After 14 weeks of intense preparation, Jumpstart Foundry's fifth accelerator class will participate in Investor Day Thursday afternoon, capping off the incubator and jumping into the next stage of growth.
Jumpstart CEO Vic Gatto said each year, the accelerator improves as the team refines the curriculum, mentor program and applicant screening. This year, he said, Jumpstart made the decision to move away from standard apps and software companies and accept teams with bigger ideas and more challenging models.
"The standard is an app or software that you can code over a weekend," Gatto said. "Working with physical products and delivering something that takes electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and software — that's a harder thing to execute. But we felt like by year five, we were ready to take on that challenge."
This year, the nine-company class features a GPS technology platform, a health care marketplace and 3D scanning technology, among other concepts. Gatto said there is powerful opportunity for hybrid companies that combine technology with a physical product. But a successful company is more than a flashy pitch and a neat product, Gatto said, and Jumpstart continues to emphasize strong business and consumer development.
"At the end, it's about changing someone's behavior, either to use your product or to stop using another product," he said. "We try to teach these teams to provide more than an incrementally functional product. It has to be so much better that consumers stop and invest."
Jumpstart continues to evolve, but Gatto said it's going to get better, not bigger. With a strong entrepreneurial community in Nashville, the accelerator wants to grow its ability to deliver value to companies and profit to investors, but that doesn't necessarily mean scaling up.
"Nashville is the city that is the most innovative, most high-growth across the Southeast," Gatto said. "Jumpstart has the luxury of capitalizing on that position, but we're not going to capitalize by getting bigger. I want to be more targeted, more successful, work with bigger and more important ideas and build more successful companies."
And though Nashville has the innovation, it might not have the investment capital to match. Gatto said the capital side is playing catch-up and the city needs more and larger funds to enter the market with greater frequency.
"Money follows opportunity. The capital markets will come down and invest here as soon as we can show that we can deliver incredible returns," Gatto said. "We have five years of planting those seeds and cultivating these companies. Jumpstart spends a lot of time telling the Nashville story."
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