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Mike Cote's Business Editor's Notebook: Startups on the clock as they pitch investors at Speed Venture Summit

By MIKE COTE
December 03. 2017 2:11AM
Souheil Benserrouk, right, explains his business plan for Canopus Water Technologies to Dave English, left, and Rich Upton with the investment firm Northeast Angels during the New Hampshire Speed Venture Summit held at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford on Thursday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Call it a bunch of elevator pitches without the elevator.

At the New Hampshire Speed Venture Summit on Thursday, entrepreneurs from 20 companies had the opportunity to visit nine of the 18 investor groups on hand. In eight-minute stretches they talked about their businesses and explained how they would use more money to further develop them.

Liz Gray, who runs the state's Live Free and Start initiative, used pop songs - including the Barenaked Ladies hit "If I Had a Million Dollars" - to alert the startups it was time to wrap things up and move on to the next investment group on their schedules.

Participating firms at the Manchester Country Club in Bedford included familiar names to the Granite State's startup culture, including Wasabi Ventures, Borealis Ventures and 10 Venture Partners as well as several angel investor groups.

Jeremy Hitchcock was stationed at one of the high-top investor tables. The co-founder and former CEO of Dyn has been busy with new projects - including a startup of his own - since leaving the company in 2016. The entrepreneurs who visited his table included a handful of software companies, a couple of medical device firms, a data analytics website, a water purifier manufacturer and the maker of a sports video system.

Hitchcock listened to each one with great interest, offering advice on how the startup might best position itself in the marketplace and sharing his expertise if he was familiar with the technology. He was frank if he didn't think the company was on the right track. "I hate your revenue model," Hitchcock told one visitor, before giving him the chance to defend the plan.

Several of the companies visiting Hitchcock's table were familiar faces in the state's close-knit startup community, thanks to their success in various contests. Bedford-based ValChoice, an insurance data company, has secured $250,000 from local startup and incubator programs over the past couple of years. Nashua-based PickUp Patrol, a Web-based application designed to help parents and school officials manage after-school student dismissals, won Live Free and Start's Ultimate NH Connection in 2015, among other honors.

Addapptation, founded by husband and wife team Sumner and Carla Vanderhoof, was among three companies awarded $100,000 in investment funds in May from the Millworks II fund, as part of Alpha Loft's Startup Shindig event. The company also won $55,000 in cash and services that month as the winner of the Manchester Young Professionals Network Startup Challenge.

"What are you hoping to get answered?" Hitchcock asked Summer Vanderhoof. "You've come here obviously looking for money. The best way to get money is to ask for advice. What advice are you going to ask for?"

Vanderhoof said he wanted to know how addapptation could become the leader in its field. The Newfields company develops micro-apps designed to reduce the complexity of software applications that are stored by online servers, making the applications more efficient and easier to use. He referenced an application engine by Google known as Kubernetes.

"We're betting big on Kubernetes as the cloud orchestration platform that is going to chiefly be the enterprise cloud in the '20s," Vanderhoof said. "We're investing heavily right now not just in building our platform on it, but becoming the thought leader in that space."

Hitchcock wanted to know how the company attracts new customers.

"Right now, word of mouth. That's why we're here actually," Vanderhoof said, explaining how another round of investment could be used to hire someone to take over sales and leave him to focus on developing the company's products, which are already used in 28 countries. "Now is the time to really invest in the team build-up."

If they had a million dollars, they wouldn't be rich - but they would have a shot at taking their company to the next level.

Contact Business Editor Mike Cote at 206-7724 or mcote@unionleader.com.


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