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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!

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

Interns, What Have They Been Up To?

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Happy Monday Everyone!

Today the Brandery Interns are taking over the blog to tell you what we’ve accomplished and what we’re up to. It’s officially been one month since the start of our internship and we have all had the opportunity to work with the Brandery team and get acclimated to our new surroundings. By the way OTR, you have been fabulous, thanks for all the food options!

Back to the interns! Camryn, the design intern, has worked diligently to create our agency playbook, infographic and company teasers for the class of 2016. Our tech intern, who just returned from vacation, Jacob has worked on compressing files to create an efficient library of information and updating our website. The two marketing and operations interns, Ravneet and Curtis, have also had their fair share of projects to handle. Both of us have been juggling various social media platforms, as well as getting the Brandery started on a new, not so well-known platform called Snapchat. So if by chance you do have Snapchat, follow us by searching “brandery”! Curt has also spent his time working on compiling a company portfolio of companies that have graduated from the Brandery. I, on the other hand, have spent most of my time preparing for the incoming class. I’ve helped with preparing our welcome gift baskets, organizing the welcome picnic and compiling summaries of founders for a press release.

As our first month of interning comes to an end, it is only the beginning for our startups. The addition of 10 new companies and almost 40 new individuals has certainly changed the atmosphere and dynamics of the office. Every day we arrive with the excitement of getting a new project and seeing how our work, no matter how minimal, can help a company grow. Along with helping the companies, Curt and I also have the unique opportunity of helping the startup community grow, as well.

One of our objectives this summer is to increase the engagement of local students with the startup ecosystem. Curtis and I strongly believe that we have great talent in the surrounding areas, especially on the campuses located near us. We’re looking at you UC, Xavier, Miami and NKU! Therefore, we have organized an event called, Founders 101. This event will be arranged as an open panel between students and well established founders from the Cincinnati area. After the founders introduce themselves, their business and journey we will open the floor for questions and encourage an environment of discussion.

The first event will take place June 24th, from 10am to 11am, in Union Hall. The theme for this panel is, “Start of the Startup”. Founders Matthew Lenahan, CEO of DataRole, James Fisher, CEO of Roadtrippers and Steve Caldwell, CEO of Strap will be in attendance discussing the start of their respective companies. More information on the event and founders can be found on our Eventbrite page, the link is copied below. Seating is limited, so please reserve your free ticket!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/founders-101-start-of-the-startup-tickets-25936332268?aff=eac2

Founders of the Brandery's 2016 Class

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It’s nearly impossible to scroll past any #StartupCincy related news and not see that the Brandery Class of 2016 has been announced. We are very excited to welcome these brilliant individuals to Over-the-Rhine and Cincinnati’s thriving startup ecosystem.

This year’s application pool had over 1,000 submissions from 32 states and 46 countries. After a rigorous interview process, less than 1% of applicants were accepted. These teams come from three different states, eight different cities and three different countries (United States, Morocco and Canada). While the names of the company are yet to be announced, we are excited to offer some brief information on their accomplished founders. Take a minute, and read up on our 2016 class:

  • Steve Anevski and Alex Pantich are working to connect businesses with professionals for short-term projects. Steve Anevski, native to Cincinnati, oversees seven different bars and restaurants in the area. Aside from being a business owner, Anevski impressively is also a lawyer and investment broker. Alex Pantich, founder of another business, Kinetiq Solutions, spent the last year operating as their CEO. Pantich, who has spent part of his life working and studying in Moscow, Istanbul and Serbia is proud of his political commentary website, Vostokian.
  • Aman Tsegai and Brian Back are exploring the potential to make research and data analysis easier. Both founders previously interned at the Brandery and studied at the University of Cincinnati. Tsegai studied physics while Back earned his degree in marketing. Before coming to the Brandery, Back worked with Siemens to develop their Global Partner Sales channel.
  • William Yin and Richard Smale, from Ontario, Canada, are on the move to upset the billion-dollar fragrance industry. Yin and Smale are graduates from Queen’s University, both earning a degree in Mining Engineering. For the past two years, Yin has been working with perfumers while Smale worked at Imperial Oil as an operations engineer. Yin and Smale are fans of hockey and beer, two staples of Canadian leisure.
  • Olivier Lemaitre, Andrew Carl & Fontana Carl are working on lab technology to increase worker efficiency. Olivier, originally from Belgium, is an ACS Certified Chemistry graduate from the University of Cincinnati. Andrew Carl is a software engineer with over eight years of experience writing computer software. He is also a graduate from UC, with a BS in Chemistry. Fontana Carl is the team’s graphic designer, a graduate from the Art Institute of Ohio-Cincinnati. She currently works as the Website Manager for Jake Sweeney Automotive.
  • Ian Hansborough, Greg Miller, Nugeen Aftab, Trey Hakanson and Dan Arters are working on a social platform that would allow creators to get instant feedback on their ideas. Ian is a self-taught iOS front-end developer who has competed and placed in several hackathons. Greg, a full-stack programmer with specific interests in back-end architecture, data mining and analytics, is also self-taught. The third member of this group, Nugeen Aftab, previously worked with Pelotonia, where she implemented a successful retail strategy. Trey Hakanson is a mechanical engineer turned software developer, who has several apps available on the App Store and Google Play Store. Dan Arters is also a self-taught programmer with a passion for software development.
  • Emmanuel Igbinosa, Tenzin Chagzoetsang and Rob Resma are improving the online shopping experience by providing men seeking fashion advice and a purchasing medium instant feedback, based on statistical analysis and machine learning. Emmanuel Igbinosa previously worked at Google, focusing on mobile development, and YouTube, where he effectively led a team to reduce manual processing and error rate substantially. Igbinosa was also a walk-on varsity basketball player at Stanford University. Tenzin Chagzoetsang, prior to joining the team, worked on creative advertising at NBCUniversal and Sony. He also ran his own successful, zero-overhead housekeeping business while a student at Stanford University. Rob Resma is a passionate mobile programmer who just earned his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Stanford University. While working on Skimble, Resma was able to create a new feature that connected a massive client base (20 million) on Workout Trainer with a large number of trainers looking to feature their content.
  • Chris Kessler and Carl Lewis have developed a platform that helps TV watchers easily create and navigate a custom streaming package to watch their favorite shows. Carl and Chris met at a 2014 Startup Weekend. Shortly afterwards, they conceived the idea for their current company. Chris Kessler worked previously in private equity, most recently working on Corporate Strategy at Nationwide Insurance. Carl Lewis, an accomplished developer, most recently worked as a full-stack Java developer at Nationwide Insurance.
  • Sam Nebel and Charlie Siciak have created a product that aims to refresh busy men and women who are on-the-go, keeping them clean no matter the circumstances. The two met through their FSU college fraternity, where the inception for their company first began through their shared views of consumer cleaning products. Sam Nebel, prior to beginning this current project, was accepted as a Franchisee at Complete Nutrition, later being promoted to its SWOT team. Charlie Siciak was also accepted as a Franchisee at Complete Nutrition before beginning his current company.
  • Beth Gregg and Joe Macaulay are working to connect the mobile shopping experience with the in-store shopping experience, to improve the overall shopping experience for both consumers and marketers. Previously, Beth Gregg built the first Flash Ad Unit to appear on the AOL Service in 2001, built revenue/defined product iterations for JasperLabs (sold to DataXu in 2014), and operated a highly successful team for/built a large percentage of DataXu’s business. Joe Macaulay previously worked as an Account Executive for both Velti and DataXu. Previously, Beth brought Joe on-board at DataXu because of his strong mobile expertise; they’ve been working as a strong team since.
  • Moulay Essakalli, Julie Klear and Nabil Babache are helping children learn foreign languages, empowering them to be young, smart global citizens and succeed in school, all while playing fun games. Moulay Essakalli is CEO of internationally renowned Zid Zid Kids, a company utilizing Moroccan artistic talent to create home furnishings, toys, and wearables for children. He was also selected to attend the President’s Summit on Entrepreneurship in Washington, DC in 2010. Julie Klear is a veteran on art, design, and education; Klear co-founded Zid Zid Kids and served as its creative director. Her first illustrated children’s book, The Butter Man, won 9 notable awards. Nabil Babache is founder and CEO of Nindo Host, a company dedicated to the digitalization of as many Moroccan companies as possible. Alongside his passion and skill in programming, Babache is able to speak four different languages fluently.

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 Casamatic (class of 2015):

Casamatic instantly matches buyers to their perfect home by learning about the people, activities, and styles they love—the most important criteria for millennials when buying a home.

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

Chris and I were both already heavily involved in the #StartupCincy community, so we knew how great The Brandery was from our discussions with companies that participated in prior classes. It was an especially powerful opportunity for us because of the connection to the branding agency—with the help of Landor, we were able to make our app look incredible, which is REALLY important for consumer-focused startups like ours.

