Fusion Pointe Community Event Hosted By Northern Trust

Fusion Pointe is working to advance Southwest Florida’s innovation economy by connecting entrepreneurs with experienced mentors, who will help them build their high-tech startups into investor-ready ventures.

We officially launched in 2015 and currently have 15 companies mentored by over 30 mentors. Our companies have received advice on strategic goals, execution, financial projections, valuations, team building and investment strategy. We have held workshops for mentors and entrepreneurs on valuations, digital media strategy and investor pitching and each has highlighted local subject matter experts that bring great value to our community. Our team would like to share our traction to date and how you can support our engagement in the community.

You are invited to our 2017 community event

Thursday, March 23, 2017, 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.

Our host and sponsor of this reception is

Northern Trust
26790 S Tamiami Trail
Bonita Springs, FL 34134

Meet the Fusion Pointe Team, enjoy a keynote by Mark Volchek, Partner Las Olas VF, and hear how the mentoring process is working for our mentees and mentors.
Click here to register or RSVP.

Our keynote speaker for the evening is Mark Volchek, Partner Las Olas Venture Capital.

“Entrepreneurship and the Florida Startup Ecosystem”

Mark Volchek headshot

Mark is a Founding Partner of Las Olas Venture Capital, an $50MM early stage venture fund focused on Florida and other underserved venture capital markets. Prior to starting Las Olas VC, Mark spent about 15 years at Higher One, a company he co-founded in 2000 while a senior in college. In his roles as CFO, Chairman and then CEO, Mark has had a major hand in steering the company from its first round of seed funding and multiple rounds of venture funding all the way to its successful IPO in 2010, and beyond. He helped grow Higher One from just three founders to more than 1,000 employees and guide the company through multiple acquisitions exceeding $150mm in aggregate value. When Mark left in 2014, Higher One’s products and services supported more than 1,900 schools and approximately 13 million enrolled students.

Since 2008 Mark has been an active angel investor and has invested in over 30 companies. He is also a Director of the Founder Institute – South Florida, where he helps budding entrepreneurs get their companies started. Mark is the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2010 New England Financial Services Award winner and was an EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 National Award finalist. He has been a regional and national judge for the program since 2012.

Mark holds a BA and MA in Economics from Yale University. He was a founding officer of the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and on its board from 2000 to 2010. This nonprofit organization promotes entrepreneurship among Yale students, faculty and alumni, and sponsors an annual business plan competition. Mark’s civic roles include serving on the Fort Lauderdale Aviation Advisory Board. His past civic activities include Chairman of the Tweed New Haven Airport Authority, and positions on the Florida Board of Take Stock in Children, the New Haven Economic Development Committee./

As startups evolve, lessons are learned

CASEY LOGAN , CLOGAN@NEWS-PRESS.COM 12:40 p.m. EST November 11, 2016

Starting a business is hard. Finding success is even harder.

The Rocket Lounge tech hub in downtown Fort Myers, along with InspireLink, presented a roundtable Wednesday called “The Evolution of a Startup.”

Nine out of 10 startups will fail, according to Forbes Magazine, so learning from those who have succeeded can be especially helpful.

On the panel: Jason Dolle of Testimonial Tree, Greg Scasny of Cybersecurity Defense Solutions and Felix Lluberes of KORE Telematics.

The entrepreneurs came together to discuss “thinking bigger and taking action,” said Brian Benson, founder of InspireLink, which aims to bridge the gap between academic and business experience.

“They’re creating jobs and imagine if we had hundreds or thousands like them,” he said, before starting the discussion.

Dolle’s background is in computer engineering and real estate, but he disliked not having any free time on weekends as an agent showing homes. He founded Estero-based Testimonial Tree, which allows clients to share their stories through automated customer review software.

“I’m going to take this leap,” he said, when he decided to go for it. “I did everything really lean and I got really lucky.”

Testimonial Tree started with real estate testimonials, but is now venturing into medical and other verticals. It has more than 60,000 users.

Testimonial Tree got a boost in February, when it secured venture capital with help from Naples-based Fusion Pointe, which unites entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. The business quickly grew from having Dolle and a contractor to employing nine.

