On Sunday, August 13th in Deal, New Jersey, Exceed Network hosted Exceed Tech 2017. Sponsored by IDB Bank and hosted by the Kassin family, over 200 people showed up for a sunny morning on the beach filled with food, fun, industry panelists, keynote speakers and words of encouragement for entrepreneurs of all stripes. Isaac Kassin, cofounder of Exeq, an investment and money management application for millennials, kicked off the event with excitement and positivity. As host and cosponsor of the event, Kassin wanted to create a space where everyone would feel comfortable. “Tech and entrepreneurship have become romanticized” he said in his opening remarks. “We have read books and watched movies about the genius entrepreneur, the college drop outs. I’m here to tell you it’s not all like that.” He went on to describe that success in technology and entrepreneurship is about processes. “They require execution, team, time and place, but the reality is, each one of us can tap into that process.” He assured the crowd that at nineteen, when he cofounded Exeq, he didn’t know anything about coding. “My partners and I knew nothing about tech. We knew young people were being neglected, that banks weren’t catering to us. But we had an idea and started. Slowly but surely you learn, iterate and surround yourself with people who can bring your vision to life.” Exeq now has 5,000 users in New York on iOS devices with 40,000 more on the waiting list. Kassin was previously interviewed for Exceed’s Spotlight series.
Kassin then called up the first panel of speakers made up of marketing experts from different fields. Frank Chaparro of Business Insider, Nick Greenfield, former growth hacker at Lyft, and Tomer Laks, global VP for SimilarWeb, offered insights into the vast world of marketing. With the theme of making entrepreneurship more accessible to everyone in mind, the moderator asked what they thought the most successful recent marketing campaigns have been. Greenfield answered first. “Warby Parker. They have figured out how to build an online brand and marry the retail presence with online, and it was all launched with a bus! Before they built retail locations, which are the highest grossing per-square-foot spaces outside of Apple stores, they drove a bus around the country and listened to consumer insights about what the retail space should look like. Not only was the bus great marketing but they also learned how to create an incredible user space.” Chaparro then mentioned Coca Cola, always in the running for best marketing. “‘Share a Coke’ was brilliant. By printing names on their cans and bottles, Coke got consumers to market for them. Everyone took to Instagram and Facebook to post pictures of themselves with their name on a Coke. It worked perfectly.” Finally, Tomer Laks weighed in with a more technical answer. “Today, there is a significant change in the way marketing and CMO directors approach their audiences. They used to look for the first sale. Now, that’s easy. What they want is a lifetime customer, a return customer that loves the brand. This is a much more nuanced and vastly different approach than what existed before.” The panel went on to give tips about how to market yourself and discussed the difficulties of marketing for young businesses. Greenfield summed it up with an important point. “When you’re young, spend wisely. The dollars go quickly. These days, there are so many great ways to market on the cheap. Make sure you’ve exhausted all of them before you invest in something big.”
The next panel was made up of three venture capitalists including Michael Sidgmore of Broadhaven Capital, Haim Dabah of HDS Capital as well as Michael Cardamone, managing director of Acceleprise. The moderator started by asking what advice they have for entrepreneurs looking for funding. Dabah answered first. “If you come to a VC, you need to be impressive on paper. You need to show a period of customer acquisition, a good revenue model, money that you have already made. Also, at that early stage, you should always be going to friends and family for funding. We turn people away all the time simply because it is too early.” Sidgmore chimed in with more of what VCs look for in the crowded startup space. “We always want to see your passion, how much you care about your product. Would they do this if they weren’t getting paid? Are they willing to leave their job? Also, can you make a decision without a full set of information, can you think fast while thinking slow?” The panel went on to discuss all types of funding opportunities and tips for entrepreneurs looking for funding. As Exeq was a cosponsor of the day, the discussion rounded out with a comment from Cardamone about financial technology, or, fintech companies like Exeq. “The next wave of fintech companies will not necessarily be disruptors but they will get acquired by existing institutions. These big institutions, while they may not have the pull with young people, they do know it’s important to relate to them. We will see some very exciting things in the near future. For example, why not Amazon the bank? They know who you are, what you buy, where you live and more. There will be some very exciting new businesses popping up soon.”
Mr. Kassin, in whose home the event was held, then spoke about the importance of being a good person in business. “Let me bring it down to human terms” he said. “I’ll tell you what I tell my three sons; Don’t get intimidated by anyone else, if you have a good idea go with it, have confidence in yourself and faith in God. If you can go home every night, look yourself in the mirror and say I gave it my all today, I was a fair, hard working businessman, you will be shocked at how far you will go.”
The event ended with a keynote address by Derek Brown, CEO of Exeq and seasoned businessman. In addition to explaining the banking system, its flaws, its realities as well as its recent shakeups, he shared some key advice for all entrepreneurs. “You simply won’t know how the market will react until you try. I majored in philosophy. I was nowhere near banking back then. But I was open to new experiences, understood the trends and was ready to jump in. If you get excited about something, go for it.”
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