Follow The Leader: The Greatest Startup Events



Ryan Foland, aka GingerMC, names his top startup event picks of where you can pitch

from Silicon Beach to the OC.


As the entrepreneur community continues to grow in Orange County and Santa Monica, you may feel overwhelmed with all of the events that you hear about. With a limited amount of time to invest, you want to make sure you are spending your time at the highest caliber events to maximize your startup schedule. Don’t you wish someone could help you choose which ones to go to and which ones to skip?


Enter Ryan Foland, communication expert known in the startup community as the GingerMC Ryan can be seen on stage as Master of Ceremonies at some of the largest startup events in Los Angeles including Expert Dojo Investor Festival, TechDay, IDEAS LA, Green Festival LA, Digital Hollywood, and more. He is a sought after host from the OC to LA, and as such has an ear to the ground for great events.


We sat down with Ryan recently and asked him to help our members choose some of the best startup events on the horizon. He shared three events that you can both attend, of which two are still accepting applications for a pitch competition.


In order of when they occur, check out these must attend startup events:


Investor Festival – Where Startups Meet Investors

Need to grow to the next level? Expert DOJO features 80 of the highest caliber investors at their popular Investor Festival. These investors are looking for seed, series A and series B funding opportunities. The program also offers the opportunity to pitch your business to these investors. This five day event caters to every great startup looking to grow with various startup themed days as part of the comprehensive schedule:


Day 1 – Investment training For Female founders

Day 2 – Pitching training for seed stage entrepreneurship

Day 3 – Early stage pitching to Investors

Day 4 – Later stage pitching (Expert DOJO Approved only – Series A plus)

Day 5 – One On One Meetings With Investors


When: Tuesday, Mar 28 – Friday, Mar 31 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Where: Expert DOJO space
 UNIT 308, 395 Santa Monica Place

Get your week long ticket here. (Your ticket includes entry into the Expert DOJO startup accelerator for 4 months at no additional cost.)

Enter to Pitch here.

Hashtag: #InvestorFestival, #expertdojo


Eureka FEST:

Eureka FEST celebrates the growth and successes of Orange County’s booming tech and startup scene on April 8 at the Eureka Building in Irvine. Eureka FEST powered by Microsoft celebrates being an entrepreneur in Orange County with music, pitches, and parties. After hosting some of the best tech, learning and networking events Orange County has to offer, Eureka decided to launch its own signature event called Eureka FEST in 2015. This event was created as a way to celebrate startups and entrepreneurship in Southern California with a day of awesome speakers, demos, pitches, connecting opportunities and a party to wrap it all up.



When: Saturday, April 8th

Where: 1621 Alton Pkwy, Irvine Ca

Registration Link:

*Ryan will be the Master of Ceremonies and has a discount code you can use to get 20% off the ticket by using code GINGERMC.

Hashtag: #EurekaFEST


Get Started OC

Get Started OC is a signature OC event featuring entrepreneurs who will pitch their business to a distinguished panel of experts for a chance to win $10,000 in prizes including a Cox Business technology package. If you don’t want to compete you can attend this free event for networking and learning opportunities from accomplished leaders in early stage investment, digital marketing, and business growth strategy. The evening will include a pitch competition with expert feedback from a distinguished panel of judges.
 There will also be a panel discussion, including audience Q&A, geared towards small business owners and start-ups. This event will include 
appetizers, desserts and complimentary Valet Parking


When: Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Where:  [AV] – 16500 Scientific Way, Irvine CA 92618

[AV] is Orange County’s hottest meeting and event destination. Located in the heart of Orange County and near the world-renowned Irvine Spectrum.

RSVP for free here.

Enter to pitch here.

Hashtag: #GetStartedOC


Learn to Blow Up Your Crowdfunding Audience with Viral Contests and Giveaways

Have you ever wondered what it would take to grow your pre-launch email list into thousands of subscribers? Maybe even hundreds of thousands?


Have you ever thought about using a contest or giveaway to incentivize your existing base of customers and subscribers to help you spread the word? After all, the most successful crowdfunding campaigns are the ones that bring the biggest crowd to the game….Right?


Think about it this way….


The owner of your local minor league baseball team comes onto afternoon sports radio and says, “The first ten thousand fans at the stadium get 2 free beers and a free hot dog”. Do you think people would show up? I bet they would. Not only that, they would come flocking with ALL of their friends!


