I came across an enticing headline this morning. “What is ‘The Whiteness Project?’,” asked the always-relevant Colorlines. Their tagline—”News for action”—is precisely what journalism should be about. Here’s another example of a story that invites anyone, regardless of race, to enter a discussion about race in a deliberate, structured, meaningful way.
When I discovered that The Whiteness Project was actually a multi-platform conversation from PBS about the white identity, and that it was produced in Buffalo, featuring interviews with many Buffalonians about their city’s top-ranked segregation, and that it also featured a few familiar faces, then I realized this was a bigger story than just another glancing read on the morning blogroll.
I urge you to watch the videos on the project’s homepage, and to listen to these statements. They reveal things about white people that may never have been discussed in such a way. There are things said I definitely don’t agree with, and there are things said that I had never contemplated until now. Any conversation about race is going to bring with it a slew of debates and disagreements, but maybe we can take a chance to listen, too. Maybe there are other viewpoints that are worth hearing. Maybe those viewpoints are still against our personal constitutions, maybe not. But I think giving people the floor, and listening with open ears, is a good place to start.
Fascinating work here. Take a few minutes and give this a shot.
-Ben

I came across an enticing headline this morning. “What is ‘The Whiteness Project?’,” asked the always-relevant Colorlines. Their tagline—”News for action”—is precisely what journalism should be about. Here’s another example of a story that invites anyone, regardless of race, to enter a discussion about race in a deliberate, structured, meaningful way.

When I discovered that The Whiteness Project was actually a multi-platform conversation from PBS about the white identity, and that it was produced in Buffalo, featuring interviews with many Buffalonians about their city’s top-ranked segregation, and that it also featured a few familiar faces, then I realized this was a bigger story than just another glancing read on the morning blogroll.

I urge you to watch the videos on the project’s homepage, and to listen to these statements. They reveal things about white people that may never have been discussed in such a way. There are things said I definitely don’t agree with, and there are things said that I had never contemplated until now. Any conversation about race is going to bring with it a slew of debates and disagreements, but maybe we can take a chance to listen, too. Maybe there are other viewpoints that are worth hearing. Maybe those viewpoints are still against our personal constitutions, maybe not. But I think giving people the floor, and listening with open ears, is a good place to start.

Fascinating work here. Take a few minutes and give this a shot.

-Ben

In one of Patrick’s recent Buffalo Spree columns, he discusses the value of being a hacker—not the credit card-swiping, firewall-breaking hacker; a hacker is someone who can take an idea and run with it, developing it on the fly, testing it out in the marketplace. Look for Patrick’s monthly business column in Spree magazine.
Vision, mission, hiring practices, to-do lists, and employee training are all critical elements in the day-to-day operations of a successful growing company. But perhaps the most difficult roadblock that can get in the way or a successful company is simply deciding to do it. The “What ifs,” “How do I’s,” and “I can’ts” cloud motivations and get in the way.
Remember, Facebook was launched in a college dorm room, Apple was started with $1,000 that Jobs and Wozniak had from selling a Volkswagen van, and Honda was founded by a mechanic without a college degree. These founders had an idea and threw caution to the wind. They just got started. They hacked something together and put it out there. What’s the worst that can happen? If you fail, just dust yourself off and try again.
But here’s the thing: about 90 percent of startups fail. So that means if you start a new business, your chance of failure is nine times greater than your chance of success. Yikes! You might as well throw in the towel now before you even get started.
At times it is so close you can taste it. I’ve been there many times before. You might fail because you chose the wrong market position, you’re unfocused, there’s a lack of passion, maybe you’re a bad leader or you’ve hired the wrong team. Or maybe it comes down to bad luck and bad timing. Who knows? The odds are most certainly not in your favor.
So instead of a leap of faith, try dipping your toe in the water before taking the plunge. Hack your idea together. Channel your inner hacker.
First, you need to change your idea of what a hacker is. I’m not talking about someone trying to break through your firewall to steal your personal information or scam your credit card information. I’m referring to someone who can take an idea and run with it. Someone who uses their skills to solve a problem and develop a new product or service. This is someone ready to launch before considering every reason why this new product or service probably won’t work.
Tech companies often host hackathons to create new products and services or meet the needs of their vision and customers. The results might not always be pretty the first time around but they’re proving their concept and value. They’re validating their ideas before fully developing them.
In Buffalo, a group of entrepreneurs hosts Startup Weekend each fall (this year, the event starts on October 24; buffalo.startupweekend.org). It’s a fun, jam-packed weekend that welcomes anyone to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organize around the top ideas, determined by popular vote, and that’s followed by more than 48 hours of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. For startup junkies, it’s a wild weekend! At the end of the event, ideas are presented to a panel of judges and established entrepreneurs, allowing another opportunity for critical feedback and in some circumstances, prizes and seed funding.
At my company, many of our best products and services have been hacked together and then refined over time. Take City Dining Cards for example. When we launched our first edition in Buffalo in late 2010, we went from concept to market in less than three months. We strung together a group of restaurants and retailers that we were connected with either personally or professionally and tested the product in the real world. Our goal was to prove the viability of the idea as quickly as possible before taking on the risk and expense of starting a new business and expanding. Just a few years later, City Dining Cards is in 15 markets with dozens of products and a vision to be in 100 markets within the next five years. Where would we be if we had been too practical or too cautious? What would have happened if we didn’t put ourselves and our idea out there?
Hacking isn’t always the best strategy. There’s something to be said about smart research and thoughtful planning. But sometimes you just have to rip the Band-Aid off, throw caution to the wind and try to make something new. Your desk job isn’t going anywhere.
Patrick Finan is the founder and CEO of City Dining Cards and the founder and principal of Block Club, a branding and marketing agency.

