RVI, Launch413, Innovation Accelerator – Growing and Thriving

For all my friends who kindly track the progress of my ventures, I have a short update :).

  • Launch413 (the post-accelerator) – We’ve invested in 13 companies in just under 3 years, expanded our team of kick-ass Venture Advisors, and are starting to see some real results from our top companies. It is still early days, but the model seems to be scaling and our ability to deliver impact is growing.
  • Innovation Accelerator (helping mature nonprofits create for-profit spinouts that help fund the parent org) – Is about to graduate our 5th cohort! Our top alumni have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed funding and are generating their first revenues.
  • River Valley Investors (angel investor network) – Now more than 17 years old, went through a major strategic shift (aka a pivot) at the end of last year. Since that change we’ve gone from losing members to adding four new members and invested in a two companies in the past two months.

A HUGE thank you to my co-founders: Rick Play w/ Launch413 & Kelly Minton w/ Innovation Accelerator.

And buckets of thanks to the dozens and dozens of friends and mentors who gave advice, lent a hand, or made a connection along the way. Y’all rock!

The Power of the Spa!

Arguably the #1 customer discovery how-to guide is the book Talking To Humans. Here is a jem:

One aspiring entrepreneur wanted to target mothers of young children. She had heard stories about talking to people in a coffee shop, but felt like it was too unfocused.  So she tried hanging around school pickup zones, but the moms were too busy and refused to speak to her. Next, she tried the playground, where she figured moms would be bored watching their kids play.  This worked reasonably well, but she was only able to get a few minutes of anyone’s time.  So instead, she started organizing evening events for moms at a local spa where she bought them pedicures and wine. The time of day worked because the moms could leave the kids at home with their partner.  The attendees had a great time and were happy to talk while they were getting their nails done. —

Hat tip to Jim Stanczak!

Grinspoon Foundation Championing Entrepreneurship Yet Again

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At this year’s Grinspoon, Garvey & Young [Collegiate] Entrepreneurship Conference hundreds of students participated in an “Idea Madness” event to motivate them to Get Started. Imagine a room with row upon row of circular tables, each one has a student pitching their table-mates as a giant countdown clock ticked down. When the time was up the next person at the table pitched. The air in the room was charged with excitement and nervousness as everyone at every table had pitched. Prizes were handed out, but most importantly, everyone got some public speaking experience, learned that coming up with ideas isn’t the hard part, and maybe got a jolt to check out this entrepreneurship thing :).

The whole event was made possible because of the leadership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the incredible help of the faculty at all 14 colleges in the Pioneer Valley. The region is incredibly fortunate to have so many people passionate about helping the entrepreneurs of tomorrow!

Some more photos are below. You can see all the photos the foundation kindly paid for here.

Prize Money=Nice | Funded Pilots=Amazing

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This summer I had the pleasure of facilitating the 2019 Energy (CleanTech) cohort for the AccelVT accelerator in Burlington, VT. At last week’s graduation they showed one of the critical differentiators between their accelerator and most others: funded pilots with utilities.

Most CleanTech companies need to interface with local utilities in order to deliver their innovations to the world. Utilities are usually extremely cautious, deliberate, and methodical – great things for organizations dealing with high voltage safely! However, that same culture is usually far too slow for startup-paced innovation.

AccelVT built a network of utilities and similar entities that didn’t only write checks and show up to share advice… no, they did the hard work to figure out how to run real pilots to put the startup’s innovations to work making VT’s climate greener and safer. The graduates had tried working with utilities (elsewhere) before and left frustrated. But in this program they were “blown away at how ready AccelVT’s sponsors were to find ways to Make It Work.”

The Burlington Electric Department and Green Mountain Power provided four funded pilots at graduation. My conversations with the graduating startups showed that by the end of graduation night almost all of them had serious prospects at getting their own funded pilots with one or more of the many sponsors who attended the event.

I’ve never seen anything like it. AccelVT and their sponsors are making Vermont one of the best places in the country for CleanTech innovation. If you have a CleanTech startup, keep an eye on AccelVT and consider making a pilgrimage to beautiful Burlington to see if you can do business there. I’d be happy to introduce you.