Most major league teams (like my Rockies!), do this kind of promotion in one way or another. The only difference is that it’s usually a t-shirt….or maybe a bobblehead…. Not beer of course.


Now, how can this be applied directly to your crowdfunding campaign?


Well, when you reward your existing customers and email subscribers with some sort of “referral bonus”, they will actively generate more audience members FOR YOU! Everyone knows that the best customers are the ones the have been referred to you. Not to mention that by increasing your incentives, your loyal minions will be that much more excited to share your contest page, get others to join your email list and help your campaign go viral.


Sounds like a pretty simple concept right? The answer to that question is yes…..but, ONLY if you have the right tools!


Helping you create the best Viral Contests & Giveaways, Krowdster is the first DIY crowdfund marketing & PR solution, and software as a service. Designed to promote rewards, as well as equity crowdfunding campaigns, Krowdster is quickly becoming the most trusted source for agencies such as Indiegogo themselves!


Come learn more at:


We look forward to seeing you there!

If you want to know what a value proposition is then have a look at how Healora saved a patient 80% of their healthcare costs.

This is an actual letter from a Doctor to his colleagues about the massive value Healora added to his patient and friend.

I recently received a concerning email from a friend of mine whose daughter was undergoing a GI workup for some digestive issues that sound like IBS. His family is in self-insured pool with deductible so the price does matter. My concern is not about the diagnosis or workup but the cost of such when the physician is no longer in position to determine the price. (ie employed by large entity);

“Doctors have recommended that my daughter get an upper and lower scope to see what is causing her eating/digestion problems. Nothing has tested positive yet. So the cost estimate for the hospital et. al. is $12,000 -cash price at a 35% discount, and another $4,000 for the Dr.  for a 1 hour procedure, two biopsies. $16,000.”

2 days later;

“Have you made any progress on finding an option here locally?”

The father than contacted a new LA startup and received the following quote for a total cost of $2,684;

 “Esophagoscopy EGD AND Colonoscopy, with biopsies (up to 3 biopsies for the EGD and 2 biopsies for the Colonoscopy)

– MAC anesthesia

– Physician fee

  -Pre-procedure 30 minute in person Office Visit to complete a physical exam and go over any questions

  -Post-procedure 15 minute office visit or phone call to discuss procedure pathology results and next steps

So for my SERMO friends – Who is gauging this self-paying patient and who is getting multimillion bonuses at the end of the year?


The father and daughter are flying to LA for couple days to get this done by doctors rather than institutions.

Round trip flight is $179  from Denver-LA

Expert DOJO comment – Game, set and match to Healora.  It feels so great when we bring a product to market which makes such a massive difference in an industry.

How to get 153% CTR with KBucket content curation

Introducing KBucket,  a topic curation solution that will significantly increase your social inbound traffic and cost you much less than PPC advertising. After your initial cost to license the program you will continue to generate organic traffic through minimal effort.  The findings in this post are based on actual results going back 5 months.

Our studies will measure the social ROI in six important categories:

The results shared in this post are analytics from links shared from our own curated library under the “KBucket Page“.  To put our results in perspective I am also comparing them with a Facebook ad campaign, as well as analytics generated from a Twitter lead generation solution called “Market Hub”.


We started scheduling curated articles for distribution from our KBucket page starting in July of 2016 and increased the number of shared articles on December 16t,h as you will see in the charts below.  Here is what has happened so far:

Messages + Clicks.jpg

At first glance the results are truly unbelievable.  We shared 772 messages and received 1185 clicks.  That is a 153% CTR which is phenomenal by any standard.  The inbound traffic generated is consistent and predicated on both the number of articles shared and the number of followers on your social channels.  We currently have about 5000 followers on Twitter, over 500 connections on LinkedIn and Facebook post reach has been a mere 555 in the last month.


Let’s now compare the KBucket results with a Facebook ad campaign and the results generated by “Market Hub”.


