Atlanta entrepreneurs seek capital and connections

11:37 PM, Oct 15, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA, Ga. -- Three local entrepreneurs behind three very different technology companies all have the same goal -- get people with deep pockets to support them.

This week, the 30-something dreamers are preparing to impress and go before top-tier investors with the hopes of securing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Venture Atlanta conference.

Marshall Seese, Jr. is getting ready to present his business, Songster.

"It's for people who love music but have never tried their hand at making it," Seese Jr. said.

The music loving attorney left the firm and decided to tackle this idea with two tech savvy friends. Songster allows you to create music by dragging and snapping blocks together. Each block contains different vocals, or music from an instrument. Along the way, people can unlock 'achievements' such as hiring a manager or landing a record deal.

"We've game-ified the creation process," he said.

Free to play and as little as .90 to download, their focus is now on big money. Already going through their first $750,000 in funding from angel investors, they're going after the next cash infusion at the conference. 

Badgy also needs more funding after securing $600,000 from local investors and one very prominent businessman, Mark Cuban. The billionaire believed in Rob Kischuk and his company which is all about search engine optimization, or SEO.

"When you search for things on Google, you want things to show up at the top. If you're a company, you want your product to show up on the newsfeed of Facebook too," Kischuk explained.

Badgy showcases and helps companies reward fans for being brand ambassadors. One of the big companies they're working with is the Dallas Mavericks, owned by investor Mark Cuban.

Kischuk has worked in startups his entire career, but this is the first time he's led one. 

"The first year of the company, I wasn't full-time with no salary. I was going contract work 20 hours a week and we were living kind of lean," he explained. 

Caroline Van Sickle also took some big risks to launch her company.

"I liquidated by 401K and went through my savings," Van Sickle explained.

Scary, but belief in her idea, propels her.

"Fear is natural. It's what puts the fire in your belly," she said.

Her social media app, Pretty in My Pocket, was born out of bewilderment in the beauty aisle at a convenience store.

"There are 50 different mascaras to choose from, how do you make the choice? There are foundations, all sorts of products," she explained. "I would get so frustrated I would walk away from the purchase."

Van Sickle learned that behavior is known as 'purchase abandonment' and she says it's a billion dollar problem for companies. Pretty in My Pocket is designed to help brands and retailers connect with consumers to prevent people from walking away. Through a product's bar code, the app gives users access to consumer reviews and discounts on beauty products.

"I don't think we have it all figured out but we're almost there," Van Sickle said.

Investors are certainly buying into her idea. After working with $350,000 in angel funding, just like Seese and Kischuk, she's going for more financial support at Venture Atlanta this week.

The largest venture conference in Georgia is Wednesday and Thursday, October 17 and 18, at the Georgia aquarium. 40 metro-Atlantans are scheduled to present their businesses.

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