If there are big ideas and promising entrepreneurs to be found in North Carolina cities beyond Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, then a new statewide effort by The Startup Factory is out to find them.
July 1, 2015
The Startup Factory Goes Statewide
A Winston-Salem startup boot camp is the first in a series of efforts to expand The Startup Factory's footprint throughout North Carolina.
As the early stage capital firm nears the end of its first fund, it’s trying something new for Fall 2015 and beyond, hosting a series of weeklong startup boot camps in cities around the state in hopes of building a bigger investment pipeline and determining if there are enough quality ideas, entrepreneurs and investors to host additional three-month accelerators. The vision is for TSF to help launch 150 new businesses over the next several years through its new statewide model.
The first of these boot camps will happen August 3-7 in Winston-Salem, in partnership with the co-working and innovation space Flywheel.
Says TSF co-managing director Chris Heivly, “We’re planting the seeds to operate statewide.” And though he can’t talk about fundraising due to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, he adds “We fully expect to run the TSF accelerator in 2016.”
Bennett says his Flywheel team (a partnership between his Wildfire LLC, Storr Office Environments and Workplace Strategies) spent lots of time with Heivly and Neal and did homework about the program before determining it to be the best accelerator between New Orleans and New York.
“We really needed someone with that four years of experience honing the process,” he says. “We really hope this becomes a long-term partnership.”
Plans are taking shape for the first boot camp now, but Heivly says the curriculum will be condensed from the first two-and-a-half weeks of the accelerator program—the time that entrepreneurs stop coding and working on their products and focus on their business models. Specifically, TSF uses the Business Model Canvas tool to make entrepreneurs prove out any assumptions about the business. Mentors come in to “beat them up and make them question things,” Heivly says.
Additional programming will depend on the types of businesses and the stage, but Heivly expects some customer validation to happen during the five days. TSF is in the process of lining up mentors both in Winston-Salem and the Triangle to support the inaugural program.
The boot camp will be free, at least for now. Heivly says future cities, and business models for the boot camps, are yet to be determined but that boot camps will likely happen multiple times a year in multiple locations throughout the state.
Eventually, TSF could hold three-month accelerators in those cities or expand the boot camps outside the state.
The model TSF is proposing isn’t all that unique. Techstars has expanded similarly (only nationally) since 2009, when it opened its first accelerator outside its home base of Boulder in Boston, with a fund raised mostly locally. It’s since started shorter-term boot camps (A Patriot version will be held in Chapel Hill in July), hosted accelerators with Fortune 500 sponsors and in June acquired UP Global’s popular startup training programs. The national chain of accelerators has always been a model for Heivly and Neal.
“They were my first call five years ago,” Heivly says of Techstars founders David Cohen and Brad Feld. “They’re my genealogical fathers in this.”
But the decision to focus within North Carolina came down to passion, opportunity and resources, Heivly says. The boot camps will happen in partnership with local organizations and mentors and will be managed by TSF’s existing staff of three.
“We think there is an untapped opportunity throughout the state and if these metros could only leverage our skills, experiences, network and capital, those areas could benefit. And ultimately, it’ll make for better investments for us,” Heivly says.
To apply for the first boot camp in Winston-Salem, apply and submit a two-minute video before July 12 here.