Last night, we celebrated a milestone in what we call the early dirty phases of starting up!
As many of you know, First National put us on notice to create more fintech companies. They invested $70,000 in The Startup Collaborative preseed funds just to do that. This was the origin of the Fintech Fellows Initiative.
Nine weeks ago, we socialized four market challenges and pain points. More than 150 entrepreneurs dug into those challenges, ultimately leading us to initiate 24 fintech fellows on November 26. These fellows had industry chops, clever initial solutions and a desire to start up.
More impressive than the size of starting class of Fintech Fellows is the caliber of participants.
The class includes a former FNB VP, one of the Prairie Cloudware founders, an ACI expat who has developed clever voice technology, one of the UI/UX lead from Union Pacific, an IT leader from Grant Thornton, the quant and technical cofounder of Prairie Smarts, a web developer from Burlington Capital, a team out of CAN Predictive Analytics, and a technical team that has worked inside Fiserv for decades, among others.
Last night, we toasted to a “wind in their sails” moment for five of these teams. As a reminder, each of the fintech fellows has the opportunity to earn our Murphy Vision Funds preseed equity investments of $50,000. But, as fintech fellows, they have been given a leg up.
Fintech fellows that are earned this $10,000 of build capital exceeded expectations against Solution and Prototype validation, business, caliber and in-house capacity of the team, and their proposed use of funds.
The recipients of the fintech fellow build capital include:
Just before December, more than 20 entrepreneurs were accepted into the Fintech Fellows Initiative and began the challenging journey of solving major issues facing small businesses financial well being. To date, more than half of these entrepreneurs have received enough early market feedback that their solution is worth carrying forward. We have been impressed with the caliber of solutions and the caliber of entrepreneurs stepping up.
Some noteworthy teams and solutions briefly described below.
Solving for operational growth and staffing…
- Bench, hospitality on-demand staffing and scheduling marketplace
Led by a Union Pacific head of UX
- loophire, hiring process and talent acquisition solution
Led by a team professional recruiters
- Plus One, aggregate data and comparative insights for hiring
Led by United Bank professional
- Work in Progress, a jobshare marketplace
Led by an expat of Hayneedle/Omaha Steaks and an organizational psychologist
Solving for invoice and payment capture…
- B2Gig, a money management platform for the gig worker
Led by ACI expats and V2Verify founders
- BatchTracker, a co-manufacturer lot traceability platform
Led by Conagra Foods expat and CAN Analytics CEO
- Delta Financial Group, back office platform for independent contractors
Led by Fiserv expat and longtime banking consultant
- EZPayInvoice, customer list management and payments platform
Led by former Burlington Capital developer
- fomopay, mobile-based invoicing and payment capture
Led by First National teammate and a founder of Prairie Cloudware
- IAN, text scheduler and invoice platform
Led by self-taught web developer and freelancer, and former professional poker player
Solving for succession planning…
- Root$, agriculture lending succession planning tool
Led by Chadron-based ag lending team
Solving for challenges understanding industry comparative insights and benchmarks…
- (Concept name TBD), predictive cash flow engine and concierge service
Led by a Prairie Smarts founder and finance management psychologist
- Proforma, financial forecasting collaboration tool
Led by Multimechanics chief operator
- ClickTargeter, performance-driven sales optimizer
Led by expat from MindMixer and DataUSA
- Time and Invoice Tracker, profit center analysis tool
Led by self-taught web developer and freelancer
On Thursday, January 17, five of the teams mentioned above will earn $10,000 of capital to help with their initial product build. Please join us at the All Rise Rally to celebrate this early milestone.
Preston Halstead approached TSC in August of this year with his concept, CareerVoice, aiding companies, educators and students when it comes to finding effective, specialized, and verified professional speakers – and how to make each experience most beneficial for all parties.
He got solid work done through LEVEL 2 with his Problem Validation Surveys, and was making headway while still having to balance his normal 9-5. He then leaped at the opportunity to participate in our FinTech Fellow Initiative, launched this November in partnership with First National Bank.
With some substantial experience under his belt, and with a new business partner, Parshav, he has put CareerVoice on hold for now in order to pursue a more time-pressing, much-needed FinTech-oriented concept: BritePay – fast and easy invoicing. In case you didn’t know, invoicing is a fragmented, time-killing experience for solo entrepreneurs. Preston is ready to solve that problem.
He’s capitalized on the opportunity to champion the issues we, along with many bankers, have identified, and he’s currently working through Solution Validation to solidify his idea for invoicing, revenue tracking, and entrepreneurial success.
Jean Douchey, founder of My Game Day Collections, is a TSC Fellow who is totally proving herself in the startup process. Today we carried out her LEVEL 5 // Pre-Validation module where we talked about next steps, goals, and some challenging subjects – everything from pricing strategy to a optimal launch timing.
She came prepared with sales goals and financial modeling, all relevant to her up-and-coming clothing concept. What was very clear is that pricing – particularly, looking at value over the volume of sales – will be a major benefactor in getting her customized game-day sportswear into customer hands.
Pre-Validation can be a strenuous stage in startupland – discussing logistics and big picture challenges, fundraising, and timelines. Jean is more than capable to take the necessary next steps to get My Game Day Collections further off the ground and scaling. She’s eager to have a campaign for big Nebraska sports – high school and collegiate both – every season. Be on the lookout for 2019 launch activity and dynamic content for this very smart, customizable, and high-quality game-day wear for women.
As business leaders look to grow and scale their organizations, oftentimes the knee-jerk reaction is to hire full-time employees. But, what TSC fellows Jessica Charlsen and Jina Picarella found through LEVELS 1-2 was that these business owners feared the unknowns in hiring more than the process of hiring.
