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Guest Post: Stop Building Features

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[Editor’s Note: This post was written by 2014 graduate Connor Bowlan. Connor and his co-founder, Rhett, originally were accepted to The Brandery with their fashion and beauty advice app, Lookit. Throughout the course of the program, their startup evolved to what is now: Cintric, a joint venture between Connor’s company and another startup in the program. You can read more about their journey through The Brandery in this recent Soapbox article.]

Features are one of the worst things a startup can build into an early-stage product.

Features distract the company. Startups find success in innovative solutions to big problems. These solutions form the core of products, and are where the customer finds value they’re willing to pay for. At an early stage, startups should be focusing all their efforts on finding the best version of their solution by iterating on their core product. Feature development distracts from this task.




In one of the earliest versions of our application “Lookit,” we had a little robot character that guided the user through the signup process. The robot even had animations that would progress with each letter the user typed for their name and password. Was it neat? Definitely. Is animating the registration fields spending time improving the core product? Definitely not.

Features distract the product.

When creating a product that’s new, one of the biggest challenges is crystallizing exactly what it is. This applies in both the minds of the team and the end users. The simpler the product, the easier it is to understand what it’s purpose is and how to best achieve it. Features add complexity, and complexity distracts from the core purpose of a product.




In a later build of “Lookit,” we experimented with gamifying the platform. We built a series of “trinkets” that users could win by contributing to the community and gambling in a slot-machine feature. Session time skyrocketed to an average of 14 minutes, but we weren’t solving the problem we had set out to. It drew users away from the core of the product, and away from where we were able to give the most value.

Features distract the user.

When you’re building something new, the end user will have to learn how to use your product. Adding features means the user has more learning to do before being able to draw value from the product and use it effectively.

In the second build of our application “Quack,” we tried to solve one of our user-experience problems by adding another feature. This feature did away with one of the core rules of our product in order to get around a relatively small issue. In doing so we completely confused the user by introducing a competing ruleset, and made them go through another permissions process, all to implement a feature that ended up not being enjoyable for them to use.

Features are often wasted.

Startups frequently change their core products in significant ways as development progresses. When the product changes, features that have been developed often don’t have a place anymore and must be scrapped.




There is a fully complete card-based version of “Lookit” sitting on a bitbucket server somewhere that will probably never see the light of day. It has voting, a gorgeous UI, face-detection, and quite a few more features. Ultimately though, none of those matter. They’re great bits of design and coding that had to be thrown out because the core product they were built on wasn’t strong enough.

Once a product has matured enough to where it’s solving a user’s problem in the most efficient way possible, then features can be introduced to make that process enjoyable for the user to engage with. This must be done slowly though, so as not to confuse or overwhelm the user.

This is where the CPO role really shines, as their job is not just to guide what the product is, but also to guide what the product isn’t.

Building a product without features can be difficult. In the early phase of a startup, it can be challenging to avoid getting carried away in an environment where the product roadmap is set in something more akin to clay than concrete. This is where the CPO role really shines, as their job is not just to guide what the product is, but also to guide what the product isn’t. A good CPO will aggressively maintain development focus on the core of the product, even when features might be exciting or easy to complete.

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At Cintric, we help developers build efficient mobile location services into their apps, from early stage startups that want to use location as a basis for their core experience, to large enterprises that wish to add location features to their existing and established apps. Cintric can be used to integrate rich location components that add a tremendous amount of value to the core of a product. Even including customizing experiences via demographic information and precise analytics of where users engage with different parts of the app.

If you’d like to chat about how Cintric can improve your mobile app with efficient and easy to setup location services, or you’d like to simply tell me why I’m wrong about features, contact me at connor@cintric.com.

Brandery Graduates Dominate Forbes' 30 Under 30 Lists

Yesterday, Forbes released their lists of the top 30 game-changers in each industry for 2015. The lists include the co-founder of Instagram, the President of Y Combinator, and, oh, and eight Brandery graduates. They represent four companies, three of which are still operating. Here are our people Forbes chose:

1. Eric Elias, William Weibe, William Blum, and Nathan Heidt, Lagoon, Class of 2014

Eric and the Lagoon team are on a mission to empower households and cities to control water usage. In addition to The Brandery, the Lagoon team was also accepted to a hardware accelerator, Highway1, where they developed their product, nailed down about manufacturing, and learned about distribution. Lagoon also won SXSW Eco’s Startup Showcase in the Clean Web category. You can watch Eric pitch SXSW here.

