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

A Founder’s Accelerator Tale: 3 Misconceptions About Month 1


startup acceleratorsEditor’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.

With The Brandery soon taking applications for their 2014 class, I’ve been thinking back on my experience at the Cincinnati-based accelerator. Our company was lucky enough to be one of ten companies selected out of over 1,000 applicants to participate in the 2013 class.

While many Nibletz readers are familiar with the Brandery, I’m sure a large portion of startup enthusiasts have still never heard of it. Because after all – who has ever heard of an accelerator not located in SF or NYC named something other than TechStars?

The Brandery may not come from the same pedigree as the aforementioned, but it makes up for what the big guys lack in special ways. In fact CNN just named it to their top 9 hot startup accelerator list for its strength in consumer branding. With it’s proximity to Proctor & Gamble, (the same company who outpaced every other in the world with over $5 billion in ad spend in 2012) people in Cincinnati know how to market.

Every Brandery company receives $20K in exchange for 6% warrants, pro-bono work from some of the top digital and marketing agencies in the US, and a mentorship list that could compete with many of the top accelerators in the nation. The strong consumer marketing curriculum every Brandery company undergoes is built on the back of those mentors and professionals.

Often unmentioned but one of the most important facets of being in the Brandery is you find yourself being supported by the entire city of Cincinnati. People take their home very seriously in Cincinnati, and you’ll find most residents and businesses are willing to lend a hand to your cause no matter where you’re from.

Since we jammed what felt like a year’s worth of work into 3 months, I’ll try to breakdown my experience into several, digestible sections. Perhaps sensibly so, the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd month of the program, with a

short conclusion on what happens to companies post “accelerating”.

So are you ready to dive in?

Month 1 at the Brandery

Let me start by mentioning a couple things upfront about my co-founders and I. None of us have technical backgrounds. In fact we had already struck out with one developer, before having to bring in a brand new CTO a week before the program began. While we had experience in business related fields, primarily accounting and consulting, we were very green in the tech world. We had almost no startup experience save for one small business we had started the year before.

Oh and did I mention our idea was B2B? Were we ideal Brandery candidates? Not exactly.

The first month of the Brandery is really about getting to the misconceptions as fast as possible. This likely holds true for any accelerator (YC, Tech Stars, et al.)

Misconception #1: Move as “fast as possible.”

You need to accept the reality you will not always be moving as fast possible. Many times too much speed will be detrimental to your cause. One of the founders told me months afterward he thought our company came in as a huge underdog. Fact is, we knew it. So we tried to make hurried decisions, hop in other team members’ work, and force our CTO to code as fast as possible.

The result? A train wreck.

The relationship with our developer was becoming more awkward by the day and we were making each other furious by constantly stepping on one another’s toes.

My advice for this misconception is find the right dynamic for you and your team. Find out where your strengths lie and divvy up tasks and responsibilities accordingly. Only step on the gas when you’re sure you’ve made the right decision, otherwise you’re destined to tailspin.

Misconception #2: Listen to all the advice you receive.

This is absolutely one of the hardest things to do in an accelerator because you’re getting an opinion every minute. During times when you’re taking a break, you’re probably giving a few of your own.

You must take every piece of advice with a grain of salt. Trying to action every piece of advice or feedback will certainly make your head spin and almost assuredly result in the quick death of your company.

My advice here is to realize that everyone has solved the challenge of starting their own company in a different way. There are a million ways to solve a problem you just have to choose your favorite way. I’ll never forget the days we had back-to-back speakers who shared a totally opposing message. One experienced entrepreneur had a successful exit with his first startup and told us to not raise VC money. “Focus on revenue, and bootstrap until you can’t bootstrap anymore.”

The next day’s speaker, founder of a widely used internet tool, told us, “You’ll never stop raising money.”

So uh – which is it? The fact is, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Hear everything, listen and internalize about 20% of that, and ALWAYS make your own decisions based on what you believe to be the best information at hand.


Misconception #3: Focus on building the product

The answer to this will largely depend on how much work you’ve done on your idea before entering said accelerator. But for the vast majority of us, we were primarily in the idea stage and only had minimal prototypes at hand.

My take here is to focus on your customers first, then focus on building the product.

Grab a copy of Running Lean and read about the right way to do customer problem and subsequently, solution interviews. Future-self will thank you. A good product comes from great feedback and when in doubt, traction trumps a full prototype. This is especially true in the case of non-dev founders. Don’t waste your developer’s time on stuff you may not even know is necessary. His/her time is more important than yours, so treat it like gold.

