A Q&A with Gust CEO and Rose Tech Ventures Managing Partner David S. Rose about CATAPULT NYC, a contest for New York City-based startups, judged by a panel of Angel investors, and meant to further develop promising early-stage ventures focused on web, social, financial, mobile, green tech, entertainment, health, or media technologies. Prizes for the first and second place winners include mentorship from Angel investors, and a place at the Greenhouse incubator and the opportunity to pitch in front of the New York Angels for the first prize winner. The deadline for applicants is November 18, and ten companies will be selected to move on to a second round of judging by the end of December.
SUB: Please briefly describe the vision behind CATAPULT NYC.
Rose: The goal of CATAPULT NYC is to support New York City’s thriving startup community. Over the last decade, New York has transformed into a city of innovation, attracting the world’s most talented entrepreneurs. Through CATAPULT NYC, we hope to encourage further growth and innovation within Silicon Alley.
SUB: Who are the investors participating in the contest?
Rose: Among the professional Angel investors judging the contest are John Katzman, founder of Princeton Review, 2U and Noodle.org; Richard Katzman, former CEO of Kaz; Mark H. Schneider, founder of OPUS-ISM and Core Software Solutions; Joseph Ferrara, founder of Apparel Group International; Lawrence Richenstein, founder of Unwired Technology; and Mark Allison, Raebarn LLC.
The two winning startups will pitch to the Screening Committee of New York Angels, the most active Angel group in the United States, for investment in their companies. New York Angels’ members are successful and experienced investors who can offer a budding startup financial and strategic assistance. The opportunity to pitch them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
SUB: What was the genesis of the idea behind CATAPULT NYC?
Rose: We are proud that Gust’s platform has contributed to the growth of Silicon Alley, connecting many thousands of New York City-based startups with early-stage investors from a wide variety of New York Angel groups and venture capital funds. CATAPULT NYC offers an opportunity to continue our support for New York’s entrepreneurial scene, providing two promising startups with the mentorship, publicity, and investment required to build their companies.
SUB: What kinds of companies/sectors would you say are leading the way in technology innovation right now, particularly among New York City-based startups?
Rose: New York City’s startup community is as diverse as this city, and continues to grow. In fact, the city is currently the world’s fastest-growing tech startup ecosystem, and for good reason: entrepreneurs have access to the world’s leading market centers in advertising, finance, fashion, media, transportation, and more, and they benefit from a mayor and city that is devoted to helping them succeed.
SUB: Seed raises by startups seem to be on an upward trajectory. Has it become easier for new ventures to raise Seed funding, in your estimation?
Rose: There is no question that technology has made it easier for startups to access Seed funding. Gust’s platform, for instance, enables early-stage investors to find new promising companies, collaborate with other investors, and track deals. If an Angel chooses to fund a company, he or she can manage their investment on the platform as well. This type of direct connection between startups and investors has certainly made it easier for entrepreneurs to secure funding.
SUB: What is the one primary piece of advice you would offer to entrepreneurs just starting out and building a new technology startup?
Rose: Entrepreneurs should understand that first and foremost investors invest in people. It is critical that you not only demonstrate integrity, but also knowledge and passion for the industry which you are attempting to enter, and the business model with which you have chosen to approach it. Without these ingredients, credible investors shy away from taking a chance on you and it will be difficult to succeed.
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David S. Rose is a serial entrepreneur who crossed the aisle to become one of the country’s leading Angel investors…and then crossed back to found Gust, filling a major need in the rapidly-growing world of early-stage investing. As an entrepreneur, David has founded half a dozen companies since his first one at the age of ten, and has personally raised tens of millions of dollars of venture, strategic, and institutional capital. He was named to the Inc 500 list as CEO of one of the country’s fastest growing private companies, and has been described as a ‘world conquering entrepreneur’ by BusinessWeek.
As an Angel investor, David founded and chairs New York Angels, one of the largest and most active Angel investment groups in the U.S. He has personally invested in over 70 early-stage companies, and serves on the boards of directors of KoolSpan, Magnify Networks, Social Bomb, comiXology, and Pond5. Outside of Gust, David is Managing Principal of Rose Tech Ventures, Chairman of Egret Capital Partners, and Track Chair for Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Economics at Singularity University. He has been dubbed ‘The Pitch Coach’ by BusinessWeek for his work with early stage entrepreneurs, a ‘top dog in tech’ by Crains New York Business, and ‘patriarch of Silicon Alley’ by Red Herring magazine.