Monthly Archives: March 2018

#12 – SMARTER CITIES/AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES – PAUL VALCHEFF-METROTECH



A tragic fatality involving an autonomous Uber vehicle in Arizona recently again underscored the challenges facing the burgeoning industry.  But Atlanta-based startup Metrotech is at the forefront in developing solutions that could help make the future safer and help manage the ever increasing congestion throttling most of our major metropolitan areas.

The lastest edition of Series A- The Podcast travels to the Atlanta Tech Village, where host Jim Brisimitzis visits with Metrotech COO/CTO and veteran Silicon Valley startup fixer Paul Valcheff.

The promise of easing traffic and managing a future that could bring us far closer to one envisioned by the Jetsons was what drew Valcheff to Metrotech.

“If you’re all drawing from the same data sets and if you’re all communicating with each other, now we can finally get through congestion.”

Valcheff details the rapid, tech-driven changes in the automotive industry that are shifting the focus from Detroit to the Silicon Valley and other tech centers including Atlanta.

“There are massive changes over the next five to 10 years that we can’t even imagine today,” he says in the wide ranging conversation.

Valcheff offers interesting comparisons between the Silicon Valley and Atlanta for founders, as well as a number of hard-earned lessons and insights regardless of geography.

He also provides an insider’s perspective on opportunities for founders across the country when it comes to what’s being termed “Transportation Technology” or “Trans Tech,” and details why Atlanta is poised to become the center of what promises to be a multi-billion dollar industry (with the world’s busiest airport, Delta Airlines, UPS, AT&T, Kia and numerous other car manufacturers and OEM’s, it’s understandable why.)

Listen now to the in depth conversation on the future of transportation technology in this edition of Series A-The Podcast with Jim Brisimitzis, General Manager of the Microsoft for Startups team in the United States and Canada.


#11 – CONNECTING SALES AND MARKETING – PIYUSH SAGGI – SALESTING



Why would anyone leave a highly successful sales career after a decade at Microsoft with all the benefits that come with it?

“One day I just realized sometimes you have to step out of the picture to actually see the picture clearly,” says Piyush Saggi, the CEO and co-founder of Atlanta-based SalesTing.

What Saggi repeatedly encountered was a huge disconnent between sales and marketing.  So the Georgia Tech MBA set out to fix it.

Saggi shares his insights founding the flourishing startup in the latest edition of Series A-The Podcast, recorded on location at the Atlanta Tech Village with host Jim Brisimitzis.

Saggie offers great lessons in moving from the enterprise to a startup, and the problems that come with shifting from selling IT to creating solutions.

“The realization was that marketing organizations, sales organizations…they are basically living in two different solar systems, and the lack of data is causing  bad decisions or lack of decisions in many cases,” he says.

Saggi admits it’s been difficult and humbling at times, and acknowledging his own shortcomings has been a key in his own development as a CEO.

“There are all these skill sets I did not have to build a company,” he laughs.

Saggi offers tremendous insights for other founders, including the need to build relationships and shore up those shortcomings well before you launch your startup to minimize the learning curve.

Saggi also shares his learnings on building a team and hiring employees, including the challenge of actually identifying the best fits.

“Everybody has to share the dream and the vision.  It’s not about the 401 match at this point…And you need people who are really good at execution,” he says.


#10 – 3D PRINTING FOR THE MASSES – JOHN DOGRU – 3DPRINTEROS



From the time he was a kid, John Dogru was always tinkering with electronics, taking them apart and trying to put them back together again.  So it’s little surprise he would one day become CEO and co-founder of 3DPrinterOS, a company revolutionizing 3D printing.  But it’s a journey over 30 years in the making.

“I quickly realized (as a child) this mechanical world had a lot of restrictions,” he tells host Jim Brisimitzis in the latest edition of Series A-The Podcast.

Dogru offers tremendous insights into founding a business in such a nascent field, where technology is just beginning to catch up to the vision. He  likens it to when IBM DOS first came on scene.  “You need a platform that’s agnostic to whatever printer manufacturer and design tools they’re using,” he says.

