Podcast

Learn from Fast Growing 7-8 Figure Online Retailers and eCommerce Experts

EPISODE 23 51 mins

Raising Capital for Ecommerce: Angels, VCs, Kickstarter – Marvin Weinberger, Innovation Factory



About the guests

Marvin Weinberger

Kunle Campbell

Marvin Weinberger is a long time entrepreneur, investor, and proud American maker in his own right. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Michigan and Boston University, he has since been involved with numerous early online businesses which are legend in Philadelphia’s investment and entrepreneurial communities, including Infonautics, Telebase Systems, CD Now, and Electric Schoolhouse.



Marvin is a serial entrepreneur, an inventor and an expert in raising funds with Angel Investors, VCs and more recently on Kickstarter.
He is the founder of a Philadelphia based eCommerce start up called: American Certified – which offers the largest selection of American-made goods;
Marvin strongly believes in supporting U.S made-products, U.S manufacturing and businesses.

He not only put in $500,000 of his own money into American Certified by also successfully raised $200,000 for this venture 12 months ago.
Thats not all….
Marvin closed in on a Kickstarter Campaign of his latest Made In USA invention: The Lil Trucker™ surpassing its $25,000 goal by almost 500% – it is raised $123,000.

Marvin’s close connections and experience with Angel investors and Venture capitalists in Philadelphia has led him to owning a co-working space for startups called VentureF0rth
Marin has created a seed fund for 29 tech companies in the VentureF0rth co-working space that provides capital, offer space and a thriving environment for these start-ups.

The Kickstarter Video for Lil Trucker™

Key Takeaways

02.61 – Introduction

06.02 – Raising seed capital from angel investors & crowd funding

10.30 – How entrepreneurs can thrive

17.31 – Circling back to American Certified

25.40 – Crowd funding platforms not like Kickstarter

28.37 – Successful Kickstarter video campaign

37.25 – How to increase investment opportunities

42.29 – Having what it takes as an entrepreneur

Tweetables

Work up your credibility to the point where then you become the featured presenter at one of these programs to the point where you can get people to stop by your own venue.

We provide an extensive array of programs and events and cold food and a robotic coffee maker and contests and competitions.

Transcript

2X Lil Trucker

[Beginning of recorded material]

KUNLE: On today’s episode we talk about money, money, money. By that I mean raising capital for ecommerce. I’m going to be talking about the current options available beyond family and friends that is raising seed capital from angel investors and crowd funding from the veteran entrepreneur who has just surprised his Kickstarter goal by almost five hundred percent. Stay tuned.

