• Amanda Castellino posted an article

    Immersive Technologies: What Investors Need to Look For Before Leveraging Opportunities?

    Understanding the factors impacting the success of VR, AR & mixed reality in immersive technologies. see more

    Immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are redefining how consumers engage digitally with each other. As a way to connect with customers, businesses are looking to transform how they communicate and capture attention. However, as an investor, it becomes vital to know the sector and understand what the future holds. 

    Garrett Eastham, computational neuroscience, federated machine learning, and immersive technologies (3D/AR/VR) expert, joined us at our September 2022 roadshow to share his experience and insights on the immersive technology sector. He also talked about what investors need to look at before investing in companies in the space. 

    Let’s talk about immersive technology in detail:


    Immersive Ecosystem:

    The immersive technology ecosystem is vast and continuously evolving. The AR/VR industry is estimated to grow to at least the size of the current smartphone market. It goes without saying that customers are already enjoying immersive experiences and a lot has been possible because of investments that have allowed the market to stay in power and grow rapidly. 

    But now the question arises - what should an investor look into a startup using immersive technology? There are 3 crucial things that an investor should ask before writing a check:


    1. Distribution Channels: The biggest factor for an investor to know is how the customers are using the product and through what distribution platforms. This is similar to asking about customer acquisition which is often considered in other startups. The distribution channels can be Native App Experience and Web 3D Assets (directly used in websites). More elaborate channels such as 4D VR experiences can also be implemented. These typically include the use of higher-end VR systems like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Sony Playstation VR. A brand website or app is also a logical place to feature 360 content – even content with VR mode. This seems like such a basic move but a tactic that has been overlooked by quite a few brands who have gone through the effort and expense of creating 360 & VR content. 
    2. Immersive Platforms: When it comes to immersive platforms, it is about understanding how the companies are actually delivering the customer experience. There are several platforms like augmented reality for mobile or using VR and XR headsets. These experiences can also feature everything from haptic vests, scent dispersion contraptions, wind machines, stationary bicycles, harnesses, and more to heighten the senses. Regardless, they are able to create high levels of immersion – what is called presence and hopefully leave users feeling more connected to a brand. 
    3. 3D Content & Development: Finally looking at the tools and platforms the startups in the immersive tech space are using to create 3D content. This is where the investors need to look into things such as the Game engine used for creation, user experience, and platforms used to develop the 3D assets. The ‘user experience creation’ is the most difficult part as there is no end-to-end way to manage it. So, investors must look into this and understand how the company is actually delivering and managing it.


    Creating A Valuable Experience:


    As mentioned earlier, user experience plays a vital role in immersive products whether it is consumer-centric or B2B. If you are an angel investor, then it is most likely that the startup doesn’t have a full-fledged experience created. So how will you decide if the user experience is of value to the customer? 


    For Consumers: If the startup is focused on creating an immersive experience for consumers, then you should be able to see a demonstration of how it will look and feel. As an investor, you need to experience it and ask yourself if it is adding value also you can take a look at the data for products used by consumers in the trial stage before it is made available to all consumers.


    For B2Bs: Immersive technology has the potential to streamline a lot of processes in business operations. So, if the product is created for B2B, then the investor must know if it is adding demonstrable enterprise value to the target corporate user. It is not just about the user experience of the enterprise as a whole who is adopting the technology but the end user who is going to actually use it.


    Immersive technology has the power to influence a lot of markets including gaming, healthcare, education, art, and e-commerce. It is playing a pivotal role to enhance the user experience.  


    About the Speaker: 


    Garrett specializes in the design and development of production A.I. systems - from initial notebook to restful microservices and modularized front-end experiences, as well as the necessary teams and go-to-market planning required to scale from the first customer POC to a mature end-to-end offering. Over the past 10 years, he has played critical roles on the founding executive teams of several venture-scale organizations (FloorFound, Vertebrae, Edgecase) and has personally helped raise and deploy over $20 million of growth capital.


     December 30, 2022
  • Amanda Castellino posted an article

    What Is Go-to-Market Strategy And Why Is It Crucial For Your Business?

    Getting product in the market is only half the battle. see more

    Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now - Alan Lakien

    Without proper planning, a business is bound to fail. It becomes impossible to know if you are targeting the right audience, if the market is filled with similar solutions that you are offering or if you are way too early in the market. This is where the go-to-market strategy comes in. A go-to-market strategy is simply defined as how you bring your product to market. It includes target audience research, a marketing plan, and a sales strategy. 

    Eric Vest, a serial entrepreneur and M&A advisor, specializing in laboratory informatics shared his insights on the ways to bring your product into the market and how creating a go-to-market strategy can help immensely. 

