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Weekly Wrapup- Week 12

It’s hard to believe we just finished up our 12th week! As we get closer to Demo Day our cohort’s main focus is perfecting their pitches!

Tuesday we did our CEO stand Up catered by Adriatico’s pizza, then did pitch practice! Tuesday Night we had a meetup with Startup Cincy’s very own, Everything But The House (EBTH) a Cincinnati-based online estate auction! In the last five years – since EBTH brought on additional owners and executives in Andy and Jon Nielsen and Mike Reynolds and decided to expand – the company went on to raise more than $84.5 million in venture capital and is on track to break $100 million in revenue this year. Aaron and Nathan brought their friends Eric and Christine from Embrace.io for drinks and chatter at Union Hall. Embrace.io is a great partner of EBTH and we were happy to introduce them to all of our friends in the Cincy community. For a little background, they provide a full toolset for mobile monitoring performance optimization. In fact, they let you look up any user and see all the technical details for any session so you can understand the experience that the user had (slow, freeze, crash, missed bid, no image shown…) and what have contributed it (network call, memory, CPU, code issue, 3rd party code, etc.)

Wednesday: We did more pitch practice! (Everyday is Pitch Practice here at the Brandery!)

Thursday: Obe started filming for their commercial at Branderyhaus! We had so much fun and the puppies were adorable! If you would like to learn more about Obe check out this link: https://obedog.com/
We also released Demo Day tickets to the General Public. If you would like to join us, hundreds of investors, mentors and Brandery supporters from around the country on October 10, 2017 for the showcase of our most exciting class yet please RSVP here: re.tc/demoday You’ll learn about the seven startups currently in The Brandery’s nationally-ranked accelerator program and have the opportunity to network with the founders before the pitches. YOU MUST BE REGISTERED TO ATTEND This year’s Demo Day will be held at Memorial Hall in Over-the-Rhine!

Friday: We joined with Cintrifuse to throw a Happy Hour party on Union Hall’s rooftop to celebrate the companies currently in StartupCincy! This was to give everyone a chance to connect and network with one another. StartupCincy is bursting with accelerator activity right now! We have some classes like ourselves, Hillman, and the new Music Accelerator winding down and preparing for demo day while others like Founder Institute and UpTech are just kicking off!

From Corporate to Startups: My First Year at The Brandery

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When I left Toyota in 2015, I wasn’t entirely sure about what my next step would be- I just knew that no matter where I landed, I wanted to make an impact. After my first year as Program Manager of a nationally-recognized accelerator, I can honestly say I feel like I’ve accomplished just that. The Brandery consists of just 3 full-time employees, which means there’s always a lot to do, and plenty of ways to make a difference. I learned a lot last year, especially from the standpoint of being new to the tech startup scene. I present to you 10 key learnings that are hopefully not so generic to the point of boredom, yet general enough that you can apply these points to your day-to-day, regardless of what you do for a living.

