12 Questions You Should Ask When Considering an Accelerator Program


Question: “What questions should entrepreneurs ask when considering an accelerator program?”

What Will I Gain Besides Money?

“All accelerators are going to offer some amount of seed money, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because you will be giving up some amount of equity in order to join the program, you want to make sure it’s worth it. You should look for a program that can offer you strong mentors, access to business resources, connections, important business knowledge and access to strategic partnerships.”

David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Which Accelerators Will Teach My Company?

“Accelerators are investors. Some accelerators would rather see you shut down and join another portfolio company’s team if it becomes clear that your company can’t provide a return. A new accelerator opens every day, so it’s important to sort out the contenders from the pretenders. Look for top-notch mentors, investors and cohort companies that you can learn from. “

Heidi Allstop, Spill

Does the Accelerator’s Goal Align With Mine?

“Different startup accelerators have different opinions of what defines a successful program. Some accelerators focus on revenue generation, while others focus on a funding outcome at the end of the program. As you consider accelerator programs, be sure to understand what the ultimate goals are for the accelerator. Compare that with your own goals for your company before committing to participate.”

Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

What Does the Data Say?

“Accelerators are all the rage these days, but most have shown to do a poor job helping startups succeed. Check out the accelerator data on www.seed-db.com/accelerators, and decide if an accelerator is right for you.”

Wade Foster, Zapier

Is the Accelerator Top Tier?

“I think accelerators are like MBA programs. The very best ones (TechStars, Y Combinator) typically pay for themselves many times over. They provide a network, access, education and more. The next tier down might be more of a mixed bag. I’d be thoughtful about exactly what you’ll get out of an accelerator that is not in that elite tier.”

Erik Severinghaus, Simple Relevance

Who Are the Mentors?

“You should join an accelerator program because of the people it will connect you to — not because of the money it gives you. Look at who the mentors are and identify who you need to know. Most of the time, accelerators will have a page with info about all of their mentor connections. Here’s an example from the accelerator I’m a mentor with, SparkLabKC.”

Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.

Does the Accelerator Have a Past Rate of Success?

“Accelerator programs are a bi-directional relationship. The partners of these programs are assessing your potential to be successful. You should evaluate their past rate of success because you are forgoing other investment engines in favor of this option. It all comes down to trade-offs, and the most objective determinant is made by evaluating past performance. “

Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

Is It Worth the Equity?

“Before working with TechStars, I wondered if the program and small investment were worth the equity. Now, coming out of the program on the other side, I know that my experience was worth the equity. The mentors, coaching and support that came from a top-tier program were top notch and totally worth it. “

Paige Brown, Dashbell

Can I Speak to Graduates of Your Program?

“There are so many accelerator programs today, and they can be valuable. I have been in one myself, and it definitely helped me focus my idea and get the help I needed to move it forward. You should speak to graduates of the program. Ask them what they really thought of it, what they got out of it and how the program helped them succeed.”

Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Am I Ready?

“There are more accelerators to choose from than ever before, and startups are going to these accelerators earlier. Make sure there is something to accelerate when you apply (a team, a product and some initial costumers) so that the mentors, services and investment can make a difference. Remember that you only have 10 weeks or so until demo day, so make them count.”

Christopher Pruijsen, Sterio.me

Should I Earn my MBA First?

“Accelerators are great, but many MBA schools offer them free of charge, and you will graduate with an MBA when it’s over. This is highly valuable in every sector. You also get free advice from a range of experts, and some even offer business plan competitions with prize money. I’d encourage you to consider if you are ready for the program, then decide if earning an MBA would be a better choice.”

Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

Whom Can They Introduce Me To?

“If you’ve got a great idea, plenty of accelerators will take you. But all accelerators are not created equally. To narrow down the pool, you should take a look at their connections. You want accelerators that can introduce you to investors, mentors, startup founders and other people who can help you throughout your career.”

Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

A Founder’s Accelerator Tale: Surviving the Trough of Sorrow



Editor’s Note: With accelerator application season upon us, we know it can be hard to decide if accelerators are right for your company. With that in mind, we decided to give you an inside look at the workings of one of the top accelerators in the country.

If you’re just now finding your way into the startup accelerator series, check out the first part  to catch up. Otherwise, if you’re already current, you know that our company  was not in the best of shape after month one at the Brandery.

The beauty of accelerators is the community.

rsz_incontentad2By the second month in the Brandery, most teams are settled in and trying to nail down their value propositions. For some this meant more product building, while for others it meant more conversations. Everyone was trying to take advantage of the classes and mentors, while still focusing on building their businesses late into the night.

It was during these long days and nights you realize the true advantage of being in an accelerator –  sharing a room for 18 hours a day with some of the most diverse and intelligent people on the planet. Whether you had a question about javascript or financial models, someone could answer it. We traded advice like it was currency and pushed each other every day. It’s that type of environment that truly sets an accelerator apart from other conditions.