In one of Patrick’s recent Buffalo Spree columns, he discusses the value of being a hacker—not the credit card-swiping, firewall-breaking hacker; a hacker is someone who can take an idea and run with it, developing it on the fly, testing it out in the marketplace. Look for Patrick’s monthly business column in Spree magazine.

Vision, mission, hiring practices, to-do lists, and employee training are all critical elements in the day-to-day operations of a successful growing company. But perhaps the most difficult roadblock that can get in the way or a successful company is simply deciding to do it. The “What ifs,” “How do I’s,” and “I can’ts” cloud motivations and get in the way.

Remember, Facebook was launched in a college dorm room, Apple was started with $1,000 that Jobs and Wozniak had from selling a Volkswagen van, and Honda was founded by a mechanic without a college degree. These founders had an idea and threw caution to the wind. They just got started. They hacked something together and put it out there. What’s the worst that can happen? If you fail, just dust yourself off and try again.

But here’s the thing: about 90 percent of startups fail. So that means if you start a new business, your chance of failure is nine times greater than your chance of success. Yikes! You might as well throw in the towel now before you even get started.

At times it is so close you can taste it. I’ve been there many times before. You might fail because you chose the wrong market position, you’re unfocused, there’s a lack of passion, maybe you’re a bad leader or you’ve hired the wrong team. Or maybe it comes down to bad luck and bad timing. Who knows? The odds are most certainly not in your favor.

So instead of a leap of faith, try dipping your toe in the water before taking the plunge. Hack your idea together. Channel your inner hacker.

First, you need to change your idea of what a hacker is. I’m not talking about someone trying to break through your firewall to steal your personal information or scam your credit card information. I’m referring to someone who can take an idea and run with it. Someone who uses their skills to solve a problem and develop a new product or service. This is someone ready to launch before considering every reason why this new product or service probably won’t work.

Tech companies often host hackathons to create new products and services or meet the needs of their vision and customers. The results might not always be pretty the first time around but they’re proving their concept and value. They’re validating their ideas before fully developing them.

In Buffalo, a group of entrepreneurs hosts Startup Weekend each fall (this year, the event starts on October 24; buffalo.startupweekend.org). It’s a fun, jam-packed weekend that welcomes anyone to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organize around the top ideas, determined by popular vote, and that’s followed by more than 48 hours of business model creation, coding, designing and market validation. For startup junkies, it’s a wild weekend! At the end of the event, ideas are presented to a panel of judges and established entrepreneurs, allowing another opportunity for critical feedback and in some circumstances, prizes and seed funding.

At my company, many of our best products and services have been hacked together and then refined over time. Take City Dining Cards for example. When we launched our first edition in Buffalo in late 2010, we went from concept to market in less than three months. We strung together a group of restaurants and retailers that we were connected with either personally or professionally and tested the product in the real world. Our goal was to prove the viability of the idea as quickly as possible before taking on the risk and expense of starting a new business and expanding. Just a few years later, City Dining Cards is in 15 markets with dozens of products and a vision to be in 100 markets within the next five years. Where would we be if we had been too practical or too cautious? What would have happened if we didn’t put ourselves and our idea out there?

