“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” — Richard Branson
- How two startups are navigating COVID-19
- A multimillion dollar data center win for Gallatin, TN
- Columbus attracts a new gene therapy center
- Assistive Tech winners creating new opportunities
- Fuel: Funding from e-sports to agtech
- Calling all space cadets
- Name that Flyover City!
June 11, 2020
Photo by Pra Child for Shutterstock
Last week, Revolution hosted a virtual roundtable discussion about how startups outside of Silicon Valley are retooling their operations to reopen amid social distancing and other restrictions COVID-19 imposes on them.
After remarks by Revolution CEO Steve Case, the conversation was moderated by Ron Klain, EVP and General Counsel at Revolution and former White House Ebola Czar. The guests included Robin Fleming, co-founder and CEO of Anvl (a company in Indianapolis that produces workforce safety software) and Richard Yau, co-founder of Bright Cellars (a Milwaukee-based company that delivers a personalized wine experience). Both companies are backed by Revolution.
Anvl recently launched a product for helping other companies bring their employees back to work safely. Fleming said that their existing solution was easily adapted for COVID-19. “As a result of how we designed the software, we were able to quickly build a template for COVID-19. We have a pre-screening, mobile solution that allows employees to check in and use our real-time data before they go back to work,” she said.
What advice does Fleming offer to CEOs of other startups who may be overwhelmed when trying to manage their back-to-work strategies? “The most important thing is communication. Every employee deserves to feel safe and protected so you need to spend the time with employees to tell them what’s going on and what the plan is. It is work and it will be work ongoing,” Fleming said.
Maintaining company culture
Bright Cellars currently has 60 employees and has actually grown during COVID-19 and they've been hiring. On the increase in demand for their services Yau says, “I think people have been forced to slow down a bit, eat dinner at home and enjoy a good glass of wine."
A unique problem the company is facing at present is how to effectively onboard new hires when there is no physical location to bring them to. “We had a Zoom meeting the other day and I realized that two of the attendees had never met the other in person. Since there was not going to be any watercooler intros and discussions, we’ve had to go back and be more intentional and create a structure around something that usually isn’t that structured.”
Bright Cellars’ employees have been working from home these last few months and now Yau is starting to think about the longer term. “I’m doing a lot of cost benefits analyses about how and when we return to the office. It’s gotten down to phases and we’re looking at how best to roll those out,” Yau said.
Klain said that it’s amazing how these startups are adapting during COVID-19 without the benefit of huge HR departments. And in the case of Anvl's app pivots, Klain said, “We’re also seeing how startups are innovating during this difficult time.”
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Tennessee town lures multi-million-dollar data center
Big data is coming to Gallatin, TN. City officials in the small town a half hour northeast of Nashville have put together an incentive deal they say will bring a major data company to town, create jobs, and bring in revenue. City Council members aren’t naming names but the rumored company is Facebook.
The deal, called a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes economic development incentive package, includes the construction of two buildings in exchange for $4.2 million annually, which will be divided between the city of Gallatin and Sumner County. The potential revenue over the length of the agreement is $85 million. The current tax revenue for the land in question is about $9,000 annually.
The mystery company, dubbed “Woolhawk” in negotiations, would also foot the bill for extensive water, sewer, and road upgrades totaling $13.4 million. City officials estimate the project will create 1,200 jobs during construction and 140 permanent jobs.
Sarepta Therapeutics opens gene therapy center in Columbus
Sarepta Therapeutics has announced plans to open a new Gene Therapy Center of Excellence in Columbus. The company says it’s investing $30 million and adding 100 new jobs, with hiring to begin in Q2. Sarepta has roughly 40 employees in a current facility located in Dublin, OH, and they will be transitioned to the new facility.
Columbus has a thriving healthcare sector, making the genetic medicine R&D facility a good fit. Sarepta president and CEO Doug Ingram said the company believes the city is an ideal spot for the new center. “Sarepta is emerging as the world leader in gene therapy to treat and transform lives otherwise diminished and stolen by rare genetic disease. We are confident that gene therapy will revolutionize genetic medicine, and we chose Ohio for our Gene Therapy Center of Excellence because we believe Columbus will become a hub for genetic medicine innovation.”