I get asked all the time how to start a company or raise VC funding without knowing how to code. Honestly, obtain customers and the rest will fall into place. We found 100 accounting firms to signup for our product with only a keynote presentation and without a single line of code. So read up on UX/UI and download the Keynotopia plug-in for Keynote.

Need some more advice? My good friend and fellow Brandery alum, Nick Cromydas recently wrote a nice post on this same topic.

Month 1: The Good Stuff

Now that some of those items are out of the way, let’s talk about some things that went well the first month of The Brandery.

The Brandery curriculum is front-loaded with amazing advice given by some of the top consumer marketing professionals in the world on almost a daily basis. In fact there are so many presentations that after a while they almost blend together. Despite this I’d encourage others to listen closely and be rigorous in your note-taking. You’ll never know when you need to go back for that one special nugget of advice.

With its strong cast of mentors from all over the US, it’s advisable to take advantage early on. Chat with them, ask questions, and overall don’t be afraid to ask anyone involved with the Brandery for something. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no. A word you hear very little of from all Brandery co-founders, mentors, and business people in Cincinnati.

Brand-in-a-day is an event that occurs within the first month of the program as well. Each company is paired with a marketing agency in Cincinnati ranging from uber small to some of the largest in the world. The day is intended to allow each company to work with seasoned marketing professionals in order to come up with a foundational marketing strategy. This could mean a name or logo change, a brand manifesto, or in our case, a complete overhaul and slight change in product vision.

It’s up to each company to take advantage of the opportunity and work with these agencies for the duration of the program. While some companies received only a few thousand dollars worth of pro-bono work, I’d guess others received work valued at almost 10x that. That value can prove to be huge for early-stage companies and something that definitely sets the Brandery apart from other accelerators.

Next I’d mention the city of Cincinnati as a whole. The Brandery is located in a beautiful historic building in the middle of Over-The-Rhine (OTR), one of the largest historic neighborhoods in the country. OTR has gone through some well documented changes in the last 10 years, making it a very cool, and culturally stimulating place to live and work. Given it is Cincinnati’s unofficial startup hub, there are a ton of cool companies close by (e.g. Choremonster and Roadtrippers.)

Because the Brandery’s location is Cincinnati, it’s affordable for poor startup founders to live a reasonable lifestyle. I’ve read enough horror stories about living in SF & NYC. They’re great cities for binge drinking and potential investor meetings, but I’d have to wait for a Series A to live there.

With founders in this past class coming from cities like LA, SF, NYC, Chicago, and Vancouver, I think you’d find all of them thoroughly enjoyed what Cincinnati and specifically OTR had to offer. Each of us were embraced by the city as a whole and that is something we’re all thankful for.

Now that I’ve given you the lowdown on the first month at the Brandery, you’ll have to wait until next post to find out if our team survived, if our developer revolted, and what are the best bars to visit while in OTR?

Stay tuned for part 2.

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. 


Brandery Alum REPP Raises $250k from CincyTech


Cincinnati-based REPP announced this week that they’ve raised $250,000 from public/private seed stage investment group CincyTech. The funds are part of a larger round the company is still working on.

REPP is a digital background and information verification service that helps users manage their profiles. Using various checks like identity and social media verification, background checks, and a sexual offender check, REPP helps you put people that you might meet online at ease.

One use case is for Craigslist sellers. With a REPP account attached to your profile, you might put potential customers at ease and increase the likelihood of a sale. Same goes for Airbnb leasers. A REPP profile for an online date will guarantee that the person you have your eye on is who they really say they are.

REPP users have full control over their profile, allowing them to grant access only to the people they choose and for the length of time they choose.

The benefit of REPP is that our relationships are rarely classified as “online” and “offline” anymore. It’s no longer taboo to meet someone you only know virtually in real life, but that doesn’t actually make it safer. REPP provides you the opportunity to assure people that you are who you say you are.

“REPP is a product that should exist in the market,” CincyTech principal Justin Thompson said in a statement. “REPP is creating a layer of transparency and accountability to interactions we have online and those that naturally move offline. We believe the REPP team has a good opportunity to make a company that has a massive impact.”

The most recent announcement brings REPP’s total amount raised to $415k, and they plan to grow their team and expand marketing efforts with the capital infusion. The company is also offers enterprise support for businesses and is working on several partnerships that will increase usage of the service.

For a limited time, REPP is offering free profiles to new users.

The “Must-Attend Conference for Entrepreneurs” Everywhere Else Tennessee is headed back to Memphis this Spring. We’re releasing the first 50 tickets for 50% off exclusively to our newsletter subscribers on Jan 13th. Don’t miss your shot by signing up here!