2. Jay Finch, Class of 2012

Jay came through The Brandery back in 2012. He’s moved on from his venture at the time, but his legacy lives on! He’s now the Senior Advisor of Domestic Finance for the U.S. Treasury. Jay runs the MyRA program at the Treasury Department, which offers government alternative independent retirement plans. Before his life on The Hill and at The Brandery, Jay worked at Goldman Sachs where he started two business units, each with $2.5 billion in assets under management.

3. Konrad Billetz, Frameri, Class of 2013

We met Konrad fresh out of Notre Dame’s MBA program in 2013 as he and his team were beginning to develop the first interchangable eyewear company. Now, Frameri is headquartered right down the street from our office and continues to receive accolades from major publications as they scale. Earlier this year, Konrad won Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition in Cincinnati.

4. Rujul Zaparde and Kevin Petrovic, FlightCar, Class of 2012

Earlier this year, Rujul and Kevin took the title of youngest entrepreneurs to ever raise $20 million, so we’re not surprised to see their names on the list. They interviewed at The Brandery the day after their high school graduation and never looked back. We can’t wait to see what cities FlightCar will land in next!

Also on the list were Brandery mentor Adam D’Augelli (True Ventures) and speaker Mattan Griffel (One Month), who presented to the Class of 2014 on Growth Hacking. We’re honored to have been surrounded by such great talent across the board!

Congratulations to all the 30 Under 30 winners. Keep doing work!

Guest Post: Why Brands Need To Pay Attention To Wearables

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[Editor’s Note: This post, by COO of 2014 Brandery graduate Strap, Patrick Henshaw, originally appeared on Strap’s blog on September 22, 2014.]

With over 10 million wearable devices sold in 2014 alone, should brands start paying more attention to the wearables space?

Based on a recent Forrester report, 25% of American adults plan on buying a wearable within the next year. If Forrester’s data holds true, that would be an estimated 79 million wearables sold within the next year. To put that in perspective, only 64 million smartphones were sold in 2006. This was a year shy of the first iPhone Apple produced and sold beginning June 29th, 2007. (For a cool side story take a look at Time’s interactive timeline of the iPhone.)

We all know that Apple changed the smartphone landscape from being something clunky and difficult to use into something that a 3-year-old can pick up— and find out how to watch Barney on. Will the same hold true for the wearable industry? Will Apple maintain their ability to lead thought and change in the wearable market as they have for years now in the mobile space?

Insiders report that Apple is readying supplies to sell 50 million Apple Watches in 2015. According to another report, Bank of America and Merril Lynch predict Apple will sell 20 million watches. Personally, I think Apple Watch sales are going to be closer to the 10 million unit mark. If Forrester is correct and 25% of the 300 million iPhones users on the market today were to purchase the Apple Watch, they would sell 75 million of these wearables in 2015. Now my prediction that Apple sells 10 million Apple Watches in 2015 doesn’t seem like too daunting of a task.

Inevitably, wearable technology will provide brands an unseen ability to provide content that is of value to their potential (or current) customer.

So why do brands care about this? Or should they? While there has been no clear leader or front runner as a singular wearable device, marketers and brands should still start paying attention to these devices. Inevitably, wearable technology will provide brands an unseen ability to provide content that is of value to their potential (or current) customer. The Content Marketing Association even put out an article with four key opportunities for content marketers to really show true value to their intended consumers. The short version of the article portrays these points: 1) Changing methods of reading, 2) Re-inventing push notifications, 3) Augmented reality, and 4) More content and data creation.

There are a few challenges for marketers who want to start using this new medium for content: adoption, value, and privacy. Providing value is a must in marketing today. Long gone are the days of the one-sided consumer-to-brand relationship. Brands must provide value— and provide it continually— to gain traction and maintain customers while trying to minimize churn. At the forefront, though, privacy will still remain. It is going to be key for the players in the industry to have privacy at the utmost of importance – this will also, in turn, drive adoption.

The Bottom Line

Brands need to pay attention to wearables— because their customers are. If brands and marketers truly want to understand their customers, where to reach them, and how to provide better value to the content they are providing, then wearables and wearable trends are something that need to be at the forefront of their thoughts and decisions.

Read more of Patrick and the rest of the Strap team’s thought leadership on their blog.

The Startup Food Pyramid

[Editor’s Note: In the final days of his internship, our Marketing Brandtern, Brian Back, crafted the startup food pyramid based on his observations of the startups over the past few months. We, by no means, endorse this diet. Simply put, don’t try this at home.]

