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10 Predictions for the Tech Industry in 2019

By Chris Cunningham, Founder of C2 Ventures

It’s become something of a tradition for me to look at the year ahead and predict where the industry is headed. Part of that process involves looking back at the trends that dominated last year and looking to see how much of that momentum will continue into the New Year.

And, what a year it was. Companies like Amazon and Netflix continued to assert their dominance, while others faltered in the face of heightened scrutiny (I’m looking at you, Facebook). On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) have continued to develop rapidly, to the point where voice assistants and other smart gadgets have become commonplace.

It can be hard to keep up in the face of such innovation, but here’s what I consider to be the top issues and trends facing the tech industry in 2019.

2019 is the year of the consumer.

My favorite tech movement of 2018 has to be the steady growth of companies focusing on direct-to-consumer products. Allbirds, Casper, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Netflix, Peloton — the list is endless. So many of the best brands nowadays are choosing to go straight to the consumer, instead of having to rely on middlemen and third parties. What do these brands all have in common? They all know how to talk and listen to their consumers, and they don’t rely on suspect adtech to do it.

In 2019, consumers will take back control of their data, and start becoming more choosier about the brands they interact with. People will start participating more with the brands they love in a personalized way, which in turn, will allow them to get more value out of the interaction.

The cannabis industry will embrace technology wholeheartedly.

2019 will be the year that cannabis companies start to utilize technology to grow their businesses. While the ecosystem remains highly fragmented and not standardized, technology will allow companies to build a more robust infrastructure, and better meet the demands of its consumers. As cannabis becomes less of a taboo subject and more of a revenue driver, expect to see more brands branching out into the space.

Personalized animation will captivate the public imagination.

What text chain would be complete without at least one gif, emoji, or meme? I’ll add one element to the mix: personalized animation. As we continue to incorporate visuals into our written communications, it’s only natural to want to include more dynamic forms of creative — including animated forms of ourselves and our stories. Apple’s Animoji and Memoji are just a few examples of this.

Fintech will continue to eat financial institutions’ lunches.

Fintech is no longer a cute concept that banks can ignore or make fun of. Instead, it’s quickly taking over every element of the financial industry, from credit cards to savings accounts to payments to determining credit scores. Fintech is THE sector to invest in 2019 — so consumers, take notice.

The wellness craze will continue.

People want to live long lives and feel good while doing so. The global wellness industry is currently worth a whopping $3.7 trillion, so companies that help people on their journey, whether by providing an app that helps you meditate (Headspace) or giving you flexible access to a host of fitness classes in your area (Zenrez: Disclosure, I’m an investor and EVP.), will absolutely crush it in the next year.

Services and software that support SMBs will win.

While larger retailers struggle to leverage their data effectively, smaller businesses will get smarter about their customers through software, CRM tools, and pricing. This will make SMBs nimbler, and better able to respond to shifts in consumer sentiment.

Consumer tech products will stage a comeback.

After a long dark winter of believing that consumer products are impossible to win, new consumer-shaped businesses will rise. Long live the consumer — but maybe this time, do more than just build an app.

People will opt for curated travel experiences.

Everybody wants to feel like something’s been made just for them — that’s why personalization has worked so well. In 2019, more companies will arise that focus specifically on creating personalized travel itineraries based on previous behavior. Given both the premium that people currently put on unique experiences and the fact that more people are traveling than ever before, expect such services to become hugely popular. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see large hospitality companies such as Travelocity or Hilton opting to bring such services in-house.

More industries will embrace dynamic pricing.

Dynamic pricing isn’t just for airlines anymore. Other industries, such as auto and real estate, will also rely on the model so that they can better manage available inventory and reduce production costs. It could also have implications for the customer journey, as it allows users to get better deals depending on when they purchase and how much stock is available at the time.

AI and machine learning (ML) will break past the blockchain.

Let’s face it, the utopia that blockchain promised has failed to materialize. Instead of continuing to spend resources on a technology that has not paid dividends, both investors and entrepreneurs should focus on how to use AI and ML to grow and develop companies. Not only has AI been shown to provide value to businesses, but it’s also much less of a hassle to implement.

There you have it, folks — my 10 predictions for the coming year. In case you’re curious about my predictions last year, check them out on Medium. Check back next year to see how many in 2019 came to pass!

Chris Cunningham is an active tech startup investor and founder of C2 Ventures and C2V Studios focused on investing in amazing founders in consumer-tech, data, financial-tech, travel, and wellness. Follow him on Twitter atC2cunningham and through www.c2ventures.co

Behind the interview with Chris Cunningham

On Thursday, December 13th, I interviewed Chris Cunningham with C2 Ventures at my studio.

About Chris:

Chris is an investor with operator experience, some of that experience was in public facing companies such as appssavvy (the first business ad platform on Facebook). During our interview of which he admitted had a long and painful exit from the company.

Currently, he’s the founder of C2 Ventures and is a limited partner at Bowery Capital.

