The Brandery, an incubator founded in 2010 in Cincinnati is uniquely different from most of the incubator’s across the country. A blanket description of what an incubator does for startups wouldn’t justify what co-founder; Rob McDonald, Dave Knox and JB Kropp have put together at 1411 Vine Street in Cincinnati’s Over-The-Rhine neighborhood (Voted Cincinnati’s best neighborhood in 2011 and 2012)
First off The Brandery is in what appears to be a traditional older storefront in a building dating back to the 1860’s. The building the Brandery is in as well as the surrounding buildings typically housed a storefront on the bottom floor and then residential units above. In the case of the Brandery, the first floor has been converted to bull pen style desk space where each of the 11 startups in this session can collaborate, bounce ideas off of each other and inspire each other through competition.
The second floor houses a group classroom like area and the third floor is what Brandery GM Mike Bott says they’re informally calling the “alumni penthouse”.
We got the chance to have an in-depth interview with Bott and McDonald who are very proud of what they’ve built so far. While the Brandery runs a familiar model, which most of the Global Accelerator Network accelerators utilize, there are things about the Brandery which are inherently different, that make it a special place to grow a business.
First off the Brandery is a non-profit organization. Yes the companies selected for the program give up six percent equity for a $20,000 seed investment. However, that investment is coming from the Brandery, and not the founders, or investors. In other words, as Bott confirmed, when Brandery alumni start to make big exits, the money goes back to the Brandery directly to run the program and invest in more worthwile startups.
Next, the Brandery keeps the class size small. This year there are only 11 companies. Companies move in at the start of the session. They have three months of vigorous boot camp style work, training, seminars and business education, but after Demo Day they don’t move out, in fact they are encouraged to stay around where they still get the benefits of the mentors who show up to the Brandery for basketball, beer pong and the latest new and interesting lecture.
Even after the first year, alumni companies can pay very minimal rent and move up to the alumni penthouse.
The Brandery companies are also encouraged to play a big role in the Cincinnati entrepreneur and startup community. For instance, just after arriving in Cincinnati this year, all of the Brandery companies participated in the BunBerry TechBurry Pitch Wars, which 2012 Brandery company Crowd Hall actually won. But what’s great about that event was that all three Brandery classes were represented there.
Also at Startup Weekend Cincinnati all of the Brandery companies have been given a free pass to help Startup Weekend teams, and were even encouraged to pitch. In fact, CrowdHall’s Austin Hackett pitched one of the ideas that’s being built this weekend. While there was a lot of banter on Impulcity about Hackett and his Startup Weekend venture, he assured us that his team is 100% committed to Crowd Hall and we’re working on that all weekend too. Even Brandery co-founder Rob McDonald was an official mentor for Startup Weekend as well.
The involvement with the community works both ways though as Bott explained later on. For instance 11 different local advertising agencies in Cincinnati have donated time to work with each of the Brandery companies. There are also a lot of area mentors who work closely with each Brandery company.
Check out our indepth video interview with Rob McDonald and Mike Bott here:
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