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 



Co-Ed Supply Launches Just In Time For Back To School

Co-Ed Supply, Cincinnati startup,startups, Brandery

Summer is winding down for college students across the country. Many are returning for  their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of life away from home, but for college freshmen 9and their parents) this is an entirely new experience. Undoubtedly, millions of parents of incoming college freshmen are scouring the aisles of their local Target store buying everything on their son or daughter’s dorm room list, and probably some extra stuff too.

As move-in day approaches, parents everywhere are going to start thinking about what to send to their new college student.  I didn’t go to college, but I got my first out-of-state radio gig around the same time in my life. I was 18 years old and about 500 miles from home. My mom would send me these enormous boxes every week or two. Blank cassette tapes (for airchecking, yes I’m old), clippings from the local paper, Twinkies (even though there were plenty on the shelves at the local grocery store), clothes and whatever my mom could find. The same goes for most college freshmen these days.

Until Now…

We featured Brandery startup Co-Ed Supply in our Startups in the Fastlane series yesterday, an interview with a startup going through an accelerator. We learned a lot about what two Philadelphia natives had cooked up with Co-Ed Supply.

Basically it’s a college student care package wrapped up in a monthly subscription package. Co-Ed supply takes all the work out of putting together care packages. Now instead of silly trinkets, Co-Ed supply makes sure you get college essentials.

“The contents of each box is a surprise but all contain healthy snacks, personal care items, and entertainment. For students and their parents, basically we’re offering a cheaper, healthier, and more entertaining alternative to traditional care package options,” Forston told us in an interview.

Co-Ed Supply launched this morning, just as most college students are thinking about heading back to school. The cost of the subscription is just $20 per month and right now if you help five friends sign up, you’ll get a month free.

Check out Co-Ed Supply here.EECincyBanner

Startups In The Fast Lane: Brandery Startup CoEd Supply A Subscription Box For College Students


Subscription boxes are nothing new. There are subscription boxes for shoes, women’s clothes, men’s clothes, gadgets, toys, and even dogs. Now two co-founders originally from Philadelphia find themselves in Cincinnati going through The Brandery with their startup Co-Ed Supply.

Co-Ed Supply, Brandery, Cincinnati, Fastlane, Startup InterviewMarissa Hu and Andy Forston’s startup takes the subscription box model and solve a problem for parents and loved ones of college students, the care package. While some may think by subscription-izing the care package you’re taking the “care” out of it, we all know that college students are hard to shop for and sometimes it’s just not that cool to get hearts, candies, and box scores sent from mom and dad every week.

Of course the Co-Ed Supply box is also perfect for working and busy parents, and with parents staying on the job, working the same long hours later and later in life, Co-Ed Supply makes sense.

While Co-Ed supply will have a revenue stream with their subscription customers, their other customers–their bigger customers–are manufacturers and vendors of products that want to make it into the dorm rooms of college students. By partnering with Co-Ed Supply, these brands get exposure and engagement at a whole new level. One of the best parts for the brand is that it’s of course, opt-in.

Coed Supply is currently in beta and getting ready to launch soon. You can get signed up on their website now. Check out our full interview with Forston below.


What is the name of your startup?

Co-Ed Supply (http://www.coedsupply.com)coedsupply

Where is your startup originally from?

Philadelphia, PA

Tell us about your current team?

Marissa Hu, CEO – has spent the last four years in business development and sales. Most recently, she was one of the early members of the business team driving partnership development for the Shanghai Disney Resort. She’s also a recovering investment banker from Goldman Sachs, a UC Berkeley alum who’s now halfway through her MBA at Wharton, and on the investment team at First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund.

Andy Fortson, CMO – has been a digital and social media marketer for consumer, entertainment, and technology companies for the past seven years. Most recently he led marketing at mobile couponing app SnipSnap, and previous clients have included Gilt Groupe, Red Bull, Paramount, Fox, Microsoft, and Sony.

What does your startup do?

Co-Ed Supply delivers a curated box of college essentials to students every month starting at $20. The contents of each box is a surprise but all contain healthy snacks, personal care items, and entertainment. For students and their parents, basically we’re offering a cheaper, healthier, and more entertaining alternative to traditional care package options.

On the flip side, we work with brands who are trying to market to college students. Right now they hand out samples on campus, and when that sample walks away they don’t know who the student was, if they enjoyed it, purchased more, or shared with their friends. With Co-Ed Supply these brands can measure these types of results because we deliver data back to them on how well their campaign did.

What are your goals for the accelerator program?

