Local business incubator Jumpstart Foundry is culminating its 2014 accelerator class Thursday afternoon, where nine startups will pitch their plans to investors at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Here, three of the local teams describe their experience in the program, their company's strengths and some of the most difficult challenges. (For Jumpstart CEO Vic Gatto's take on this year's accelerator, click here.)
Dr. Will Hedgecock — PinPtr
PinPtr (pronounced "pinpointer") is a high-precision positioning software. Developed out of a Vanderbilt research project, PinPtr was fast-tracked to Jumpstart via the university and incubator's Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization. Co-founder Hedgecock says his team wasn't planning to commercialize until they received significant feedback. "People were coming to us and wanting to use our technology," he said.
"The hardest part was that we got into this program at such an early stage in our company. We had a lot of catch-up work to get where some of the other companies were. I think we've made some really good progress, and it's really helped us define our focus. Coming into this, we had pretty much zero knowledge on how to commercialize an academic technology. One of the highlights and best things we got out of Jumpstart was their connections and mentorship. When we came in, we were a solution looking for a problem, and we now have a model for a self-sustaining business."
Andy Chick — Arrister
Offering custom furnishings on demand, Chick calls Arrister's online marketplace "the Warby Parker of furniture." The platform combines in-house design with online customization, plus a proprietary tool converting customer's desires into manufacturing data.
"Jumpstart is great to zoom in and zoom out and understand your business from a macro and micro level. To have that many resources to take advantage of has made a tremendous impact. One of the things that's been the most challenging, especially in the beginning when you're trying to quantify what you have, is when you're talking to potential customers and they might not like what you're selling. You have to be really honest with yourself and deconstruct objectively. You might have some intellectual or emotional attachment to your business, but you learn really quickly to break the connection when you're trying to use critical feedback to improve."
Ryan Macy — Octovis
A health care workflow and automation company, Octovis features wearable devices — think smart watches and eyewear — that deliver data to clinicians during their visits with patients. Macy says Octovis can untether doctors from their computers, allowing them to focus on patients and become more efficient. Octovis has already received an initial round of funding and is gearing up for a second round in December.
"I'm a software developer by trade, so I have a lot of product development experience. I think the product side is really strong, because that's where my skills and abilities lie. What I've really gotten here is the business side of things — term sheets and investment and deals. For me, that's been the most valuable thing. I was also surprised at how easy it was to communicate with investors. I thought it would be tense, but it's not. Now we want to establish relationships with key individuals, and align ourselves with those investors to infuse more money into the company."
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