  1. The Importance of Initiative. There’s a difference between being a go-getter and being a go-fer. If you’re waiting for someone to give you something to do, you’re not passionate about what you’re doing. Take the lead on projects. Actually see things through to completion. Don’t join the all-too swelled ranks of the all talk, no action army.
  2. Learn from as many people as possible. People always ask me: “If the accelerator only runs for sixteen weeks, what are you doing the rest of the time?” Fair question, and one I would have asked a year ago. I’ll tell you what I spent the vast majority of my first two months doing: meeting people. Not just any people, mind you- I spent mornings, afternoons, and evenings chatting with Brandery staff, alumni, mentors, investors, community partners, and anyone else even remotely associated with StartupCincy in an effort to learn as much as possible about what the accelerator has gotten right, but more importantly, what it could do better. And with every person I talked to, that was one more connection, one more dot that I could call on during the program to help our newest class.
  3. Learn just enough to be dangerous, not an expert. Listen, I’m no startup wizard, nor do I claim to be. I’m a former automotive engineer with an MBA who just happens to enjoy program management (sick, I know). When I first started at the Brandery, I was “assigned” a stack of books to read to immerse myself in the startup scene. Zero to One, Startup Communities, Venture Deals, The Lean Startup- I made sure to read them, but I definitely could have done with the Cliff’s Notes. Here’s what I recommend doing instead: get Flipboard and start following the heavy hitters like Inc., Entrepreneur, Fast Company, First Round Review, VentureBeat, and TechCrunch. Save the articles that mean the most to you, or ones you think your cohort or colleagues may find interesting. Hell, show some initiative (see 1.) and Slack it over to them immediately. These articles will serve as great jumping off points for conversation and insightful feedback when you have 1:1 time with your startups.
  4. Organization is imperative. I can’t emphasize this one enough, folks. When you’re not in program, you’ll think you’ve got everything under control with your 25–30 emails per day. Inbox Zero? Fat chance once you hit Day 1. From there on out, you’ll be responsible for ensuring each of your companies are getting what they need to succeed daily, and as Program Manager, you’re the first point of contact most of the time. There are several ways of accomplishing this: Slack is a great tool, as is Trello, whose bandwagon I have yet to hop on. Nope, this PM uses the tried and true notebook and three-ring binder to stay on top of things. I (try to) make a checklist each morning consisting of the top ten things I need to get done (prioritized by deadline, ease of completion, and whether I like whoever I’m doing it for- kidding).
  5. Communication, Communication, Communication. With an ever-bountiful inbox comes the potential to forget to respond to people on a timely basis. This is something I struggled with early on, and have only now been able to barely get control of. Block out time during your day to respond to emails- whether it’s a detailed response or a short “I’ll get back to you on this tomorrow”, the punctual reply will show respect for the other person.
  6. There is no task beneath you. Odds are you won’t have the luxury of a large staff that can cater to your every whim (and if you do, congratulations- don’t blow it). This means that you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty more often than you would have thought. I worked with our Office Manager a number of times to help set up events, our Demo Day, and even our lunches. Don’t think that just because you’re the Program Manager, you’re exempt from this stuff. Subscribe to the “all boats rise” mentality and be a team player.
  7. Realize that your startups’ wins are your wins. Never have I ever taken credit for someone else’s work; I refuse to do that and will always acknowledge and recognize an individual or group’s work. However, as a Program Manager, you’re tasked with providing your cohort with a quality curriculum, meaningful connections, and resources that will help them succeed. You’ll know you’ve done a good job when you get a “thank you” or when your founders tell you that they’ve reached a new milestone because of something you were able to provide or be a part of. Don’t be ashamed of feeling good about these moments. Finding individual wins as a PM may be difficult, but the ability to connect your startups’ successes to something you had a hand in makes the job all the more worthwhile.
  8. Still maintain some semblance of a life outside of work. I’ll admit, this one was tough at times. As a Program Manager, you may feel that the success of your startups rests solely on your shoulders, and because of that, you need to be there for them 24/7. This isn’t the case. Sure, there will be days (and nights) where you’ll scramble to provide a time-sensitive response or connection, but for the most part, you have to remember that your startups are adults (for the most part) and are ultimately responsible for their own success. In my case, 2016 was a challenging first year- not only did I pivot from corporate to startups, but I also got married a few weeks after our Demo Day. You can imagine the work it takes to not only manage a cohort but plan a wedding at the same time. For me, I made the decision to put my personal life ahead of work when I could. This meant not being able to support as many social/community events as I may have wanted to or felt obligated to, but at the end of the day, my personal relationships are far more important than my professional relationships.
  9. Do your research. If you’re an old pro when it comes to your industry, this may not be as relevant. However, for me, leaving the automotive world and joining the tech startup scene left me with no understanding of the industry. Luckily, my GM didn’t hesitate throwing me into the fire- I met with VCs, sponsors, agencies, and startups almost immediately, not knowing what the hell they were talking about. ARR? Cap tables? Investment thesis? I was overwhelmed almost every day, early on. Reading the books in #3 helped, but so did simple research ahead of my meetings. LinkedIn is a great resource, as are the websites for whoever you’re meeting with or talking about. Please, please don’t “fake it til you make it.” BS is easy to sniff out, especially when you’re speaking with seasoned veterans of the startup community.
  10. Be an advocate for your community. This may not be as important for established ecosystems like the Bay Area or New York City, but for startup communities in the midwest, you have to work twice as hard to ensure your environment is in the same conversation/train of thought for founders, investors, media, and sponsors. This isn’t always easy, and it certainly take a village, but you can do plenty as an individual. Write a blog. Tweet. Share stories. Reach out to universities, high schools, middle schools, and summer camps, and build a presence at those levels. Share with your audience the wins and good news, but also share the bad news- people can learn from both. Don’t always paint a rosy picture, but do maintain a relentless optimism about where your community is headed. Meet challenges head on, and commit to bettering an aspect of your community. Work with other dedicated individuals to do this. It will be hard at first, but when you get that first win under your belt, you’ll be further motivated to do more.