As you may or may not know, the USDA did away with the traditional food pyramid a few years ago, which we had all come to know and love as our visual representation of proper dietary guidelines. It has now been replaced by a colorful icon called “My Plate” which is split into several nutritional sections and formatted on a dinner plate. Unfortunately for USDA officials, “My Plate” is not something that startups can relate to. The main reason being that those who work for startups don’t eat on plates. They are more likely to be eating out of a styrofoam container, on top of a keyboard, or hovered over a garbage can, praying that none of their prized burrito falls out of the tortilla and into a trash­-filled abyss.

To solve this disconnect between startups and dietary guidelines, a new “Startup Food Pyramid” was created. This food pyramid was based off observations of startups at The Brandery and the food which they consumed the most of and held in the highest regard. The Startup Food Pyramid is not recommended for anyone other than those who work at startups, or have a seriously flawed view on what the standard of one’s personal health should be.

Base Level

Pizza, Craft Beer, Coffee, Indian Food, Anything That Is Free

This is the lifeblood of startups. Without this food, they would wither away with nothing left but a plaid shirt, tight-­fitting jeans and some Chukka boots. The pizza doesn’t have to be great, the Indian food can be ‘okay’ (especially when the buffet happens to be unlimited), but if you dare present these startups with anything other than a hand-crafted cold one, you better strap yourself in for a judgement-filled ride of shame. With the exception of beer, the fundamental rule for startups around The Brandery is that if the food is free, you devour it, because who knows when you’ll scrape together enough money for your next meal.

Second Level­

Doritos, Gummy Bears, Flamin Hot Cheetos, Goldfish, Donuts

Have you ever been to a farm and watched the cows graze on the grass all day long? The items on the second level are the grass, and the cows are the people who work at startups. This food can not be on the first level because it does not provide enough sustenance for even scraggliest of startups to survive. Do not be mistaken, this food serves a very important purpose! The items on this level give quick bursts of energy throughout the day for those struggling to stay awake. These are also great items to have around for those who like to “stress eat.” Tensions can be high at times around The Brandery and nothing takes the edge off quite like eating an entire family­-sized box of Goldfish over the course of fifteen minutes.

Third Level­

Fruit, Vegetables

Simply put, these are not of the highest priority. It’s not that startups don’t like fruits and vegetables, they just don’t give the same bang for your buck as some of the other food in the pyramid. Maybe once and a while you’ll have an apple, possibly a salad, but to have something green with every meal is out of the question.

Top­

Anything over 7 dollars

Startups consume the food in this section sparingly. If the food they’re eating is this expensive, they better be out getting lunch with an investor. Seven dollars is too much for a meal when that same money could be used to feed a team of developers for a week.

Coolest Place To Shop This Holiday: The Cincy Startup Store

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If you’re still looking (like me) for the perfect gifts for your friends and family who have everything, look no further. We couldn’t be more excited for the very first Cincy Startup Store, coming to our neighborhood in just a couple weekends. Not only is this is a phenomenal excuse to visit Simple Space, but check out the Cincinnati startups you’ll be able to support when you shop:

  • Kapture – audio-recording wristbands
  • PlusBlue – custom-engraved, mobile battery packs
  • Frameri – glasses with interchangeable frames and lenses – 2013 graduate of The Brandery

Visit the Cincy Startup Store Facebook event for more details. Hope to see you there!

Guest Post: 8 Similarities Between Rock Bands and Startups

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[Editor’s Note: This post is part of a new blog series in which our graduates and partners share their perspectives on startups. Thanks to Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, CEO and co-founder of MusicPlay Analytics, for this post. Prior to founding MusicPlay Analytics, Eron was the drummer of the platinum-selling rock band, Hawthorne Heights. Follow Eron on Twitter.]

There are dozens of startup analogies out there. It’s human nature to relate new stuff to old stuff. While I, like everyone else, know sports, I won’t fall into that cliche. It just so happens that the “stuff” I know most is music. Prior to founding the company I now run, I was a professional musician for ten years, so it’s only natural for me to view startup “stuff” through the lens of a musician. Since everyone likes their stuff presented in list form, I now present to you, “8 Similarities Between Bands and Startups”:

1 – Team Matters

People come together to form bands because they share a collective musical vision. With startups, it’s not much different. Instead of musical passion, it’s product vision. Regardless of the reason and situation, not having the right group of people can have dire consequences early on. Before record deals and funding can happen, everyone needs to pull their weight with little immediate reward. Not having the right people prevents you from creating a good product (or song). More importantly, not having committed people will lead to everything falling apart the second disaster strikes; your van breaks down in the middle of a poorly attended tour or your app doesn’t get accepted to the app store. Everyone has to wear multiple hats early on. You might be the singer, but you’re also the booking agent. You might be the CEO, but you’re also the head of marketing and HR. It’s all about talent and work ethic. If ever those two aren’t balanced properly, the band or company will fail.

