There’s a popular quote from Alltop co-founder and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki: “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll agree. Producing prototypes, navigating legal issues, finding customers, raising money—getting a startup off the ground is a formidable task.
Luckily, startup founders don’t have to go it alone. That’s the idea behind the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Jones + Foster Accelerator, a program created to help student-led startups make the transition from concept to reality. Companies accepted into this six-month program receive mentoring from Seattle entrepreneurs and investors, a framework for defining measurable milestones, guidance in achieving those milestones, and the opportunity to earn up to $25,000 in follow-on funding.
Twenty-two companies have completed the Jones + Foster Accelerator program since it began in 2010. Eighteen of them are still in business today, and many have seen some major successes. Cadence Biomedical, a medical device company whose Kickstart Walking System helps immobilized users regain walking ability, has raised over $1.5 million in funding. Strideline’s athletic socks are sold in over 20 states across the country and worn by the likes of rapper Snoop Dogg, Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, and comedian Joel McHale. PotaVida has received a $140,000 grant from World Vision U.S. to prepare its solar water disinfection system for mass production. And Experiment’s science crowdfunding platform has been profiled by the likes of Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, and received $1.2 million in angel funding.
The 2014 Jones + Foster Accelerator cohort consists of eight companies, each ready and willing to do whatever it takes to power up their startups. Since July, these companies have been polishing their pitches, identifying fundraising strategies, developing their products—you name it. Over the next few months, these eight teams will continue to hit their milestones, each one taking them a step closer to making their startup dreams a reality. Stay tuned!
2014 Jones + Foster Accelerator Teams
More than $40 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year. Most of us have at least one gift card to a place we’d never shop sitting in a drawer at home. Wouldn’t you rather have the cash to spend the way you want? That’s the idea behind CardSwapr, a phone app that allows users to trade their unwanted gift cards for ones they’ll actually use.
Over the last 30 years, 911 calls for fire department emergency medical responses have increased by 400%. And as it turns out, only 60% of these calls are true emergencies. Sending firefighters and emergency vehicles to respond to non-emergency 911 calls is expensive for fire departments, and unnecessary emergency room visits are costly to insurers. FDCARES has developed an innovative response model that lowers costs by redirecting non-emergency calls to new tier of the fire department that has the capacity to stabilize patients in the home or transport them to a non-emergency care facility.
Nitrous oxide (N2O) is the fourth most common greenhouse gas, and has 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. This is a major problem for food and beverage retailers who use N2O cartridges to make whipped cream. Korvata has invented an alternative product that emits 50% less greenhouse gas without altering the deliciousness of the end product.
Lasting Smiles is an incredibly smooth lip balm created with organic, fair trade ingredients sourced from small-scale farmers in India, Peru, and Burkina Faso. But Lasting Smiles isn’t just about saving consumers from chapped lips. The startup has formed a strategic partnership with Smile Train, the largest cleft lip and palate nonprofit in the world. Twenty-five cents of every lip balm this startup sells will go directly towards funding surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates.
From Lasting Smiles’ founder, Zoe Mesnik-Greene: “I could not be more grateful to the Jones + Foster Accelerator Program for taking such a strong interest in me and Lasting Smiles. The mentors have provided invaluable resource direction in critical areas such as operations and legal, both of which have been essential as we prepare to launch this November 2014.”
Only 3% of the food consumed in Spokane, WA is produced locally. Yet the demand for a robust local food system to supply restaurants and schools is high. LINC Foods, an employee-owned and operated enterprise based in Spokane, is changing this. The startup purchases fruits and vegetables from small- and medium-sized farms, aggregates and processes the products to customer specifications, and delivers it to local restaurants, schools, and other institutions.
Over 1.6 billion people worldwide live in substandard housing. While many organizations make it their mission to provide adequate housing, geographical and economic limitations often impede these efforts. Mobile Foam provides humanitarian organizations with a kit containing all the materials necessary to build homes in developing nations without the difficulty of procuring and transporting large, expensive building materials. The company’s insulated concrete forms can be used to build high quality, energy efficient, and cost effective homes.
Olykraut combines local produce, original recipes, and “the magic of fermentation” to create delicious fermented vegetable products (think sauerkraut). The company has been producing and selling its products since 2008, and its popularity continues to grow. By producing this healthy food made with ingredients from farms in Western Washington, Olykraut is investing in the health of local people, local farms, and the local economy.
From Sash Sunday, owner of OlyKraut: “Contacts [introduced to us] by one of our mentors have been both inspiring and encouraging. It is really nice to work with the mentors and their sincere desire to see us succeed is apparent. One has even made it down to Olympia for a tour of the facility!”
Uphill Designs produces innovative and sustainable hiking equipment for outdoor enthusiasts. The startup’s trekking poles are made of bamboo—a renewable and low-cost material that is stronger and more flexible than aluminum—and the pole handles are made of post-consumer recycled cork. And in keeping with its commitment to sustainability, a percentage of Uphill Designs’ sales will go to the Pacific Crest Trail Associations and the communities where the company sources its materials.
From Uphill Designs’ co-founder David Bey: “The expertise of our Jones + Foster Accelerator mentors has helped our team find order in the chaos of starting a business. Their wisdom has allowed our team to focus on what’s really important while sidestepping flashy distractions and dangerous pitfalls.”
2014 Jones + Foster Accelerator Mentors:
Marc Barros, founder and CEO, Moment*
Sean Bell, business director, 100K Project, Institute for Systems Biology
Sarah Boden, president, Transit Business Unit, DDS Wireless*
Bill Bromfield, partner, Fenwick & West*
Troy Cichos, administrative partner, Madrona Venture Group*
Jeff Dossett, CFO, Porch
Terry Drayton, founder and CEO, Storrage*
Geoff Entress, venture partner, Voyager Capital*
Mike Fridgen, internet entrepreneur, GM at eBay*
David Geller, CEO &founder, Spryly
Lisa Hjorten, serial entrepreneur*
John Hogan, director, EHS, SNC Lavalin
Tye Howell, manager, Accenture
Cat Kennedy, management consultant and investor
Andy Kleitsch, senior product manager, Amazon Global Payments
Randall Lucas, co-founder and CEO, SimpleVerity
Frank Paganelli, P&L leader and general counsel, Full Circle
Tom Poole, CEO, MarketSense
Jesse Proudman, founder and CTO, Blue Box|
Lee Schindler, partner, Perkins Coie
Adrian Smith, partner, Ignition*
David Smukowski, CEO, Sensors in Motion*
Ben Straughan, partner, Perkins Coie*
Patrick Turner, Accenture
* = Buerk Center Advisory Board member