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SeedCon: Top Five things Entrepreneurs of Early Stage Startups Should Know

By Whitney Morgan ‘14 and Lizzie Gay ‘14  |  november, 2012, Issue 2

Nick Kokonas, owner of Next , Alinea and the Aviary, kicked off SeedCon this year with a keynote speech about the top five things entrepreneurs should know. A Chicago native, Nick traded derivatives prior to opening Alinea and now invests in and advises numerous tech startups. Nick spoke about his own entrepreneurship journey as well as the things he looks for when evaluating business ideas, plans, and teams – citing the importance of having motivated, founders who "just get it done". This is Nick's list:

  1. Tell your story. Early stage investors are primarily investing in YOU.  Think of the iconic companies in the world and you think first of a person.

  2. Tell the story of your product from the point of view of your customer.  What is their reason for doing business with you? What is their emotional connection or reason to 'buy'?

  3. Be very detailed on use of funds and SHORT TERM projections (3, 6 and 12 months).  Do not do wild extrapolations beyond that.  Model the rest of the years more generally showing an understanding of the big picture.

  4. Show how your company might move in other directions.  Laser focus is great, but show tangential benefits.  For example, for Alinea: books, outside events, catering, media, etc.

  5. Discuss (and model) your competition in detail. Discuss how similar innovations have worked in other industries; draw analogies in other businesses.

SeedCon is an annual conference hosted by Booth's EVC for students, entrepreneurs, faculty, VCs, and entrepreneurship enthusiasts. The conference kicked off on Thursday, November 15 at the Gleacher Center. The first night included a Fast-Pitch event for the finals of BuiltInChicago's contest. The winners of the FastPitch were: Intelligent Loop (First place), DigitalGroundUp (Second), and Infared Solutions (Third, and a Booth team). Three other teams shared fourth place: TheStylisted (a Booth team), Me So Far, and Bet ME.

Friday's portion of the conference was at Venue SIX10. Notable founders of Chicago favorites like FoodGenius, Excelerate Labs, Technori, The Starter League, GrubHub, Braintree, Protein Bar participated on panels and excited the audience with tales of highs and lows. They talked about things like going from six-digit revenue to eight-digit revenue in one year, and the pitfalls of running a business on almost zero money. Overall, the conference provided ample advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Last Updated 11/27/12
Last Updated 11/27/12