Meet The Brandery Interns of 2017

Elisabeth Brusewitz- Technical Intern

I’m Elisabeth, one of the technical interns with the Brandery this summer. I just finished my third year of Computer Science at the University of Cincinnati (go Bearcats!). One of the reasons I chose to major in CS was because of my desire to be a part of the startup ecosystem in Cincinnati, so I’m thrilled I get to spend my summer here.

I grew up in Fairfield, but rarely visited downtown Cincinnati until I came here for college. I love living 7 minutes from downtown and am constantly exploring new places in the city. When I’m not at work or school you can usually find me on a couch at Coffee Emporium, taking a yoga class in Hyde Park, or hanging out at home with my dogs.

The thing I love the most about computer science is that there’s always something new to learn. I’m excited to learn and grow as a developer this summer, especially in front-end development. Interning at the Brandery is an exciting opportunity—I can’t wait to meet the new class and am looking forward to an amazing summer!

Tu Tran- Technical Intern

My name is Tu and I just finished my sophomore year at Temple University, majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics. I am passionate about technology and startups to create impacts on the community. Ultimately I aspire to be a software engineer specializing in building intelligent large-scale systems. Working at The Brandery as the Technical Intern this summer is a step to achieving my goal as I have the opportunity to help build software infrastructures from scratch and deliver products to end users.

My entire life has been in major urban areas: growing up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, going to college in Philadelphia, PA and now interning in Cincinnati, OH. The dynamics of cities and their startup ecosystems have always been intriguing to me. Being a part of the Cincy startup community couldn’t be more thrilling and I look forward to a summer full of challenges and new experiences!

Ben Kolde- Design Intern

Hey guys,
I’m Ben and I’m very excited about my role as the design intern this summer. I’m entering my junior year at Miami University majoring in Interactive Media Studies with a minor in Entrepreneurship.

I’m looking forward to working with the 2017 startup class. I have been freelancing for several months now and through this I have learned a lot about project and time management, balancing multiple projects and communicating with clients.
I grew up with a pencil and paper in my hand with my mom and grandpa both being artists. I have an extensive background in print, but have recently made the jump over to digital and I’m loving every minute of it. I have several projects under my belt, but am eager to add some more.

I am from Cincinnati, so let me know if you want to go do things in town, I’d love to show you around. On the weekends you will find me exploring with my camera, playing golf, or trying to find the best cup of coffee in the city.

Kaitlyn Humbert- Marketing Intern

Hey there!
My name is Kaitlyn and I am the Operations & Marketing Intern at The Brandery. Outside of the startup world, I attend THE University of Cincinnati-the hottest college in America. I am a fourth year Marketing and Communications student. Spring semester, I will be earning my certificate in Business Spanish. I work part-time as a supervisor for The Rusty Bucket to fund my education and extra-curriculars.

Being a Cincinnati native, I am a huge fan of food. Here are some things to keep in mind: Skyline is better than Gold Star. Graeters’s is considered a core food group. Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce is best consumed with a straw. Jokes aside, Cincinnati has a copious amount of great eats. 9 times out of 10, if there is an activity that involves eating or drinking, I am there. My other hobbies include dancing, attending concerts and pinning DIY projects that I will likely never get around to.

The start-up culture is intriguing to me. Always moving forward and moving fast. There is something to be learned and something to be taught everyday. Everyone is on a team and supporting one another. These aspects of start-ups tie in with my lifestyle. I live for the hustle and grind. I look at each day like clean slate, tackling tasks as they are presented to me. I am your go-to for things to do, help, advice, and friendship.

I am grateful for this opportunity to work alongside such intelligent, innovative people. I hope this glimpse into my life gave you an idea of who I am. If you have questions or want to have some fun around Cincy, I am here for you. I always have my phone or laptop on me. Looking forward to this experience over the next couple weeks!

Weekly Wrapup - Week 3

Week 3 is coming to a close and it’s been a busy one. Our third week focusing heavily on branding work, and we’ve already seen so much progress with the companies that we can’t wait to share with the public!

