What’s Real About Shark Tank? I Asked This Entrepreneur Who Took Down $1M


A version of this article previously appeared Forbes.

When I learned that one of my former UC Santa Barbara students scored a $1 million investment from the Shark Tank judges, I reached out to see what insights he might be able to share with his fellow entrepreneurs. Whether you love or loath the show, his responses might surprise you.

Jeff Overall, Founder and CEO of PolarPro, was successful because he properly balanced the show’s need to entertain its audience, while delivering a professional pitch of his solid business. The entertainment factor was his exaggerated, surfer bro delivery which charmed the judges, but didn’t distract them from the underlying fundamentals of the business.

I recently caught up with Jeff and he candidly shared his thoughts regarding his Shark Tank experience and whether or not he felt the return on his efforts were worthwhile. You can check out his Shark Tank pitch HERE (go to the last segment of the video and be ready to watch an annoying onslaught of commercials).

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Talk Like An 8th Grader When Pitching Investors


Photo courtesy of Santa Barbara Independent’s recent Techtopia Issue

A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Serial entrepreneurs agree that it is best to communicate with investors on an eighth grade level. To illustrate this point, former DoubleClick Founder and current CEO of Graphiq Kevin O’Connor often begins his talks to entrepreneurial students by asking the following question.

Select the real software product from this list.

A. Assimilated, zero-administration, standard database-queuing schema

B. Open-architected, workforce-neutral, productivity assimilator

C. Modularly reduced Graphical User Interface heuristic

D. Profit-focused, fault-tolerant encoding interface

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VC Confessions: We Passed On Twilio’s Seed Round


A version of this article previously appeared on Forbes.

There are a number of reasons why Rincon Venture Partners passed on Twilio’s Seed Round. In retrospect, our decision was both perfectly rational and completely lame.

VC’s love to talk about their successes. However, they seldom acknowledge their mistakes. Exceptions exist, such as the highly self-aware Paige Craig, who recently described how he missed out becoming Airbnb’s first investor. Yet most VC’s bury their failures under six feet of denial.

Twilio has now raised around $235 million, including a July 2015 round totaling $130 million. This latest round valued the company in excess of a billion dollars, entering them into the overly-hyped Unicorn Club.

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Startup Lessons From The Beatles’ Relationship With Their Manager

image002Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ Manager, was tenacious and ambitious, but he was musically inept. Brian was instrumental in establishing the Beatles’ career, but he had no input on the band’s production of music. In the same way, investors can be immensely additive to an entrepreneur’s journey, as long as they know the limits of their ability to help.

Effective startup investors guide management’s decision process, but ultimately they support the team’s decisions. If the investors repeatedly disagree with management, they should either disavow themselves from the startup (which is typically difficult for a venture capital firm to do) or make appropriate replacements to the management team. However, they should never attempt to run a company from the sidelines.

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How Surfing Made Me A Better Investor


A version of this article previously appeared on the Wall Street Journal.

As crazy as it sounds, surfing has made me a better investor. The sport involves a surprising amount of downtime between sets. During the many hours I have stood in anticipation of the next wave (as noted in You’re Never To Old To Learn To Surf, I’m an old guy on a standup paddle board), I have come to realize that surfing and investing share a number of surprising corollaries.

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23 Million Views – Startup Content Goes Mainstream


A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Who would have thought academic videos recorded at a state university would generate nearly 23 million views? Certainly not I when I took over the program three years ago.

The speaker series, which is part of the UC Santa Barbara’s Technology Management Program, has attracted an impressive cadre of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, including: Peter Levine (Partner, Andreessen Horowitz), Dan Engel (sold one of his companies to Google), Dan Burnham (CEO Raytheon), Tracy DiNunzio (CEO, Tradesy), George Powell (Founder, Skate One Corp, discovered Tony Hawk), Jim Zarley, (CEO, ValueClick) and Kirsty Spraggon (Host of KirstyTV).

Our high viewer engagement encouraged us to morph to an interview format in which my students and I ask our guests questions. This conversational approach has proven more entertaining than the conventional “speaker behind a lectern” methodology, which has further increased our viewership. The series is reaching nearly 6 million global viewers annually, many of whom are downloading the free episodes via iTunes.

I have enjoyed all of our speakers and have been honored to share the stage with them. From dozens of fantastic talks and interviews, I have selected five that were especially impactful and continue to be widely watched, month after month.

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3 Reasons SaaS Savvy Entrepreneurs Don’t Build Their Own Portals


A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.

Even entrepreneurs that already sold on SaaS should stake note of new research from the SalientGroup:

SaaS gets funded – Nearly 50% of SaaS-based startups are getting successfully funded—a rate of funding success no other sector can match.

SaaS-based companies grow – The SaaS market is growing 3x faster than the software market (20% vs. 7%), and this rate is expected to continue through 2020.

Overall, according to Gartner, the SaaS market will top $22 billion by 2015.

But there are some even bigger reasons organizations at every stage should increase their savvy in SaaS. According to Dave R Taylor, CMO of Impartner, SaaS’s ability to snap in modular solutions at the highest levels is revolutionizing the final bastions of traditional IT.

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