This week we launched the InNEVator Spring 2021 program, our startup accelerator for early-stage technology companies. This year we chose to open up the application process to all technology-related companies, diverging from previous years where we had a specific technology focus. Also different this year is the program delivery – operating on a hybrid in-person/online model. Teams had the chance to meet in person this week before going virtual for the next few weeks. We started the program by taking four start up companies through company pitches, team introductions, and mentor matching. Read more about the teams below:
“Everyday Loans Built On Trust”
Pigeon Loans is developing an innovative peer-to-peer lending platform, dedicated to enabling individuals the ability to create loans with their friends, family, and loved ones from anywhere in the world. Co-founders Brian Bristol and Tilly Tanga are committed to providing a service that will make one-on-one lending simple, affordable, and with peace of mind.
“Let’s Get Hoppin’…”
Drank is developing a mobile platform where consumers can discover & order drinks at the touch of a button. They use contactless payments, up-to-date digital menus, & automated table orders for faster (and safer) service. Co-founders Eric Liao and Taylor Epp are committed to working with bar owners to streamline drink orders and reduce transaction costs by integrating with their point of sales systems for a seamless transaction experience.
“Your Doctor. Online.”
Cirrus Medical Network is developing a telehealth platform and a concierge business model that could potentially disrupt healthcare delivery. Founder Dr. Chris Highley, a physician himself, has created a platform to provide autonomy in physicians’ practice and to provide patients with self-pay healthcare options to address the inefficiencies of insurance-based healthcare delivery. The platform could potentially increase access, allow continuity of care, and reduce overall costs for patients.
“Giftata is the simplest way to be intentional about growing meaningful relationships through the art of gift-giving.”
Giftata is an online platform to streamline the gift-giving process. Using a unique combination of reminders, research, and recommendations, Giftata is designed to help users turn special occasions into lasting memories. Founder Jake Fowler is dedicated to eliminating the anxiety surrounding gifting by creating custom, unbiased gift recommendations using data and AI.
Following team introductions, on Tuesday the startups were introduced to the Lean Canvas, a one-page business plan tool to help entrepreneurs capture the key elements of their businesses. The workshop provided the opportunity for the startups to take a snapshot of their business ideas from customer segments to channels, value proposition, revenue model, and cost structures. This tool is part of the lean startup methodology that allows a startup to iterate on their product, refine their customer segments, track their progress and key metrics, and look at areas that need to pivot.
On Wednesday, teams heard from Jim Sacherman, former Innevation Center Director and current UNR adjunct faculty, on the importance of finding a real need for a product (or service) and conducting customer interviews to validate that need. Many startups build products that don’t sell in the marketplace because the need was not validated. Later in the afternoon, the cohort heard from Rick Winfield of Reno Seed Fund on how to build a startup that would attract angel investors.
The next day, Daniel Price, the founder of Ioterra, an Internet of Things (IoT) marketplace company with roots in the Innevation Center, spoke to teams about common challenges that entrepreneurs face, his experience with starting a company, and how to overcome many of the obstacles that are common for new ventures. He spoke to the importance of building strategic partnerships and understanding your customer/partner ecosystem.
On Thursday, the cohort got a crash course in sales and lead generation from Silicon Valley sales veteran, Mark Friedler. Emphasizing the importance of “knowing your why”, Mr. Friedler asked teams to be introspective and to never lose sight of what they want their company to be. He also spoke to the importance of building trust and connections with partners and clients for long-term growth and company success.
The week ended with an elevator pitch workshop, presented by Innevation Center Director, Grace Chou. Teams took turns presenting their elevator pitches to the cohort for feedback and even swapped pitching each other’s startups for a fun exercise and the opportunity to hear another person’s perspective of their company and business model.
As we wrap up the first week and prepare to go virtual, we are looking forward to following the progress of these startups throughout this program.