    Let’s talk about go-to-market strategy in detail:

    Go-to-market strategies anticipate the challenges of this competitive space by thoroughly identifying the target market, articulating the product’s value proposition, crafting a marketing plan, and developing a strategy for its sales and distribution channels. Some of the most common benefits of compiling an effective GTM strategy include: 

    ● Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the marketplace, the target market, and the proposed product’s place in it.

    ● Keeping marketing costs down by identifying promotional channels with the highest return on investment (ROI).  

    ● Troubleshooting product positioning and messaging before going to market.

    ● Concretely defining the logistics of distribution and sales channels before launch to ensure maximum market impact.

    Go-to-market strategy benefits:

    In addition to helping you launch a product successfully, compiling an effective GTM strategy can benefit your business in several ways, including: 

    Clarifies the business mission 

    Creating any sort of business strategy, including a GTM strategy, is a great opportunity to review your business’ mission and make sure your product efforts are in alignment. Why does this exist? What will it achieve for its employees and customers? What values drive this mission? How do new products support this mission? 

    Understanding the market 

    Compiling a GTM strategy involves gaining a comprehensive understanding of the marketplace, the target market, your competitors, and the proposed product’s place in it. With more insight into customers and the market conditions, your organization will have more tools to thrive in all areas of business, from product launches to introducing a new brand identity to the world.    

    Reducing costs 

    With a solid GTM strategy, you can keep marketing costs down by identifying promotional channels with the highest return on investment (ROI) and developing marketing messaging and content that will resonate with your target market.  

    Reducing time to market

    GTM strategies also help you launch products more quickly in the following ways: 

    ● Prioritizing tasks that are essential for a product to enter the market

    ● Troubleshooting product positioning and messaging before going to market 

    ● Concretely defining the logistics of distribution and sales channels before launch to ensure maximum market impact

    Depending on the kind of product you are launching, you might consider the minimum viable product (MVP) approach: making sure the product has enough features to attract early adopters, validating the product, and learning what product updates or improvements could improve customer experience.

    Building more brand awareness

    With the launch and promotion of a new product, you have an opportunity to bring more attention to your brand as a whole, and even attract new niche markets, thereby expanding your customer base. 

    Increasing growth potential 

    Overall, a GTM strategy, when skillfully executed, can increase your organization’s growth potential. With access to new niche markets, organized market data, and an efficient process for launching products, you can seize growth opportunities more easily than without a GTM strategy. 

    How to create a go-to-market strategy:

    A go-to-market strategy compiles several other strategies and marketing methods to ensure a product enters the market with the best possible chance of success.  





















    To help you better understand what goes into compiling a GTM, the following guide includes key elements you should develop throughout the process. 


    Identifying target market.

    The customer is the centerpiece of any marketing strategy. 

    As a result, whether you are bringing a new product to market or refreshing an existing one, it is imperative that you first research and identify the target market that will be most interested in purchasing it. 

    As you identify your target market, answer these questions: 

    ● Is your product being sold to everyday consumers (B2C) or to other businesses (B2B)? 

    ● Will you use demographic, psychographic, or other types of segmentation to define your target market?

    ● What are the pain points of your target market? What problem are you solving with your product?


    Clarifying value proposition.

    A product’s value proposition is the benefit it provides consumers and the problems it solves. In other words, your product’s value proposition articulates why the target market should purchase the product. 

    As you are preparing your go-to-market strategy, you should have a clear understanding of the value proposition that your product provides in order to direct your marketing efforts.

    The exact value proposition that your product or service will provide is dependent on what it is and who its target market is. To define your product's value proposition, answer the following:

    ● What pain points does your product remedy?

    ● How does your product stand out from your competitors?

    ● What unique features or experience does your product or service provide potential customers?


    Defining pricing strategy. 

    Price is an important factor for any product. You don’t want to sell a product for too much or too little. If you do, you’ll risk either not moving enough product or eating too much into your profit margin. 

    Now that you have an understanding of your target market and the value that your product offers, you have a better understanding of what price a consumer might be willing to pay for your product. 

    A good price is one that fits your business objectives, matches your customer profile, and makes you competitive in the marketplace. 


    Crafting promotion strategy.

    Your promotion strategy is your action plan to promote your product to your target customers. Here, you should craft a marketing plan that outlines the exact steps you will take to reach your customer base. 

    The techniques you use to promote your product will depend entirely on the product or service you are selling. For instance, while one business might use a sales team to pitch its product to other businesses, another might instead focus on social media marketing to raise brand awareness and draw in potential customers organically. 


    Choosing sales and distribution channels.