Picture of the cohort.
Picture of the cohort’s entrepreneurs and I. Source: AccelVT & the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund

Here are details on the fantastic startups I had the delight of teaching these past three months.

DCC is a hardware company supporting residential electric vehicle charging installations that are otherwise unattainable because of a limited power supply. With our device, EV owners now have a reliable solution if their panels are at full capacity or if they reside in a multi-unit dwelling. dccelectric.com   Quebec 

EVmatch is a mobile platform that allows EV drivers to find and reserve charging stations anywhere they go by enabling increased access to private charging stations. EVmatch reduces the stress in locating an available charger and immediately grows EV charging options by making private charging stations available to the public. www.evmatch.com/  California

Go Together is a SaaS platform for people to get where they need to go through their trusted networks using apps to do end to end trip planning to meet, collaborate and schedule carpools, biking, walking, transit, and more. Go Together leverages technology and the power of trusted communities to innovate the way people get where they need and want to go whether it’s to and from school, to practice, a game or to vote. gotogether.today/home/  Washington, D.C.

iSun Energy develops robust, esthetic, smart and easy to install solar carport and canopy systems with proprietary hardware and software systems. iSun offers an attractive structure delivering shading and protection, while also feeding the local grid with renewable solar energy, and the ability to mate with smart energy management systems, such as EV charging. isunenergy.com/en/ Quebec

Onboard Data is in the business of helping people make buildings better. We provide analytics software to service providers and facility managers that maintain our most frequented spaces: such as our offices, hospitals, and schools. Instead of chasing energy, maintenance and comfort problems, our customers can turn to our software to uncover issues before they turn into emergencies. Maintenance personnel can now save time and money while delighting their building owners and tenants.  www.onboarddata.io/  Massachusetts

SomEV provides charging solutions for micro-mobility applications (e-scooters, e-bicyles, e-mopeds) by providing a network of Battery Swap Kiosks, that charge, store, and monitor battery packs. Using our proprietary kiosks, riders of micro-mobility have access to a swap-&-go battery system, thus providing a convenient and reliable way  www.som-ev.com/  Massachusetts

UAT developed a robust clamp for electrical wire management that reduces weight, improves safety, and simplifies maintenance through the use of Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. This patent pending ICC is unique because it avoids metallic installation hardware while greatly simplifying installation complexity, reducing installer fatigue, and minimizing associated repetitive strain injury. www.uairtek.com/  New York

Facilitating AccelVT Energy 2019 Cohort

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I often talk about how startups are the ones out there saving the world. This summer I have the delight of facilitating the newest cohort of the AccelVT Accelerator. This accelerator focuses on “startup and/or seed stage ventures who offer new technologies, or novel applications of existing technologies, aimed at reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions in the heating and/or transportation sector.

It will be an honor to help these entrepreneurs as they boldly work to solve crazy-hard problems that could literally help save the world.

My thanks to my first mentor, Joseph Steig, for bringing me into this program!

Western Mass Demo Day! Wha who!

Western Mass Demo Day Connects Local Startups to Investors.

This is an invite-only event for active & accredited investors to hear pitches from startups with a connection to Western Massachusetts. Startups get an optimized way to meet a room full of different investors, many with a strong interest in companies connected to the region. Investors get a first look at the startups, meet the founders, and network with other investors.

This event is organized by a coalition of the region’s startup investors including: Launch413, River Valley Investors, Springfield Venture Fund, Milltown Capital, Alchemy Fund, Golden Seeds, the Maroon Fund, and the event is hosted by our friends at Valley Venture Mentors. For regulatory compliance reasons, representatives of other investment groups & funds who wish to attend need simply request an invitation. Members of the local entrepreneurship ecosystem who wish to observe may also request an invitation.

Value Proposition for Startups

If you want to raise money now or in the near future, Western MA Demo Day puts you in a room full of people with money, who actively invest in companies like you, and who are keen to be helpful. And… there is no fee to apply or participate!

Learn more & apply at: www.westernmademoday.com