Monday: Our annual Brandery class photo shoot with our favorite local photographer, Zackariah Cole. We’ll definitely be sharing these gems once we receive the finished images!

Tuesday: Our first Dumpster Fire session of the year. Affectionately named, this is a time for our founders to seek feedback/constructive criticism/support from their peers about pain points, new features, or any issue they might be facing. Joe Medved, Capital Partner at Lerer Hippeau Ventures, sat with the founders to share finance tips. The day capped off with a happy hour for the founders to get to know their new Brandery mentors.

Wednesday: A Conversation with Steve Case. The Co-Founder of Revolution LLC and former CEO of AOL visited Union Hall to discuss the importance of entrepreneurship and community. Later, Brandery alum & mentor Nick Cromydas, CEO at Hunt Club, shared with our teams how to reach profitability and how to effectively scale their businesses.

Thursday: Brand In A Day. Our teams met with their agency partners at 84.51 for an all-day brainstorming session. This is where the magic happens!

Friday: Founder Fridays. Chris Bergman, Founder and CEO of Family Tech, came to talk about his experience with The Brandery and the transition from ChoreMonster to Family Tech.

Middle of the Pack

Brandery Co-Founder Rob McDonald took a moment to reflect on Steve Case’s recent visit to StartupCincy and provide his thoughts. Check it out below:

Reflections on Steve Case’s Follow-up Visit to Cincinnati;

Three years ago Cincinnati hosted Steve Case for his first Rise of the Rest tour. This was the summer of 2014. At The Brandery, our fifth class was just beginning and ten new companies were joining us in Cincinnati. When we launched The Brandery in 2010, we had projected that by year five we would begin to see exits and liquidity from our initial cohorts. So, in the summer of 2014, we grand ambitions.

Further, in the summer of 2014 Cintrifuse was beginning to find its footing by honing its mission around BigCo connections, operating a fund-of-funds to catalyze more Series A investment in the area, and developing the groundwork for #StartupCincy as a community. Wendy Lea was not yet #StartupCincy’s fearless leader, but she joined us as a judge of the Rise of the Rest pitch competition that summer. More and more founders were engaging, a plethora of events were being launched, and big plans were being developed for the Union Hall building.

Even with all of this momentum, #StartupCincy was admittedly still very much a work in progress. With a certain amount of humility, I was eager to show off our new found tech scene to Steve, but at the same time, I felt we weren’t quite ready to show off.

Yesterday, we were thrilled to have Steve back (five Rise of the Rest tours removed). Naturally, a good part of the fireside chat yesterday was focused on our progress since that 2014 visit. We have much to be proud of. Eric Weissmann (who, by the way, deserves a huge pat on the back for his continued leadership of events like this) did a great job outlining much of our progress – a gorgeous new hub at Union Hall, a few nice exits (he outlined three specifically), significant funding progress, and some key BigCo + Start-up connections formed.

Despite all of this progress that was highlighted, the thing that sticks with me the most from Steve’s second visit is his response to a question he received during his tour of Union Hall. “So, after visiting roughly 30 cities on the Rise of the Rest tours, how do you think Cincinnati stacks up?” Without a twinge of antagonism, Steve politely replied “middle of the pack.” Now, at one point in our history, this evaluation would have been a cause for celebration. But, today, this is a bit hard to hear. But, let’s be honest, he’s right.

Speaking for The Brandery alone, we haven’t seen the exits we had hoped to see from our companies by now; though we have many companies doing wonderful things (i.e. the irons are still in the fire) and have also had our fair share of smaller exits. And, over the last 3-4 years, The Brandery has been in the middle of the Top 25 Seed Accelerator Rankings (although, due to changes in the ranking system, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison, we always target Top 5). Middle of the pack doesn’t work for us. We keep pushing for a break-through. We’re fatigued, but introspective. We have spent ample time thinking about the future and how we can best help drive growth.