Hacking isn’t always the best strategy. There’s something to be said about smart research and thoughtful planning. But sometimes you just have to rip the Band-Aid off, throw caution to the wind and try to make something new. Your desk job isn’t going anywhere.

Patrick Finan is the founder and CEO of City Dining Cards and the founder and principal of Block Club, a branding and marketing agency.

Borders, issue 37 of Block Club magazine, was the first edition of our quarterly publication that I was lucky enough to contribute to as a designer. For my first effort, I was asked to create an accompanying illustration to a case study focusing on a unique urban farm program called R.E.A.P. (Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program) which employs skilled refugees from all over the world to cultivate a large plot of land right in downtown Cleveland known as the Ohio City Farm. The concept for the illustration was simple enough in theory—create a farmers’ market poster highlighting the unique cultural diversity of this urban farm by utilizing some of the refugee’s native languages while also depicting the dichotomy of city and agriculture. The execution of this idea, however, lead me through quite a process and a number of different directions before I ended up with what would become my premier illustration for Block Club magazine. I thought I would share some images of that process and the development of my final composition here.
-Ryan

We had an amazing time Friday night at our Borders launch party. Thank you to our incredible Buffalo community for supporting Issue 37, and our friends at Sugar City, especially Aimee Buyea, who curated this really fun show for us; Betty Crockski's pierogi food truck; Resurgence Brewery and their delicious local brews; Projex for his amazing DJ and video work; and of course, all of our loyal and new readers and supporters. This was our biggest party to date, which we couldn’t say without you all. Look for Issue 37 on free newsstands in Buffalo, northtowns and southtowns, and online. -Ben

Product Hunt is a website I visit on a daily basis. They highlight up-and-coming tech-related apps and products on a daily basis. If you get excited about an app that allows you to use GIFs instead of words in your text messages you’ll enjoy Product Hunt.

I often come across tools that can help with my duties as a project manager. Product Hunt recently highlighted 20 tools for project managers. Many of these tools could be found useful to anyone. Need to create a survey in a few seconds? Check out Typeform  Are your meetings not being as productive as they should be? Give Do a try.

See the full list here.

Image courtesy of typeform.com
-Steve
Product Hunt is a website I visit on a daily basis. They highlight up-and-coming tech-related apps and products on a daily basis. If you get excited about an app that allows you to use GIFs instead of words in your text messages you’ll enjoy Product Hunt.
I often come across tools that can help with my duties as a project manager. Product Hunt recently highlighted 20 tools for project managers. Many of these tools could be found useful to anyone. Need to create a survey in a few seconds? Check out Typeform  Are your meetings not being as productive as they should be? Give Do a try.
See the full list here.
Image courtesy of typeform.com

-Steve

I was in Chicago last week attending the Brand New Conference. If you’re not familiar with Brand New, it’s a division of UnderConsideration, a graphic design enterprise that runs blogs, makes books and organizes competitions and live events around design and its industry.

It was my second time visiting Chicago and I’m a full-on supporter of that city. It feels like what Buffalo would be if it were about 30 times larger; the people are genuine, blue-collar and friendly. The city’s architecture is an amazing mix of turn-of-the-century design and modern glass buildings. Their dedication to their waterfront and the parks system amazes me. I hope that we can follow in their vision with our waterfront here.

The conference was held in Millennium Park at the Harris Theater. Speakers and attendees came from all over the planet.

Day one of the conference began with a synopsis of all the major branding changes, good and bad, from companies around the world, with a particularly awkward moment on the AirBnB logo, since they were in the audience and were a major sponsor of the event. See Julie’s post on the subject here.

The day focused a lot on brand, brand development, brand story and building the brand system. There was a lot on how to position the client and what its voice was and what the clients voice wasn’t. Iconography and wayfinding systems were prevalent in the majority of this day’s speakers. To hear how each person described their processes, how they’ve built their studios or how they developed the culture within their studios was very insightful and inspiring.

One of my favorite quotes from that day came early from Lance Wyman who said: “A fundamental simplicity assures a timeless harmony.” He said this in reference to the brand and icon system he built for the Mexican Transit System, the STC. This brand system was made back in the 1970s when they only had a handful of train lines. Now the STC has 12 lines and they continue to carry on the look he created back then, because it works. (Side note: I want everyone to Google this icon system, and then look at the apps on your iPhone. Look for his 1968 Olympic Stamp series and then look at Apple’s first ad campaign. I would like to believe that while these are not original ideas, it is still interesting how appropriation continues to this day.

