Author Archive: Indie Gamer Chick

An interview with Former President Andrew Jackson

So I was going to keep this a surprise for later, but I actually invented a time machine a while back. Today, I fired that bad boy up and decided to go back in time and let President Andrew Jackson know that he had been replaced by Harriet Tubman on our currency.

Me: President Jackson, it’s an honor Sir.

Andy Jackson: Who the Hell are you again?

Me: Catherine Vice. Time Traveler. I come from a time when the President of the United States is what you, in this era, would refer to as a negro…….. I mean um, that his knee is growing. Because he bumped it and it’s swelling up. Yea, that’s it. Please don’t shoot me.

Andy Jackson: Do you mind, Miss? I’m busy destroying the banking system.

Me: Yea, um, about that.. can you stop doing that? It’s been, like, 200 years or whatever and we’re still recovering from that.

Andy Jackson: The Union survives that long? Well, I guess I owe Van Buren a pint of whiskey.

Me: Yea, it survives, despite multiple economic depressions, many of which you directly caused. Also a Civil War which.. come to think of it, that pretty much started to brew during your administration. Then the Red Sox went 85 years without winning the World Series. Yet, we survive.

Andy Jackson: Well, I’ll be damned. Did I at least live long enough to shoot John C. Calhoun?

Me: Okay, no. And I’m here to get your thoughts on something. In the future, for no particular reason, we celebrate you by having you on our $20 bills despite the fact that you’re the 19th century version of Hitler.

Andy Jackson: What’s a Hitler?

Me: You know, I would tell you but I’m afraid you would take it as a challenge to aim higher. Anyway, you’re on our money.

Andy Jackson: That um, well that makes no sense since I was against the idea of banks. And what’s a bill?

Me: It’s paper currency.

Andy Jackson: Now you’re yanking my chain, ma’am. I was really against Paper Currency. Putting my face on paper money would be like putting Alexander Hamilton’s face on on the emblem of the National Rifle Association.

Me: Well, yea, but don’t worry. In 2016, you actually got taken off it.

Andy Jackson: Well, good.

Me: They replaced you with a picture of a black woman who helped free the slaves.

Andy Jackson: …………….

Me: Gotta go.

Shark Tank – Season 7 Episode 3 Recap and Analysis

Pitch #1: Foot Cardigan, a sock subscription service. (Website)

Ask: $250K for 10%.

Cathy’s thoughts: These guys were sharp, on trend, great numbers, great presentation, and great answers. They came prepared with a viable business model and when you do that in the tank, a feeding frenzy is inevitable. Daymond, because of existing partnerships, couldn’t make an offer outright without their approval, eliminating his advantage as a clothing guru.

Cathy is: in with what I feel is the first offer I’ve been able to make all season that would have been the best valued, though not necessarily the most strategic. I would have given them the button (exactly what they asked for), $250K for 10%, but I would have asked for a preferred return until I recouped my initial investment. I think their numbers and trajectory justified the 10% offer. I think they’ve almost proven their model, but not quite. If they had come into the tank with 20,000 subscribers instead of 6,000 and their 7% flip rate, I wouldn’t have even bothered with the preferred return. The Dragon’s Den effect is also in play, so my risk would have been somewhat offset. Would they have taken my offer? Nah. I think it might have leveraged a better offer from Mark Cuban and Troy Carter though, maybe given these guys a 5% discount.

Result: Troy and Mark chopped 20%. Best pitch of the season so far.

Pitch #2: ValPark, an app that streamlines the valet parking experience. (Website)

Ask: $300K for 20%

Cathy’s thoughts: I hate investing in apps, but I certainly see the merit in this. I think Troy unfairly got hung up on how someone was going to “steal his lunch” from his home location. It sure sounded like the company founder was juiced into it with no potential to have his territory poached by a competitor that, frankly, is not existent at this time. A hypothetical competitor wouldn’t go to this gentleman’s partner (an equity holder in ValPark, mind you) to underbid a company he has a stake in. I really don’t understand why he based his reasoning for passing on this around that.

