Not business as usual but still thriving in flyover country
“Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” — Richard Branson
June 11, 2020
Not business as usual
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.
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.
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.
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.
FUELING THE FUTURE
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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.
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.
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