Another moment that blew my mind was when Sebastian Padilla of the super hot design agency Anagrama spoke about his agency in Monterrey, Mexico. He talked about how growing up there wasn’t much art or culture happening, and going to school for design was impossible because there were few schools. The 1968 Olympic branding that Wyman produced started a graphic design movement in Mexico. It really put things in perspective on how design can have a huge impact not only on a consumer but on a country. 

-Tim
I was in Chicago last week attending the Brand New Conference. If you’re not familiar with Brand New, it’s a division of UnderConsideration, a graphic design enterprise that runs blogs, makes books and organizes competitions and live events around design and its industry.
It was my second time visiting Chicago and I’m a full-on supporter of that city. It feels like what Buffalo would be if it were about 30 times larger; the people are genuine, blue-collar and friendly. The city’s architecture is an amazing mix of turn-of-the-century design and modern glass buildings. Their dedication to their waterfront and the parks system amazes me. I hope that we can follow in their vision with our waterfront here.
The conference was held in Millennium Park at the Harris Theater. Speakers and attendees came from all over the planet.
Day one of the conference began with a synopsis of all the major branding changes, good and bad, from companies around the world, with a particularly awkward moment on the AirBnB logo, since they were in the audience and were a major sponsor of the event. See Julie’s post on the subject here.
The day focused a lot on brand, brand development, brand story and building the brand system. There was a lot on how to position the client and what its voice was and what the clients voice wasn’t. Iconography and wayfinding systems were prevalent in the majority of this day’s speakers. To hear how each person described their processes, how they’ve built their studios or how they developed the culture within their studios was very insightful and inspiring.
One of my favorite quotes from that day came early from Lance Wyman who said: “A fundamental simplicity assures a timeless harmony.” He said this in reference to the brand and icon system he built for the Mexican Transit System, the STC. This brand system was made back in the 1970s when they only had a handful of train lines. Now the STC has 12 lines and they continue to carry on the look he created back then, because it works. (Side note: I want everyone to Google this icon system, and then look at the apps on your iPhone. Look for his 1968 Olympic Stamp series and then look at Apple’s first ad campaign. I would like to believe that while these are not original ideas, it is still interesting how appropriation continues to this day.
Another moment that blew my mind was when Sebastian Padilla of the super hot design agency Anagrama spoke about his agency in Monterrey, Mexico. He talked about how growing up there wasn’t much art or culture happening, and going to school for design was impossible because there were few schools. The 1968 Olympic branding that Wyman produced started a graphic design movement in Mexico. It really put things in perspective on how design can have a huge impact not only on a consumer but on a country. 
-Tim
In Patrick’s August Buffalo Spree column, he shares ten things he learned while raising money for his business. It’s a helpful, user-friendly breakdown of some important things to consider in the process. Look for Patrick’s monthly business column in Spree magazine.
Buffalonians may know City Dining Cards from the colorful decks of restaurant and bar discount cards that appear on store shelves during the holidays. But the company that I founded more than three years ago has taken its model and expanded to nearly 20 markets throughout the United States and Europe. Now we’re focused on building engaging customer loyalty experiences for people, businesses and non-profits around the world. All this growth requires a lot of capital. And after three years of bootstrapping the business, it was time to raise our first round of funding.
This process has been one of the most interesting, frustrating, exciting and fulfilling learning experiences of my life, and the timing was right. Buffalo’s appetite for startups is growing. Believe it or not, the world’s largest business idea competition, 43North, takes places in Buffalo and organizations and programs like Z80 Labs, Dig, CoWork Buffalo, Startup NY, Launch NY and The Buffalo Angels are encouraging more entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in Western New York.
The competitions, plans, ideas and organizations are working. Buffalo’s startup community is growing and the startup community is taking note. Recent stories is the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Huffington Post all tout Buffalo as the next great place to start your business. With all of this energy and with the exciting conclusion of 43 North’s inaugural year right around the corner, I though it was time to share what I’ve learned raising money for one of my businesses.