I have two major problems with this pitch. #1, he way over-valued the company. The cash-in is over ten times the existing revenue of the company, and the valuation is over fifty-times what the company is making. Absurd. #2, the company’s ceiling is indeterminable because it’s completely dependent on getting the top contracts and full exclusivity with unknown partners in major cities across the US. This with a product that really can’t be protected from competition. I like to invest in a company with a moderate to high ceiling and a clear trajectory. At the moment of the pitch, ValPark has no trajectory. It has its location, which takes in under $30K a year, and that’s it. Really, Wayne of ValPark doesn’t need an investor. I feel he has spent his money wisely on the app. He simply needs to, as my father would say, tie your shoes and pound the pavement. He needs to go out and make sales calls. He needs to secure long-term exclusivity with as many major valet parking facilities as possible, as fast as possible. An investor’s ability to help expedite will not be enough to justify further dividing your company, which is slicing the pie thin as it is.

Cathy is: Out.

Result: No deal. After all the Sharks but Daymond went out, he offered ValPark the button if any Shark would come back in, but none would. Good luck Wayne. Just start making sales calls and get ready to rack up frequent flyer miles.

Pitch #3: Two Guys Bow Tie Company (Website)

Ask: $150K for 10%

Cathy’s thoughts: Another really great pitch. These guys had a fun, high-energy pitch and wonderful numbers. It deeply annoys me that it never came up (or at least wasn’t aired) what the money is for. According to Shark Tank Blog, they’re opening a B&M in Tulsa later this month. I don’t think expanding into retail locations is the proper path for this company, at least this early into the company’s life. That is, unless they’re simply creating a storefront at their manufacturing facility, which would be sweat off the brow. Annoyingly, Daymond (who competes with Lori for the worst poker-face of the Sharks) clearly wanted it from the get-go and is the perfect partner for them. None of the other Sharks had a chance.

Cathy is: Out.

Result: Daymond and Troy chopped 17.5% with a 10% recovery-based royalty. Great deal for entrepreneurs. They’re going to make a lot of money I suspect.

Ask #4: Nerdwax, glue to prevent your glasses from sliding off your face. (Website)

Ask: $80K for 20%

Cathy’s thoughts: I guess I’m luckier than I realized because my glasses don’t wiggle or slip on my face. I quite liked this pitch, and I agree they need working capital and not debt. It is a single-SKU, but if I had been there I might have taken a flyer on it. I think the $10 price point is too high. They certainly have the margins to put a smaller price point that makes them more attractive for placement at the checkout stand as an impulse item. $6.99 to $7.99 feels a lot better than $10 for that objective. I’m just struggling to structure a deal that would let them keep their baby while giving me enough return on my investment to make a relatively modest risk worthwhile.

Cathy is: taking a flyer if I had been a Shark. $80K, 25%, 10% preferred royalty until I recoup, and preferred creditor status so that if they need a loan (and they will if a major chain like a Walgreens or Rite Aid picks them up) it’s me arranging it for them. I think I would have had a deal.

Result: No deal. Troy offered them an operating line with a 10% equity pick, while Kevin offered venture debt line with a 3% pick. These guys had no debt and at this stage, before they have a national distribution deal in place, taking debt makes no sense. Nerdwax wisely passed. They’re going to do very well with the Dragon’s Den Effect in play. Good for them.

Shark Tank – Season 7 Episode 2 Recap and Analysis

Pitch 1: O’Dang Hummus

Ask: $50K for 10% ($500K Valuation)

Cathy’s Thoughts: I really love up-tempo, high-energy pitches. Full blown feeding frenzy on this one, with four sharks presumably in (Mark’s offer never got thrown). The refrigerated section of the grocery store is America’s top retail battleground. It’s the most competitive, cutthroat landscape in the fast paced grocery industry, and there’s very, very little shelf space for start-ups. But Kevin O’Leary, who owns astronomical amounts of clout due to owning some of the country’s largest seafood debt, showing interest makes this interesting. I agreed with Kevin in you have to choose either the three Hummus SKUs or the two Salad Dressing SKUs. Great pitch, modest ask.

Cathy is: I would have made an interesting offer to Kevin: bump the offer to $75K for 20% that we chop, but I’ll assume the production risk. He would have had no reason to cut me in otherwise. I think Kevin would have taken it.

