Customers replied with comments like ‘ooooh,’ ‘nice!’ and even ‘fancy!’ Customers reached out unprompted and were really impressed with the professional level of the design. We really appreciated how the students worked this project into their busy class schedules and their other commitments.”

GOtivation plans to continue working with College of DuPage students in the future and was visible cheering them on at Portfolio Night 2019.

Portfolio Night 2019 at College of DuPage, an annual event, featured creative work ranging from a graphic design and illustrations to packaging and website designs. Graphic design students were recognized with awards and prizes in the following categories: Portfolio, Identity Design, Publication Design, Illustration, 3-D Design, and Web Design.

Learn more at http://www.cod.edu/design/portfolioReview.htm

 

How a Glen Ellyn entrepreneur made toys for the #MeToo era.

Written by Travis Linderman, managing director of Innovation DuPage, and Ginger Wheeler, a copywriter/marketer in Chicago. The article first appeared in Glen Ellyn Living’s February 2019 edition as “Mom on a Mission: Helping Girls Achieve Their Full Potential.”

A perfect world to Jodi Norgaard, a long-time Glen Ellyn resident and mom of three, would be one where the world viewed equally the contributions of men and women for equal gender balance. As a mom of two boys and one girl, Norgaard became concerned about how the world would treat her daughter as compared to her sons. This epiphany happened while shopping for an age-appropriate toy for a girl’s birthday gift in Glen Ellyn. One thing led to another in a string of events – with some successes and many challenges – and now Norgaard is a public speaker on a mission to make change and help others as a mentor with Innovation DuPage.

For the past two years, Norgaard has been speaking to women’s groups, corporations, universities and even the Obama White House. She talks about how her experiences in the toy aisle and her research on how toys shape long-term perceptions and values for our culture changed her as well as what she learned from the challenges of creating and launching a line of dolls: “Go! Go! Sports Girls.”

A Mission Taking Shape

It all began one day when Norgaard and her 9-year-old daughter, fresh from soccer practice, were shopping for a birthday gift at a Glen Ellyn toy store. The only dolls offered were dressed in provocative, skimpy shorts and halter tops with long flowing hair, dangling earrings and high heels. Even the so-called “STEM” toys, such as building blocks and chemistry sets, sent a message: build a car or watch an exploding volcano for boys, build a house or make nail polish for girls.

These micro-aggressions are like little tiny paper cuts,” Norgaard said. “Saying things like, ‘you throw like a girl’ hurled as an insult just go to show how ingrained the image of ‘girls as less’ is in our society.

Outraged that the toy market for girls was focused so inappropriately on a girl’s appearance, instead of her interest in action and adventure, Norgaard decided to do something about it. She got the idea to create a female-positive role model doll that reflects the reality of who little girls really are: active, energetic and interested in more than makeup and fashion.

Much hard work and many months later, armed with tons of research to prove the product would be welcomed profitably in the toy aisle, Norgaard launched Go! Go! Sports Girls. The soft, plush dolls had a body that reflected the actual measurements of her own (by then) 10-year-old daughter. (As opposed to the unrealistic measurements of, say, a certain best-selling toy with a name that rhymes with “Darbie.”)

Each doll in Norgaard’s line was provided a name and a backstory that included a love of a sport, such as gymnastics, swimming, soccer, tennis, or cheerleading, along with some accessories tied to that sport. Norgaard introduced Go! Go! Sports Girls to the toy market through national toy shows attended by toy store buyers, ready and excited to see change start to happen.

Launching a Winning New Product in a Hesitant Market

Go! Go! Sports Girls won awards. It was applauded as innovative, a breakthrough, the next big thing. It was featured in national magazines and talk shows on television. During a test run at the U.S. Open, 500 pieces sold out. All the research pointed toward a product winner. Market research showed people would buy it. Experts claimed the toy would offer long-term benefits for girls’ self-esteem and boys’ attitudes toward girls.

