Today we begin our series of blog posts highlighting individual MOJO Agitators. First in the series is MOJO co-founder Brad Lehrman. An entrepreneurial venture attorney, Brad is very active in the Twin Cities innovation community, with a particular lens on emerging growth technology. He has experience as an investor, board member, founder of three companies, and general counsel lawyer for hundreds of other companies, as well as a contributing participant as a community leader in a variety of task-forces on innovation.
A risk-taker and entrepreneur himself, Brad’s many success and failures have taught him valuable lessons, and lend an authenticity to his voice and judgement. When describing MOJO, Brad highlighted the philosophy that “rising tides lift all boats.” It’s this collaborative spirit that Brad and MOJO bring to Minnesota start-up culture, working as an outreach program to help educate, lobby, mentor, and interact with people in the innovation community in ways that are additive.
Brad speaks highly of Minnesota’s place in the start-up world, and notes that Minnesotan investors have been willing to take more risks as the economy bounces back from the recession during which MOJO was formed. While access to capital in the Midwest can often be a problem for new companies, many steps have been taken to alleviate that, as more Angel money, family funds, and other small sources become available, as well as early stage investors like Gopher Angels, the Sophia Fund, and Atlas Ventures.
On the flip-side, risk tolerance as a cultural phenomenon in the Midwest has often been an impediment to success. Brad believes we need to instill and encourage people to take risks as a badge of courage, through collaboration and innovation.
It’s this collaborative mindset that Brad brings to his role as a member of the Sabes JCC executive committee, an institution with a deep history in the Twin Cities, particularly around the SPARK! Annual Celebration of Innovation on March 10, 2015. Brad was one of the creators of the JCC’s first SPARK! event in 2013, with a goal of reaching out on behalf of the JCC as not only a Jewish organization, but in service of outreach and eduction to other communities. Since many members of the Jewish community also work in the world of business, technology, and entrepreneurship, it makes sense for the JCC to present SPARK!, and bring people together from all over Minnesota’s innovation community.
SPARK! always looks to highlight what’s new and fun in the innovation community, and 3D printing was a natural subject choice, considering that Minnesota has been a leader in the field. Since 3D printing has such a wide array of applications, expect attendance from leaders with many different backgrounds, including automotive, business, finance, legal, medical, engineering, and even food and fashion. The event promises to be entertaining and interactive, with 3D food, a 3D printed fashion show, and keynote speeches from leaders in the field.
Brad will lend his charisma to the evening as an emcee alongside co-host Cathy Paper. Be sure to send him your ideas for 3D jokes, then attend the SPARK! Annual Celebration of Innovation on Thursday, March 10, 2015 at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis.
On Thursday, January 8, 2015, Club Entrepreneur held its monthly network session for entrepreneurs at the Minneapolis Club. Entitled “Drones, Are You Ready?”, the session centered on emerging “drone” technology and its truly limitless potential. The lunch-hour, presented by MOJO Agitator Rick Brimacomb, was an exciting and lazed-focused meeting-of-the-minds, and a powerful example of how valuable Club E can be as a networking resource for Twin Cities start-ups.
The assembled panel of speakers highlighted the emerging market of drones, or UAVs (unmanned airborne vehicles), and illustrated the technology’s endless possibilities. Examples of use fit a wide range of industries: real estate developers could quickly view large properties; agriculturists could map farmland with specialized cameras; law enforcement could throughly search for a missing child; public safety workers could safely examine power lines. While some companies are hesitant to adopt UAVs at the moment, in a few years drone operation will be a standard procedure in many industries.
Further demonstrating the newness of the drone industry is the current lack of formalized regulations. It was mentioned that the FAA estimates at least one unauthorized UAV interaction with a pilot every day. While the organization promised to publish updates to drone regulations by the end of 2014, as of the time of the meeting they were still forthcoming. Existing laws are quite ambiguous, and the media has given a somewhat cautionary portrayal of drone technology – for example, an incident at TGI Friday’s was mentioned. Patrick Reardon from EyeArial, a UAV media production company, spoke to a situation where his firm readily engaged with law enforcement, reaching out to give a demonstration of the technology so as to remove some of the shock factor.