Result: Lori and Robert chopped 25% for 50K. Mark Cuban never got to throw out $100K for 25%, though if he had genuinely been enthusiastic about investing, he would have put his offer out and not paused long enough for a deal to get done.

Pitch 2: Splikity, a password solutions app.

Ask: $200K for 10%.

Cathy’s thoughts: like Mark Cuban, I completely lost interest when I found out these guys had no background in technology or software. I don’t feel Mark properly articulated why his would be a typical reaction: because you want the people who have the ultimate, final say in a company’s direction and decisions, including those related to security standards, to be tech guys. You don’t want it to be people who might not spend their working hours pouring through tech journals and trades to make sure all their future decisions are informed. It’s not that these guys couldn’t be trusted to make proper decisions. It’s that there’s no assurance of it. 10% doesn’t give you enough board seats or any protection from the decisions of the founders. If their decisions aren’t based on the market necessity but rather profit necessity, you have very little means to right the ship. I wouldn’t have bothered throwing out an offer for 50% either.

Cathy is: Out. In addition to all the stuff I just mentioned, apps can be tough to monetize (and always cost a multiple of what you think they will) and there’s not a ton of proprietary technology behind it.

Result: Kevin offered $200K in venture debt, meaning they would have to pay $600K. Kevin would also endorse the product under one of his brand names for 5% equity. Terrible offer that I would have been shaking my head at. No deal.

Pitch 3: Mikki Bey Eyelash Extensions

Ask: $300K for 20% ($1,500,000 Valuation)

Cathy’s Thoughts: I felt terrible for Mikki because I felt she had no chance of avoiding rejection. She has a viable business for herself that was among the least investable they’ve ever had on the show. Her numbers and the business as it exists today leave no room for anyone else. There was barely enough room for her. I feel her presence on the show was a casting failure since there was no way you could spin the possibility of landing a $300,000 investment based on her revenue and her business plans. It almost felt like she made it in front of the Sharks for the sake of sport, and I don’t like that.

Cathy is: Out. I would have also advised Nikki to not put any money towards patenting her process. Patenting a cosmetic process is a sucker’s game that offers very limited protection for far too much money.

Result: No deal, probably the least viable idea ever put in front of the Sharks.

Pitch 4: Loliware, edible cups.

Ask: $150K for 10%, revised to $600K for 25%  to complete a round that began before the show taped.

Cathy’s thoughts: Another feeding frenzy, as these girls came out with a new concept. I have to admit, I would have liked to have tried the cup with just water to see how much of the flavor bleeds into the beverage being drank. Does the cup require recipes tailored to it? That wasn’t ever discussed because the offers suddenly started flying. Offers that I would never have been cut into.

Cathy is: Out, assuming nobody offered to cut me in on their deal (they wouldn’t have). I would have considered upsetting the apple cart by offering to back their current round of $600K that was 30% complete during the taping with an operating line of credit at a standard interest rate, but such a thing would be uncharacteristically (ha) vindictive of me and I would never think of such a thing.

Result: Mark and Barbara chopped the 25% for $600K.

Shark Tank – Season 7 Episode 1 Recap and Analysis

I’ve been doing this for years for friends on Facebook, and with their encouragement, I’m bringing my Shark Tank thoughts to everyone else.

Pitch 1: Beebo, a hands-free baby bottle (Website)

Ask: 200K for 20% ($1M Valuation)

Cathy’s Thoughts: There’s a million baby products on the market. Many of them are good ideas. It’s a cluttered, competitive space though. Lots of trendy stuff that appears and disappears. Any idea that takes hold gets tweaked slightly and knocked off by competitors. I’ve looked at a lot of stuff in baby goods and very, very little has staying power. I like investing in stuff that’s more trend setting and staying. Beebo wasn’t a bad idea at all, but certainly wasn’t something I would invest in. Even with the Dragons Den Effect of having more interest in the product because of the show. As of this writing, the official Beebo website is down due to increased traffic. Safe bet to say they’re going to do okay.

Cathy is: Out. If none of the other Sharks had made an offer, I would have offered them an operating line so they would at least walk away able to fill their inventory needs if they had come prepared with documentation that they had inventory needs they were unable to fulfill.

