We sat down with two of our startup co-founders in The Brandery Class of 2014, Connor Bowlan and Joel Green, to ask about their first two weeks at The Brandery. Connor Bowlan, 24 (CEO) studied sociology at the University of California, Merced. He previously served as the technical cofounder of a startup that built tools to automate bookings for residential cleaning services. Connor has spent time all over the world, most recently in Botswana where he attended the University of Botswana, studied micro-social interactions, and explored Southern Africa by motorcycle. Joel Green, 21 (CEO), is a mobile and python developer who recently dropped out of the University of California Santa Barbara. Over the last several years, Joel has spent time developing robotics, conducting undergraduate research at UCSB, building automated lab tools, and participating in hackathons as an iOS developer. Previous to engineering, Joel has spent time as a Jazz pianist and music composer.
Connor (left) and Joel (right) sporting red shirts under the Cincinnati sign.
What is the most surprising thing about Cincinnati so far?
Joel: I’ve definitely been surprised at how friendly people are. Especially compared to California, everyone is so willing to help with things all the time. I’m more than pleasantly surprised by Cincinnati. I’m pretty stoked on this place. My plan is to stay here as long as it is in the best interest of my startup, and I see no downside of that at all. I’m really happy here.
Connor: It’s such a close knit community. There’s no fatigue related to startups like in the Bay Area. If you tell someone you’re going to startup in the Bay Area you usually get an eye roll and they change the conversation. Here, they ask you what you are doing and ask you how they can help. The main thing is that people are welcoming and open to it. It’s not seen as a threat.
Joel: Another thing that surprised me is how much design and marketing talent there is here. I’d never really known that much about Cincinnati, besides a few things I’d read here or there. Once I did my research, I said, “Oh, okay. There is P&G, and there is Kroger, and there are some headquarters here.” But once I got here, I was like, “Wow, UC is here and marketers are literally everywhere.” It’s amazing. If San Francisco is known as the city of tech, Cincinnati is the city of marketing. It’s pretty big.
Best part about the city?
Joel: So far, the cost of living is definitely my favorite part, plus there’s so much to do here. Honestly, for half the price of a really crappy place in California, I’m living in the nicest place here. This is the kind of place I imagined I’d be living in if I sold my company, not when it’s just starting out, and it’s so easily within budget. Also, the architecture is super ancient and cool but everyone here is so high-tech and into the latest things and carrying around the newest device.
Connor: There’s so much excitement and enthusiasm for the OTR area. It extends past startups, to small businesses in general. Everyone wants to introduce you to their connections. They don’t see their connections as resources, but more of interpersonal relationships. It takes one day to get a reference to anyone in the city.
What has been the best day of The Brandery so far?
Joel: Brand in a Day was definitely very interesting. It was early, and a lot of stuff was going on, so it was challenging, but it was so productive. My favorite day was when we started Failbone/Quack with Connor and [Connor’s co-founder] Rhett because thats when we got to know each other the best. Failbone originally spawned from Connor playing a trombone noise whenever someone failed at something. Then, we built an app that played it in a radius on everyones phone. From there, Connor decided to come up with his own thing, Quack, which evolved into what we all use now at The Brandery.
Wait… so what’s Quack?
Connor: Quack is a location-based messaging platform that removes all barriers to interaction. It allows people to communicate quickly and efficiently, much like you would in real life. Theres also an element of humor in it, which really brings people into the platform and allows them to express themselves without the fear of guilt or judgement. The thing that excites me most about Quack is that if you’re not staring at it all the time, you feel like youre left out of the joke. It makes you feel like you were last picked for the baseball team in elementary school, so it forces you to look at the app all the time. It’s like having an inside joke that everyone within 400 feet is in on.
Joel: At this point, there’s an iOS, Andrioid, and Pebble version of Quack which have come together from members of three different startups. It’s like a monstrosity of a startup that has spawned out of all the companies. The funniest part is it’s the most popular one.
A screenshot of Quack for iOS.
What is the most unique part of The Brandery?
Connor: The excitement and palpable feeling that everyone is on the edge of something big is really exciting. Everyone is silently (and sometimes not silently) pushing each other forward. My favorite thing is being around other people every day while I work. For the past eight months or so, it’s just been me in a room working, but that is not exciting as being around people everyday who are so much more inspiring.
Joel: I’m surprised at how many resources The Brandery actually provides. The $20k seems almost insignificant compared to how many resources we actually get. Any resource you could possibly need is pretty much available on the first floor— at any hour— just by asking the other startups in the room.
Connor: I didn’t realize how much I would actually think of The Brandery as home. After we’d been here for two weeks, we felt like we’d been here for two months. We were able to get integrated so quickly. You have an ex-Army Ranger sitting next to a 19 year-old college dropout, who is sitting next to the drummer from a platinum selling rock band, who is sitting next to a finalist from Survivor. Where else will you find that?
What has been the most beneficial part in building your business?
Connor: The mentors have been great in getting us to think about things we hadn’t even considered before. The mentors have leveraged a lot of resources for us and helped connect us to a lot of people. They give us a lot of quick insights that they have from years and years of experience that help us focus and not flail around and not know what we doing. It’s also surprising how much the big corporations in Cincinnati are willing to help. Usually, in the stereotypical startup narrative, they are the villains. But really, they are so open and willing to help with mentoring, which is impressive.
Joel: There are 12 startups from all diverse backgrounds here, so whether its development, connections, marketing, life, or business, there are always people there to help you. That’s the most powerful thing. Having everyone here 24/7 is the best thing so far.
Keep checking back for more updates on The Brandery Class of 2014, including info on their startups and their continued transition in Cincinnati. #Brandery2014