Pre-Seed Pitch Competition

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We’re bringing back the Pre-Seed Pitch Competition from last year! Tell us your startup idea by entering a short, 90-second pitch, and you could win $1,000 cash for your technology startup. Don’t know if you can win the grand prize? We also have prizes for the “Strongest Team” and “Most Enthusiastic Presentation” so check out the details below.

Description: The Pre-Seed Pitch Competition aims to encourage entrepreneurs with idea stage technology startups.

Prizes:

1st Place

Most Creative Pitch

  • $200 Amex Gift Card

Solving The Biggest Problem

  • $150 Facebook Ad Credits

Strongest Team

  • $100 Facebook Ad Credits

Most Enthusiastic Presentation

  • $50 Starbucks Gift Card

Judging Criteria: Applicants must submit a 90-second video sharing their startup idea using the following guidelines.

  • Introduce your team
  • Describe your tech product/service
  • Tell us about your customer and the problem you’re solving for them
  • Explain how your product works to solve that problem
  • Tell us where you are in the process
  • Make a realistic ask
  • Passion and enthusiasm count

Watch The Elevator Pitch

Eligibility: Must be a technology driven startup that is bootstrapped or has raised less than $100K from non-institutional VCs

Entry deadline has been extended to February 24th, 2017 at 11:59 PM

Click here to apply!

Contest is limited to 250 submissions

Key Learnings: Start Co. in San Francisco 2016

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Each year, select Start Co. teams are invited to San Francisco to meet with potential investors, mentors and network with founders in the Bay Area. This year, six teams made the trek to the West Coast to attend the Evolving E Summit, meet with investors from ventures like Growth X and meet founders at incubators like Runway. In “Week in Review”, we recapped the top learnings from the trip.

From our meetings with West Coast investors to our tours of different incubators to hearing various speakers speak at the Evolving E Summit, there were a lot of trends that the experts were talking about and unique insights shared. Here’s our take on the biggest takeaways from this year’s trip to SF:

As mentioned in our “Week in Review” post, one of the highlights of the trip was the 2016 Evolving E Summit hosted by GGV Capital, located at the Terra Gallery in the South Beach area of the city. The Summit featured multiple talks throughout the day with a handful of talented and experienced entrepreneurs. The first discussion talked about using technology to surprise and delight customers. We heard from the SVP of North America at Ebay, the VP of digital product at Sephora, the CEO of BigCommerce, and the CEO of Tile, along with the coordinator and managing partner at GGV Capital, Jeff Richards.

We heard tips on how to scale new brands and go global from a panel of experts including the Global VP of Ecommerce at Diageo; the CEO of Eloquii; the Founder and CEO of Teespring; and the Head of Asia for Shopbop & East Dane. They talked about how to remain respectful to the brand and customer needs once the global market is reached. It’s also important to know what the client wants, especially when it comes to technology because it is always about the current client and customer experience, which is something Start Co. startups learn from the very beginning in the phase of customer discovery.

The final talk of the Summit was about social media and how it’s becoming the storefront to scale and market your business. We heard from the Head of Business Development of Pinterest, the President of North America of Musical.ly, the Co-founder and CEO of Darby Smart, and the VP of marketplace operations at Poshmark. They stressed the fact that new users come from organic platforms, which is a valuable asset when starting your own company. It’s important to do content discovery to create your own organic platform as a part of satisfying customer experience.

Some key trends we learned at the Summit include:

Building SAS platforms: Statistical Analysis Systems that deal with advanced analytics, multivariate analyses, business intelligence, data management, and predictive analytics are becoming more popular and what people are focusing on basing their platforms on. “We provide a platform to allow certain communities within Pinterest to coordinate and organize content, which was the biggest thing we had to do to expand internationally.”-Pinterest

The Use of Simple and Straightforward Language: Use language to get your point across and let the customer know exactly what the message is. Embrace smarter ways to use the human language. “There’s the capability to get positive feedback in a community. There’s a ton of discovery that happens on the platform” -Musical.ly

Customer Experience: Everyone should be obsessed with their customer’s needs. You’re never finished with customer discovery. “Client experience is queen.” -Sephora

Causation vs. Correlation: Correlation doesn’t imply Causation. -Pinterest

Organic Growth vs. Paid Growth: You want to grow your business organically and create an organic platform. Respect your brand and customer needs once your platform goes global. “We were founded for the community. A big reason Darby isn’t named after me is because the brand represents everyone in the community. I’m incredibly protective of our brand and our presence in it and how we credit people who have roles there and how we’re building aspiring talent.” -Darby Smart

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Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

A Week in Review: Start Co. in San Francisco 2016

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Each year, select Start Co. teams are invited to San Francisco to meet with potential investors, mentors and network with founders in the Bay Area. This year, six teams made the trek to the West Coast to attend the Evolving E Summit, meet with investors from ventures like Growth X and meet founders at incubators like Runway. In this blog post, we’ll recap the top activities of each day to give an inside look into founders’ experience. In Key Learnings, we’ll recap the top overall learnings from the trip.

