Motorbike Parking App, CurbNinja Launches Today

Motorbike Parking App, CurbNinja Launches Today

Motorcyclists and scooter enthusiasts need not fear the dreaded search for street parking in urban centers anymore as the mobile app  CurbNinja was launched today. Built by avid motorcyclists, founders Fred Lebed and Tim Hines have developed a simple solution to the rider’s parking dilemma. The CurbNinja app allows users to find the best and safest parking spots on public streets vetted by fellow riders. Using crowd-sourcing, the app also allows riders to share spots they find with the app’s community. The CurbNinja mobile app is available for free download on both iPhone and Android devices giving any rider with a smart phone the ability to find and share spots.

“Living in the city, you learn where all of the best places to stash your bike on the street are, especially for free. I found myself taking pictures of my bike in these spots to thwart possible tickets, and then mapping them for personal use. Before I knew it, I had all my favorite spots plotted in a single summer,” said Tim Hines, Co-Founder. “CurbNinja was born out of that mapping idea. We created the ability for users to share these spots with millions of riders across the country in turn saving them the hassles of city parking.”

The app is easy to use when searching for spots to park two-wheeled machines. Users can search by their current location or address to find spots nearby. An interactive map then displays plotted spots where users can then click to get more detailed information, including a photo to prevent any confusion when parking. CurbNinja makes finding hidden free spots and the safest paid spots easy, saving riders time and money on costly parking. And most importantly, it helps prevent pesky parking tickets and expensive towing bills.

The most unique feature is the ability for users to share spots through a form of crowd-sourcing, which CurbNinja dubs ‘Tagging’. When users find a spot that isn’t already on the on the map, they can use the Tag function to enter information about the spot and upload a photo. The spot is then plotted on the map to be searched by other users in real-time. Tagging spots empowers riders and creates collective action amongst riders allowing them to share parking information.

With their app, the CurbNinja team aims to make riding and parking in busy urban centers easier for motorbikers. For more information search for CurbNinja on the Apple App Store or Google Play or visit

Chicago-Based Training Camp Helps Entrepreneurs Master Their Pitching Skills

Pitch Training Camp debuts its first public speaking training course beginning April 7th.

Pitching skills are a must-have for startup founders. A perfected pitch can make or break an entrepreneur’s chance at landing new customers, raising a round of funding or enticing a co-founder to join their team. Current resources to perfect the art of entrepreneurial pitching in the startup community have been limited until now.

Presented by Ms. TechPitch Training Camp is now taking applications for their first seven-week pitch training course that begins April 7th with an application deadline of March 28th. Much like an accelerator for pitching, the course offers a personalized approach where organizers and coaches focus on learning the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student, then working to improve their skills, and then provide tangible results. With a maximum class size of twenty, each student will receive plenty of one-on-one time and walk away with refined pitch skills no matter their current level of experience.

Hosted at Grind Chicago in the center of the city, the seven-week program meets consecutive Monday’s beginning April 7th with one full-day workshop on Saturday May 10th. Each week, students will focus on specific subjects that collectively unwrap the elements of a successful pitch.

The curriculum is based on a simple, hands-on format that gives all students, which PTC calls ‘pitchers’, the ability to craft and deliver pitches for their current business. Covering the core ideas of content, delivery and visuals, the course will offer fine-tuned lectures from expert speakers, dynamic hands-on workshop sessions and a series of challenging assignments along the way. The course concludes with a public demo event PTC calls ‘Opening Day,’ where students will showcase their perfected five-minute pitches to a group of their friends, family and peers. Opening Day is open to the public and will be held at the Micrososft Technology Center on May 19 with the goal of becoming one of Chicago’s top startup pitch events.

If you’re not convinced by PTC’s curriculum and initiatives, it has the support of top Chicago startup community initiatives including Ms. Tech, Starter League, Startup Institute, Startup Leadership Program, Crafted in Chicago, Inspire Startups and Grindspaces.

PTC coach and organizer of Startup Leadership Program Chicago, Brian Bauer, believes strongly in the PTC vision and the outcomes it provides. “Being a master story teller is critical no matter whether you are applying for a job, selling a product or trying to secure investment in your company. A program to help busy entrepreneurs master this critical skill! Is vital.” he said. Additional speakers and coaches include Mike Moyer of Lake Shark Ventures, Magda Maslowska of HauteSlides, Lindsay Mullen of Mosher Mullen Strategies, Jeremy Smith of SpotHero, Stella Faymen of OCA Ventures, Tom Denison of Startup Grind and more!

The course is designed to do just what Brian said: help entrepreneurs master the art of storytelling. PTC believes firmly that no entrepreneur should be left behind because their pitching skills are sub-par and that they should all have access to education giving them the skills to excel. In addition to student applicants, PTC is looking for coaches to mentor and help sculpt students throughout the program.