Our goal was literally to accelerate our progress headed into the new school year and to establish relationships with large consumer brands. The Brandery has been super helpful for us in reaching our goals so far.

What’s one thing you’ve learned in the accelerator?

It’s taken some time but we feel like we’ve really gotten to understand how to work with mentors. The most helpful part is how to ask the right questions so that we can identify issues we weren’t aware about and how to get answers to questions we didn’t even know we had in the first place.

What’s the hardest piece of advice you’ve had to stomach so far?

We haven’t gotten any hard-to-stomach advice necessarily, but we’ve received a lot contradictory advice. The hardest part is identifying the right path or to not waste too much time going down the wrong path.

What is your goal for the day after demo day?

Just to continue on building more relationships with brands, expanding our reach into more college campuses, and growing our subscriber base.

Why did you choose this accelerator?

We chose The Brandery because of its focus on building a strong brand and it’s relationships with a lot of consumer goods companies. These have been super valuable to building our business.

If you relocated for the accelerator are you staying in your new city?

What our presence in Cincinnati is after The Brandery is still to be decided. There are definitely a number of really good reasons to continue some sort of physical presence here.

What’s one thing you learned about an accelerator that you didn’t know when you applied?

We didn’t really expect all the companies to be as supportive of each other as everyone’s been. All the teams have very diverse backgrounds and have been super helpful for everybody with connections, technical help, and marketing knowledge.

Where can people find out more?





Brandery Startup Alum FlightCar Faces Lawsuit

Brandery, FlightCar, Cincinnati Startup, Lawsuit, Sharing Economy

(flight car founders: Kevin Petrovic, Shri Ganeshram, Rujul Zaparde photo: bostonglobe.com)


Last year, one of the most exciting startups in the 2012 class at The Brandery startup accelerator in Cincinnati, Ohio was FlightCar. The startup, made up of teenage MIT dropouts. had a revolutionary idea. With FlightCar, instead of paying to park your car at the airport, you could rent it out to somebody else, making money rather then spending it.

After honing their branding, image, and product at the Brandery last summer, the FlightCar team secured a huge insurance policy, follow on funding, and their place in Y-Combinator. In April, after Y-Combinator’s demo day, the trio raked in another $5.5 million dollars in venture capital.

FlighCar quickly began testing their model at Oakland Airport and soon after rolled out service to San Francisco International Airport.

That’s when the trouble began.

Insidebayarea.com reported on Wednesday that the startup is being sued by the city of San Francisco. San Francisco City Attorney, Dennis Herrera, is accusing FlightCar of dodging fees, undercutting competition, and not adhering to rules which include payments by car rental companies back to the airport.

The kicker, though, is the fact that FlightCar actually operates off a lot not located on airport property. FlightCar’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Kevin Petrovic, who isn’t old enough to rent a car himself, told insidebayarea.com “I think they have a lot of pressure from rental car and airport parking companies,” he said. “We do take away some of their business.”

Herrera is counting on ordinances that say SFO is entitled to collect fees from rental car companies that primarily serve it’s travelers even if the rental operation is not located on SFO property.

Petrovic defends FlightCar by saying they aren’t an actual rental car company and hotels and restaurants surrounding the airport don’t pay fees to the airport.

“FlightCar has refused to comply with any of the rules,” Deputy City Attorney Jennifer Choi said. “We want the court to order them to comply with the law.”  The city also points out that FlightCar doesn’t currently hold a commercial ground transport permit or an off-airport business license.

FlightCar joins a slew of “sharing economy” startups–including ride sharing startups like SideCar and room sharing startups like AirBnB–which have faced legal and public scrutiny over their business models.

FlightCar has been operating in Oakland and Boston without incident, so far. Outside of this lawsuit from the City Of San Francisco, people seem to like the idea of renting out their car for money rather than spending it. In addition to the rental fee, FlightCar cleans and washes each car before and after the rental and insures that you get to and from your car without hassle.

For more info on FlightCar, check them out at flightcar.com

See FlightCar’s pitch video from the Brandery’s 2012 Demo Day.


Brandery Partners With Scripps To Bring Journalistic Startups Into The Fold

Brandery,Scripps Howard Foundation, EW Scripps Company, Cincinnati startup,startupThe Brandery, the Cincinnati based, top 15 startup accelerator, has announced a new partnership with the E.W. Scripps Company and the Scripps Howard foundation, one of the most historic names in U.S. media, to offer two journalistic startups entry into the highly coveted summer time accelerator program.

The Brandery is heavily focused on branding, hence it’s name. It’s situated in the branding capital of the world, Cincinnati Ohio, home to Proctor & Gamble, the biggest branded company in the world. Cincinnati is also home to household names like Federated/Macy’s, and Kroger.