Sunday, October 9th: Four of our 2016 Summer of Acceleration graduate teams — Homey, Soundways, FitNexx, and ProxBox — landed in San Francisco ready for a week of constant networking, meetings, and office hours. They were joined by two of our alumni teams, FrontDoor and CodeCrew, as well as one of our current AgLaunch teams, Skycision, throughout the week for office hours, meetups, and events.

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Monday, October 10: In the afternoon, the teams had office hours at the Market Bar in the Ferry Building with a handful of West Coast investors. The teams had time to talk with investors from e.Ventures, Growth X, MergerTech, Keen.io, TechCode, SendGrid, Twilio, and Early Growth Financial Services, only to name a few. Building relationships, creating partnerships, and acquiring insight from major corporations that remain intimate with Start Co. is what our startups are constantly exposed to, even on the West Coast.

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Tuesday, October 11th: That morning the Start Co. team toured the Runway Incubator located in the Mission District of San Francisco. The large co-working space holds up to 90 startups and currently holds 70. The Incubator gives each startup a working space along with access to the open co-working spaces, kitchens, event area, and even their zen room. There are two conference rooms for startups to converse with some privacy, and one is shaped like a giant igloo! The incubator is a large space that is cunning with an edgy taste. It is definitely inspiration for Start Co. and was a pleasure to explore.

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Wednesday, October 12th: Wednesday was by far the busiest day. We first attended the 2016 Evolving E Summit hosted by GGV Capital that was located at the Terra Gallery in the South Beach area of the city. The Summit featured multiple talks throughout the day with a handful of talented and experienced entrepreneurs, and we’ll give more details into our insights from the Summit in our next post, “Key Learnings.”

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Later we visited the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center located in-between the Financial Center and the South Beach area in San Francisco. The center is an open, non-profit space that acts as a resource to many entrepreneurs and provides them with mentors, training, and networking. The building is tall and made of glass amongst other skyscrapers. The interior features a co-working and networking room with tables, chairs, and tv screens. The other side of the building holds an event room with a massive screen, a small stage, and chairs. They also have a broadcasting room that is kept to the side, filled with live cameras and a screen that takes up an entire wall. Resources that the Nasdaq Center provides for its community are tips on how to deliver a lean and persuasive pitch, how to create an effective presentation, overcome a fear of public speaking, learn how to negotiate deal terms, prepare your business to be media-ready, and how to get your small business ready for a big challenge.

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That night, our final night of the trip, Start Co. held a mixer for our startups, partners, and investors at the restaurant at Aventine Taverna in the Financial District of San Francisco. We invited West Coast Angels, Investors, Partners, Founders, and VC’s to mingle and network with the startup teams, Homey, ProxBox, Soundways, and Fitnexx, as well as some of our alumni teams, FrontDoor and CodeCrew. The night was a success with much constructive conversation throughout the night. We occupied the entire bottom floor of the restaurant, and it was a networking madhouse. It was the perfect way to end a successful week on the West Coast.

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Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

Takeaways from Founders Dinner with Meg Crosby

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Memphis nativMeg1e Meg Crosby joined the Start Co. teams for their weekly founder’s dinner on Monday night, August 1st. Meg talked about her career and how her first job out of college was working at the Brooks Museum in midtown Memphis. Longing to be in New York, she moved there to be a party planner, but then her desire to do something more meaningful lead her to running an undergraduate recruiting program called Credit Suisse, which is ultimately how she found her way into the investment banking business. In 2000, around the time when the Silicon Valley culture was booming, Meg became the President of a 40 person startup called Applied Semantics that was founded by 2 guys who went to California Tech in Los Angeles. Their main product was the famous AdSense, which was acquired by Google in 2003 when the technology giant only had roughly 1,000 employees. Meg was then hired as the first HR Generalist at Google and worked for them until she moved back to Memphis in 2006. She says that her passion is the city of Memphis, and making it live up to the greatest potential it has. She has been an amazing supporter of the startup and innovation culture that is constantly reoccuring through the city of Memphis. Meg is now a founding partner of PeopleCap Advisors and a co-owner of The Brass Door with her husband, which is an Irish pub located in downtown Memphis. Coming from someone who has the drive and passion to do more for the city of Memphis, here are some key takeaways from Meg Crosby.