Early problem validation showed that small to mid-size business owners struggled with talent and capacity. They wanted help understanding how to automate and operationalize the business so it could grow, but they weren’t convinced that a new FTE was always the answer.
Serendipitously, this team completed their problem validation just as TSC revealed the Fintech Fellows Initiative. The two paths were meant to collide! Now, officially solving the larger challenge of operational growth and staffing as Fintech Fellows, Jessica and Jina are seeking market validation on their solution.
Help steer them in the right direction and take their Solution Validation Survey: https://goo.gl/forms/gJcyOljnsC1LHnWz2.
Brittany Ware, one of our freshest Nebraska-bred Fintech fellows, is a wonderful addition to our TSC tribe. She joined the class of 25+ fintech founders this month, and she’s already made it clear that she means business, treading through LEVEL 3 // Messaging this week and pushing the startup limits. As a UNL grad, she joins us after accruing a rich background as a commercial analyst at American National Bank and currently working as a credit analyst with United Republic Bank. Brittany stepped forward to help business owners in the region find the right people at the right time with her concept, Plus1.
A staffing decision support engine, Plus1 will help business owners tackle the challenge of taking that hiring leap. Knowing when you’re ready – both from a cash flow and growth standpoint – is not always black and white. Plus1 helps business owners make smarter decisions on when to hire so their company can achieve the next level of growth. With her established background in banking and finance, we’re excited to see where a strong founder like Brittany takes this exciting new concept.
Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and current venture capitalist at Greylock Partners, has this famous quote about starting up that we’re especially fond of around here – “No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” Said someone who knows a thing or two about starting up and scaling businesses.
It’s true – most of our fellows begin their startup journey as a solo founder. A single person can easily persevere from LEVEL 1 // Initiation through LEVEL 5 // Pre-Validation. But in LEVEL 6 // Role Coverage we go deep on the founders strengths – and weaknesses – and round out the talent gaps with partners, employees, or services providers. Although we’re definitely partial to partners!
Meet John. He’s the mastermind behind IHeartYourHouse. John recently took the stage at Cox’s Get Started pitch event where he wowed the crowd and the judges, with one of them – a columnist at Inc. Magazine saying – “That’s a very clever concept. I’ve never heard anything like that before!”
John is a savvy technologist who can build the application – version 1.0 is already up and running! He’s looking for an equally sharp marketing maven to grow, scale, and expand audience. Basically someone who can encourage, entice, and incentivize folks to heart the homes they would genuinely want to purchase someday.
This has the potential to be a life-changing opportunity. Are you passionate about real estate? Do you enjoy being a disruptor? Are you a seasoned marketer? If yes to all, then browse this page to learn more about John and IHeartYourHouse.
Hours, weeks, maybe months spent perfectly crafting the financial model that correctly articulates your startup’s ability to hockey stick while making sure your assumptions don’t do that nasty thing that assumptions tend to do.
Sound familiar founders? Bet so.
Carissa Castro, currently the operations lead at MultiMechanics, wants to make sure she’s not the lone startup operator that has felt that pain.
She knows, thanks to the Fintech Fellows Initiative, that traditional small and mid-size businesses have felt the pain, especially as they angle for a new capital infusion. Her addressable market could be huge. But, first, she wants to know “do startup founders face the same dilemma?”
Carissa will test out her value prop and prototype in the upcoming months. Right now, she’s eager to help founders make smarter future growth assumptions, even without past performance data, in order to secure necessary growth capital.
She wants to build a financial modeling tool help founders investor-proof their assumptions so they can more accurately articulate use of funds, runway, and revenue projections. In short, she wants to help you prove your hockey-stick potential.
If you’re a high-growth founder, seeking or having raised venture capital previously, please help Carisa out by offering your feedback on her solution here.
According to Born to Build, by Gallup’s Sangeeta Badal and Jim Clifton, successful builders/entrepreneurs are not risk seekers, they are risk mitigators.
Hugh Finerty, founder of The Importer Network, is a pure example of that. Recently while working through outcomes associated with LEVEL 6 // Role Coverage, we found learned that Hugh scored a perfect 100 out of 100 in Gallup’s Builder Profile “risk” talent.
We have seen firsthand just how masterful Hugh is at navigating opportunities and leveraging assets to his advantage. He is a rational, calculated and intuitive problem-solver. All of this plays well to The Importer Network’s benefit.
Not all software-as-a-service models are created equal. Therefore, one-size-fits-all expectations of monthly subscription pricing models won’t work in every market. At least that is what Looking Glass Founder Andy Cockle founder while pricing testing as part of LEVEL 5.
Andy’s product, a court-compliant legal brief Automator software-as-a-service platform, helps attorneys and paralegals craft legal briefs right every time. If you’re not in the legal industry, you might not realize that each legal brief is under scrutiny for much more than the arguments made within, formatting issues can be a game-changing setback.
Legal teams struggle to keep the judge focused on the argument they’re making due to errors on page margins, headers, and even font choice. And, to complicate the process, each and every courtroom has their own rules and standards that legal teams must meet.
With Looking Glass legal teams input the content of a brief and the software automatically tailors it to each court’s requirements.
Andy worked with several potential customers to better understand which pricing model would be most acceptable to their legal practice.
- One option: a monthly subscription that allowed teams up to a set number of briefs.
- The second: pay-as-you-go for each brief for a fixed rate.
- And the third: an annual rate that allowed unlimited uses.
This process revealed more insights on the number of briefs submitted to each courtroom by each attorney, ultimately helping Andy (and his future customers) determine that initial pricing will be a pay-as-you-go model for a fixed rate per brief.