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Sep 10

VCIR Fall ’09, Utah, 9/11 and why I believe in angels…

Posted by: Mark Solon        

Sitting in my hotel room with a bit of a fuzzy head after I was over-served at VCIR’s traditional poker tournament last, I’ve been reflecting on what a terrific event it was. When we created the RMVCA two years ago, part of that vision was adding a Fall VCIR event that moves around the region to complement the wildly successful annual VCIR Winter that’s been held in Beaver Creek, CO each winter for the last 20+ years. Fall VCIR was created to highlight a different state in the region each year and over the last two days, Utah simply knocked it out of the park. The location (The Canyons in Park City) was stunning and the host firms (EPIC Ventures, UV Partners and vSpring Capital) and the Utah Fund of Funds put together a spectacular agenda with great speakers like Shane Robison, CTO of HP & Olympic Gold Medalist and Salt Lake City hero Billy Shea.

Without a doubt, the 12 companies that presented were the highlight of the event. It was as good a group as I’ve ever seen at a venture conference. If you weren’t able to attend, here’s a few thoughts on the group:

The American Academy -These folks are partnering with high schools to recapture the ever-increasing number of dropouts. I was surprised at the size of the market and the unique business model this smart team has created to monetize the opportunity.

ClassTop - The #1 learning application on Facebook, ClassTop partners with schools to deliver courses online. They’ve got Stanford, Yale, Notre Dame and a host of other top schools as partners and got some early financing from fbFund.

Infinite Power Solutions - IPS is delivering on the promise of clean energy. They’ve developed and are manufacturing solid-state, rechargeable thin-film micro-energy storage devices. They’ve built the world’s first volume manufacturing facility dedicated to thin-film batteries.

inthinc - This company really blew me away. They deliver a serious ROI by providing real time monitoring of fleet vehicles for large companies. They’ve got an amazing client list and are saving their customers serious money and reputation damage. If we were a growth-stage firm, I wouldn’t have left without giving them a term sheet.

Lingotek - These folks have developed a slick software platform that enables translation to be performed by and through social networks. As the world continues to flatten, translations services will become even more important and it certainly appears that Lingotek’s unique and very low-cost approach should give them the ability to really scale.

LoMain - (no website yet) Perry Evans is a true serial entrepreneur who has come up with a killer idea. LoMain intends to put consumers in charge of how they consume local advertising. By allowing consumers to opt in to when and from whom they receive local marketing, Perry is attempting revolutionize how local businesses and local customers interact. Given his track record, I wouldn’t bet against him.

MapMyFitness - Disclaimer: I’ve been a user for the last couple of years and I love it. MapMyFitness (and their suite of sites such as mapmyride & mapmyrun among others) CEO and founder Robin Thurston and his team have created the fastest growing fitness-oriented training application on the web. I’m particularly fond of their advanced geo-mapping application. They also have a great new iPhone app. If you run or cycle, you need to check this out.

nanoMR - nanoMR has developed a diagnostic device for the detection and identification of bacteria in blood, the major cause of the severe clinical condition known as sepsis. Early detection can prevent this deadly condition, the 10th leading cause of death in the US.

OrangeSoda - OrangeSoda claims to be the only fully integrated online marketing platform specifically designed for the SMB marketplace and judging by their impressive customer list, they sure seem to be making some headway. While many companies have claimed to have figured out automated SEO, OrangeSoda’s traction suggests that they may very well have it figured out.

Revinetix - One of the five fastest growing companies in Utah, Revinetix is making some real noise in the cloud storage space in the SME sector. They claim that their solution significantly economizes bandwidth utilization, radically reduces traffic and improves network efficiency among other benefits.

SpyderLynk - CEO Nicole Skogg is an optical engineer and pioneer in mobile image recognition. She’s leveraged her background to create a mobile marketing service that utilizes a company’s logo and transforms it into a measurable, functioning interactive marketing tool through a cool app called a SnapTag. Consumers take a picture of a SnapTag with a smartphone camera and get discounts, request samples or participate in promotional offers.

Zinch - Zinch has quietly amassed 10% of high school students in America to use their solution to create profiles of themselves as they enter the college arena. Over 700 colleges are relying on Zinch to get better data on prospective students. CEO Anne Dwane, for SVP at Monster and co-founder of is building a very compelling business and she’s backed by some of the top angel investors in Utah.

My good friend and fraternity brother, Scott Saber - aka "The Buff"

My good friend and fraternity brother, Scott Saber - aka "The Buff"

Speaking of angels (not the investing kind) and why I believe in them, Tomorrow morning I’m heading to New York where an angel is working his magic. On 9/11, Scott Saber (“The Buff” to those that knew and loved him), a close friend and fraternity brother of mine was the keynote speaker at a conference in the World Trade Center. He was one of the thousands that perished that day and tomorrow night I’m getting together with many of my fraternity brothers to honor him at one of his favorite places, Yankee Stadium. If you’re a baseball fan, you know that last night, Derek Jeter had three hits to tie Lou Gehrig as the all-time hit leader for the Yankees. Given that Derek needed three hits last night to put himself in this position and the Yankees are off tonight, I can’t help but believe that Buff is up there pulling some strings so that when we all gather to raise a drink to him behind home plate tomorrow night on the anniversary of 9/11, that we’ll witness one of the most historic nights in sports history as Derek Jeter tries to become the all-time hit leader for the most storied franchise in American sports. I know he’ll be looking down and smiling as our group of aging fraternity brothers hug a little tighter because of him.


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