With our 2017 program beginning in mid-June (applications open now, by the way), I’ll be reflecting on these ten points daily. Last year, I struggled with finding a balance between the creative, open-ended nature of startups and my structured, Japanese-influenced drive for efficiency and performance. My goal this year is to find that balance and give our founders what they need to thrive, during our program and beyond. If you have any advice to impart, don’t hesitate to reach me!

A Future Built On Our Past

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Around this time seven years ago, the idea of The Brandery was just starting to come to life. We didn’t have a building to call home. We didn’t have any funding. We didn’t have any employees. But we had our pitch deck and we were just crazy enough to think we could make this thing happen.

In other words, we were just like the startups that we one day hoped to help.

Seven years later, 66 startups have graduated from The Brandery, raised over $130 million in funding, and we have been consistently ranked as one of the top programs in the country. And in that time, the landscape of entrepreneurship and accelerator programs has changed. And it is time for us to change with it.

Many people do not realize it, but the underlying legal structure of The Brandery is based upon a 501©3, the mission of which is to support entrepreneurship in Cincinnati and the Midwest. Since day one, everyone involved in The Brandery has been involved because of that mission. The equity that we receive from startups in exchange for their participation in The Brandery does not go to investors. Instead, it sits in an endowment that we hope to use in the support of entrepreneurs.

I write that because in 2010, the city that The Brandery calls home was a very different place for entrepreneurs. There was no #StartupCincy as a rallying cry for the region. Aspiring founders didn’t have role models like EBTH, Dotloop, Assurex, or Modulus to show them the way. Cintrifuse did not exist and Union Hall was not the home of our hustle. As such, we viewed The Brandery as the opportunity to be an injection of talent into our ecosystem. It could be a reason for local entrepreneurs like Chris Bergman of FamilyTech to jump into the tech startup world. It could be a reason for entrepreneurs like Jim Fisher of Roadtrippers to move to Cincinnati sight unseen. We wanted it to be a reason to believe that Cincinnati and the Midwest could be a destination for startups – and the Venture Capitalists that invest in them.

We are a long way from ringing the bell and declaring success in that mission. But we have made amazing strides. As we move into 2017, The Brandery is refining the focus of the accelerator program in order to do our part in better helping entrepreneurs. As our announcement stated in early March, we are focusing the 2017 class (and beyond) on digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) and the retail/marketing tech companies that give these brands a new way to reach consumers.

In many ways, our future is about us doubling down on our past. We are called The Brandery because we believed (and still do) that the skills of building a brand could be as valuable for tech startups as they could be for large consumer packaged goods. We also believed that we could uniquely involve mentors from the halls of large CPG companies who were leading their organization’s efforts in embracing digital marketing and marketing tech. Those two premises still hold true today and even more so as we sharpen our focus.

The other reason that I am excited about this sharpened focus is the impact it will have on the founders as they go through the program and become alumni. Every year, I am asked the question of what helps a company achieve success in The Brandery. And every year, my answer is the same: the companies that help others the most are the ones that succeed the most themselves. This continues after Demo Day where the founders who give the most back to the Brandery community are the ones who continue to shine. With this new focus, every startup in the class will be complementary in same way. They might be able to partner together with a consumer brand serving as a customer to a marketing tech startup. Or they will be able to share best practices on B2B customer acquisition or user retention for digitally native vertical brands.

We have come a long way in seven years, but I look forward to seeing how much further we go thanks to the startups that join The Brandery family in the years to come.

Dave Knox is the co-founder of The Brandery, Managing Director of WPP Ventures, and author of the newly released book Predicting The Turn: The High Stakes Game of Business Between Startups and Blue Chips .

