Day 12: SXSW, Angela’s Sessions

Sunday, March 9, 2003

How to Fund a Small Internet Business.

Panelists: Judy Bitterli (Direct Impact), Rudy Rouhana (, Tim Ziegler ( Moderator Attourney Henry W. (Hank) Jones, III of Intersect Technology Consulting & Law Office (

Notes from handout:

Secrets of start-up funding: You can really start with less money than you think. You can really start on a smaller scale than you think. You need a work product. You can moonlight and do it as a side-line. This is a great time to start a new business, because everything is cheap these days.

Smartest moves in start-up funding: Include someone on the team with financial background & credibility. Be able to articulate persuasively each of the problems you solve; why these problems are massive/critical, not annoyances; the size of the market; how you are going to make money; how your solution is different and gives competitive advantage; and strengths of the founding team. Make and use a detailed plan for funding sources. Have great contacts in your team’s networks.

Common mistakes in start-up funding: Focusing on the idea instead of how it will make money. Not clearly understanding the concept of “pay as you go.” Being blind to team’s and team members’ weaknesses. Unwillingness to take & process constructive criticism.

Questions a venture capitalist/investor will ask:

  1. What is the business problem you’re solving?
  2. How are you solving it?
  3. How do you expect to make money?

If you can, it’s a good idea to base the business on cash flow. Dream big, start small. Do what you have to do to make it work. You may not need as much money as you think. Take a low-cash approach, using free software where available.

Marketing takes money.

Find possible investors through networking. Angel investors. Learn from past investees, people who’ve dealt with the investor before, to determine the dynamics of the angel group, etc.

Business types:

  1. Service-oriented: linear cach flow. Your income potential is directly influenced by your number of employees/number of hours. Don’t really need investors for this… mostly just some advertising money.
  2. Software model: exponential cash flow. You spend time/expense developing software, then have the potential to sell it (without much further expense) to an unlimited number of users. Could consider investors for this model. Can be difficult because you often need customers in order to get funded, but you need software to get customers… and you may need money to hire people to develop the software.
  3. Capital-intensive: hardware/software requiring huge up-front investment to develop. Stay away from these!

Remember investors may take over your company, take it in different direction, fire you, etc.

If product is directed to a specific company/market, try to get a job consulting for the company ahead of time. Consult for the company while developing the idea. Helps get foot in the door, get credibility, learn what users really need, and get leads for customers.

Other ways to get credibility? Work for non-profits. Be confident with your answers — here’s what I’m doing and here’s what I have personally invested in it ($, sweat equity, etc)

Make connections, do your homework, and know someone who knows someone. Send email to all your contacts, asking if they know anyone at xxx. Research investors through the SEC Edgar site (shows info on prospects, history, etc).

Learn your own strengths, weaknesses, and fears. Learn how to work with a team of people who have strengths in areas you don’t. Try Briggs/Meyers or another personality indicator.

Need decision-making skills. Know when to pull the trigger yourself and when to get outside advice on a decision.

Understand people’s intentions. Everybody else is just out to make a buck too, so keep that in mind in your dealings with them.

Consider other options. Make a software product, make it open source to get features added, then work as a service business, customizing it for customers who need it.

Websites to look at: (?)

Can Stevie Wonder Read Your Website?

Panelists: Rashmi Bhat (Prodigy/SBC), Giorgio Brajnik (UsableNet), Dr. John Slatin (UT - blind)

Slatin: Wrote book “Maximum Accessibility”. I’d definitely like to read this one.

  • A web resource is accessible when disabled users can use it as effectively as others.
  • Good design is accessible design. Accessibility is not something you add on at the end; it’s something you plan for from the beginning.
  • Accessibility is good business. 54 million people with disabiblities, and incidence of disability goes up as age goes up, and there’s an increasingly significant proportion of people over 50. Huge potential commercial market & potential audience for educational materials.
  • Accessibility all the way down. Has to happen throughout design & development process. Takes committment & planning.
  • It’s about people. It’s not about the technical features; it’s about the users’ experience. Include group of people with disabilities in your test process to identify non-obvious problems.

(All TX state agencies are required to adopt, publish & link to accessibility guidelines. Key public entry points have to have ‘Accessibility’ link. Must have & maintain accessible sites. What are the laws in Oklahoma?)

Bhat: From corporate standpoint, make sure accessibility is a corporate priority. The embarrassment factor can be a good way to get corporate support.

Brajnik: It’s good business to be accessible. Big potential for reaching, acquiring & further involving (newsletters, etc.) users with disabilities. A non-accessible site rejects poetential customers & members. Determine policies for making accessibility, priorites for pages to make accessible first, and processes for finding & fixing problems in accessibility. Brajnik says automated tools are useful in finding problems initially & in regression testing. UsableNet has wizard that works with Dreamweaver.

Important for the site to be not just accessible but usable. Though blind users can’t have the visual experience, they want a similarly pleasurable experience.

Note: Mensokie should be a priority for accessibility, as there’s no other way for blind members to read the newsletter.

Considerations: link tags (click here isn’t sufficient); form tags (forms need to be usable); PDFs — accessible?

Tips for designing with accessibiliy in mind:

  • To test, try turning off monitor and using Jaws, WindowEyes, etc.
  • Help menu listing keyboard shortcuts & explaining other accessibility features of site.

Links:; - National Center for Accessible Media;;; tries to point out good design;; Bobby checks for accessibility. “Bobby approved”.

Flash Enabled: Flash Design & Development for Devices

Panelists Fred Sharples (Orange Design), Glenn Thomas (Smashing Ideas), Steve Leone (Unplug). Wrote “Flash Enabled”.

Right now there are lots of mostly-HTML pages with Flash add-ons.

Flash-capable Devices: Sony Clie (initially download, then will ship installed), Pocket PC (installed), Nokia (installed on European), iMode (currently only sold in Japan; installed.) Playstation?

Issues for designing for devices:

  • Know your screen size & think through layout (ex. 200×200 pixels)
  • Performance - don’t expect much from these slower devices. Complex ActionScript can be slow, as can full-screen animation
  • Connected/disconnected: can’t assume the device is connected… may never be!
  • File saving - Possible to save as workaround using IEs javascript cookie.
  • Interface/button isues. Inputs such as button/keys

Possible Money-Makers:

  • Animated Today” desktops (Handango, PocketPCGear)
  • In Japan & Finland, theyre already paying to download ringtones, games, images, etc.
  • Entertainment (games) will be the first to make money.
  • Assasin game in Scandanavia

Current Applications: Amazon, wharehouse, restaurants are using Flash apps on Pocket PCs. Also Flash training manuals.

Flash examples & Sites to look at:;;;;;; one-page hotel reservation page; changed Quotes add-in from java to Flash, save $.25 million in bandwidth in 1st 6 months.