For the Facebook we marketed a landing page to promote our browser extension and a blog post to promote our curation solution to journalist. My intent here is not to say that curation will replace advertising, since advertising has a much wider reach than curation.  My intent is to show the cost of advertising and the effectiveness of the KBucket solution.,


MarketHub is a twitter lead generation platform.  This solution is a more direct competitor to our KBucket solution.  However “MarketHub” doesn’t directly drive traffic to your site, they simply ad a “Click to Action” banner at the bottom of every link they share and the banners drive traffic. The industry average performance for successful banner ads is between 1-2%.  Below I have entered my Google analytics results for inbound links from Twitter. I am attributing 60% of those links to “MarketHub”, since I don’t have access to my dashboard anymore after I cancelled my account.


Vendor Campaign Duration Inbound links CPC Total Cost
Facebook Pay Per Click 20 days 292 $1.06 $306
Market Hub Subscription 3 months 66 $4.50 $297
KBucket One Time Fee 6 months 1185 $1.26 $1,500

Note: We average 1.7 clicks per message shared.  Sharing 1000 messages will generate 1700 link.  Calculating the cost of licensing annually, you will be paying 7 cents a click.  That is more cost effective than any solution on the market today.


In practice, we know that not all clicks result in visits to your site, which is the metric we seek.  A good portion of clicks generally don’t convert because they were either generated by a bot, or the user decided to abort the visit because the page wouldn’t load fast enough, or for some other reason.  So in practice your real Cost Per Click (CPC) is higher than what the vendor reports.


We are obviously interested in measuring the real Cost Per Click (CPC).  So let’s take a look at the visits generated to our website from our curation efforts. Notice that our efforts were spread across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.  I am using Google Analytics to report this data as the HubSpot data only measures visits to my blog page.  Most of the links shared are to the KBucket page that is not included in my Hubspot analytics.

google social analytics.jpg


This is a total of 848 visits from Social media. This is less than the total number of clicks reported by Hubspot (1185) but still a 117% CTR.  Following are the total clicks I received to my Hubspot blog page which is the mix of links shared promoting our own content.



With KBucket you pay for the platform once with no recurring costs.  So the longer you own the KBucket platform the more cost effective it gets.

Why does KBucket perform so well!


To examine the answer let’s review the process first. We subscribe to various influencer news letters, We also have set up aggregation services like Drumup and Nuzzel to deliver the most popular articles on topics of our interest.  Additionally, we read trade magazines and curate links that provide solutions to my business problems.  For example if you read readit or stumbledupon you can track which articles are trending well.


This implies that the curated content in ourchannels are already ranked high in popularity and in search engines. No wonder they perform so well! Influencers research their headlines and write articles people want to read; that’s why they are influencers. Their content naturally performs better.


So, as a curator you should pay close attention to your selected articles. Make sure your curated library covers a broad range and you are not repeating the same angle from multiple authors.  Just pick the one that resonate best with you.  Your followers should know you are taking time to get them the best information possible.

Your work never gets old – Curating ever-green links!


We have been curating for over 6 years now, and have found that many great insights and articles are as useful today as they were when they were first published.  In some cases where the world has moved on and the advice or report is out of date, you can still provide value by pointing out how the world has moved on.  For example we have been creating lists of products and some date back to 5 or 6 years ago, and naturally a number of them are no longer around.  That in itself is an interesting piece of information, don’t you agree?  A list of companies that went out of business, and then investigate and comment why!


If you curate 3 links a day, 15 days a month, you will have over 780 links in your curated library in just one year.  Little drops of water make a mighty ocean. Stay disciplined, record your insights as they occur and soon you will have an incredible resource that will drive your inbound traffic and establish you as a thought leader in your field!

KBucket makes this all easy!


KBucket makes it easy to host hundreds of links on one page and make them all accessible,  Each page is divided into multiple groups and each group offers one or more channels.  Each channel lists a number of links, that can be quickly navigated with category, publisher and author tags.  In other words the library of links is accessible for anyone to discover incredible content.


Each link in the library can be shared individually to drive traffic back to your website.  As a marketer it is both important to stay visible and fresh, because freshness and variety is what will give you authority and elevate your status in social media.  Links can also be re-shared in time intervals.  With a library of hundreds of links, your timeline will always look interesting and informative.


Additionally, scheduling links is also easy.  If your scheduler let’s you upload RSS feeds, you can simply queue your entire library to run in intervals, delivering great content.  If your scheduler requires you to enter links manually (Hubspot works this way), then you can also easily filter and pick the links you want from your library.


In addition to getting highly targeted traffic to your site, KBucket will also help you grow your follower reach.  In social media people follow others because of what they share!  We found that the quality of followers is also better targeted to the people we want to reach.