Yet, against all logic, Norgaard heard, “Nice, but no, thanks. It’s not mainstream, it won’t sell.” Even after Walmart agreed to carry the toys along with a book accompanying each doll (making publishing yet another industry, in addition to manufacturing and the toy industry itself, Norgaard had to learn from scratch), traditional toy store buyers still were reluctant to give her product a chance.

Why? Because it wasn’t about fashion or a girl’s appearance – which, incidentally, was the whole point.

The Pivot

Ultimately, treatment of her product by retail buyers convinced Norgaard that attitudes needed to change. She said, “Mainstream ideas don’t create change, so I dug in my heels.” She sold her promising company to a toy manufacturer with more marketing muscle and resources and pivoted to become a public speaker on a mission to create change.

Two years after relaunching herself as a public speaker, she is as busy as she wants to be, speaking approximately weekly during the “convention” season of spring and fall across the country. She is represented by two speakers’ bureaus and is paid for her speaking engagements. Her travel costs are covered as well.

Norgaard said, “The goal is to truly inspire people by telling my story: the hardships, the challenges; how I figured out how to manufacture a toy for the US toy market and the roadblocks in the way; how my idea that girls deserved more; and that I had a pulse of what parents really wanted for their girls, an idea way ahead of its time.”

“Today, with #MeToo and #TimesUp and the concept of unconscious bias coming to light, things are different. But there are still what I call micro-aggressions that say boys are strong and girls are weak. We need to be aware of these, and I highlight that in my talks,” she added.

Norgaard was twice invited by the Obama White House to speak at conferences on the issue of gender parity in children’s toys, toy promotions and their media. She said her message is to make people aware that, to reach the pinnacle of success as a culture (or a business), changes in the way girls are treated in our society are imperative. One stunning fact: 94 percent of women occupying the C-Suite said they played team sports as a child. Yet before Norgaard launched Go! Go! Sports Girls, there were zero toys that linked girls with sports.

But before change scan be made, problems must be identified.

“These micro-aggressions are like little tiny paper cuts,” Norgaard said. “Saying things like, ‘you throw like a girl’ hurled as an insult just go to show how ingrained the image of ‘girls as less’ is in our society.”

Making Change Happen

Norgaard said her message is resonating with all audiences. “Everyone that I talk to – especially men who are raising daughters – are shocked when they hear me. They agree that treating women and girls as equals is right. If you are going to create change though, it has to start at a young age. We have to create change with boys and girls.”

In addition to her ongoing speaking schedule, Norgaard will be mentoring other up-and-coming entrepreneurs at Innovation DuPage. She will be sharing her experiences and advising participants in the program to help them achieve success faster than they might have on their own.

“Collaboration and working with others is key,” Norgaard said. “I asked and asked and asked anyone and everyone questions along the way. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with Innovation DuPage and can’t wait to see the results for our County.”

Tech entrepreneurs talk startup struggles: “It’s not really like Shark Tank.”

What does it take to be a technology startup in today’s world? How do you break through the barriers of early entrepreneurship? And what do you wish you knew before you began your journey?

During the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Week, Innovation DuPage organized a panel of investor-funded entrepreneurs. They came together at Benedictine University to discuss the struggles and triumphs of the startup business.

Meet the Panelists

Christina York, founder of SpellBound, a therapeutic tool that helps children cope and engage with medical treatment using immersive Augmented Reality (AR) technology.

Ashley Kern, data scientist and founder of SightLine, an organization that uses data science to predict student success, improve financial performance, and increase graduation rates at higher education institutions.

Phillip Coleman, community and events manager at Ann Arbor SPARK, an innovation-driven economic engine within Southeast Michigan.

Brianna Wolin, founder of Find Your Ditto, a platform that uses modern technology to create a supportive community of individuals with chronic illnesses.

On the Daily Grind

Brianna: “You have to be passionate, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to wake up and love your company every single day.”

