All posts by deforestmapp2018

Go solo or find a partner: When a startup needs a co-founder

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

Today’s startup inventor often brings revelation to fruition by returning home from a fulltime job to start a second life. The inventor may catch a few hours sleep, push forward on design in pajamas until 4 a.m., get a little more sleep, show up for work and do it all over again.

For an entrepreneur in the tech space, this is living the life, according to an article from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Career Outlook. But every founder goes through a series of life-changing steps needed to build a successful startup. While some steps revolve around people and establishing culture, the startup is equally hinged upon a good idea that solves a problem.

“Before you build something that nobody gives a shit about, why don’t [you] go back, make sure that we really understand the problem that we’re solving, that you’ve got a customer that cares enough to pay you for it,” said Billy Banks, associate program director of the Garage at Northwestern University. “If you don’t have that, you haven’t nailed the problem, yet.”

Founders who have spent countless hours designing the look, feel and tone of an experience, app or invention cannot believe what they have. That said, the next crucial steps include building a team, finding resources and hopefully scaling the business. According to an article on TechCrunch, there’s at least one way a founder can streamline that process – bring on a co-founder. The new partner may lack  business acumen but could work to pick up the skills or fill a gap as the tech whiz.

Paige Edmiston encourages healthcare startups to apply to MATTER, a non-profit and no-equity collaborative based in Chicago.

“We offer workshops in business [for our founders],” said Paige Edmiston, marketing manager of MATTER. “It’s really hard… there’s so much complexity [in a startup] that very few people know everything they need to know.”

Bringing equity to a startup, without diluting it, should come with a price, according to another TechCrunch  article. Skill sets such as programming, designing and JavaScript all seem easy enough – that is until a non-technical founder actually starts spending time in those environments. They will quickly learn they’re better off hiring someone else.

“The best way to hide your imperfections is to keep it simple,” said Scott Kitun, CEO of Technori. “It is much better to go into a little bit of debt… to hire the right person that does the job exceptionally well and faster and more efficiently than you, as a founder, spending your time doing something you’re not great at.”

Finding this kind of coveted type of talent might be easier if the founder lived somewhere near the Mission District in San Francisco, for example. It might be nice if a Bumble app existed just for technical and non-technical founders, allowing users to swipe left and right until a match is found. But until someone recognizes this as a problem, The Meetup app will do just fine.

“If you’re young, and you want to be in tech, your best bet is probably to go to SF because you can get a bunch of roommates, eat [obscenity] food and you can make it work in San Fran,” said Banks.

While twenty-something software developers in the Bay Area play the field and hold out for as much money as possible, the eager startup founder might consider relocating to Chicago, another hub for successful startups such as Groupon.

” [This] is why [you have] companies like Google and Facebook hiring more people here,” said Banks. “That’s why you have Amazon considering Chicago as a place to put their [headquarters], too.”

But even if the founder brings the startup to Chicago and finds it more affordable, he or she may face a potential dilemma. If the startup does not find a chief technology officer, it will more than likely not receive any rounds of capital from potential investors until this team member and a product is in place.

“You really have to have the business-model figured out of who’s going to pay for [the product],” said Edmiston. “Not only [having] a promising product and business model [is essential], but [we] also have [to have] confidence in the vision of the founder and the early-leadership-team.”

After months of searching and courting the right technical co-founder, the founder offers a candidate a partnership role, all contingent on his or her ability to deliver on a minimum viable product (MVP). And in exchange, the new startup is now defined by the efforts of two co-founders, partners in a new dream company.

The candidate accepts, thanks the founder and immediately begins assisting in building their future. But now the senior co-founder may start to anticipate how angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity firms receive the new team and idea-in-development.

“As you go into these meetings, you’re going to hear no a lot,” said Banks. The word no is “just an opportunity to ask a follow-up question and understand what the no is, so that when you get the next meeting, you’re starting to figure out how to overcome objections.”

The Startup Cycle and the Investment Stages: (DeForest Mapp/MEDILL)
Photo at top: A startup founder seeks a co-founder. (DeForest Mapp/MEDILL)

 

Tiger Woods golf course renovation plan adds to controversy on Obama Presidential Center

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

A tall black wire-mesh fence on 67th street provides the boundary for the golf course on the south side of Jackson Park. TGR Design is looking for a way to connect this course to the South Shore Golf Course as part of the Obama Presidential Center proposed for Jackson Park.

TGR design, based in Jupiter, Florida, is led by Tiger Woods, who offered the design work to former President Barack Obama.

On either side of the fence, the cold wind off Lake Michigan has scant respect for golfers.  On Sunday, Chicago architect Jacob Gay and North Shore medical assistant Steve Pettis offered thoughts on the $30 million renovation to the South Side golf courses as they played their separate games.

Plans for the renovation were presented earlier this winter by Beau Welling, senior design consultant for Woods’ design group.

“Let’s pass the budget so we can get [the construction of the new golf course] going,” said Pettis. Continue reading

Poised for the prowl: Black Panther’s box office attack continues

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

Superhero King T’Challa led the multitudes  to “Black Panther” for two consecutive weekends. The blockbuster topped attendance at any other movie with a domestic gross of $400 million and shattered previous earnings records for a film that showcased a majority African American cast.

