Sanja Zepan & Saso Pompe, founders of the Homey app, developed their company through Start Co.’s Upstart accelerator program.
Inspired by living with housemates, Sanja Zepan created the mobile app, Homey, to simplify chore management. The Homey app motivates households to complete chores through its game-like design. Originally from Slovenia, Sanja and co-founder Saso Pompe participated in Start Co.’s Upstart summer accelerator program. Memphis was the ideal location to establish HomeyLabs since the majority of their users happen to live in the Mid South. Zepan shared with us her entrepreneurial experience with Start Co.
Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?
A: My co-founder and I lived together and had a chore chart on the wall that just wasn’t working. So we decided to make an app for it. We then got a lot of feedback from parents that they would love an app like this. We started doing interviews with parents and found out all about chore management, allowance tracking, and how parents use it to teach kids about the value of work and the basics of financial literacy.
Q: What was your favorite or most impactful experience at Start Co.?
A: My favorite experience was actually BBQ festival. We got to see how Start Co. is part of the community in Memphis. Start Co. brought all these entrepreneurs, investors and mentors to Memphis and fed them pulled pork in a tent with a view over the Mississippi River, and we were able to mingle and network in this incredible setting- it was amazing!
Q: What were your expectations coming into the Start Co. program and how did that change?
A: We came from Slovenia to Memphis to meet southern parents, because they were our users. We are neither parents nor southern, so we needed to find out why our app appeals to them and what do we needed to do to make a business out of it. We were happy that customer discovery was one of Start Co.’s focuses and they were superb in helping us through this process.
Q: What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
A: Customer interviews, quick iterations, and a lot of testing.
Q: If you were looking at another accelerator, why did you choose Start Co.?
A: Mostly because of location- Memphis is a big city, with a lot of suburbs that fit our customer segment. We were also impressed with the interview we had and how our cohort leader contacted us and started making plans for us right away. We felt the personal touch that Start Co. brings and how they really get involved in your business.
Q: If you went to another program how was your experience different at Start Co.?
A: Start Co. hit the sweet spot for where we were in our business progress. We needed exactly those lessons and mentors they provided. I believe it’s important to assess if an accelerator focuses on growth, selling, B2B, and product.
Q: If you were to sell another founder on why Start Co. and why Memphis what would you say?
A: The startup community in Memphis is young, but it is extremely well connected. Because of the small size of the community, everybody here is much more accessible and involved. So while for instance in San Francisco, you’re one of a hundred founders trying to get the attention of a mentor in just one week, in Memphis they actually have the time and energy to help you. This was incredibly important for us as foreigners, as we came here without any connections. Memphis also has quite a few big companies and they too are eager to work with startups. Since the pool of startups in Memphis is small, you’ll have a great shot at landing a partnership.
Q: How can people reach you?
A: Connect with Homey through their website www.homeyapp.net or via firstname.lastname@example.org. Sanja affirms that the team is “always happy to hear from our users, talk about possible partnerships, or advise anyone that’s walking the startup journey and thinks we might help in any way, so don’t hesitate to reach out!”
Interested in pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams? Apply before Wednesday March 1, 2017 at http://neverstop.co/accelerators/.
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.
Most Creative Pitch
Solving The Biggest Problem
Most Enthusiastic Presentation
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
Contest is limited to 250 submissions
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
Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at email@example.com
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Lindsay Gess is a rising senior at Rhodes College and an Associate at Start Co. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Memphis native 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 email@example.com