Result: Lori and Ashton chopped 30%, Kevin was rejected for a third. Good deal for him.

Pitch 2: Acton, like personal transportation “rocket skates” (Website)

Ask: $1M for 3.5% ($28.5M Valuation)

Cathy’s Thoughts: Acton’s pitcher was cagey about his numbers, if not outright didn’t know his numbers. Neither is a satisfactory situation for those taking a pitch asking for a nearly thirty-million valuation. I don’t take pitches that big normally, but if I did, I would expect the presenter or someone on his or her team to know every single number off the top of their head, forward and backward. They had a $2,000,000 seed round and a follow-up round of $2,500,000, which means the $1,000,000 ask they came in for is behind the eight-ball and leaves too little wiggle-room without causing a down-round and devaluing equity for their existing investors. They’re burning $100K a month and say they’re breaking even right now, though again, the guy seemed non-committal on these numbers. Lori called him out on a weak pitch that sure seemed like a television commercial, and she was spot on. I don’t think he went on looking for a deal. I think he went on hoping to sell units to people watching.

Another big problem for me is that I’ve seen a LOT of stuff like this. Not just in my career but Brian and I are fans of this kind of technology and watch lots of videos and social media stuff related to novel and new transpiration / extreme sports rides. The pitch he gave the Sharks wasn’t exciting. In fact, Ashton said he wasn’t inspired to try them on. Stuff like this needs really enthusiastic, dynamic, and talented presenters for social media campaigns. I would expect someone pitching a product like this to get the kind of people who Red Bull signs to do cool tricks during the pitch, or a video of more advanced techniques. Are they capable of such a campaign? Nothing in the pitch suggested they were, leaving it up to the imagination.

His numbers weren’t good, he valued too high, and I just didn’t think the product was cool.

Cathy is: Out

Result: No deal. Kevin offered the money for 11.5% but that would have been too dramatic a down-round for Acton and they probably couldn’t take it even if they wanted to or needed the money. Kevin wouldn’t shake on 11.5% because he knew further rounds that would be needed would require dilution of his equity down to around 7%, not enough skin to keep him interested or positioned for a proportional return. This had almost no chance of getting a deal.

Pitch 3: McClary Bros, vinegar-based beverages and mixers. (Website)

Ask: $100K for 15% ($650K+ Valuation)

Cathy’s thoughts: This is a pitch I wish I could have been sitting in on, so I could have asked more questions. Like, “how popular are these throw-back vinegar mixers now? How frequently do they happen? What parts of the country do they take place in?” My problem with the product is I don’t see it blowing up as anything but a novelty. The Sharks certainly had a mixed reception to the product, with some of the SKUs being so potent in their odor that the Sharks didn’t want to hold them to their nose. The taste test split right down the center too. Right now, these old-fashioned vinegar-based mixers are on the fringe of drinking culture in America. The company is hoping it blows up and they’re there when it happens. While that could be a viable strategy, and they certainly had good branding and labeling, they can’t protect it. Major producers of mixers with better resources could jump in and take their market share, especially if it grows past the novelty-level I think is the ceiling for the product. Good pitch, but too low a ceiling for me.

Great branding. It's just really tough to take a risk on something these niche. $100K is a lot of money for something like this. If it hadn't been Shark Tank and the amount of money being asked had been flexible, it would have been far easier to strike a deal. I think Kevin would have been interested.

Great branding. It’s just really tough to take a risk on something this niche. $100K is a lot of money for something like this. If it hadn’t been Shark Tank and the amount of money being asked had been flexible, it would have been far easier to strike a deal. I think Kevin would have been interested.

Cathy is: Out

Result: No deal, nobody seemed interested at all.

Pitch 4: Signal Vault, a signal blocker for credit cards. (Website)

Ask: $200K for 12.5% ($1.6M Valuation)

Cathy’s thoughts: This is hugely on trend and had a satisfying pitch. I suspect the interrogation was one of the longer ones, with lots of technical questions about the nature of the product, the extent of protection offered, and future modifications that I would have needed to hear to fully judge the value. From what little I saw, and based on the enthusiasm of Robert (a securities investor), I would have likely been interested. However, I’m not in this sector and have no strategic value. Robert and Lori wouldn’t have cut me in on it (though Kevin might have).