Why this interview?

Chris is a great example of failing forward and gaining success from learning through experience. Drawing from the experience of massive ups and downs in founding and funding companies, he likes to consider himself as a Jerry Mcguire “like” sounding board for early stage founders.

Today, he’s got some really impressive portfolio companies such as PetalMonetagoBloom Credit and Little Fund.

Scheduled airing date: 03/14/2019 subscribe iTunes, Google Play,Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRadio

A side note:

Chris’s experience is a lesson in the “fight goes on” which is based on the pure tenacity of an individual. All fintech founders and funders will eventually face a failure, go through hell and get burnt at some point in their journey. It just happens, yet, quitting will cause them to fail indefinitely, but if they keep buggering on, they might just win eventually.

When life hits you with a brick will you suck it up and move forward? Or will you suck your thumb and give up? The circumstances of that challenge may be fully out of your control, the choice on how you respond every day, that’s on you.

Subscribe now on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcherSpotify and iHeartRadio to hear from all the amazing fintech leaders I’ve had the opportunity to chat with.

About me:

I’m the host of the twice-weekly “Bank On It” podcast recorded onsite at offices of Carpenter Group, a creative services agency focused on the financial services industry. I’m a fintech, VC and financial services industry enthusiast and connector. I’m in the center of the fintech ecosystem, keeping current with the ever-innovating industry.

4 perfectly reasonable-sounding 2018 technology predictions that failed

What were they thinking?! These erroneous guesses about tech in 2018 would shatter any crystal ball.

It’s getting harder to predict the future, what with entrepreneurs creating companies based on the pairing of trendy buzzwords (for example, Uber + edibles = UberEats). But that doesn't stop market analysts, trend spotters, science fiction writers, and technology journalists from venturing their reasoned guesses about the next techno trends.

Accurate prognostications deserve a high five for a job well done. But it's the failed guesses that are most interesting. It gives us a reason to reflect on why the market made twists and turns rather than going boldly forward.

It also gives us an opportunity for snarky commentary.

We found four predictions (made in late 2017) of notable technological achievements expected for 2018. None of these predictions are close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades. But they do make for some amusing what-iffing. Even more amusing: our predictions for 2019.

Celebrities will influence purchasing decisions in augmented and virtual reality

Chris Cunningham, founder of C2 Ventures, saw 2018 as the year the two buzzwords “AR” and “celebrities” would merge and become a super-powered marketing tool. He wrote, “Right now, celebrities and influencers metaphorically stand behind products. In 2018, you’ll start seeing them standing right beside it. They’re going to show you how to get to the store and walk you down the aisle, all while holding a two-way conversation.”

Following up in a phone chat, Cunningham acknowledges, “That was atrociously wrong.”

The reality

You cannot blame Cunningham for considering the possibility. Influencer marketing is a time-honored tradition: The first celebrity endorsements came more than 250 years ago, when Wedgwood pottery received a royal thumbs-up from Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, in 1760.

However, despite its usefulness in the real world, VR and AR have one real drawback, Cunningham says: “It’s still a high-price point of entry.” VR, in particular, hasn’t actually become the must-have tech toy forecasters had predicted.

Celebrity endorsements also come with high price tags, and brands need to afford all that star power. While the two most well-established VR companies, Oculus and HTC, may be able to negotiate celebrity deals, they seem uninterested. As Cunningham says, “The VR/AR space is being dominated by smaller players.”

Cunningham says “a bridge between fans and the person they want to follow” will happen when innovation brings price points down. But, he admits, “that’s the hard part: calling the timing.”

In addition, 2018 has seen the rise of micro-influencers, meaning people who have as few as 1,000 social media followers. If these people are passionate about, say, mechanical keyboards and have friends who are equally passionate, a keyboard company could reach more potential customers with a micro-influencer than through any celebrity endorsement.

Besides, celebrities are too busy throwing shoes at each other to snag an endorsement deal.

Our 2019 VR/AR prediction

Thanks to VR, you will be able to interact with well-known-yet-artificial celebrities like Cortana.

But when you do, your goggles will draw power from you in order to change you into a human battery.

Thanks to automation, security will become simpler to use

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) got the first part of its two-part prediction right: “Automated and artificial intelligence-assisted protection measures will make security less intrusive…”

That’s a fact. Smartphones used to require the scan of a thumbprint or, gasp, physically typing in a password before you could tap that app. Now, iPhone users merely wave their phones in front of them, 30,000 infrared dots invisibly caress the user's face, and the phone opens itself up to its master. If it’s an uncomfortable thought, remember that it’s a small price to pay to not have to burn a single calorie.

But, oh, the second part to the IEEE's prediction: “…reducing the burden and dependency upon users to perform and make decisions about security-related actions.” If this prediction were true, our decision-making burden would actually be reduced.

The reality

Yeah, it’s easier to use these protective measures. But they also make you potentially less secure.