The panelists agreed that the sky is the limit for the UAV market, remarking that industry revenue is supposed to soar into the billions by 2019. With the technology becoming more and more available, it will be up to creative and forward-thinking companies to adopt drones in a meaningful way, as well as work with the FAA and law enforcement to ensure safe use and to guarantee a market that is free to grow to its full potential.
More than anything, it became clear that Club E is valuable for all interested in the business of drones. The networking session was packed and vibrant, and lunch was kept to a brisk and concentrated hour. The room was full of industry-related Twin Cities entrepreneurs, including intellectual property lawyers, contractors, and drone operators and salesmen, all exchanging stories and business cards. Keep an eye on future Club E events, since any topics of interest would surely be a healthy opportunity for personal business growth. Club E has already announced the February lunch topic, and it’s “Networking in the Round” – don’t miss it!
MOJO Minnesota is sponsoring Tech Cocktail’s Twin Cities Mixer & Startup Showcase to be held this Wednesday, September 10 from 8:00-9:30 a.m. at Makers Cafe in St. Louis Park, as part of Twin Cities Startup Week 2014.
Tech Cocktail is, “like a networking event, except fun; like a party, except business-oriented; and like a startup pitch series, except informal and fast-paced.”
I caught up with Tech Cocktail’s Twin Cities Ambassador and MOJO Minnesota Agitator Kim Garretson to get the down-low on Wednesday’s event.
Who should go to Tech Cocktail, and why?
People who are interested in startups. Someone may end up meeting a future mentor, finding new clients, connecting with other startups which can complement their own endeavor. But it’s essentially a social event, typically in the evening with drinks and hors d’oeuvres (hence Tech Cocktail), although this time it will be a power breakfast of sorts.
With so many events going on during Twin Cities Startup Week, especially in the evenings, we wanted to offer an event which would not conflict with others and at the same time offer an opportunity to appeal to a different demographic that would find a breakfast to a be more accessible time slot.
How did you get involved?
I was introduced to Frank Gruber back when he was still with AOL and Tech Cocktail was still a media and event company. I liked him and the plan and we kept in touch. This is now my third year hosting Tech Cocktail events as their Twin Cities Ambassador. We are working to normalize the schedule and do two events per year.
Tickets are available for as little as $8 and include a $2 voucher for breakfast. They can be purchased online.
As originally posted on Holy Kaw!
A New Age of Business Funding
By: Brad Lehrman, Attorney Soffer Charbonnet
Co-Founder MOJO Minnesota
You may be hearing the term crowdfunding being tossed around the water cooler lately, and no, it is not the name of a local band. It is the “the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.” Internet crowdfunding is made possible by crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These platforms allow any average Joe or plain Jane to donate money to any cause, project, or venture with only a few clicks of their mouse. Many times the donors will get some sort of reward or product for giving money, but they generally do not receive any equity or ownership of the company.
Believe it or not though, in what is being called equity crowdfunding, startup and smaller companies can solicit funds online and give accredited investors equity in the company instead of a product or reward. This has been made possible thanks to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act which was enacted on April 5, 2012, and made raising capital for startup companies simpler and less restricted. However, equity crowdfunding is more limited and regulated than other forms of crowdfunding because it is the purchase of securities. Title II of the JOBS Act allows companies to market private placements broadly, so long as the company only sells equity to accredited investors. Thus, companies can use equity crowdfunding to raise capital. However, only companies “with total annual gross revenues of less than $1 billion during their most recently completed fiscal year” can solicit funds via equity crowdfunding, among other regulations. Title III will allow funding from non-accredited investors but will not be officially adopted until the SEC’s rules are finalized.
October 23, 2013, is when the SEC proposed equity crowdfunding rules which are still being reviewed by the necessary administrative bodies. If and when adopted, the proposed rules will likely allow companies to solicit up to $1 million every 12 months from non-accredited investors, but various restrictions and regulations will still apply. For example, certain firms, including public and non-U.S. companies, will not be allowed to use crowdfunding, and crowdfunding transactions will need to be completed through SEC regulated crowdfunding platforms. Equity crowdfunding platforms that are already gaining in popularity and getting an upper hand in the market are CircleUp, Fundable, AlumniFunder, and SoMoLend.