PTC is taking applications for the course now until March 28 on F6S at For more detail on the course and the organization, visit

Business Cards Mean Business – 4 Tips

Business Cards Mean Business – 4 Tips

I heard a wise man once say, “You’re not in business unless you have a business card.” While that may not be entirely true, I did get his point. Business cards are our real-life social badges and our primary branding tool. But in this day and age, do we truly need these 3.5” by 2” pieces of cardboard anymore?

Some networkers think we can enter a contact into our phones faster than digging a card out of our wallet. I’ve had instances where I gave out my card and had the recipient take a picture with an app on their phone then give the card right back. We can now even tap our phones together to exchange contact info just as fast as swapping a card. I personally don’t hang onto the business cards I collect very long. Once I get back home or to the office I connect with these new colleagues on LinkedIn and pop them in my Google contacts list.

With all the alternatives to exchanging contact info, it may lead a business professional to question whether business cards have become outdated and unnecessary. Is it surprising that even in the tech industry we’re still using business cards? I say nay.

While business cards seem as archaic as newspapers, they are still a vital part of networking and the business process. Despite living in a digital world, a business card is a symbol of establishment and credibility. That exact reasoning may be what that wise man was referring to in his statement. Let’s face it, we experience great joy out of getting our order of freshly printed cards in the mail. We have all felt the excitement to have a new card with “Founder”, “President” or “CEO” printed in bold font with our name right beside it. Our business cards serve as a trading card in our industry almost like a professional athlete, but without the bubble gum. I doubt even the great Derrick Rose has business cards that say “Derrick Rose. Point Guard. Chicago Bulls.”

Business cards are a great marketing tool. We can email blast and campaign on social media all we want and it won’t match the power of the personal interaction that took place during the business card exchange. However, before you spend money on your first thousand cards, you’ll need to follow a few tips.

1.     Be Bold

You’re going to want your cards to stand out. Don’t fall victim to the ambiguousness of plain styles like in that scene from American Psycho.

The color, layout, and paper weight all important, but you have some choices to make.

  • Should my card layout be horizontal or vertical? – I say that you can go either way. Depending on your logo, it may look better one way over another, so draft some mockups to see what looks best for you.
  • How much thickness should my card have? – You’ll want some stiffness to your cards, a flimsy card can sometimes just feel cheap, but it doesn’t have to be made out of metal.
  • Should I stick with the traditional 3.5×2 or use a more creative size? – This can be tricky. While a different size can make your card stand out, it could also be annoying to those who like to collect them as they don’t fit in traditional holders.
  • UV coat or no? – If you are going to UV coat your cards like a dance club flyer, I’d recommend only coating one side. UV coats are hard to write on with ball point pens, so leaving one side at least matte allows for easy note-taking.

2.     Follow Brand Guidelines

Your card should be considered an extension of your company’s brand image. Obviously you’ll want to include you logo in some fashion on the card, but I recommend you do not deviate too far from the company branding.

  • Use your company colors, or close variations thereof
  • Use the same fonts that as your site or other marketing materials
  • Include your tag line, if you have one

3.     Make it Readable

This seems to be a growing concern. Black writing on black paper never works well, unless you’re a ninja. Your print should be easy to read and have clear contrast to your background. Sometimes black and white work, but you’re smart and know how to make colors stand out. The font should also be legible and big enough to read without a magnifying glass. Keep in mind that investors are usually more seasoned and want to be able to actually read your card!

4.     Include the Important Stuff

Social media handles, P.O. Boxes, and favorite quotes may seem like fun additions to your cards, but can they sometimes just be clutter. Stick to the basics and think minimalist and about what potential colleagues and connections really want to know. Best bets are first & last name, title, email address, phone number and company website. If you are a brick & mortar company I would suggest including your physical address. Sometimes a Twitter or Facebook handle makes sense (especially in the case if you are a social media company), so include the address in type, but NEVER put the logo on your card. Why would you want to include another company’s image on your most important brand extension? To sum up, make your card simple and all about you.

So, you may be asking, “Tim, where do you get your cards made?” Well, I definitely like to stay local whenever possible. I formerly used M13 Graphics in Schaumburg until a big misprint then I switched to a small shop in Bucktown called QDP Graphics. They do amazing work at a very reasonable price, which is great for a startup budget. You can get 1,000 cards, full color, front and back for $25. VistaPrint can’t even beat that. Plus, I love keeping my business local.

Start collecting cards you like at events and borrow their ideas to make your ideal card then take these tips and run to the printer. You’ll be flashing those freshly printed cards before you know it.