SOUNDTRACK: Welcome to the two ex ecommerce podcast show where we interview founders of fast growing seven and eight figure ecommerce businesses and ecommerce experts. They’ll tell their stories, share how they two ex their businesses and inspire you to take action in your own online retail business today. And now here he is the man in the mix Coley Campbell.
KUNLE: Hi two exers welcome to the two ex ecommerce podcast show. I’m your host Cooney Campbell and this is a podcast where I interview ecommerce entrepreneurs and online marketing experts who help uncover new ecommerce marketing tactics and strategies to help you my fellow two exers grow metrics that matter to your online stores. Metric [inaudible] conversions, average order value, repeat consumer traffic and ultimately sales. You know you’re in the right place. On today’s show I have with me Marvin Weinberger. Marvin is a serial entrepreneur, an inventor and an expert in raising funds with angel investors, vcs and more recently on Kickstarter. He’s a founder of a Philadelphia based ecommerce start up called American Certified using American Certified dot com which offers the largest selection of American made goods. Marvin strongly believes in supporting US made products and US manufacturing businesses in general. He’s not only put in five hundred thousand dollars of his own money in American Certified, he also successfully raised two hundred thousand of his first venture twelve months ago which we’re going to talk about. That’s not all. Marvin is about to close in on a Kickstarter campaign in a few days, in about four days time of his latest Made In America invention the Lil Trucker I believe. It’s surpassing it’s twenty-five thousand dollar goal by four hundred percent. It’s currently a hundred and five thousand dollars. Marvin’s close connections and experience with angel investors and venture capitalists in Philadelphia has lead him to owning a co working space for start ups called Venture Forth. Marvin is also created a seed fund for twenty nine tech start ups and Venture Forth, and Venture Forth co working space provides capital office space in a thriving environment for these start ups. Marvin is here to talk to us about raising capital for ecommerce ventures. Welcome to the show Marvin. That’s a long winder. Welcome to the show Marvin.
MARVIN: Well it’s a pleasure to be here. You forgot to mention that my original training was as a professional violinist. And I helped to pay the bills doing weddings and bar mitzvahs in the early days of my start ups.
KUNLE: Well I didn’t do my research well then.
[laughs]
KUNLE: I was just going to ask you to take a minute or less to tell our listeners about yourself.
MARVIN: Well thank you. I have been an entrepreneur for quite a long time. I have a passion for starting companies. As you indicated I’ve been here in Philadelphia for more than twenty years. I started Infonautics about twenty three years ago here in Philadelphia. That was the first internet company in the region. My co founder in infonautics was a young fellow by the name of Josh Kopelman who has since gone on to some considerable and well earned success in venture capital. But a number of the successful entrepreneurs and leaders in Philadelphia I’m proud to say worked with me during the days at Infonautics. At the same time this actually was not my first online start up. My first online start up was more than thirty five years ago also in Philadelphia. It was a company called Telebay systems I got the bug early on for online connections and databases but this was many many years before the Internet. We were serving up access to public databases. In this case we’re talking about scientific data bases, professional business data bases to customers around the world. But because of the low speed bandwidth that was available the difficulty of making access our customers were sometimes using telex machines coming at us at seventy five bod. You know that’s minus the, that’s just seventy five with no zeros. Today’s access is just a couple of million times faster but I thought it was pretty cool back then even at seventy five. [inaudible]
KUNLE: I remember teletex machines. A little teletex cell phone. They were discontinued in the UK a few years ago. But yeah interesting. And you made a transition. So what’s been your transition over the last say twenty years now into ecommerce because I realize you’re an inventor and then you made this smooth transition into ecommerce and with your vc connections you’ve managed to sort of raise funds continuously with your vc business. What’s been your journey over the last ten to twenty years Marvin?
MARVIN: Well after Infonautics I launched another online venture which is considered legendary in Philadelphia but unfortunately it failed. That was Electric Schoolhouse. We were a bit to early in trying to provide comprints of access to information and services in an online platform. At the same time also have to admit not successful I launched what was the first incubator in Philadelphia. Sometimes being first is not an advantage. In fact being first is usually not an advantage except for all the times when it is. That’s the problem with [inaudible] it’s always true except when it isn’t. I launched an incubator with I think twenty thousand square feet. We completely rebuilt an old school house. It had everything except entrepreneurs. There weren’t enough Internet entrepreneurs
KUNLE: In Philadelphia.