At age 26, Scasny co-founded his first company, Golden Tech, which provides managed IT services. Prior to that, he worked as a systems engineer for Bethlehem Steel.

“I tried working in corporate America, but I just can’t stand someone telling me what to do,” he said.

Golden Tech grew to be a $10 million company with 70 employees. He sold his piece of the business back to his partners, then took on a different partner to start Cybersecurity Defense Solutions, now in downtown Fort Myers. His work there has included training the IRS on hacking techniques.

“Our goal is to help companies with what the real threat is out there,” he said. “I work all the time. I love what I do. I love consulting, I love helping people.”

Lluberes, based in Naples, explained his motivation when thinking back to his start as a software developer.

“Loving what you do, it’s definitely got to be there,” he said. “I just found something I really loved to do. I knew that by solving, I was going to do well.”

In 2007, he founded Position Logic, a business-to-business location-based services provider, then sold the company nearly six years later to KORE Telematics, a $160 million company where he is now an executive vice president.

Founders of startups often have an exit strategy, a plan to sell the company to a larger business that allows them to make money and in some cases move on to another venture.

Lluberes learned from three failed ventures before finding success with Position Logic.

“It is tough,” he said. “You learn so much from the pain.”

Among his biggest lessons? Having the right partner and the right plan to execute.

Of course, it’s important to serve a great need.

Scasny called cybersecurity “a huge market” because the cost of losing data is so great. His company helps financial institutions, medical and legal businesses and government “improve their security posture,” which he called a people and a process problem.

Scasny and Lluberes agreed it’s important to constantly reinvest in the business so it can evolve.

“Every deal you make, what are you getting out of it?” Lluberes said he would ask himself.

He sometimes had to be reminded that small profits are still profits. One day, as he plotted his course, a lightbulb went off in his head.

“I just need to be a part of the solution,” he said of building his reputation with customers. “If you grow, I grow.”

Along the path to success, Scasny called it challenging to hire the right people and implore them to believe in your vision.

“Managing people is the most difficult part of any business,” he said.

Through the ups and downs any entrepreneur encounters, Scasny stressed the importance of believing in your abilities: “You’ll never lose investing in yourself.”

As for hiring, Lluberes looks for aptitude, attitude and core values, adding startups must seek talent relentlessly. He called people among a company’s greatest assets, but said they are part of a huge equation. Without a sense of ownership, production and quality will suffer.

“Employees need to have a sense of pride in the company, or it’s going to hurt you,” he said.

When planning the exit strategy, Lluberes said it’s important to ensure the business is solid in all areas. To get everything where it needs to be, he suggested finding the right players to help in different aspects of the business, from financial to legal.

“It’s really a transformation,” he said. “It’s going to come different for every business. The best time to sell is when you have a buyer, and we had that.”

And for anyone weighing whether to make the leap to entrepreneurship, Lluberes said it’s OK to give yourself permission if you think you can make it work: “Now is the right time, and the difference is you.”

Connect with this reporter: email clogan@news-press.com and follow on Twitter @caseylo

Lessons from the startup trenches

Jason Dolle: “Don’t be afraid to fail fast.” If a venture doesn’t work out, realize it quickly and move on.

Greg Scasny: “You to have this love for lifelong learning.” Learn how to sell and how to talk to people. Building the culture is important.

Felix Lluberes: “The real problem starts when you start making money. Have fun doing it and plan as much as you can.” Building the foundation is critical. Make sure your employees know you are there to support them. Pay attention to the little things.

Who is your Target Customer?

Who Is Your Target Customer?
Monday, October 17th, 2016
JumpStart Team
To whom are you selling? This is one of the most basic, albeit crucial, questions you must answer when developing your go-to-market strategy. The answer will determine your target market, a group of potential customers who you intend to be the recipients of your marketing efforts. These customers are the people or organizations that have pain points your product or service is trying to address.

Below are a few strategies to help you to identify your most profitable audience:

Identifying Your Target Market
Identifying your target market will likely require a deep understanding of your customer and their needs. This knowledge can be obtained by collecting data through primary and secondary market research.