The Brandery has been very successful in preparing startups for the next level.  2012 class member FlightCar just raised over $5 million dollars in venture funding. The Brandery took three scrappy teenage dropouts from MIT and helped groom their idea of peer 2 peer car renting at airports into a startup that made it into Y Combinator.

ChoreMonster closed down a round of venture funding earlier this year and Pingage, co-founded by Brandery graduate Michael Wohlschlaeger also just announced major funding.

The Brandery’s strong core focus area and their even stronger mentor network attracted Brooklyn serial entrepreneur and founder of Brooklyn based Dumbo Startup Lab, to work on his startup, Off Track Planet.

Now, through this unique partnership, the Brandery will offer the chance for journalistic focused startups to go through their intensive program, have access to their mentor network and pitch at their very well attended investor day in the fall.

“Scripps is making an investment in the future of journalism with a fresh approach to news gathering and new products for news consumption,” said Adam Symson, chief digital officer for Scripps and a Foundation trustee. “This partnership with The Brandery is a great way for the Foundation to engage the broader entrepreneurial community in creating media-related businesses.”

The Foundation’s financial support includes a $3,500 stipend for each of two founders of the company to cover their living expenses while they spend the summer in Southwest Ohio, developing their businesses and networking with consumer-oriented businesses. The funds will supplement the Brandery’s $20,000.

You can apply for the Brandery’s traditional program or their Scripps Howard fellowship now through May 1st at brandery.org

Check out these other Brandery stories at nibletz.com The Voice Of Startups Everywhere Else.

Brandery 2012 Alumn Flightcar Nabs $5.5 Million From Investors Including Ryan Seacrest

FlightCar,Ycombinator,Brandery,funding,startup newsSo back in July when we heard the original idea behind FlightCar I thought this group of teenage ivy league dropouts was absolutely crazy. Their Cincinnati startup Flightcar is a crazy idea. Their simplest pitch, “let someone else rent your car while you’re traveling” seemed a little far fetched. Combine that with the fact that there’s maybe 10 years driving experience between the three of them and even less business traveling experience, and I was totally disconnected.

Sometime during the Brandery’s demo day back in October my opinion changed. By the end of their pitch, and then a brief meeting with all three founders and I was completely sold.

With the “sharing economy” becoming more and more popular, why wouldn’t someone let another person borrow their car while they are away on a trip. People are doing it with their homes all the time now, by way of Vayala and Airbnb.

The concept is fairly simple. You’re flying out of town for a trip and you have to pay for parking for your car. Rather than paying for parking, Flightcar allows you to park your car in their lot and then while your gone it gets rented out to someone else who is coming into town for the same length or a shorter amount of time. Now, instead of spending money to park, you’re making money with your car that would otherwise be sitting in a parking lot.

To make the value proposition work Flightcar founders Rujul Zaparde, Kevin Petrovic and Shri Ganeshram had to insure a few things for their customers to be comfortable with the transaction.

Insurance: Of course the entire transaction, car, renters, drivers and passengers would need to be fully insured. Flightcar has done this by securing a $1 million dollar insurance policy.

Ease of transaction: The Flightcar team has managed to build in several factors to make the transaction as easy and painless as possible. The Flightcar website helps pre-determine the “borrowing”. Once at the airport (participating airports), you park your car at the Flightcar lot where a ride is provided to the gate. Flightcar will also wash and clean your car prior to renting it out and prior to you picking it up.

After the Brandery, Flightcar was accepted into the YCombinator accelerator program in Silicon Valley. Now they’ve raises $5.5 million dollars from investors. This first round of funding comes from  General Catalyst, Softbank Capital, Ryan Seacrest’s Seacrest Global Group, founder of Airbnb Brian Chesky, with participation from a host of other investors including First Round Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, according to TechCrunch.

Check out their pitch video from Brandery’s 2012 demo day below:

Find out more about Flightcar here at flightcar.com

The Brandery is one of the country’s top 15 accelerators, check out all of our Brandery coverage here.

Cincinnati Startup Repp Pitches At Startup America Live At SXSW [sxsw]

Repp,Cincinnati Startup,SXSW,SXSWi,Startup Pitch,Startup America,BranderyCincinnati startup Repp was one of the great startups we saw at the Brandery 2012 demo day back in October. Repp is a service that allows people to validate their repp or reputation.

Repp waited from October until now for their first big marketing push. We bumped into Michael Bergman, Repp’s co-founder in the lobby at the Hilton where he was wearing a hot pink Repp t-shirt and handing out breakfast tacos. Startup founders will do anything they can to get much needed exposure at SXSW.

