Going fishing for startups at the Founder Factory

Entrepreneurs like to say they spend every waking moment thinking about their businesses.

On Thursday, several serial entrepreneurs from the region spent several hours critiquing and encouraging other people’s businesses at the 2nd Founder Factory event, sponsored by Philly Startup Leaders.

The Founder Factory is the arena-rock version of what the bar-band Philly Startup Leaders has been doing for the last few years: Stitching together a start-up network through a no-frills organization by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs.

Three start-ups were featured in “fishbowl” sessions. KidZillions, RevZilla Motorsports L.L.C. and PlaySay Inc. all took their turns onstage at World Cafe Live, presenting their business plans to a panel of experts as well as a live studio audience.

I caught the talk by Ryan Meinzer, founder of PlaySay, a digital “flashcard” method for learning Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish. Meinzer, who’d worked in Japan, said he had no time to sit at a computer absorbing the grammar and words needed to learn Japanese. He wrote up paper flashcards to learn on the go.

The cards worked fine, but he knew something digital would be better. With some funding from a PayPal executive, he hired language experts and a programmer to create digital flashcards that could be downloaded to a cell phone or computer.

“I was blessed with a business that fell into my lap,” Meinzer said.

Then, the members of the expert panel went to work on that blessing.

While impressed by the profitability generated after only three months, they worried that Meinzer hadn’t created a product he could really defend. What’s to prevent a major textbook publisher from creating its own digital flashcards?

Panel member Gil Beyda, managing partner of Genacast Ventures, said Meinzer should pump more cash into marketing, not IT. ClickEquations CEO Lucinda Holt suggested more spending on Google AdWords keywords to target other niche markets.

Tweets posted from the sessions made it clear many in the audience thought the advice was golden.

There are many days when people trying to get their businesses going feel very much alone. Thursday was not one of those days.