Digital World: Hi-tech roadies in search of funding

By DAVID SHAMAH
March 7, 2011 22:30

Like a rock roadie, you have to be in shape to take on a regimen like this: not just good physical shape (to survive the ravages of the road).




D. TODD DOLLINGER

D. TODD DOLLINGER. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Back in the day, one of the jobs people like us (“people of a certain age,” that is) used to aspire to was the profession of “roadie.” Being a roadie meant following your favorite rock band from city to city, helping to set up for performances and clean up afterwards, and spending long, hard grueling hours on buses, planes and trains.

Of course, rock has long been dead, but the profession of roadie is still alive and well. Except that today, you don’t go out on the road to follow the music. If you’re a hi-tech entrepreneur, you go out to follow the money, or, more specifically, to follow a trail that leads you to the investors, angels, venture-capital firms and all the other people who have the cash you need to bring your big idea to life.

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There are so many Israelis seeking investment funds out there these days that a whole culture has sprung up around these road trips, with dozens of companies offering to prepare you for presentations and business strategy meetings. But like with rock bands, you want to go on the road with a group that is going to help you reach your goal.

To that end, Israel’s Trendlines Group (www.trendlines.com) is organizing what CEO D. Todd Dollinger says is going to be a unique roadie experience for 14 startups who are members of Trendlines Group’s Misgav and Mofet B’Yehuda venture accelerators, giving them the opportunity to meet with dozens of qualified investors and angels, located in four cities across the US – all in the space of five days! “We’ve taken startups to the US to meet investors, but this is definitely our most ambitious project yet,” says Dollinger.

The road show will take the startup folk to New York, Baltimore (that portion will be sponsored by the Maryland-Israel Development Center), Chicago and Los Angeles. CEOs will have the opportunity to make a five-minute presentation to investors, telling them what they do and why it would be worth their while – and money – to invest.

Afterwards, the CEOs meet with investors in a one-on-one “speed-dating” format, switching seats and beginning a new conversation with another investor after 15 minutes.

Like a rock roadie, you have to be in shape to take on a regimen like this: not just good physical shape (to survive the ravages of the road), Dollinger says, but in good presentation form.

“The five-minute presentation is like an elevator pitch on steroids,” he says. “They have to communicate their product, purpose and value in as clear a manner as possible.”

To get the startups into shape, members of the Trendlines staff will be working with each one, every day, throughout March, in preparation for the trip at the end of the month.

“The people who run the startups we work with are top engineers and scientists, but they may not know how to market their ideas well,” Dollinger says. “We see it as our mission to get their great, life-saving and life-changing ideas out to the market.”

The portfolios of the accelerators run by Trendlines consist almost exclusively of medical-device makers, biotech developers and clean-tech companies. These are “areas that produce ideas and products that improve the human condition,” Dollinger says. “We provide them with all the backup assistance they need, from accounting to office space, so they can concentrate on development. And when the time comes, we prepare them to present their ideas to investors.”

Leaving nothing to chance, Dollinger draws on the services of Trendlines Group’s Signal Business Development unit to teach startup folk what it takes to impress investors. Rocky-like, the startups get toughened up, practicing their pitch in full-dress simulations and improving their game until they’re ready for the road.

Call it the “Trendline Way,” and it works, Dollinger says.

“We had an event in December in which 22 startups in Israel presented to dozens of investors,” he says, “and a number of funding deals were closed,” a rare result for a situation in which investors only days before had come to know their new partners.

Trendlines has been in business in the US and Israel in various forms for more than 30 years, but it got into the startup accelerator business only a few years ago. Nevertheless, the company has chalked up numerous successful exits for startups.

“We have a reputation for picking good startups to work with, and we have a lot of contacts both here and in the US, so we’re able to effectively help the companies in our accelerators,” Dollinger says.

Over the past three years, Trendlines has garnered some $100 million in outside investments for startups and company projects, besides the money the company itself invests in the startups in its portfolios.

And the startups participating in the road show do look promising:

• The Occiflex medical device, which simulates the “hands-on” work of physical therapists, effectively treating chronic neck pain and headaches. It already has a strategic agreement with a large European rehabilitation-equipment company.

• ProIV, which invented a better way to manage blood transfusions.

• Mantissa, which is developing a mini-radar sensor for perimeter security, using cutting-edge RF technologies and proprietary software and hardware to keep cities safer.

• Breezy, which makes a lollipop that fights bad breath and oral bacteria, making it the first candy in history that’s good for your mouth and teeth! The ideas and products by these startups and the others participating in the road trip, Dollinger says, are part of Trendlines Group’s efforts to “improve the human condition.”

The road is calling out to these startups, and when they come back with an investment deal to fully develop their projects, life will, hopefully, get a little bit better for everyone.

digitalisrael.net


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