They were also one of the startups invited to pitch at the Startup America Live pitch sessions, which included feedback from top members of the startup community.

Have you ever met a girl that you tried to date, but a year to make love she wanted you to wait… oh wait that’s a song lyric. Have you ever met a girl that you tried to date and after she stood you up you found out she “pre date stalked you”? Well that’s exactly what happen to REPP founder Michael Bergman, when he actually met his now wife. Luckily for Bergman he’s got a pretty popular name. In fact, [Chris Bergman], the founder of Chore Monster (which is a previous graduate of The Brandery) isn’t even related to Michael.

So sure we internet stalk everyone now. The first thing I do when I get a new business card or meet someone at a conference I find intriguing is go right to good ole Google. The problem with that in the dating world is that there is a lot of stuff out there that may be better suitable after a few dates.

Now take a situation at the complete other end of the spectrum. It’s time to sell your iPhone 4s on Craigslist. Now this is a hot item and you may want to know a little bit more about the man who just pulled up to a panel van and appears to be packing a pistol in his sweatshirt.

In both of these cases you want more information about someone. If you were the someone in question, with REPP at myrepp.com, you can control that flow of information.

REPP aggregates your social graph and can even integrate a background check into a profile that you can give people access to. You can also control how much information is given out in that profile.

You may want the ladies to know a little more information than the guy you’re buying the stolen Xbox from. Nonetheless both the Craigslist seller and the nice young lady would be more comfortable with more information about you.

The service is free at the moment but moving to a freemium model with added features. Check out Bergman’s pitch from the Startup America Live stage below:

We’ve got even more startup coverage of SXSW here.

Please take a look at this.

Startup Marketing Lessons from the Everywhere Else

Brandery,Startup Branding,Mike Bott, Startup Tips, Guest Post

Mike Bott GM of The Brandery and former P&G Brand Manager talks about Branding for startups at everywhereelse 13 (photo: Allie Fox for NMI)

By Joe Recomendes, Command Partners 

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Everywhere Else conference in Memphis, TN to meet and learn with many promising startups from across the country – Dan Rogers of Millenium Search, LLC has outlined some of the most promising companies in attendance on his blog – but I was there to focus on marketing for the startup community. The conference was founded to provide a networking opportunity for startups not based in the hubs of New York or Silicon Valley, but rather those entrepreneurs cutting their own paths “everywhere else” in the country.

I was there not as a startup, but as a marketing agency looking to see what startups are doing to market themselves and learn from other successful founders. Scott Case, the CEO of Startup America, provided a crucial wake-up call to the founders in attendance – “It’s not ‘if you build it, they will come,’ it’s ‘If you market it,  they will come.” Startups everywhere need to pay attention – you may have a great idea, but if no one knows about it, it will not work as a business.

A branding session by The Brandery outlined the following steps that every startup should consider when beginning a marketing strategy and build a brand pyramid, the foundation of all marketing messaging:

  • Brand Promise – The essence of your brand, and the highest-level benefit that your company or products contributes to the consumer.
  • Brand Positioning – The value statement of your company or product, similar to an elevator pitch. Why does anyone need the idea that you are bringing to market?
  • Brand Character – The portrayal of your idea that should convey truth and inspiration while demonstrating the need for your idea.
  • Brand Attributes – The base level of your brand, which should illustrate points of difference and points of parity between your product or idea and your competitors.

Once you have your brand defined, it’s time to consider how you will market your idea, and through which channels. Startups should consider the following strategic marketing initiatives:

  • A Website – Absolutely, a must have for traffic, leads, and information about your company. This should be the foundation of your marketing channels, and should be optimized to capture and convert leads. All other marketing efforts should drive people to the site. While I won’t go into detail here, it is also important to support your website through SEO, PPC, email marketing, and other website marketing efforts.
  • Public Relations – Depending on the quality of your media outreach efforts and the potential importance of your idea or business, public relations can either be a huge boon or wasted time. As a technology startup, getting coverage in Mashable, Techcrunch, VentureBeat, etc. can catapult you into the public sphere, but the chances of getting this coverage without properly curating your pitch and relationships are slim.
  • Social Media – While time-consuming, a well-groomed presence on social media can give an air of credibility to your brand, while allowing for communication distribution and engagement with your key audiences. Start with a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Angel’s List. These four networks will allow you to engage existing consumers, find new leads, and show a presence to potential investors.
  • A Pitch Deck – For getting new investors, a pitch deck will be a crucial piece of your marketing mix. Ensure that it is short but impactful by providing the information that investors need, and consider revising your deck for each pitch based on the conversations that you have had with the investor prior to your meeting.

