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by Kathleen Blackwell
Welcome, 2012. I, for one, am happy 2012 is underway and look forward to a year of opportunity and change, even amidst global uncertainty. On my holiday reading list was a pay-it-forward book passed to me by a friend: Who Moved My Cheese, a New York Times business bestseller since it’s release. The book describes change in one’s career and life and the four typical reactions to change by two mice—Sniff and Scurry—and two “littlepeople”—Hem and Haw—during their hunt for cheese. Cheese is a metaphor for what we want to have in life, such as a job, a relationship, money or a big house. Cheese can even be an activity, like jogging or golf—or starting a business, or investing in one with traction.
2011 brought widespread disruption across the globe on all levels, from the Occupy movement in the U.S., to the tsunami devastation in Japan, to the Grecian fallout, and the ending of the U.S. invasion in Iraq—this list barely touches the surface and left many people wondering what 2012 would bring against the backdrop of events that will undoubtedly lead us into a new future—yes, change. When the only constant is change, how you manage change can make all the difference in the world. How do you handle change? How do you lead your business into a new year and navigate the high seas amidst uncertainty? Do you “sniff and scurry” or do you “hem and haw”?
Let’s check in with David Siemer, Managing Director of Siemer & Associates LLC, a global boutique merchant bank, and Managing Partner of Siemer Ventures, its early-stage investment arm and an active investment fund in Southern California, to see how he handles change with some Q&A on the global M&A market, 2012 venture capital trends, the LA tech startup scene, plus Siemer’s golden nugget advice for success as an entrepreneur.
Prior to the mad-dash holiday rush, I had an opportunity to interview David Siemer, and while it’s common knowledge the Mayans predicted the end of the world as we know it in 2012, Siemer and company have another perspective. Siemer sees ample opportunity in the right places, in the right sectors, and at the right time. Pursued with excitement and armed with data—moving with the cheese is Siemer’s golden ticket to success in 2012. While Europe is in a funk, Southeast Asia is wide open, brimming with momentum for investments and growth, and the LA tech scene is stamping its mark. Change is your ally—welcome to the future. Now let’s get cozy with Dave Siemer:
By Kathleen Blackwell
Last Thursday night, I attended the second installment of one *badass* Meetup event: Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. featuring Google AND Justin Timberlake funded “Miso Media,” a developer of music education apps for Mobile/iPad devices, held at BLANKSPACES LA. Organizer, Aaron Abram brought his A-game—securing Miso Media’s Founder/CEO, Aviv Grill, and VP of Engineering, Brandon Goldman, for an upfront and personal discussion on what it takes to build a successful tech startup company. Aviv and Brandon shared their “off the record” journey—from flat-broke living with their parents to $3 million in Venture Capital (VC) funding.
In one word…WOW! Don’t take your butt off your seat until you read this inspirational story of Miso Media—it’s all about “the CEO hustle.” Do you have what it takes? Hang on for the ride.
Organizer Aaron Abram’s opening remark: “Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. is designed for people who are looking to join, build and expand their tech companies—we are a resource to help you succeed, and Miso Media is committed to our endeavor.” It was a sold-out crowd with 51 participants. Many familiar faces returned to the “cofounder matchmaking series,” which debuted as an instant hit this past November. As a matter of fact, at a recent fireside-chat I attended hosted by DocStoc, featuring TechCrunch Founder, Michael Arrington, Arrington himself mentioned that if he had the extra time, he would help develop a series focused on connecting up founders. […seems like Organizer Aaron Abram is ahead of the curve!]
Tech Cofounder Dating L.A. also saw the return of the trendiest mini cupcakes in town sponsored by BIGMANBAKES—(serving up fresh, moist, mini cupcakes in assorted flavors like “old school,” “red velvet cake,” yummy “carrot cake” and “black & white”—delish!) which attendees cleaned off by the event’s end, leaving no crumbs in sight. Also making the rounds that night, was celebrity/corporate photographer, Jonah Light, whose long list of loyal clients include: UCLA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Warner Brothers, Forbes, Virgin Records, Creative Artists Agency, National Geographic, ESPN, LA Dodgers, Carl’s Jr., Robbin’s Brothers…just to name a few.
