The SEC has adopted new rules which would permit companies to offer and sell securities through online crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital by monetary contributions from a large number of people, usually through the Internet. The new rules will allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to more easily raise capital, and will permit average citizens to invest in startups and early stage businesses. Companies are no longer required to offer securities only to accredited investors; now, anyone can participate in an equity offering, subject to certain investment limits. The new rules were enabled by the 2012 JOBS Act, which created an exemption to the existing securities laws to make equity crowdfunding possible. The SEC has been working on crafting new rules since that time. (These new crowdfunding rules should not be confused with, and do not replace, other rules adopted pursuant to the JOBS Act several years ago that expanded the ability of issuers to raise capital using Rule 506 0f Regulation D.)

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It’s not where the Sox play ball.  It’s home to the world’s largest accelerator, MassChallenge, where 128 start-up businesses from around the world are polishing their plans and getting mentored in hopes of winning money or landing that critical investor audience.

I just finished leading my third program on how to pitch.  The finalists are far enough along that they no longer get allowances for unknowns and the chance to engage a listener with information they only hope to hone.  They’ve done enough homework to know their team needs, round out their data, show they’ve tapped the right market, trot out validating customers, or boast a board of advisers.  Yet even the most brilliant entrepreneur can get caught in the headlights.

Here are the six tips that the companies I’m coaching will hear from me in the coming weeks:
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A solar water heater on every Israeli rooftop

Israel is a garden of inventiveness and Israelis have a strong tradition of contributing to technology and life sciences. Breathing the innovation when I lived there, I was privileged to test PrimeSense’s 3D camera, help bring Notal Vision’s tool to gauge macular degeneration to the United States, deliver a turn-key VoIP network in Nigeria and Zambia on behalf of VocalTec, license ecommerce and security software to dozens of Fortune 100 companies, watch knee surgery with miraculous tissue-repairing Regentis hydrogel, play with a gear box created from an Objet (now Stratasys) 3D printer, and negotiate sponsored research, patent licenses and clinical trials on behalf of emerging pharmaceutical companies.

Figuring out what gives rise to the “start-up nation” character, with wildly disproportionate foreign direct investment and numbers of translated books, cited academics, filed patents, Nasdaq companies, successful exits, and tuneful children’s songs, is a pervasive new-age question. Many answers have been floated, including its world-class research institutions, the very first technology transfer offices for commercialization of academic R&D, raw skills honed in one of the best-trained and most-sophisticated militaries, a culture of questioning, and a flood of ex-Soviet engineering talent over three decades. Naturally one can’t discount that there are real issues to be addressed too. Israelis have done it — from discerning security risks through synthesis of big data to making the desert bloom with fruit, vegetables, fish, and minerals.
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shutterstock_176154356_LowA McKinsey report published in February 2014 estimates that mobile phone ownership among adults in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is estimated to be 66 percent. The rapid spread of Internet-enabled mobile phones throughout SSA has created an opportunity for the emergence of tech startups and venture capital firms in economically vibrant cities such as Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi. For many people, mobile phones are more than a communication tool. They are a technology platform that provides access to other services and experiences such as money transfer, entertainment, and education. As a consequence, tech entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity to provide tools and applications relevant to the African context. Their rise is aided in part by relatively low operational capital costs due to inexpensive Internet bandwidth and data storage. This growth offers much needed employment, opens avenues for wealth generation, and increases the role of science and technology in the continuing expansion of Africa’s economies. Notable SSA startups include Konga, an ecommerce company in Nigeria, and Ushahidi, a global eyewitness reporting application founded in Kenya.
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Gaming ConsoleVideo games were once associated with couch potatoes, but today there is growing legitimacy, especially around what is known as “eSports.” This type of professional competitive gaming is gaining popularity in the U.S., and eSports is breaking into the mainstream world — emerging technology companies, standard athletic programs, and even higher education institutions are jumping on the virtual band wagon.

According to Forbes, the U.S. started recognizing eSports players as professional athletes in July 2013. Last summer, ESPN.com began broadcasting an eSports championship, and Red Bull now sponsors a “Battle Grounds” eSports tournament.
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InnovationIt was great to see the New York entrepreneurial community and the next generation of entrepreneurs gather at this year’s Columbia Business School (CBS) Fall Venture Fair, which was held on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014. Approximately 40 student business teams were showcased to more than 100 guest attendees from the New York entrepreneurial community, including, seasoned entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, accountants and financial advisors. After a few brief opening remarks by the CBS faculty members who helped organize the event, guests were invited to meet with student teams at their dedicated booths setup throughout the room. As student teams showcased their business ideas, guest attendees were encouraged to provide feedback on the students’ investor pitch and to provide informal guidance with respect to the development of the students’ business plans.

The scope of business ventures represented at the event varied considerably. The companies ranged from early stage ventures still working on a beta test of their product to fully operating small businesses with product presently available on the market. The breadth of product offerings were also extremely varied and included everything from mobile apps and other technology platforms to skin care products and ready-made cold brewed iced coffee for home and office use.
Continue Reading A First Look at New York City’s Next Generation of Entrepreneurs