3DPrinterOS accomplishes just that.  It’s an elegant but simple solution that allows anyone with a web browser to log in and manipulate designs then print anywhere around the world.

The platform has become the gold standard at leading universities and enterprises around the world, from Duke and Caltech to John Deere and Bosch.

With 3D printers sitting idle at times around the world, 3DPrinterOS allows anyone to access them, and watch their creations come to life.  And with the quality of desktop printers rapidly approaching industrial strength, it’s revolutionizing manufacturing, Dogru says.

“You know it takes five years to set up a factory for a car….but in 3D printing what you see on the screen comes out the other side.  No restrictions,” he says.

Along with a fascinating look at the world of 3D printing, Dogru offers tremendous insights for other founders gleaned from the past several years of founding the company, from hiring to fundraising.

Dogru likens adding members to his team to a rock band.  “You can’t tell people how to play the guitar or drum or bass.  You need people that come in there and know how to be in the band and know how to add value instantly,” he tells Brisimitzis.

And he says you also have to be willing to cut people quickly if they aren’t up for the task, unlike some large organizations that can accommodate weaker links.  He admits of the over 160 software engineers that have joined 3DPrinterOS at one time, only 12 or so remain.

“You can either do the task or you can’t do the task…you either know what you’re doing or you don’t,” he says.

Dogru shares his experience raising capital, and offers sage advice he’s followed religiously.  Although he’s raised millions, he’s turned down plenty more, choosing quality investors over quantity.  The key?  Finding mentors and partners with deep experience and connections, not just deep pockets.

“I see a lot of entrepreneurs that are just begging for money for their ideas.  And really, ideas are nothing.  It’s all execution,” he says.

And after a number of years, it’s clear 3DPrinterOS has gotten the execution down pat, with hundreds of thousands of print jobs on thousands of printers across the globe.  And a manufacturing revolution well underway.


#9 – OVERHAULING INSURANCE – COLE WINANS – FLYREEL



When it comes to the founding of insurance industry upstart Flyreel, there’s been nothing quick or easy.

“Everyone reads the TechCrunch article about so and so raising $5 million and it just seems so effortless.  And that just wasn’t our experience at all,” admits Cole Winans, the tenacious founder and CEO of the rising Denver-based startup.  Winans is the latest founder to share his experiences, insights and embarrassments in another revealing episode of Series A-The Podcast.

“Trust me.  People say after your first no it gets easier, but the only thing harder than getting 50 consecutive nos is 51,” he tells host Jim Brisimitzis.

But eventually he started hearing yes, and Flyreel has emerged as a leader in the business and residential space, creating a unique new platform that promises to revolutionize the way everyone’s property and possessions are insured.

Flyreel leverages AI and machine learning to capture and then catalog everything in a business or home.

We’ve learned that a lot of these businesses are insuring properties sight unseen or they have to spend a significant amount time effort and money having to have an inspection done.  It all adds up to a problem where because of the lack of transparency and accountability carriers can’t accurately price premium.  They’re using high level analytics  and predictive modeling to guess the value of these properties and now we just let them know,” Winans says.

Winans and his team were in Redmond recently at Microsoft headquarters for a hackfest where engineers from his company and the Microsoft for Startups team worked feverishly to help prepare the Flyreel platform for scale.

“With your (Microsoft) engineers and the talent that you have internally on leading really the next wave of technology on automation, AI and the like, it’s been a dream,” Winans says of the partnership that leverages the Azure platform.

Winans shares the struggles he faced as a solo entrepreneur, escaping to the solace of rural Missouri to build out his platform after facing a series of rejections.  He offers keen insights on fundraising, hiring his first partner, and working with investors.  He provides a valuable perspective on the burgeoning Denver-area startup ecosystem, and why you don’t need to be on one of the coasts to be successful.  And perhaps most importantly, he discusses trusting your gut.

“One of the things I’ve learned is a lot of people are ready and willing to give you advice, and most of them – even the experts that have been in the space for years – are mostly wrong because your case is different than anyone else’s that they’ve seen,” Winans says.

Listen to the lastest edition of Series A-The Podcast with host Jim Brisimitzis now on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or Blubrry.