    Sales channels are where consumers can purchase your product, while distribution channels are the ways that your product actually gets to your customer.   

    Often, sales channels and distribution channels can be the same, such as when a consumer buys directly from a manufacturer. In other instances, distribution channels can be much more complex, such as when a producer sells to a wholesaler, who in turn sells to a retailer who then finally sells their product to a consumer. 

    Whether you decide to sell your product in-person or online, directly to a consumer or to a wholesaler, or some other variation, depends on the unique needs of your product. Whatever you pick, the buyer’s journey should be as seamless as possible to reduce friction and increase sales. 


    Setting metrics to monitor performance.

    The success of your go-to-market strategy is completely dependent on the goals that you set. In setting these goals, you are also identifying the metrics you will use to measure your success. 

    As your GTM strategy goes from idea to reality, it is important to keep track of your metrics and to make any necessary adjustments as you go along. For example, if it turns out that you are paying more to acquire customers than they are paying for your product, then you will need to adjust your strategy to reach a better customer acquisition cost. 


    About the speaker: 


    Eric Vest is a strategic and M&A advisor, specializing in laboratory informatics and all technologies related to biotech, pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, public health, and healthcare. He works as an advisor or board member, mainly assisting private equity firms, their portfolio companies, and other growth-stage organizations who are trying to plan for an exit, raise capital, or make acquisitions. 


     December 16, 2022
  • Article

    Recognizing and Correcting Symptoms of Startup Failure

    Lack of product that is market fit or management, what’s hurting the startups? see more

    Failure among startups is disappointingly pretty common. According to Forbes, 9 out of 10 startups fail, which is a hard and bleak truth that an entrepreneur and investor must think upon. A lot of factors are responsible for a startup to not work and almost every other startup faces these issues. So, what can be done to overcome these things? Well, a lot of analyzing, reworking and planning is required.  

    Gary Yamamura, a serial investor and entrepreneur with 20+ years of consulting experience shared his views on why startups fail and what can be done to overcome the challenges.  Let’s start discussing this in detail: 

    Startup failure rate: 
















     As mentioned earlier, 90% of startups fail in the first 5 years of their establishment. Out of these 90, around 10% are out of business in the first year itself, whereas the remaining 80% lose the battle between their 2nd and 5th year. Statistics like such are not meant to discourage entrepreneurs and investors but to encourage them to work smarter.  


    Top reasons for startup failure: 


    Product Market Fit: “A product that no one wants is bound to fail.” According to Fortune, 34% of startups fail to understand the needs of the market and create a product that is not needed. With companies like Uber and Lyft, commuting became easy, whereas Amazon changed how e-commerce works. Hence, it is crucial to understand if the product will actually help the people or not. 


    Marketing: Despite the growth of digital marketing, a lot of startups keep it aside when it comes to their growth strategy. Even if they are doing marketing, it is not focused and lacks a marketing plan. No matter how great your product is, it is vital to leverage referrals, leads, and advertising. People will not know about your product if they aren’t aware that you exist and this is why marketing is vital for every startup.  


    Team: Around 18% of startups claim that they failed because of a bad team. So, it can be rightly said that a team can make or break a startup. People management and running a team require a lot of continuous effort. A smooth and successful management requires proper understanding of team, leadership skills, and communication. Good ideas need execution and that’s where the team comes in. If the ideas are not communicated properly, then the team is bound to fail.  


    Money: Finally, another important area where startups fall flat is running out of money. Cash flow is crucial for any company. A lot of startups begin with small amounts of money and as they grow, they need proper cost management. It’s easy to forget how much time it takes to pay back your initial expenses, let alone turn a profit. When it comes to cost management, it is also vital to have support when things are not going right.  


    When you look at all the above-mentioned factors, everything leads back to a root cause and that is: Management.  Businesses are run through decisions made by the management/leadership team, but if they are not competent, then eventually problems like money, product strategy, and marketing are affected. Now the question arises - how to know if a startups management team is bad: 


    Lack of experience: Things like leadership skills, client relations, basic business tactics and team management skills are four most basic and important things to have. If your management team lacks any of these, then the road to success can be a tough one. A lot of first-time entrepreneurs lack these skills, and it can affect their abilities to communicate.  

    Lack of planning: It is often seen that companies with clear mission and vision find it easier to explain things to their team as well as customers. Not only this, the management team must also know clear answers to questions like what product or service will you provide? Is it adding value? What are your objectives, and how will you attain them? Having a clear plan and roadmap provides a better chance of success. 


