Archive for the ‘Our Philosophy’ Category

Gary Vaynerchuk is a bad ass. He’s an incredible speaker, a best selling author, and CEO of social media brand consultancy, Vayner Media. He’s also very quotable.

I’ve been fortunate to know Gary for a few years. When I heard he was doing an interview a day in 2013, I thought it might be fun to get him on the phone and record it for you guys. It was.

Here are a few quotes from the quick conversation, he has a way of packing them in.

On his energy:

It’s how I’m wired. I think it’s my competitive advantage. My natural skill that matters.

It’s around something I think is very noble, which is caring about your audience. It feels good. It’s something I’m capable of doing, so I’m executing.

On the common threads in startup communities:

It’s always characters that look a little bit like you… there are always 3 or 4 or 5 or 1…individuals that really become the catalyst. The spark. The light that all the lightning bugs are attracted to.

It’s the Slobotski’s of the world, the Tony Hsieh, the You, that start it and become the foundation of a change. That’s why I think it’s possible anywhere.

On angel investments:

It’s the idea and the person. It’s really not more complicated. Do I think they can do it? And will they fight, pivot if the idea wasn’t right? That’s why I like people.

There are things I enjoy. E-commerce. I come from it. Product centric. Mobile. If I understand it and I believe in the people, I’m interested.

On pivoting:

You give up on an idea when you don’t believe in it anymore.

The second you crack, and don’t believe in it, that’s when you should change. But if you still believe in it, that’s what got you there in the first place, so keep going.

Hundreds of people told me that Twitter was a waste of my time in 2007. Hundreds, hundreds and hundreds. But I had conviction. I never wavered.

On the call we talk recharging (with the Jets and IU basketball) and putting things into perspective. Gary also puts me on the spot– asking me if I think he’s cocky.

Make sure and take a listen. It’s less than 10 minutes and Gary rocks the cellphone. He is unquestionably best heard realtime, where his passion can smack you in the face. Hard.

Want to follow up? Connect with Mike at You can also follow Mike on Twitter at @trotzke.

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Posted by Mike on February 18, 2013 SproutBox 2 Comments

It’s true. After two years in the awesomeness of The Box, we decided to create a new Box. Everybody knows moving sucks, so you may be wondering why we would move from a really awesome space in the heart of downtown. Well, creating new stuff is kinda what we’re about, but that’s not the only reason for the move. Here are a few more:

Bloomington’s B-Line Trail is changing the game.

Bloomington has just expanded its B-Line Trail to 3.1 miles and acquired the 55 acre McDoel Switchyard. The trail expansion sets the stage for a wave of redevelopment opportunities to the south. We’re part of one of the most prominent, with massive windows overlooking the trail and the switchyard, which will soon become Bloomington’s Central Park. Very Sprouty.McDoel Switchyard Park

More concrete = better skating.

The old place had a little bit of exposed concrete, but not enough to really skate hard on.  3500+ square feet of concrete makes a pretty decent skate pad. It also makes a highly configurable work floor that can house a lot of startup activity.

Higher ceilings allow for more aggressive table tennis.

25 foot ceilings are pretty sweet. No more ping-pong do-overs because of interference from a drop ceiling. It also means that there’s great natural light and a second floor ready to house more Sprouts and more co-working space.

We got a better deal.

Way better,  in fact. The building that housed the old Box changed hands, and the new owner wanted way too much rent money. The new place costs literally a fraction of the old Box. Less money spent on rent means more money invested in startups. And that’s exactly what we’re about.

We’re still doing a lot of work to improve the space (after all, it is a RE-development), but we’re completely moved in and fully functional. If you’d like to come check it out, just let us know.

The new address is:

300 West Hillside Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403

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Posted by Brad on September 1, 2011 SproutBox 3 Comments

When making an investment decision, our selection committee carefully considers each applicant on six key characteristics:

  1. Low overhead.
  2. Broad and easy-to-reach market.
  3. Predictable recurring revenue model.
  4. Dedicated quality founder(s).
  5. Appeal as an acquisition target.
  6. Development scope.

There’s plenty of information about these criteria on our website and in the FAQ section at, but this is really just the bare minimum. A business idea that fails to meet one of these criteria is almost sure to be rejected, but simply passing the initial test won’t guarantee selection either. I thought I’d share  a little more detail on what really makes an applicant stand out.

It’s a little cliche to say that we invest in people (as opposed to ideas), but it’s absolutely true. Your business plan reflected in your application is merely an indicator of your ability as an entrepreneur. A good application will convey not only your ideas, but also your ability to turn that idea into a successful business. When I read an application, I’m looking for words and numbers that will tell me what kind of entrepreneur you are. In particular, I’m looking for founders who have these characteristics:

Technical Savvy

This doesn’t mean that you must be a programmer. Certainly, founding teams with an accomplished programmer on board will be favored, but I want to see founders that understand both the underlying technology and the benefit it offers to customers. Even if you’ll never write a line of code, an understanding of the technology will help you make the right choices in hiring staff and finding the right partners for your business.

Ability to Raise Capital

SproutBox is an alternative to seed capital. Our investment will help you get a great product to the market, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need more capital to fund growth. Previous investment in your business, or interest from other investors will greatly improve your chances for selection.

Existing Revenue or User Base

We are happy to invest at ‘idea stage’ when we see a great opportunity, but nothing proves a concept better than customers. Great entrepreneurs find ways to engage customers before the product is ready. Maybe you have customers paying you on a consulting or service model. Maybe you’ve got potential customers reading your blog about innovation in your market. Anything that quantifies your ability to attract users will help your cause. The founder of our current Sprout had over ten years of experience and hundreds of paying customers before he ever pitched his concept for a product.

Resilience (aka Scrappiness)

Every startup will face challenges. There have been countless white papers, books, college texts, and articles written about the reasons startups fail, but no startup fails until the founders give up. I can’t tell you how many justifications I’ve heard for why a startup fails: “We were under-capitalized” or “We couldn’t compete with the big guys” or “The market wasn’t ready”. Every successful business found a way to overcome these challenges. Convince me that you have the guts to do the same.

The deadline is coming up 11:59pm Sunday May 8, 2011, so get over to now and show us what you’ve got.

BTW, we love to see applications from all over the place (our first two Sprouts were from California), but the midwest has been living up to expectations lately. Our last two were both from Indiana (myJibe from Indy and StoryAmp from Bloomington). I can’t wait to see where the best applications are born this time.

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Posted by Brad on May 2, 2011 SproutBox 3 Comments