Cathy is: in on Kevin’s deal if he would have had me (20% or 10% each for $200K), but Lori and Robert chopped a better offer and had more to offer that I would not have been allowed to cut in on. I could have made a spoiler offer of 10%, but there would have been no value besides the money in taking it for the entrepreneur.

Result: After a little negotiating, Robert and Lori chopped 25% for $250K, which was offered by the entrepreneur. I think he made a mistake. If he had offered 20% (10% each) they would have taken it. They all seemed happy with the deal made though. Best of luck to all of them.

Aliens

No, not the movie. The extraterrestrial life that in all likelihood we’ll only be able to appreciate under a microscope. Microscopic alien life is something we could find in my lifetime. We’re making plans to visit Europa, which likely has a liquid water ocean and all the basic building blocks of life. But, most people aren’t excited by space bacteria. They want the red meat aliens. The kinds that ride in bitch’in spaceships, fight Lex Luthor, and have a bizarre fascination with our assholes (both literal and figurative). I’ve never been much of a UFO person. It doesn’t help that most people with “experiences” are rednecks of questionable credibility who have near-fetishized fascination with butts and just happened to encounter aliens who share said fetish. And yea, Barry Goldwater and Jimmy Carter both had such experiences because they saw UFOs. UFO fanboys probably shouldn’t point to them though, unless losing a combined two elections by a total of 874 electoral gives you extra credibility. That’s probably not the case though. George McGovern never saw a UFO and he lost by 503. And he was from South Dakota. That’s one of those states aliens just love to go fanny-probing. If any high-profile failure would have gotten the galactic enema, it would have been McGoo.

Of course Goldwater was fascinated with aliens. When you lose elections as bad as he did, you'll take votes any place you can find them, even if they come from other planets.

Of course Goldwater was fascinated with aliens. When you lose elections as bad as he did, you’ll take votes any place you can find them, even if they come from other planets.

I don’t deny the existence of life on other planets, even intelligent life. As we gain knowledge of the universe, it’s becoming pretty clear that Earth-like planets aren’t nearly as rare as we thought. There’s over forty-billion Earth-like planets in habitual zones in the Milky Way alone. That’s a shit-load. Now consider that at least one of them, Earth, sprung up life smart enough to count how many stars there are in our own galaxy. I don’t find it very likely that Earth somehow beat 1 in 40,000,000,000 odds. But, let’s say it did. Even going by that standard, considering that there’s over one-hundred billion galaxies in just the observable universe of various sizes, I would say intelligent life is probably very likely.

Let’s be extremely, extremely conservative and still blow our minds. Let’s say that at the most, a galaxy can only have one planet with intelligent life. Just one for all the billions of stars each contains. And, let’s say that only 0.01% of all galaxies ever get that one planet that has intelligent life. That would mean, in the observable universe, there’s over 10,000,000 planets that have intelligent life. Wow!

Life has to exist out there. But life will never visit us. Intelligent life at least. If you subscribe to the panspermia theory, alien life has already visited us, and you’re its great ancestor. But little grey men? No. It’s not impossible. It’s just highly unlikely. The distances are too great and the time windows for meaningful contact are too small. Think about life on the Earth itself. The dinosaurs never gazed up at the stars and said “Hmmmm, I wonder………” And they were the most dominant complex species our planet has had. We’re the first species to look at the universe and realize, oh my God, we’re not alone. But we’ve only had enough knowledge and education to realize that within the last couple hundred years at best. That’s a teeny-tiny window.

Fringe crackpots will tell you that the pyramids or the Nazca Lines or Stonehenge are clear proof of aliens, because, um, reasons. The logic of it always cracked me up. “Hey, we’ve just broken the laws of physics and traveled improbable distances to visit your planet. Here, let us show you how to carve stone and arrange it in highly artistic ways.” Fucking thanks, Aliens. Revealing the nature of the universe to us so that we wouldn’t waste time believing in God and putting roadblocks up to appease said God would have been helpful and served to evolve us at a faster pace, but no, it’s always abstract art and anal probes with you.