For example, take iPhone facial-recognition technology: If a law enforcement official wants you to unlock your phone, you can still refuse to offer your thumb. But the police can simply unlock your phone by holding it up to your face. If you’re security minded, you must actively turn off Face ID. And that kinda defeats the purpose.

Then there are home assistants (also known as smart speakers), such as Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod. Using only your voice, you can create a to-do list, find out sports scores, or even learn the spelling of a word you can’t google because you don’t know how to spell it. But when they’re not assisting you, those home assistants can listen in on your conversations or, just as bad, assist someone else.

Also, security may be less intrusive than it used to be, but no matter how secure a device is, your personal information will be compromised when you freely offer your name, email address, and date of birth in order to take a quiz titled “Which Harry Potter House Do You Belong To?” (Ravenclaw.)

Our security prediction for 2019

Automated security technology will reduce the burden of most user interaction. But when you finally have a request, it will respond, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Cryptocurrency will be widely accepted

Despite the fact that the best way to describe cryptocurrency to your mother is “invisible math money,” it has some serious benefits over coin of the realm. Your transactions remain anonymous, which is handy if you don’t want “Adult My Little Pony Toyz” on your credit card bill. It’s also a currency that is not regulated (yet), which means that only you own your money and your government can’t access it (yet). Best of all, anyone with a high-quality graphics card, as well as inexpensive electricity, can mine their own cash.

The most popular digital currency is Bitcoin, currently worth over $6,000. That means people who traded (or mined) for 1,000 coins in its infancy, when it was worth 30 cents, are now 6 Million Dollar Men and Women. Yes, Bitcoin is now too expensive for a casual purchase. But with 1,600 different currencies to choose from, your next cryptocurrency investment may prove Lambo-worthy—that is, worth a Lamborghini.

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Last year, Business Insider predicted you’d pay for your cappuccino by opening up a digital wallet, rather than a physical one. Sadly, it didn’t read the tea leaves right.

The reality

Cryptocurrency is volatile, and although the fluctuations in value that cryptocurrencies experienced this year have made them exciting to speculators, it also makes them less appealing as a form of exchange. Businesses are shying away from cryptocurrency, which can drop as much as 17 percent in a single day. It’s why the ultra-popular video game distributor Steam said “Game over” to accepting cryptocurrency as payment.

As a result of this volatility, adoption of Bitcoin and other currencies such as Ethereum or Litecoin has not been as universal as pundits had anticipated for 2018.

Also, although thieves may not be able to pick your pocket, your cryptocurrency is still vulnerable to theft in the form of hacking. And because it’s unregulated, it may be more attractive to digital muggers who don’t want to sully their hands with an actual mugging.

Our cryptocurrency prediction for 2019

AI-based cryptocurrency will evolve and take control of your purchasing decisions: “No, I will not let you buy that shirt. It makes you look fat.”

Smart clothing will be en vogue

You don’t use wearable technology. Instead, you adorn yourself and the wearables do their work. They monitor your heart rate, stress levels, posture, and even the quality of your sleep. Wearables are most commonly worn on the wrist, but you can find technology embedded in rings, jackets, and shoes.

You could argue that endoscopic imaging capsules are a wearable, because after you swallow one, you wear it in your colon.

Wearables were a $10 billion business in 2017. In early 2018, wareable.com made 50 separate wearables predictions, all of which boiled down to, “These boots are made for walking and for tracking your distance.”

It’s here we should mention that wearables are one of the oldest tech trends we know, as people began pocketing watches as far back as 1462. We should have predicting wearable trends down to a science by now, right guys? Guys?

The reality

According to trends expert Daniel Levine, wearable technologies are not dead. “But they haven't become ubiquitous. There's a slow uptake, and we're seeing more of it, but it didn’t take over the world like the smartphone did.”

However, Levine expects to see wearables become the fashion choice for the fashionable when wireless charging becomes ubiquitous. After all, who wants a pair of socks you have to remember to plug in?

Our 2019 prediction for wearables

Smart socks will walk their way to the outlet, where they can plug themselves in. By 2020, they will agree with your AI that your shirt makes you look fat.

Runners-up

  • Google Lunar X Prize: The prediction was made in 2007 that a company would land a rover on the moon, drive it 500 feet, then send images back to Earth. No one had achieved this by the time the prize of $20 million expired in March 2018. If you have the financial and aerospace engineering background, feel free to give it a go. Note that success will have to be its own reward, as the cash prize is off the table.

  • Drone delivery: Back in 2013, Jeff Bezos predicted that drones would be delivering packages to your doorstep by 2018. Although this forecast may eventually become reality, we predict that his first pizza delivery will be successful…but his pizza will come with pineapple.

Failed predictions: Lessons for leaders

  • Just because these technologies haven’t proved themselves in 2018, it doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing them in 2019 or 2020.

  • Not every prediction is a winner. Even the best forecaster can’t predict exactly when the market will melt down or if a CEO will make false claims about taking his company private, but holy smokes, if you really could predict that, you’d be Lambo rich.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.