Miso Media is a Silicon Beach-based startup that develops ground-breaking music technology and mobile/iPad applications. By combining polyphonic note detection and real-time feedback, Miso Media is revolutionizing music education and music notation, and teaching people how to play music in creative, new ways. Think Guitar Hero with real notes, real instruments and real learning.
Hallelujah—it’s here! Finally, an intelligent twist within the crowdfunding platform that speaks to creators (musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, etc.), and aims to put the “$-kaching” back into the hands of developers, versus middlemen. IgnitionDeck is a newly launched WordPress plugin allowing artists to self-fund their projects without asking for permission, or giving away more money than they have to when using a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or IndieGogo.
Last week I ran across a post on Facebook talking about IgnitionDeck and instantly became smitten with the “take charge, empowering concept,” so I reached out for a quick “Startup Spotlight Q&A” with the IgnitionDeck Founders—Nathan Hangen and Shawn Christenson. Super smart guys, awesome concept twist—enjoy the Q&A!
Here. We. Go. IgnitionDeck is a DIY crowdfunding platform for WordPress that installs as a plugin and allows creators to raise money without the restrictions of other platforms. The problem we see with Kickstarter and similar platforms is that if your campaign fails to raise, you end up with zero investment despite the fact that you’ve worked your tail off trying to drive traffic to the Kickstarter site. We’re building IgnitionDeck for those people, and anyone else that wants to crowdfund on their own terms, rather than the terms of the middle man. It’s perfect for musicians, filmmakers, software developers, artists, and anyone else that has something cool to sell.
For starters, it’s the only product of its kind that empowers the creator, rather than the middle man. With ID, the creator is in complete control—they get to drive traffic to their site instead of another platform, get to keep the SEO benefit of linking/sharing, and get to keep all of the money (outside of Paypal’s fees). Another big benefit is that it works outside of the U.S., so anywhere you can use Paypal, you can use IgnitionDeck.
The team is made of two co-founders, Nathan Hangen & Shawn Christenson, who live in Florida and Alberta, respectively. We both do a little bit of everything, but Shawn, being the better designer by far, does much of the product design, while Nathan focuses heavily on development and product management.
Welcome to the second installment of ‘The Techie Minute’—a ‘one minute dish’ on tech gossip of the week—like Talk Soup meets MTV News for the tech world. Yes, this is a homemade video—recorded using PhotoBooth, edited using iMovie and Picasa—trying something a little fresh here at HOLLYISCO—a boutique press site covering entertainment technology from Silicon Valley, to Silicon Beach, to Silicon Hills.
What is ‘bootstrapping’ your business? Bootstrapping is the art of building your business without much external help and on a budget. Two bootstrap concepts introduced this week on “The Techie Minute” are 1) Bootstrap Lighting—for when you don’t have the Hollywood budget, or a P.A., and 2) Bootstrap Branding—how to make a mockup product using just your business card and packing tape only—kaching! The featured mockup product this week on “The Techie Minute” is WineBeer by HOLLYISCO.
We are experiencing a bit of “June gloom” in Southern California, but that doesn’t mean we are without our requisite ray of sunshine. Last Friday here in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to visit with Chromatik Founder, Matt Sandler, who is heading-up one of the brightest startups based in Southern California—Chromatik Music—a ray of sunshine indeed. As a matter of fact, Chromatik might just be one of my favorite startups eva’ because Chromatik combines my love for music, education, tech, and yes—a ton of progressive innovation << and all that entails. Least not, one of the most important factors for any startup, the combined RAQ (relationship acquisition intelligence) of the Chromatik team alone makes this startup gleam—they’ve covered their court with cross-platform strategies and any investor interested in courtside seats should get ‘em while they’re hot.
What is Chromatik? In essence, Chromatik is doing for music what the Rosetta Stone did for languages—Chromatik (a word-play on a musical term, as in a chromatic scale) is redefining how students learn music by offering an adaptive learning platform that brings the world’s best music techniques, teachers, and resources to students’ fingertips via mobile and desktop applications. Founder Matt Sandler says,
“Our overarching goal is to blend the best practices of music education with what is possible in technology today. Tons and tons of people are learning music throughout the world, but music education hasn’t changed since Bach and Beethoven. Yes, we’re seeing the ‘gamification’ of music—Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Miso Music—and those are great stepping stones, but the fact remains we don’t have anything that actually helps you learn an instrument and approach music in a pedagogically-appropriate way.”