Month 2 is for getting organized & making hard choices…

For our team, the second month in the Brandery was going to require a major shift in thought and execution. We had to do a better job of facilitating responsibilities to one another. In order to do that, we had to decide who would work in what sections of the business. The harsh reality of “you’re bad at this, I’m good at that” and vice versa can be difficult, but ultimately necessary for any startup to get off the ground.

My co-founder Ryan is a task manager and great at making decisions with a set of given information, in other words, he’s incredibly objective. The result? We decided it was best for him to play product manager and manage customer interviews so we could quickly iterate.

My skills have always been dealing with people, situations, and relationships. My decision making is a bit more emotionally-based than Ryan’s. We both decided it made sense for me to take charge of the marketing and business development.

From there it was time to figure out how we’d move forward with our CTO. While Ryan was trying to get on the same page, there was an obvious communication gap that was making it difficult to progress. We spent a week soul searching and asking trusted friends for advice, but ultimately we knew we had to hit the restart button and made the tough choice to let go of our CTO.


…and finding our brand

The next step for Sqrl was to find an identity with the product itself. Thankfully, this is where the “Brand” in the Brandery came to the rescue. It was during a follow up meeting with our branding agency (provided as a part of the Brandery) that we found our niche.

Sqrl’s product vision to-date had admittedly been ambitious. We told others we wanted to be “mint.com meets base camp” for accountants to interface with their clients. If that sounds ridiculous it’s because it is. Every time we said it, we knew it wasn’t right. We were making the mistake of building for perceived benefits, without actually focusing on a clear and defined problem that needed to be solved.

In our second session with Gyro, they presented us with four new brand identities. One of which was a squirrel, provoking a “wtf?” moment from each of us. Yet when the Gyro team told us we sounded like a “digital hunter-gatherer” and asked, “Are you an application to facilitate conversation, or does your application allow for more meaningful conversation?” we knew we found what we were looking for.

The one constant with every customer interview we conducted was that accountants were losing huge amounts (20-25%) of their day to just tracking down information from their clients. The real problem had been right in front of us the entire time.

We all left that meeting with the same epiphany – not only did our singular focus become solving the “I need something but no one is giving it to me” problem, but the mood of our team changed (for the better) with it. We dropped our old name (Accrew) and picked up the Sqrl, an identity we could get behind.

Sqrl “the digital hunter and gatherer” built with “go getter technology.” It was genius. Now all we had to do was double-back on customer interviews and validate our new assumptions. Ryan immediately started building new mockups in Keynote, and I began trying to fulfill the new narrative with our current signups and potential customers.

Over the remaining weeks of month 2, Ryan and I did everything in our power to get the new hypothesis in front of every accountant possible. We tried to validate every piece of Ryan’s mockups until it was right to move on to the next steps of building again. The new CTO interviews may have been on hold, but our identity was in full swing.

Getting through the trough

Month 2 at the Brandery was a huge gutcheck for our team, but it proved every accelerator stereotype right. In the first month we tried to move too fast, and it almost proved fatal. We listened to more advice than we should have and couldn’t find an identity on our own terms. And last but not least, we focused far too much on building a product before validating A) the problem and B) the narrative of the proposed solution.

If you asked other teams I’m sure they’d tell you they experienced similar peaks and valleys. In the accelerator world, the “trough of sorrow” probably hits around the later stages of month 2. The question each founder had to asked ourselves? “What are you going to do about it?”

 Craig Baldwin is a former accountant turned startup founder. He’s currently the CMO of Cincinnati-based startup Sqrl. Craig’s also a BBQ enthusiast, writer, and purveyor of delicious vintage cocktails. Follow him on Twitter @craignbaldwin

Techstars NYC Is Back At it

Techstars NYCWhen people talk about accelerators, they talk about one of two things. They discuss the much-feared bubble and whether or not an accelerator in every town is a good thing.

Or, they talk about the Big 3: Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and Techstars. We all know these accelerators have produced successful companies, and they are easily the most coveted spots in the country.

But even the Big 3 have issues sometimes. Techstars NYC has not been without drama in the last year or so. Last year Managing Director David Tisch left, but his replacement Eugene Chung was fired just weeks before Demo Day. 5 months later, Alex Iskold was named the newest Managing Director. In an internal email, interim Managing Director Nicole Glaros wrote, “Even at Techstars, we have really struggled, especially this last year, to really capture the potential of the community. We did a lot of things wrong, and we learned a lot.”

The time has come to see just how much the program has learned.

In a blog post yesterday, Alex Iskold announced the application period for the spring program.

Great companies are a mix of science, art and (who are we kidding) luck.

The art is innate but the luck is altogether out of our control. It’s the science part with which we can work. There is a science behind making great companies and we, collectively, are getting better and better at it in NYC and around the world.