Pitching with Technori

Pitching with Technori

Last month I had the privilege to represent one of five companies that took the stage during Technori Pitch on July 28th. After weeks of prep and an intense coaching session with Brian Burkhart of Square Planet, we were ready to go.  Here is the video from the pitch event that drew over 500 Chicago startup lovers…


The Gateway to the West (Loop)

The Gateway to the West (Loop)

Have you seen the Built in Chicago map of Chicago startups lately? It’s exciting to see how many awesome startups are calling Chicago home and being plotted on the map. With an estimated one new company being started every 48 hours in the Windy City, it is likely difficult to keep that map up to date.

I, much like most of you, have come to know River North as the stronghold of Chicago’s startup and tech seen with 1871 being the anchor. Follow the brown line up from the Merchandise Mart and you’ll notice tech company after tech company dotting the River North landscape. San Francisco may have Silicon Valley; New York may have the Silicon Alley; but we in Chicago have the Silicon Railway (the stretch of L tracks from the Mart to the Chicago stop). Many of you know the folks that call that area home: SpotHero, Techweek, Groupon and Trunk Club to name a few. There are dozens upon dozens of companies in this amazing neighborhood of ingenuity and entertainment.

While most of the meetings you may attend and events you may crash are hosted in this area, its important to recognize that that not all that is ‘happening’ in Chicago startups/tech is going down in River North. There are many neighborhoods that startups call home in this great city, but one in particular is the West Loop, or the west extension of the Silicon Railway, and it’s booming.

Many household names like Sandbox Industries (on Racine Av.), Crowdspring (on Lake St.) and Threadless (on Madison St.) make the once meat-packing capital of the Midwest their stronghold.  With numerous office lofts and co-working spaces, the West Loop is becoming a more and more a vibrant part of the Chicago tech and startup community. If the startup migration to this hood wasn’t enough to persuade you, this might: Google is leaving their River North HQ for greener pastures off the Green Line. Once the tech giant has finished building out its new stronghold on Fulton St., the West Loop will be home to their Chicago operations.

A recent CBRE analysis showed that many tech companies are vying for space in the West Loop as prices continue to climb in River North. This is simple supply and demand. 1871 alumni are rapidly moving into spaces in River North and prices are skyrocketing, while space in the West Loop remains competitive.

Events are also becoming more frequent. Earlier this year, Lightbank hosted their Innovation Day with amazing content and speakers in the West Loop at City Winery. UIC holds many startup events at their new Innovation Incubator and will be playing host to Startup Weekend later this year. There’s also the month Inspire Startups Showcase & Pitch that I coordinate at the Inspire Business Center. As you can tell, the West Loop is an important part of Chicago’s booming startup scene.

I created a list of events, work spaces and companies that call that are headquartered in the West Loop. If I missed you, don’t worry; post your company’s name in the comment section and help give the West Loop the recognition it deserves.


Co-Working Spaces:                       


  • 37 Signals
  • AdGooroo
  • Autumn Berry Inspired
  • Bloom Health
  • Braintree
  • BTSocial
  • Central Street Games
  • Concept Feedback
  • CrowdSpring
  • CurbNinja
  • Coupon Doc
  • CookItFor.Us
  • Demibooks
  • Digital Bridge
  • Dine
  • Element Bars
  • Epic Burger
  • FoodJunky
  • Furywing Games
  • GeneXus
  • Give Forward
  • Gorilla (72)
  • Goshi
  • KitchIn
  • Knowledge Shift
  • West Loop Ventures
  • Lasso
  • My Short Track
  • Power2Switch
  • Reppio
  • Sandbox Industries
  • Savvo Solutions
  • Signal HQ
  • Skinny Corp (aka Threadless)
  • Sollywood TV
  • Sprout Social
  • We Gather
Video Impression of Inspire Startups

Video Impression of Inspire Startups

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I have been coordinating the monthly Inspire Startups showcase since February and we are excited to be hosting our fifth showcase and pitch event on Aug. 21. Since the first event, we have had 40 companies, 4 excellent speakers and over 300 attendees come though the IBC doors. With all that excitement, we thought it would be fitting to produce a video that showed off the Inspire Startups format. With thanks to the guys at Brin Hill Media and SollywoodTV, here’s the debut!

See more about the Inspire Startups project on my Projects page.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwc3JjJTNEJTIyaHR0cHMlM0ElMkYlMkZwbGF5ZXIudmltZW8uY29tJTJGdmlkZW8lMkY3MjE5MTIyOSUyMiUyMHdpZHRoJTNEJTIyNjQwJTIyJTIwaGVpZ2h0JTNEJTIyMzYwJTIyJTIwZnJhbWVib3JkZXIlM0QlMjIwJTIyJTIwYWxsb3dmdWxsc2NyZWVuJTNFJTNDJTJGaWZyYW1lJTNF[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]