It all starts with basics and vision. Before you start raising money, it’s critical that you can succinctly describe your business and communicate where you want to take it, all with just a few sentences. Your elevator pitch has to be perfect and it has to make sense to people unfamiliar with you, your business and your industry. Practice makes perfect, so practice in front of a mirror, in the car, with your dog and most importantly, with your team.
You have to clearly demonstrate the opportunity. Investors want to know that there’s a market for what you’re selling, and they want to know how big it is. You really need to understand the space you’re playing in and how much market share you think you can take.Investors also want to make sure that your model is scalable. Sure, you have a good contract or two and you’ve demonstrated feasibility in a few markets, but how will you continue to scale and grow the business?
What’s your worth? Setting your valuation is one of the most difficult parts of the process because there are dozens of ways to set this number. And once you set your valuation, will your investors agree? You have to consider how much of your business you’re willing to give away and understanding “pre-money” value and “post-money” value is important too. Here’s an easy-numbers example to put this into context: Say you own 100% of your business and you have a pre-money valuation (the value of your business before raising money) of $2 million. If you raise $1 million, your post-money valuation (the sum of your pre-money valuation and total dollars raised) is now $3 million. When the deal closes you will own roughly two-thirds of the company, or $2 million of value in a company now worth $3 million.
Practicality rules. At the end of the day, investors are interested in making a return on their investment. Pie-in-the-sky ideas are great but strong net profits are even better. Having a good understand of financials, including pro-formas and cash-flow statements, is important as discussions with investors move from general interest to the due diligence process.
Show me the sizzle. I know that I just told you that practicality rules but everyone loves sizzle. Investors are people too and if your company demonstrates their understanding of the newest technology, app or market segment, your potential investors will be as excited as a kid in a candy store. Novelty and excitement are key components in engaging investors and captivating their attention from day one.
Play to your strengths and know your weaknesses. At the end of the day, Angel and early-stage investors are investing in people, not the business. They want to know that you have what it takes to navigate the choppy waters that inevitably face you. So why do you deserve their money? How are you going to get them a big return on their investment? Finding the right amount of confidence balanced with some humility is key
Start sharing. You have to share your story with everyone you know. Your family, friends and business associates may be able to help with small, early-stage investment. Locally, the Bufalo Angels, Z80 Labs, Dig, CoWork Buffalo and Launch NY can provide the guidance and connections you’ll need to turn your idea into a funded business.
Great partners are key. Raising money is a struggle and you’ll need help and support to get through the long and daunting process.Great business partners and advisors are one of the keys to a successful round of funding. Kevin Christner of Richmond Capital Partners, Jack McGowan of Insyte Consulting and The Buffalo Angels, and David Roach of Blair and Roach were instrumental in helping the team at City Dining Cards build our presentation, connect with investors and put the deal together. This is truly a team effort.
Just when you think it’s almost finished, it’s not. There’s an obstacle at almost every turn but the biggest obstacle is figuring out how to run your existing business and raise money at the same time. It’s almost impossible to do both and raising money can feel like a full-time job. As you approach closing, subtle changes in contract terms and legalese can aggravate investors, delay closing and raise the blood pressure of everyone involved in the process. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize and remember that you’re all working together to build something great.
San Francisco isn’t the reality. We live in a world of celebrity CEOs and multi-billion dollar valuations for companies without any revenue streams. This may happen in Silicon Valley, but it’s not the reality in most places. It’s important to approach the process with vision, a great idea, a strong model and an even stronger team. Those four things are alluring to investors from as close as Syracuse and as far away as San Francisco.
Get connected: 43North, Buffalo Angels, Z80 Labs.
Patrick Finan is the founder and CEO of City Dining Cards and the founder and principal of Block Club, a branding and marketing agency. 