    Now that we have discussed the reasons for failure, let’s take a look at what can be done to avoid them: 


    1. Proper documentation: This may sound cliche but having everything such as your plans, vision, financial forecast and mission documented can help sort a lot of issues. It helps in providing a clear path for your team to follow and also providing a reference. 
    2. Spend like it's your money: Finance is a crucial aspect for running a business smoothly. Knowing the expenses, managing them and using them correctly are crucial. This can only be achieved if the team understands the value and outcome of investing each penny.  
    3. Be honest: A pretty obvious thing a leader needs to follow is being honest. If you are honest, then you can discuss the issues with the team without any resistance and make better decisions.  
    4. When things fail, take a step back: Often times moving forward is the only thing that’s on the mind of an entrepreneur. But when things are not going right, it is important to take a step back and assess if you are going in the right direction.  
    5. Think, replan and pivot: At every stage of your startup journey, it is vital to look at things you are doing. If they need restructuring or replanning, then it must be carefully thought and executed.  


    About the speaker:


    Gary is a versatile senior advisor with superior communication skills and extensive knowledge and experience in developing, introducing, and ongoing management of advanced technology products and related services. He also has hands-on experience in program management, project management, operations management, training, and process streamlining through automation and re-engineering. 

     November 23, 2022
  • Amanda Castellino posted an article

    Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies Returns In-Person with the Investor Capital Expo 2022 and Posts Record-Breaking Investment Numbers.

    $144 Million was invested by the Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies community members in 2020 & 2021 see more

    A record $144 Million was invested by the Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies community members in 2020 and 2021. 

    SEATTLE, WA August 18, 2022 – After two years of hosting meetings virtually, Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies returned in person for the Investor Capital Expo 2022 at Microsoft on August 11th. During the two days, Keiretsu Capital (www.keiretsucapital.com), Keiretsu Family Office (www.keiretsufamilyoffice.com), and Keiretsu Forum jointly welcomed more than 400 guests to its VIP Dinner at Chateau Lill, Mindshare Forum Gathering and the Investor Capital Expo conference at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.

    The event showcased 18 premiere and diverse growth-stage companies and a lineup of premier keynotes and panels that presented an educational track diving into the hottest trends in angel investing. Out of the 18 presenting companies, Vampr (www.vampr.me) took home the coveted - Most Valued Company Award, which was voted on by the investors in attendance and awarded at the conclusion of the event. While, Loopr AI (www.loopr.ai) received the - Most Investor Interest Award, based on the total investor interest generated at the Expo. Wrapping up the Most Valued Company Award, Loopr AI and Otonexus (otonexus.com) came in second and third place, respectively. While, UpMeals (www.upmeals.ca) and 7BC Venture Capital (www.7bc.vc) took home the second and third most investor interest award, respectively.

    The angel group also bestowed A Lifetime Achievement Award to Ronald Weissman, the Vice Chairman of the Angel Capital Association. The Most Valued Member Award went to Karen Howlett for her active participation and contribution to the Keiretsu Forum community.

    Throughout the length of the pandemic restrictions on gatherings, the Keiretsu Forum investor community invested $144 Million in backing 209 companies, and generated over 12,000 investor interests in early-stage companies that presented at their forums in 2020 through June 2022. They also announced an addition of 144 new members. Adding to their success, they were also ranked the #1 angel group in the US consecutively for the last two years by the Angel Resource Institute's HALO Report. “Keiretsu Forum is so excited to bring back together our community with the entire startup ecosystem in support of these innovative technology companies,” said Brianna McDonald, President “Our community is strengthened by our members’ active participation in the numerous facets of Keiretsu Forum: the mindshare forums, pre-screening committees, deal screenings, forum meetings, charitable giving, educational programs and social events. The relationships that members build through Keiretsu Forum continue to deepen as their involvement increases and our global community grows. Together we seek to collaborate and fund a future we want to live in for us and our children.”

    About Keiretsu Forum Northwest and Rockies

    Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies is the Pacific Northwest portion of Keiretsu Forum. It includes chapters in Vancouver (Canada), Denver/Boulder, Bellevue, Seattle, Salt Lake City/Boise, and Portland. Keiretsu Forum Northwest & Rockies has more than 400 members and has invested over $500 million since its founding in 2005. For more information, visit www.k4northwest.com

    About Keiretsu Forum

    Keiretsu Forum is a global investment community of accredited private equity angel investors, venture capitalists, and corporate/institutional investors. Keiretsu Forum was founded in 2000 by Randy Williams. Keiretsu Forum today is a worldwide network of capital, resources, and deal flow with 55+ chapters on four continents. Keiretsu Forum members invest in high-quality, diverse investment opportunities. To date, it has invested over $1 billion in 2000+ companies. The community is strengthened through its involvement in social and charitable activities. www.keiretsuforum.com

     August 23, 2022