Rethink the Slides

Let’s be honest, most pitch decks suck and don’t get investors excited about the company or the founders behind the business. Slides can’t highlight the founders and at an early stage, you bet on people. Not only does the personality or energy of the founder not come across but the general business idea and strategy can fall flat and that can hurt the founders potential on fundraising as well as force an investor to miss an opportunity.

Part of the challenge is founders struggle to tell their story in a clear and concise way. They might know their business but often don’t sell it the right way so pushing the pitch into a deck makes it even more challenging.

Slides can only do so much and given there is no standard template you see a far range of decks that are all over the place.

So why am I telling you this and what is the potential solution?

The solution is to kick off your first pitch with a short video explaining the story and how you got here. Keep it under two minutes, let your personalities shine and make the ask. The video keeps you engaged, lets you feel the founder out and voice is more effective than reading a deck. All of this allows to break through the clutter, save time for the investor and get them to ask for more information or a meeting.

Earlier this year I helped co-found a company called Mekl through my early stage investment platform C2 Ventures. Romet and Martin the other co-founders who star in the story created a video as they were the finalist for a startup competition and needed to submit a video for their pitch at this conference. But then we discussed why not flip this video into a fundraise pitch as we are about to raise seed money for Mekl. After some editing, we had something that was ready to send to other investors and the response and success rate was way higher than I’ve seen compared to other companies. This could be for a number of reasons such as the idea, the likeability of the founders or maybe creating just enough differentiation from other pitches to get the first meeting or lock down the second.

I’ve received so much positive feedback from the video from other investors it made me want to write this post and share the learnings so maybe other startups consider the same format

“Even though Martin and I have spent our careers in data and startups, we are young and this is our first real rodeo as founders. So we figured video is the best medium to show our expertise, build trust and show the investors who we really are. It took us a day to film and put together and we have received great feedback! You can convey a lot of information in 2 min vs. risking someone spending 5–10 min on your deck, misinterpreting it and missing your chance to meet them.

As a couple of bootstrapping founders, we used the tools that we had. Two phones (different angles makes your video look more professional, search in youtube “how to film an interview”), a $5 video recording app (the default app limits quality) a $15 microphone (there’s a world of difference between a dedicated mic vs phone mic) and a free trial in the most basic video editing tool to put it together. Luckily Martin is also a talented musician and he made our background music for the video. If you don’t have such a privilege of making your own feel free to use ours here or there are plenty of websites that have free music as long as you give credits. You should definitely have music, as it will help to grab the attention of the viewers!

There’s also additional business value for recording the video, as you are forced to distill your core message into a short period of time and you get to witness yourself how you talk about the company. As a founder, you have to be ready to pitch your company in a couple of minutes and it’s not always easy to do so, especially in the beginning where a lot of things change and evolve really quickly. Looking at our video now, there’s a lot we would change already but as a bootstrapping founder you need to follow the 80–20 rule, as time is your enemy!”

- Romet Kallas, Co-Founder @ Mekl”

Find the video and the Mekl story here and hope you get a chance to meet the guys, partner and our round is still open :)

Chris

"Know Your Shit Before Walking Into a Meeting” with Chris Cunningham"


I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Cunningham, active tech startup investor and founder of C2 Ventures, a privately-held investment firm with a focus on consumer, data and financial techs. Chris and C2 Ventures provides seed capital and hustle to early-stage companies both directly and via limited partnerships. C2 Ventures’ current portfolio includes 15 investments, three of which have been acquired or returned a multiple for the investors.

Jean: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share your story about how you got into the VC space?

As a serial entrepreneur who has started multiple companies over my career, I was perplexed and frustrated with how broken the current venture model works for early-stage companies. The harsh truth is founders fuck up a lot and mistakes are made which, in short, allows start-ups to fail but it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe the delta between first-time founders and institutional capital is too wide. Founders need a middle layer of support to help them drive their business forward and avoid classic mistakes. Let’s face it, the first two years of a start-up’s life are tough. To survive and thrive, you want hands-on, head down, get shit done investors and advisors on your side.

I didn’t see anyone in the space thinking like this, so I started investing myself four years ago and today have a 7X return over the industry standard 2.5X. We don’t just invest, we work beside you. Today C2 Ventures is the industry’s first operator-run, early-stage investment platform.

C2 Ventures’ fund’s focus is on the following five pillars — without which, companies are unlikely to achieve a Series A investment or scale:

  1. Expertise (Drive revenues & product execution cycles, launch MVP’s)

  2. Capital (Fundraise & M&A)

  3. Network (Drive relationships & deal flow)

  4. Operations (How to scale teams & build process)

  5. Availability (Founders need a voice & ear. Need humans with empathy and we provide this middle layer that traditional VC’s do not)

  6. Speed (Startups only have 12–24 months to build credible traction and speed is critical to insure it’s managed correctly)

Jean: What kinds of startups do you typically work with?