In Patrick’s August Buffalo Spree column, he shares ten things he learned while raising money for his business. It’s a helpful, user-friendly breakdown of some important things to consider in the process. Look for Patrick’s monthly business column in Spree magazine.

Buffalonians may know City Dining Cards from the colorful decks of restaurant and bar discount cards that appear on store shelves during the holidays. But the company that I founded more than three years ago has taken its model and expanded to nearly 20 markets throughout the United States and Europe. Now we’re focused on building engaging customer loyalty experiences for people, businesses and non-profits around the world. All this growth requires a lot of capital. And after three years of bootstrapping the business, it was time to raise our first round of funding.

This process has been one of the most interesting, frustrating, exciting and fulfilling learning experiences of my life, and the timing was right. Buffalo’s appetite for startups is growing. Believe it or not, the world’s largest business idea competition, 43North, takes places in Buffalo and organizations and programs like Z80 Labs, Dig, CoWork Buffalo, Startup NY, Launch NY and The Buffalo Angels are encouraging more entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses in Western New York.

The competitions, plans, ideas and organizations are working. Buffalo’s startup community is growing and the startup community is taking note. Recent stories is the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Huffington Post all tout Buffalo as the next great place to start your business. With all of this energy and with the exciting conclusion of 43 North’s inaugural year right around the corner, I though it was time to share what I’ve learned raising money for one of my businesses.

It all starts with basics and vision. Before you start raising money, it’s critical that you can succinctly describe your business and communicate where you want to take it, all with just a few sentences. Your elevator pitch has to be perfect and it has to make sense to people unfamiliar with you, your business and your industry. Practice makes perfect, so practice in front of a mirror, in the car, with your dog and most importantly, with your team.

You have to clearly demonstrate the opportunity. Investors want to know that there’s a market for what you’re selling, and they want to know how big it is. You really need to understand the space you’re playing in and how much market share you think you can take.Investors also want to make sure that your model is scalable. Sure, you have a good contract or two and you’ve demonstrated feasibility in a few markets, but how will you continue to scale and grow the business?

What’s your worth? Setting your valuation is one of the most difficult parts of the process because there are dozens of ways to set this number. And once you set your valuation, will your investors agree? You have to consider how much of your business you’re willing to give away and understanding “pre-money” value and “post-money” value is important too. Here’s an easy-numbers example to put this into context: Say you own 100% of your business and you have a pre-money valuation (the value of your business before raising money) of $2 million. If you raise $1 million, your post-money valuation (the sum of your pre-money valuation and total dollars raised) is now $3 million. When the deal closes you will own roughly two-thirds of the company, or $2 million of value in a company now worth $3 million.

Practicality rules. At the end of the day, investors are interested in making a return on their investment. Pie-in-the-sky ideas are great but strong net profits are even better. Having a good understand of financials, including pro-formas and cash-flow statements, is important as discussions with investors move from general interest to the due diligence process.

Show me the sizzle. I know that I just told you that practicality rules but everyone loves sizzle. Investors are people too and if your company demonstrates their understanding of the newest technology, app or market segment, your potential investors will be as excited as a kid in a candy store. Novelty and excitement are key components in engaging investors and captivating their attention from day one.

Play to your strengths and know your weaknesses. At the end of the day, Angel and early-stage investors are investing in people, not the business. They want to know that you have what it takes to navigate the choppy waters that inevitably face you. So why do you deserve their money? How are you going to get them a big return on their investment? Finding the right amount of confidence balanced with some humility is key

Start sharing. You have to share your story with everyone you know. Your family, friends and business associates may be able to help with small, early-stage investment. Locally, the Bufalo Angels, Z80 Labs, Dig, CoWork Buffalo and Launch NY can provide the guidance and connections you’ll need to turn your idea into a funded business.

Great partners are key. Raising money is a struggle and you’ll need help and support to get through the long and daunting process.Great business partners and advisors are one of the keys to a successful round of funding. Kevin Christner of Richmond Capital Partners, Jack McGowan of Insyte Consulting and The Buffalo Angels, and David Roach of Blair and Roach were instrumental in helping the team at City Dining Cards build our presentation, connect with investors and put the deal together. This is truly a team effort.

Just when you think it’s almost finished, it’s not. There’s an obstacle at almost every turn but the biggest obstacle is figuring out how to run your existing business and raise money at the same time. It’s almost impossible to do both and raising money can feel like a full-time job. As you approach closing, subtle changes in contract terms and legalese can aggravate investors, delay closing and raise the blood pressure of everyone involved in the process. It’s important to keep your eye on the prize and remember that you’re all working together to build something great.

San Francisco isn’t the reality. We live in a world of celebrity CEOs and multi-billion dollar valuations for companies without any revenue streams. This may happen in Silicon Valley, but it’s not the reality in most places. It’s important to approach the process with vision, a great idea, a strong model and an even stronger team. Those four things are alluring to investors from as close as Syracuse and as far away as San Francisco.

Get connected: 43North, Buffalo Angels, Z80 Labs.

Patrick Finan is the founder and CEO of City Dining Cards and the founder and principal of Block Club, a branding and marketing agency. 