Iskold goes on to to outline the qualities his program will look for in founders:

  1. Vision
  2. Passion & Energy
  3. Intellectual honesty
  4. Domain knowledge and experience
  5. Flexibility

He also reminds companies that they are looking specifically for big ideas with big markets: “Often times we run into wonderful ideas that can bootstrap and be a great lifestyle business, but not venture-backed one. Since Techstars is in the business of making money for our investors, we can’t fund these opportunities but we are still very happy to help, in any way we can.”

Techstars NYC has definitely had a rough year, but hopefully they really have learned from those mistakes. Iskold represents new leadership and possibility, and of course, they do still have the prestigious Techstars name.

If you’re interested in applying, the early deadline is December 6th and the final one is December 31st.


Upstart Graduates 5 New Female-Led Companies

upstartMEMIt seems that everywhere I go, people are talking about women in tech and women in startups. Everyone has an opinion on why it’s hard for women in tech (or IF it’s hard).  Some think the solution comes from changing institutions to accommodate families. Others think women just need to embrace careers and quit being timid.

There are plenty of opinions, but we in the startup world know that execution matters more than theory. Yesterday in Memphis, execution was on display.

The people behind Start Co in Memphis, TN are actually doing something to advance women in tech, and the fruit of that labor was seen in the 5 teams that presented at Upstart’s Demo Day. I talked about Upstart in July, and like most Demo Days, it’s amazing to see how far the companies have come in a few short months.  Of course, it’s still early days for all the companies, and everyone knows the real work begins after Demo Day.

WeddingWorthy.com–WeddingWorthy.com was a late addition to Upstart cohort, but when leaders saw how serious founder Tameesah Desangles was about her business, they felt she’d earned a place at Demo Day. Desangles’ company is a visual shopping platform for brides and their bridesmaids. There are thousands of things to buy for a wedding, and with 25 retailers on board, there are plenty of options.

Artwardly–Leni Stoeva changed her business model quite a bit during the accelerator, but the final product is an art-leasing platform that connects high-end art and individuals and businesses. No more Fortune 500 companies with Aunt Ida’s black and whites in the lobby. With her connections in the art world, and some great developers building the platform, Stoeva is on pace to change the way collectors, businesses, and even museums source their art.

GemPhones–We’ve written about GemPhones before, and founder Kelli Meade is still going strong. GemPhones is electronic jewelry, combining the function of earphones with the style of necklaces. Lots of people flaunted their GemPhones at the after parties, and it’s really impressive how many styles are already available.

Stylecrook–A native of Bermuda, founder Zakkiyah Daniels came all the way from Thailand to participate in the Upstars accelerator. Stylecrook is a social shopping site that allows you to receive discounts when you enlist your friends to help you pick out clothes. Let’s face it, that’s how most women shop best anyway. Stylecrook is now making it digital.

Kids360Now–Audrey Jones started her presentation with a sobering story about children harmed at a day care and taken to a hospital, but because their parents contact information was inaccessible, the parents didn’t find out until pick up time. Kids360Now solves that problem by putting the information into the parents’ hands, and allowing them to grant access when needed. A daycare administrator can simply open an app on her phone in the even of emergency, rather than trying to reach a file cabinet.

The women of the first Upstart cohort made big strides in the 3 months of accelerator life. We at Nibletz are cheering them on as they continue to grow and develop their companies.



St. Louis’ Capital Innovators Opens Up Applications For Spring 2014 Cohort

Capital Innovators, St.Louis startups, startup accelerator

St. Louis Capital Innovator’s accelerator program has opened up applications for their Spring 2014 program. This will be the 6th cohort to go through St.Louis’ highly successful program.

Capital Innovators is backed by the most influential people in the St. Louis startup ecosystem, including Jim McKelvey who is firmly planted in the startup community. We just reported last week on the inaugural cohort at the new SixThirty accelerator, an accelerator for fintech startups that takes its name from the height and width of St. Louis’ famous arch.

Capital Innovators provides $50,000 in seed funding for their startups and also provides them with project-based mentorship, collaborative learning, and more. The entire St.Louis startup community gels around each class in the Capital Innovators accelerator program, which is housed at the T-Rex startup, co-working, and incubation space downtown.

Our good friends at Bonfyre, who have provided the engagement app for our Everywhere Else national startup conferences, is an alumni of Capital Innovators. LockerDome, who’s founder Gabe Lozano was a big hit earlier this year at Everywhere Else conference in Memphis is also a graduate of Capital Innovators as are BidRazor, Adfreq, and many more.

Applications are being accepted through November 15th, and the cohort will be announced in January. Meanwhile, the current Fall 2013 cohort will graduate in December. We’ll be there to cover all the action. You may want to hurry up and apply now, before I decide to go and apply. Here’s the link.