Also jumping on the equity crowdfunding train early is Alphaworks, an online crowdfunding platform created by Betaworks. Alphaworks essentially does the same thing as Kickstarter and other donation-based crowdfunding platforms, but Alphaworks makes it possible for businesses to raise capital by selling equity online to accredited investors. Alphaworks is a white label platform, so the branding and presentation are controlled by the company using it and implemented through that company’s own website. All a company has to do is embed the Alphaworks widget on the company’s website. Through this widget investors simply choose the number of shares they wish to purchase and pay through ACH. Alphaworks then does the rest of the work behind the scenes which includes using its broker-dealer partners Folio Investing and SecondMarket to ensure the investors are accredited, at least until non-accredited investors are able to purchase equity. Overall, the Alphaworks platform and others make it easier and less expensive to trade securities.
Quibb, a social content-sharing network for professionals, is one of the first companies to use the Alphaworks platform. Quibb users can now buy shares in the company through its website using the embedded Alphaworks widget. One perk that makes this process so great, especially for companies like Quibb, is that it allows users and supporters of the company to easily purchase shares in it. See.Me, an online community for artists, was the first company to use Alphaworks. It made $150,000 worth of equity available for its dedicated community members to purchase, so long as they are accredited.
As of now, the proposed rules and crowdfunding trends suggest that equity crowdfunding will soon be a common method of raising capital. Using platforms like Alphaworks is convenient, simple, and for the most part, hassle free. It is not an exact science though, and some concerns and problems with equity crowdfunding have been noted. The cost of crowdfunding can be proportionally higher when compared to ordinary IPOs, and it can be onerous for mature companies. In addition, venture capitalists are still worried about incorporating hundreds or even thousands of crowdfunded investors into the company’s capital structure. However, most venture capitalists are becoming less concerned and are starting to embrace crowdfunding as a way to avoid some of the risk of early investments. There are other solutions as well such as pooling crowdfunders into a collective or allowing venture capital firms to buy out crowdfunders at a certain multiple of their investment later on. All things considered, the positives of equity crowdfunding look to outweigh the negatives, and nobody is forcing companies to use it.
In a market dominated by big corporations and an economy where small businesses continue to struggle, it only makes sense to loosen the stranglehold of securities laws and regulations on the little guys. Allowing companies to raise capital through equity crowdfunding is a victory for SMEs, investors, and even people who just want a piece of the pie in a company they strongly support. Nevertheless, only time will tell if equity crowdfunding is a viable and safe option for trading securities.
AgePower Tech Search Announces Three Winners Creating Technology
to Benefit a Rapidly Aging World
Winners to participate in 6-month pilot with Ecumen to gain consumer experiential insights
MINNEAPOLIS/SAINT PAUL (February 3, 2014) – Ecumen and MOJO Minnesota, co-sponsors of the inaugural AgePower Tech Search initiative, today announced three winners of the competition designed to help bring new consumer technology solutions to a rapidly aging world. The winning companies are: Playtabase™ LLC, ForMyChildren® and GO2, LLC (company product summaries below).
The three winners were selected from five finalists following a recent AgePower Demo Day in Minneapolis/Saint Paul. In all, AgePower had 27 submissions from the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Each AgePower winner will collaborate on a 6-month pilot with Ecumen customers and employees, which is designed to give technology teams valuable user feedback to aid commercial market expansion. The winners also will be working with a MOJO team in strengthening business strategy and execution.
Ecumen, a Minnesota-based non-profit company that is among the country’s top 20 largest nonprofit senior housing and services organizations, and MOJO Minnesota, an innovation cooperative and advocacy force working to fuel entrepreneurship and a culture of innovation, launched AgePower in late 2013. The intent of AgePower is to locate, reward and help launch new high- and low-tech technologies and innovations that have a positive, near-term impact on the aging experience.
AgePower (agepower.org) differs from most “incubators” or “accelerators” in that its focus is on transforming the future of aging and providing real-life test environments along with access to business experts in key areas beneficial to fueling a successful new venture.
The AgePower Winners’ Products
The following winners were selected among five finalists by an AgePower evaluation panel that included seniors, physicians, Ecumen team members and members of MOJO Minnesota.