Occasionally, when I leave the doors of Block Club, I travel about 100 feet from my desk and spend my time in the basement at Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo’s long-standing media arts center where I also teach some classes on using creative design software like the Adobe Suite. I don’t do this because I’m some sort of expert user of any of these powerful and complex applications, but rather because I really enjoy teaching people things and the unique challenges that it presents. Taking these complicated, tedious processes, many of which have become a sort of muscle memory through repetition in my work, and explaining them in simple terms to someone who has no prior understanding is at once challenging, eye opening, and somehow really satisfying. For me, however, one particularly tricky skill to speak about has always been how to use the pen tool. Maybe because it’s too ingrained in me at this point that I’m no longer conscious of how exactly to get it to do what I want anymore, it just kind of happens somehow. And also because when you get down to the nuts and bolts of how it works, it’s really pretty damn strange. That’s why I use this online pen tool game/tutorial; it’s so fascinating. It teaches you by example, most of what you need to know to master drawing with the pen tool and it does so completely without language, which is something that can easily excite any graphic designer. Try it out for yourself and see how well you do. If you find it incredibly frustrating, maybe I’ll see you across the street at one of my workshops.-Ryan
Occasionally, when I leave the doors of Block Club, I travel about 100 feet from my desk and spend my time in the basement at Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo’s long-standing media arts center where I also teach some classes on using creative design software like the Adobe Suite. I don’t do this because I’m some sort of expert user of any of these powerful and complex applications, but rather because I really enjoy teaching people things and the unique challenges that it presents. Taking these complicated, tedious processes, many of which have become a sort of muscle memory through repetition in my work, and explaining them in simple terms to someone who has no prior understanding is at once challenging, eye opening, and somehow really satisfying. For me, however, one particularly tricky skill to speak about has always been how to use the pen tool. Maybe because it’s too ingrained in me at this point that I’m no longer conscious of how exactly to get it to do what I want anymore, it just kind of happens somehow. And also because when you get down to the nuts and bolts of how it works, it’s really pretty damn strange. That’s why I use this online pen tool game/tutorial; it’s so fascinating. It teaches you by example, most of what you need to know to master drawing with the pen tool and it does so completely without language, which is something that can easily excite any graphic designer. Try it out for yourself and see how well you do. If you find it incredibly frustrating, maybe I’ll see you across the street at one of my workshops.

-Ryan
I’ll be speaking at the Small Business Breakthrough Brunch next Saturday, October 4th at Dig, a new incubator space on Buffalo’s Medical Campus. Come join me and Dan Gigante from You & Who as we talk about business startups, marketing and building a triple-bottom-line business. I’ll be leading the group through a special visioning exercise too. 
Tickets are still available. Hope to see you there!
-Patrick 

I’ll be speaking at the Small Business Breakthrough Brunch next Saturday, October 4th at Dig, a new incubator space on Buffalo’s Medical Campus. Come join me and Dan Gigante from You & Who as we talk about business startups, marketing and building a triple-bottom-line business. I’ll be leading the group through a special visioning exercise too. 

Tickets are still available. Hope to see you there!

-Patrick 

A few years ago a copy of the New York City Transit Authority graphics standards manual was found hidden in an locker and underneath a heap of old gym clothes. I know what you’re thinking: fantastic reading for in-between workouts, right? Well maybe not, but it’s definitely an awesome guide for the NYC subway system.
And good news! The guys who found it, Hamish Smyth and Jesse Reed of NYC design firm, Pentagram, have decided to reprint this wonderful artifact and distribute it again. They currently have a Kickstarter project set up where you can order your very own piece of design history.
Seeing this has made me think about the style guides and how important they are. It is imperative to display your identity in a clear and consistent manner. Because before Unimark designed the NYCTA graphics standards manual, the NYC subway system was a chaotic mess of different signage.
At Block Club we have our own branding book which covers acceptable typefaces to color swatches to logo requirements. Standardizing these elements makes everything clearer to your audience and presents the brand in a professional manner.
Take a look at a few pages of the NYCTA graphics standards manual above. Just maybe you’ll decide you want a copy of your own for when you workout too.
-Tyler
As an urban-dwelling yuppie that spends the majority of my life in front of screens, I’m certain that I’ll soon be the proud owner of a new iPhone 6. I’ve decided that my post-Keynote hand-wringing as I debate the merits of buying a new device is worthless: I always give in. It’s downright amazing how quickly I can convince myself that my phone is a total piece of shit the moment I learn that a new device is on the horizon. I wish I could be more principled in my buying habits, but I’ve simply surrendered. Every fall, I quiver with delight as I drive to the Galleria Mall to snatch up a beautiful, crisp, shiny, perfect, wonderful new iPhone. Apple might as well sign me up for a subscription.

