We are one week away from seeing the 2012 class at The Brandery accelerator in Cincinnati. The Brandery is a top 10 accelerator and focuses on branding and marketing. They’ve attracted hundreds of applications from across the globe for each of their last three sessions.
While The Brandery follows a co-hort accelerator model, as well as the Global Accelerator model, what sets them apart is their focus on branding and marketing. Being situated in Cincinnati Ohio puts them at ground zero for one of the biggest branded companies in the world Proctor & Gamble (P&G). P&G’s influence can be found within the walls of the Brandery. General Manager, Mike Bott, came to the Brandery after a successful stint as brand manager for Olay and other P&G brands. P&G’s roots don’t stop there, Brandery Co-Founder Rob McDonald is the son of the current CEO at P&G Robert McDonald. The younger McDonald is a lawyer at Taft during the day though.
The Brandery pulls from other marketing resources as well. Take co-founder Dave Knox for instance, Knox is the Chief Marketing Officer at Rock Fish a digital agency with a laundry list of clients that are household names. PF Chiangs, Sam’s Club, Bunn, and White Cloud are just a few of the brands that trust RockFish for their creative needs.
The Brandery is a hard core accelerator. There’s no working part time and participating at The Brandery. We spent five days with The Brandery founders and the staff in Cincinnati’s Over The Rhine neighborhood earlier this summer. There was a constant swarm of activity in the bullpen where each startup has desk space and white boards. There was also class after class in The Brandery’s second floor class room. Folks come from all over the country to talk with The Brandery’s startups and even skype in for lectures.
Some of The Brandery’s startups from this class had pivoted by the time we went to visit in August, others have pivoted again as they got closer to demo day. Even startup evangelist Nick Tippmann found himself changing teams with less than two months to go. No matter what way you look at it, next week’s demo day is shaping up to be an eventful one.
“We’re pumped to showcase our companies on Demo Day. They have done a fantastic job leveraging the relationships and partnerships in Cincinnati and our broader national network to refine and validate their businesses. Its awesome that the Cincinnati and Brandery communities are working together to build something special” Bott told nibletz.com
From what we’ve heard on our visit to Cincinnati McDonald gets more and more excited every year. In addition to helping teams with legal issues, McDonald gets out in the community with the Brandery teams every chance he gets including festivals, events and even Reds games. The Brandery teams were also major parts of Startup Weekend Cincinnati over the summer. McDonald, Knox, Bott and many of the teams founders were on hand throughout the weekend to provide mentorship and guidance. In fact Austin Hackett, the founder of Crowd Hall (A 2012 Brandery Company) pitched his own startup on startup weekend, the one that actually looked most complete.
Accelerators are intense and sometimes a bit insane. Gut checks at an accelerator happen often and pivots are inevitable. Greg Svitak and Kurt Pettit from Cleveland Ohio entered The Brandery with a startup called Flock’d. The premise for the idea was good, they wanted to do “swarm” like deals at night clubs and bars. Pettit explained to us that the idea was abandoned because every municipality in the country has their own liquor advertising laws which made a nationwide app in that space all but impossible.
Svitak and Pettit regrouped and developed AndTix which is a ticket selling platform for major sporting events. Neither man is any stranger to startups. Pettit has been a designer that’s done startup work for years. Svitak was one of the organizers for the 2012 startup bus to SXSW. After wrestling with the ticketing idea for a little over a week, they regrouped again and plan to show off a great concept in ticketing next week.
26 year old Andy Zhang from Seattle Washington went into The Brandery with a concept called Fly Dutch which according to Angellist matched starutps and investors. Zhang, who is a trained lawyer among other things, actually pivoted FlyDutch into “woowhoo! online dating for the offline type”. His startup boasts no messaging, no surveys and no work. Could it be Pinterest for dating?
One of the teams we’ve seen as a standout since before this session at The Brandery started is Salt Lake City based CrowdHall. CrowdHall is a platform where celebrities, politicians, micro-celebrities, bloggers and others can communicate with their audience in a voting up and down question asking forum. Back in July they tested the platform with Bachelorette winner Jeff Holm. CrowdHall is the perfect platform for elections and online town hall meetings.
Co-Founder Jordan Menzel admitted that CrowdHall would be perfect for the Presidential Election, but the timing may be off. CrowdHall has stayed the course from entry to demo day and will reveal a polished, ready to go product that nestles nicely into it’s own space. We’re pretty sure that over the next few years and then again into the next election cycle CrowdHall will become a household name.
Our other standout team from this years session at The Brandery is Impulcity. We’ve covered Impulcity since before they were even selected for The Brandery. This Louisville startup is offering up a new way to find events in any area. They have hundreds of thousands of events organized and delivered into an app that has a slick and visually appealing UI and a feature set that includes the ability to share events, follow events, and add to an events wall.
CEO and Co-Founder Hunter Hammonds is putting his all into Impulcity. In July they had a full featured, working beta, in fact we were in the beta test. There really was nothing else like it available in any app store or market. Impulcity was able to find and recommend events based on location, likes and other algorithms and deliver them with great visuals and the information an end user needed to make a decision about what to do.
Impulcity may have been perfect to a lot of people’s standards however with just under a month to go Hammonds blew up the whole thing and started over from scratch. They took a lot of beta testers feedback and iterated to the product that will released next week.
The stylish Jay Finch came to Cincinnati and The Brandery from New York, with his offline-online crowdfunding hybrid, SockStock. The concept takes businesses in need of funding and allows patrons to micro-crowdfund projects at the businesses they frequent via Finch’s platform. Finch has already made inroads in Cincinnati with the Carol Ann and Ralph V Haile Jr /US Bank Foundation who are referring their creative entrepreneurs and artisans to SockStock to raise money for their own projects to grow their companies. Finch plans on staying in Cincinnati after demo day to further the SockStock platform.
We’re expecting great things from the 11 teams at The Brandery this year when demo day rolls around next week.