Primary market research is completed using surveys and speaking directly to customers–tasks that are often referred to as customer discovery. Secondary market research is accomplished by leveraging existing research that’s been collected from reports and studies by government agencies, trade associations or other businesses.

Finding your niche can be tough, but it is vital to your success. This video, by Customer Development Labs, illustrates a strategy that helps narrow down a larger customer segment into a more focused target segment. In addition, Chuck Cohn’s Steps To Identify Your Target Market provides additional insight and strategies for success in this arena.

Keep it Focused! Expand On Success, Don’t Contract On Failure
Early-stage companies are often ambitious and tend to make the mistake of thinking that “everyone is our customer” or “anyone with a smartphone is our customer.” This is not a great strategy considering startups are strapped for money, time and other resources. It requires a lot of these resources for a company to try to attract “everybody” as their customer.

Instead, young companies should seek to dominate a smaller market, then expand to a larger market rather than failing to reach a larger market and then being forced to refocus on a smaller segment.

A minimum viable segment (MVS) is a market that is focused enough that your product or service can dominate by meeting the common needs of the customers in the segment. MVS methodology allows you to quickly and cheaply validate potential markets. If the assumed target customer isn’t a good fit, the company will have likely saved enough marketing resources to shift marketing efforts toward a different segment.

Developing Customer Personas
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of the customers that you are trying to attract. By creating fake characters like “Attorney Anthony” or “Manager Molly,” you can make it easier to see your customers as real people.

For example, let’s say your ideal customer is someone you name Manager Molly. A handful of the many characteristics that you could assign to her might include:

She is in her 30s with a college degree
She hasn’t been in a management role for more than two years
She is ambitious and wants to capture the attention of senior management
Imagining Manager Molly as a real person who embodies each of the above attributes can help you to consider her deepest needs and how to effectively market to her. Want to give persona creation a try? HubSpot offers an excellent template for creating detailed buyer personas.

Understanding Multiple Audiences
Sometimes a business will have two or more very different types of potential customer markets and will need to decide which group to target first. For example, Google has two types of customers, the first being individuals that use the search engine and the second being the companies who pay to advertise to those individuals.

You should thoroughly examine each unique potential target market, then aim your immediate efforts toward the market that you determine to have the greatest pain point that your solution can solve.

Measure Everything!
If you go after multiple target markets, measure how each market compares in regards to sales revenue, customer acquisition costs, length of sales cycle, buying habits and market penetration rate. With this information, you will afford yourself the opportunity to make data-driven decisions concerning your target markets’ profitability, thus positioning your business for future success.

 

Fusion Pointe Northern Trust Event 2/2016

Fusion Pointe mentors Fort Myers startups

A new nonprofit is spurring startups in Southwest Florida.

Local entrepreneurs and others connected in the region’s business scene have likely heard of FusionPointe. For those unfamiliar, it’s an effort to help promising early-stage companies grow faster — or fail faster, if necessary — by providing technical assistance and a network of mentors with a variety of expertise.

Steve Walling, who owns a Naples-based business consulting firm, is founding chairman of the venture that launched in 2014. It has taken time to lay the groundwork, but the organization appears to be coming into its own.

An event Tuesday night at a bank in Bonita Springs showcased a class of seven startups and 10 entrepreneurs, along with five other ventures in the pipeline.

“As you can see, we’ve got a lot going,” Walling told the crowd. “I’m really excited about where we’re headed.”

Walling is no stranger to the startup world. He was a founding board member of Cleveland-based JumpStart Inc., a similar organization founded in 2003 that has found huge success in transforming the economy in northeast Ohio.

FusionPointe has three goals: to identify and support promising companies, produce more investor-ready companies and speed outcomes by partnering with mentors in the region to provide expertise and connections. Its initial focus is on tech startups. The companies in the present class: Fly N Style, Endlink, Cydec, Testimonial Tree, Stay Secure, Doc Charge and Bun.

“It’s candidly amazing we’ve been able to put together such startups in such a short period of time,” said Rob Strandberg, executive director.

FusionPointe looks at startups on a continuum, from imagining to incubation to demonstrating to market entry.

“Mentoring makes a big difference,” said Strandberg, adding the hard fact that the vast majority of startups fail. “It’s without question a very valuable program to these entrepreneurs.”

