Have you ever watched Shark Tank and wondered if a real pitch would be the same? Have you ever wished you were Mark Cuban or Lori Greiner to know how closing a deal would feel like? This is a sign for you to attend a real one! Let me, an amateur entrepreneur, show you what I found interesting in a real pitchfest.
The Penn West Equity and Innovation District is moving forward here in DC, with major advancements this past month. In May, the Big Idea CONNECTpreuner event was attended by hundreds of tech entrepreneurs and investors - providing an opportunity not only to network, but also to hear from peers and learn about the future of technology jobs in DC. This event showcased the types of tech opportunities and energy that the Penn West Equity and Innovation District brings together.
If you follow Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ talks, you will notice that he was a big proponent of creating good products and spreading awareness using sales and marketing. He acknowledged that introducing new technology and products needed an element of the education for partners and reseller employees, and invested in building marketing teams.
The Washington D.C. metropolitan region has long been a bustling hub for entrepreneurs. The federal government is a trusted customer for many, and the array of educational institutions serves as a capable incubator of startups and top talent. Yet these days, all anyone seems to want to talk about is Amazon.
Not just for early stage companies, but all businesses of all sizes, the old adage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know," still applies very relevantly. People want to do business with people. Early stage companies, in particular, have many needs: capital, talent, customers, vendors, partners, product development, marketing, etc. and having a large and deep network gives an entrepreneur a huge advantage in the marketplace, for obvious reasons. There is a proven correlation between the size and quality of one's network, and one's overall success — in entrepreneurship and most endeavors.
The holidays didn’t stop these eight startup reps from pitching to a room of entrepreneurs, VCs and technologists at the latest CONNECTpreneur event. Eight mostly local companies were presented at the holiday pitch event, held at the Tower Club in Tysons, Virginia at the end of December.

Every day we hear of startups making life more convenient by helping us better or more quickly order food, connect with friends, receive products or communicate with each other.

I got a very different vibe listening to entrepreneurs at the latest BigIdea CONNECTpreneur event, held the George Washington University Marvin Center on Nov. 21: Many of these startups had a mission to change our lives, not just increase convenience.

Seth Goldman, co-founder and TeaEO of Honest Tea, feels good that he’s leaving the organic, natural beverage company he co-founded in 1998 with his legacy intact. He explained at a recent Connectpreneur winter event at George Washington university how he ensured his brand would continue as envisioned: "I stuck around", he said.

After selling Honest Tea to Coca Cola as a wholly owned subsidiary in 2011, Seth continued to work with the company while also supporting a company called Beyond Meat in California, which was emerging in the plant-based meat category. He recognized the potential as a sustainable food resource, worked with the founder, invested and became Executive Chair of the Board.

Washington, D.C.'s startup ecosystem is expected to get a major boost thanks to Amazon's imminent HQ2 arrival in Crystal City, Virginia. What's more, local schools are opening satellite campuses and innovations centers nearby, which is bound to bring more tech talent to the nation's capital. But there is more to the area than just Amazon and politics.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems are spurred by people with drive, courage and grit and those that can constantly adapt but also drive disruption. These people get things done and are innovative! Outside of Silicon Valley, there are several ecosystems that provide platforms for entrepreneurial growth...

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum describes itself as "a Community of over 5000 CEOs, Entrepreneurs, VCs and angels, CXOs and other business leaders in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Each quarterly CONNECTpreneur Forum mashes up 400+ top founders, investors and business leaders for a morning breakfast event featuring awesome networking, newsmaking speakers, and a showcase of 7-8 exciting early stage companies."

Georgetown natives, Tom Gardner and his older brother, David, co-founded The Motley Fool company in Alexandria, VA, in 1993 at ages 25 and 27. David had gotten the idea to create a newsletter to educate and enrich investors on long-term investing while he was writing for a newsletter called Wall Street, founded by journalist and economics commentator, Louis Rukeyser...

We are in the middle of a revolution. The Internet of Things (IoT), which gained legitimacy in 2015, is predicted to grow to $1.7 trillion in 2020, from $655.8 billion in 2014, as more devices come online and platforms and services grow up around them. For vendors selling hardware and software to support this market...

