Startup Success, a new feature of the Dingman Center Blog, includes interviews with regional entrepreneurs who received funding from the Dingman Center Angels investor network. In 2011, members invested in eight companies, making it the network’s most active year since its founding in 2004. Investments included Brazen Careerist, CirrusWorks, Nexercise, SevaCall, Spinnakr, Spotflux, Veenome, and YouEye. Click HERE to view all Dingman Center Angels portoflio companies.
Veenome is a video indexing platform — translating the “stuff” in video into machine-readable data for superior organization, publishing, searching and monetization.
Utilizing video recognition technology, Veenome discovers products, objects, and brands in popular online videos. These objects are auto-tagged, indexed and relayed as clickable objects for display in video. So if you like the shoes in the Lady GaGa video, just click on them to buy. The data can also be delivered en masse via API for enterprise search and ad targeting.
Veenome received funding through the Dingman Center Angels in 2011. This interview features Kevin Lenane, Founder and CEO.
As a startup, what are some of the greatest challenges you face?
One of the biggest challenges is that you’re a really small organization. In a startup there is a never ending list of duties and you have to know how to succeed no matter what it is that you’re doing. You don’t have specialist to do everything and you have to be able to manage the stress that comes with that. You also have to be able to figure out what you’re good at and delegate what you’re not. The hardest thing is trying to manage multiple roles.
What is your #1 source of funding?
It was self funded for the first few months; it is investor funded now. There wasn’t a traditional friends and family round.
How did you get the idea for your business?
I had been working on a lot of mobile apps with image recognition as a form of alternate entry. I found that there’s a lot for room for error there; for example flash could obscure the text. User error rate was high, so I wanted to see if there were ways to get more information, which was to take more photos. I wanted to find a way to do this with video so I did some tests on my own and found a place in the market to start a company because there is a need for this. It is really powerful if you can do it right. I’ve had a lot of ideas like this, but the difference with Veenome is that this was tested a lot. I got a lot of data to prove that it would work and the data helped take me from an idea to a business that could be started. It validated that there was a market and it could be achieved
What is your best networking tool?
If you want to talk to someone, first check to see if you know someone connected to them. You’ll be surprised what your second and third tier network contains. In my case, I’ll take a video related to what that person does and I’ll tag it, put it on our webpage, and send it to them in an email to show them what I can do. The video is made custom to the person I want to connect with. If you can demonstrate that you put in effort before the conversation happens, people will be more willing to talk to you.
What advice would you give student entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
Working for a startup first is critical. The worst that could happen is you raise money and realize that all you want to do is work for a big company. Startups aren’t for everyone and you won’t know that until you work for a startup. Interning at a startup is less pressure, a lot of fun, and will give you an idea of what it is like to start a business.
Why a startup?
I like the idea of improving progress especially in technology. Technology is one of our leading industries, so being able to contribute in a way that increases the general progress of technology and be a part of the technology movement is important to me. I like the idea of being able to build something that I can work at and use and know that it helped progress the industry.
What was the DCA review process like? Were you able to handle the criticism? Did you find the feedback beneficial?
Elana [Fine] was really helpful early on with our deck. Getting feedback on your deck alone is beneficial. I had some really helpful questions and concerns from the students and the Angels-in-Residence. One of the angels was asking very hard ball questions but later ended up investing. I took the feedback and reworked my deck quite a bit, then went back a few weeks later and did the formal pitch to the angels. It was a great way of consolidating some active DC angels. A big problem is finding angels that are really investing and Dingman is a great place to look. They’ve done a great job of getting into really good startups in DC.
Kevin Lenane is co-founder and CEO of Veenome. He is an experienced project manager with a keen sense of how location, platform, and portability play in to the mobile experience for businesses and consumers. Kevin has worked with clients at PointAbout including OnStar, the Huffington Post, FEMA, and the ESRB. Prior to PointAbout, Kevin was part of the product management team behind the location management platform NAVTEQ Locations, which gives businesses total control over their location presence.