2 – Starving Artist/Starving Entrepreneur

Seriously, what’s the difference? When you’re starting off, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re writing a song or writing code – you’re not making any money (or very little). What matters is you’re chasing some sort of dream, and not eating regularly is simply a casualty of that pursuit. The best art comes out of a place of hardship. It’s only when you’re down and out that you really push yourself. Ever wonder how a band’s first album can be so good and their latest be such crap? Struggle = genius. Comfort = garbage. It’s only the truly gifted songwriters and businesses that are able to replicate this inspiration or find other inspiration with equal passion that end up having repeatable success.

3 – It’s All Legos

Writing a song or coming up with a business idea follow the same creative thought process as playing with those amazing plastic blocks as a kid. Both begin with an idea, it gets fleshed out and eventually released upon the world. Business planning can easily be substituted for jamming, hacking/iterating for recording and launching for distribution. Those are all different terms for the same process. A rose by any other name…

4 – Content Is King

A product is a product, (whether it’s a song or an app). That’s not a Dr Seuss limerick. As the creator of a song or a business, you get to dictate the terms under which your product goes to market. It’s only the ratio between desperation and buzz that leads to companies and bands getting good/bad deals (assuming the product is great). Labels and VC wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you. It’s hard to invest in nothing and make money on it. Remember that.

5 – Pour Some… Money On Me

Startups need money to grow. Musicians need money to promote themselves. There are always a few exceptions in both worlds, but “Bootstrapping" and “Doing-It-Yourself” are synonyms and can only get you so far. At some point, you need money from an investor to take things to the next level (whatever that may be).

6 – All That Glitters Is (Not) Gold

Most startups fail, most bands fail. When I started my musical journey, only 1% of all CDs released sold more than 1,000 copies (in a year). Of that 1%, only a small handful were fortunate to sell 500,000+ copies (a measure of success at that time). These are somewhat antiquated metrics for success in today’s music environment, but the percentages closely mirror the percentage of companies receiving VC. In reality, securing funding doesn’t equal success, but not having funding most often leads to failure.

7 – Investment Does NOT Equal Success

Getting a record deal doesn’t guarantee sold out arena tours in your future. Likewise, VC doesn’t guarantee you’ll be the next Über or Facebook. Funding simply opens up new opportunities. It’s up to you to walk through those doors as they open. No one is giving out piggyback rides.

And lastly…

8 – Personnel

  • CEO is the lead singer (generally). They are the visionary, the creative director, and responsible for the company’s culture or the band’s gimmick. Sometimes, they’re just the public face.
  • CTO/CPO is the lead guitarist or songwriter. Without a good product, a company is going to fail. Without good songs, a band will fail.
  • COO is the drummer. Drummers and COOs are usually the ones holding things together (okay, I’m biased). 9 times out of 10, the drummer is the “business guy” in the band. They do all the work and get none of the credit.
  • The head of logistics/supply chain is the bassist. You never notice when everything is going alright, but when the bass player drops, out everyone panics. You don’t think about the ability to ship your product to market, but if that channel is severed you’ll freak out.
  • CMO is the rhythm guitarist. They’re great to have but they’re not always necessary when you’re starting up.

If you want to check out Eron’s company, go to musicplayanalytics.com. If you want to check out Eron’s biggest hit, Ohio Is For Lovers, download here.

2014 Graduate Strap Raises $1.25 Million

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Fresh out of The Brandery Class of 2014, wearable analytics startup Strap has raised $1.25 million. Investors include CincyTech, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Mercury Fund, New Coast Ventures, and angel investors. Among the angel investments include Charlie Key and Brandon Cannaday, founders of 2012 Brandery graduate Modulus, which was acquired by Progress Software earlier this year. We couldn’t be more proud to see Brandery companies supporting each other right here in Cincinnati.

Founders of Strap, Steve Caldwell and Patrick Henshaw, have permanently relocated to Cincinnati from Mississippi to grow their team and build their business (did we mention they’re hiring?).

Read more about the deal in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Two Truths and a Lie: The Big Reveal

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A couple of weeks ago, we played a game of Two Truths and a Lie with the Class of 2014. We said the winner would win tickets to our Demo Day (two weeks from today), and that winner is Veronica Stecker! Congrats Veronica, you were able to guess at random a little better than everyone else. Veronica Stecker is a digital marketing strategist from San Francisco who recently moved to Cincinnati and, so far, she loves it here! She is very excited to attend Demo Day as she has a passion for disruptive technology and can’t wait to hear how the startups will radically impact their industries. Woohoo!
If you tried and failed, you can still see the startups pitch at our Community Pitch Event on October 23. Register here.