Each shared link adds the author’s Twitter handle to your message.  This will let the author know you are sharing their content.  As a result, you will now have an opportunity to connect with those influencers, as you have now separated yourself from the crowd.


Some of our own tweets are directly to the author of the article, letting them know how well their links are performing in our channel.  Reciprocity is a powerful driver of building influence and getting noticed!




KBucket is a powerful curation solution for generating inbound traffic by curating and sharing links related to your business. The benefits can be summarized as follows

  • You own you assets.  What you curate lives on your platform and will continue to pay dividends
  • There is only a one time fee for installtion and training.
  • Links that you curate drive traffic back to your site
  • You can use your curated library as a resource for all employees to share content (employee advocacy)
  • Your curated content can provide answers to business problems, to be used by your sales department
  • KBucket is more cost efficient than PPC for driving inbound traffic
  • KBucket shares will increase your reach on all social networks
  • KBucket helps your SEO
  • KBucket is a excellent way to get backlinks to your site.


We welcome both site owners and digital agencies who help their clients with their social media strategy.  Signup for a demo, download KBrowser and amplify your social media strategy.

9 Ways to Validate Your Startup Ideas

There are times when having a business idea becomes a big problem. If you can’t get it out of your head and you’re convinced that it has great market potential, it’s probably something worth considering. Yes, that’s correct. The biggest businesses had to start somewhere, and it often wasn’t a big opening of a swanky shop with extra large ribbons cut by a celebrity. The real businesses started small and required the vision, sweat, and hard work of a man or a woman who believed in a startup idea.

The good news is that the modern times are kind to startups. There are now idea incubators who give young adults with business ideas space to work on their projects and give them pieces of advice on how to take it to the next level. Remember that the search engine giant, Google, had lowly beginnings at a garage before it became the multi-billion company it is today.

When planning a startup business, several steps must be undertaken to make sure that the money that you, or your investors, put up will not go down the drain. Too often, what seemed like a good idea eventually fizzles out because the market was not tested, or there was just too much competition to even make a dent.

All of these can be avoided by validating your startup ideas. You can do market studies, take a close look at the competition, or several other steps that will really give you a feel of how your business will be received by the market.

Our infographic details 9 efficient ways to validate startup ideas. Each step is crucial and can spell the difference between success and failure. Make the smart move and plan your business carefully!

9 Ways to Validate Your Startup Ideas (SBO)

How Smart CSM raised seed money to build an empire from blood, sweat and mentorship.

The Company

SmartCSM is an Internet of Things – Smart Building (BIoT) platform that manages infrastructure mapping data for commercial, industrial and multi dwelling unit buildings.  The platform creates a complete, easy to use digital map of the structure, allowing users to instantly understand the mission critical infrastructure and easily track, as well as manage changes that have been made to their structures.

More times than not, once a building is finished, the documentation used to design it is stored in a backroom, only to be rarely accessed and never updated.  This means any improvements/increased efficiencies that can be achieved through new building related technologies or repairs are simply lost.  Truly not understanding how a building is wired, inter-associated or altered can lead to catastrophic system failures, accidents and even death. The net result can potentially cost facilities managers and building owners millions of dollars in shutdowns (lost revenues), redundant repairs (fixing the same problem several times) and fines/lawsuits (OSHA fines or criminal prosecution).  Some of the company’s more notable customers include The Salvation Army, Raytheon, DHL and Universal Studios.

How the Dojo helped

When the CEO of SmartCSM came to the Expert Dojo, he was looking for help with fund raising.  After initial discussions, we recommended they utilize our one-on-one mentoring option.  Through a series of initial meetings, our mentor was able to peel back the layers of the company and it became clear that aligning the company with the right investment partners was paramount.  

Given the stage of the company, the “usual suspect” institutional investors were not the right groups to be targeting.  Their narrow scope of interest and checkbox style of investing would not only make it a challenge to get a check, but would align the company with a group who’s value and goals were not shared with SmartCSM.  The company needed investors who not only had have keen understanding of their sector and business model, but someone who would be partner.  

Specifically, beyond the shared values, they needed a group who’s long term vision aligned with that of management.  Through a lot of trial and error, the company shifted it’s focus to finding high net worth individuals.  After many, many meetings and countless pitches, they found an investor who was also not only in the software industry, but clearly understood the value that SmartCSM was creating.

