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October 23, 2009

Live blogging the tech startup bootcamp at University of Maryland

Updates will appear at the top of this post:

 

2:12 pm -- I just spent the past hour interviewing several highly entrepreneurial UM students and a faculty member. Their ideas were fascinating to listen to (aside: I love my job!) I'm gonna spend the next hour working on my print edition story for tomorrow, and then come back around 3:30 pm to cover the 1-minute "Pitch Dingman" sessions, where students will give 1-minute pitches in front of the audience and judges for a $100 prize. Stay tuned!

1:00 pm -- Gordon, the Valhalla Partners research director, was also asked about how entrepreneurs should approach attracting venture capitalists and raising money, without losing too much control of their companies. Gordon advised that it was wise to attract more than one investor. "Venture capitalists are like martinis. One is great, two is better...four is teetering toward catastrophe." Ha! Chuckles across the room.

12:57 pm -- Dan Gordon was asked what venture capitalists look for in an entrepreneur before they invest. His answer, in part: "We look for entrepreneurs who can show evidence they know what they will spend the money on...We want someone who's thought through how the business is going to build." My paraphrase: Don't be a fool!

 12:52 pm -- Dan Gordon, research director for Valhalla Partners, a VC firm, Craig Dye, director of venture investments for the UM business school's Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, and Murali Nair, program director for SBIR/STTR and National Science Foundation, fielded questions from an audience of about 60 people during their session. One question: Dye was asked where can entrepreneurs go looking for investors? His answer, abridged: check formal and informal channels. The formal: tap the Angel Capital Association and a website called AngelSoft.net. Informal: start tapping networks.

12:50 pm -- I'm back and catching up: I sat in on the "Where's the money?" session and came back with some good stuff. Will update in a moment. 

11:41 am -- I'm gonna shift gears and leave this session and duck into another session called "Where's the money? Funding for high tech ventures." Stay tuned. I'll bring you more updates in a few minutes.

11:35am -- Raviv: What we mean to become more innovative: it means communicate better; work in teams; appreciate diversity. Also: solve problems; open to changing point of view; expect more than one solution; and think outside the box. Have common sense; become more intuitive; be imaginative and take risks. Lots of characteristics for an innovator. "We all can be taught to become more innovative, better innovators."

11:32 am -- "Lets' focus on some aspects of becoming an innovative individual." Talking about Leonard DaVinci: artist, architect, inventor, etc. His seven principles: curiosity, learn from mistakes, use your senses, embrace uncertainty, balance both modes of your brain, cultivate fitness, connect to all.

 11:30 am: Raviv: "When we thought cd players will dominate the market for many years to come, we got mp3 players."

11:28 am -- Daniel Raviv has started his talk on great ideas and innovation, giving examples of inventions and innovations, from a new Samsung digital camera to Cuban refugees building a boat out of a truck.

 

11:16: Hinman finishes up his keynote. Now, we're taking a networking break. Everybody's milling around, getting coffee, going to the bathroom. The next session starts at 11:30 am -- I'll be liveblogging from the Business plan track, in the session: Great Ideas: Spurring Creativity and Innovation", led by Daniel Raviv, professor at the dep't of electrical engineering at Florida Atlantic University.

11:15 am -- Hinman says he loves his job working for a venture capital firm but sometimes misses the thrill of starting a company. "There's something about being part of a team and building stuff that's hard to ever get out of your system" - Brian Hinman

11:06 am -- Hinman talks about another company Greenvolts, which builds high concentration photovoltaic systems (huh?). Here's what I'm getting out of Hinman's talk: there's a LOT of innovation going on right now in clean energy tech, with many different approaches. Pretty fascinating stuff.

 11:00 am -- Just met a UM student who wants to start his own business. I'll interview him later during the lunch break and let you know what I learn. I'm looking to interview some student entrepreneurs to get their story because I'm writing a newspaper story for tomorrow's print edition, too!

10:53 am -- Another company Hinman's venture firm is supporting: Sundrop Fuels -- using solar energy to drive a chemical plant to make synthetic fuel. Basically, use the sun to drive a chemical plant. 

10:48 am -- One company Hinman's Oak Partners invests in is Aurora Biofuels, which used patented UC Berkeley tech to develop algae as a source of bio-oil for fuel. Algae as fuel could be a big part of our energy future. How about that?

10:47am -- Gives a snapshot of Oak Investment Partners' "Oak Clean Tech" investment portfolio: $273 million invested in 11 tec companies. Largest investment: solar energy: 28 percent; second largest (tie) batteries and carbon markets (13 percent each).

10:45 am -- Talks about venture capitalists lengthening their expectations from 10 years to 15 years or more for their investments in clean tech. The steps are complicated and costly. Stages of development: lab proof science; field proof of science; pilot production site; commercial scale deployment. "This whole cycle can take 5 years, 10 years," Hinman said.

10:42 am -- Hinman talks about the catalysts for market creation in clean technology: right now major government funding. Sources: Dept of Energy grants and loans, tax credits EPA renewable fuel standard program and something called the California Renewables Portfolio.  "Hopefully subsidies are only here for a period of time so we can build these businesses," he said.

10:30 am -- Brian Hinman, a UM alumni, is giving the keynote address. He was involved in brianhinman.jpgstarting three telecom companies. He majored in electrical engineering and signals processing. Last three years, spent his time working in the clean technology sector.

"It's been a fascinating time for me." Gives three reasons on importance of clean energy innovation: economic crisis, national security, and environmental impacts.

"When you put these three things together, it seems to me it's one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime."

10:19 am -- In case you're wondering, this event is being put on by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, aka MTech, which is part of UM. UM has made a great effort to integrate business, technology, science and intellectual property in their incubation efforts.

UM President C.J. Mote has a goal to start a 100 new companies out of UM over the next 10 years, according to Dean Chang, director of MTech Ventures and Education.

10:12 am -- Anik Singal, CEO of Lurn Inc., started a little company while at College Park that's taken off in the field of online marketing training.

Right now, he's talking about how he was set to major in Biology and go to Harvard, but instead, turned to business school at Maryland. He talks about tapping every resource imaginable in his senior year, and went full-time into his business.

"I was working 22 hours a day, literally. there was nobody helping me," Singal said. So he turned to resources at UM and asked for help and they turned him on to the Venture Accelerator program.

"Probably one of the best things that ever happened to me," he said. Lesson: No one he knew in his circle of friends and family could help him refine his business plan, so he went looking for the right help.


This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 2:16 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Startups, University Tech
        

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Nice, keep it comin' Gus!

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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location: baltimoresun.com/balttech
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