1.1 What is Tech Futures Group (TFG)?

TFG is a group of experienced business advisors who function as the complete advisory wing of startups and small, established technology companies located in the expanded San Francisco Bay Area.  

 

1.2 What services do you offer?

TFG offers one-on-one advising.

We offer advising services in the following areas: 

  • General and strategic business advice.
  • Advice on patents, copyrights, and trademarks;
  • Develop financial spreadsheets for a variety of business models;
  • VC/angel pitch preparation;
  • Local biomedical manufacturing
  • Government grants

 

1.3 Does TFG offer technical assistance?

No, TFG only offers business advice.  TFG’s advisors are not technologists and cannot provide technical assistance.  

1.4 Does TFG offer courses or a programmatic element?

No, TFG does not offer entrepreneurial courses or a set program.  TFG only provides advisory services to clients.

1.5 Who is eligible to be  a TFG client?  

There are two minimum criteria:

First the client must be located in TFG’s geographic service area.

See What is TFG's service area? for detailed information on the geographic area we serve.

Second, the client must be a technology company.   

Prospective clients who meet the first two minimum criteria are then assessed on whether they would make good clients and would likely deliver economic impact.  

See What are TFG's acceptance criteria? for a more detailed explanation of the criteria for becoming a TFG client.

 

1.6 Does my company qualify as a “technology company” for TFG?

To qualify as technology company, company revenues must be derived primarily by the technological innovation.

      More specifically, TFG defines a ”technology company” as a business that:

  • Depends on technology to drive the business model
  • Possesses intellectual property, including patents that provides a defensible competitive advantage in the marketplace
  • Possesses high potential for growth — funding, jobs, revenue
  • Has developed an innovative product service, or process based on proprietary research and development                                                     OR
  • Has a product that uses a novel combination of existing technologies

 

    TFG supports companies in the following technology areas.  This is partial list.

  • Hardware - computers, mobile devices, biotechnology, telecom, energy, green/clean tech
  • Software - applications, embedded software, SaaS, Internet sites/services, or cloud-based solutions
  • Technology-driven innovation where technology is not the product - process enhancement
  • Novel combinations of existing technology

1.7 What is TFG’s service area?

TFG accepts clients located within the geographic area of any of the eleven Norcal Small Business Development Center offices TFG supports.  The area extends from Santa Cruz in the south, through the Bay Area including the wine region, and the coastal counties extending  from San Francisco to the Oregon border.  

TFG’s funding limits them to assisting tech companies located in this geographic area.  

1.8 What technologies does TFG support?

TFG supports companies in the following technology areas.  This is a partial list.

  • Hardware - computers, mobile devices, biotechnology, telecom, energy, green/clean tech
  • Software - applications, embedded software, SaaS, Internet sites/services, or cloud-based solutions
  • Technology-driven innovation where technology is not the product - process enhancement
  • Novel combinations of existing technology

1.9 What is TFG’s charter?

TFG’s charter is to help startups and small tech companies located in the geographic area attract capital to build a product and to grow into a successful business.

TFG’s main funder, the Small Business Administration (SBA) mandates that TFG measure and report  economic impact produced from its funding.  See question below (1.10)  for more detailed information on TFG’ goals and measurements.

1.10 How is TFG assessed?  What are TFG’s goals?  

TFG is measured on three main goals — capital infusion, jobs created, and revenue.  

                  1. Capital Infusion is the primary goal.  Capital Infusion is comprised of:

  • Debt of any kind, including a loan from the owner to the business
  • Equity investment of any kind, including owner investment
  • Crowdfunding
  • Grants of any kind; typically these are federal and state governmental grants.

2. Jobs created

3. Revenue

 

TFG funders require that you, the TFG client, acknowledge any economic impact results in writing.   An email from you stating the economic impact achieved is sufficient.  For example, it is sufficient for you to send an email with your signature block to your entrepreneur in residence stating, “We just received $2.2 million in an equity round.  Thanks for your help.”