Spend more time on the “people lense”:

Meg makes a point that there are 3 separate lenses that a CEO looks through regarding their business: the Financial lense, the Service lense, and the People lense, which is the one most often overlooked. She says that creating relationships with the people you work with everyday is the most important thing you can do, as most leaders don’t put enough time or energy towards developing trust. You want to know how to motivate and grow your co-workers because their knowledge is always of high value to you.

Recognize that being a founder is a team sport:

Meg believes that the relationship between a founder and a co-founder is crucial; it’s basically considered a marriage. It’s important for the leaders of the company to establish values early on that will lay a great foundation for future employees because once you on board them they are exposed to that critical core of values that you both display in your company. Know how your team makes decisions and consider what’s important to weigh when making decisions, for these are the values that your future employees will abide by when they making decisions for your business. She recommends to record anything that acts as significant so your entire team has a record of the decisions that are being made.

Have important conversations when things are going well:

There is a lack of stress when things are going well, it’s that simple. Meg harps on the fact that when you make decisions when things are bad, your judgement is too cloudy. Having a trusting and honest relationships with your co-workers will make this process a lot easier.

Don’t hire right away:

A message to the startups: Once you receive the money that you have been waiting for be very methodical in your hiring. It is important to focus on your values. Take a deep breath first. Meg says that instead of interviewing 10 different candidates and choosing the best one, you should instead have 3 or 4 interviews with your most qualified candidate in order to get to know them on a personal level to evaluate if they embody your same values. She says, “you can’t take too much time to make these critical hires.”

“If you complain about something long enough, it becomes your job to fix it” -Meg Crosby.


Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and a Summer Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co

Takeaways from Founders Dinner with Jay Myers

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jaymyersseated20130618_webOn the evening of Monday, July 18th, Jay Myers, the founder and CEO of Interactive Solutions Inc. (ISI), visited the Start Co. Lounge to speak to our Accelerator teams at our weekly Founders Dinner. Interactive Solutions integrates the latest components and software into customized systems that connect organizations to their workers and to the world. They deliver solutions in corporate communications, distance learning, telemedicine, digital signage and more. Inc. has named ISI to its 500|5000 list of America’s fastest growing companies seven times. We were honored to have such an accomplished entrepreneur on site to share his wisdom. Here are some key takeaways from Mr. Myers’ talk:

Overcome Adversity

Mr. Myers has faced an unbelievable number of challenges on his path to building a successful company. At one point his brother passed away unexpectedly. Less than a year later, he discovered his accountant had embezzled $250,000 from him. Then, within a single month in 2007, he had two friends die, lost employees that accounted for 80% of his sales revenue, and his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. All of these experiences left him emotionally distraught, but he learned that if he didn’t allow that negativity to seep into his business, he could use them as growth points. When he had a negative response to that adversity, his business suffered. But when he had a positive response and chose to overcome that adversity no matter how difficult, it resulted in substantial growth. The year following the fraud incident ISI doubled in size, all because of how Myers chose to deal with the challenge. “It’s gonna come at you, you just have to be able to deal with it.” He’s discovered that that ability, more than anything else, is what separates success from failure.

Hire the Right People

A common theme at our Founders Dinners, but Mr. Myers stresses something different: think outside the box when Cnr7Kj5UIAA9LsZdefining who the right employee for your company is. At the time when ISI experienced that exodus of employees, every company in the tech industry hired older employees with years of experience in the field. But when Myers looked at the tech industry, he saw a rapidly growing field that older generations wouldn’t be able to keep up with. He saw the future, and knew he couldn’t be stuck in the past. So he bucked industry standards and hired a bunch of millennials, choosing to focus on energy, determination, and a desire to join a cause rather than simple experience. Then he trained those employees, building what he calls an “employee farm system”. Other tech companies thought he was crazy…until he more than doubled the size of his business – from $11 million to $25 million – in the middle of the Recession.

Community Involvement is Rewarding in More than One Way

Community involvement is often weaved into the very fabric of an entrepreneur’s company; after all, ideas for startups usually come from a problem the founder witnessed in their own community. But once you’ve reached success with your project, it’s never a bad idea to give back to your community in other ways, such as through service or donations. These actions can even reward you with more than a full heart and clear conscience. Mr. Myers is a living testament to this. He’s heavily involved in the Memphis community, and told us that through one connection made within seconds of beginning involvement in a certain service project, he secured a deal that he estimates has netted him at least $15 million. We’re not trying you to encourage you to do good for the wrong reasons, but we won’t judge you either.


Grant Hechinger is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. He can be reached at grant.hechinger@neverstop.co.