Applied more broadly (i.e. not just to The Brandery), the pieces of the puzzle are in place, but we need to grow the size of the puzzle many times over. No one organization or start-up can take Cincinnati out of its spot in the middle of the pack. We need more support organizations, more accelerators, more funding, more exits, more events, more customer connections, etc.

What does this look like for us (i.e. the whole of #StartupCincy)? I think it means supporting organizations doing good things (i.e. Mortar, FirstBatch, Cintrifuse, etc.) and encouraging other new entrants (i.e. Hillman Accelerator, Refinery Ventures, etc.) – whether angel groups, accelerators, or other support organizations. We need to put capital to work with organizations that are making a difference, assess their success, and deploy more capital (with a certain allocation to new initiatives). I think it means propping up more fund managers to launch new investment vehicles. I think it means helping talented people build new start-ups (and, simultaneously, letting go of some companies that aren’t going to make it). It means doubling-down on our competitive advantages; our amazing consumer branding, marketing and design talent. It means fostering deeper BigCo relationships (some level of this is supporting our BigCo’s appropriately – i.e. finding the right opportunities for them rather than throwing everything under the sun at them). And, it definitely means rallying around our big research institutions to spin-up strong technology. Overall, instead of working with elbows out guarding our territory (which regrettably is becoming more and more common place), we need to be working together to bring more people in.

From here, I’m going to try to channel all of my frustration to helping us find our way out of the middle of the pack. It is true that some ecosystems have progressed further much faster. Arguably, some comparable ecosystems had the benefit (double-edged sword here) of starting further back (think Detroit – truly, rising from the bottom). Some have had the benefit of having big dollar and big name supporters early-on (think Tony Hsieh in Las Vegas, although results are still TBD there). Some others have benefitted from being in larger markets (think Chicago – our venture stats in 2010 didn’t look that dissimilar). At this point, in the summer of 2017, the trajectories of these other #RiseOfTheRest ecosystems are only important to the degree that we can leverage learnings from them. Today, we are where we are – middle of the pack – and now, together, we need to start throwing many more darts (with precision) at the dartboard.

Weekly Wrapup- Week 2

The short work week is over and so is our second week of the 2017 accelerator program.

Here’s what the founders were up to the past couple days!

Wednesday: Bryan Radtke, co-founder of The Brandery, talked to the founders about the importance of brand storytelling. We had lunch provided from Servatti afterwards.

Thursday: Our startups had 1 on 1 meetings with Brian Powell, CTO at CompleteSet, and Dave Knox, co-founder of The Brandery. Cincy Tech held office hours for the teams to utilize.

Friday: Founder Friday. Chris Ridenour, CTO at Cladwell, joined us to talk about his experience with The Brandery (with his former company, Casamatic) and his role at Cladwell.

Next week, StartupCincy is welcoming Steve Case, CEO and co-founder of AOL! He will be at Union Hall on July 12th at 9 AM. To attend this event, RSVP through StartupCincy Presents: A Conversation with Steve Case (space is limited).

On July 13th, 84.51 will be hosting us for the annual Brand In A Day. Our founders will be meeting with their agencies for this all-day brainstorming event.

Looking forward to the busy week ahead of us!

Welcome Week 2017

Today wrapped up Welcome Week of The Brandery’s 2017 accelerator program. We welcomed in seven teams to Union Hall, five CPGs and 2 marketing tech companies. The founders became quickly acquainted with the office and each other while learning about the StartUp Cincy culture.

Over the week, the new founders and their team attended sessions and meetings with previous founders that went through the Brandery and community members. These talks were aimed to not only enlighten this class of startups on successful individuals, but to encourage teambuilding and discussion among the class.
Here’s a little recap of what the founders were up to this week!
Tuesday: Day 1! The founders moved into our office space at Union Hall and were welcomed by lots of awesome people like Wendy Lea (CEO of Cintrifuse), PG Sittenfeld (Cincinnati City Councilman), Jon Nielsen (Chief Business Officer of EBTH), and some other Brandery alumni. We finished off the day with some Eli’s BBQ and beers on the rooftop!