Then there’s AT&T Next.

AT&T Next is a program that requires no money down for a new phone but instead bills monthly for it. For example, a 24 month contract on a new iPhone 6 16GB bills at $27.09/mo. Here’s why this sucks for you but rocks for AT&T:

1) Carriers have set a precedent of pricing iPhones at $199/mo with a new 2-year contract. They’ve traditionally recouped their costs through customers’ monthly plans but they’ve always known that there’s more money to be had. Steve Jobs was adamant that consumers pay the lowest possible price for the iPhone and demanded exclusive contracts with carriers to keep it that way but, well, he died.
2) Customers can still do it the old way by signing a new 2-year agreement, but prices are $250 higher per unit if you’re still under contract.
3) $27.09/mo x 24 months = $650.16 for a phone that’s outdated by the halfway point of the contract.
4) AT&T’s “yeah but” proposition encourages you to trade in your new phone after 12 months to wipe away the remaining payments on your plan.
4a) $27.09/mo x 12 months = $325.08. That’s $126.08 higher than customers have been trained to enthusiastically pay, and they still have to trade in their old phones.

From AT&T’s perspective, it’s brilliant. We use the same rationale across all sorts of purchases. A $9,000 apartment lease is only $750/mo. A $30,000 car is $500/mo for 60 months (plus interest, of course. This is America). Now a $650 iPhone is only $30/mo (or something, I don’t know, they just bill my credit card. I’ll pay that off with my tax return).

Here’s the best part: we all know the truth and we’re not fazed by it. At all. The new iPhone sold 10 million units in the first weekend alone. And every one of those units amounts to $126.08 more for your phone company than their predecessors did. Screw it, I’m in.

- Dave

Photo courtesy Bloomberg.
As an urban-dwelling yuppie that spends the majority of my life in front of screens, I’m certain that I’ll soon be the proud owner of a new iPhone 6. I’ve decided that my post-Keynote hand-wringing as I debate the merits of buying a new device is worthless: I always give in. It’s downright amazing how quickly I can convince myself that my phone is a total piece of shit the moment I learn that a new device is on the horizon. I wish I could be more principled in my buying habits, but I’ve simply surrendered. Every fall, I quiver with delight as I drive to the Galleria Mall to snatch up a beautiful, crisp, shiny, perfect, wonderful new iPhone. Apple might as well sign me up for a subscription.
Then there’s AT&T Next.
AT&T Next is a program that requires no money down for a new phone but instead bills monthly for it. For example, a 24 month contract on a new iPhone 6 16GB bills at $27.09/mo. Here’s why this sucks for you but rocks for AT&T:
1) Carriers have set a precedent of pricing iPhones at $199/mo with a new 2-year contract. They’ve traditionally recouped their costs through customers’ monthly plans but they’ve always known that there’s more money to be had. Steve Jobs was adamant that consumers pay the lowest possible price for the iPhone and demanded exclusive contracts with carriers to keep it that way but, well, he died.
2) Customers can still do it the old way by signing a new 2-year agreement, but prices are $250 higher per unit if you’re still under contract.
3) $27.09/mo x 24 months = $650.16 for a phone that’s outdated by the halfway point of the contract.
4) AT&T’s “yeah but” proposition encourages you to trade in your new phone after 12 months to wipe away the remaining payments on your plan.
4a) $27.09/mo x 12 months = $325.08. That’s $126.08 higher than customers have been trained to enthusiastically pay, and they still have to trade in their old phones.
From AT&T’s perspective, it’s brilliant. We use the same rationale across all sorts of purchases. A $9,000 apartment lease is only $750/mo. A $30,000 car is $500/mo for 60 months (plus interest, of course. This is America). Now a $650 iPhone is only $30/mo (or something, I don’t know, they just bill my credit card. I’ll pay that off with my tax return).
Here’s the best part: we all know the truth and we’re not fazed by it. At all. The new iPhone sold 10 million units in the first weekend alone. And every one of those units amounts to $126.08 more for your phone company than their predecessors did. Screw it, I’m in.
- Dave
Photo courtesy Bloomberg.