Here are the correct answers:

1. MusicPlay Analytics (Dayton, OH)

CEO & Co-founder Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger was the drummer of the platinum-selling rock band Hawthorne Heights for years before starting MusicPlay Analytics. He’s played some pretty sick shows in his day.

TRUE – Eron toured with Metallica.
LIE - Eron toured with Beck.
TRUE – Eron toured with Linkin Park.

Although he didn’t tour with Beck, he did play a European music festival where Beck headlined.

2. Shelfie (Boston, MA)

CTO & Co-founder of Shelfie Edward Betancourt is a former Lincoln Lab developer, marathon runner, and…

TRUE – Edward has never seen a full Star Wars movie.
TRUE – Edward cannot eat onions.
LIE - Edward has never had a piercing.

He’s not proud of it, but Edward used to have his cartilage pierced.

3. Wax Music (Formerly LuckyPennie, Los Angeles, CA)

Jonathan Lane, CEO & Co-founder of Wax Music, has over ten years experience in the music industry, working as Head of Digital Sales and Marketing at Rocket Science/Adrenaline Records.

LIE - Jonathan was bitten by a poisonous snake.
TRUE – Jonathan once had flamingo pink hair.
TRUE – Jonathan sneezes three times every time he goes into the sun.

There’s not really a story behind this one. We’re not surprised about the hair, but the sneezing is a little… odd.

4. Strap (Vicksburg, MS)

CEO & Co-founder of Strap Steve Caldwell is a full-stack developer, proud Mississippi State grad, and wanted to share that he’s touched some unusual things:

LIE - Steve has touched a 12 foot wild alligator.
TRUE – Steve has touched Jesse Jackson.
TRUE – Steve has touched Tom Brady.

We were pretty sure everyone in Mississippi has touched an alligator, but apparently not. Steve met the Reverend in an airport and Tom Brady at a golf course.

5. popad (Chicago, IL)

At The Brandery, we affectionately refer to John McClelland (CEO & Co-founder of popad) as “John McLegend.” Ex-Army Ranger, ex-Groupon, ex-McKinsey, ex-so-many-crazy-stories-you-wouldn’t-believe. We knew guessing John’s truths and lies would be a challenge.

LIE - John did two tours in Iraq.
TRUE – Helped advocate (successfully) for the passage of two federal laws.
TRUE – John is one degree of separation from Kurt Cobain, Lady Gaga, and Osama Bin Laden.

This one was tricky. John actually did three tours in Iraq (and one in Afghanistan) during his time as a Special Operations Combat Medic. Yes, he’s one degree of separation from those people, and yes, he helped advocate for some laws, including the passage of the post-9/11 G.I. Bills.

6. HireWheel (Cincinnati, OH)

A dark horse candidate in the race to be the most interesting person in the Class of 2014, Steve Sperry, CTO & Co-founder of HireWheel, surprised us with his incredibly detailed truths and lie.

LIE - Steve was featured on the dating show “Ship Mates” which was set on cruise ships sailing from Florida to the Caribbean.
TRUE – Steve saved an 11 month old girl by grabbing the ribbons of her onesie before she could tumble down a flight of stairs.
TRUE – Steve was an ordained Buddhist Monk while on sabbatical in the foothills of Thailand; going weeks at a time without speaking.

Steve was cast for “Ship Mates,” but his segments on the show never aired. In other words, he’s probably the only person in history to have been cast for a dating show and been a monk.

Bonus: Marketing intern Brian, a third-year business student at the University of Cincinnati, has been to 11 states.

How many did you guess correctly?

Resource Roundup: 11 ways to meet like-minded entrepreneurs in Cincinnati

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Wherever you are, we think you should surround yourself with people who will inspire you, push you, and advise you on building your business. In Cincinnati, there are so many ways to find people like you in the entrepreneurial scene.

Here are some of our favorite Meetups in the Cincinnati area:

1. Side Project Cincinnati
What: An initiative of Brandery graduate Roadtrippers, Side Project Cincinnati is your way to share your ideas, find collaborators, and fuel your creativity in a safe place. And beer… there is always beer. Read more about the Roadtrippers team’s side projects in Soapbox.
Next Meetup: November 11

2. Girl Develop It
What: It’s no secret tech skews male. GDI is aiming to tip back the scales by teaching women to code. Build sweet websites with awesome people. No questions are off-limits.
Next Meetup: Drinkup on October 1 for anyone interested in learning more, Intro to Web Concepts on October 8

3. User Enjoyment / UX Meetup
What: The User Enjoyment Meetup is for anyone who wants to make their users’ experience better. Our entrepreneurs love it as a place to get feedback on their products, but these UX enthusiasts discuss everything from usability testing to typography to lean development.

