Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum: Part 2

16 Dec Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum: Part 2

In part one of our Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum recap, we provided highlights from Tien Wong’s Fireside Chat with co-founder and former chairman of AOL, Steve Case. Now it’s time to dive into the rest of the event – the company showcase and “Entrepreneur War Stories” panel.

During the company showcase, executives from nine start-ups who are looking to raise funding got the opportunity to pitch a room full of potential investors on why they should invest in their American Dream.


Here’s a round up of the presenting companies:

  • Untangle Life – Offers a revolutionary new way for beauticians and their clients to build a more meaningful and lasting relationship in between typical appointments. Presented by Founder Jenna Reese, Untangle Life is currently looking for $500,000 in financing.
  • Aspire – Provides comprehensive perk management software and customer service to help you build a better workplace. Presented by CEO Neil Shah, Aspire is currently looking for $2 million in funding.
  • Department 60 Inc. – Focuses on developing innovative solutions for the digital signage space that virtually enables any company to leverage digital signage in their communication strategy. Presented by CEO Michael Brandofino, Department 60 is currently looking for $750,000 in funding.
  • DiliVer LLC – Offers due diligence-related solutions— consisting of software products, consulting services, and analytics data that span the entire transaction life cycle for enterprises. Presented by Founder and CEO Neil Kleinberg, DiliVer is currently looking for $500,000 in seed funding.
  • Immersive Marketing Technology – Takes event management technology to a new level and provides a truly interactive experience for audiences. They also offer conference and trade show planners with insights that can actually drive more revenue with real-time, actionable data. Presented by Todd Mercer, Immersive Marketing Technology is looking for $500,000 in funding.
  • IntelliSpeX – Offers mobile application collapsing construction operations task work flows. Presented by Founder Blake Ratcliff, IntelliSpeX is looking for $220,000 in funding
  • Scriyb – An education technology SaaS product company serving the K-12 and Higher Education markets. Presented by CEO Christopher Etesse, Scriyb is looking for $1 million in seed financing.
  • Sparo Corporation – Patented tool allows merchants to increase brand loyalty, decrease cart abandonment and grow their business by marrying e-commerce and charity at the checkout page. Presented by Founder and CEO, Rob Sobhani.
  • World’s Registry of New Ideas – An online CERTIFICATION SYSTEM where the scientists, innovators and creators of the world can secure various levels of ownership for their Ideas & Discoveries. Presented by CEO Jerry Comanescu.


After a short break for another cup of coffee, four serial entrepreneurs took the stage for the “Entrepreneur War Stories” panel and shared advice, anecdotes and more than a few laughs based on their own war stories. Meet the panelists:  

  • Jeff Cherry, Founder and Executive Director, Conscious Venture Lab; Managing Director, Conscious Venture Fund; CEO, The Porter Group
  • Ric Fleisher, COO, UpsideDoor; Co-founder,
  • Daniel Neal, CEO and Founder, Kajeet; CEO and Vice Chairman, VCampus
  • Moderator: Liz Sara, CEO, Best Marketing; Chair, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business



Below, we recapped some of the advice and anecdotes from the discussion:

On Funding Stress 

Jeff: Fear of not making payroll isn’t a rare occurrence for entrepreneurs, it happens all the time. We have been within a week of having to close our doors, only to have funding come through at the last minute. I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to know they’re not doing it alone. There is a huge community out there who can give you advice and support, and who can share resources to help you figure out what to do in tough situations.

Daniel: Funding lows are going to happen, and when they do it is the perfect moment to check in with yourself as an entrepreneur and to assess if this is truly your “dream.” As an entrepreneur you need to be willing to go above and beyond to get over that edge, and you need to decide if this is what you love and if it’s worth it.

On Culture Fit 

Jeff: The standard practice has always been “hire on performance and fire on behavior” — but it should be the other way around. Culture fit is incredibly important. If you take nothing else from here today — just remember that there is nothing more important than culture. We can teach people to be better at what they need to know technically, but you can’t teach them how to fit in. You can’t teach someone to be the right kind of person for your business.

Daniel: A very mission-driven company requires very mission-driven people — it’s fundamental for the culture that you’re building. For example, In our company, you’re never allowed to put “only” in front of any quantity of money. You have to listen and watch for those kinds of things that matter to you, to your organization, from the beginning. Culture emirates from a particular person and then propagates. It is something that should be addressed head on and evaluated regularly.

On Dealing with Investor Challenges

Ric: There are always going to be curveballs — It’s important that entrepreneurs have stamina and are tough enough to withstand everything thrown at them.

Jeff: To avoid big issues, make sure that your investors align and agree with your mission and your culture.

One Piece of Advice on Managing the Ups and Downs of Startup Life  

Jeff: Before you do anything, take a self-assessment. You are going to go through serious up and downs and you need to be sure that starting a business is what you want to do and that you can handle it. Also, train yourself to not be overwhelmed – use tactics like deciding what’s the ONE thing you have to do next? Figure out what it is and do it next. It’s simple.

Daniel: The faster you can dispatch a decision, the better. If you make decisions faster you will have less stress.

Ric: Take great vacations, take time, and take a break. Have a vacation in mind all the time so you know you’re working towards something to give yourself a break.

As always, our team had a great time at the winter CONNECTpreneur Forum! Be sure to check out part one of our CONNECTpreneur recap here.



Sally McHugh
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