Investment sector focus where we have domain experience and can provide value as builders and operators. Focuses include:

  • Consumer Technologies

  • Publisher Technologies

  • MarTech, Advertising Tech, Data, Media

  • AI

  • FinTech

  • Health and Wellness

  • Also open to opportunistic opportunities and will explore other verticals that our deep operational bench allows

Jean: What do you look for in the management team of your investment companies?

Entrepreneurs are more than ever, needing the support, guidance, expertise of “Operators Money,” to compete, scale and execute on their vision. So, we look for teams that are open to listening, humble and willing to have experienced operators sit in the trenches with them.

Jean: Can you share a story of a successful Angel or VC investment? What were some of the highlights?

I was the first investor and only advisor into Arbor, a data company that drives net new revenue for apps and publishers leveraging used data assets. I worked very closely with the founders for more than a year leveraging my network to fast track their commercial efforts. Arbor sold for over $150M to Acxiom two years later bringing a 30+X return to shareholders. I learned that there is no match for the power of top tech and the teams that support it. Arbor had a world class CTO out of Google and supporting team that build products and pipes which drove huge value in the publisher ecosystem.

Jean: What is one piece of advice you would give a startup?

Don’t do it unless you are willing to risk it all and willing to take crazy risks to will your idea to win. Also, surround yourself with experienced operators who have failed before you. It doesn’t make sense for you to learn the hard way.

Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Principles by “professional mistake maker” Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates. The book is a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Here are three stories that pertain to Principles from my experience:

1) One of my favorites is that even though it might be tough or uncomfortable to talk about certain things, it’s better to tackle it head-on, as you are just avoiding an inevitable. Thus, radical transparency! You’ll get to the same outcome a lot quicker than if you drag it out and spend a lot of mental power on avoiding tough talks.

2) A company is a sports team, not a family.

3) Anything that is being done needs to have a clear responsible party. Be aware of “We need, we should. Every meeting and action point should have a clear conclusion and clear accountability.”

Jean: What are your “5 Things I Wish Founders Knew Before They Pitched To Me” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1) The worst thing you can do when pitching me is calling out big names as a calling card that an idea will be successful, like a big VC or someone who has had wins. This is an important data point, but not the way to get my attention. Touting brands, people’s names, etc., is only a fraction of a story vs knowing your market, competition, showing traction, and proving you are ok with bootstrapping.

2) I, also, wish CEO’s didn’t always celebrate “headcount” when highlighting their business metrics. Headcount is not always the best indicator for the health of your company. It can also mean a high burn rate, internal inefficiencies, and inability to turn a profit

3) In addition, a startups cap table is simply a piece of paper that holds no real value in the early days. If you elect to hold equity close to protect your interest and miss opportunities to partner with others, your cap table may end up with the same value it did when you started. Thus, don’t pitch it.

4) Know your shit before walking into a meeting, do your homework, have a plan, show you have taken risk and have some social proof points and traction not just a PowerPoint presentation. Understand my thesis, partners and what I look for, such as technical co-founders.

5) Chasing money vs. the personal story. I believe every founder should have a real story or narrative of how they arrived at the point of wanting to start a company. It could be the emotional hard knocks tale or simply realizing they experienced pain and frustration in their professional or personal lives and they wanted to solve for it. On top of that, the ability to explain why they are the person to build this company. I can get turned off quickly if the company is going after buzzwords because they think there is money there, like Blockchain or AI, vs. having it be more personal.

Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

I’d like to hang with Mark Wahlberg, I’m from Boston so it starts there but love how he has diversified so well outside modeling in his underwear and starting businesses. I think it would be a very fun lunch.

Connect with me on Social Media:

Jean: This was really inspiring! Thank you so much for your time.

-Published on September 2018

6 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Pitching Their Cannabis Company

The cannabis industry has matured significantly over the last several years and a top-quality presentation is now a requirement when pitching investors. Similar to tech entrepreneurs, cannabis business hopefuls need to nail a few vital components in their sales pitch or risk swiftly losing the attention of their audience.

Here are some common mishaps that should be avoided at all costs:

1. Don’t Pitch Cold

Before you can even take the first step forward, you must convince an investor to look at your deck. Active investors--the type you want to meet--will likely receive several pitch decks a week. Tom Ahlborg, Managing Director and Principal of Ahlborg Acquisitions, warns that emailing a deck without a warm introduction of some sort is a big mistake.

Ahlborg says that one of his biggest peeves is when “somebody sends me a pitch deck cold. I usually never read these pitch decks. If a serious entrepreneur can’t reach out and network to obtain an introduction to me from a friend, business associate, contact, network, or company that I mentor or invest and get a warm lead before sending his/her deck, I probably will not read it. I like to rely on my network to bring me leads, therefore, I really expect entrepreneurs to get someone to introduce them to me.”