In conjunction with advising on investor strategy, the Dojo also lent a hand with SmartCSM’s technical development.  As many entrepreneurs have experienced, just having a great idea does not guarantee success.  You also need the ability to deliver a user friendly, fully functional product or no one will buy what you’re selling.  Fully well knowing that, we introduced the company to a consulting/development firm who, after much vetting, SmartCSM ultimately chose.  That introduction, and subsequent partnership which evolved, proved to be quite fruitful and the company could not be more pleased.  Interestingly, our mentor who was advising with the company, was so impressed with SmartCSM and the business opportunity, that he decided to join the company when the mentorship program concluded.

After taking a step back and evaluating what was learned by our work together, it became clear that the thesis of aligning yourself with the right partners, in every facets of the business, proved to be correct.   Congratulations to team at SmartCSM in what you have achieved thus far and good luck in the road ahead!

A lesson by Healora in how to launch your startup using the crowd


Lots of people are starting businesses today but how many are planning out each step for success using the crowd all the way?  Not many. The reason why its so difficult to start, grow and exit a business is because many founders try to do this alone.  This is a big mistake according to Brian Mac Mahon, CEO of Expert DOJO.  To find the answer we need to look at companies who just get it right. Thomas Farmer from Healora is the model of how you should properly validate your business model, then build the right team, have specific SMART milestones and finally maximize the crowd to line up one success after another.  Here is what has been achieved in the last 9 months:

Healora was founded and launched with a patented algorithm to reduce the price of healthcare by up to 70% using prepaid cash pricing, after three months of face to face market validation.  Only when patients begged Thomas to help reduce the price of healthcare did he proceed with his Priceline model for healthcare..

At that time Thomas brought a new member to the team.  Julian Henley is one of the leading specialists in the USA and had patents in place for exactly what Healora was designed to build.  This team became unbeatable because of the complimentary skills and Industry relevance.

Thomas immediately sought industry validation for what he was doing and was instantly endorsed as member partner by the biggest healthcare association in Los Angeles, LACMA (Los Angeles County Medical Association) to help in their fight to improve and reduce the cost of healthcare.

Only after Thomas took advice from the best user experience people in the business did he start on development.  The Healora Website was built and deployed with mobile app planned for March 2017.  Stealth execution of product fit was based on using experts in this space such as Enki Technology.

Next came an award for the most innovative healthcare technology at the prestigious IDEAS Los Angeles annual conference sponsored by Tel Aviv University.

The company official launched in Santa Monica with panel event of supporters from Kaiser Permanente, Vesalius Ventures, Biocom, LACMA and LAVA.

The final validation came from doctors throughout Los Angeles with over 100 registrations across all 25 of the AMA specialties.  How many founders care so much for their customers that they validate to this level?  Not many, but this is the difference between creating a painkiller product and a vitamin product.

The next step was to bring in the crowd to democratize the fundraising process. Healora is launching in three states initially and that will cost over 1 million Dollars in the next 12 months.  The choice is to raise that investment by evangelizing the crowd to not only use the product but invest in Healora.  Healora partnered with crowdfunding experts, Crowdfunder and Expert DOJO to make this a reality and before the campaign has even started over $150,000 has been raised. Such is the power of the crowd.

Join the Healora journey over the next 6 months as we follow this rise from an idea whose time had come to the disrupter of an entire industry.  To contact Healora email

Expert DOJO October Investor Festival breakdown and Agenda

The Expert Dojo Investor Festival is upon us all once again. This time it is going to be bigger and better than it has ever been. Over the course of 5 days over 80 of the top investors from around the world will be at Expert Dojo to hear 200 academy member pitch your mission and how your startup is going to change the world. What makes this event different from all other conferences in the world is its objective. It’s not about competing for a random competition or listening to successful people tell you how well they did in life. It’s about giving you the best chance possible of getting funded by facilitating over 750 pitches to over 80 of the top active investors in LA, San Francisco and New York. All 5 days are dedicated to helping the entrepreneur community by connecting you with the top investors in the world as well as investment advice from successful entrepreneurs who have exited for millions.

The last Investor Festival was headlined by amazing companies such as Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge, the X prize, Samsung Ventures, and Singularity. This time, it is even better. From October 24th to the 28th you should prepare for the largest pitch event in the United States powered by Expert Dojo.