Wednesday: The teams had 1 on 1 meetings with Lori Jeffries, our in house legal counsel, and Chris Corgat, as a primer to help the startups with their agency partner programs.
Thursday: Agency Speed Dating. Our 7 startups met our 7 agency partners to get to know one another. Next week we’ll pair them up with the agency they will be working with over the next several months. In the evening, we toured Rhinegeist.

Friday: AWS Office Hours. Amazon Web Services is a great partner of the Brandery and provides awesome services to our startups. We had meetings and lunch with our AWS reps.
It has been a great first week. Everyone is well on their way to a successful summer. We are looking forward to the following months!

The Brandery & Big Companies: How Cincinnati Fosters Partnerships That Work


Brandery Co-Founder Rob McDonald recently wrote a guest blog post for Rise Of The Rest, highlighting how The Brandery works with BigCo’s to foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Read his thoughts below, or on the Rise Of The Rest Blog:

When we launched The Brandery in 2010, we knew we had to play to the strengths of Cincinnati. This meant leveraging the Fortune 500’s (or BigCo’s) and the incredible design and creative community that serves them. The C-suite at the BigCo’s were eager to write us meaningful sponsorship checks and helped us welcome our companies to town by hosting them at ball games and other social activities. In return, the BigCo’s employees interacted with The Brandery’s talented team, learning about “innovation” and “startup culture.” There’s no doubt we both added a bit of value to one another, but it didn’t really move the needle for the startups.

What did move the needle was developing meaningful, collaborative relationships with the BigCo’s. Fostering these relationships with BigCo’s not only helped The Brandery, but also enriched the startup ecosystem in Cincinnati. Here was our approach:

Capital: Many BigCo’s have existing venture groups with access to plenty of capital, but they can often lack clear directive for those investments. Conversely, startups are always on the hunt for capital and have developed a vast network of expertise in this area from the VC’s and Angels that support them. By connecting BigCo’s with your network, we can serve your ecosystem and the BigCo’s investment strategy.

Mentorship: Nothing fosters a collaborative relationship like mentors. Developing C-suite mentors can create powerful champions for your startup. These relationships take time to identify and form, but the investment is time well-spent for cultivating a startup-friendly ecosystem in your community.

Pilots & Commercial Opportunities: As your relationships with BigCo’s begin to grow, partner with these firms in pilot programs so they can see how your startup can really add value. After a successful pilot, convert these BigCo’s into paying customers. They will benefit from your expertise while you see growing revenue numbers and impressive additions to your clientele list.

M&A: Think acquisition from a BigCo could be in your future? Successful exits can take startup ecosystems to the next level. In addition to adding potentially immense value to the BigCo that acquires them, the creation of wealth within the startup inevitably trickles back into the ecosystem from a new Angel or the next generation of self-funded founders.

Startups aren’t the only ones who can create an entrepreneurial ecosystem for your community. BigCo’s can provide incredible value as well; so give them a seat at the table. A healthy relationship will make everyone prosper.

Meet The Brandery's New Program Manager


We at The Brandery are excited to announce that Jeff Boeh is our new Program Manager. Jeff has a great wealth of experience with startups, beginning with his work with Iron Yard Ventures and most recently as Campus Director of the Cincinnati chapter of the Iron Yard Code School. Read on to learn more about Jeff, and be sure to give him a hearty StartupCincy welcome!

From Startups to Code School and Back

Hey everyone, my name is Jeff Boeh. I am a born and raised Cincinnatian with an incredibly strong passion for all things startup. I wanted to take a few minutes to tell you a little bit about my journey and how I landed here as the Program Manager at The Brandery.