If really weird architecture is the mark of aliens, someone should probably study Frank Gehry since clearly no human could come up with such strange shapes on their own.

If really weird architecture is the mark of aliens, someone should probably study Frank Gehry since clearly no human could come up with such strange shapes on their own.

But real people doing real thinking have really thought about this. And they’ve come to a few conclusions. First off, if there’s alien life smart enough to travel between stars or even galaxies, that by itself must prove how common life is in the universe. With that being the case, they probably wouldn’t take too much of a shine to us on Earth. We wouldn’t be exceptional. They would be used to seeing life EVERYWHERE! If we were lucky, the discovery of Earth would get a two-minute blip from their version of Hank Green on their version of Sci-Show Space. Especially since alien life probably won’t look as radically different as once believed. Look at out how stuff evolved here on Earth, where many features common among all animals came into being separately: bilateral symmetry, appendages, eyes, wings, mouths, etc. Evolution must instinctively gravitate towards these advantages. For a species that has the ability to traverse the entire universe, really, wouldn’t they have seen and categorized a lot of things by time they reach us?

And, if they were interested in us, why would they even need to directly enter the Earth to observe us? It’s fairly narrow-minded to think that any creature that has the ability to journey across the stars would actually need to directly poke and prod us to learn about our biology. Such stories of this occurring are likely because of a phenomena known as sleep paralysis, and those poor people who have experienced them are deserving of pity. We should also try to sit down with them and work some logic into them. Like how we can predict where zebras will migrate to using satellite imagery, and we’re not quite awesome enough to even make it to the next planet over with our own physical bodies. If we can do that, surely beings with the technology to go star-hopping can simply scan us from space and learn all about our biology.

Of course, none of that is all too likely to begin with. The distances are just too great. Now granted, we’re early in the search for exoplanets like Earth, but the best candidate we’ve found yet is called Keplar 438b. And by best candidate, I mean it’s the closest to the size of the Earth and a close approximation to our Earth’s distance from its sun. Which is a red dwarf. We don’t even know if those can sustain life (some have doubts). But if it could, and if our motivation once we reach the stars outside of our solar system is simply to look for other life, we could send a probe. If that probe was traveling 20% of the speed of light, it would take 2,350 Earth-years to reach Kepler 438b. That’s because it’s 470 light-years from Earth. Any signals that probe would send back would take an additional 470 years to reach us, meaning that if we could launch a probe at the best candidate we’ve seen right now (we can’t) reaching speeds 20% of the speed of light (some think even that will never be within our reach), we wouldn’t get the answers we were searching for until the year 4,835.

Look at just about any picture of space with many stars and you're looking at life. The odds say it has to be true. It's also probably as close as we'll get to seeing intelligent life on other planets. Maybe I'm weird, but for me, that's good enough.

Look at just about any picture of space with many stars and you’re looking at life. The odds say it has to be true. It’s also probably as close as we’ll get to seeing intelligent life on other planets. Maybe I’m weird, but for me, that’s good enough.

Think of how many civilizations rise and fall over the span of 2,850 years. Think of how much people change in that span. Technology. Ideology. Would the people of 4,835 even retain the knowledge that a probe we launched in 2015 is beaming back information on the best candidate we knew of for life on other planets? Or, if they knew, would they even care anymore?

Intelligent life in other systems would likely face those same challenges too. The window for advanced civilization is smaller than anyone realizes just because of how fast things change. Regimes, empires, nations, and global populations. Life changes too fast for a very old, very uninterested universe to take notice. We’ll never meet extraterrestrial neighbors. While many will probably be disappointed by that, I actually find it incredibly comforting to know that, somewhere out there in the Cosmos, a being is looking up to the heavens and wondering about us too. What we’re like, where we came from and where we’re going. It has to be true. The numbers are just too great for it not to be. How can anyone not take comfort in that? Even more comforting is that we all come from the same ingredients. That we share this eternal bond that knows no distance is beautiful. And one day, trillions of years from now, the atoms in our bodies will return to the heavens, to dance with atoms that once belonged to star gazers from other worlds. In this sense, there is no such thing as alien life. We’re simply all just different parts of the universe, waiting to reunite some day.