Playtabase’s™ Reemo™ (playtabase.com): What if you could control your home’s lights, door, window shade and other aspects of your home with a simple gesture? Such a product could benefit people with and without physical disabilities. Playtabase™ is a Minneapolis-based startup company “dedicated to fun solutions to reinvent your world.” It has developed reemo™, a stylish wrist-worn technology that empowers users to interact with electronics around them through gesture alone. The wrist band works with a receiver to send signals to the electronics. The Playtabase™ team will use the AgePower pilot to gain user feedback as it develops expanded user capabilities.
Playtabase™ CEO Muhammad Abdurrahman Ph.D. was inspired to create the technology and a more accessible world after his father experienced multiple strokes. Abdurrahman received a University of Minnesota Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2013.
ForMyChildren’s® LifeDeposit® Box (formychildren.com): As a parent, how do you easily and securely share with your children and grandchildren important aspects of who you are as a human being? How do you share this information for generations to come? Online startup ForMyChildren® is billed as the first online tool designed by parents to help create a living, ongoing history of one’s life while also allowing safe storage and sharing of important information, such as insurance information, health directives, wills and other legal documents.
Not simply a collection of photos or videos, ForMyChildren® helps users tell stories they want their children or others to have. ForMyChildren® users can write or audio- or video-record their feelings, thoughts, memories and stories for their family and friends, and upload them directly into each child’s or other recipients’ unique LifeDeposit®Box. Parents can also designate when their children can see uploaded information. For example, it could be provided after a milestone or key life event, such as a wedding or after a death. Each account is protected with encryption, which ensures the safety of all legacy information.
ForMyChildren® co-founders are Michael Wright and Scott Garen. Wright, who is based in Minneapolis, is former President of Entegris, Inc. a publicly-held developer of products for microelectronics, and is a Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Technological Leadership Institute. Garen, who is based in Los Angeles, is an award-winning veteran of the television and film industry and has produced for all major broadcast networks and The Walt Disney Company and Smithsonian Institution.
GO2, LLC’s CV2 (goodbloodflow.com): Not everyone can walk for needed and/or prescribed exercise, especially people who have poor blood circulation in their legs. So what if the blood circulation in a person’s legs could improve without having to wear bulky compression socks or other inconvenient means? And what if athletes, such as long-distance runners, could benefit from the same product?
CV2 is described as a wellness product that can effectively increase circulation for nearly everybody through “treadling” – an intuitive form of pedaling done while sitting down and oftentimes also while reading or watching television. It’s designed require minimal effort to benefit those with limited mobility, but it has potential benefits for endurance athletes who seek improved blood circulation after a workout. The CV2 has been shown to increase blood flow out of and into the lower extremities and been demonstrated to reduce edema (excess fluid in the legs) and leg pain in those with leg edema. There are also reports of accelerated healing of leg ulcers caused by vascular disease and reduction of night cramps and the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Co-founders of Wilmington, N.C.-based GO2, LLC, are the father-son team of James Hundley, Jr., and James Hundley, M.D., a retired board-certified orthopedic surgeon, both of whom treadle daily. They previously co-founded OrthopaedicList.com, an aggregate information website that supports the broad orthopaedic market.
The Angel Loan Fund (ALF) is the latest effort by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to support Minnesota’s entrepreneurial growth by offering attractive funding for early-stage businesses. The fund provides direct loans for 10% of the total amount of equity investment received in the business’ approved funding round (subsequent to ALF approval). To be eligible, businesses must be certified to participate in the Angel Tax Credit Program and have fewer than 500 employees.
Visit the Minnesota DEED website for more details on this new opportunity for small businesses in Minnesota.
MOJO Agitator Dan Grigsby will be a speaker at this year’s MobCon in Minneapolis: November 7-8. Dan will speak on what he has learned from 10,000 hours of mobile projects. The event sold out last year and early bird registration ends Monday, September 30th. Use the discount code drivetrain13 to save 20%.
MobCon is a high demand Conference that has a necessary focus on all facets of mobile: Strategy, Marketing, Technology, Best practices and achieved Successes. Join the discussion for TWO full days to acquire knowledge, share ideas, get inspired and stretch your imagination. People from across the nation will be welcomed into Minneapolis, the center of emerging mobile leadership.