1.11 Are the TFG advisors paid by TFG or do they offer their time pro bono?

TFG pays every advisor for the time they spend advising TFG clients.  

All of TFG’s advisors are contractors, not employees.  TFG “buys” a certain number of hours per month of TFG advisors’ time at a set rate.  We buy a maximum of roughly one week per month of TFG advisors’ time.  

 

1.12 What is an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence)?

TFG EIRs are experienced entrepreneurs who have had a good exit or two.  EIRs have strong networks in Silicon Valley.  Some of TFG EIRs are partners in venture capital companies.

EIRs advise on strategic business issues that often trip up tech companies and startups.  They help clients evaluate the composition of their teams, the technology/market fit, commercialization plans, defensibility of their intellectual property, manufacturing issues, and other CEO issues.

1.13 How do TFG advisors maintain their relevancy in their area of expertise?

All of TFG’s advisors have their own private businesses that they operate during the period when they are not advising TFG clients.  By continuing their private businesses, TFG advisors maintain a high level of expertise and keep up to date on changes and developments in their fields.

1.14 What is the difference between a “consultant” and an “advisor”?

A consultant does the work; an advisor suggests tasks for the client to complete.   For example, an advisor may recommend the client develop a one-pager to deliver to potential investors.  The advisor will provide examples of one-pagers and provide feedback on the drafts of the one-pager.  The advisor will not write the one-pager for the client.

1.15 How is TFG different from an accelerator?

Although there are differing models of accelerators, the norm is for the accelerator to invest money in their accepted clients in return for equity, provide physical office space for the period clients are in the accelerator, provide a programmatic element (Steven Blank’s Lean Startup is popular), provide access to mentors and advisors, and have a limited time period of 3-6 months.  

TFG does not invest money, does not take equity, does not take cash, does not provide space, does not provide a programmatic element,  and does not limit the time period of access to its advisors.  

1.16 Does TFG  have a demo day or graduation?

No.  TFG clients do not “graduate” from TFG.  

See How long can I be a TFG client Clients can avail themselves to TFG’s services for as long as the client feels TFG is helping..

1. 17 What is TFG’s connection to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC)?

TFG is a program of the Northern California Small Business Development Center (Norcal SBDC) (http://norcalsbdc.org), and is hosted by Humboldt State University Sponsored Programs Foundation (non-profit, 501(c)3 corporation).  Eleven main SBDC centers report into the Lead Center — Alameda County, Central Coast, Contra Costa, Hispanic Satellite, Marin, Mendocino, Napa-Sonoma, North Coast, San Francisco, San Mateo, Silicon Valley, and Solano.

The only similarity between TFG and an accelerator is high quality advisors.  Unlike many accelerators, we are the complete advisory wing for startups and tech companies.  Most accelerators lack the expertise TFG offers in three main areas:  

  1. TFG advisors develop an Excel-based business model that provides an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement based on inputs;
  2. TFG offers bio-medical manufacturing expertise;
  3. TFG advisors help clients obtain non-dilutive funding from government grants.

1.18 TFG Patent Advisors

The intellectual property (“IP) advisors of TFG are members of both the California State Bar and the Federal Patent Bar and may provide general guidance concerning the concepts, dynamics and best practices of IP strategy in designing and growing a new tech venture.  These IP advisors may NOT offer legal opinions directed to any actual or particular matter or real or potential dispute.  They may generally discuss IP strategy, the requirements of patentability, and matters relating to patent and trademark prosecution, copyright registration and assertion, trade secret management and the assertion of IP rights.  They may further review (in the abstract) the common issues and pitfalls of technology transaction, tech transfer and IP protection. They may not, however, prepare any documents, e.g., patent applications or license agreements.  Furthermore they will not provide any legal opinions on specific instances of IP infringement.  It is best practice to consult with a TFG IP advisor BEFORE any IP mistakes are made or disputes therefrom arise.  Our IP advisors are best employed in helping TFG clients to avoid legal imbroglios rather than in recovering from uninformed decisions regarding IP protection, strategy and management.