Mistakes Were Made

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$130,000,000+ raised by our companies.
Over 400 jobs created.
A Top-10 accelerator in the US.

There are a lot of great stats that I often use when talking about The Brandery. However, if you’ve ever heard one of my talks before, you know that the most important statistic to me is this one:

100% of our participant companies said the program was worth it.

No doubt this remains true today. That said, I’ll be the first to admit we are hanging on to that 100% by the skin of our teeth.

The Brandery team has done a lot of thinking on how to get better in 2017. Our conclusions are that we have slipped in two main areas: type of company selected to be in the program and the stage that company was at when chosen.

When The Brandery was started in 2010, the goal was to bring great talent to Cincinnati. That’s why, in every class, most of the teams come from outside the city. The initial thesis was to choose consumer-facing, high growth companies but we quickly created a lot of wiggle room there to accommodate talented founders over any other factor. I don’t necessarily think that was a bad decision, but we certainly lost focus on other variables. A talented round peg can succeed in spite of the square hole, but it’s not exactly ideally sustainable.

After many years of great results, and a particularly great 2015, we got over-zealous in thinking we could move the needle for anyone we brought in. While we always added some value to everyone who came through the program, the truth is we can help some companies tremendously and others in only limited ways. This is a function of the talents of our staff, mentorship pool, and the intrinsic nature of our close network of partners and sponsors. See here for more about the types of companies we are going after in 2017. Pretty much everyone in our network is well-positioned to add tons of value to these kind of startups.

We also overestimated our ability to take early teams and will them over the line to funding (as we have in years past). Historically, we average close to $2MM in funding per company, but out of the gate in 2016, our alumni did not find great success fundraising. Some of this is the function of the environment, but a lot is on us as well. The current state of venture funding requires significant traction to raise a proper seed round. What was needed to raise an A Round in 2012 you now need for the seed. This means we need to find talented teams that have already hit that product-market fit, raised a bit of money, and are looking to get to that next level. It’s almost impossible to get a small team with just a barebones MVP there in the span of a 16-week accelerator program.

If there was another miss it was simply around expectation setting. Past performance is no guarantee of future results but we didn’t do a great job of correcting the expectation that, as with past Brandery classes, a good majority of our companies would be able to raise a round of funding soon after Demo Day. We need to do better in preparing our companies for the reality of what comes after they leave us.

Running a startup is all about building, testing, refining – and repeating. I look at The Brandery in the same way. We can’t get better unless we’re honest with ourselves about where we fell short. Will our sharpened focus work? I think it will, but the only way to find out for sure is to dive in. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2017 – and learning even more.

We’ve seen a lot of accelerators shut down in 2016/17. It is a tough model if you have lulls/gaps. That said, we’re going to continue to be a strong pillar of the StartupCincy ecosystem for many years to come. Our drive to learn, evolve, and grow is the reason why. I welcome anyone and everyone to help us continue to get better!

O.F.C. Vintage Bourbon Tasting Recap

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Back in November of 2016, we found out that The Brandery was chosen as one of 200 nonprofits to receive a bottle of O.F.C. Vintage Bourbon Whiskey being given away by Buffalo Trace. The bottles were donated to nonprofits with the expectation that they would be raffled, auctioned, or otherwise by each organization for fundraising purposes.

Another Cincinnati-area nonprofit, Starfire Council, also received a bottle – so we teamed up to collaborate on an exclusive tasting event in an effort to give donors, sponsors and friends of our organizations a once in a lifetime experience. One of our O.F.C. bottles was featured in the tasting, and the other was the grand prize in a raffle at the event.

We were lucky enough to work with Hotel Covington, who generously donated space for us to host our event and helped us put together an incredible meal to go along with it. Another local company, Cork’n’Bottle, became an amazing partner for this event! They donated several bottles of bourbon towards our tasting and raffle, helped us sell tickets and led us through the tasting.

On February 7th, our group gathered at Hotel Covington for this special event and had an amazing time. Along with dinner and the bourbon tasting, we also sold raffle tickets for several bottles of great bourbon – the grand prize O.F.C. Bourbon went to Sean McCosh, Partner at Differential and Brandery Mentor! We are thrilled that we were able to raise support for The Brandery and Starfire while sharing this rare opportunity with some of our biggest champions! We’re proud to announce that we were able to raise over $5,000 each for both The Brandery and Starfire thanks to our O.F.C. Vintage Bourbon Whiskey bottles!