In part one of our Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum recap, we provided highlights from Tien Wong’s Fireside Chat with co-founder and former chairman of AOL, Steve Case. Now it’s time to dive into the rest of the event – the company showcase and “Entrepreneur War Stories” panel...

Yesterday I attended one of the best networking events in the DC area, Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum hosted by the inimitable Tien Wong, Tech 2000 and Lore Systems, Inc. The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is a community of more than 5,000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, VCs and angel investors, CXOs, and other business leaders in the Mid-Atlantic Region...

In part one of our Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall Forum recap, we provided an overview of Seth Goldman’s Fireside Chat with tech entrepreneur guru Tien Wong, as well as the emerging start-ups who pitched their ideas to a room of more than 500 attendees. Now, let’s dive into the closing panel – What’s Really Going on in Venture Capital...

Yesterday I attended my 5th Big Idea CONNECTpreneur event, hosted by Tech 2000 and Lore Systems, Inc. CONNECTpreneur events were created to facilitate an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors to meet, share ideas and learn from mutual experiences. Trust me, this opportunity is not lost on any of the attendees. Whether it’s the steady stream of caffeine or the unwavering ambition of the showcasing entrepreneurs, the energy in the room is palpable and contagious...

When you read about people launching tech careers in the mid-1980s, it’s easy to chalk up their success to serendipity. Rick Rudman was lucky to be in tech at the moment in history when the PR industry needed to be automated. However, nothing else about his remarkable journey was a given...

This assembly of entrepreneurs, investors and interested parties was held on June 30th with Rick Rudman, current CEO of Tracx and Founder and CEO of Vocus, as our keynote speaker. During the fireside chat with Rudman, he shared his story about his decision to delay college, his successful military career, his change of heart about college and then his inspiration to create a PR software product. Rick spoke with the tenacity and grit of a true entrepreneur about days when meeting payroll was a challenge and the time when an offer to purchase Vocus came and went. The failed offer turned out to be a blessing in disguise but required chutzpah to persevere...

On Thursday, June 30th, SpeakerBox was thrilled to have attended a very special CONNECTpreneur held in Falls Church, VA. The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is a quarterly event with a community of over 5000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, CXOs and other business leaders in the mid-Atlantic region. The event was an extraordinary opportunity to get inspired, network, and learn from experienced business leaders...

Winning has its perks. Thanks to the generosity of a local entrepreneur and two GW alumni, the 2016 finalists in the GW New Venture Competition (NVC) were invited to attend the Big Idea CONNECTpreneur XVIII Forum, one of the region’s largest networking events for entrepreneurs...

Mark Walsh is the ultimate connector. He’s smart and his can-do confidence, experience and business/political connections and know-how have positioned him to invest billions of taxpayer dollars into a diverse cross-section of American innovators for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Mark is Associate Administrator of the SBA’s office of Investment and Innovation.

He recently told the capacity crowd at a Connectpreneur networking event in Bethesda, Maryland, how his fateful stint as chief executive founder at liberal talk-radio, network Air America Radio, led to his current adventure...

In part one of our Big Idea CONNECTpreneur XVIII recap we provided an overview of Mark Walsh’s Fireside Chat with the one and only Tien Wong as well as the hot start-ups who pitched their ideas to a room of almost 500 attendees. Now it’s time to dive into the latter half of the event – the “What’s Really Going on in Venture Capital?” panel. We heard from a panel of diverse and experienced venture capitalists share their thoughts and insights about the current investor community and financial markets landscape. They also provided an inside perspective on the investors who are writing the checks right now.

On Thursday, April 28th, CONNECTpreneur XVIII was held in Bethesda, which marked the first time a CONNECTpreneur event was held in MD. Despite the weather, it was an awesome day with somewhere in the vicinity of 500 attendees!

It wouldn’t have been a proper CONNECTpreneur event without its fearless leader, CEO of Tech 2000 and Appnetic, Tien Wong (you can find him @Tienwong), setting the stage for the day amongst a packed house and introducing the fireside chat (sans actual fire) guest. Mark Walsh, Associate Administrator, Office of Investment and Innovation, U.S. Small Business Administration, Executive Chairman, HomeSnap and Co-Founder and CEO, Genius Rocket (@walsh) took the stage along side Tien to share more information about his role with the SBA and give some advice to some of the startups in the room.