Three and a half years ago I left my comfortable job, school, and Cincinnati to join another nationally ranked accelerator program, Iron Yard Ventures, in Spartanburg, SC. At that time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into or if I had made the right decision, but looking back now – I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity and allowing myself to take the risk. I originally joined their team as the Operations Manager and quickly grew into the Program Manager role. Over the next 2.5 years I learned more about myself, the world of startups and accelerators than I could have ever imagined possible. The world-class mentors, innovative startups and Managing Director, Marty Bauer not only helped shape the direction of my career, but taught me so much along the way. However, if it weren’t for discovering how to embrace my own failures and learn from them – I wouldn’t be who I am today.

When I joined the Iron Yard in early 2014, the Accelerator program was their core focus. At that time, however, they were in the process of shifting that focus and launching their code school bootcamp in Greenville, SC and a few other Southeastern cities. The company eventually split into two – Iron Yard Ventures and The Iron Yard Academy. The code school grew rapidly over the next 2 years and was incredible to watch. In the beginning of 2016, we were winding down our Spartanburg accelerator program and looking at what was next. The timing for me couldn’t have been better. The Iron Yard code school made the announcement I had been eagerly awaiting – they were launching a code school in my hometown, Cincinnati. I jumped on the opportunity to bring The Iron Yard to Cincinnati and help grow the Cincy tech scene. In March 2016, I moved back to Cincinnati to lead The Iron Yard Code School as Campus Director.

Launching the code school here in Cincy was one of my most challenging yet rewarding experiences. My passion for helping others and my love for everything Cincy is what drove me to make an impact for our students and Cincinnati in general. After a year and a half, I can confidently say that we did just that. Of the 17 people we taught to become a successful junior level developer, 11 have begun new careers in the field and 6 are beginning their career search after graduating from our last cohort. One of the most impactful elements of my time with the code school was the opportunity to get involved in StartupCincy by establishing an advisory board with many great companies – The Brandery included. None of our success would have been possible without them.

The Iron Yard recently made a tough decision to close the Cincinnati Campus in efforts to increase opportunities at their other campuses as well as invest in their growing corporate training programs, online learning platform and new part-time course formats. Though bittersweet, upon the close of the Cincinnati campus, I found myself seeking the next challenge on my career path.

After searching for new opportunities in the Cincinnati area, I discovered the Program Manager position at The Brandery. Upon initially learning about the opportunity, I was immediately drawn to the position and the possibilities. With my previous work with Iron Yard Ventures and the startup world, the opportunity at The Brandery sparked my excitement and passion – I immediately knew it was the perfect fit for me.

With many highs and lows, successes and failures along the way, I cannot be more grateful for the journey, and cannot be more certain everything in my past has brought me to the opportunity I have today. I am extremely excited to meet and work with the incredible mentor network, agency partners and corporate sponsors that are a huge element of what makes The Brandery unique and successful. Those relationships are key in ensuring the success of not only The Brandery, but our startups as well. I am eager to welcome the new Brandery class to Cincinnati, lead the program to success, and continue making an impact in StartupCincy. I’ve met so many incredible people along my journey and I look forward to growing that network. If I haven’t had the privilege of meeting you yet, I would love to connect – please don’t hesitate to reach out! You can always reach me at jeff@brandery.org or follow my journey on twitter at @jeff_boeh .

Branderyhaus Startup Housing

So. You’ve started a great company and you’ve been accepted to the accelerator program of your dreams and now it’s time to move to a random city for a few months. AWESOME. Now you just have to:

  • Research neighborhoods in the area and decide which is the coolest
  • Find an apartment, possibly without having seen it
  • Figure out the local utility providers and get set up with electricity, internet, etc
  • Put down security deposits to start service with said utility companies
  • Figure out how to get all of your stuff moved to this new city
  • Buy furniture for your apartment

None of that sounds very fun, and on top of all of that, you’re trying to run your company.

The Brandery didn’t want our startups to have to go through these pains while relocating to Cincinnati, or even have to consider them while trying to decide if our program was right for them. That thought, coupled with the fact that our office is in the increasingly popular Over The Rhine neighborhood, where apartments are getting more expensive and harder to find, led us to the creation of Branderyhaus.