Christina: “There’s an amount of tenacity you need to launch a startup. Sales and marketing strategies are constantly being tweaked and constantly adapting to market changes. I started in one direction and went that way for 10 months, and then had to kill it and go in another direction. It’s okay to do that. I let go and that was painful for me.”

Brianna: “A startup’s journey is not really like what you see on Shark Tank. You still have to take care of yourself. Working on something else as a freelancer does not make you any less of a founder. It just helps you pay your bills. You don’t have to have an awful way of living when you are building your company.”

In the entrepreneurial world, there’s a lot of unequal power; the people with money have it all. But finding people who treat you with respect is the number one tell of who I want to do business with.

On the Surprising Benefits of Competition

Phillip: “Competition is not a bad thing. Have an entrepreneurial mindset and think, no matter what happens, I’m going to overcome. Look at competition as a pathway. Where is their disruption? It’s easier to look at a full picture [of the market] than a blank canvas.”

Brianna: “Don’t be afraid to launch and don’t hold off until it’s perfect. See over the competition and have consistent deep conversations about core competencies: Discover what your business does best and stick with it. Focus on what you do best and keep doing it.”

On Hiring Early Employees

Ashley: “If you’re a technical founder, do as much work yourself as you can and then hire people and continue to scale. Be stingy with your time and your equity. You’re creating that value, so don’t give away too much equity.”

Christina: “During interviews with new potential employees, I’ll let them know we’ve missed payroll three times in the last year and I’ll ask, “What does that mean to you?” Not everyone is cut out to work for a startup.”

Ashley: “When you build your team, it’s really important to keep in mind some tough questions. I ask, ‘How do you feel about working for someone who’s younger and female?’ And if they act weird, that’s a good sign that it won’t be a good fit.”

Phillip: “With employees, they may not tell you or speak up if they don’t feel supported and they are not going to operate at their fullest potential. Not everyone is going to understand and love you intimately, but you can still get to a base level of respect. And then maybe you can grow, but it takes time on both sides. You are the business. Make sure your team believes in you.”

On Being a Female Founder

Christina: “In the entrepreneurial world, there’s a lot of unequal power; the people with money have it all. But finding people who treat you with respect is the number one tell of who I want to do business with. If there’s a pattern of disrespect, I cut ties quickly. Telling potential investors goodbye is hard. You have to do due diligence on potential investors and advisors yourself. When was the last time they operated in their area of expertise? At the end of the day, you have to decide which advice you are going to take.”

Brianna: “I think it’s important to recognize among a community of female founders that everything is shared. If some investor says something even a little bit fishy, we all are going to know. One local female founder has a running list of investors across the country who have not treated entrepreneurs respectfully.”

Christina: “When you’re an entrepreneur and you speak up, you run a risk of being blackballed. You have to decide: Do you want to put your time and energy into building your company or fighting injustice? Sometimes I do feel a responsibility to share with others who might be impacted. Some investors have bad reputations with female founders and word does get around.”

What They Wish They Had Known on Day One

Ashley: “Turn each customer into an advocate. Find out their pain points, solve them, and communicate them to others.”

Christina: “Always be raising money.”

Ashley: “Find value for your customers. Go back and quantify victories for your customers.”

Christina: “Choose to do business with people you respect and who respect you. Fundraising isn’t a side job – it’s your other full-time job as CEO. And there are rules around it. I’m not bothered by dilution, but I am bothered by giving up control. I’ve been generous with my options for team members because I feel like they deserve it. I think you have to give up what you’re comfortable with. When you are negotiating and fundraising, be aware of what impacts control and understand what you’re giving up.”

On the Importance of Community

Brianna: “Participating in programs like startup accelerators and business incubators helps you get noticed. I participated in an accelerator and received media write-ups which were a huge benefit. The attention and the program mentors helped me gain traction with customers and assisted in gaining early-stage capital. Without that capital, we couldn’t have kept going.”

Christina: “Community is especially important when you’re a solo entrepreneur. To be successful, you need to build a community, and networking is part of that.”