With record breaking attendance, CONNECTpreneur brought the party to Maryland on Thursday, April 28th. Entrepreneurs continue to use this event as a place to get a lot of business done. I met several CEOs who had attended previous sessions and were returning to get more done – including me! The advance scheduling facilitates the face-to-face connections for which the event is named.

If you’re a well-educated entrepreneur who loves a good challenge you’ve got more in common than you might think with the Chairman & CEO of Virginia-based global consulting giant, ICF International, Sudhakar Kesavan. The down-to-earth executive is proud to have spent the past 33 years building a business with $1.13 billion in revenues...

I love attending these events because the ecosystem created here is pretty magical. This is one of the few events in town that has great content for everyone. We all complain about the 7am start time as we are pushing through the crowd at the coffee bar, but once you arrive, you are grateful that you have most of your day left following the event.

The 310 attendees were treated to a mix of networking, watching five to six minute pitches from entrepreneurs, and interview style discussions with industry experts.

If you’ve never been to a CONNECTpreneur event and you have even the slightest interest in networking you are truly missing out. These events are quite literally packed to the gills with some of the biggest tech names in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Yesterday was no exception. The sold out event was well attended and beautifully executed.

As CONNECTpreneur forums always do, Tien Wong, CEO of Tech200 and Appnetic, kicked off the morning with a brief welcome and a fireside chat. Yesterday’s guest was Sudhakar Kesavan, Chairman & CEO, ICF International, Chairman of Emeritus, Northern VA Tech Council. Sudhakar has been at ICF international for 33 years and offered a wealth of wisdom and expertise on business and entrepreneurship.

In part one of our Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum recap we provided an overview of Sudhakar Kesavan’s Fireside Chat with Tien Wong and the really cool companies that pitched their ideas to a room of investors and influencers. Now let’s dive into part two of the event – the “Hot Trends in Early Stage Capital Funding” panel. We were able to experience firsthand from a panel of seasoned venture capitalists what the newest trends are in the early stage capital funding world. They also provided valuable insights on what venture capitalists are looking for when evaluating a company they are interested in investing in.

Decision Lens CEO, John Kealey, started his career as an accountant at what was a Big Eight accounting firm. “It taught me to view opportunities through a disciplined model,” he says. That model has come in handy to maintain perspective on old patterns as new markets emerge and mature. John is on a mission to serve an emerging market for software tools that Decision Lens’ IT clients requested and research firms, Forrester and Gartner, published Research on in July 2015.

Decision Lens’ new software – Smart Portfolio – helps enterprises make smarter, top-down portfolio decisions for customized scenario planning, smart portfolio analytics, and dynamic resource balancing. Businesses already use software to measure existing operations and were outgrowing their Excel spreadsheets when studying future scenarios.

It’s hard to believe that an entire quarter has gone by since the last CONNECTpreneur event, but last week a few SpeakerBoxers had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Winter Forum. If you’ve never been to a Connectpreneur forum, the event is an incredible meeting of the minds for entrepreneurs, business leaders, venture capitalists, and CEO’s from all around the mid-Atlantic region.

For the second part of the CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum, the event showcased a panel discussion focused on “Hot Trends In Venture Capital and Early Stage Capital Funding.” Panelists included big names in the investment community, including: Jonathan Aberman (moderator), Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures; Chairman, Tandem NSI and FoundCorps ...

The latest CONNECTpreneur event took place on December 10th. These quarterly events use a format designed to fortify investors, entrepreneurs and service providers alike with a mix of presentations, networking and pitch opportunities. The events are broken into three distinct sections which I’ve highlighted below and thrown in my take along the way.

This event opened with John Kealey, CEO of Decision Lens who shared his experience around the difference between running a company that is meeting the market vs. making the market. The former requires speed and organization and the latter requires patience. John had great advice for entrepreneurs who are contemplating their exit strategy.

How do you become an entrepreneur? What are the qualities which help a young person to be successful in this challenging, ever-changing environment?

People take many different paths. But sometimes inspiration comes from the person closest to you, like your mother.

“When I was a kid,” shared Tom Davidson, the founder of EverFi, at another superb ConnectPreneur session featuring top DC entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, “my mother used to take us places and when she’d see someone working hard, she’d pull the car over, and pointed to the person, whoever it was at the moment, someone cleaning the street really well, and explained to us that this is the real key to success – working really hard on whatever place you are in life.”

