Saturday, January 30, 2016

Showman-- A Digital Signage Platform for digital signs.

The platform makes it easy to setup and create interactive and engaging displays without the need for huge development or IT staff.  Their goal is to make the whole process of finding your location through a facility or plant easy and painless and was designed with non-tech users in mind.

Dennis Smolek and Tucker McCormack of Showman are both from the Texas Hill country, Austin and Fredericksburg respectively. Dennis has a degree  in Visual Communication from UT Arlington while Tucker studied History at SMU then went on to receive a M.A. in Statecraft and National Security from the Institute of World Politics and an MBA from Schreiner University.

Showman is the digital signage platform used to maintain and control digital and interactive displays, creative and support services, and specialized hardware packages. It is primarily a cloud based management system for digital screens. Think for digital signs. Showman is for everyone owning a business or space wanting to better engage visitors or customers through great visuals to show off their message.

The platform makes it easy to setup and create interactive and engaging displays without the need for huge development or IT staff.  Their goal is to make the whole process of finding your location through a facility or plant easy and painless and was designed with non-tech users in mind. They also offer hardware packages, creative and development services, and ongoing IT support.

Digital and interactive signage is an exploding market. Retail, restaurants, stadiums, public spaces, and more are starting to capitalize on modern technology to engage and attract visitors and customers. The products in this market though are fractured into just offering hardware, only being a management platform, or just service companies. Then the systems are highly technical and difficult for non-tech users. Interactive systems have even larger growth opportunity but require complex and expensive development teams.

The most challenge aspect of starting up has been bootstrapping a concept that provides reoccurring revenue for the long term. “We have to stay lean and it is challenging to grow with limited people. Everyone wears A LOT of hats, and being flexible, adaptable, and capable of many roles is a must,” said Tucker.

The next step for the business is expansion of the platform and services into other industries and markets. Roam’s CRE Directory focus is too small of a market, and the Showman platform opens the door for the entirety of interactive and digital signage. Moving in this direction opens the door to a rapidly growing market (~14% CAGR) with an estimated $39 Billion value by 2020.

Dennis advises other entrepreneurs to plan before taking the plunge and be realistic about everything. Talk to other folks in the industry you are trying to get into and get REAL numbers.  He also said, “Double or triple how much you think something is going to cost or how much you need to save. Riding razors is not fun and everything takes longer than you think. Consider taking on funding early. Forget equity issues and ownership. 100% of 0 is still 0 and it will take capital to make it happen. Just remember that your investors are partners and money comes with a relationship. Make sure it will be a good one.”

The resource he found most helpful was the book “The Founders Dilemma” which gives many straight forward ideas and examples for setting things up without the common “reality distortion” of most startup stuff.  Strategyzer is another group that really gives good, visual planning for how to create valuable ideas and start to plan on how to capitalize on them.

Also, the program Xero and an accountant are important. Tucker said, “Get one, fast. Don’t waste time.”

His final message “Get a good lawyer you can actually talk to. Legal Zoom is easy but you need humans.”

To learn more about Showman visit the TEN Funding Portal at this link

Texas Venture Growth Forum -- 4 -- Participating Companies

Since most of the potential investors work on the west coast or east coast, a Texas entrepreneur must travel extensively to meet them.   Two week travels up and down the coasts is a common part of most entrepreneurs spring and fall calendar.  The Texas Venture Growth Forum brings the investors to Texas for two days of 1:1 sessions saving time and travel for all involved.  Here are some quotes from the event participants:

Erik Huddleston, Trendkite, “The Texas Venture Growth Forum gave me the opportunity to meet new investors.”

Panos of Seismos, “I was able to meet many investors without having to travel extensively.”

Alan Knitowski, Phunware, “It was great seeing West Coast investors in Austin.”

Valuations in startups on the West Coast and East Coast have hit all time highs.  Pre-revenue companies with a product barely working are receiving high valuations by investors seeking the next big hit.  Texas trails the coasts in valuations and so investors come to find deals at more reasonable prices.

To learn more about the Texas Growth Capital Forum visit this link

Venture Capital Profile on Rembrandt Venture Partners by Scott Irwin

Scott Irwin of Rembrandt Venture Partners recently participated in the Texas Venture Growth Forum held in Austin.   Scott has ties to Texas as he grew up in Dallas where he attended St. Mark’s.   He later worked for El Dorado Ventures which invested in several Texas companies including Convio, Ripcode, Store Speed, Triactive, Efficient networks, and Mirage Networks.  

Today he works for Rembrandt Venture Partners which has $325M under management.  They invest $10M to $15M per company over time and look for recurring revenue and SaaS business models in the B2B and enterprise space.  They believe in the high velocity model of growth.

Rembrandt typically takes a minority shareholder position in a syndicate with other investors.  They take a board seat and usually come in on the B or C round. They don’t focus on pre-revenue or Series A companies.

Rembrandt has three partners so they have a lean team with a quick decision making process.  The firm was founded ten years ago by Scott’s partner Gerald Casilli, who was a former operator.  Before that he was a founder of Trinity Ventures in the 80s.

“We’re not looking for growth stage companies who have figured it all out,” said Scott.   “We look for emerging growth.  We’ve been operators and want to be actively involved in the company. We’re comfortable with enterprise businesses.   We’ve sat in their place and know what it’s like to run a company. We can get heavily involved in recruiting and team building.“   They each have fifteen years or more of experience.

Rembrandt invests across the country. When the market is really hot, Scott indicates they invest more in the Bay Area.  When the market cools they look more broadly.   During the frothy times, the growth rates tend to be higher in the Bay Area than anywhere else.  The frothy market can magnify the growth rates and perceived value.

On the other, when the Bay Area crashes, they fall even harder.  In the rest of the country, companies are built with a long term view and in Texas they have excellent engineering and good operational processes so they stand out in a normal environment.  This tends to draw Bay Area investors interest even more. 

To learn more about the Texas Growth Capital Forum visit this link