MARVIN: In Philadelphia back sixteen years ago when I tried to do it. And it just sat mostly empty until I eventually after having gone through quite a lot of cash had to close it down. I’m hoping that Venture Forth, the incubator and Coworking Space which I’m currently running will have a better outcome. And so far it certainly seems to be. There’s no shortage of Internet entrepreneurs or at least Internet entrepreneur wannabes. You know back when I first started my companies people thought long and hard about becoming an entrepreneur. There were no get rich quick stories about starting a business online and making money with very little investment so people were more leery and those who did proceed tend to be more of the real deal. People who really had the guts to succeed or at least the persistence to try. Nowadays it’s almost considered a requirement that no matter what you’re studying at college if you’re not starting a company in your door room that there’s something wrong with you. Now it may be that there are innumerable business opportunities enough for all those prospective entrepreneurs but you know being an entrepreneur takes many things and I’m convinced that a lot of those characteristics are genetic or at the very least are you need to have a strong inspiration in your life to be able to stay the course. Most people it’s really not for them. They like to look the part and they certainly like to earn the money but they don’t really have what it takes. They don’t have the risk profile and that special kind of crazy intelligence to succeed at it.
KUNLE: Interesting you’re saying this because I was listening to the [phonetic] podcast this morning actually and one of his latest interviews with Chris Sacca who’s a prolific venture capitalist, very successful chap he just turned forty. And he was talking exactly about what you said. He just alluded to what you said about the fact that not everybody’s cut out for it, for entrepreneurship. Sometimes you might be better off being an employee. And only time would let you bite the bitter apple so to speak. Speaking of Philadelphia, episode number nine I interviewed another Philadelphia start up RJ Metrics. I don’t know if you know about them?
MARVIN: I know them very well.
KUNLE: You know them very well. I interviewed Tristin Handy the [phonetic] manager there and it’s one of my most popular interviews because we’re talking about ecommerce growth in general. And he said that I think [phonetic] is also in Philadelphia and the search engine dot dot goal I recall. I’m not quite sure.
MARVIN: Dot Dot [phonetic]
KUNLE: It seems like a thriving sort of state, city, place for entrepreneurship now. Is that what you’re seeing in Venture Forth?
MARVIN: Absolutely. Philadelphia is I think an underappreciated locust for innovation and entrepreneurship and particularly in the tech space I think that it’s perhaps better known for its contribution in the field of biosciences. You know I would go so far as to say Philadelphia is darn near perfect place to start your company except for a couple of key footnotes. You know on the positive side you have dozens of amazing universities and colleges in greater Philadelphia. I don’t know the exact count but it’s probably more than a hundred thousand students make Philadelphia their home in any given year. And these universities include powerhouses like University of Pennsylvania but also like Drexels and Saint Jones and Temple University just to name a couple of those and these universities provide a tremendous talent pool. Students both with ideas for start ups but also anxious and eager to become interns and co ops and really contribute to a start up enterprise so that’s clearly one of the big advantages of Philadelphia. At the same time there’s an extremely active community within Philadelphia. We have in Philadelphia an organization known as Philadelphia Start Up Leaders, thousands of members. I think it’s probably unique but for places like San Francisco and a few other cities around the country in terms of the amount of not just activities that go on on a daily basis which Philadelphia Start Up Leaders helps to stimulate but there’s really a community here. People are constantly helping one another and it’s not nearly focused in terms of helping one another get rich quicker. Many of the Philadelphia Start Up Leaders volunteer on an ongoing basis in providing courses or made available to the disadvantaged people who can’t afford this type of education, veterans and others to really give a helping hand and spread the benefits of tech throughout the community. So that’s really another great thing. In addition to that you have a handful of great companies. You mentioned RJ Metrics. You also have Comcast and Verizon and of course some of the great medical institutions. And then you have one of the world’s leading venture funds, First Round Capital up here in
KUNLE: They’re based in Philadelphia. Wow.
MARVIN: Oh yeah. Not withstanding this and many other great things about Philadelphia. You know the housing’s affordable. Offices is affordable. It’s really a dynamic community. A lot is going on. Where Philadelphia suffers is when it comes to early stage investing. It’s very difficult to raise early stage money in Philadelphia. It’s a problem which is well known and really it is the single biggest impediment to the success of Philadelphia. I’m hoping in my small way to do something about that. I have some ideas we can talk about for how to stimulate some of these early rounds of investing.
KUNLE: Is this a mindset problem? Sorry for cutting you short but is this a mindset problem typical for Philadelphians or is this capital? Is this a structural problem?
