By James Hilton – Mentor at The Bit Factory
We are exactly one week away from our third annual FUEL Akron competition, taking place on Thursday, Nov. 15, 5-9 p.m. here at Bounce Innovation Hub. If you haven’t been, FUEL is a “shark-tank” style event where software startup founders pitch and live negotiate for investment and entry to The Bit Factory. The public is welcome, tickets are free, and they include food and a cash bar.
Thanks to all the great things happening here at 526 S. Main Street, FUEL Akron has gotten bigger and better; good things often come through change, right? So, if you are already familiar with FUEL, you’ll notice a few differences from past years.
For one, it’s no longer FUEL Akron simply by The Bit Factory, but rather FUEL Akron by Bounce Innovation Hub! We will invest up to $15,000 each into four different startups for the event, totaling a possible $60,000 invested versus up to $10,000 each for three startups in previous years. This is an improvement as our goal is to further grow the support for early-stage software companies here in Northeast Ohio. As part of Bounce’s bigger mission to create a comprehensive, supportive innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, FUEL directly supports the earliest of companies through small investments that can facilitate growth and get these founders going.
To that, also new this year, finalists will be admitted to The Bit Factory’s new Product Development Accelerator track, launching in January, as discussed in last month’s blog by Bounce’s director of entrepreneurial services, Christopher Mazziotto. Once in the program, they will work with experienced advisors to complete and iterate versions of a minimum viable product (MVP) by the end of the program.
Thanks to the previous two years of success with FUEL, as I mentioned above, we can continue holding this event for the public at no charge! Food is provided, and I can guarantee an exciting experience as these founders negotiate for investment.
Even better, if you have interest in funding or startups, but have a lot of questions about getting started, attending FUEL Akron and seeing the process for yourself is a great way to get the most foundational form of knowledge when it comes to software startup investing.
Here are four incredible software startups competing for investment this year:
- Linear Labs— artificial intelligence technology for market research and consumer insight; co-founded by Ted Troxell and Adam Miclot
- Quanterra Software – software platform for automated analysis of aerial images to help commercial drone inspections; co-founded by Mayer Ginsburg and Shoshana Ginsburg
- ReqPrep – digital platform that simplifies and streamlines the ordering process for the diagnostic lab industry; founded by Dan Soucek
- Event Discovery Company– developer of Evitt, a platform that integrates with websites to simplify online calendar management; co-founded by Joe Duncko, Andrew Jarvis and Chris Palmer
While I sat as a judge for the previous two FUEL events, this year we welcome three new judges who will be occupying the stage of FUEL as our sharks: Doug Weintraub, CEO of Bounce Innovation Hub; Bill Manby, founder and managing partner of Acquire Investments; and Jim Zedella, president and CEO of Fiducius.
Here some background info on each:
Doug is an industry leader with more than 30 years of business and entrepreneurial experience in Northeast Ohio. As Bounce’s first CEO, he sets and maintains the strategic vision and culture of Bounce. An active angel investor, serial entrepreneur and mentor, Doug has provided investment opportunities and coaching to more than a dozen companies. He is a founding member of JumpStart Inc. and served on many board committees, from its inception to his final role as chairman from 2009-2012. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University Fisher School of Business, where he served on advisory boards within the business school and university.
Bill is a founder and managing partner of Acquire Investments; CEO of Paradigm, based in Akron; and is also senior vice president for TriPoint Global Equities, headquartered in New York City. For 20 years, he has focused on providing independent, creative and competitive techniques to enhance performance and reduce risk and costs for his clients’ businesses, investments and estate planning. Bill has also assisted financial institutions and advisors all over the country in the design and implementation of proprietary leveraged strategies for business owners. An avid philanthropist, Bill is involved in numerous local charities and received the 2012-13 Presidential Citation from Rotary International.
Jim is an active investor in early to mid-stage tech opportunities and commercial real estate and has been in technology and recurring revenue businesses during his 30-year career. Today, he is the chairman/CEO of Fiducius (formerly ISLoan Solutions), a high-growth, student loan benefit company. He also served as CEO of IPA, a benefit administration company, from 2002-2010, which he sold to Mercer in June 2010. He has been or is a board director or board advisor for six independent companies in addition to being on his companies’ boards three times. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double major in finance and economics.
So that is it! Four startups, four possible investments, three judges and one great event that helps support software innovation and startups right here in Akron, Ohio. Hope to see you there!