Tom Davidson, Co-founder and CEO of EverFi, grew up near Tulsa Oklahoma and graduated in 1994 from Bowdoin College in the coastal town of Brunswick, Maine. After seven years in venture capital, the three-term Maine state legislator moved to the DC area on a remarkable journey with EverFi. The software as a service platform licenses contemporary educational programs that can have a huge impact on whether kids go to college, get a great job, create wealth for themselves, or even survive.

Tom says:

We build and implement sophisticated learning platforms that bring social gaming and really interesting animation, video, simulations that bring issues to life. We build and implement in schools across the country, but it’s all paid for by the private sector, and that’s the big idea.

Once per quarter entrepreneurs, business leaders, venture capitalists, and CEO’s from all around the mid-Atlantic region come together for the CONNECTpreneur Forum. Yesterday a few SpeakerBoxers had the opportunity to attend and meet some of the key players in DC's startup community.

At CONNECTpreneur events, several carefully selected companies seeking funding have the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas and try to sell the audience. In a room packed with some of Washington DC’s most well connected VIPs and investors, this opportunity is invaluable for startups that are trying to make it in the competitive business climate.

For the second part of the CONNECTpreneur Fall Forum, the event showcased a panel discussion focused on “The Coming Disruption in Corporate Learning and Higher Education.” Panelists included big names in the ed tech and investment community, including:

Moderator: George Churchwell, Co-Founder and President, Tech2000 and Lumious

Kate Day: Vice President, Workforce Enablement, Global Technology and Operations, MetLife

Steve Graubart: CFO, 1776; former Managing Director of Finance, University of the District of Colombia

Mark Grovic: Co-Founder and General Partner, New Markets Venture Partners

Mark Walsh: Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Union of College; Chairman of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland; Executive Chairman, HomeSnap, former CEO, VerticalNet

I've had the privilege of coaching several dozen entrepreneurs in preparation for their 6-minute investor pitches at Tien Wong's Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum.

Startup Founders: Don't Try to Cram Every Detail into a 6-Minute Investor Pitch

The idea for Timothy Chi’s second company, WeddingWire, was borne of painful experience: Helping to plan his own wedding. There were magazines that educated and inspired, but none that made it easier to execute sales, orders, and arrangements online. Tim would have appreciated not flying so frequently between his U.S. home in Boston and the wedding venue in Toronto, Canada.

Most events don't distribute a list of all the attendees for fear that someone will abuse the privilege--and do some unsolicited marketing/selling to those on the list.

CONNECTpreneur takes a different view. The folks that put on this quarterly gathering of about 300 investors, entrepreneurs and financiers are looking for ways to add value. By their logic, a list of attendees is valuable to other attendees--to remember a name of someone whose business card you forgot, or to recall the name of a company you're interested in.

Why does CONNECTpreneur list all attendees' names in the program? To add value.

Like nearly every aspect of business, the investment game is changing quickly.

First of all, it's "no longer an industry of older white guys," Paul Singh, founder and CEO of Disruption Corp. and Crystal Tech, told the Dec. 4 CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum.

Just as the dwindling technology costs make it cheaper to launch consumer-focused tech startups, "it has became easier for angels and small venture funds to come into play," Singh said.

It's all about the business model.

That's what 2U Inc. co-founder and CEO Chip Paucek told the CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum Thursday morning at the Tysons Corner Marriott.

"If you are not focusing on the business model, it's easy to innovate yourself to death," he said in an interview with Tien Wong, CEO of Tech 2000 Inc. and Appnetic.

Paucek's 6-year-old Landover-based ed-tech company, which partners with major universities to offer online graduate degrees, went public earlier this year...

Vocus founder Rick Rudman officially quit his job Monday, just three days after selling his marketing software firm to GTCR for nearly $450M. He's now eyeing his next move, which could be anything from starting a new tech firm to launching an East Coast version of Y Combinator.

Rick, a Silver Spring, Md., native and father of four, says he's also interested in eye beacon technology, or there could be a taco shop in his future. He's not ruling anything out, and he's in no hurry to start anything new. (We hear the wife has a list of places to visit.) For now he's shying away from venture capital and angel investing and he describes himself as too impatient to serve on tech boards...

