When the Problem Presents a Solution // Work in Progress

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.

New Fintech Founder is Ready to Help Businesses Grow

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.

Disruptive Real Estate Startup Seeks Marketing Partner

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.


Fintech Fellows // Helping founders navigate financial forecasts

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.

Leveraging Risk to The Importer Network’s Advantage

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.

Subscription, Pay-Per-Use or Annual Rate // Looking Glass sets pricing model

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.

Fintech Fellows // Uniquely poised to solve succession planning

One team member led wealth management for one of the nation’s largest privately held banks. One runs a CPA firm. Another has helped many companies successfully manage mergers and acquisitions. And the last, well, he’s been on both sides of the succession planning pendulum.

Jason Gilbreath, Kerry Reiss, Eric Hamilton, and John Gilbreath have all felt the pain of succession planning — from various standpoints, none the less.

They’re uniquely equipped to solve one of the biggest challenges facing business owners and their banking institutions: the complicated, messy process of buying, selling or inheriting a company.

They hit the ground running during yesterday’s Fintech Fellows Initiation, quickly zeroing in on specifics in the bigger problem that they wanted to tackle first. Now, they’re in the race for between $10,000 and $80,000 of capital provided by TSC, thanks to First National Bank and the Murphy Vision Funds, in partnership with First Westroads Bank.

Next in the lineup for this team, defining a value prop the market desires and testing that against their network and TSC’s network of financial service experts (and future customers).

Impressive New Class of Fintech Fellows Join the Tribe

A talented group of financial-minded innovators joined us at TSC headquarters last night. Curious thinkers, well-seasoned founders – and many folks in between – all showed up to step forward, willing to solve validated Fintech problems we’ve researched and studied on their behalf. More than 20 new Fintech concepts were introduced, with fellows sharing their banking, finance, and corporate backgrounds and their startup impetus going forward. What an inspirational night it was, learning about all these talented locals who are ready to take the reins and guide these much-needed startup businesses forward.

They’re ready to identify customers, obtain solid feedback, and get their Minimally Viable Prototypes underway, and we’re waiting in the wings to help facilitate their next steps. Stay tuned to see what’s possible with these highly skilled founders. Thanks to all the special people at First National Bank for having our back on this initiative and carrying these ideas onward. The banking world has some big changes coming to it! We can’t wait to help these disrupters get their concepts off the ground.

Price Testing // Making Art Accessible, and Valuable

art subscription service

Setting the price of your product is one of the more important decision you’ll make as a founder. It is the final gate between your product and the market, so at The Startup Collaborative, we take it quite seriously. It’s one of the final feedback loops required before committing code for your product’s MVP.

Your starting price may not always be the most desirable margin. But, it must be aligned with the value your customers believe your product will deliver. Your pricing must incite initial customers but must also act as a signal to your value prop. Setting price is tricky, to say the least. It’s not quite an art and not quite a science.

Right now, one of our most disciplined and most customer-focused founders is determining his initial pricing strategy.

Xavier Jackson’s vision for Showcase is to make art accessible to patrons of all types. The art industry is known for expensive, hard to attainable pieces.

With Showcase, aspirational art enthusiasts get quickly acquainted with local artists that share similar values, shared experiences or affinities. From there, Showcase subscribers can pick from a variety of art pieces that speak to them. The piece is then hand delivered along with more backstory on the artist and the work. For a minimal monthly fee, Showcase subscribers can have the piece in their homes until they’re ready for their next work of art. Meanwhile, artists can collect revenue off pieces prior to their official sale.

To participate in Showcase’s price discovery, please sign up here.

New industry-specific startup creation could equate talent growth for corporates

In this race for high-performing, high-tech talent, our employers can choose one of two mindsets: abundance or scarcity. One company taking a major stance of abundance is First National Bank.

Recently, leaders from within the nation’s largest privately held bank approached our team with a question: how do we ripen the fintech community? They had a hunch, based on the ethos that all boats rise, that if more startups formed around financial services that the bank would, in turn, benefit from a broadened talent pool.

In 2017, there were more than 32,500 employees working for 1,765 companies within the financial services and insurance industries in our metro region. And, as of 2017, we estimate there are less than ten active fintech startups in the region. The most notable of those being D3 Banking, LeverageRX, and PaymentSpring.

In many startup communities, it is easy to draw clear lines between industry clusters and the number of new companies created within that industry. Our region hasn’t yet been able to draw those lines.

Earlier this month, we launched Fintech Fellows Initiative, with preliminary funding coming from First National Bank. This intentional effort intends to generate new startups within the financial services industry.

As part of the Fintech Fellows Initiative, The Startup Collaborative will reveal several financial services market opportunities for great founders to build companies around. These opportunities have been validated through customer discovery with hundreds of potential users motivated to find a solution. To see the full Market Insights Report click here. 

Fintech Fellows will work with The Startup Collaborative, using the pre-seed fund’s outcome-based methodology for deeper customer discovery, early prototyping and business modeling to ultimately create a software-as-a-service startup.

Fintech Fellows will be given access to customer lists, market insights and customer discovery interview transcripts. They will also have one-on-one time with financial service subject-matter-experts and curated potential customers.

Fintech Fellows can earn $10,000 to $80,000 to accelerate their company’s growth based on outcomes met.

This funding comes at a time when early venture capital dollars into the region are at one of the lowest points in the past 10 years. Ironically, venture capital viable startups are on the rise, specifically in Omaha. That will be the next challenge The Startup Collaborative takes on.