And in a world where schools are adopting new technology left and right (Kindles, iPad’s), whether state-funded, parent-funded or self-funded, and in a world where kids live, breath, and eat “gadgets and tech”—the melding of Sandler’s concept (education + music + tech) sits beautifully in a steady-state pocket of harmonic overtone perfection coiffing through band hall just moments after a Mozart Quintet releases its last note, um…let’s say the Mozart K452 Quintet in E-flat Major. Yes, that’s it. Sweet!
Twenty-three-year-old Matt Sandler is energetic and perfectly-cast in the role of Founder. Sandler, an East Coast transplant whose father was a Salesman and whose family has roots grounded in music, attended UCLA, has his degree in Saxophone Performance (<< cool!), and has taught woodwinds in Los Angeles Unified and Huntington Beach Unified School Districts. Sandler has also worked A&R at Capital Records in Hollywood (<< the gig I always wanted!), helped program music at the “world famous” KROQ (106.7) here in Los Angeles, (plus attended a couple of “them KROQ Weenie Roasts”); and in the startup world, Sandler curates the Los Angeles Startup Digest and was on the early team of the social media marketing startup CitizenNet.
For a twenty-three-year-old relatively new transplant, I’d say Sandler has transitioned exceptionally well to the Los Angeles lifestyle (currently residing in Santa Monica). When we met he was adorning the “native Angelino uniform,” aka Hollywood Casual, which consists of a great pair of blue jeans and an even greater pair of flip-flops (that all non-natives adopt the minute their ship sets sail, their anchor strikes pay-dirt, and their heart docks somewhere between the worlds 18th largest Port in Long Beach, the 18th hole on Trumps National Golf Course in Palos Verdes, and the 18 bikini-clad ‘girls gone wild’ in Malibu).
For those of us who have slugged through an audition round—film, music, TV—we are all too familiar with the roller-coaster ride. Yes, once, as a songwriter I auditioned for a new show on Bravo, called “Hitmakers” (now “Going Platinum”), and you guessed it, they were looking for the next big songwriter—Hitmaker. My assessment? The process was, well, an experience to say the least. For anyone interested in a one-off audition, or heck, maybe more than a one-off audition, to any of the “biggie” TV shows that makes the rounds once a year—um, like “American Idol”—here’s your chance to get an inside glimpse at the mass-level audition process.
So occasionally I get these little insane moments where I actually think I could audition for something which would be aired during prime-time television. This is exactly what happened when one of my friends urged me to try out for Simon Cowell’s “The X Factor” show, coming this Fall. At first my reaction was a sniff, then a smirk. Then later I thought, hmmm, maybe I might get picked? Of course, that little voice in the back of my mind was laughing at me, no gentle cautions, no “go get-’em siss-boom-bah’s,” like I get whenever I feel an epic win coming my way. Just laughter.
Jason Cohen is ‘one of those guys’ anybody would aspire to be—genuine, motivated, brilliant—and indeed, in a class of his own. ‘Entrepreneurial Guru’ of Capital Thought (Lean Customer and Product Development for Startups), Capital Factory (Early Stage Accelerator Program for Tech Startups), and WP Engine (Finely Tuned WordPress Hosting Service), Cohen shares his thoughts with HOLLYISCO on a series of questions surrounding his business, business models, startups, tech, the future (hint: mobile and ‘gamification’), seeing internet darling Amanda Palmer in New Zealand, and yes, Cohen references liking one of my classical favorites, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff, along with Depeche Mode.
So, if you’re in the business of life, and the game of understanding some inalienable truths—tech, business, startups, or what-not—Cohen’s interview answers are a must read. As well, for any startups considering this summer’s Capital Factory Accelerator Program—deadline to apply is March, 27. Cohen says, “So hurry up!”
That’s enough right? (Wink!)
The Foo Fighters are coming to the big screen tonight with their world premiere documentary “Back and Forth,” by Director James Moll (Oscar-winning 1998 documentary “The Last Days”), at this year’s South By Southwest Film Festival.
According to SPIN.com, “Moll’s visual portrait will chronicle the Foos’ 16-year-history, from its start as a one-man project started by Grohl up through the sessions of their latest album. The documentary promises to be a no-holds-barred look of the band.”