NEW YORK, NY — It was a cold, rainy, dark night in NYC. November in New York can be most cruel. One day sunny and inviting with an optimistic glow, the next day brutally dark with a full-frontal assault on optimism.
Jaime leaves the workspace, after a crushing day of multiple rejections to her pitch for Seed Capital, and heads off home for a brief break from a series of tough days as an entrepreneur. She enters into the East Village street, that glistened in the juxtaposition between the bright lights and wet streets. The cold mean streets were working real hard to crush the can-do attitude of NYC. As she rushed to the subway, Jaime could not help but take in the happy group of young people heading off to cozy restaurants and cafes that dot the streets of the city with the allure of what could be.
A certain sense of loss engulfed Jaime as she descended the subway stairs. There would be no cheery dinner boosted by the hope of tomorrow for her tonight. Another night of noodles and tuna alone in her small one-bedroom apartment in Staten Island.
As the ferry bounced along the demanding New York Harbor, that sense of loss Jaime was feeling melted into a warm feeling of nostalgia. Jaime knew that her bootstrapping gigs and savings she brought to NYC were barely covering her monthly expenses. She sat back and started to enjoy the sights and sounds of a Friday night, as if her days in NYC were coming to an end.
Jaime remembers the tough days growing up on the family dairy farm in Green County, Wisconsin. Small dairy farms are difficult to run. Competition with the large corporate farms and intolerable debt loads cut into already slim margins. Every day it seemed one family farm after another was closing down operations or forced into bankruptcy.
But Jaime’s parents beat the odds by embracing entrepreneurial build-out solutions to bring in more income to the farms. Her mother used a stretch of the farmland to grow varied berries. She worked hard to turn one of the vacant storage buildings, which had been rendered vacant due to the loss of production that seeped into the hands of big dairy, into an approved BnB and later into an Airbnb. She used her website and emerging social media platforms as a means to not only market the new ‘Farm Chic Holiday” in several urban areas but also to market her homespun gift baskets of farm-fresh jellies, jams, syrups, baked goods, and fresh cheeses. Her garden not only provided income from the jams and jellies sold online but also the emerging farmer market platforms.
Jaime’s father also embraced the entrepreneurial spirit to deal with the changing market conditions. During a scheduled Farmers market day in Madison, he stopped by the University to attend a conference on anaerobic digestion. Dairy farms of all sizes are faced with the environmental problem of cow manure. The means of disposal or reuse were costly with very little benefit to the farm. But the anaerobic digestion tech not only disposes of the manure, it also converts the waste into Renewable Natural Gas that can be converted into free clean energy and fuel. Jaime’s dad could not get enough of the research materials. He recruited Jaime, who had better research skills, and she found state and federal grants and emerging anaerobic digester startups looking for shared cost to gain valuable case studies. Jaime’s R&D skills and her ability to find market stress points led to the development of an anaerobic digester on the farm, at a very cost-effective expense.
Jaime was a chemistry major at the university, and her focus quickly turned on increasing the methane production of the manure with mixtures of roadkill, farm waste, and other high methane biowaste. Soon the family farm was selling electricity back to the grid. Jaime’s R&D led her to find the emerging biofuel market that municipalities were using to help fuel trucks and vehicles. Her family was able to gain an additional stream of income from the biofuel companies.
Upon graduating from the University, Jaime received several job offers that Chemical Engineers tend to receive. She accepted an offer from a hydrogen fuel cell R&D program at a university based in Grenoble, France.
However, after two years in Grenoble and working as an employee, Jaime wanted to try her hand as an entrepreneur. True to form, Jaime spent all of her free time studying the transition from employee to entrepreneur. Her days on the family farm provided the hands-on experience, which enhanced her studies. Jaime moved to Paris to gain as much experience and direct knowledge as she could by attending tours and presentations at the world’s largest startup campus, Station F. After six months of nonstop networking, long nights in cafes talking to energy entrepreneurs, and learning about the need to navigate the ups and downs of startups, Jaime returned to Green County that summer.
Never one to sit around and do nothing. Jaime went to work for the family farm’s new energy company. She saw the great development work her family built by paying other small farmers a fee to collect biobased farm waste. The mixture of farm waste with the existing substrates, the finely tuned biological waste formula that is designed to produce the highest yield of methane, was increasing RNG output at a solid growth rate. Jaime started thinking about the ability to scale RNG from bio-waste.
During the late evening hours, Jaime started searching urban waste management. Jaime’s studies drew her to the well-documented NYC waste streams. She was able to arrive at a calculation that household food waste throughout the five boroughs was about 22,500,000 lbs. a day. This figure did not include commercial food waste.