Branderyhaus is a 14-unit apartment building renovated and managed by our partners, Urban Sites. The Brandery holds a master lease for the building, allowing us to sublease the units at an affordable rate to our startups during the time they’re in Cincinnati.

The building is located about 2 blocks from Union Hall. The rent is low for the area, and one of the best perks is that all utilities are not only included, but already set up for you when you arrive. We’ve even got insanely comfortable PONS beds provided by Standard Textile, so you can immediately take a nap and then get to work as soon as you arrive in Cincinnati. Our mission at The Brandery is to bring businesses to Cincinnati, show them what we have to offer, and encourage them to thrive and grow here. What better way to do that than to fully immerse our founders into one of Cincinnati’s most vibrant neighborhood?

When the units aren’t housing startup founders, we list them on Airbnb. Since we’re a nonprofit, all of the money we make with short term rentals goes back to our companies. Win/win! Traveling to Cincinnati soon? Check them out here!

Why You Need The Brandery Agency Partnership: Interbrand & Oros

When Michael Markesbery and Rithvik Venna entered The Brandery’s 2015 cohort, they faced a problem that many startups have to deal with: a trademark issue that meant their company, Lukla, not only needed a great brand, but a new name to begin with.

Oros creates outerwear that uses NASA technology called aerogel (the same stuff they put in spacesuits!) to protect wearers from extreme environmental conditions without the heavy weight and bulk of traditional outerwear. This amazing innovation deserved a brand that was just a special.

After being paired with Interbrand, a global brand agency with an incredible team in Cincinnati, the group got to work on crafting a name that would inform the entire brand identity. With the company’s vision and brand strategy in mind, the new name became Oros, the Greek word for mountain. This name represents adventure, challenge and conquest and reflects the essence of the original name, Lukla.

Interbrand explored Oros’ target customer and came up with some strong themes that informed their logo and brand design. The brand proposition “Conquer Your Everest” became a common thread throughout the design process – with the logo creating a visual link to a mountain right down to the unique, custom packaging design that embodies the same essence of a peak. The packaging design for Oros was so strong, in fact, that Interbrand received an “Outstanding Achievement” mention in the 2016 Dieline Awards competition, highlighting the best in consumer packaging design worldwide.

Oros graduated from The Brandery in October 2015 and raised a $1.2 million seed round last year, led by NCT Ventures. A recent Forbes article, Why Ohio Is The Best State In America To Launch A Startup, featured their journey and included this quote from Markesbery: “Because there are more Fortune 500 companies headquartered (in the Midwest) than anywhere else in the world, that means is that there are dozens of incredible branding, marketing, and advertising companies here…Our packaging has won eight different international awards already because we just happen to have one of the best companies in the world doing that right here in Cincinnati.”

We really couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Special thanks to Interbrand for being a dynamic agency partner year in and year out!

Brandery 2017 applications are open until April 29. Apply via F6S or AngelList. Have questions regarding the program or your application? Contact us at info@brandery.org!

From Corporate to Startups: My First Year at The Brandery


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!

Brandery Office Hours Coming to a City Near You!


We always love meeting startups during our office hours here in Cincinnati, but we know that not everyone can make it here. Phone calls and Skype aren’t always the most beneficial either. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’ll be visiting a city near you over the next few weeks. Take a look at where and when we’ll be in town, and apply for office hours by clicking on the city.

Read This First!
– We announced a sharpened focus for this year’s cohort. Read more here .
– Get your application started on F6S or Angel List .
Follow us on Twitter for our latest updates.

Brandery Office Hours Schedule

3/25 Nashville
3/28 San Francisco
4/6 Columbus
4/11 Atlanta
4/12 Boston
4/13 Ann Arbor
4/13 Detroit
4/26 Chicago

If you have any questions, email us at info@brandery.org.

A Future Built On Our Past


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 .