Brandery Draws 425 Investors In The Middle Of Cincy Startup Week

Brandery, Demo Day, Accelerator, Cincinnati, Startup Week

Ok it’s not officially Cincy startup week yet, but we’re looking to change that for next year. Our own Everywhere Else Cincinnati conference kicked off the week with two and a half days of 20 minute power talks, keynotes, and panels teaching young entrepreneurs and early stage companies anything and everything from branding to talking to investors.

The Brandery’s annual demo day, an opening of the new Cintrifuse, TED Cincinnati, and #Hack4Good rounded out more events and entrepreneurial experiences than some cities have for their actual startup week.

In planning our conference, we worked closely with The Brandery who actually housed our Cincinnati office as we geared up for the main event. Brandery co-founder Dave Knox kicked off the Everywhere Else conference. Brandery General Manager Mike Bott appeared on a panel about what accelerators are looking for.

Now in it’s fourth year, the Brandery, which some locals believed would never work, continues to improve upon the growing Cincinnati startup ecosystem. Year after year it seems the startups improve and the crowds get even bigger.

The main event for the Brandery startups kicked off Wednesday morning at 8am. Even Proctor & Gamble former CEO Bob McDonald was in attendance alongside some of the biggest investment firms in the country. Folks like Mercury Fund’s Blair Garrou, SoftBank Capital’s Joe Medved, Dundee Venture Capital’s Mark Hasebroock and others made a point to head into town a few days early to also speak to the crowd of hundreds at Everywhere Else.

Bott told cincinnati.com that eight of the ten companies had already lined up follow on funding for after the completion of The Brandery program. Those startups were: Tapfit ($750,000), Chalky ($750,000), and Sqrl ($500,000). Co-Ed Supply has already done $25,000 in sales and raised $150,000 while Frameri, a new way to buy glasses, surpassed their $30,000 Indiegogo goal and raised $43,000.

The stand out from last year’s Brandery class, Flight Car, has already raised over $5 million dollars, graduated from the Y-Combinator program and expanded their peer-to-peer airport car rental services to multiple airports. They are preparing for a launch at LAX later this month.

Nibletz is working with The Brandery, CincyTech, the Cincinnati Regional Chamber, Cintrifuse and other organizations to make the first week of October officially “Cincy Startup Week.”

As a testament to the success of The Brandery, Modulus, a 2012 graduate of The Brandery won the Startup Champion honors at Everywhere Else Cincinnati.

Here are all of the Brandery 2013 companies:

Awesomatic: Tool allows a business’ customers to support each other.

Chalky: Connects advice-seekers with mentors who’ve been in their shoes.

Co-Ed Supply: Delivers box of college essentials on a monthly subscription, connecting brands with the college market.

Donde: Mobile locator platform helps marketers drive retail sales.

Dwllr: Allows buyers, sellers and real estate professionals to share information throughout the home-buying process.

Frameri: Provides interchangeable eyeglass frames with one pair of prescription lenses.

ShopStoree: Visual commerce platform allows retailers to create interactive online storefronts.

Sqrl: Tool makes gathering information from clients and groups of people painless. Current focus is on accounting software market.

Tapfit: Allows users to find, purchase a pass and exercise at studios, gyms and group fitness options that best fit their needs.

The Brandery’s next class will open registration in February. You can find out more about The Brandery here.

Check out our Brandery Coverage at nibletz.com 



St. Louis’ Six Thirty Accelerator Announces Inaugural Class

Six Thirty, Accelerator, FinTech, Jim McKelvey, St. Louis startup, Accelerator

The new fintech startup accelerator in St. Louis, backed by Cultivation Capital and Square’s Jim McKelvey, held an event on Wednesday evening to announce their first startup cohort. McKelvey is joined by Hal Gentry, serial entrepreneur and general partner at Capital Innovators, and Joe Reagan CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, as co-founders for the accelerator called Six Thirty which takes its name from the height and width of the St. Louis Arch.

They received over 100+ applications from all over the world from startups with a financial element. They successfully weeded out the group to just four. Here are the companies in the first session, which officially starts Monday.

Hedgeable, Matthew Kane and Michael Kane
Hedgeable is a next generation Vanguard, providing low cost, risk managed investment products in response to the Financial Crisis.

MiiCard, James Varga
Through a patented process, miiCard leverages access to online financial accounts to verify an individual’s identity beyond a photo ID through a simple process that occurs completely online in five to ten minutes.

Upside, Tom Kimberly
Upside uses innovative financial science and beautiful user interface to provide goal-based investment management to mass affluent young professionals.

XYverify, Elliot Klein
XYverify enables consumers, merchants and financial institutions to reduce costs and prevent fraud via a mobile authentication platform.

McKelvey is also spearheading another new startup related effort in St. Louis called Launch Code.