Jaime couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunities that may exist over such a high volume of waste. The fact that NYC was rolling out Anaerobic Digestion as a means to enhance wastewater resources recovery facilities by producing RNG from a bio-waste mix including the deep source of residential food waste, only drove her midnight research. While in Paris, Jaime learned about the entrepreneurial discipline of Concept Generation (CG), the milestone development document that provides the basis for a development startup structure. A good CG document takes an idea and drives it down the development pipeline to the decision to form a startup entity that will commercially exploit the idea and the derivative product/service lines or support a Not for Profit. The CG’s last milestone moves into the Proof of Concept (POC) stage, also referred to as the seed funding stage. A beta version of the product/service lines should be developed at this stage. The stronger the beta, the stronger the chances of obtaining seed funding. This is also a crucial stage, because it tests the nerves of entrepreneurs and the dedication to the startup. The Beta product/service lines often fail at the POC stage. The failure is often positive because it provides development flaws and or market flaws which can be addressed. The failed POC provides a rich body of knowledge that can be used to reset the development with sharper targets and milestones.
Jaime knew all of these factors as the nostalgic ride on the Staten Island Ferry turned into combat against fatigue. But as tired as she was, she could not stop thinking about that summer in Wisconsin when she returned from Paris. She remembered how she wound up in the NYC borough of Staten Island, struggling with her startup.
One late summer night, Jaime’s friend Katie from the university came over to visit. She studied acting and film and spent the summer in Chicago acting in Shakespeare Street theater. As the two school friends reminisced about the good times at school, the comfortable summer breeze and narcotic summer night sounds of crickets and frogs filled the night air with relaxation and youthful enthusiasm. The two friends’ conversation started to drift to NYC. Katie’s experience in Chicago inflamed her lifetime goal of making it on Broadway. She knew the risk and outrageous cost of living in NYC. Katie wistfully drifted off to the bright lights of Broadway while sitting on the farm’s porch which was blanketed with the serenity and safety of a summer evening at home. Ever the entrepreneur, Jaime told Katie about the CG she was working on during the late nights into early summer mornings about an RNG substrate business that would sell substrate development and service lines to the city’s wastewater RNG development. She felt she could open up an additional stream of income by selling RNG fuel and electricity Private Label deals with corporate brand names. She knew the aggregation-based SaaS product development and digital campaigns would be expensive in NY. She also started looking into the means to cut living expenses in the notoriously expensive city.
As the two friends brainstormed about moving together to NYC, the fateful summer night turned into the rooster’s call for the crack of dawn work that is part of a dairy farm’s workday. Delirious with a commitment to pursue a dream, the rooster’s crow started to sound like the Staten Island Ferry horn. As Jaime is jostled awake from the ferry docking at St. George’s Terminal, she relishes the blissful sleep she was able to get on the short ride from Manhattan.
As she heads to the Staten Island Railway, part of NYC Transit’s infrastructure, she takes a moment to enjoy the victory she gained by finding affordable housing with free transit from Staten Island to Manhattan and a cheap train ride, just two stops from the Ferry to her apartment.
This was no small feat. Jaime spent the rest of August researching the cheapest apartment that was safe with a relatively short commute on the fabled NYC public transportation system. The nice apartment is just one block down from the train station. She found a one-bedroom apartment in Staten Island for just over $1600/mo. The commute, 45 minutes. Although $800/m each was high considering that she would not have steady income for a while, Jaime believed her side gigs and savings would cover living expenses. Kathie did not have savings but felt her side jobs as a waitress and or hostess would cover living costs. Although Katie met most of her share of the rent payments, she sometimes came up short, placing more of a strain on Jaime.
As Katie spent the mornings at auditions, Jaime was able to save workspace cost by working at home. Since the CG involved research and product/service line development, the arrangement worked out at a certain level. The business model she built for the potential startup was a residential green club membership. The members would get paid a nominal fee to place food waste in the startup’s specially designed metal box which would be picked up by the startup delivery service. The NYC companies from Startups to large enterprises would be sold private labels on the new RNG and derivative electricity that was produced at the NYC wastewater plant. The city would also be charged a substrate fee for the development of varied substrate mixtures.
Jaime worked all hours of the day and night to develop seed money pitch decks and a business plan for investors. On the days that Katie was home, Jaime would work in the Greenwich Village workspace and even in hotel lobbies after hours.
Although she drafted an NDA for the pitch decks, she met a law student in a cafe by the school in the West Village. As they became coffee buddies, he expressed concerns about the lack of protection of any IP rights. He referred her to the bar association who provided a 1-hour consultation for under $100.00. The bar association lawyer indicated that if the SaaS software incorporates other patents, that could be an expensive infringement issue. The lawyer also advised that her innovation in the software was not fully protected by the NDA, and a Patent attorney would have to be retained.
Complicating the sense of urgency was the cost of the software engineers to produce the aggregation tech with specific and unique design platforms. There was also a need for seed money for the digital marketing and branding firm, in order to build a community of green developers from the target residential communities throughout the 5 boroughs. Jaime was sure that her pitch decks would raise the seed money needed to develop successful prototypes and support the marketing and branding campaigns. Jaime did obtain a lawyer’s retention fee and was numb at the cost. She also identified varied digital packages from varied firms in the city.
