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Use this year’s angel investor rankings to place your startup

(FINANCE) If you’re trying to decide where to start your business, consider this year’s rankings for most active angel investor groups.

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CTAN named #1 angel network two years in a row

Look out Silicon Valley, there’s a new innovation hotbed in town.

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For the second year in a row, Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN) has won the coveted #1 ranking at the Angel Capital Association’s annual ACA Summit in San Francisco.

The report

At this summit, the Angel Resource Institute (ARI) released its HALO Report, comprised of national data and rankings of angel investor groups. The HALO Report awards the most active groups in each region and ranks each nationally — CTAN has been recognized as the most active angel group nationwide once again.

CTAN wins at winning

With more than 160 investors from a wide range of backgrounds, CTAN has invested more than $82 million in over 140 companies since 2006. The organization doesn’t just invest in startups — they also mentor and support entrepreneurs every step of the way by connecting them to critical business resources that accelerate their growth.

This is the first time in CTAN history to win first place two years in a row (2015 and 2016).

That’s not all Texas has to brag about: CTAN was tied for #1 by none other than Houston Angel Network (HAN). The two organizations work together often as sister angel groups to share resources and collaborate on deals. Both CTAN and HAN are working to turn Austin, Houston, and Texas as a whole into a hub of innovation for early-stage businesses, and are clearly pulling it off.

The HALO Report is full of interesting data points, many of which bode well for both entrepreneurs and investors at early seed-stages.

For example, the report revealed that after reaching a high of $4.6M in 2015, pre-money valuations plummeted by 22% nationwide in 2016, down to $3.6M. The average pre-money valuation in Texas remained $3.8M in 2016.

Also, for the first time in history for angel groups nationwide, there were more follow-on rounds than new rounds.This shows that more angel investors have been acknowledging the importance of setting aside funds to support their portfolio companies with follow-on rounds.

CTAN’s second win in a row, along with HAN’s #1 ranking, are proof that seed-stage funding thriving in Texas.Click To TweetThese big wins also prov that Texas’ economy as a whole is in great shape now and likely for years to come.

#CTAN

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

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Business Finance

How small companies can compete with free shipping

(BUSINESS FINANCE) When running a smaller shop online, how can you compete with free shipping from giants like Amazon that can afford it?

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It’s hard enough for small businesses to compete with big retailers. But online shops also have to consider the additional cost of shipping. With stores like Amazon and Walmart.com offering very cheap or even free shipping, how is a smaller shop to compete?

Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online shops and point-of-sale-systems, posed this question to Thea Earl, product manager for Shopify Shipping. On the AskShopify blog, she offered some tips for managing shipping costs.

First, Earl points out that while “free shipping is an excellent marketing tool,” if you can’t afford to offer free shipping, it helps to offer a “really clear flat rate.”

Customers who think they’re getting a good deal may balk if they’re surprised by an exorbitant cost to ship. If you can consistently offer a flat rate, and let the customer know right off the bat, they’ll “know what to expect when they hit checkout” and won’t get sticker shock at the last minute, causing cart abandonment.

If you want to offer free or very cheap shipping, consider raising the prices of your products, even by a dollar or so, to help cover delivery costs. Note the ratio between the profit margin and the cost to ship.

Perhaps for highly profitable items, you can afford to absorb the shipping costs, while slightly raising the prices of less profitable products to offset the balance.

Lastly, Earl realizes that small business owners have no control over whether or not a carrier raises its prices to ship.

You do, however, have control over the packaging. Be smart about the types of packaging you use. Measure products and buy envelopes and boxes that are just the right size to save money on weight.

Paper and poly envelopes are lighter, and therefore usually cheaper than cardboard boxes. Also, Earl points out that most carriers have at least a few options for free packaging. Utilize these free options whenever you can.

And of course, you could always join a group like Shopify to take advantage of their bulk mailing partnerships with carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL.

