Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Interview with Joe Platnick, Pasadena Angels
In my continuing coverage of Los Angeles Technology Week, I sat down with Joe Platnick, a Pasadena Angels member to learn more about the group's program this Thursday on entrepreneurship. socalTECH.com is a sponsor of the event.
BK: What's the goal of the LA Tech Week entrepreneur program on January 26th, and how are the Pasadena Angels involved?
JP: For next week's Second Annual Los Angeles County Technology Week (www.latechweek.com), we knew it was important to offer a program for entrepreneurs and founders of early stage companies on the most critical aspects of starting, funding and growing an emerging technology venture. It's called "Ignite Your Venture Without Getting Burned."
The Pasadena Angels are producing this event and we are also a sponsor of Technology Week. We are also a long time strategic partner of the Business Technology Center of Los Angeles County (BTC)-the host of Technology Week.
For those unfamiliar with Technology Week, it's an annual event that includes a wide variety of great educational and networking programs for everyone in the tech space, from entrepreneurs to veteran CEOs. This year Technology Week is January 24-28.
BK: What will the speakers cover at this session, and what will entrepreneurs learn from them?
JP: The main discussion will be about the areas and activities that are most critical to the success of an early stage technology company. This will include some real world examples of best practices from companies that the Pasadena Angels and local VC firms have funded or worked with. As part of this discussion, we'll also talk about the great free or low-cost resources that are available to entrepreneurs in Southern California
And, since funding is often a crucial need at start ups, we'll also talk about how to get easier and faster access to angel and VC investors.
BK: Who are the speakers?
JP: For this program, we're fortunate to have several speakers with long and successful track records working with emerging companies in Southern California. I will be the moderator. We have Russell Reeder, a successful serial entrepreneur, CEO of RightsLine and president of the local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Organization (YEO). From the funding community, we have Stephen Watkins, a partner with the Venture Capital firm Arcturus Capital, and John Isaacson, director and founder of the Pasadena Angels. Stephen and John also have considerable experience serving as board members and mentors with start up companies. Lastly, we'll have Randy Churchill of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, whose firm has worked with many successful emerging companies.
BK: What's your own background, and how did you get involved with the Pasadena Angels?
JP: I have a rather eclectic background. Since graduating from college with studies in engineering, computer science and business, I've worked for a variety of hardware and software companies-start-ups through Fortune 500. I started my career as a software developer then went into a variety of sales and marketing management positions and eventually ended up doing what I'm now doing, which is running software companies. I've also had experience with VC fundraising and turnaround management, both here and overseas.
Over the last few years, I got to know some of the founders of the Pasadena Angels through the local MIT Alumni Club and the CalTech/MIT Enterprise Forum. After seeing the great organization that they had built and their standing in the local entrepreneurial community, it was an easy decision to join the organization a year ago. For me it's been the best of all worlds, having an opportunity to apply my experience to some great emerging companies here in Southern California.
BK: Finally, what areas do you find entrepreneurs need the most help?
JP: Securing funding is probably the most challenging area for entrepreneurs. Although Angel groups and VCs have loosened the purse strings a bit over the last 12 months, it's still an arduous process for entrepreneurs. Along with this, many of the companies we come across have great founders and interesting technology, but haven't put together the critical pieces that are required to build a successful venture and win over investors. Some examples of these areas include developing better market domain expertise and an understanding of the customer, liquidity planning to determine present and future cash requirements, and figuring out how they'll generate revenue. One of the topics we'll be discussing at our Technology Week event is where to find great people and resources that can help entrepreneurs through this process at minimal cost.