Why did you choose to grow your company in Cincinnati?

There was never any other option. :-) My wife and I moved back to Cincinnati to be a part of the community here, and the resources and talent that we have in Cincinnati are amazing.

Now Accepting Applications for 2016!

Today marks just one of many exciting days to come this year; we’ve opened up the application process for 2016, the 7th class to come to the Brandery. Between now and April 15, we’re looking forward to seeing the best and brightest minds and ideas come to us. Last year, we received about 1,000 applications and narrowed it down to 10 incredible startups. With the amount of applications that come in, we’re going to be pretty busy over the next 12 weeks- so we highly recommend submitting your application as early as possible! If you have any questions, email us at info@brandery.org .

Here are some key dates to follow for the next 10 weeks:

  • Today: Applications open on AngelList and F6S
  • Thursday, Feb 4: Open Office Hours at the Brandery, 12 PM – 4 PM – Meet The Brandery team, check out our space at Union Hall, and talk about your idea and application.
  • Thursday, February 25: Open Office Hours at the Brandery, 3 PM – 6 PM – Did you miss the first Office Hours? Come on down to Union Hall and hang out with The Brandery team.
  • Tuesday, March 1: Early Bird Deadline #1 – We’ll have received 100 applications by this point- it’s a lot easier to review 100 applications than 1,000. That’s all we’re saying.
  • Tuesday, March 15: Open Office Hours at the Brandery, 1 PM – 5 PM – Whether you missed the first two Office Hours or just want to hang out with us again, our doors will be open.
  • Thursday, March 31: Happy/Office Hours at the Brandery, 5 PM – 8 PM – If you haven’t been able to make it to previous office hours because of work, the next few sessions are just for you.
  • Friday, April 1: Early Bird Deadline #2 – At this point, 80% of applications will have been submitted. The earlier you get yours in, the more time we have to spend learning about you!
  • Thursday, April 14: Happy/Office Hours at the Brandery, 5 PM – 8 PM – If you haven’t been able to make it to previous office hours because of work, come on down to Union Hall and hang out for a bit.
  • Thursday, April 21: Happy/Office Hours at the Brandery, 5 PM – 8 PM – Last chance to meet Brandery staff and share your startup with us!
  • Friday, April 29: Applications close after 11:59:59 PM.
  • Mid-May: Selected Companies Notified – If we’ve chosen you to join us in Cincinnati for our 7th class, we’ll be contacting you around this time.

We’re excited to continue the Brandery’s tradition of turning out great companies, and we hope you’ll be one of them! Best of luck!

How To Stand Out When Applying To The Brandery

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[Editor’s Note: This post is by co-founder of The Brandery, Dave Knox. Dave, along with the rest of The Brandery team, will be reviewing applications for the next few months as we recruit startups for the Class of 2015. By day, Dave is the CMO of Rockfish. Read more of Dave’s blog posts and thought leadership here.]

Did you know that getting into a top tier startup accelerator is actually statistically more difficult than getting into Harvard? For its Class of 2018, Harvard accepted around 5.9% of their 34,000 applicants. In 2014, The Brandery accepted half that percentage with <2.5% of applicants being offered a spot in the program (a number we consistently see with other top-ranked peer programs).

So what should a founder do in order to get their application to stick out? After reviewing thousands of applications over our five previous classes, here are a few best practices I have seen work to help your startup stand out from the crowd. None of these are hard and fast rules, but more what I personally look at when I am reviewing our applications.

1. Become a known entity

If there were only thing that a startup could do when applying to The Brandery, this would be it. It amazes me how many startups apply for The Brandery but do not do any personal outreach. It is pretty easy to find out the decision makers behind our program. All of the founders and staff are listed on the website. All of us are very open about our contact info with emails and Twitter. And we hold a ton of events during application season where you can meet Brandery staff, alumni, and mentors in person. Yet despite this, an amazingly low number of applicants take any steps to reach out beyond their written applications. One of the keys to standing out is to have champions that believe in your team and your company. You can increase your odds of finding those champions by putting in the extra effort to meet the people behind the selection process.

2. Get a personal introduction / endorsement

Speaking of finding champions, one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is with a warm introduction from someone in the Brandery network. We have an amazing group of mentors, investors, and alumni that are part of The Brandery family. If I get an email introduction from any of them telling me that “so and so startup is applying for The Brandery and they are awesome”, then I put that application on the top of my list. For instance, we had one application a few years ago that had a so-so initial product. But right before they applied, I received an email from an investor I trusted who said the startup had “one of the best mobile product teams” they had ever seen. Needless to say, that type of endorsement changed how I viewed the application right off the bat.

