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."
The team at Southern/Alpha has come up with an interesting idea to set apart its Spark Nashville pitch competition, which will take place early next month. The winner selected from the entrepreneurs throwing their hat in the ring will receive two bitcoins — today, they're worth about $1,150 — to do with as they please.
The team at JumpStart Foundry is a little more than two weeks from hosting its annual Investor Day, where the incubator's latest crop of startups will strut their stuff. At Southern Alpha, Ben McIntyre has a rundown of each company's goals and progress. Among them are interesting concepts featuring localization technology, parking management software and three-dimensional scanning. One of the companies, wearable technology play Octovis, already is close to securing a round of funding; founder Ryan Macy says his pitch at Investor Day will be for the next sack of growth cash.
Industry group Life Science Tennessee will this October host its third startup pitch competition as parts of its annual conference at downtown's DoubleTree Hotel. In addition to various support services from firms including Waller and Kraft Analytics, the winner will for the first time be guaranteed a presenting spot at the Southeast Bio Investor and Partnering Forum late this year in Atlanta. Applications are being accepted through Sept. 8.
Southern/Alpha will in a few weeks host its second Spark:Nashville event, which is highlighted by a rapid-fire pitch competition. The event will take place Sept. 4 at Events on 3rd in Printer's Alley. Here's some info on the inaugural shindig.
On the heels of setting up shop in the downtown tower formerly known as the Regions Center, global bank UBS has committed to be the presenting sponsor of Launch Tennessee’s The TENN master accelerator program for the next two years. The investment has a value of $150,000.
“We are thrilled to partner with UBS for the second and third cohorts of The TENN,” said Charlie Brock, Launch Tennessee CEO. “UBS has a long history of helping Tennessee’s economy grow, including its recent commitment to creating 1,000 news jobs at the company’s Business Solutions Center in Nashville. They are a perfect partner for Launch Tennessee and we look forward to working with them in building on The TENN’s inaugural year successes.”
The TENN gathers a group of promising startups from the state’s nine accelerator programs and exposes them to investors and entrepreneurs around the state (via a bus tour) and elsewhere. (Check out more info here.) The Launch Tennessee team will begin accepting applications for the second cohort in late August.
"We are excited to partner with a first-class organization like Launch Tennessee in support of their incredibly innovative The TENN program," said Lori Feinsilver, head of community affairs and corporate responsibility for the Americas at UBS. "We look forward to supporting and working with early-stage ventures from across the state, as they grow their businesses and create jobs in local communities."
Vanderbilt University's Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization and the Memphis Bioworks Foundation have agreed to work together to develop medical device technology concepts coming out of the university, most specifically by giving Vanderbilt applicants fast-track access to Bioworks' ZeroTo510 incubator. The partnership also will give VU-based startups better access to investment capital via Bioworks' relationship with pre-seed and early-stage firm Innova.
A data marketing company won a $100,000 investment from AOL co-founder Steve Case in Nashville Friday, the Nashville Business Journal reports.
Locally founded, Checkd.in received the big investment, plus an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with additional investors, in a pitch competition among 10 startups. The pitch competition was the final piece of Case's Rise of the Rest tour, a series of events highlighting startup and entrepreneurial activity in regions beside Silicon Valley.
Also on Friday, Case praised Nashville's health care startups and advised entrepreneurs to stay competitive in an increasingly global economy.
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