Thanks again to our friends at Buffalo Trace, Hotel Covington, and Cork’n’Bottle!

Introducing The Brandery's 2016 Startups

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Today marks the beginning of Week 6 of The Brandery’s 2016 accelerator program. Our founders have relocated to Cincinnati, settled in to their new office space at Union Hall, and are working their way towards Demo Day!

We’ve previously given you some information on the founders accepted into the 2016 class, but have kept the company names a bit under wraps. Why? Well, one of the hallmark characteristics of The Brandery’s curriculum is the 1:1 match-up with a world class marketing agency provided to our startups. In these initial sessions with their agency partners, the companies often refine their mission and possibly even change their names and/or logo. Now that that’s all out of the way, we’re excited to share our 2016 startups:

Upshift (formerly Pinch) is an on-demand labor marketplace where businesses can find workers and workers can find jobs on a short-term basis. Our mission is to make labor as reliable as electricity.
Fadstir is a pragmatic, stylist app for the style challenged, young professional. It is a platform for direct style advice on how to match the clothes you own and shop the clothes you need. Fadstir crowdsources all of its style advice from a community of fashion enthusiasts through an algorithmic, recommendation engine so all answers are reliable and credible.
Zid Zid (formerly Petit Zarafa) empowers kids to play, learn, and grow together with their parents. The company combines the best in early childhood education with the best in technology by providing an innovative online platform centered on language development through creative play.
StreamSavvy makes it easy to stream the best TV. In the complex and constantly changing world of streaming television, StreamSavvy helps people find and access their favorite content through a single, engaging platform.
Hatchli is a crowdsourced feedback platform poised to disrupt the traditional innovative process for both individuals and organizations. By bringing together innovators, makers, and trend-seekers, Hatchli provides the early feedback and exposure needed for great ideas to take flight.
Scent Trunk is perfecting the experience of discovering a fragrance you love. Our technology can figure out what you like to smell so we can send you the best fragrances each month. By collecting data on our scent preferences we are figuring out what the world likes to smell, and we will use this to change how all scent products are made.
ShopperBridge helps CPG companies leverage mobile advertising to get advertising and shopper marketing messages onto the cell phone of shoppers while they are in store at the closest moments to product selection.
Goodwipes complements the modern consumer’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle, keeping you fresh, clean and confident wherever, whenever. With our high-style, convenient and eco-friendly take on wet-wipes, you can now live life clean.
Datazar is a research collaboration platform engineered to consolidate and accelerate your research. By streamlining the research process we enable you to explore and understand the data in the fastest most effective way.
Atumsoft is a turnkey IoT device that lets any scientist access any instrument anytime from anywhere in wireless range. The hands-on days of babysitting an experiment are long gone. Atumsoft gives you complete control, untethers access to data, and frees scientists completely to focus on science.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at each one here on our blog so make sure to keep checking back. We’re looking forward to sharing their journey towards Demo Day with all of you!

NewCo's Back in Town

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Cincinnati, it’s that time of the year again, “getting out to get in”. Since late 2012, NewCo has held festivals in several cities, from Palo Alto to London and everywhere in between. These festivals have attracted tens of thousands of people in the past and continues to grow in locations and attendees. Before diving into the Brandery’s sessions for NewCo Cincinnati, maybe it’s a good time to give some background on what is a NewCo?

NewCos are an innovative breed of companies who uniquely measure success by more than just profit. These companies are pioneers in technology and ideas, building communities and becoming the driving force to bring about societal change. If it was possible to highlight the top three aspects of a NewCo it would be this: they are on a mission to create positive change, they are driven by an idea and they are comprised of hardworking and passionate individuals. Albeit every company has a mission statement delivered at some point during orientation, NewCos are the mission of change. This one-day festival exemplifies these ideals as companies open their doors to let everyone in and learn about them and their mission.