We kick off the festival Monday October 24th. We have a full day dedicated to learning how to raise money from those who have already done it. We have some of the biggest communication and pitch coaches in LA along with the SBDC committed to training every startup on how to raise capital. Finishing the day we have 8200 coming in all the way from Israel. This accelerator has the highest success rate for entrepreneurs in the world at around 70 percent. They will be leading a 3-hour workshop to end the day and get you ready to succeed the rest of the week. You don’t want to miss this.

Tuesday is completely dedicated to Female Founders and Female Investors. This day only is free to attend for all female entrepreneur. We start off the day with one of the most influential entrepreneurs in the city, Nellie Akalp. Nellie is an exited entrepreneur who sold her last company for over 20 million – CASH. My good friend Jenny Q follows with a advice about how women can use influence and local fame to your benefit. Afterward we have Erika Dobrin with B-17 entertainment. Erika produces the startup reality show “APP WARS”. She will be giving you tips on how to make it on shows like hers and will be helping you build the best case for your company.

Then that afternoon our pitches begin. We have assembled top female investors from around the country to come and see our Female Entrepreneurs. We have women investors from Lightspeed Ventures, one of the largest ventures firms with hundreds of millions invested in companies. We also have Silicon Valley Bank, Space Angels Network, March Capital and an additional 4 Female VCs just to hear your pitches.

Wednesday is the day all the early stage folks are looking forward to. This is the largest face to face pitch day in the country. Wednesday is completely dedicated to seed and early stage entrepreneurs. We have over 30 investors coming in over the course of 4 hours!! The morning starts at 10 am when we have a group of 10 investors listening to pitches. These investors include major VC firms and some the most active angel investors from around the world such as Machine Shop Ventures, (rock band Linkin Park’s venture firm), Upfront Ventures, one of the most active VC firms in all of LA, Crosscut Ventures, with dozens of active investments, IOC Ventures, an early stage focused venture firm in Orange County, K5 Ventures, a firm that focuses on technology and unique products, TenOneTen Ventures, a venture firm focused on disruptive companies with several active investments, and OWL Tree Capital. We also have amazing Angel Investors such as Vince Thompson, Jeremy Stephan, and Asher Leids. This is just the morning session………

That is followed by another session with top accelerators and Incubators from all around LA. Then we move to the last session which is another group of ten investors coming to here pitches. We have another group of amazing investors including Canyon Creek Capital, an extremely active firm focused early stage entrepreneurs, LH Ventures, focused on early stage startups in a flexible industry, Luma Ventures, an active venture firm here in LA, NoName ventures, a local firm focused on helping entrepreneurs, and Scopus Ventures, which focuses on developing technology products end to end.

Thursday is dedicated to later stage companies with only later stage venture firms. We have companies such Goldman Sachs, Harvard Angels Network, Harper Partners, Blarney Ventures, Correlation VC, and Lightspeed Ventures. Then we have another session with great crowdfunding agencies coming in to give tips of Equity crowdfunding including WeFunder, StartEngine, and Crowdfunder.

We finish the week long mayhem with the wildest day of all on Friday. We have a new group of 10 investors coming in every 2 hours to listen to pitches 1 on 1 for 10 minutes each. This is your time to leave a lasting impression on the top firms in the country and get investment for your product. There are dozens of top Angel Investors and VC firms attending on Friday. We have the schedule posted on

This festival will be the best pitch competition of the year. We want you to be part of it and get your company seen. No matter whether you are entrepreneur, investor or local company be part of our tribe and come to Expert Dojo.

To join Expert DOJO and be a part of the Investor Festival register here – HERE

The current list of Investors attending is below.  To schedule these one on one meetings or ask any questions about the event email with your requests.


