BETHESDA – Several hundred business professionals listened to seven startup owners explain their ideas in less than 10 minutes in the hope of obtaining investors for their new companies.
The Big Idea Connectpreneur Forum, which was held at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda on March 14, brought together corporate executives, entrepreneurs and angels. The by-invitation-only participants spent about four hours networking, listening to speeches and business ideas and eating breakfast.
Greg Lewin explained how his company, Canduit, could improve education so that when students graduate, they will be ready to enter the workforce. Michael Herod outlined how his company, Goefer, would provide better use of electricity by embedding smart meters that would allow users to control their electricity usage and save money.
Nanobiofab’s Xianoao Liu discussed her fat-burning tracker, which would guide people who want to lose weight. The wearable nanosensor would let people know how much fat they were burning.
While some of the pitches were very hi-tech, others were less so, including one for a company that would schedule rides for parents trying to get their children from one activity to the next without having to do the driving themselves or frantically calling family and friends seeking last-minute rides.
At the end of each pitch, the entrepreneur explained the need for $500,000 or $5 million, depending upon their companies’ needs.
The event included a fireside chat with “rockstar CEO and entrepreneur” Rick Weidinger, chairman and CEO of Robotic Vision Technologies of Silver Spring.
Weidinger has led many successful companies, beginning his career working at a railroad in Nebraska and being invited to join a few people working to bring fiberoptics along the rails. After Union Pacific Communicators, Weidinger continued to move around, all the while creating and buying companies. Weidinger went on to buy a car-racing team, A1 Team USA.
He has bought a few multimillion-dollar companies, “but he also has had to pay employees’ salaries out of his own bank account, he said.
“My background is really about two things. It’s about luck and timing,” he told the audience.
He advised those hoping to emulate his success to do their homework and really learn about a company before investing in it, rather than accepting everything people say about their companies.
“Invest in stuff you understand. Do your homework,” he said.
Another tip he offered was to “be very careful and very deliberate about the partner you choose.” Partners should have the same vision as you and be able to “handle the ups and the downs,” he said.
Also, Weidinger said, before buying a company, get to the point in a deal where you “don’t really care anymore.”
Tell the company your final terms and then wait, he advised.
“You are not afraid to walk. That’s really important,” he said,” noting, “We are patient. We are very patient.”
His newest venture, Robotic Vision Technologies, which began in 2010, doesn’t make robots. “We make technology that lets robots see and do,” he said.
The company’s robots provide object recognition. When given a photograph, the software turns it into “an almost 3D camera image,” he explained, noting his biggest customer is Ford Motor Company.
His robots are small enough to sit on a table and cost from $25,000 to $40,000, he said. They work side-by-side with humans, but don’t get sick, injured and work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Big Idea Connectpreneur occurs bimonthly throughout the mid-Atlantic region.