 

LinkedIn can be your greatest asset in getting to that warm introduction. Look through the list of connections you have in common with an investor and ask one of them to send an intro on your behalf. This can be a sentence or two about your business and how you have partnered together in the past, (if applicable).

If you don’t have any common connections on Linkedin you can still send a message highlighting some shared connections, even if you vaguely know them. A suggested subject line may read: "Smith, Jones, Lee, Parker - all connections we share."

Not exactly a warm intro, but at least it's not frozen. 

Related: Exclusive: 5 'Shark Tank' Stars Weigh in on the Marijuana Boom

2. Don’t Be Ambiguous

Think: What is the problem in the industry that your company is actively working to solve?

If you cannot answer that question in a very clear and concise manner, your pitch deck is missing the mark.

Piers Cooper, General Partner of Fresh VC shared, “Whether your pitch desk is for the cannabis industry or any other industry, it needs to tell a compelling story and have a logical flow. I like to see the problem solved and to clearly see the market opportunity up front. Only when I understand why this company needs to exist, do I want to hear about the great product and strong team that can execute the plan.”

The need for your company must be explained very distinctly.

3. Don't Dumb It Down

Just as you would never perform stand-up comedy at a funeral, so you should never pitch the wrong deck to investors. For example, if you're pitching an active investor in the cannabis industry, there is very little point in showing them slides on the size of the market or growth potential. They're already investing in cannabis and are intimately familiar.

“The pitch deck needs to cater to new folks trying to learn, but also remain sensitive to advanced investors who want to get a real look under the hood and not have to run through a long deck telling them how much upside the cannabis industry has,” said Matthew Nordgren, Founder and CEO of Arcadian Fund. “They already know.”

It doesn’t hurt to have slides with industry data, but you might consider placing them in an appendix or at the very least skip over them when pitching to cannabis veterans.

4. Don’t Rely On Your Deck

Jim Parco, Ph.D., Founder of Mesa Organics and Purplebee’s Extracts and Professor, Economics & Business at Colorado College, offers some sage advice.“The pitch deck isn’t, and should never be the focus. It simply helps structure the narrative to communicate to potential investors the clarity and efficacy of the idea. The best ideas have a story, and the best entrepreneurs are often the best story-tellers. Use your deck to tell the story to make people feel the power of your idea.”

Before you walk into a meeting, you should know your pitch deck so well that you can do your entire presentation without it. You should be able to tell your ‘story’ without visuals. As a rule of thumb: If you need a slide to tell your story, chances are the story's too complicated.

5. Don't Go Long

“One of the biggest mistakes I see often in pitch decks is the length of the deck," said Marion Mariathasan, CEO and co-founder of Simplifya. “Most investors typically don’t have the time or attention span to spend on a pitch. The entrepreneur should be mindful of this and therefore try to keep the deck under 15 slides, 9 ideally, and clearly highlight the main points that he or she is trying to convey.”

Mariathasan adds,“Hit all the main points in each slide without crowding the slide. Remember that the idea with a pitch deck is to get the reader excited about the concept. Leave all the granular details for a follow-up conversation.”

6. Don’t Go In Blind. Assume Your Model Will Be Replicated

Every business can be copied--eventually. So how can you protect your company’s market position?

Start by asking, “What’s your moat? Is there unique IP that keeps a competitor from creating an identical product? Is there some other idea, traction or technique that will prevent others from duplicating your success?" says Chris Cunningham, founder of C2Ventures and creator of C2V Studios. “Entrepreneurs often poorly address this in their pitch decks and it will lead investors to question your vulnerability.”

On GDPR, High Colonics And Opportunities For Founders

As an investor and mobile native, I talk to a lot of young founders. The energy and pure innovative spirit they exude is fuel for me -- I love it. One thing that bugs me, though, is how easily some founders can be dissuaded from following a particular path based on feedback from their influencers, or whatever the big, scary industry buzz of the day happens to be.

About two years ago, the boogie man in the advertising industry’s room was ad blockers. Everybody was talking about it, everybody was writing about it. Ad blockers were going to eat everyone’s lunch and forever change the face of advertising.

In the end, the whole thing felt more like Y2K -- lots of Chicken Little, not much meat.

 

I’d argue that ad blockers have proven to be a good thing by making the industry focus more on users than on ad units. I’m pretty sure the words "user experience" have been uttered more by advertisers in the last few years than in the preceding decades. So, in the case of ad blockers at least, the boogie man turned out to be a bit of a rainmaker instead.

The boogie man of today -- the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) --  kicked-off in spring of 2018. The buzz is that GDPR means instant Armageddon for those reliant on location sources and user opt-in. I don't buy it.

The GDPR storm won’t be a cyclone, and the advertising landscape will ultimately benefit as a result of its introduction. Frankly, the whole industry is going through a cleansing process, and GDPR is just the high colonic the doctor ordered. Why?