Monday- 10-11 11:30-1 1:30-2 2-5
Brian Mac Mahon Intro to festival Ryan Foland And Mike Weeks Andrew SBDC 8200 Accellerator
Tuesday 10-10:30 – WOMEN ONLY 1-3pm Women only Pitching  
Nellie Akalp-Corpnet Lightspeed Ventures
10:30-11 Olivia Tong
Jenny Q Ta Space Angels Network
11-11:30 Silicon Valley Bank
Erika Dobrin Nima Elyassi-Rad
11:30-12 NewGen Ventures
Lisa Tsou NewGen Ventures
March Capital
Wednesday 10-12 – Early stage pitch 3-5 Early Stage pitch
Jeremy Stephan – Angel Canyon Creek
Crosscut VC LH Ventures
OWL Tree Capital NoName Ventures
TenOneTen Ventures Luma Launch
Vince Thompson- Angel investor Scopus Ventures
IOC Ventures Blarney Ventures
Upfront Ventures App Wars TV Shark Tank
K5 Ventures Morpheus Ventures
Machine Shop Ventures Chris Calder-EPIC Ventures
Thursday 10-12 – Series A & B Pitch 1-3 Equity Crowdfunding 
Goldman Sachs Wefunder
Lightspeed Ventures Startengine
Harvard Angels Crowdfunder
Harper Partners
Correlation VC
Blarney Ventures
Friday 10-12 – one on one meet 12:30-2:30 –one on one meet 3-5 – one on one meet
Luma Ventures Jeremy Stephan Gastronome Ventures
Brad Yasar Tech Coast Ventures John Lasko
Asher Leids Fast Pay Correlation VC
Tom Schreiber Pasadena Angels
Owl Tree Capital Bam VC
Jack Tsai Noname Ventures
Nicholas Cannone-Fairmount Financial Luis Bitencourt-Emilio
Jim Brandt Syft Ventures
Hillcrest Venture Partners
End Of Festival

Learn from Expert DOJO member, Swell, how to build 100,000 users in just 4 weeks.

How multi platform-thinking helped us to reach 100k bot users within 1 month

Swell is now part of the bot game for one month

The moment I’m writing this we have 33,349 daily active users sending 533,176 messages to our bot Swelly.

Continue reading if you want to learn why we’re building this, how we started as well as the main benefits of each platform (Facebook Messenger, kik & Telegram).

It was about 2 months ago when we first thought that bots could be an interesting space for us. We always thought of Swell as a Multi-Platform Social Network that needs to be accessible wherever the user needs help with decisions.

Our long term vision is creating technology to empower people to make better decisions. May it be finding the perfect outfit for the day, a restaurant for a date, a rental car in your area that matches your needs or help deciding which app logo is better for your product.  Swell makes decisions fast & fun!

The Swell community answers any questions within seconds and let’s you ask your friends, a public community of educated users or community experts, depending on your current needs.

If your Swell get’s featured you can currently get 10k votes within 24h.

10.000+ votes within 11h 😉

The story behind Swell

I came up with the idea while I was operating fashion stores back home in Austria with my co-founder Fred.

A lot of people left our stores without buying so as a store owner I needed to find out the reasons for that.

Turns out the number one reason for people to leave a store without buying is being indecisive. 40% of the people (mostly teenagers and people in their early 20ies) told us they couldn’t decide and also they don’t trust the opinion of a shop keeper as she is most likely biased.  With the Swell App we created the simplest possible experience to solve this problem faster then current solutions like messaging apps.  We launched the Swell App 6 months ago on ProductHunt:

Get the Swell app here:

Bots for User Acquisition?
However, since we were in the app-game and worked 5 months on growing an audience for our native apps we first thought of bots as a new marketing/user acquisition channel.

Here are our thoughts we had back then:

So we built Swelly for Facebook Messenger and launched it on ProductHunt ( with the idea to get free traffic to the bot and do as much as we can to convert bot users to app users.

We put a lot of effort like ‘download app’ buttons and questions about which smart phones the users have. Problem is, this kind of destroyed our smooth experience. Swelly had some nice early traction and we soon realized, that our bot can be a fully functional — stand alone — platform connected with the app-community, but definitely more then just a user acquisition channel.

So where can I find the bots?

?Swelly for Facebook Messenger:

?Swelly for kik:

?Swelly for Telegram:

Now after the first month, I want to share some numbers with you (provided by BotMetrics):

  • new users: 101.539
  • current DAU: 33.454
  • Average daily new users: 1259
  • Total Messages: 1.826.741

last week:

  • new users: 50.406
  • Average DAU: 7909
  • Average daily news users: 7200
  • Total Messages: 1.067.245


  • new users: 31.101
  • Average DAU: 33.477
  • Total Messages: 536.009

Now Let’s compare the platforms

Facebook Messenger — Massive Audience, weak explore function, a lot of data!

