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 idea to reality. Companies accepted into this six-month program receive mentoring from a committee of experts, 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 are continuing to hit some major milestones. 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 and Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. 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.
The Buerk Center has accepted 10 teams into the 2014 Jones + Foster Accelerator. This year’s companies focus on everything from peer-to-peer transactions to cleantech innovation and lip balm that changes lives. Meet each of the companies below, and stay tuned—we can’t wait to watch them put their startup dreams in action!
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 to make whipped cream (a well-known global beverage company estimates that its use of N2O adds up to 16% of its annual global warming emissions). Korvata has invented an alternative way to make whipped cream 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 products sourced from small-scale farmers in India, Peru, and Burkina Faso. It’s made with ingredients like coconut oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter. 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.
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. You can already find its gourmet sauerkraut in over 65 grocery stores and markets in Washington and Oregon. But Olykraut isn’t just a condiment. As its founders like to say, its “sauerkraut on a mission.” 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.
“Relevant work experience.” It’s a requirement on almost every job application. And yet, about 50% of the 21 million college students in the United States will graduate with little to no work experience relevant to the jobs they are applying for. Projected Talent is working to provide students with short-term, relevant projects in companies that need work done. With Projected Talent businesses can get skilled help without having to commit to a long-term hire, and students have the opportunity to work on projects that may not normally be offered to them, gaining that coveted experience for their future job searches.
Storage facilities rarely allow short-term rentals, and their smallest units are often bigger than many of us need. So what do you do when you just need to store your bike for two months while you head home for summer vacation? Stash connects people who need storage with those who have a little extra space around their house or garage. Using Stash’s online platform, “Packers” and “Stashers” can find each other based on proximity, vet each other based on user reviews, and negotiate terms and prices.
Uphill Designs produces simple and sustainable 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.