Anything that compels the people who buy, sell and exchange consumer data to more actively manage those workflows is a good thing for the health of the industry. It establishes a code of conduct, guarantees users a path of resolution and helps keep the bad guys out.

 

Bravo, truly. No legitimate buyer or seller of data should have a problem detailing its legal compliance, origin or composition -- you can’t even buy dirt from Home Depot that way.

As someone who invests in companies that do cool things with data, I am not dissuaded by GDPR. It excites me because I know the quality of the data available to work with is better than ever before.

Pretty soon, data might even be labeled like groceries, so marketers will know the exact composition and freshness of what they’re getting. That’s going to be an exciting (and emergent) marketplace, but that’s not the only business opportunity that will come from GDPR.

New solutions and services will be built to assist with GDPR monitoring and compliance. New technical and legal specialties will arise, creating educational programs, industry forums and specialized roles for skilled personnel. Venture capital dollars will flow to the best and biggest ideas, and winners will emerge.

 

At the end of the day, the quality of the data product making it to marketer’s hands will be much, much better. With the right marketing technology stack and a smart, agile hand on the wheel, a good marketer can spin that raw data into target-marketed gold. That’s a fact.

Typically it’s younger, hipper companies and people that clue-in to these kinds of opportunities first, which is why innovation in the face of looming disruptions happen so quickly: Fast-movers don’t fear change, they make it work to their advantage.

GDPR is great for users because it’s their data and they should get to decide what to do with it. It’s also great for an ad industry desperate to cleanse the worst elements of its inner workings. As an investor, I am tuned-in to founders with ideas to help each of these parties accomplish their goals and scale a business globally.

Being a brand, tech company or a founder in the advertising space looking for an idea and seeing GDPR as a risk baffles me -- it’s clearly an opportunity.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

10 Predictions for the Tech Industry in 2018

Last year around this time, I published a post titled How I’m investing in 2017 and see you at CES. In it, I tried to predict how various market segments (data techs, AR/VR, attribution techs, blockchain) would perform in that year. Looking back, I’d grade myself with a solid B — take a look and LMK what you think.

As we go into 2018, I’d like to focus on the advertising industry and try calling some shots that seem obvious (Snapchat = loser, podcast ads = winner), and some that may be a bit farther out there (Disney buying Fox = meh, Microsoft = emerging social powerhouse). As always, your thoughts are most appreciated.

Whatever 2018 brings in your personal and professional life, may you kick its ass fully!

1. Amazon will come to Madison Avenue like never before.

Amazon is about to take major advertising share from Google and Facebook. Why? The incumbents are fatigued, whereas Amazon has tons of cash, a solid identity graph, they understand purchase behavior, and can compete on a recommendation level. This shift will squeeze mid and long tail ad tech players. Content is still king and the most original stuff will still win, but there simply won’t be enough money generated to feed everyone that’s dependent on a media buyer.

2. Snapchat will tumble even deeper.

Given how well Instagram suits me I’ve never been a user, so I am biased, but Snapchathasn’t been able to scale beyond tweens and teens so far, and I don’t see their ad business turning a corner in 2018. They have no real social graph or purchase behaviors to work from. It’s a cute technology, at best.

3. Bad apples will try to worm their way into the location space.

As President of Unacast, I’ve been living and breathing the location data ecosystem for the last two years. In that time, I’ve formed the opinion that we may need to live through the same challenges the ad industry had with the media ecosystem, i.e. a few bad apples taking advantage through fraud, bots and a lack of transparency. That’s created widespread havoc and wasted millions — if not billions — of ad dollars. That led to opportunities for companies like Moat to help fight media fraud, and Uru Video to support brand safety. The parallel?

With location data so hot right now, there is an urgent need for scale and accuracy, leaving cracks in the market. No doubt, shady players will manufacture false interpretations of data lacking verifiable provenance. On the flip side, this will sharpen the opportunity for companies like Unacast that provide buyers of data with better quality and more transparency when engaging third parties. The space will remain white hot, just keep an eye out.

4. GDPR ends up being like Y2K.

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being led by EU nations is set to kick-off in Spring of 2018. The buzz is loud and ubiquitous that GDPR means it’s instant-Armageddon for those reliant on location sources and user opt-in. I’m calling B.S.

It’s going to be like the Y2K build-up when we were going from 1999 into 2000 — a slow burn with lots of doomsday predictions, then nothing much happens, at least not this Spring. GDPR have some fallout but it will take some time for those ripples to make their way around the world.

5. Netflix continues to dominate, Disney just gets bloated.

There’s a lot of reasons Disney bought Fox for north of $52 billion, but what it boils down to is that Disney and every other traditional media company with any common sense should fear Netflix. High 5’s to Peter Naylor and the Huluad team for excelling here, as well. Netflix and Hulu users are always-on, always demanding choice, and always getting what they want. That’s the future.

While the Disney/Fox deal is massive and will evoke change, it’s not going to cause a mis-step in the Netflix march to the winner’s circle, because you can’t rattle a business with a core focus. Disney will be bigger and more bloated but it won’t overtake Netflix in content consumption. No chance.