On Thursday, July 21st, the Brandery will also be “opening” its already open doors to the public. We will be hosting two sessions, All About the Brandery and How We F—-ed Up 2.0. The first session, led by Tony Alexander and Rob McDonald will take place at 1:15pm. As the title suggests, Tony and Rob will be providing those who attend an overview of the Brandery, with beer of course. The second session, How We F—-ed Up 2.0, is sure to be lively as Brandery graduates from 2015 will be leading the panel. From 2:45pm to 3:30pm, this session will provide visitors with tours of the office space and time for Q&A. Both events have limited seating and since we know you’re dying to attend, the links have been copied below. Hurry and register!

All About the Brandery

How We F—-ed Up 2.0

Alumni Series: Why Choose The Brandery?

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If you’re in the process of applying to The Brandery’s 2016 accelerator program, you might be doing a lot of research to try and figure out whether The Brandery is the right fit for your company, or even trying to decide between more than one accelerator. We get it – there’s a lot to consider!

During this time, we’ve asked a few of our alumni to chime in with their perspective about why they picked The Brandery, how it helped them, and ultimately why they decided to grow in Cincinnati.

Meet ChoreMonster (class of 2011):

ChoreMonster makes chores fun by engaging and rewarding your kids!
Kids earn points by completing chores to use towards rewards like an hour of video games or a camping trip. Parents get an easy-to-use tool that takes the tension out of household chores. Kids also earn tickets to the Monster Carnival for each chore completed, where they can win and collect our monsters. With ChoreMonster, your kids will beg to do their chores!

Why did you choose The Brandery over another accelerator? Why did you feel The Brandery was right for you?

We chose the Brandery due to their incredible network of mentors and advisors. The Brandery taught us how to navigate the waters of venture capital as well as how to work with marketing agencies on a regular basis. It gave us the opportunity to explore and validate our concept amidst valued feedback, which led to better iterations toward launch.

In what way do you think going through The Brandery’s accelerator program helped your company the most?

I think The Brandery continues to help our company on a regular basis. It enabled us to grow a network of investors and mentors that we still rely on regularly for advice and feedback.

Why did you choose to grow your company in Cincinnati?

The people! Cincinnati has the best people in the world. This city is filled with authentic, kind human beings that are very willing to help however they can. It has become a vibrant startup ecosystem anchored by the efforts of the Brandery.

2016 Applications open on February 1!

It’s that time of year!

We’re here on the blog this morning to officially announce that applications for The Brandery’s 2016 accelerator program will open on Monday, February 1st.

This might be a time when you are trying to figure out if The Brandery’s program is right for you, and what sets us apart from other accelerators. Check out this nifty infographic that we created to give you an overview of The Brandery program and our 2015 highlights!

Over the next few months, we’ll be posting a lot of content here to help you get a sense of what life at The Brandery is like. We’ll highlight our office space, Branderyhaus startup housing, our cool partners, what we look for in outstanding applications and so much more. And don’t forget to connect with us! We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you have questions about the program or the application process, you can find contact information for our staff and founders on our website or you can email info@brandery.org.

Meet The Brandery's New Office Manager!

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After a year of significant milestones in 2015, The Brandery is continuing its expansion by growing its full-time staff. The departure of former Marketing & Operations Coordinator, Emily Cooper, left a large void to fill. The Brandery staff structure was re-organized to add two new full-time positions. At the beginning of January 2016, The Brandery welcomed Justin Rumao, Program Manager, and Heather Kitchen, Office Manager.

We wanted to take this opportunity to introduce our new employees to you, The Brandery Blog readers, so below are a few words from our new Office Manager, Heather.

After years of working in the arts, I expected to feel like a fish out of water as I ease into my new role at The Brandery. I no longer start my day walking into massive cultural icons like Union Terminal or Music Hall. Instead, an old-made-new-again facade in the middle of Vine Street, with lots of new, shiny desks and toys but still surrounded by history. There are no barefoot ballet dancers running down the hall for a drink of water during rehearsal, stopping by my desk to approve a photo or ask a question about tickets – they’ve been replaced by bright-eyed entrepreneurs in a brightly lit coworking space, showing off their latest idea or brainstorming over coffee. It takes me by surprise; the day-to-day characters and minutia are different, but the creativity and passion for innovation that fuel the work are the same.