ThinkBig Accelerator Partners With Microsoft Ventures

KC, Thinkbig, Microsof, startups, acceleratorKansas City’s ThinkBig accelerator announced this morning a brand new partnership with Microsoft Ventures. This new Microsoft partnership compliments the Microsoft BizSpark program to the select few accelerators that have been chosen.

Microsoft Ventures currently has accelerator locations in Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Beijing and will open or partner with several more soon, including ThinkBig.

This announcement comes ahead of Blake Miller’s presentation at the national Everywhere Else Cincinnati conference that kicks off Sunday evening. Miller was going to save the news for the upcoming iKC conference in Kansas but chose to reveal the news now so that he is available to speak with other accelerator heads and startups at next week’s Everywhere Else conference, about the new partnership.

Think Big Accelerator in partnership with Microsoft Ventures will be one of only a few partnerships of its kind in the United States. Microsoft Ventures will act as a strategic partner for promising startups in the Think Big Accelerator program focused on business growth, customer development, industrial strength technology and beautiful usable products.

According to Cliff Reeves, who leads the Microsoft Ventures Community team, “Entrepreneurism is a local phenomenon everywhere, and Think Big Partners represents the best of KC as well as startup reach nationally and globally. We’re very pleased to be working with them to find and support great startups.”

The partnership between Think Big Accelerator and Microsoft Ventures will provide accelerator companies access to even more mentors, resources and connections. As Microsoft Ventures is a corporate run partnership with the intent to engage and support a select few independent accelerators per geo, the local Microsoft field office will play an active role in day-to-day support and mentorship of Think Big Partners’ startups as part of this partnership. While the Microsoft BizSpark program will be providing software, support and visibility to the startups, Microsoft Ventures will be providing additional resources through this limited partnership to better enable the startups success on the Microsoft platform while they develop their business as a whole. Along with providing consistent access to Microsoft technical resources and devices, startups engaged in the Think Big Accelerator will have the opportunity to qualify for additional benefits via the BizSpark Plus program where startups qualify for a rich set of offers including Office 365 and Azure.

“We at Think Big Partners are very excited to grow what has already been a great learning relationship with Microsoft,” says Miller, Director of Think Big Accelerator.  “The resources that Microsoft adds to our checklist-oriented process will help us get entrepreneurs from idea to first customer faster and even more efficiently.”

While many accelerators do offer the BizSpark program, the Microsoft Ventures sponsored accelerators have even more amazing benefits.

You can find out more about Think Big KC here.


Techstars & Sprint Announce Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator

Techstars, Sprint Accelerator, Kansas City startups, startup accelerator

Techstars, one of the most recognized accelerators in the world, is expanding its US footprint into the already lively Kansas City startup community. Earlier this year Techstars co-founder and Foundry Group founder Brad Feld bought a house in Kansas City to house a startup to work on their company, utilizing KC’s 1gb ethernet. Kansas City was the second city in the country, behind Chattanooga, to offer 1gb ethernet to residences and businesses.

But it wasn’t Kansas City’s Google Fiber that attracted Techstars to the region. They’ve partnered with Kansas City’s biggest tech company, Sprint, the third largest wireless carrier in the country. Sprint has always been a friend to innovation. They were the first wireless carrier to hold an annual developer summit for developers to collaborate, and learn about developing on Sprint’s wide range of services.

sprintacceleratorSprint and Techstars are centering this accelerator around the growing mobile health segment. Monitoring devices, e-prescriptions, mobile EDR’s and other health based mobile technology startups will work in the three month Techstars-modeled accelerator format at the new accelerator.

“We have been watching Kansas City from afar, seeing it come together, and now we’re excited to join the community and help it grow. It’s great to see Sprint giving first through their tremendous network of resources and executive knowledge. It makes all the difference for the companies we fund through the program,” Techstars co-founder David Cohen said on the official Techstars blog.

Kevin McGinnis, Sprint’s Vice President of Development, will help oversee the program which is taking applications now through December 6th. Startups that are selected will be notified in early January 2014 and the first session will kick off in March.

“Kansas City increasingly is gaining recognition on the national level as an emerging entrepreneurial technology center,” McGinnis told Cohen. “Sprint has been expanding its work with startups and other ventures that are developing intriguing innovations. The Sprint Accelerator will act as a catalyst for growth in this market.”

You can apply here.


From Conference Volunteer To Startup Founder, Audrey Jones Is In The Zone

Everywhere Else, Kids360, Startup, Audrey Jones, Everywhere Else Startup Conference, startupLast February I had no idea who Audrey Jones was. We were preparing for Everywhere Else Memphis and knee deep in getting ready. diPR consulting’s Danielle Inez was recruiting volunteers and handling many of the pre-show logistics.