MARVIN: Other people that are smarter than I who have thought about this have told me that the issue is not the availability of capital in Philadelphia or really the mid Atlantic region as evidenced by the fact that later stage investments there’s plenty of capital for serious A rounds. Plenty of capital. The local investment community is very competitive when it comes to writing quick and large checks. The problem is that investors, the traditional money in Philadelphia is not money that was earned from tech start ups and the like with very few exceptions and a lot of these people are just highly conservative.
[crosstalk]
MARVIN: And they’re not willing to not even hundred thousand dollar checks just to write twenty, fifty thousand dollar checks where I know entrepreneurs who have left my incubator and gone to other cities like Austin and San Francisco and even Atlanta, not to mention Boston and New York, have found it much easier to obtain financing quickly and of larger magnitude. It drives me sometimes to distraction.
KUNLE: In the US in general from your experience what you’re seeing, what states are the best environment for raising seed capital? I’m going to add one more layer to it in the context of online retail.
MARVIN: You know I’m not an expert from a national perspective so I can opine on what I’ve read. Others who I respect and what they have said. Certainly it’s much easier to raise capital for anything online or Internet out in San Francisco, the Bay Area. Of course and it’s also very easy or much easier to raise money in Boston and in Austin. But then there are pockets of capital all over the country where you have people from what I understand eager to write checks down in North Carolina. I hear that there’s people who have had success in the Saint Lewis area and many other areas around the country. It’s just really difficult in Philadelphia. I’m hoping in another five or ten years time when the Arjun Metrics and some of these other companies have exited and generated their crops of tens of hundreds of millionaires that that will begin to fix the problem.
KUNLE: It almost germinates because they’ll come in and I think they’ll be angels themselves. They won’t be quite qualified to be vcs but I guess they’ll be angels and they’ll help seed funding. Just circling back to your venture American Certified I read please correct me if I’m wrong you put five hundred thousand dollars of your money into the business. And then you raised two hundred thousand dollars. This to me sounds more like it reflects the situation in Philadelphia in the sense that you probably couldn’t raise the entire seed funding [phonetic] is this the case or am I wrong here?
MARVIN: It is absolutely the case and it’s a source of frustration to me that this opportunity couldn’t attract funding more readily. But there are other great companies in Philadelphia who are also worthy, who are also having the same challenges so I’m more philosophic about it in that sense. But there are some great investors in Philadelphia and I’ve found some of them and I know others and speak I’m actually in the process of raising additional money for some other Venture Forth itself as well as some other enterprises that I’ve got going.
KUNLE: A lot of our listeners would like to know at this stage how you build a network to find investors. Not necessarily who would invest now but build that relationship for the long haul when that idea and that spark comes in you tap into the network to actually make it happen. In your case you sound pretty established in terms of your local Philadelphia in terms of knowing the right sort of angels and vcs. How have you sort of built these relationships over the years? Is it a more recent thing or does this date back decades?
MARVIN: Well it dates back decades and although there are updated techniques to facilitate the process it really is about persistent and polite networking. There is simply no substitute for getting yourself to all of the appropriate events, having business cards, having your elevator pitch and getting yourself in front of the people who you know are going to be important to you as you grow out your business so even before you’ve started your business so that they’ll be primed to be interested to hear what you have to say. Fortunately nowadays particularly here in Philadelphia there are so many events being held so often and Venture Forth which I run we have major events a couple of times a week just ourselves. If one is ambitious you can attend these programs and quickly begin to put yourself in front of people who can be helpful to you, instrumental to your future. It’s just hard work. I remember when I started Infonautics I would attend conferences around the country and in advance look at the list of attendees and circle everybody who it was my objective to meet. And spend a day or two or three days of the conferences making it my business to seek out those people and to pitch them whatever the idea or the opportunity was or even to just introduction so that they had me in mind when I came back to them later.
KUNLE: I was just gonna ask you is attending events enough? Would you say an ambitious entrepreneur would actually host an event?
