Because he’s got money to invest in startups, Bud Stoddard often is approached by eager entrepreneurs.


He has one word of advice to them all: Differentiate.

“You have to be able to explain what makes you better than your competition,” said Stoddard, a self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” who started six successful businesses and now spends much of his time helping promising new ventures to succeed. “And you have to inspire investors to take a chance on you.”

Stoddard was speaking to a group of about 60 entrepreneurs, as well as a handful of would-be investors, at a networking event held recently at Spanish Wells Country Club in Bonita Springs. As a founding member of the four-year-old Tamiami Angel Fund, a group of 60 local investors who have raised about $6.5 million to invest in startups, it’s one of many such events he attends to encourage budding business owners to sharpen their skills.

Elevator Pitches

Stoddard encouraged his audience to cultivate the sort of short speeches they’d use if they happened to meet a deep-pocketed investor in an elevator. “Everyone should have a 15-second elevator speech, but most people don’t,” said Stoddard, who often takes part in periodic pitch sessions in the area the angels sponsor, which are modeled after TV’s “Shark Tank.”

Several entrepreneurs leapt to their feet to take the challenge, including the owners of a tax preparation firm, a printing firm and two water damage restoration firms.

Your Four Key Differentiators

After hearing their quick descriptions, Stoddard suggested that they concentrate more on what makes them unique. Specifically, he suggested explaining briefly how they stand out in four ways customers care about most: product, service, distribution and

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