Meet the Mentors: Joe Medved, SoftBank Capital

1. Tell us about yourself! Who are you and how are you involved with the Brandery?

I am a Partner at SoftBank Capital, a venture capital fund focused on mobile applications, social media, ecommerce, online advertising, gaming, and cloud computing. I have been a mentor at the Brandery since its inception. Dave Knox, who had been a great mentor to companies in our portfolio, encouraged me to join the program when it launched.

2. Why are you passionate about the startup community in Cincinnati?

I grew up in New Hampshire but my parents both came from Cleveland, so I have personal ties to Ohio and great fondness for Cincinnati (except when the Bengals are playing the Browns). Dave, JB, Rob and Bryan laid out a vision that would leverage Cincinnati’s industry leading consumer companies and wealth of design talent. The timing was perfect given the evolution of the web, as open source solutions and utility computing leveled the playing field a bit on the infrastructure side, enabling a new wave of innovation at the application layer. Great branding and design, which the Brandery and Cincinnati represent, are the key elements to differentiation at this layer of the stack.

3. As a specialist in investments and venture capital, what is your biggest piece of advice for applicants and aspiring entrepreneurs?

One of the most important things an entrepreneur does in his or her company’s infancy, is to hire the right people to build their team. The same diligence that is put into the recruiting and hiring process should be applied when selecting mentors and investors. Having the guidance of Mike and the team at the Brandery can help entrepreneurs identify the mentors and investment partners that are optimal for their business goals and culture.

4. If you started a company, what would it be?

Many of the greatest startups, particularly on the enterprise side, are built by people that are attempting to solve a problem they’ve experienced firsthand. Being a VC is an incredible job, but one pain point in the job is email. We network with an extraordinary number of people in order to help our portfolio companies and identify new entrepreneurs to back. I am constantly behind on email and feel bad about responding slowly. My dream company would be one that completely disrupts email with a more efficient form of communication.

5. What are your goals for the Brandery as a mentor?

My goal is to share my perspective in areas where I have significant experience and to help make connections with experts in areas where I don’t. One of the things that I learned early on as a VC, from my partners who had decades of experience operating and investing, was to understand your strengths and weaknesses as a mentor. Just because you help control a lot of investment dollars, people may assume you’re an expert on every facet of being a startup, or worse off, you may believe it yourself! Our team has investors from a variety of backgrounds, ranging from sales to product to tech to finance. We aim to leverage those talents across our portfolio, and I try to take the same approach to my mentorship role at the Brandery.

My goal as a mentor representing SoftBank Capital is also for us to find great companies to invest in, which we did recently with FlightCar. I mentored the team at the Brandery, and we are thrilled to be investors in the company. The Brandery helped the brilliant young team at FlightCar craft a powerful brand message that is clearly resonating in the market.

For more information about Joe Medved or any of our mentors, visit www.brandery.org/mentors!

Meet the Founders: Rob McDonald

The Brandery has decided to feature more of our companies, mentors and founders! Please take this opportunity to learn more about one of our co-founders, Rob McDonald!

1. Tell us about yourself! Who are you and how are you involved with the Brandery?

I’m Rob. I’m a Co-Founder of The Brandery. I’m also an attorney at a local law firm called Taft Stettinius and Hollister, LLP. Prior to attending law school, I worked in advertising for TBWA\Chiat\Day, so I have an odd mix of marketing, venture capital, and law experience. As my co-founders sometimes joke, I’m the co-founder that makes sure that no one gets in trouble and that we are doing everything by the book. In all seriousness though, all of the co-founders are pretty good about trading off responsibilities between each other based on capacity. So, my role is ever changing but includes working with the companies on a daily basis, assisting our Brandery team to manage our day-to-day operational needs, and thinking strategically about what The Brandery should be doing.

2. Why are you passionate about the startup community here in Cincinnati?

When I moved to Cincinnati in 2009 it was clear that we had a problem; smart young professionals were fleeing. I thought that if The Brandery could be successful in fostering a high-tech start-up community in Cincinnati, there would be a palpable energy that would not only stop young people from fleeing Cincinnati, but also draw top talent to Cincinnati. Dave and JB convinced me when we all first met that we had the ability to reverse the course locally. I’ve said it before but 3 years removed from when we launched The Brandery and I feel like we are the precipice of something pretty special. I think this must be how the Napa vineyards felt in the 1970’s. They thought they could take on the French and create world class wines. I feel like we can take on the coasts. We have some start-ups that are proving this.