4. Startup Grind
What: Yeah, you got us. We’re the organizers of this one. But it’s just because we think it’s such a great initiative. There are over 125 cities in 55 countries with a Startup Grind chapter, and Cincinnati’s is growing each and every month. We bring in a prominent figure in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to talk about their highs and lows and tips for aspiring entrepreneurs as they go through “the grind.”
Next Meetup: The founders of The Launch Werks, Matt Anthony and Noel Gauthier, will talk about their experiences in the wonderful world of physical products on September 30.

5. QC Merge Drinkup
What: Discuss all things web and technology over a couple of drinks. These Meetups are a great place to network, too. We’ve had a couple of our companies find employees— and even co-founders— at these monthly gatherings.
Next Meetup: Drinkup on October 2 at Japp’s

6. Lean Startup Circle
What: This group focuses on the practices of The Lean Startup movement. If you’re an entrepreneur or wantrepreneur exploring new ways to launch, evolve, or grow your business, join the group.
Next Meetup: Traction Book: Skype interview with Justin Mares on October 9

And a few more specific ones, when you’re looking to expand your knowledge and skill set:

7. Smart Home Meetup

8. Search Engine Optimization Meetup

9. Wearable Developers Meetup

10. Node.js Meetup

11. Startup Finance & Accounting

BONUS (thanks, @joshowens!): Meteor Cincinnati Meetup

This post is part of a series in which we’re highlighting local resources for entrepreneurs. If there are any we miss or you wish existed, let us know!

Two Truths and a Lie, Brandery Style

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As we near Demo Day 2014 (only 33 more days!) and begin to reflect on the summer, we realized we’ve learned some really… weird things about the startups in the Class of 2014. While we could just list some fun facts about the founders, we thought it may be more fun for you to guess. Therefore, we give you: two truths and a lie about six of the teams in the program.

Guess the most correctly and we’ll hook you up with two tickets to see the eleven startups pitch at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater on October 15th at 8 am.

Sound like fun? Start guessing the lies.

We’ll post the results and the winner on October 1st.

Resource Roundup: How to get free legal advice for your startup

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Part of the (not fun) process of starting your own business is getting all the legal kinks hammered out: formation, patents, capitalization tables, employment, the list goes on. Your small team trying to tackle it yourselves seems risky; hiring a lawyer seems daunting. Some of the legal experts in town have an initiative to make it easier on you: free legal advice to better your business. We sat down with Lewis Goldfarb, University of Cincinnati College of Law professor and Director of the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic, to learn more about the event.

Q. We hear UC and Duke Energy want to support small businesses. What’s this event you have brewing?
A. As a result of a collaboration between the College’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic and the Duke Energy Law Department, 15 lawyers from Duke and the local legal community will staff tables in the lobby of the College, offering free legal consultations of up to 30 minutes for each area to local business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Q. What kind of businesses can attend?
A. We welcome anyone with business-related legal questions, whether you are an existing business owner or an aspiring one.

Q. If I go, who will I be meeting with?
A. After checking in at the front desk, you will be directed to an attorney with expertise in the area of law you choose. We will have attorneys with expertise in contracts, business startups, litigation, real estate, tax, labor & employment, environmental, non-profit, trademarks, copyrights, and patents.

Q. What kind of questions can I ask them?
A. Any questions regarding legal issues in any of the above legal areas. Examples:

  • How can I protect my product design/logo?
  • Do you have any advice on how to handle an employment issue?
  • Do you think I should pursue a patent on my invention and how do I do that?
  • What types of employment policies would you suggest?
  • How do I go about organizing a tax-exempt non-profit business?
  • What are my contract rights against a landlord/vendor/customer who does not meet their contractual obligations?
  • Are there things I can do to get my company ready for possible outside investment?
  • What is the appropriate legal structure for my business?
  • What types of contracts should I consider for my particular business?
  • What are my legal rights under a designated contract or contract provision?

Q. Why are you doing this?
A. We want to help local businesses and contribute to the economic revitalization of the Cincinnati area – that’s in everyone’s best interest. We realize that legal services can be costly to a small business on a tight budget, so we offer free help during this event. For legal issues requiring a longer representation, business may be eligible for the free legal services offered by UC’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic.

Q. Okay, I’m in. What are the details?
A. The event is being held on October 9th from 3:00PM-7:00PM at the UC College of Law (corner of Clifton Avenue and Calhoun Street). Individuals may pre-register by contacting Lori Strait at 513-556-0117 or lori.strait@uc.edu and choosing an available time slot and the area of law in which they desire legal advice. Pre-registration is encouraged; however, walk-in registration is available up to 6:15 PM on the day of the event. Details regarding the event can be found at
http://law.uc.edu/ecdc..

