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KnoxEC: Vuture looks to wrap some VC money around Angels
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Michael Crain

VUTURE, the startup with plans for a platform for storing, prior scheduling and custom-sending video messages, says it's hovering with Angel investors while seeking a venture-capital firm to lead its $500K Seed round.

Knoxville-based Founder-CEO Michael Crain, 29, says a lead investor is likely to come from venture-capital ranks, where institutional money is not shy of capital targets such as his. Crain says he believes he can count on about $50K in Angel money, already, and he has invested $50K from his 401K. He's talking with both Tennessee and North Carolina investors.

Its mobile app is expected ready for release via the Appstore by the end of this month, and an analytics dashboard is to follow in October, said Crain. He presented the company during the KEC's Aug. 5 MediaWorks Demo Day, as the app was nearing its first round of Apple review.

Vuture -- it's name conflates "view" and "future" -- sends messages with links to video clips via text or e-mail. Crain said open-rates for text messages are typically much higher than for e-mails, although companies that want to use the service within their businesses are more likely to use e-mail delivery, at this time.

Pricing includes an attractive flex-factor: Customers only pay for videos "that actually reach your target audience," Crain emphasized.

Knoxville-based Designsensory has supported its mobile app development, which is over the hump and nearly done with a second review by Apple, he said. Would-be users may sign-up via the Vuture website to be alerted when the app is ready.

With its B2B offering in-hand, Vuture will immediately target the Medical and Fitness sectors, in which video messages to reinforce and/or document patient or client compliance are already recognized as essential, said Crain. It may also enter the sales-lead/-contact followup segment, but that's on the backburner, for now.

Viewed from here, Crain confirmed that he foresees an eventual exit to a strategic buyer in need of its fuller functionality (most competitors don't yet have advance message-scheduling onboard), as well as its presence in the red-hot Healthcare sector. He's filed a provisional patent.

Further enterprise application development lies just ahead, and that assignment is likely to go to developers at either a Knoxville or Nashville software firm, with whom discussions are now underway, said Crain.

Crain said the insight behind this startup came after Crain's grandfather left him a personal note before he died in 2013. That left Crain thinking of how much he'd like to share with friends and family personal facts and feelings about them and his life, and how it might be good to document some of that periodically, in advance of need.

His idea then broadened into a B2C offering; however, with guidance provided during Vuture's stay in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center accelerator program, that soon became an immediate B2B play, with B2C possibly in the future.

Crain said his KEC mentor, Lewis Frazer, former CFO of listed Regal Entertainment, was tremendously helpful as Vuture made its way through KEC's 13-week accelerator program. He gave strong credit, also, to KEC CEO Jim Biggs; and, to Jonathan Sexton, the KEC entrepreneur-in-residence who was particularly helpful in reaching out to specialists and potential investors.

In the early-going, Crain said he found no good tech options to support his idea, and soon began developing it further. While he still sees no direct competitors, he acknowledged branding-oriented Outspoken, based in Los Angeles; and social-media management tools BufferApp.com (San Francisco) and Hootsuite (Vancouver) as having angles on the market, as do some sale-lead followup apps.

To host video uploads to serve what will initially be mainly B2B customers, Crain says the company relies on Amazon's S3.

Crain is originally from near Camden, N.J., and earned his finance degree here in 2007 at the University of Tennessee.

He served seven-plus years in the Insurance sector before starting Vuture in mid-2013, according to his LinkedIn. VTC

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Tags: Angels, app, application, capital, Hootsuite, investment, investors, Jim Biggs, Jonathan Sexton, KEC, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Lewis Frazer, MediaWorks, mobile, Regal Entertainment, Seed stage, software as a service, software development, venture capital

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