3. What is your biggest piece of advice for applicants and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Tough question. I regret that I likely have too much advice for applicants and aspiring entrepreneurs. The one major learning for me over the last three years has been to focus on people, not ideas. In our first year, we really focused more heavily on ideas (i.e. What idea does the applicant have?). In year 2, we focused more on team (i.e. Who is on the team?). In year 3, we started to get even smarter and focused on the team and the idea (i.e. Does the team have the capacity to execute the idea?). Now, I think we have gotten relatively good at selecting teams that have the capability and grit to create a business. The term grit has been used quite a bit in education recently, but it is absolutely necessary for entrepreneurs as well. Suffice to say, my one piece of advice would be to build out an incredible team that has the skills to execute the idea.

4. If you started a company, what would it be (does not need to be a serious answer)?

I would start a business accelerator and call it The Brandery. Just kidding. Everyday I think of 100 new businesses I want to start. Last night, I really wanted to start a company to create machines to fold my laundry for me. Kidding again, but seriously, how useful would that be!

5. What are your goals for the Brandery?

Our long term goal has always been to make the Brandery a self-sustaining community. We need the Brandery to remain a powderkeg of innovation and we need it to be built to last for several decades. I think the concept of having successful Brandery graduates fueling future Brandery graduates decade over decade is a powerful vision. So far, so good.

Have additional questions for Rob? Email us at autumn@brandery.org!


Wanting to get involved in development and/or the Cincinnati startup scene? Looking for a quick way to develop new skills?

Well, you’re in luck.

The tech minds behind Brandery graduates Modulus and REPP are starting Revved – a series of classes that will teach new and seasoned developers the skills they need to move to the next level. With the support of Xavier University, Cintrifuse and The Brandery, Revved will help create top notch development talent here in Cincinnati.

Interested? The first course, Web Application Development, is scheduled for May 21 at Xavier University. Space is limited, so make sure to register ASAP: http://www.revved.co

REPP Offering Free Profiles for Brandery Community!

REPP Offering Free Profiles for Brandery Community!

Have you ever wondered if your online date really was being truthful or if that person coming over to your house from Craigslist is a convicted felon? Well a Brandery graduate can help ease your worries, and for a limited time, it’s completely free!

REPP was founded in June 2012 and is located in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is the first and only company to allow users to create verified online profiles that are easily embedded and shareable, using a patent pending process.

Using your full name, date of birth and address, REPP develops personalized quizzes only you would know, searches national records to retrieve your criminal record, allows you to confirm and add your social media sites to your profile, and soon, will verify your profile photo. Once your profile is set, share it with others and ask to see their REPP.

REPP recently launched a beta version of their platform and is offering free
profiles to the Brandery community!

For more information, please visit www.myrepp.com or email info@myrepp.com

Company Update: Pingage


As much as we enjoy interacting with our companies during the summer sessions, we especially love watching them succeed post-launch. One of our 2012 graduates, Pingage, has experienced tremendous success since Demo Day and is this week’s featured company!

Here is a blog post written by Pingage President and Co-Founder, Bob Gilbreath:

Celebrating our Launch with Stories and Client Success

We recently announced the official marketing launch of Pingage, our new Pinterest marketing optimization platform. After months of quietly toiling away, we are finally proclaiming to the world that we exist. For some companies this would be a cause for a major celebration and spawn a lavish party. Not at our office. We cracked a few Wohlschlaeger home-brewed Belgians, of course, but what we really celebrate is driving amazing results for our clients. Now we get to start celebrating those results more publicly—and attract companies that are ready for a completely new model of social media marketing.

Michael went back to the basics of how people use Pinterest. He started with great content, adapted it specifically for Pinterest, developed algorithms to time when pins are placed, tweaked landing pages to drive conversion, and created new analytics software that he used to gauge results from daily experiments and make improvements for the next day of pinning.

I joined Michael as co-founder, and we prepared to approach large brand marketers with our new product. We wanted to disrupt the current marketplace and unlock the vast potential of social media marketing by bringing two new benefits: First, we chose to develop a system that reduced the work of brand marketers. Second, we decided to only charge for results—just like a media buy. This combination leads to a powerful win-win loop: The more work we do for clients, the better the results, and the better the results, the more we grow together. Pingage is great service, powered by software, and paid as media. No one in the marketing space offers this combination.

In the past six months we have been quietly working with a handful of companies—ranging from e-commerce startups to billion-dollar CPG brands. Several brands and agencies have reached out to learn more. They are waking up to the possibilities of Pinterest, yet searching for a new model.

We find it incredibly exciting to sell something that solves this challenge, and scale up the technology that Michael developed in his basement to bring great content to millions of consumers’ lives each day. It’s also a blast to be able to add awesome members to our team and brilliant investors to our roster as we prove success.

On we go!

Bob Gilbreath, Pingage

We are extremely proud of the company’s success and look forward to its continued growth.

For more information on Pingage, please visit their website.