Ask The Expert: Words of advice from Accelerate NH entrepreneurs
Just days ago, a group of New Hampshire startup company entrepreneurs successfully completed Accelerate NH at Alpha Loft. The six companies in the three-month accelerator program pitched their companies to a receptive audience at UNH-Manchester.
These startups are still early-stage companies, but all have solidified paths forward with the assistance of deeply experienced mentors who advised them during Accelerate NH.
Let’s take a brief look at these New Hampshire startups, and hear from the entrepreneurs with some words of advice to other founders.
• BevNow — A mobile platform connecting golfers with the food and beverage cart at the touch of a button. BevNow allows golf courses to serve customers better, increasing customer enjoyment and course revenues. The company launched at its first golf course in mid-May and is currently adding three courses each week.
CEO Jeff Kelly advises startup founders to build a strong network of people who have been through the startup experience. He says it is amazing how much there is to learn about starting a company, on top of knowing the focus in your specific company.
• MidAir Technology — A wireless enablement company focused on development and commercialization of unique Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. MidAir has two technologies developed and plans to deliver its first product, GoGlove, to customers in the next 60 days. With its AirTap technology users of GoGlove can control their phones and other devices by tapping their fingers. MidAir also just completed a highly successful Kickstarter campaign for Bluz, their second technology that enables Bluetooth wireless communication.
Co-founders Ben Harris and Eric Ely suggest startup entrepreneurs be opportunistic and be prepared to change their business model. They conceived the GoGlove so they could control their music when skiing. Now their company has not just a new name, but also a whole new direction enabling the IoT with Bluetooth technology.
• PickUp Patrol — The better, safer way to get kids home from school. The cloud-based Web application replaces the old note system, allowing parents to submit plan changes by computer or mobile device. Schools use the comprehensive tool to manage the full dismissal process.
With PickUp Patrol, schools and parents now have a more convenient, efficient way to communicate plan changes and best of all, they have peace of mind knowing their children are getting where they need to be.
Company leader Maria Edvalson advises that a founder doesn’t have to have all the answers from the beginning. She says take an idea, test it out, evaluate the results, learn from them, and make the necessary changes to meet your market.
• Protett — Developing a cyber security platform for enterprises routinely handling sensitive information, and proactively putting measures in place to protect that data. Protett protects against malware that intercepts data at the keyboard, and is well aligned with the growing virtual desktop market.
Founder Frank Cini is deeply technical, and advises founders not to go it alone. Frank says have at least one co-founder with a different set of skills than your own. The skill mix allows you to accomplish a lot more, and having a co-founder is important to share both the ups and downs in a startup.
• HappsNow — Connects college students to every event on, and around, their campus through easy-to-use, real-time event calendars. The free HappsNow app engages the entire student body by making student organizations more efficient in promoting their events, and creating a closer student ecosystem that is safe and auditable by college administrators.
Ryan McCann, the founder of HappsNow, brought his own experience as a college student and fraternity leader to his startup, but he recognized there was a lot he didn’t know. He advises others do what he did, and get as much support as you can find. Ryan says the immersive learning of an accelerator program can fill knowledge gaps and give a founder a foundation to build upon.
• VidFall — A platform to launch new products and build audiences for brands at lower cost of acquisition. VidFall hosts Crowd Deals in which shoppers collectively drive down the price of products by watching relevant and engaging videos. It’s a fun, social shopping experience that creates meaningful conversations between brands and shoppers. Through testing VidFall has found an approach to the market that is bringing on hundreds of customers with each major crowd event.
Cofounders Joel Robinson and Steve Messa say one of the most valuable lessons they’ve learned is that accountability drives acceleration and momentum. They recommend working with advisers to outline specific goals and have regular meetings to review progress and determine appropriate actions to either correct direction or put your foot on the gas.
Let’s all wish these new New Hampshire companies great success!
I look forward to answering your questions and/or responding to your comments at http://alphaloft.org/category/ask-expert/.
Mark Kaplan , CEO of Alpha Loft, has 30 years of executive, financial, venture capital and investment industry experience. Before coming to New Hampshire in March 2013 he was actively engaged in building Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the roles of board member, adviser and mentor to organizations and entrepreneurs.