Marketing a new startup can be time-consuming, but is of paramount importance to achieve awareness, recognition, and success. If you’re unsure where to start, hire a startup marketing agency to help define your brand and business goals, and execute your marketing strategy for you.

What have you found to be the most valuable channel for marketing your startup, or what other advice would you give? Let us know in the comments.

Command Partners is a Charlotte based internet marketing company with a passion and love for startups. Find out more at commandpartners.com

Don’t miss everywhereelse.co 2014 more information can be found here

Branding For Startups With Brandery GM Mike Bott At Everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference

Mike Bott, Brandery, Cincinnati, everywhereelse.co The startup conference, startup, startup event, branding for startups

Brandery GM Mike Bott is speaking on “Branding For Startups” at everywhereelse.co (photo: videonomics)

As we get into the home stretch before the largest startup conference in the U.S., everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference, we continue announcing more and more exciting news. Everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference is happening February 9-12th in downtown Memphis Tennessee and nearly 2000 people have already purchased tickets from all over the United States and around the world (in fact less than 15% actually zipcode to Tennessee).

The conference is offering unparalleled access to speakers, curriculum, information and networking for startups “everywhere else”.

Startups from “everywhere else”face many of the same challenges. One of those challenges is access to mentoring and information about branding.

Branding is what makes Cincinnati accelerator The Brandery one of the top accelerators in the country. While many people associate things like branding with New York City, Cincinnati is actually the epicenter for branding. It’s home to the largest branded company in the world Proctor & Gamble (P&G), Macy’s and Kroger are also based in Cincinnati.

The Brandery was founded by branding experts like Dave Knox of RockFish, and Rob MacDonald who’s father is the current CEO at P&G.

The Brandery’s General Manager is no stranger to branding either. Prior to joining The Brandery as General Manager, Mike Bott was a brand manager for one of P&G’s most widely known brands, Olay. It was under the supervision of Bott that country music sensation and American Idol, Carrie Underwood became the face of the brand.

Through the three month cohort based accelerator program, startups chosen to participate in The Brandery get access to branding experts like Bott and several others from Cincinnati and across the globe.

Bott will be participating in the Accelerator MD’s (Managing Director) panel highlighting accelerators from across the country on Monday afternoon. On Tuesday though he’ll be giving a lecture on branding for startups.

Attendees, and Startup Village startups will learn tips, tricks and best practices for starting to build the brand for your young startup. Bott’s lecture will feature the things he’s taught as GM at The Brandery and lectured about across the country. He’ll draw from his Brandery experiences and from his experience building brands at P&G.

This can’t miss lecture will be held in the main ball room on Tuesday morning at 11am.

You don’t want to miss out on Branding For Startups, or any of the other panels, lectures and discussions as part of everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference. There are currently less than 200 tickets remaining. There are also 9 startup village booths left which include 3 conference tickets, booth space and 3 different contests worth $50,000 in cash plus prizes.

This is one of the hottest startup tickets ever. You can get an attendee ticket or sign your startup up for the Startup Village below:

Cincinnati And The Brandery Featured In CNN’s Piece About Startup Communities

Cincinnati startups,Brandery, CNN, Cities where startups thrive, startup newsWhen we venture away from home (which is quite often), we’re sure that our regular readers know that Cincinnati is one of the thriving startup communities we like to visit. Cincinnati is home to The Brandery, the world’s first startup accelerator devoted to marketing and branding. They’re also home to Cincy Tech, Centrifuse and many other startup and entrepreneurial initiatives.

It’s no surprise than that Cincinnati was named as one of the six cities “where startups thrive” according to CNN. Earlier this morning we brought you the story about Music City USA (Nashville) also receiving the same honor.

Cincinnati’s back story is a bit different than being home to the legends of country music. Cincinnati is home to one of, if not the, biggest branded company in the world, Proctor & Gamble. One thing that many startup communities struggle with is getting their patriarchs, or “blue bloods” to participate in the new, somewhat risky, startup community.

Proctor & Gamble is “all in” with Cincinnati’s tech and startup community. The son of the consumer giants CEO Robert MacDonald, Rob MacDonald, is one of the founders of The Brandery. The Brandery pulls several mentors from the ranks of the Proctor & Gamble world headquarters and also works hand in hand with some of their biggest marketing partners to give their portfolio companies a boost.