MARVIN: It depends on the context. If you have a start up and a real business and a product then by all means if you can attract people to that event there’s nothing wrong with it. More realistically unless it’s a program which is irresistible, you’ve got some national celebrity there or at least a celebrity chef providing the food or something cool, the incremental steps are to get yourself on the platform of one of these many showcases. And I’m not speaking just of the more formal showcases that appeal to the venture capitalists and the angel funds but again here in Philadelphia there are so many programs going on where if you have a halfway decent reasonable proposition you can usually get some time on the program or even just stand up and do a pitch from the audience. That’s also considered acceptable. In that way work up your credibility to the point where then you become the featured presenter at one of these programs to the point where you can get people to stop by your own venue. But at Venture Forth in addition to the programs that we sponsor, we do have entrepreneurs including some of the members of our space who pulled monthly programs now where they’re showcasing their own companies but it’s a hybrid. They’re bringing in extra speakers and they’re also [inaudible] for food and entertainment so it’s just enough to get thirty or forty interesting people there and then they continue to build on that.
KUNLE: Okay let’s talk about Venture Forth. A lot of our listeners aren’t quite clear about Venture Forth. It’s a co working space with a twist. Start ups, tech, tech start ups basically and then you funded about twenty nine of them, is that correct? Could you tell us about your journey and where it is now?
MARVIN: Well thank you. At the moment Venture Forth is still primarily a co working space with a twist. That difference is community. Even for those members who are paying rent we provide an extensive array of programs and events and cold food and a robotic coffee maker and contests and competitions this Friday we had a rock, paper, scissors competition. Quizo nights. So people who come to Venture Forth even if they’re paying rent are doing it because they really want to be part of an intensive and involved community where they know everybody else there. Socially engaged but also they’re able to exchange business opportunities. You also have a dozen early and later stage start ups in the space. We’re not providing them cash at the moment but we provide them exhaustive in kind services as well as differed rent. And my hope is over time to strike a balance between existing more established companies but those who really want to be part of the community and in turn want to provide support services to these start ups. I hope to wrap all that then with access to capital. We’re looking at perhaps creating special syndications to raise capital particularly with the new changes in the FCC rules where angels we can go directly to regular consumers and others who have some cash to help finance these businesses and break the log jam.
KUNLE: I think we have something like that in the UK. It’s more regulated here in the UK. Well the regulations have come in the UK and the crowd funding platforms not like Kickstarter but where you have investors that can actually put in money into ventures whether they’re established or ideas. You can go into platforms. There’s one called Crowd Cube dot com and members of the public could put their money into all sorts of ventures from real estate trust funds basically to a bakery that’s looking to go national. Anything.
MARVIN: So there you go. The UK is way ahead of us.
KUNLE: A bit. When you guys catch up you just shoot way ahead of us. You rocket out. Okay.
MARVIN: By the way I might say that my ambitions for Venture Forth go beyond Philadelphia. I’m hoping ideally we’d like to position ourselves as if you will a second stage booster where companies will come to us that have already raised some initial financing and have done some good development but are looking to if you will break free of gravity. At least get into the lower orbit and we hope to attract great companies from around the world to that undertaking. And I’m hoping that if some of your listeners outside of Philadelphia might want to contact me to propose their businesses for participation as well in our incubator.
KUNLE: Toward the end of the show we’ll certainly leave your contact details and that’s very important. Actually what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
MARVIN: Probably the best way is to just email. Marvin at innovation factory dot com.
KUNLE: Okay I’m gonna put this in the show notes anyway both on iTunes and on the website. Okay let’s talk about your third venture which was just mind blowing, Lil Trucker. Fantastic Kickstarter campaign. Aim was to raise twenty five thousand dollars, it’s gonna close on June fifth in four days time. I had a look at it last night a hundred and four thousand dollars, seven hundred and something. A hundred and five thousand dollars and it was pretty much a movie. It was high production movie. No pitches except at the end which was just showing specifications but no one actually spoke about the product. It was a movie. It was like a zombie apocalypse movie. Could you just tell us how you got the idea? Well first of all the invention and I’m quite sure the invention is as clever as the Kickstarter video campaign. Could you just tell us about it how you came across the idea for inventing it as well as the Kickstarter campaign please.