6. Podcasts and all things audio/voice take a big chunk out of publishing readership.

We’ve already seen every major trade publication in technology, advertising and almost every other vertical move to add podcasts to their free editorial content. With increasingly more people mobile and connected, earbuds in, the demand to capture attention via bite-sized pieces of podcast consumption will skyrocket.

Ad dollars to voice and audio will rise, shifting share for middling and major publishers alike as user’s preferences for how they like to get their news and information continues to evolve. P.S. get used to hearing a lot about ‘dynamic insertion’ for podcasts (sounds dirty; will make some people filthy rich).

7. Old schoolers, such as IBM Watson, Oracle, NYT and GE will continue to leverage their scale and encroach in new innovation.

The ad industry is always quick to label companies as dinosaurs and discount large corporations that have had their bumps in the past, but time is a great healer and it takes a long time to create a diamond. Perhaps because of new leadership, a willingness to move faster, and the evolving means to leverage their tech DNA to win, GE, IBM and NYT have new life.

Thanks to Linda BoffDeon Newman, and Meredith Kopit Levien, digital natives with the power to think big and evoke change are at the helm and driving market share, while the Buzzfeeds of the world who laying people off.

8. Blockchain is coming, but not for a while.

While blockchain technologies are without a doubt the wave of the future, this shit doesn’t happen overnight. It’s going to take three or four years time to cement change. This is particularly true in the ad tech world (despite already being blockchain saturated), where it will take time to change how transactions occur, ads are traded, etc.

Just like it was with mobile (I think it’s been the year of mobile since about 2008 now), blockchain will take longer to evolve than anyone thinks, and will be bigger than anyone can imagine. Full disclosure: via my investment platform, C2 Ventures, I have skin in blockchain through Monetago and others.

9. A post-M&A Linkedin will continue to win.

LinkedIn takes some lumps, but come-on, man! Does anybody else like this platform as much as I do, not just for the professional side of things, but people discovery, content discovery and messaging? Don’t get me wrong: random people emailing saying they like my profile is lame, and I laugh at some of the non personal messages I get, but if you look beyond that and get active, LinkedIn is better than Facebook.

That’s why people like Jon SteinbergJohn Battelle and Gary Vaynerchuk use its feed and scale to publish shit. Don’t sleep on Linkedin in 2018 — Microsoft is finally going to gain major share in the social game.

10. AR in mobile ads is going to be a thing.

Right now, celebrities and influencers metaphorically stand behind a products. In 2018, you’ll start seeing them standing right beside it. They’re going to show you how to get to the store and walk you down the aisle, all while holding a two way conversation, answering questions, smiling and posing for as many selfies as you can snap.

AR ads are the technical convergence of high speed mobile, location data, AI, chatbots and about a dozen other things. It will forever change the way brands, influencers and users tell stories and interact with one another, and it’s going to produce a whack of money.

Chris Cunningham is President of Unacast, founder of C2.Ventures and a Limited Partner with Bowery Capital and Techstars.

How I’ll use two new board seats to give back

I believe finding time to give back is one of the most important and rewarding things we can do in life. But sometimes it takes a little time to figure how to do so in a way that invokes meaningful change in our community. Recently, my own purpose came into focus.

Over the last few weeks, I have announced through social media that I have joined the Board of Advisors for Build.Org NYC. Founded in 1999, BUILD.org is dedicated to proving the power of experiential learning through entrepreneurship. For me, serving the community by working with youth to advance their goals through technology and product just makes sense.

In the past, I was introduced to Build.org several times, but it was Baratunde Thurston, to whom I owe a huge thanks, who pushed to get me in front of the group’s leadership team a few months ago. As our conversation evolved, I knew Build.org and I were a fit.

Through this responsibility — this honor — I give my time to students to support their potential, raise awareness of the Build.org brand through marketing, and help this excellent cause raise money to develop presence in local schools and communities. I know my fantastic friends and generous network will offer your support for our upcoming fundraisers in NYC and Westchester.

I’m also excited to announce that I have recently accepted the role of Co-Chair of the iTrek Mentor Program at Cornell Tech. The iTrek is a highlight of the Cornell Tech MBA program and one of the most distinctive and challenging startup engagement experiences there is.

Born of a 2010 competition started by the Bloomberg administration, the iTrek program, which is a partnership between Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, is supported by $100 million in funding. Student teams will fly to Tel Aviv early next in 2018 to work with Israeli startups in solving specific business problems.

As a Co-Chair, along with Alex Blum and some incredibly talented NYC based mentors. We aim to serve this year’s students by advising and supporting business ideas of their counterparts in Israel, and build bridges and relationships that span borders and business sectors.

Thanks for reading friends! I share this post in hopes of gaining your support for both organizations and hope you may consider getting involved by donating money, or your own very valuable time.

Venture on!

Chris