When the conference time finally arrived, we met up with all of the onsite volunteers. Audrey Jones was one of them. She told us in an interview that she had heard good things about the conference and was curious about what it was all about. She received an email from one of the civic groups she works with for volunteers and decided she would sign up for one shift.

That day, she took control of registration and front end organization and then stayed on throughout the entire conference, never missing a beat. It was like we had planned and rehearsed her role for months, but for Jones, organization and execution come naturally. It’s one of the qualities her full time employer, Memphis based AutoZone loves about her.

In fact several people from AutoZone’s marketing and IT departments attended at least some part of the inaugural conference in Memphis. At some point during the conference an AutoZone employee came up to me and congratulated us on a job well done. He then said that we could have Audrey for the remaining two days of the conference, but not only that she wouldn’t have to take time off, AutoZone was paying her to work for us.

Marston-1But this story isn’t about a great conference volunteer or a great company in Memphis. The story continues.

Jones was so intrigued by what she witnessed at the Startup Conference that she started spending her free time with Start Co, the Memphis organization that serves as an umbrella for many of Memphis’ startup efforts. Jones stayed in touch with many of the people she met at the conference from across the country and started to work on an idea.

What intrigued Jones most about Start Co and their various startup initiatives was Upstart Memphis, a women’s startup initiative that included a women’s only 48 Hour Launch and a women’s only startup accelerator.

Jones’ preliminary idea revolved around the way that parents, loved ones, family members, and caregivers communicate. There’s so much technology out there now that phone trees are pretty much dead wood.

“It’s a platform that allows parents to list their children’s emergency contact information electronically. It’s the alternative to the cluttered file cabinet in emergency situations. Parents can grant access to whomever needs access, like sittrs, tutors, daycare and childcare providers,” Jones told us.

Jones had no idea she was an entrepreneur or a startup founder in January of this year.  By spring she was talking to people about this idea. Then Start Co put a call out to women led startups to apply for their inaugural summer cohort for their women’s accelerator. Jones admitted she felt like she didn’t think she would get in, but went forward with the application process, even citing Nibletz as a reference after her work with the conference.

Kids360 was one of the four startups selected for the women’s only cohort that puts the women founded startups through a bootcamp-style, intense business and entrepreneurial accelerator. The hope for Start Co co-presidents Andre Fowlkes and Eric Mathews is that founders will be launch ready at the end of the accelerator, which is really just the beginning.

For Jones it’s been non stop since the accelerator kicked off at the beginning of the summer. She continues to work full time for AutoZone and spends another 40-50 hours a week on Kids360.

“Audrey is a great example of the type of entrepreneur we find here in Memphis. She is constantly grinding whether it’s her own startup, helping others or on her job. She’s putting the resources of StartCo to work for her every chance she gets,” Mathews told us by email.

It helps that Audrey works for AutoZone, a company founded by serial entrepreneur Pitt Hyde. The company was very supportive during those few days of the conference and continues to support Jones with a little extra flexibility in her schedule while she is going through the accelerator program. This isn’t the first time that AutoZone has supported one of their employees going through one of Start Co’s accelerator programs. In fact it’s their third go round and they would continue to do it over and over again, Jones tells us.


“Because entrepreneurs make the best employees,” Jones told us. She is very open about her startup and what she is doing in the program. Everyone on her team all the way up to Pitt Hyde knows that she’s in the program. “Whenever I see Mr. Hyde in the halls I smile with my AutoZone uniform on and re-pitch him again,” Jones said.

“We’ve seen quite a few entrepreneurs come through the ranks at Autozone, which is very supportive of our young entrepreneurs and Start Co.  Audrey markes the third time that we’ve been able to help an Autozone employee hone in their inner entrepreneur,” Mathews said.

Hyde is also very supportive of entrepreneurial efforts in Memphis. He is a major supporter and director for Memphis Bioworks and their Zeroto510 accelerator, which is run in partnership with Bioworks and Start Co.

So now with just weeks to go before demo day at the UpStart accelerator, Jones is gearing up to have a booth at Everywhere Else Cincinnati’s Startup Avenue. She’s looking forward to real life pitch practice, talking to investors, and of course helping out the Everywhere Else team.

You can find out more about Kids360 at kids360now.com

It’s not too late to get your own booth or attendee ticket for Everywhere Else Cincinnati.

Tennessee’s Master Accelerator, The TENN Wraps Up Statewide Demo Day Roadshow

Accelerator, Launch Tennessee, The Tenn, Startups

(photo: Brandon Dill/ commercialappeal.com)

Every startup accelerator everywhere else wishes they could have participation at demo day from their top industry leaders. While some of their leading companies may have a presence at demo day, the real influencers are often too busy to attend a four hour demo day. With this problem in mind, Tennessee had a great idea for their startups: bring them to those companies.