Winners of the Assistive Tech Challenge
Photo courtesy Braze Mobility
Minnesota-based Destination Medical Center hosted its second Assistive Tech Challenge, a competition for startups that seeks solutions to problems faced by people with disabilities.
The competition looks specifically at areas such as independent living, access to employment, and improved public infrastructure.
The first part of the competition was centered on community-based teams and students. The second part was for startups that have an annual revenue of less than $200,000.
Here are the results of the startup competition:
Braze Mobility, a startup that creates blind spot sensors for wheelchairs, proximity sensors, proximity alarms, and alerts for those with limited upper-body mobility won first place in the professional division. The company also won the people’s choice award in the competition.
In second place was SayKid, a company that has developed a screenless, play-based learning platform that combines voice tech in the form factor of a plush robot to help children learn in a safe and engaging way.
Indiana innovators make THRIVE top 50 list
SVG Ventures-THRIVE and Forbes Live recently released the 2020 THRIVE Top 50 AgTech and Top 50 FoodTech Research Reports—and two Hoosier innovators made the lists.
Solinftec, based in West Lafayette, was named to the Top 50 AgTech list in the category of IoT Hardware and Software. The self-described “digital agriculture technology company” created an AI assistant to help production farmers process critical data and operate more efficiently.
Indy’s Epogee Foods landed a spot on the Top 50 FoodTech list, thanks to its fat replacer, EPG. The company says EPG—which can be used in a variety of foods, from baked goods to pasta to gravy—can “safely & dramatically lower calories without sacrificing taste, texture or appearance.”
Photo by pathdoc for Shutterstock.
Cleveland e-sports startup snags $3.1M in seed round
Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo and the Cleveland Browns’ Denzel Ward joined lead investor Three Curve Capital in a $3.1 million seed round for Cleveland e-sports app Play One Up. The company, founded in 2018 by Brandon Pitts, enables XBOX and PlayStation gamers to compete for money when they play Madden NFL, NBA2K, FIFA, or Fortnite.
The company says it currently has 130,000 registered users—a huge increase over last year’s 15,000 to 20,000 users. Apparently, the growth is pandemic driven. Pitts says more than half their users have signed up since the outbreak.
In April alone, the company facilitated roughly 30,000 match-ups, with more than $1 million a month in wager volume.
Indy startup lands $800,000 in pre-seed funding
Authenticx Inc., headquartered in Indianapolis, has closed on $800,000 in pre-seed funding led by Chicago-based M25, with investments by Indy’s Elevate Ventures and Innovatemap Ventures. The company’s software helps healthcare providers streamline patients’ conversational data.
Wisconsin ag company gets funding from TitletownTech
Wisconsin’s SeedLinked has received funding from $25 million venture fund TitletownTech (which is led by the Green Bay Packers and Microsoft).
Two NC startups get spots in Techstars accelerator
Research Triangle companies CourtRoom5 and MuukLabs just earned $120,000 in investment and a place in the Techstars Kansas City Accelerator. The two will participate in a 13-week program, along with eight other founders and companies.
Calling all space cadets: NASA has a challenge for you
If you’re an entrepreneur and you’ve ever said of your work, “Hey, it’s not rocket science,” don’t be so sure. These days, technologies that can support space flight are rapidly emerging from the commercial sector. Sure, some of the world’s most famous people are in the space game, but everyday entrepreneurs are dipping in a toe as well. We’re talking about areas like machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, and sensors.
NASA wants to support this entrepreneurship, so it has created “The Entrepreneurs Challenge,” a contest that will award prize money to successful participants. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate will award prizes of as much as $100,000 to winners, who will also get an opportunity to participate in future partnerships with the agency as part of its Small Business Innovative Research program.
The first challenge will focus on advanced machine learning and AI for spacecraft and surface rovers; advanced mass spectrometry for life detection; and quantum sensors. There will be three rounds of competition, which will all include a cash prize for those who advance. Got a hot AI or mass spectrometry idea in your back pocket? Better hurry – the application window closes June 26.
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
- It doesn’t fly and it’s not native to the area, but in 2009 the pink flamingo was voted in as the official state bird of this city.
- Before Bill Gates created an anechoic chamber in Redmond, WA, in 2015, this city boasted an attraction called The Quietest Place on Earth.
- In a commercial development in this city, you’ll find three pyramid-shaped office buildings.
Click here for today's answers.
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