As she opened up the door to her apartment, a certain sense of failure hit her. She pitched every Angel Investor and VC firm in varied markets that were in the green energy space. Most of the firms did not respond. The ones who did were not convinced of the viability of the concept to support a startup. Two funders provided significant critical development and market objections that most certainly would be helpful if Jaime could raise the seed funds.
The thought of another bowl of spicy noodles and tuna could not motivate her to get out of the chair she fell into once she closed the door of her apartment, locking out, for the moment, the harsh realities of a startup.
A flash of sunlight bathed the apartment, with the invigorating smell of fresh-brewed coffee, calling her to a new day. Katie just got home from her gig at a 24-hour diner in Queens. One of the great benefits of that gig is a free catch of day-old donuts and muffins. As Katie asked the obvious, did she sleep the entire night in the chair, Jaime is slowly coming back to life, as the donuts and coffee start to work their magic.
Jaime starts to feel the energy of a sunny Saturday in the autumn of New York that writers and singers have made iconic. “I can’t and won’t give up,” she proclaims, as Katie pats her back for confirmation. She pulls out her laptop and scrutinizes the emails she received from the two Angel Investors and in the sunlight of a new day, she sees that the critique is not only valid, but the changes are doable.
She next turns her attention to find the development and legal solutions she needs that could be procured at a price she could fund, since it is going to have to be her that funds the Proof of Concept. As she furiously researches options, she comes across a Pune, India-based multifaceted firm that offers not only outsource services but an international network of lawyers and professional service providers.
Jaime, always thirsty for knowledge, started to delve into an entire new world of opportunity. Her fascination over the possibilities that a Global Capability Centers offer young entrepreneurs was invigorating Jaime. Housing Knowledge, Business and Legal Processing under one roof with robust networks of lawyers, business developers, marketing & sales professionals, digital developers, and social media experts was almost too much for Jaime to take in. Although it was now 10 am in NYC, it was 8:30 PM in Pune, but Jaime had to try. To her delight, her call was answered by an engaging young lawyer named Amrita. Although they were a globe apart, the two young women bonded over the challenge. Amrita explained that she is a lawyer based with the GCC and had deep experience working with the firm’s network of New York law firms. She explained that the NY lawyers in the network are able to curtail costs because of the use of legal process outsourcing. She had sent her the contact information of the New York law firm while they were talking. She then called in her colleague, Riya, who works with the most dynamic Digital Development & Marketing Firms in New York and Boston. She explained that the SaaS software could be developed much more efficiently and at a cost-effective rate at the GCC. Riya explained that based on the budget constraints that Jaime faced, she would assign a developer on demand that could produce the software to spec.
Riya explained that the GCC provides US-based Startups with a beneficial turnaround time since its workday is 10.5 hours ahead of the east coast of the US. Despite the fact that it was Saturday night in Pune, Amrita and Riya stayed on the call with Jaime to figure out a development schedule that she could afford. They also stated that they would build the first Alpha version of the software using licensed or open codes until NY lawyers weighed in on any further platforms that Jaime wanted to add.
As the three crunched numbers, a sigh of relief and joy enveloped the newly bonded team.
Jaime bid Amrita and Riya a good Saturday night and continued on with her study of GCC capabilities. As Jaime dug deeper into the GCC model, she started to develop a bootstrapping model in which she could fund a staff in Pune, by leveraging her chemical engineering experience with a full-time job. Having the 10.5 hours added to the workday and the ability to leverage the currency differential would turn her hopeless situation into a hopeful proposition.
As Jaime studied and analyzed and projected cost, she felt a tap on her shoulder, it was Katie asking the obvious, have you been sitting at the counter all day on your laptop? As Jaime looked up and was greeted by a night sky that had somehow settled over NYC, she astonishingly asked for the time of the day and was stunned when Katie responded 8 pm.
Jaime, flushed with hope, proclaimed a victorious day in the entrepreneur’s life, and offered to take Katie out for dinner, a welcome reprieve from boxed noodles.
On the following Monday morning, Jaime woke up to a link with an Alpha version of the SaaS software Riya sent. Jaime was amazed to see her concept in a crisp and professional alpha software. As she was working through the software, an email from the New York lawyer came over, inviting Jaime to make an appointment for a consultation.
Jaime knew from the quality of the Alpha this dynamic GCC was going to save the project. Intrigued by her own bootstrapping models, Jaime wanted to go to Pune to access the full offering and developmental opportunities.
As Jaime was riding the Ferry over to Manhattan on a bright crisp and sunny day, she called Amrita and Riya and expressed her interest to work at the GCC for a week for evaluation and collaboration. Amrita and Riya agreed and told her that they would arrange all the logistics.
What a difference a weekend makes.