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Business Finance

Expense reports suck, but AI could make them less tedious

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Expense reports suck. There’s no other way to describe them. Here’s a way to make the process suck less. Thanks, robots!

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A few years ago, I worked at a law firm doing clerk work during college breaks. One particular spring break, I found myself in a fluorescently lit office with zero décor, tracking expense reports. The whole break I sat there and wondered what I had done in a past life to deserve this nonsense.

All joking aside, expense reports are super boring. They just are. But, they are necessary to make sure that everything is on the up and up.

While going back and forth with my highlighter, crossing all of my T’s and dotting my I’s, I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a more efficient way to do this. Apparently robots were reading my mind, as there is an AI that now exists to expedite the expense report process.

Fyle is artificial intelligence powered expense tracking and reports. With everything from e-receipts to physical bills, Fyle’s technology tracks expenses and reports accurately in real time. This allows users to organize and manage all of their receipts and reports in a simple way.

Fyle comes with a pleathora of features, including: automatic data extraction, automatic policy enforcement, real-time expense visibility, dynamic approval system, custom approval hierarchy, third party APIs, trip authorization and requests, multi-country and multi-organization setup, and automatic account syncing.

With this, Fyle’s automatic reporting allows expensing to happen in one click, right within your email (via Fyle’s email plugin). Also, Fyle’s Policy engine determines expenses that require review and approval based on your expense policies.

For team friendly use, you can sync your corporate card transactions and auto match expenses that have been “Fyled”. You then receive real time visibility of receipts submitted against the transactions that were made. Fyle also allows for users to send in trip requests to receive authorization (equip with budgets, additional requests for flight, hotels, advances, etc.)

One important aspect of Fyle that can be an issue for a human is that it employs a method of duplicate detection. That way, every expense and report is one and done.

While this may be a helpful assistant in expense tracking and reporting, it’s always best to have a real set of eyes to check everything for accuracy.

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Business Finance

Free Bitcoin basic courses where no one will sell you any scams

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are booming, and it can be overwhelming, especially with all of the scams floating around. Here are some scam-free courses for free.

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If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve probably gotten used to seeing news about Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies, and blockchain just about every day. And if you’re anything like me, you may be scratching your head and feeling a little confused about it all.

Perhaps you’re thinking about investing in cryptocurrency, but need to know more. Or maybe you’re baffled by the basics, and just want to understand what it’s all about.

Fortunately, there are some opportunities to learn about Bitcoin for free – we’re talking about actual classes, not just a random Google search or two.

One of our faves is 10 Days of Bitcoin, which offers free email courses. The ten-day course syllabus includes overview classes like “The History of Bitcoin – A Unique (and Hard to Believe) Origin Story,” and “What is Bitcoin and What Makes It Different,” as well as classes with practical information for getting involved, such as “How to Get Your First Bitcoin, Safely and Securely,” and “Investing in ‘Initial Coin Offerings’ (or ICOs) and How to Avoid Scams.”

The course was created by John Saddington, a developer/entrepreneur who “desperately desires more people to become ‘tech literate’ and expand their own opportunities through software.” Saddington designed the class after having the same conversations over and over again with friends and family who asked him for explanations. The course is a great overview for folks who don’t really know much about the cryptocurrency and want a place to start learning.

For a more in-depth examination of the top dog of digital currencies, Princeton also has a series of 60 lectures, ranging from two to 28 minutes, that dives into the technicalities of cryptocurrency. These lectures are available on YouTube. In addition to a general overview, this series also looks at the “Mechanics of Bitcoin,” mining, and the “Future of Bitcoin.” It also places cryptocurrency in the context of “Community, Politics, and Regulation.”

With crypto on the rise, it may one day become part of regular course curriculums in high schools and colleges. Until then, there are opportunities online to learn about Bitcoin from reliable sources who aren’t out to sell anything, but simply want to help laypeople educate themselves.

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