3. Do not be a “Me Too” Startup

Every year, The Brandery receives around two dozen applications that are best classified as “Me Too” Startups. The common theme of these companies is that they are a small twist on whatever the hot startup happened to be that year. When Groupon was gearing up for an IPO in 2011, we had an influx of companies with takes on the Daily Deal space. When Instagram was bought in 2012, our application inbox was flooded with photo startups. The shame with these applications is that I often don’t spend the time digging into the team because I’ve already dismissed the potential of the idea right off the bat.

4. Prove your hustle instead of telling us about it

Every startup talks about having the perfect “Hacker, Hustler, and Designer”. But it is interesting how often The Hustler actually doesn’t show their hustle. If you want to see hustle, talk to Michael Wohlschlaeger, CEO & Co-Founder of Ahalogy. When Michael applied to The Brandery, he and his wife were living in China. That year, The Brandery was having a “get to know us” happy hour during applications at a local bar in Cincinnati. Michael showed up at the event, where we learned that he flew from China to St. Louis (where his family was from) and then drove six hours from St. Louis to Cincinnati— just for the happy hour. That is the definition of hustle. I knew at that moment I would place a bet on Michael as an entrepreneur no matter what. Since Ahalogy has been ranked the fastest growing startup in Ohio the past two years, I think Michael has lived up to that reputation for hustle.

5. Apply early

Do not wait to the last minute to apply. Yes, the final deadline to apply is April 16th, but don’t make the mistake of waiting that long. All of us are reading applications as they come in, and I personally have a ranking of my top 10 applicants that is evolving in real-time. If your company has applied early, that has given me a longer time to learn about you, the company, and your team. I have been able to research the space you are playing in and talked with other investors about the opportunity. If you apply at the last minute, you are “forcing” me to make a quick decision about whether you should be a company we interview and accept.

All that being said, applications to the Class of 2015 are open now. The deadline is April 16.

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.

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.

Accelerator Update: Week 5

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Can you believe it’s already week five of our accelerator program? Yeah, neither can we.

The momentum is picking up. The companies are coming in earlier and staying later as many of them launch their alpha and beta products. Final company branding is being nailed down. Websites are being fleshed out.

Each week of the program is focused on a different area of building a startup to help keep everyone working quickly and thoroughly. So far, we’ve completed “Branding for Startups,” “Design and Consumer Understanding,” “Founders’ Advice,” and “Defining and Building Your Product.” This week is focused on “Building Your Business Model.” We bring in experts in each of the fields to share their thoughts, lead workshops, and sit down and talk with each of the companies to try to address their specific needs. As General Manager Mike Bott says, “Each company is a slice of Swiss cheese. We want to help them fill in the holes.”

Last week, we had professional photographer Zackariah Cole join us to take some shots of the space, each company, and the Brandery co-founders. He did a phenomenal job. We’re pretty obsessed with his photos. It’s always been hard to capture what our space looks like, but Zack nailed it.








There’s been such terrific progress with all ten companies in such little time. It’s hard to grasp how hard the teams have been working. We want to share the excitement with you. Here are a couple companies that are killing it right now (we’ll update you on a few more next week):

Accrew is an all-in-one accountant collaboration tool. It enhances your current software to allow clients and their accountants to communicate seamlessly and give feedback through an interactive dashboard. Their team is made up of Craig, Ryan W., and Ryan B. from Columbus, three accountants that started a firm called Upsourced Accounting together. We’re lovin’ on Accrew’s Modern Accountant Blog these days, and they are holding two events at the Brandery in the near future. Come learn more about the co-founders, their business, and the changing accounting landscape. You can find more information and Eventbrite sign up for Accrew’s events in their blog.



Craig and Ryan B., two of the three co-founders of Accrew


Chalky is a duo of Stanford sophomores that wants to help high school students get into college and help college students succeed in their education and beyond. Operating in stealth mode until now, Chalky has created a peer-to-peer mentoring system for students. They’ve been crazy busy building out their site and system in the last few weeks and we love what they’ve accomplished so far. You can sign up for Chalky’s private beta here.



Charlie and Isaac, co-founders of Chalky


Looking for updates on our graduates? Don’t worry, they’re coming soon! Lots of exciting things have been happening for our grads. Did we mention that Brandery alum FlightCar is coming to the Brandery for the August edition of Startup Grind? Don’t miss it!

All images in this post courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

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!