Dragana Djuricic Mendel, MBA, MCStechnology commercialization; business growth path

Dragana Mendel, a management consultant and a founder of ANAGARD, LLC, works with startups to develop their technology commercialization pathway, and with small business owners to develop their growth strategy. First and foremost, she actively listens her clients in order to understand their company’s mission, vision and long-term objectives. With intimate understanding of client’s corporate culture, she then recommends the best solution to their most pressing pain points.
Prior to founding ANAGARD, LLC, Dragana has been in charge of corporate and business development for a number of emerging growth high tech startups (renewable fuels, renewable chemicals, LED lighting, small wind turbines, digital signal processing). For over 15 years, she honed her new product development skills with IBM and Alcatel-Lucent where she was instrumental in successfully launching dozen of new software, IT and telecom solutions to the market.

• Master in Business Administration (MBA), Poole College of Management, North Carolina State University
• Master in Computer Science, North Carolina State University
• Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, University of Texas at Dallas, graduated Summa Cum Laude

Recent Answers

I agree with other responses, crowdfunding is not an appropriate channel for your business model. What is the value proposition that you offer to condo owners and people renting the place? Do you have an exclusive relationship with condo owners? Unfortunately, social media marketing is NOT FREE these days, paid social media marketing for B2C products is significant expense for all new high growth companies and I am not sure that's the best way to keep acquiring customers for you.

The sole purpose of a business is to make money. If that is not the case for you, then you are not building for-profit business. Days of acquiring users and raising funds solely based on the millions of eyeballs visiting the web site has passed. With SW&HW being commodity, marketing is emerging as the most expensive cost center for B2C high growth startups. Consumers are willing to pay for the service that they value, so I would focus on pricing strategy, looking for price-value equilibrium that your customer is willing to pay. Hopefully, the price point and the volume of paying customers would be financially attractive not only for you, but for an investor too. There's no way knowing where that equilibrium is until you try, refine, iterate...

Finding a mentor is long and complex process. What do you offer in return to a mentor spending time to review your pitch? Because there is no such thing as a FREE lunch, several years ago I have developed an entry level consulting service for my clients: pitchdeck review. http://www.anagard.com/services/InvestorPitchImprovement.html
Please check out my investor pitch review packages, chose that one that is the most appropriate for you and give me a call.

I have been working exclusively with startups and new businesses for over 5 years. This is my full time job (not a side gig) helping entrepreneurs get their business of the ground and get money from investors, so I have seen numerous pitchdecks and business models over the years. Because of that, I am not biased, I can give you probability of raising money with the current deck and work with you to fix the weak spots that everyone has. I look forward working with you.

Generally speaking, yes, it's possible to get money from USA investors even though your company is not local.

On the personal note, I am glad to see that all your programmers are from Serbia, as that's my home country and I live in the US now.

The app does not have to be done at all. 60% is good enough to test the market, so I would shift my focus on product--market fit validation, customer acquisition process and a business model with an emphasis on revenue potential, addressable market size, total market size.

Seed investors will put their money into pre-revenue companies, but venture capitalist, Round A are less likely to do so which makes bootstrapping incredibly important.
Here's my paper that can help you understand where does your company fall on investment readiness spectrum.
How do you know that #startup is ready for venture capital? Industry fit, $1B+ market size, big competitive advantage http://wp.me/pj2e9-by

Finally, I would be more than happy to work with you on your investor's pitch and be ready before your colleague starts making connections in SF:

Because of ageism, most experienced professionals start their own businesses, so you are not alone.

I would first take a break and do some soul searching, what do you really want from a career and life in the next 10-20 years. Then, I would to SWOT on your self and the business model and industry that you want to enter to figure out if your goal is worthwhile.

Most businesses will not generate revenue in 12 months. It's great that you have 12 months of living expenses covered, but most likely you will not be able to replace your salary in that time because growing a new business in incredibly hard as internet has globalized competition.

For experienced professionals, the quickest path to revenue is consulting within their industry, contract work with former competitors.

If you like operations, logistics and execution, i.e. are not big fan of unproven new products and innovation, franchising is a good option for you. Getting a franchise will take you about 6 months. If you are buying an existing location, you will start generating revenue from day one, but it will still take you some time to break even. I would do my own research about financial potentials for different franchises; there are some bad apples out there (UPS comes to mind).

