Electric Cycles and Software For The Soul: A Tale of Two Startups—and Whether They Plan to Stay in Michigan

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to build our bike, to design the bike, engineer the bike,” Scott says. “We’ve got battery people, we’ve got controls people out here, we’ve got suspension people out here, ride stability people out here. So, engineering and manufacturing the bike is easier here.”

Will that always be the case? What if a VC says come on over to California? “At this stage,” Scott says, “we’re not going anywhere.” After a pause, he adds that, no matter what, he would always want to keep engineering and manufacturing operations in Michigan. Then he checks himself. He’s getting a bit ahead of things.

“Right now, we’re focused on three things: Raising money, building bikes, and developing the brand.”

Brand-development is exactly the stage where we find CircleBuilder Software, whose CEO and co-founder, Howard Brown, currently operates the company out of his home in Franklin. Automation Alley, the Troy, MI-based business organization, invested $250,000 in CircleBuilder in April 2009 and followed up with another $25,000 last week. What he does is best described in his own words. Here’s how he began his 10-minute pitch at the symposium Wednesday.

“Largest social network in the world today?” Brown asks the packed hotel conference room. He pauses until somebody in the crowd, inevitably, takes the bait. “Facebook!” somebody shouts. Brown makes a game-show buzzer sound. “Ehhhh. Wrong. Christianity, 2.6 billion people, followed by Islam and Hinduism.”

CircleBuilder creates cloud-based software for private online religious communities. You want to share and collaborate with everybody? Go to Facebook. You want a private, safe environment to talk with like-minded members of your own faith-based circle then CircleBuilder can help you create it—as either its own entity or on top of an existing Web site, or even within Facebook.

VCs and angels like to target underserved markets, Brown tells the crowd of entrepreneurs and funders, well, this is the largest underserved market—with four million churches and ministries in the Christian faith alone that need to better connect, communicate, and collaborate with their members.

Brown brags that his burn rate is very slow, only $19,000 a month, which of course is nothing … Next Page »

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