MobCon 2013 brings 50+ speakers from keynotes to breakout sessions with the added opportunity to participate in the selection of the top three app concepts that will be awarded a total of $50,000 – see more MobDemo.
AgePower Tech Search Opens Door To Technology Innovation for Global Age Wave
MINNEAPOLIS (July 22, 2013) – The “new normal” of a rapidly aging world needs new solutions, and the AgePower Tech Search seeks to find and help launch them. AgePower was introduced today by Ecumen, a Minnesota-based non-profit senior housing and services company, which serves more than 10,000 people, and MOJO Minnesota, an innovation cooperative and advocacy force working to fuel entrepreneurship and aculture of innovation. AgePower’s national advisory board can be viewed at agepower.org.
AgePower’s intent is to locate, reward and help launch new high- and low-tech technology and innovation that have a positive, near-term impact on the aging experience. AgePower (agepower.org)is open to start-ups, innovators and long-established companies globally. AgePower differs from “incubators” or “accelerators” in that its focus is on transforming the future of aging and providing real-life test environments, along with access to business and invention experts in key areas necessary to fueling a successful new venture.
Aging represents a global innovation opportunity. Today 900 million people in the world are over age 60. By 2050 that number will have grown to 2.4 billion. As World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan says, “Being in the older age group is becoming the ‘new normal’ for the world’s population.” It’s not just the sheer size of those numbers, but these demographic realities impact every aspect of living. The “new normal” of a rapidly aging world needs new solutions.
“Society has long looked at aging as a challenge, but it is one of the world’s great innovation opportunities,” said Kathryn Roberts, President and CEO of Ecumen. “From better coordinating health care services, to enhancing social connections, to making life easier and more fun, we believe the nexus of people and technology can open the door to new possibilities that improve lives and use resources better.”
Ernest Grumbles, a MOJO Agitator and one its co-founders, noted that “the aging demographic tidal wave is going to drive technology change at high speed.”
The AgePower Submission Process
AgePower will take submissions until Oct. 31 at agepower.org. A joint Ecumen and MOJO committee will select up to four technologies/companies to receive a six-month field trial among Ecumen clients, residents and employees. In addition, finalists will gain access to the expertise of leading business advisors, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, engineers, and others who comprise MOJO Minnesota.
This combination is designed to help expedite a move to market either through a company’s own investment, outside investment, acquisition by an investor or other means. In return, Ecumen and MOJO will receive a small equity stake to align interests with the tech innovators for market success and dispersion of new, life-enhancing technologies.
Test environments will include in-home settings, assisted living communities, Ecumen sites providing Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and clinical settings with short-term physical rehabilitation services and/or more intensive long-term care.
About Founding Partners
Ecumen (ecumen.org), headquartered in Shoreview, Minn., is a non-profit senior housing and services company, empowering individualsto live better, easier and more fun lives. It has served people for 150years, and operates a wide array of senior housing and services for its 10,000+ customers and develops and operates housing for third parties nationally. Contact: Eric Schubert, T. 651-766-4333, firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOJO Minnesota (mojominnesota.com)is an innovation cooperative and advocacy force working to fuel entrepreneurship and reignite Minnesota’s culture of innovation. MOJO includes leading Minnesota entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, business advisors and engineers passionate about creating jobs and economic growth through the power of Minnesota-based innovation-driven startups. Contact: Ernest Grumbles, MOJO Minnesota, 651-491-3643, email@example.com.
Padilla Speer Beardsley (padillaspeer.com) is a strategic communications firm with expertise in a broad range of sectors, including consumer products, agribusiness, manufacturing, technology, health care, medical device and financial services. Services include consumer and b-to-b marketing, investor relations, crisis management, creative, digital and social media, and research. Contact: Kirsten Lesak-Greenberg, Padilla Speer Beardsley, 612-455-1749, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Tuesday, March 12, MOJO Agitator Mary Meehan presented at the 2013 What’s Next Boomer Business Summit. Her presentation topic was “Global Trends Shaping The Boomer Market.”
Mary Meehan is the co-founder and CEO of Panoramix Global, a unique research consultancy designed to help companies understand an increasingly complex consumer living in an increasingly dynamic global marketplace.
You can view her presentation below: