BIZ to Host Event with Dwolla COO on the High Growth Start-Up

The BIZ is host to a great event this coming week featuring Dwolla COO Charise Flynn as she takes questions on life behind the scenes at the high growth start-up. I've had the opportunity to serve on a speakers' panel with Charise and I find her personal journey and insights fascinating. Charise is a fellow Simpson College graduate so you know she's got to be good.

The event is Wednesday, February 20th at 11:30 a.m. at the Greater Des Moines Partnership offices. The admission fee is $15.00 which includes lunch.

Register for the event here.

Business Innovation Zone: Raising Capital Seminar

 The Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) is holding its annual Raising Capital seminar at StartupCity Des Moines on March 27 starting at 9:00 a.m. Raising capital for your business is complex and often time consuming. This is a great seminar to get you started.

There are several lawyers, accountants and business people presenting including Ben Milne who is the CEO of Dwolla. Ben will be speaking on the "pitch" to investors. That should be very interesting as his company just completed a $5 million raise for venture capital.

I'll be speaking on partnerships. We'll talk about the why partnership disputes commonly occur and how to avoid them. It's not uncommon for partnership disputes to cost in excess of $100,000 for litigation and can often derail a company's plans for growth and profits.

And while you're at it, check out this post on the BIZ Blog on Creative Fundraising. It's a good read.

Pinch Hitting at Biz Luncheon

Today I'll be pinch hitting for Brett Trout at the Des Moines Partnership's Biz Networking Luncheon.  I will cover how to stop doing things online that will land you into court.  The best part of this presentation is I get Brett's material.  I hope to see you there today.

This event will be held in the Arthur Davis room at the Greater Des Moines Partnership on January 15th. The luncheon will begin at noon and will conclude at 1:30. The cost of the event is $10 for members and $12 for non-members.  To RSVP for the event, please email Cathy Spenceri at . We hope to see you there!

photo on flickr by jimcchou

Guest Blogger: Mike Colwell of BIZ on Business Mentoring - Lessons Learned!

Looking back on the first year of work at the Business Innovation Zone (BIZ), I have met with over 60 potential clients ranging across a wide variety of business areas.  I have learned much on this path. First and foremost, I have learned to never prejudge an idea. I must say that some of the most "unique" sounding ideas described in an initial phone call or meeting have turned out to have the most merit. The entrepreneurs in this area have a tremendous amount of creativity and several have identified truly unique market niches that have not been exploited to date. Along with those great ideas, I have met with many whose ideas I found lacking. Asking hard questions has become a well worn path for me. In many cases the idea has not been thought through from a business perspective. The euphoria of the "perfect product" has overshadowed the realities of a profitable venture. I often find myself asking potential clients questions about the running of their prospective business. For many, it is a rude awakening as they come to understand the immense hardship and stress that will come with starting a venture.

I am often asked what advice I have for would-be or current entrepreneurs. Here are my thoughts for those starting out:

  • Seek out many opinions on your idea. Do not just "go with your gut".
  • Spend time up front on a business plan, but only to the point that you frame your path and plan. Business plans evolve rapidly when you are forming a business, rarely surviving the first customer engagement.
  • Know your exit points. It is easy to look out and say "I will sell my business for $xxx,xxx,xxx". It is much harder to say, "I am only going to invest $xxx,xxx" or a certain amount of time. Treat your venture as an investment and know when to exit as the event arrives.
  • Take a balanced approach to your idea and business. Do not ignore important areas for lack of knowledge or assume that "I will figure it out when I get there".
  • Relationships matter. No matter how automated or high tech things get, the relationships you build will support your company and conversely the lack of relationships will guarantee its failure.
  • Learn to sell. Selling is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to your initial success. Hiring a salesperson is not the answer in the initial phases of a startup. You the entrepreneur must be prepared to get out and sell your idea, your product, your service, and yourself.
  • Finally, spend a substantial amount of time understanding the cash flow of your business. For most businesses, the lack of cash flow management is the single greatest failure point.


From Rush:  BIZ is a community sponsored non-profit business accelerator designed to provide economic growth in Central Iowa through the development and expansion of entrepreneurial enterprise.  Particularly if you have a business in Central Iowa that is poised to grow regionally, nationally or globally, I encourage you to contact Mike

photo on flickr by aloshbennett

Aerospace Geartech and BIZ Featured in Des Moines Register

Congratulations to Vince Basile of Aerospace Geartech who is featured in an article about the Business Innovation Zone (BIZ) in today's Des Moines Register Business section.

Executive Director Mike Colwell worked with Vince to obtain grants through the Iowa Department of Economic Development and DMACC in order to purchase two manufacturing businesses (one from Ilinois and one from Florida) and move them to Iowa.  Colwell also helped Vince with his business plan and other strategic issues. 

Vince is an example of how persistance pays off.  He would tell you that his search for a business was not easy.  He looked at many different businesses until he found the right one (I guess two) for him.   He is now in a business that fits his skill set and passions.  He is extremely resourceful which will serve him well as he moves forward with his new business venture.

I also cannot say enough about the guidance and expertise of Mike Colwell.  Every time I talk with him I learn something new about business and entrepreneurship.  Central Iowa businesses are extremely lucky to have such a great new resource.  If you are a start-up entrepreneur or a business looking for growth or capital, I highly recommend talking with Mike.  BIZ does not actually make investments in companies but it does help entrepreneurs locate grants and find investors.  BIZ is also able to provide assistance with improving business plans and open up valuable networking opportunities for new entrepreneurs.  The thing I like best is that Mike won't always tell you what you want to hear.  His objectivity and honesty is refreshing.