Finally, if you want to start you own business, write a business plan first before you pour money into it. Writing a business plan will help you evaluate the financial potential of your idea and force you to put down on paper information about competition, your own competitive advantage, hiring needs, business model, etc. This is my specialty: http://www.anagard.com/services/BusinessPlans.html What I like about writing a business plan is that you are not going into a new business led by passion, but logic. It takes few months to write a business plan document, but it doesn't have to be perfect, unless you are planning to raise money from angel investors. Bank will not give you a loan without few years of revenues to show for. The core of any business plan is a market research: http://www.anagard.com/services/MarketResearch.html

Good luck and call me if you want me to work with you as you navigate uncharted waters.

Most co-founders are not designers, and most new businesses do not need to have a full-time designer on staff. Design in itself will not help you successfully raise funds -- hard data will.
Investors see thousands of pitches annually, so they are so quick to spot a promising startup. I know that this startup is your "baby", but your startup is just another commodity to an investor. Commodity stands out by price (ROI), not by a shiny package (pitch deck design). Having seen hundreds of pitches and read even more, I can tell from my own experience that majority of startup founders fail to succinctly articulate that is the value proposition for their clients, what is their sustainable competitive advantage and how much money investors can expect to make. These are my entry level services: http://www.anagard.com/services/InvestorPitchImprovement.html

If you are completely confident with data, and if just want to convey the value visually, then a graphic designer can help you, as said by people on this thread.

Somewhat off topic: Design is important, but it's not a solution to everything. The best example is Jawbone fitness tracker: beautiful design and app, raised 6 times more money than its competitor FitBit, but captured only 19% of market share at the peak. Today, Jawbone is fending off creditors, and FitBit is planning IPO. Execution matters. If you are curios to learn more, I wrote a case study: http://wp.me/pj2e9-db

Well, do YOU really want to go with this business opportunity? That's they key, what do YOU want to do, not this alleged angel investor. I would be weary when "investor" approaches me first and them asks me to do a lot of work. Why? I think you need to figure out what YOU want to do first, evaluate business potential of the idea at hand and not bend over backwards trying to change your communication style.

Now, back to communications with investors. They almost never say no, but silence is very common. Silence can be interpreted in several ways:
- they are simply not into your business plan
- they are way too busy to respond, which is very common
- they want to keep getting updates from you for several months before they meet you again F2F (common)

http://www.anagard.com/blog/2015/01/13/venture-capitalists-advice-to-startups-how-to-successfully-raise-funds/ You can read in my article more about this topic and focus on communication segment of the paper.
Good luck, and call if you have more questions.

This is not an easy process at all. I assume you are a University employee and an inventor. The first thing you have to do is to go to University Office of Tech Transfer office and get a right to commercialize the technology. OTT will make you sign a license agreement. I have been working with a number of startups that got burned by OTT because of license agreement that is greedy, so no business person would touch the technology because too much money will go back to University.
Getting a fair license agreement takes months of hard work. You need to have a business plan, comparative analysis to get into negotiation with OTT. http://www.anagard.com/services/TechnologyCommercialization.html OTT personal is not on your side, they want you to keep publishing papers and enhance brand name of the University, not help you get rich.
Most technologies developed at University are too immature for market place, so most likely the easiest way to commercialize it is via strategic partner, an existing company that can use this technology to enhance their own product line, or expand into a new one.
That's just generic answer without knowing more, but I have a lot of experience working with academics (NCSU, Duke, UNC) who want to commercialize their work and would be happy to help you.

I agree with Armando and Shaun, customers bring you revenue, social media followers do now. I would go even further to say that social media followers represent a cost center, an expense, because you need to have a paid employee or a contractor to manage social media followers and keep the brand message consistent.
Businesses exist because they have paid customers. It's that simple. Regarding hardware startups, I just published a case study about FitBit vs Jawbone: http://www.anagard.com/blog/2015/05/06/case-study-bootstrap-vs-venture-funding/ In just three years FitBit took 70% market share for fitness trackers with only $83M in venture capital funding and yesterday they announced $100M IPO even though valuation is $1B. FitBit has to thank paying customers for the success. In contrast, Jawbone, their competitor raised $518M, took 19% market share and is in debt today -- epic fail.
Please call if you and your team need outside feedback.

Congratulations on getting your first retail contract! Not knowing anything about your product, it's hard to give you a specific answer, but I hope that my recent article would be helpful. The article compiles advice from venture capitalists themselves how they like to be approached by startup founders and what they are looking for before they decide to invest in a company: http://www.anagard.com/blog/2015/01/13/venture-capitalists-advice-to-startups-how-to-successfully-raise-funds/

By the end of the day, your business model and plan is the key, so please don't hesitate to call if I can help further.

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