The great thing at Facebook is the massive audience it potentially provides. The downside here really is, that it’s not so easy to explore bots within the Facebook Messenger.

It took as 3 weeks to make it to the top results on Messengers Search function. Since we hit that, it drives some really nice traffic (1000–3000 new organic users per day)

Facebook Messenger with Swelly in trending Search

The best thing about Facebook Messenger is the data you can collect. Messenger gives you the users name, profile pic, gender, location, time-zone, etc.

Besides the obvious benefits of getting more data this let’s us make our feed more personalized and helps us to send smarter notification-like messages to remind users to come back.

Kik — great explore function, weak on data, perfect audience for Swelly

Kik and it’s Bot Shop makes it easy to explore new bots and helped us from day 1 to build an audience. Right now we are #4 in the Entertainment category so every kik users see’s us first when opening the Bot Shop.

The kik bot shop

Another great thing about kik is their team. They are very accessible, super responsive and help as much as they can when it comes to technical problems or even just to chat about how to build a perfect user experience.

I also like their Chat-Interface better then the one on Facebook, it let’s you do beautiful things like putting buttons in the text field.

The only problem with kik is that it only gives you very little data like username and profile picture. Pretty much all the rest needs to be collected later with smart questioning.

Cool thing here is it’s young audience, for us teenagers and users in their early tweenties are perfect, also they are eager to provide data to get a better feed.

Telegram has a great interface, doesn’t give you a lot of data and also it’s not really a good match for us in terms of their target audience.

Thanks for reading this, shoot me an e-mail to if you have any questions and have a ?Swell day,


How Expert DOJO Is Impacting the Startup World

Our principles

We decided when we opened our doors to not go with the herd and we publicly opposed lean Startup as a methodology.  The startup failure rate is not acceptable to us so we created our own system called “Agile Foundation” to build you a better machine. This machine combines the right community with strong strategic planning and at the core of everything is human centric design.  Our training is now a fixture at virtually every major conference in California, our investor Festivals are the biggest in SoCal and our Academy members are more successful that those who are not.

Success rate

 At the recent Ideas Festival two of our companies won the main prizes and we could not be happier for Healora and PopChest.  Both are great companies with funding and acceleration being rightly offered to them.

Of our other members we have had everything from 500% revenue increases to successful launches.  We don’t always get it right we we always give 100% and our success rate against objectives is at 26% verses 5% outside Expert DOJO.  We have also never failed in a crowdfunding campaign and we are very proud of our latest VeggiDome project.  With the communities support we will continue to make sure our only mission is to leave no startup behind

Why we did not take any outside investment to build Expert DOJO

Our message to you is that you should build a great business and make it revenue sustaining or user validated so you can then get the right investment only if it makes sense.  We leased our space thanks to our partnership with Santa Monica Place, Got our furniture thanks to Cort, built our platform thanks to the incredible web dev firm, Enki and built our brand thanks to the best brander we know Tatyana Luethi.  We took no money from outside and committed to you that this will remain the case for our first two years.  We will always help early stage startup and we will always practice what we preach.


Not only are we bringing the investment market closer to our Expert DOJO members but we are also working with multiple city officials and large private companies to make sure that every resource available is in place to increase success in Santa Monica.  Most recently the SBDC decided to come back to Santa Monica and make Expert DOJO there home.  This is all for you.

Training and startup program

We don’t believe in startup training courses and never have.  Being a startup is not a straight line from A to Z.  Our belief is that we have to use peer to peer support and training in a very structured way.  Our 12 step program covers, market validation, Branding, Business foundation, Business Planning, Development and Design, Team Building, Culture and Leadership, Acquiring users, Securing Investment, corporate culture and how to exit gracefully.  As an academy member check out our detailed marketing course, our market validation course and our success planning courses.  All are to help you succeed in business

Whats next.

Why you want to join Expert DOJO now 

Up to this point we have allowed our space to be used by everyone but with our growth in members we are finding that there is just not enough space for them.  We are also incorporating more funding opportunities and more coaching so, within the next month or so, we will have an annual subscription only for all new members.  It will be loaded with value but anyone who is on monthly membership prior to this will be able to keep this flexibility and get all the same value.  

Make sure you are an academy member.  Thats where all our love is  –