This post is part of a series in which we’re highlighting local resources for entrepreneurs. If there are any we miss or you wish existed, let us know!

Accelerator Update: Cincinnatians love Cincinnati, too.

Last week, we featured two entrepreneurs in our program from California who are more than pleasantly surprised with all Cincinnati has to offer. But what about the true Cincinnati folks? Three teams have been building their businesses in Cincinnati from the beginning. We wanted to step back and ask the the CEOs of our three Cincinnati startups about their experiences as entrepreneurs in Ohio and their journey to becoming part of The Brandery Class of 2014.


Eric Elias, CEO of Lagoon, 28, has led engineering teams in hardware and software projects at Clifton Labs. He has experience in finance and operations with General Electric and Nielsen. Eric’s entrepreneurship roots started at Washington University in St. Louis, working at the Skandalaris Center and starting a city-wide wireless company. Eric enjoys coffee drinking and bike riding in Over-the-Rhine.


Lagoon is a hardware/software solution to raise awareness and give actionable techniques around water consumption. The flow sensor is externally wrapped around the outside of the main water line and communicates to the smartphone app. The app provides information, actions and notifications regarding water use.

Steffan Howey, CEO of Peerio, 26, has spent the last six years in business development and sales at both startups and Fortune 500 companies. In a past life, he was the metal vocalist of a nationally-recognized touring band.


Peerio solves the problem of back-and-forth communication, Yelping, Googling, etc. when trying to meet up with someone. Whether you’re meeting with friends, a professional contact, a date, or with strangers, Peerio’s auto-geolocation and proximity tools help in selecting the best place for you to meet, based on the context of the meeting.

Matt Lenahan, CEO of HireWheel, 34, has a decade of professional experience having worked for NYC’s two largest real estate firms as a broker and referral director. While at his last company he referred over $250M of business in one year. He also co-founded a mortgage firm on Wall Street and in West Palm Beach. Matt was a finalist on the CBS television show SURVIVOR, where he went by the family nickname, “Sash.”


HireWheel allows any professional to make effortless referrals. HireWheel believes the review industry is fundamentally flawed and is setting out to change that.

How long have you been in Cincinnati? What brought you here?

Matt: I moved to Cincinnati at the end of 2013 after living in New York City for 7 years. My wife is originally from Cincinnati, and she was offered an opportunity at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She grew up here and went to school at Miami University, but really hadn’t been back since as an adult. Because it was such a great opportunity, we packed our bags and headed to Cincinnati.

Steffan: I moved from Toledo to Cincinnati back in 2008 after deciding to follow a failing relationship down here. All reasons aside, if you’ve ever been to Toledo you would agree that it all worked out in my favor, haha.

Eric: After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, I had a great opportunity with GE Aviation in Cincinnati. It was one of those really corporate jobs in finance. Then I went to Nielsen, where I worked in finance and operations. In 2011 I left the corporate world to work in St. Louis and Chicago for a few startups before coming back to Cincinnati to work for a startup.

What’s your Cincinnati startup story?

S: I decided to venture out into the world of entrepreneurship myself after realizing I was not a good fit in the corporate world. After all, it’s easy to ask why and criticize a company’s direction when it’s not your own. I needed to learn for myself. So I founded a company called Lomerce that allowed you to search and discover physical products in stores around you. We ended up going under due to poor inventory data, a problem our new friends at Shelfie (also a Brandery 2014 company) are trying to solve, but it taught me a ton. After that failed company, I was hooked, and I knew this was going to be my future. Now I’m here in The Brandery. Life’s funny.

M: At first I was really hesitant to move to Cincinnati because I was founding a tech company and I really doubted that any city could have the type of resources that New York does, with the exception of Silicon Valley. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, but even more so, overwhelmed, because it’s an awesome community and there is such amazing support for startup founders.

E: While I was away in St. Louis, in 2010 and 2011, you could really see the seeds of the startup scene growing, especially with the first Brandery class being in that year. I kept seeing the trajectory of startup culture that was going on in Cincinnati, so I came back to work for a startup here. I also joined my friend’s development shop, Clifton Labs, where half of our clients were startups. By 2013, three of my friends had moved back to Cincinnati, too, and we started working on side projects together. One of those turned in to Lagoon.

And why did you choose to stay?