One of the keys to giving startups the best chance for success comes in making the right matches. The good news is that the region has an amazing array of retired CEOs and other executives to draw from, as well as many subject-matter experts.

“It’s an extraordinary asset,” said Strandberg, calling it a distinguishing factor in Naples and by extension Southwest Florida.

Ultimately, FusionPointe is looking for startups that have high promise, but need a lot of help.

“We’re creating success,” he said.

The night’s keynote speaker was Ray Leach, founding CEO of JumpStart, who said there isn’t enough economic growth coming out of small companies, necessitating organizations such as JumpStart and FusionPointe.

“The broader economy is not diverse enough in Southwest Florida,” he said. “It’s about diversification.”

This region’s economy is dominated by the leisure and hospitality industry, as well as construction. Leach said the work that’s being done to spur more growth is not especially complicated; it’s about maximizing potential and transforming lives.

“It’s not rocket science,” he said. “It’s very straight forward.”

Leach, who has a winter home in Fort Myers, spoke of leveraging the region’s greatest, most unique assets.

“Southwest Florida’s greatest assets are the smart people who live here,” he said, as well as the personal and professional networks the people here have. “That’s an incredibly compelling asset.”

Cleveland, historically a manufacturing city, and northeast Ohio have come a long way over the past 10-plus years. In 2002, for example, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Cleveland the worst entrepreneurial region among metro areas in the nation. Many Fortune 500 companies had left over the years.

“The region was dying,” Leach said.

Fast-forward to today. Ventures such as JumpStart, in partnership with the state, have worked as change agents. JumpStart now invests $40 million a year and the companies it has helped, according to Leach, produce a $1.4 billion economic impact in Ohio. As a local reference point, the Tamiami Angel Fund has invested over $7 million in startups since 2011, according to Chairman Tim Cartwright.

“It’s infinite the amount of opportunity there is and the payback is very real,” Leach said. “The economic outcome of the work in incredibly powerful.”

FusionPointe, he said, also can help communities realize their entrepreneurial potential by being a connector. Leach noted Southwest Florida’s growing population, large concentration of successful entrepreneurs, the number of quality companies needing assistance and its significant amount of investment capital.

“It’s about leaders in the community who want to unlock the growth,” he said. “If a place like Cleveland can do this, with all of its legacy issues, think what Southwest Florida can do.”

Rob White, co-founder of a communication platform called Endlink, talked about the desire to gain traction and avoid making mistakes.

“I think it’s just amazing,” he said of his experience with FusionPointe. “It far exceeded any expectation I could imagine.”

Mentor advice led him and his business partner to redo the company messaging, which he said had been too generic.

“They’re not just telling you what you want to hear,” White said.

Dennis Hampton, founder of vehicle monitoring company DeviceOnGuard.com, said he needed help with structure and marketing. He got that and more, saying mentors provided encouragement as well.

“We’re looking to start, stay and grow in Southwest Florida,” he said.

Roger Sippey, a mentor and former CEO of Ferralloy Inc., discussed the mentoring process.

“The most important thing is to listen a lot and take a lot of notes, then come back with questions,” he said, adding that it’s important to have a timeline and to have a system of accountability and responsibility.

“The talent through networking is absolutely imperative and incredible,” he said. “I’ve found it to be very valuable, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

Sippey, too, referenced the plethora of retired CEOs and other retired executives in the region who are in their 60s and 70s: “They want to do something other than just play golf.”


 

News Press, CASEY LOGAN, 6:53 p.m. EST February 6, 2016

Mentor program aims to encourage high-tech entrepreneurs

Fusion Pointe is off to a running start with its mentoring program for high-tech entrepreneurs in Southwest Florida.

The nonprofit group has accepted seven startups into its no-cost program. Other companies are in the pipeline and will soon transition into the program, which launched in November.

Fusion Pointe’s mission is to encourage, accelerate and expand the region’s innovation economy. The goal of the mentoring program is to produce more investor-ready businesses in the region (think elevator pitches or pitches on ABC’s “Shark Tank”).

“The first key is finding those potential entrepreneurs and the second key is aligning their mentors and their skills and market expertise to the entrepreneurs’ needs,” said Steve Walling, Fusion Pointe’s board chairman.

