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Mod II Lunches 2016

Mod II lunches

Mod II Lunch With an entrepreneur 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 1:00 to 2:00

Debbie Gordon—Debbie is a Vanderbilt undergraduate who is originally from upstate New York.  While attending Vanderbilt she got the Nashville bug and has never left.  She began selling software products after receiving her degree.  But she really enjoyed shopping, especially for shoes.

 So she got to know all the shoe stores in Nashville real well.  One day she heard of a company called eBay that she thought looked interesting, so she tried selling a few things on eBay and did quite well.  This led her to combine her love of shoe shopping with her interest in eBay.  So she would go to a shoe store holding a sale and buy the entire stock that was on sale.  Then she resold them on eBay at a nice profit.  Her friends heard she was doing and asked her to sell stuff for them, so pretty soon she was busy shoe shopping, and selling stuff for friends on eBay while still selling software at her real job.

 One day she decided there might be a business opportunity here, so she drove over to Green Hills, found an empty storefront, and signed the lease for it that day.  That started Snappy Auctions. Snappy Auctions would take things people wanted to sell, make pictures of the item to display on eBay, manage the sale, and return the proceeds, minus a fee, to the customer.  The company had lots of business, so Debbie decided to franchise the idea.  She built an international franchise operation with one of her most successful franchisees located in Japan. 

 At this point she noticed that she was spending most of her time with franchisees who generate relatively small amounts of revenue for her, so she bean shrinking her franchise network.  But she really knew how to sell stuff on online auctions, so she shifted to selling items with high value, like medical equipment or computers.  The fee for one of these items were relatively high, so it was a lucrative business.

 She expanded into industrial equipment where a piece of equi9pment might sell for $50,000 or more.  To find this equipment, Debbie built a network of Manufacturers Reps who would feed her leads to companies who had surplus equipment; she would share the fee with the Reps who could supplement their income with very little extra work.

 This business, called Snappy Sales Service, became a very successful company that Debbie sold a few months ago. This is a highly abbreviated story of her entrepreneurial career, so come to the lunch to fill in some of the details.

  

Monday, October 31, 1:00 to 2:00

Steve Curnutte—Steve graduated from Wake Forrest University with a degree in Philosophy and English Literature, and with that excellent training, he began his career as a songwriter and musician.  He had a bus, a band, and they played gigs from one end of the country to the other.  But eventually, the glamor of the job wore off, so he chose another field where his academic training would be useful:  Finance.

Steve started a company that focused on helping high net worth individuals who were planning to purchase homes with prices above three million dollars.  He would work with the client to get them the best financial terms for their home loan.  This became a quite successful business that he was able to sell to a bank; the transaction merged his firm into the bank where he continued to work running his division.  And then the Crash of 2008 occurred, and life took a different turn.

A friend of his was having financial difficulties and asked Steve to help him.  So Steve stepped in and renegotiated loans for the friend, helped him to stretch out terms with suppliers, and finally got the company on an even keel so it was able to avoid bankruptcy.  And thus was begun the saga of Tortula Advisors.

Steve says he takes really messed up companies and makes them work again.  The more extreme the mess, the better he likes it.  He usually takes equity or convertible debt as compensation for what he does, so ask him how many companies he has equity in.  You should hear some great war-stories at this lunch. 

 

Tuesday, November 8, 1:00 to 2:00

Joe Cashia (Owen 1995)Joe’s first startup venture was National Renal Alliance, a company founded by Harry Jacobson, a successful local entrepreneur and former head of the medical side of Vanderbilt University.  After the company was sold, Joe played for a year, got bored and started another company.  He also invested in an emu farm on the side (ask him about this venture). 

Sold that company and started a company called Renal Care that focused on services for people in wealthy bedroom communities around big cities.  After saturating this market, he expanded his services to smaller cities that were underserved.  Joe sold the company in 2009 and launched another new venture.

This venture focused on a market with some of the same characteristics as his renal care company. i.e., customers with relatively high net worth who could afford to pay cash for health care services.  He built a network of fertility clinics; he focused on serving the needs of this market such as the need for privacy and discretion in dealing with clients.  For example, there were no waiting rooms in his clinics. When a client arrived they were immediately taken to a private room where waited for their appointment with a clinician. 

Joe is a master at choosing healthcare services that serve clients who can pay cash rather than use insurance.  He is also a character, so this should be a fun session.  He now spends his time investing his capital in startups.

 

Tuesday, November 15th, 1:00 to 2:00

Joe Kustelski (Owen 2008)—Joe has spent over 15 years delivering results by building teams that live at the intersection of marketing, entertainment and technology.  Upon graduating from Owen, Joe joined Echo Music, a company that helped performing artists build relationship with their fan base.  The company which was founded by Mark Montgomery was sold to TicketMaster shortly after Joe joined Echo.  Not being comfortable in a big company environment, Joe left and co-founded Rockhouse partners, a company that planned and ran events for organizations and companies.

About three years after it’s founding, Rockhouse was purchased by Etix, an electronic ticketing and marketing company located in Raleigh, NC.  A year later, Joe moved into the CEO position where served for four years.  He then led Etix to a successful exit, and he left Etix in 2015, and moved back to Nashville to start Chalkline Sports, a media technology company that powers platforms for communities and marketplaces of sports bettors.

 URL is http://www.chalklinesports.com/.

Joe also was one of the first employees of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, so he can tell you what that experience was like.  We are glad to have Joe back in Nashville so he can contribute his energy to the local entrepreneur community.


Wednesday, November 30, 1:00 to 2:00

Michael Anderson (Vanderbilt Graduate School, M.S. in Computer Science)—Michael began developing the software for GameWisp while studying for his MS in Computer Science at Vanderbilt.  He presented his idea at one of the FireStarter sessions held at Owen and was chosen as the best idea presented at his session. 

From their website:  https://gamewisp.com/

GameWisp is an interaction, viewing, and monetization platform for live streamers and gaming YouTubers. GameWisp is a run by a small group of developers and professionals passionate about gaming content and the people who create it.

As a platform, GameWisp allows any gaming YouTuber or streamer to offer a monthly subscription service to fans in exchange for benefits, exclusive content, and additional interaction.

As a business, GameWisp believes that any streamer or gaming YouTuber should have the ability to make a living doing what they love. Our tools were created to help streamers and YouTubers accomplish this goal.

The company has already raised almost $1 million in capital.  If you are interested in how to make money off the internet, here is your chance to find out from someone who has done it.

Stories about GameWisp

This piece gives a great explanation of how to make money with GameWisp

http://www.builtinchicago.org/2014/07/14/how-techstars-gamewisp-taking-over-350-million-person-youtube-gaming-market