“Black Panther” made gold for a Marvel gamble that debuted on 4,020 screens at midnight, Friday, Feb. 15.  Many theaters nationwide sold out screening the film with a production price tag north of $150 million.

“[Black Panther] was really a story about a family and a monarch that had to make a big decision whether to bring his country into the greater part of the world or not,” said Gary Hardwick, filmmaker of Deliver Us From Eva and The Brothers.  “I was really surprised that they went with that story as opposed to all the other things they could have done.”

“Black Panther” brought us to the home of  King T’Challa, who sought to keep his country cloaked from the outside world.  And in doing so, he learned he could never protect those who mattered to him most without building strong alliances.

“[Chadwick Boseman] was the only choice [for T’Challa],” Marvel President Kevin Feige said during the film’s official press conference held in Beverly Hills, California.  “We were sitting around the table.  We were coming up for the story for [Captain America] Civil War.  Nate Moore, the executive producer, had … suggested bringing in Black Panther because we were looking for sort of a third party who wouldn’t necessarily side with [Captain America] or side with Iron Man.  And almost instantly we all said, ‘Chadwick.’”

King T’Challa’s Royal Talon Fighter, descending upon Wakanda in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS/DISNEY

Director Ryan Coogler subtly tied the film to Oakland, California. Since the actual Black Panther Party  was founded in Oakland in 1966, the ties between Wakanda (created with special effects) and Oakland were intentional but clever.

“Wakanda was built in a room with Ryan [Coogler] and the incredible design team.  And so, to see it alive, it’s almost unimaginable,” said Lupita Nyong’o during the press conference for Black Panther.

Wakanda, on the surface, connected to many rural areas of Africa.  But T’Challa took the audience beyond a barrier  hidden to the naked-eye. “Black Panther” revealed a sense of community in Wakanda that the regular world may have found inconceivable.  Leaving the  world we know for this imagined world felt real.

“I think that [Black Panther] reveals that there is far greater potential in this world that we sometimes see every day,” said Chicago non-profit executive Ruth-Anne Renaud, 53, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema in Chicago with her husband Tom.

Lupita Nyong’o, (left), and Chadwick Boseman (right) in “Black Panther.” PHOTO: MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) shared  good chemistry but the timeliness and  the importance of love could have been called into question when Nakia felt the gravity of what was at stake.

“In African culture, they feel as if there is no king without a queen,” said Angela Bassett, Queen Mother in the film,  during Marvel’s press conference of the film.  “I was so proud to have my daughter and my son there last night because in their faces, in their spirit… they were feeling themselves.  They stood taller” during the official press conference.

Simple factors as well as great filmmaking contributed to  Black Panther’s  triumphant success.  First, it’s in the Marvel cinematic universe, which has a loyal fan base.  Second, African American films have always done well at the box office relative to their  often modest budgets.  African American romantic comedies from 1995 to 2008 had budgets between $6 million and $30 million, while generating total domestic revenues of approximately $1 billion, according to The Numbers, Imdb and Box Office Mojo.

“I did have high expectations [for Black Panther] but I went into it with a very open mind, knowing that it would be different than other Marvel movies and stories, but really not sure what to expect,” said Chicago sales and marketing executive Tom Renaud, after seeing “Black Panther” at the Arclight Cinema.  “So, I went into it with a very open mind knowing that the production value was going to be very high.”

King T’Challa / Black Panther in “Black Panther.” Photo:  MARVEL STUDIOS-DISNEY

Add to the  Marvel-recipe the Disney Co.’s global marketing, its distribution partners and a well-written story.  The result was a high-concept superhero who keeps his people safe by literally hiding them from the rest of the world.  An intuitive audience used this as an opportunity to explore its curiosity.

“Sky’s the limit now that they’ve brought X-Men and they’ve brought Spiderman back into the [current Marvel] family,” Hardwick said.  “So, [Marvel] can do anything now if they wanted to.”

If there was any power to draw from the story of “Black Panther” it might be for Hollywood executives to exert more commitment  to connect with segmented audiences.  Though “Black Panther” came from the Marvel universe, there are other science fiction stories to be told.  Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is but one due to be released in March.

“Make more stories that show the full spectrum of humanity and capability and possibility,” is what Ruth-Anne Renaud said she would say to Disney Studios Chairman, Alan Horn, if he were standing at the Arclight theater.

Infographic: BLACK PANTHER. Data sources: WSJ, Imdb Pro and Box Office Mojo.
Photo at top: Chadwick Boseman in “Black Panther.”Photo at top: MARVELSTUDIOS/DISNEY

South Siders divided over the Obama Presidential Center

By DeForest Mapp
Medill Reports

Transportation, parking and the use of Jackson Park for the  Obama Presidential Center are dividing area residents as plans and community feedback continue to pour in.

The Chicago Park District is setting the date for the next public meeting for the Obama Presidential Center as well as the Tiger Woods-designed  golf course that would refurbish and combine the Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center golf courses.

Check on  future meetings on the Obama Presidential Center and proposals for it. Hear the latest opinions in this video report. Continue reading South Siders divided over the Obama Presidential Center