Ten accelerator graduates from across the state of Tennessee just completed a weeklong statewide roadshow. Each of the ten startups chosen to participate in the statewide master accelerator program were all graduates of one of Tennessee’s nine accelerator programs.

The master accelerator program, called The TENN, was put on by Launch Tennessee, the public/private partnership spearheading the accelerator efforts across Tennessee. Launch Tennessee partnered with the Blackstone Foundation to put the program on, as well as other key state sponsors.

Twenty accelerator graduates that wrapped up their programs by August of this year competed in a final pitch off in Nashville on August 27th. At that event a group of judges from outside of Tennessee had the daunting task of narrowing down those 20 to just 10 for the road show.

In addition to going on the road in a wrapped tour bus, each of the companies received $10,000 for their business and will have access to office space at their accelerator’s office space, or they will receive a subsidy for space they may already occupy.

The ten companies chosen were:

eClinic (Nashville)
Got You In (Nashville)
Gun.io (Nashville)
Hatponics (Knoxville)
Health & Bliss (Memphis)
Mobilizer (Memphis)
Screwpulp (Memphis)
Survature (Knoxville)
Vendor Registry (East Tennessee)
View Medical (Memphis)

Health & Bliss had to drop out of the roadshow due to a scheduling conflict. They were replaced by Chattanooga startup HutGrip.

The roadshow kicked off in the Tri-Cities area with stops at Eastman Chemical and AccelNow. On Tuesday the bus made its way to Knoxville, where they stopped at Scripps Networks and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Wednesday the bus stopped in Chattanooga at Society of Work. Thursday the group traveled to Nashville and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. The trip wrapped up in Memphis on Friday with stops at First Tennessee Bank and FedEx.

The ten companies will continue working on their businesses and with mentors and corporate leaders across the state.

You can find out more about The TENN at TheTENN.org









Image: CommercialAppeal

Memphis Startup Restore Medical Becomes First To 510 (K) Out Of Zero To 510 Accelerator

Restore Medical Solutions, Memphis startup, 510KThe ZeroTo510 startup accelerator in Memphis Tennessee is the first cohort-based medical device startup accelerator in the country. The joint venture between Start Co and Memphis Bioworks puts medical device companies through an accelerator program and helps shape scientists and engineers into startup founders.

The other, important goal for ZeroTo510 is getting these medical device startups to the 510(k) approval from the FDA. This approval is a quicker path to market roughly based on the idea that your product is expanding on an idea or improving an idea previously approved by the FDA. In short a typical FDA approval for a new device can take anywhere from 3-10 years while a 510 (k) approval can shorten that time down to 1-3 years.

All of the companies selected for the first two completed cohorts at ZeroTo510 (summer 2012 and summer 2013) werelooking to get that approval and get their product to market.

Marston-1We’ve covered Restore Medical almost from the point when founders Shawn Flynn and Ryan Ramkhelawan made the move from Atlanta to Memphis for the accelerator at the beginning of summer 2012. At that time both founders told Nibletz that they liked Bioworks and the cohesiveness of the Memphis startup community, despite the fact that Atlanta is a much larger city.

Restore Medical has developed a system that more thoroughly, cleanly, cheaply and greenly sterilizes surgical instruments. The way surgical instruments are currently sterilized is time consuming. Not only that, but if one instrument is found to be unsterile the entire batch of instruments for a particular surgery needs to go through the process again. This can take hours at a time, so the OR teams must make a decision on whether to wake up the patient or to keep the patient under anesthesia which can be costly for the doctors and the patients not to mention dangerous.

“Our product allows hospitals to clean and re-sterilize surgical instruments more efficiently, saving time and money,”  Flynn, the company President said in a statement. “More importantly, it improves the sterilization process, reducing the chances that a patient will be infected by contaminated instruments.

Restore Medical Solutions announced on Thursday that they had received their FDA 510(k) clearance. The company is also pleased to announced that it has successfully completed the certification process for internationally recognized medical device specific quality management standards ISO 13485:2003 and the Canadian Medical Device Conformity Assessment System (CMDCAS). Certification was conducted by BSI Group, one of the world′s leading certification bodies.

“These clearances allow us to market our products domestically and internationally, and they show that our product is safe, effective and meets regulatory requirements in both the United States and Canada,” said Ramkhelawan.

Restore Medical Solutions is moving into a larger 2500 square foot space  in the Memphis Bioworks complex which will allow them space for assembly and distribution.

You can find out more about Restore Medical Solutions here.



State Of Virginia Backed CyberSecurity Accelerator, Mach37 Prepares For Launch

Mach37, Cybersecurity accelerator, Virginia accelerator, starrtupsNew accelerators can be exciting, especially those touching new verticals. Mach37 is a public partnership formed from an initiative to grow the State of Virginia’s cybersecurity industry. Between the federal government, military, and the CIA based all in the northern parts of the state, cybersecurity is a very important industry. The initiative, called Semper Secure, is backed by the state of Virginia in conjunction with Northrop Grunman, one of the biggest defense contractors in the world.