M: There are so many resources superior to those in NYC that I’ve been able to tap into. It’s been an awesome experience so far and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

E: We chose to stay both for the support the city provides and the strong networks you can create. It’s so easy to get intros and have access to high level executives and mentors; it’s literally one phone call away. For us, being a hardware company, we are able to have a 2000 square foot workshop in Over-the-Rhine to create our technology, which is a huge advantage of this neighborhood.
We looked at other incubators, but knew we wanted to have a consumer-facing brand and we needed to have that experience to encourage people to change the way they use water. We love Cincinnati. It’s such a huge support structure.

S: Once I was here, I fell in love with the city and I’ve never looked back since.

What is your favorite part about the city?

E: I love our OTR neighborhood. It’s where literally everyone knows your name. From the restaurants to the small businesses to the people you run into, it’s great.

S: I love that you get the perks of a big city but you can still have a meeting with anyone that you want to. It’s got a big city feel with all the small town benefits.

M: I have to piggyback. The opportunity to create genuine relationships is my favorite part. The other day my wife came down to OTR for her birthday. Just walking from The Brandery to Senate, I saw four people I knew eating outside that said “hey” or gave me high fives. The community has been really great.

What has been the best part about building your business in the Midwest?

E: When we test consumer groups, it applies to a larger population. The demographics in this area are great for testing opinions. We’ve had huge support, too. Confluence has been extremely supportive, the Department of Commerce, Sally and Roy at the EPA, Marc Connor and his team at POSSIBLE, and then The Brandery mentors from Mark Achler to Hunter Thurman have been incredible. That system of support helps you ensure your startup will keep living.

M: No one has ever said no. Never. Even before The Brandery started, people were willing to take meetings and reach out. Every meeting I take, people ask, “How can I help?”

S: The Midwest is full of helpful people who genuinely want to help your business succeed. And if they can’t help you, they can find someone who can. More specifically, if you’re connected through The Brandery or a company like P&G, you are only a degree or two away from literally anyone that you might want to meet with. It continues to amaze me.

The worst?

E: For us, we are addressing a water conservation issue and the Ohio Valley has a river and has enough water. Balancing that and our target consumers is a challenge.

M: From a recruiting standpoint, it’s a challenge when speaking with people who have never been here before. Once they’re here, they get it. They see how amazing it is. It’s just getting them here for the first time. Cincinnati is such an easy sell once they get here, but getting over the initial barrier is a challenge. Plus, CVG is expensive to fly to.

S: If you want to raise money here, you only have a handful of options. It’s getting better though with heavy hitters like Drive Capital. Special shout out to our mentor Mark Kvamme!

What has been the best part of The Brandery so far?

E: The people. I love our teams so much. They have great ideas and are so supportive. We are competitive but we all work together— from marketing, to development, to helping you find an apartment. The Brandery structure is good as far as creating a level of urgency. It’s not about the money, it’s about the push forward.

M: Mentors are an incredible asset. And getting the opportunity to work with the agencies. Plus, the internet is amazing. I’ve never seen so many developers geek out so hard.

S: Seconded on everything these guys just said. I would also add that the Brandery provides a kick-ass office full of amenities. From catered meals multiple times per week, to awesome snacks and an unlimited supply of coffee, beer, and the obligatory startup staple – foosball. Oh, and the internet is literally off the charts. Thanks Cincinnati Bell!

What can fellow Cincinnatians do to help you be successful?

E: Check out our website and get on The Brandery’s beta list.

M: Follow us on Twitter and other social media for updates on what we are doing and how to get involved.

S: We need people to try out our first product, our mobile app. We need the feedback. Sign up for an early beta version of the app and give us your thoughts. Any business owner that owns a cafe or restaurant and would like to get more involved with startups, we have a lot of ideas on ways our product to drive traffic to your location. Those early conversations are important to us, so send us a note.

NOTE: You can get on The Brandery’s beta list here.

Any last thoughts?

S: The momentum in Cincinnati is incredible. The proud and competitive feeling I get when another Cincinnati startup closes a round of funding, hires people, or gets a new office is inexplainable. Frameri closes a round, hires a bunch of people and opens a new office, Roadtrippers hires their 40th employee – all of these things provide an insane amount of the “founder juice” necessary to keep the momentum going for our own company. I’m just so proud of what’s happening here in Cincinnati and would recommend anyone to spend just a few days here. You’ll quickly understand what we’ve been talking about.

E: These other great startups like Choremonster and Ahalogy, they have paved the way for us.

M: Modulus exiting was huge too. The momentum… There’s so much happening right now. We know we are on the verge of something bigger in Cincinnati and we just hope to be a part of it.

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Photos in this post courtesy of Christa Belle Martin | Black Bread Box Studio