Peter Granat introduced himself Thursday morning as the new chief of Vocus, standing before a packed ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor. Meanwhile, at the Tysons Corner Marriott, the man Granat replaced, Rick Rudman, provided his first public exit interview since leaving the CEO post he's held for two decades.

The near-simultaneous talks by the outgoing and incoming Vocus CEOs may have been unintentional, but the timing was no coincidence. The Beltsville-based PR and marketing automation company is undergoing a seismic change...

Every few months, Tien Wong – the CEO of Tech 2000 and Chairman of Lore Systems and Opus8 – throws the premier networking event in D.C. tech and investing, the Big Idea CONNECTpreneur. There's no ingenuity behind the functioning of the event, yet every time Wong hosts it, the talent and intelligence he can pull into one room is phenomenal. Thursday, CONNECTpreneur will return to the Tysons Corner Marriott for what the Tech 2000 CEO expects to be the most entertaining rendition yet.

Highlighting the morning's lineup, Joss Heavy Industries CEO Doug Humphrey, a legendary local entrepreneur who founded Cidera and DIGEX, will fire back and forth with Wong during the event's fireside chat...

For all of you D.C. startup founders, small business owners, and all-around titans of industry, one of the Washington region's best networking events is just around the corner: the Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Fall Forum.

For those unfamiliar with CONNECTpreneur events, they are essentially the be-all end-all of networking events in the city that caters specifically to growing startups, tech companies, and small businesses. These events typically attract a slew of successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders from varying industries, as well as a number of the region's biggest investors and VCs. The idea behind CONNECTpreneur is to put as many successful movers and shakers from the D.C. area in a room and see what sort of synergy and collaborations come out (think networking on steroids)...

Eloqua Inc., which pulled off a successful $92 million initial public offering in August, only had about $200,000 on hand the day before it went public, according to CEO Joe Payne.

The Vienna marketing software company, which had long operated at cash flow break-even, wasn’t in trouble — it had just settled a lawsuit for $3 million and funded its payroll, according to the chief executive. But Payne used the somewhat frightening anecdote about Eloqua’s bank balance to underscore his attitude about the IPO as little more than “a financing event.” After not raising outside capital for five years, they needed cash to expand...

Do not send unfundable companies Paul Singh's way. He might stop taking your calls.

"You send me three bad deals, and we excommunicate you," the 500 Startups partner said this week in a blunt assessment of bad referrals.

Singh, who acts as the seed fund's de facto East Coast representative, tracks just about every bit of data available. That includes the track record of the people who introduce entrepreneurs to the Silicon Valley-based firm.

With the blustery cold weather finally rolling into D.C. to stay, there's one thing to look forward to during this chilly season: Lore System's Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum. For the past few months, we at IntheCapital have always extolled CONNECTpreneur as being one of the best networking events in the Washington, D.C. region...and we haven't changed our tune, especially considering the amazing roster of executives, investors, entrepreneurs, and companies the Winter Forum has lined up.

The one speaker I'm particularly looking forward to hearing is Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua (a leading marketing automation software company). Joe is a paragon of D.C. Tech success, having taken Eloqua public in an IPO earlier this year...

Grab a stack of business cards, press your best suit, and start practicing your elevator pitch: LORE Systems' is hosting the fall forum edition of their critically-acclaimed Big Idea CONNECTpreneur event. For those unfamiliar with the CONNECTpreneur event held in June, this is probably one of the biggest networking events for entrepreneurs, investors, angels, and VC's. The event will have over 210 attendees that will include 120 of the region's most seasoned and celebrated CEOs and presidents, as wellas over 40 of the region's angels and VCs. To sum up why this is a must-attend event, I have been able to articulate the reasons for attending CONNECTpreneur into three succinct points...

As a person who works in D.C., I am no stranger to the idea of networking and how powerful of an asset it can be in a town like this. As a city built on connections and relationships, knowing the right person and getting that one introduction can literally mean the difference between business growth or stagnation. Having personally been to a slew of networking events since I've worked in the District, I can admit I've become somewhat jaded to the thought of attending them. Honestly, the idea of getting pitched at by service providers and pretending to be interested in what people do, all the while accumulating business cards in my pocket is not the most appealing use of my time...