The program was modeled after traditional 90 day cohort accelerator models, except for the fact that it’s focusing just on cybersecurity. This siloed model has worked for other cities in other industries as well, like New York’s Digital Health Accelerator and Code for America’s civic accelerator.

While the region is ripe with longstanding security firms, Virginia is excited about the new wave of cybersecurity startups. According to civisourceonline.com there are a number of private sector firms as well as angel investors and VC’s interested in the highly lucrative space.

The first group of startups will be announced this week, and they will begin the first of two 90 day cohorts that Mach37 hopes to hold each year.  While the accelerator follows the cohort model, they wanted it to be different thsn other startups that call themselves “boot camp.”

” We’ve studied other accelerator programs, and we didn’t want it to be a boot camp, each entrepreneur is going to come away with a very different experience from others in the program,”  Rick Gordon the Managing Director at Mach37 told CiviSource.


Y-Combinator Is NOT The Guarantee Some Think, Two 2011 Startups Close Up Shop

YCombinator, TutorSpree, Leaky, startupsIt’s no secret that startups fail, and they fail in large numbers. It may seem like startups “everywhere else” have the deck stacked against them from the beginning, because they do. Access to capital, mentors, and talent are three of the biggest road blocks to startups outside the major tech hubs. That’s one of the big things that will be discussed at Everywhere Else Cincinnati.

There are startup accelerators everywhere. Some of them are naturally better than others. Some accelerators focus on a theme, like the Brandery on branding and ZeroTo510 which is solely for medical device startups. Others, like Techstars and Y-Combinator have huge brand equity.

Even after a demo day at an accelerator, many startups have trouble locking up follow-on funding. Some are able to raise a decent seed or Series A round and then run out of steam.  While we hear these stories all the time from everywhere, there are still some founders and entrepreneurs who believe Y-Combinator, 500 Startups, and Techstars companies don’t shut down. It seems we believe there is some kind of fairy dust sprinkled on the co-founders, while others feel that Valley based accelerators have to be great because they’re in the Valley.

Y-Combinator is often thought of as the creme de la creme when it comes to startup accelerators. It’s the first application startups from everywhere fill out in hopes they’ll get into Paul Graham’s highly esteemed program and then be on “autopilot.”

Well we’ve learned this week that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure there are a ton of startups that went through Y-combinator and failed, but we rarely hear those stories. This week we’ve heard two.

On Monday PandoDaily’s Carmel Deamicis pointed out that Spring 2011 YC graduate Leaky has shut it’s doors. The company offered a price comparison web platform for finding the best insurance quote. Call it Kayak for car insurance if you wish. It seemed like a good idea.

That was until the founders decided that rather than building lasting partnerships with auto-insurance companies, they wanted to take the disruptive way. Co-founder Jason Traff and his team weren’t patient enough to build those vital partnerships. Instead, according to PandoDaily and Greg Isaacs the President of competing startup CoverHound, the team at Leaky actually scrubbed the insurance carriers’ websites without their permission and then published the information.

Without the blessings of the insurance companies, the startup was doomed. This is despite raising over $600,000 in a seed round from YC, 500 Startups, and Box Group. As soon as they started publishing rate information without permission they were served with cease & desist notifications.

The Leaky team came up with a way to circumvent the insurance companies based on the fact that insurance companies had to publicly report how they came up with their data and pricing. Leaky built its models around that information, but that too failed.

On Sunday, TechCrunch’s Colleen Taylor reported on the untimely demise of Tutorspree, a Winter 2011 graduate from Y-Combinator. That startup was often dubbed the “Airbnb of tutoring”

After graduating from Y-Combinator TutorSpree went on to raise $1.8 million dollars from investors including Sequoia Capital. They also bulked up their staff to ten to help develop the product that matched students with high quality local tutors.

TutorSpree didn’t go into specifics as to why they shut down. The company’s three co-founders Ryan Bednar, Aaron Harris, and Josh Abrams said:

Ultimately, we learned about the challenges of willing a company into existence, of building an incredible and unique team to tackle constantly shifting challenges. And finally, we learned about how to make the toughest decision of all – to shut Tutorspree down, not because it was not a business, but because we could not make it the company we wanted.

In an email to TechCrunch, Tutorspree CEO Harris added, “We built something we were incredibly proud of, but got to the point where we realized it would not scale in a way that would meet our goals. It was a tough decision emotionally, but it was the right move from the rational perspective.”

We talk startup failure with Lucas Rayala the founder of Altsie, a startup that failed last year. As they failed Rayala chronicled the experience on TechCrunch. See Rayala speak at Everywhere Else Cincinnati.