Venturing into the world of successful start-ups

November 18, 2010 9:42:52 PM PST
Steve Jobs started Apple in his garage almost 35 years ago. Every day in the Bay Area, someone else dreams of launching the next big venture. Those with the knowhow and money say now is as a good time as any to start a new company. 7 On Your Side decided to explore the world of venture capital to see what it might take to strike it big.

Jenn Allen is doing what she enjoys most -- painting. Six months ago, the 29-year -old launched the company she's been dreaming about for almost 15 years ? rtist.com.

"Since 15, it was in the back of my head. I need to help artist sell their work and create more bandwidth," she said.

Travis Kalanick launched AN SAT prep company when he was just 18.

"I didn't ask for permission and I just did it. And I went to meet the people I need to meet to make my business successful," he said.

Now 16 years later, Kalanick is one of the people entrepreneurs come to when they need money for their start-ups -- he's an angel investor. Events like a mixer by Tech Cocktail take place regularly to give people with the vision a chance to meet others with money.

"Some companies have been acquired. We had SocialThing out of Boulder and they were eventually acquired by AOL. We've had companies get checks on the spot from angel investors," Tech Cocktail organizer Frank Gruber said.

Not all start-ups need lots of capital to get going. Scott Hacker started bucketlist.org with passion and sweat equity. Just like in the movie of the same name, users of bucket list write down what they want to accomplish before they die.

"I don't even really want to call it a job. It's just a labor of love. I may be able to monetize it in the future by making an iPhone app," Hacker said.

Finding investors for your start-up means building relationships to meet the right people.

"Things are not going to be handed to you. But if you hustle and you're smart, you will run into the awesome people in Silicon Valley that will help you. You will run into the awesome people in Silicon Valley who will fund you," Kalanick said.

The investors and entrepreneurs we talked to say the best companies find a need and fulfill it.

"I think it's about seeing a problem and wanting to fix it," Allen said.

"It takes a certain kind of personality and a certain amount of risk tolerance to be able to do it. And if you think you have it then I absolutely recommend doing it today," Assistly CEO Alex Bard said.

Allen's rtist.com allows artists to sell their work on the site commission free. Mathew Olyphant displays his work at San Francisco's Amelia Hyde Gallery and he also used rtist.com.

"It gives an artist the opportunity not too many people have, and that is be able to freely display your art," he said.

"You're going to hear a lot of people who are going to try to talk you out of it. Just realize this is a passion, do your research, and push your vision with as many people as possible," Allen said.


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