The arts are old, storied and rooted in the fiber of our city’s rich history. Startups are new, rapidly expanding and changing the landscape for the future. The differences are apparent, but the feeling is the same. I am a part of something larger than myself – a community that provides inestimable value to the spirit of Cincinnati.

My newly created position of Office Manager has a super vague job description for now, as most new positions do, so I’m really looking forward to putting my own stamp on it based on my skills and interests. Some things I’ll be getting into right off the bat, though, will include taking charge of The Brandery social media (and posting here!), and managing The Branderyhaus startup housing. I am excited to get to know everybody in The Brandery family, and to do what I can to assist so many new and exciting ventures.

Brandery Love Stories

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One of the hidden wonders of The Brandery community is how the people connect in ways that would otherwise never happen. Over the past six classes, we have created some pretty fantastic unions of founders, employees, and more. Here are a few of our favorites:

Former Brandery interns (“Brandterns”) form a tech startup together

Brian Back (Brandtern batch Fall ’14) and Aman Tsegai (Brandtern batch Summer ’15), both University of Cincinnati students, have used their hands-on startup experience to form a crazy solid founding team for their startup, Datazar. Datazar is essentially the Wikipedia for experimental data— no more repeating something someone already did, and aggregating more data is super easy. Brian is a marketing student and Aman is a physics student and self-taught developer. We are thrilled to see Datazar grow!

LookIt and ShoutOut merge to become Cintric, then scoop up a fellow cohort-mate

When they arrived to The Brandery in 2014, Connor and Rhett were working on a product sentiment app. Erwan and Joel came in with a location-based chat app. After working on proving out the concepts, they realized they were both facing the same problem: location data drains battery. Thus, Cintric was born in the middle of the accelerator program. The companies merged to create a cutting edge intelligence-engine that accurately tracks 450,000 people around the world. In early 2015, they picked up Ian Donahue, former CPO of Venn (also Class of 2014) to lead their design efforts.

Brandery company stacks the leadership team with friends of The Brandery

Drew McKenzie had been an active member for years. When he decided to leave Luxottica to run product strategy at Ahalogy (Class of 2011), we couldn’t be happier. Drew remains an incredibly active and valuable mentor in our network. Then, in 2015, Ryan Watson, co-founder of Sqrl, joined Ahalogy as their CFO.

Brandery grads invest in another Brandery grad

When Brandon Cannaday and Charlie Key sold their company, Modulus (Class of 2012), to Progress software in 2014, they put the proceeds to good use. After the class of 2014, the co-founders invested into Strap, a human data analytics company. Now, the two have announced they are moving on to their next venture, Structure. Guess who’s on the development team? Brandery grad Adam Daniel, former CTO of REPP (Class of 2012). We want to shout this story from the rooftops.

Hodgepodge of Brandery people get together to create Fin-Tech startup

What do you get when you mix a founder of Wax Music (2014), a founder of Tapfit (2013), and a Brandery intern? Sprinkle in a successful YC alum as CEO and you’ve got Dave, the personal finance app that is a collaboration between John Wolanin, Zack Martinsek, and Marcelle Bonterre. The guys are eliminating overdraft fees. Dave is launching soon. And as a bonus, Zack and Marcelle previously worked together at Strap (Class of 2014) and John freelanced for Frameri (Class of 2013).

Two founders of Wax Music merge with Lifecycle

After the Class of 2014, Wax Music and Venn had both pivoted into Chirp and Lifecycle, respectively. After quickly finding that they shared a similar mission for the future of customer engagement, they decided to join forces to form a super company as Lifecycle. They’ve been on an incredible trajectory every since, finally fleshing out all of the pieces of the puzzle, and gaining thousands of customers in just 3 short months together.

Jersey Watch hires former Urban Trials CTO

When the Urban Trials (Class of 2015) refocused during the program to place less emphasis on the technology in the short-term, fellow cohort mate Jersey Watch was waiting in the wings to hire talented developer Nick Rattermann. We’re thrilled to keep Nick in our network!

Cohort mates end up being co-workers at fast-growing Tesla competitor

Andy Fortson, co-founder of Co-Ed Supply, and Ricky Phung, co-founder of ShopStoree (both Class of 2013), had both moved on to the next thing and back to Los Angeles. In 2015, they became co-workers yet again at Faraday Future, the mysterious and fast-growing car company. Bonus: they are both now engaged to their original co-founders, Marissa and Sharon, respectively! Congrats!