MARVIN: Well I’m very glad to tell you. It’s over three years of hard work. The inspiration actually or if you will the father of the Lil Trucker is a product which we’ve been selling for a couple years now called the Trucker’s Friend which is a much larger product that was designed for professional truck drivers and also professional fire and rescue workers. At a trade conference a local show in greater Philadelphia attended by fire fighters we brought along our Trucker’s Friend a couple of years ago and were discussing with the hundreds of people to our booth what else they might like that would be helpful to them as a multi purpose rescue tour and many of them said they’d like a smaller version of the Trucker’s Friend. You know the Trucker’s Friend is more like a battle axe. They wanted something that would be light weight and could fit on their belt and that would do a whole bunch of things for them. And that was the genesis of the idea behind the Lil Trucker. The Lil Trucker of course I encourage people to go to the Kickstarter to see it but it looks a little bit like a battle axe as well but it’s smaller it’s all steel it fits into a glove compartment in addition to an axe and a pry bar and a hammer it has unique patent pending fold out saws all blade a [phonetic] tip for breaking window glass and a strap cutter.
KUNLE: I’m just gonna add if you think the Swiss Army knife is versatile try the Lil Trucker.
MARVIN: Well thank you. And it has an accessory it comes with that includes a sharpener and a fire starter that includes a magnesium fire starter that burns at three thousand degrees and one of the loudest whistles you can buy anywhere in the world. We think it’s really kick ass.
KUNLE: I notice the lady in the video she lit a fire with it.
MARVIN: Oh yeah.
KUNLE: Wow.
MARVIN: Yeah. The product was originally designed for fire and rescue people to meet their requirements. One of the reasons why it’s all metal so that it’s virtually all steel it’s virtually indestructible. It’s a really heavy solid tool but a long the way we showed it to consumers and a lot of consumers really liked it. They thought it would be a great personal survival tool. Something to keep in the glove compartment or for that matter something to put in the bug out bag for those out there who are familiar with the whole survivalist movement and the prepers movement. You know a funny thing happens. Although we originally started out selling the Truckers Friend to professionals we found that most of the reviews were by so called Zombie Hunters. You know if you go on the Internet today you’ll see that there’s dozens of hundreds of reviews and people using the Truckers Friend to decapitate zombies and smash pumpkins.
KUNLE: Sorry I’m confused. Are they real zombie hunters and seriously I’m not quite how does that I’m not very familiar with the genre of Zombie Hunters. Do they just smash pumpkins or
MARVIN: Well you know it’s a phenomenon. What can I say? I think most of the so called Zombie Hunters know it’s tongue in cheek and for fun.
KUNLE: Fair enough. Okay.
MARVIN: Those who take it seriously, I’m not going to try to point out their errors while they’re holding the Truckers Friend. But we thought wouldn’t it be fun to do a campaign and demonstrate everything you could do with the Little Trucker without making it a commercial and just making it sort of really out there. And so instead of having someone systematically showing all the features in a kind of a boring infomercial we decided to have a young heroine escaping from zombies using the Lil Trucker and in the course of her escape demonstrating all of its features. And that’s what we did.
KUNLE: An attractive lady who is stuck in a car and there’s zombies I’m not gonna spoil it. You guys go over to Kickstarter and watch. I’m gonna share it in the show notes. But go over to Kickstarter and type out Lil Trucker on there and is it an editors pick I think?
MARVIN: Yeah it’s a staff pick
[crosstalk]
KUNLE: The video is just phenomenal. I haven’t seen anything on Kickstarter like that. And yeah I had to get my hat out to you guys you did a terrific job with that. Yes so it’s no doubt why not just the product but the video the advertising there was spot on. So what tips would you give to would be entrepreneurs looking to inventors like yourself looking to launch their products or their brand on Kickstarter given your success thus far?
MARVIN: Well this is my first Kickstarter so I can’t pretend to be an expert. I can comment to some of the things that we’ve done that perhaps really been helpful. Certainly from the feedback we’ve gotten and let me just take a look here at the number of views I think that at last count our video had something in excess of fifty five thousand views of our video. I can say that if you have a product that lends itself to being fun to being out there to telling a story without being pedantic and being particular. If you can think of a zombie angle. Zombie videos at least we had one data point for our Kickstarter campaign. Zombie videos definitely work. More broadly I think we’ve helped to set a bar that if you want people to be engaged make the video engaging and try to go beyond the normal pitch.
KUNLE: You’ve raised the bar. Now I don’t need to go to Netflix. I could just go to Kickstarter to see the next video or promotion that’s going to make another movie. What about I noticed you had a lot of press [inaudible] and then there was like a press feature further down on the Kickstarter page. Was this proactive or did the video sell itself so to speak?