What’s better than that though is that The Brandery, along with Cincy Tech and the collaborative effort, Cintrifuse, host regular classes, workshops and talks aimed at the young and up and coming entrepreneurs in the city. Anything from bringing your product to market, to designing the best business plan, is constantly taught and retaught for the Cincy startup community, and most of these activities cost little to no money.

Innovation comes in many forms in Cincinnati

When you look at most startup accelerator cohorts you can strip the current classes startup names, and find that you have similar classes throughout the country. You have your photo app, your video app, your event sharing app, your collaboration platform, one or two hard goods and something social. Startups in Cincinnati push the envelope and break the box apart.

Take ChoreMonster for instance. This standout startup from the first Brandery class, is the “big brother” startup at the Brandery. Their founders are constantly mentoring, coaching and helping other startups. Their idea though? Chore management for kids with an uber friendly, monster theme. Does it work? My five year old daughter does chores like nobody’s business, I just need to get her mother on the program now. ChoreMonster has already raised over a million dollars in venture capital and their official product isn’t even out of the gate.

A startup made out of a team of teenage, ivy league dropouts, called “FlightCar” is picking up major traction including a recent feature on TechCrunch.com. Their idea is to facilitate peer to peer car lending at airports. If you’re going on a week long vacation, why pay to park when someone else can pay you to use your car. The three founders behind the startup, have never rented a car in their lives, but they were able to work out the insurance kinks and now have a viable product and testing in two major airports.

Venturing outside of the Brandery’s “Over The Rhine” walls you’ll find startups like CapStory and CoupSmart. The young founders of CapStory are looking to restore the sanctity once found with Facebook. Even at just 20, they know the risks involved in that beer bong shot posted to your Facebook page. Their startup is hoping to give college students the ability to share those memories without their future boss seeing them.

Coupsmart is an engagement platform that’s taking all those likes and fans from social media and really turning them into revenue. An idea that’s on the minds of marketers around the world.

With this kind of startup community flourishing in Cincinnati it’s no wonder that they were selected by CNN as one of the cities where “startups thrive”.


CNN “Cities Where Startups Thrive”

Nibletz coverage of Cincinnati

The biggest startup conference ever… Period



Teen Startup Flight Car Takes On Airport Car Rental Industry PITCH VIDEO

FlightCar,Cincinnati Startup,Brandery,airport rental,startup pitch video,pitch video, Brandery Demo Day, Demo DaySo back in July when we heard the original idea behind FlightCar I thought this group of teenage ivy league dropouts was absolutely crazy. Their Cincinnati startup FlightCar is a crazy idea. Their simplest pitch, “let someone else rent your car while you’re traveling” seemed a little far fetched. Combine that with the fact that there’s maybe 10 years driving experience between the three of them and even less business traveling experience, and I was totally disconnected.

Sometime during Wednesday’s demo day for the Brandery though my opinion totally changed.

There are hundreds of thousands of rental cars available at just the top 30 airports in the United States. There’s also hundreds of thousands of cars that sit in long term parking lots at those same airports. FlightCar solves this problem.

Using the FlightCar platform somebody about to go on a trip can sign up to rent their car for the rate they want and the mileage they’ll allow. They indicate what time the car will be available and what time it will need to be back by. When they arrive at one of Flight Car’s satellite parking lots they are greeted by a friendly FlightCar team member who takes their keys and their car.  FlightCar then cleans the car and waits for the renter.

The renter checks the FlightCar website and can see what’s available by kind of car, time available, mileage allotment and price. Because this is a peer to peer sharing product there is much more variety in the cars available than your standard 5 model rental car lot. Did we mention this is also a lot cheaper.

FlightCar rentees keep 65% of the cost of the rental after taxes and fees, so rather than spending money on long term parking they’ll make money off the rental itself.

FlightCar is beta testing in Cincinnati and plans to bring San Jose and Oakland online in the next month.

As a very frequent business traveler my biggest concern was what if I rent my car out using FlightCar and when I get back from my trip the car is not back yet, or worse in an accident.

On the accident side, FlightCar has a million dollar insurance policy on each vehicle. They’ve secured this policy through the only insurance company currently insuring peer-to-peer car rental companies. Not only that but they have secured a deal with their insurance company that prohibits that company from insuring a competitor. That’s something investors will love.

On the pure timing side, the FlightCar guys said customer service is of the utmost importance to them. Their lot attendants will have the authority to give you another rental until your car comes back or get you a ride to wherever you need to go, and then bring your car to you.

See what this amazing trio of young entrepreneurs has cooked up in their pitch video below. They are currently raising $850,000 and have $200,000 committed. They should have no problem raising the entire round, and quickly.