Our own staff came from close by, too

Our core staff for the Class of 2015 was made up of three people: Tony Alexander, who served on The Brandery’s board for years and was a mentor since the beginning, Emily Cooper (me), who began as a Brandery intern in 2013, and Craig Baldwin, who was a 2013 graduate of the program with Sqrl. We just couldn’t get enough!

We love the intermingling of our alumni. It’s validation for us that we are truly bringing in the 30 smartest people we can find in each cohort. We bet on the founder, and the others in the class recognize it. Pretty cool.
Did we miss any Brandery love stories? Tweet us (@brandery)!

HackOTR is Coming

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It’s that time of year again. The air smells fresh, the sound of Reds’ home runs can be heard from Great American Ball Park, and the sight of a bunch of brainiacs heading into 1411 Vine Street to compete in an all-out mental brawl fills the streets. Yes, it’s that time of year again: time for the one and only HackOTR to make its way back to The Brandery. We’re bringing back the basics of the event—awesome sponsors, shiny prizes, experienced mentors—while offering new hacks and hosting a brilliant group of hackers ready to work and binge-drink Redbull for twenty-four straight hours (just kidding about that Redbull part… we also have Mountain Dew and coffee).

For the tech-savvy, one new hack offers a hardware-based objective to those who believe they can handle the challenge. Not familiar with coding or working much with programming? No problem, we’ve got another type of challenge tailored for the business-oriented minds. Our marketing and design challenge will allow product marketers and designers to get just as involved as everyone else without even having to write one line of code.

Last time’s hackers were able to walk out of The Brandery office with more than just a smile on their face. Strap from The Brandery’s Class of 2014 led a side-hack last year and awarded one winning team with Pebble smartwatches for their ingenuity. Other hackers from last year won Frameri sunglasses, Dell computers, and even three months of office space in Cintrifuse (check out the full article on everyone’s success). This time around, similar prizes will be offered by both sponsors and teams from The Class of 2015; and although goodies like these might be enough to entice some to take part in the event, the real reward comes from providing and receiving valuable input from a rare hacking holiday that only comes around once in a blue moon.

Hackers who survive the twenty-four hour gauntlet of grinding may continue their work with The Brandery or one of the companies from the Class of ’15. Aman Tsegai—coding expert and now Technology Intern for The Brandery—participated in the last hackathon and created some work that was so impressive The Brandery just had to have him. The start-ups from the Class of 2015 are always looking for new faces to join their team (internships, part-time, or full-time), which is one of the best prizes the event can offer.



If you’re interested in attending or even participating in the event, here’s some quick info to get you started:

What: HackOTR offers the opportunity of creating small projects that can make a big difference within a friendly yet competitive atmosphere that fosters intellectual growth. Teams from The Brandery’s Class of 2015 Brandery itself, and others will be challenging hackers to complete core hacks and side hacks, or objective-based competitions where hackers will create what they can imagine in the time they are given. These objectives can range from being marketing/design based or purely technological, but it’s up to the hackers themselves to decide exactly what type of project they want to work on and what they wish to create.

Who: Anyone. Well, almost anyone. We’re looking for people who are genuinely interested in grinding out work for a full twenty-four hour day but having a blast while doing so. You don’t need to be a programmer, start-up aficionado, or even a graduate from college. All you need is some enthusiasm, creativity for making something great, and a focused mind (a few cups of coffee might help too). Tickets are sold and divided into three categories: Product Marketer, Visual/UX Designer, and Developer. Whether you’re someone looking for a team to join or bringing a full squad of your own, we’ll welcome your interest and input.

When: The event check-in officially begins Friday, August 7th at 4:00 PM and continues onward until Saturday, August 8th at 5:00 PM.

Where: HackOTR takes place in The Brandery office on 1411 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Why: Well, why not? We’ve had immense success in the past and truly believe this kind of opportunity offers an experience that local Cincinnatians have come to love and learn from.

We hope to see you hacking soon! If you’re interested in getting even more information about HackOTR, check out its website and FAQ’s here or email Jess for any questions not already answered on the site.