MARVIN: Well that was I think the second thing that I might speak to that we did. We worked with some people who had done a number of Kickstarter campaigns and they indicated to us that while a great video would be a terrific way to plant seeds that if you really want to succeed in a serious way you just have to work at it. And we’ve had a number of people over the last month on our staff who everyday sit down with a list of perspective targets bloggers people with big twitter followings minor celebrities and we reach out to them with a message and pretty much all of the so called press and all of the tweets and the blogs have been the result of our aggressive outreach and our systematic outreach to these people. In fact even though we’re down to the last three days we have three people full time today who are continuting to target individuals, organizations within a dozen different verticals of groups who might be interested in what we’ve done.
KUNLE: So they’re on their emails. They’re on Twitter. They’re in social media working the lines really and trying to get the exposure.
MARVIN: Exactly. So it’s I think like most things a lot of it’s luck. I like to think that the tool is really absolutely as I know the tool is as good as it looks. I like to think that people perceived it and the huge investment we made in building this tool is of course the cornerstone. That if it were schlock if it was pretend that people would recognize it and they wouldn’t support us. But we made a conscious decision and spent a year just planning the video. Going through many different scripts and treatments and story boards and recording and
KUNLE: Did you work with a movie with a full fledged movie producer to do this to actually produce the video or was it something internal? It looks really professional. It looks cinema quality.
MARVIN: Thank you. When I [phonetic] Eden Cohen is the producer who created it. The day he first met with me a year before we shot the video he said when I showed him the prototype of the Lil Trucker he was the one who thought that it would make a great prop for a zombie movie. He had just got done helping to shoot an actual horror movie commercial horror movie and we stuck with that idea and spent the next many months going through story boards and positioning to decide which feature we would use we would demonstrate and how that would move the story forward. And it had to move the story forward or we weren’t gonna use that feature.
KUNLE: How big was the team behind the production? [phonetic] the actress and those [phonetic] Eden Cohen who produced it. What’s the cast like?
MARVIN: Oh we had I think at its peek almost twenty people involved including all the zombies.
KUNLE: Yes I can’t forget.
[laughs]
MARVIN: We had a casting call on Craigslist for zombies which was really a whoot and people showed up. We had zombie babies and we had zombies in wheel we had every zombie. And we tried to use as many as we could. We shot it on location in a couple different eerie creepy areas in New Jersey in the Pine Barons and it was a four day shooting schedule just for what was eventually seven minutes of film.
KUNLE: How much did it cost?
MARVIN: My cost which reflects in large part Eden and the member of his crew’s interest to get this done because they hoped it would be good for them as well was about ten thousand dollars. I think that
KUNLE: Not bad. Not bad for what
MARVIN: I think that if someone paid full rack paid full board for this it would be probably closer to fifteen or twenty thousand but even that assumes that your zombies are volunteers and the food truck is me going to pick up pizzas. We wanted it to be a Hollywood quality production but with a very modest budget of course.
KUNLE: Does Eden have a website we could link to from the show notes?
MARVIN: I sure do I will
KUNLE: You can ping them over after our conversation.
MARVIN: It’s called Spirit Animal and I will be glad to send that over to you.
KUNLE: Guys the quality of this video is amazing. You should have a look at it. I’ll link to Eden’s website portfolio in the show notes. I’m taking I wanna circle back to angel and vc investing. What kinds of metrics do angel investors what do angel investors want to see in a business from your experience with American Certified? What do they want to see before they handed wrote that check of two hundred thousand dollars what did you put on the table? What gave them kind of the impact to want to put in money into the business? In general what do angel investors really wanna see before they put in some seed capital?
MARVIN: Well they wanna see things which are reasonable and they wanna see things which are not as reasonable. The reasonable things that they wanna see is that you have a good idea with at least some research or data to substantiate the quality of the idea and the opportunity. In other words a serious business plan which might be nowadays less of a likely printed document and more of a slide presentation a deck but it’s a way for them to measure the quality of the idea on its merits. They also wanna see that you have a team which knows what it’s doing. Not only has the specific expertise to accomplish whatever it is you say you’re going to be doing but also you’ve got what it takes as an entrepreneur. That you have the guts you have the commitment you’re willing to put in the time you’re making the personal sacrifice. You have the emotional intelligence for what’s involved you’re a good networker high integrity. They also like to see skin in the game money that you yourself are providing and or money from friends and family because they know that if you’re putting in your own money or if you’ve got to face your auntie or uncle Eddie at Thanksgiving and explain to them why you lost their cash that you’re likely to take this more seriously. Where in Philadelphia that perhaps not as realistic is that really what they want you to do is already have proven that the business is gonna be a success before you put in their money and then take their money. So they want you to be at the point where you’re ready for big success but are desperate enough to take money from people that are jerks.