The group has about a dozen mentors and will continue to add more to its already impressive slate of successful entrepreneurs and business executives as its program ramps up to meet demand. The high demand for the services has surprised some, including Jim Moore, Lee County’s former economic development director who now sits on Fusion Pointe’s board of directors.

“We’ve done more quickly than I ever thought was possible,” he said. “The demand is there. The ideas are there. I was concerned are there even enough entrepreneurs here and the answer is they are here.”

Moore has been involved with Fusion Pointe from its inception. He was in the crowd of about 80 who attended an event Tuesday night at Northern Trust Bank in Bonita Springs that offered a glimpse into the early successes of the mentoring program, modeled after one offered by JumpStart Inc., a nonprofit that has helped turn around northeast Ohio’s hard-hit economy.

“It’s hard to get people to move,” Moore said. “It’s easier to grow your own to create companies.”

The group’s first mentees include:

FlyNStyle — A mobile app connecting travelers with consumer brands and airport and airline retailers

EndLink — A comprehensive relationship management platform that organizes and enhances engagement with members

Cydec — Web platform, with an educational twist, that helps entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized businesses launch world-class eCommerce sites

Testimonial Tree — A platform offering a quick way for Realtors and other professionals to collect testimonials for their websites from happy customers


 

By Laura Layden of the Naples Daily News
Feb. 03, 2016

Fusion Pointe: Shining a Light on Naples’ Brightest Entrepreneurs

This article originally appeared in the Naples Herald on May 4, 2015.

Naples continues its practice in supporting entrepreneurs as more organizations provide opportunities for innovative new business ventures. Fusion Pointe is a unique nonprofit venture development organization focused on dramatically increasing the number of high quality, investment-ready companies in the Southwest Florida area.

The company employs mentorship and technical assistance to startups that are looking for private investments with the goal of giving talented professionals more reasons to stay, live and work in the region.

Scott Relf, the vice chair of Fusion Pointe, describes the organization as a startup company itself. The 501(c)3 charity is based off of Cleveland, Ohio’s JumpStart program which has been helping entrepreneurs for the last 11 years. Naples will have access to the Fusion Pointe after it officially opens by July.

“The purpose is to help startup businesses and entrepreneurs of high tech businesses to form their business plans and achieve the milestones necessary to get angel funding or venture funding,” Relf said. “While the TV show Shark Tank is dramatized, the processes in real life are not as dramatic, but essentially we are doing the same thing. The purpose is to help people in southwest Florida to advance what they’re doing so they can make pitches like that to groups of investors and successfully get funds.”

Development group Fusion Pointe targets tech startups

This article originally appeared in the News-Press on November 20, 2014.

Southwest Florida entrepreneurs soon will have a new advocate as a fledgling effort to encourage the creation of high-growth companies gathers momentum and money.

Fusion Pointe, a nonprofit venture development group that grew out of the Gulf Coast Venture Forum, has raised $100,000 toward a first quarter goal of $250,000 to begin mentoring entrepreneurs working to turn their ideas into a profitable business, said Steve Walling, the group’s chairman. The group hopes to raise about $500,000 through the middle of 2015 and will recruit an executive director next year.

“Our plan and our mission is to concentrate on finding high-quality, investment-ready companies,” Walling said. “We will invest very strategically when it is necessary. What we will do more of is work with entrepreneurs to find investment opportunities for them.”

The group will look for companies that have finished the typical “friends and family” investment stage but have yet to cast the wider capital net.

Fusion Point, a new venture support organization launches in Naples

This article originally appeared in the Florida Technology Journal on November 25, 2013.

Newly-formed venture development organization Fusion Pointe shared its mission with an enthusiastic, at-capacity audience of entrepreneurs, investors and civic, philanthropic and business leaders last Monday evening. The group’s mission is to to encourage, accelerate and expand the innovation economy in Southwest Florida.

Fusion Pointe hopes to open its doors to high growth tech entrepreneurs in Spring 2014.

The nonprofit is building resources and partnerships so it can begin providing a combination of capital and high impact technical assistance to promising young startups in the region.