KUNLE: What do they want to get in return? They have to put these filters in dedication integrity team money in the idea is fundamental but what do they want to get in return for the equity? Do they typically want an exit when perhaps they see money comes in or you’ve grown to a certain size or you want to buy them out or what do they want from your findings? What exactly do angels want from what kind of returns do they want and how do they want to exit?
MARVIN: It depends a lot on the individual but most of the if you will professional angels that I work with they’re not looking for a quick exit. They all want to have an exit strategy they want to know that this isn’t just a lifestyle business where spend their money on your salaries and never exit in a fashion that is gonna generate returns to the shareholders. But most of them that I work with are pretty flexible. They wanna know that it is the kind of company that can attract larger investments and which can have an exit strategy. If they’re good investors rather than looking to exit when the venture capitalists come in most of them are actually looking for right of participation. And ideally you’d like a seed round investor who has the motivation and the wherewithal to put up additional capital to maintain their equity stake when professional when major investors come to the table.
KUNLE: Makes a lot of sense. One more question around investing in general from an angel stand point. What’s your thoughts and on idea pitch [phonetic] particularly in the area of ecommerce and online retail are they any good? Should our listeners consider participating in idea pitch days?
MARVIN: I think the demo days are terrific. I mean they’re certainly good entertainment. Dream Adventures which I think is the tenth largest accelerator in the country is based her in Philadelphia and their demo days are extremely entertaining. Everybody wants to sort of put on their own mini version of a TED conference and they certainly do a good job with it. But you have to then talk to the entrepreneurs afterwards and find out where the reality is versus the pitch buzz. But it certainly is a great way to get a sense of the state of the art in terms of the presentations and what’s appropriate when you’re trying to compete on a high level with other entrepreneurs and sometimes you find great companies and if you can move quickly I picked up a couple of great companies at demo days here in Philadelphia and have brought them into Venture Forth and have been just delighted that I was prepared to pull the trigger. They were willing and anxious to make the move and now they’re members of Venture Forth.
KUNLE: Very interesting. Are you the sole owner of Venture Forth or is there a board in Venture Forth?
MARVIN: I’m the sole owner right now but I’m actually in real time negotiating to bring in other investors and partners.
KUNLE: So our Philadelphia listeners if there’s anyone listening check out Venture Forth. By the way it’s [phonetic] I believe.
MARVIN: Yes. Thank you.
[laughs]
KUNLE: Okay so I’m gonna start to wrap things up here and one of my questions I typically ask at the end of each show is are there any [phonetic] books or resources you can recommend to online retailers and entrepreneurs looking to this time raise capital for their business or ideas. Or anything linked to get in that mindset fine tuned towards raising capital?
MARVIN: I don’t have any one resource but one of the things I would recommend for those who are looking to learn more about pretty much everything. First round capital has the first round review it’s like a Harvard Business Review for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists it is terrific it’s free and it’s one of the best resources. And in the course of their coverage they’re constantly providing extraordinary guidance into pretty much every topic that a young entrepreneur might be interested in.
KUNLE: Absolutely spot on. I’ve subscribed to it to that newsletter. Okay finally what’s the best way listeners can get in touch with you?
MARVIN: The best way is to email me via Innovation Factory. Innovation Factory is the company which actually sponsors Lil Trucker and if you want the holding company for everything else the email would be Marvin at Innovation Factory just like it sounds Innovation Factory dot com.
KUNLE: Okay I will add it to the show notes. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. Thank you so much for giving your time and sharing insights on raising capital for ecommerce Marvin.
MARVIN: Well thank you. It’s been a real pleasure and best wishes to you and to your listeners.
SOUNDTRACK: Thanks for listening to this episode of 2X ecommerce. To help you get more actionable insights and ecommerce growth hacks that’ll help you two ex your online retail business hop over to two ex ecommerce dot com. It’s a blog dedicated to ecommerce and multi channel marketing run by the show’s host Coley Campbell. Two ex ecommerce dot com is packed full of articles and guides to help increase traffic to your store increase repeat purchases and average order value. Thanks for listening. Visit two ex ecommerce dot com.

[End of Recorded Material]

About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

Learn from eCommerce Entrepreneurs & Marketing Experts


Get Free Email Updates by Signing Up Below:

Podcasts you might like