Meet The Brandery's New Program Manager!


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

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

(Check back tomorrow to hear from Heather!)

Why I Left Corporate America for the Startup World

I know what you’re thinking- here’s yet another person who abandoned the safety and warmth of the bosom of corporate America to test his mettle in the fast-paced startup world. For the most part, you’re right- but for as seemingly regular as my transition may seem, I’ve still managed to have some unique experiences that separate my story from the rest. My hope is that reading this will help you figure out whether the startup world is for you.

Up until a year ago, I had never fathomed transitioning to the startup world. After graduating from Michigan State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2008, I worked at Toyota in a variety of roles; as an engineer at our former plant in Fremont, CA (now property of Tesla), a member of our supplier development team, a project manager for the Rav4 and Lexus RX, and most recently, a member of our strategic business management group. As I progressed through these roles, it became clear to me my strengths lay less in engineering and manufacturing, and more so in operations and entrepreneurialism, which drove me to complete my Xavier MBA in 2014.

It was also clear to me that I was more creative than I gave myself credit for- I developed a love for photography while in California, and parlayed that into a fairly successful run at wedding photography for a few years (which consumed many weekends and weeknights of my 20s). I loved being in control of every aspect and seeing a clear connection between my work and results, something that was sorely missing from my roles at Toyota. I volunteered with nonprofit organizations in Northern Kentucky and began shooting documentary-style interview videos for them (once again consuming my weekends and weeknights). I pursued these creative endeavors not just because I needed to counterbalance my work at Toyota, but because I truly loved it.

When 2015 approached, I resolved to finally do the things I wanted to do; after much planning, my girlfriend and I quit our jobs in August and decided to travel the country for three months, with the goal of seeing as many National Parks as possible. We knocked out 12 parks, 29 states, and 10,000 miles over 6 weeks before our car and all of our camping gear was stolen in Seattle. Despite the awful ending, I was truly grateful for the chance to get on the road and learn more about my true self and what really drives me.

My life experiences, especially those over the past 8 years, have prepared me to take the leap that is entering the startup community. While I am transitioning from a company consisting of thousands of employees across the world to a non-profit with three, my work in project management and operations, combined with my passion for the creative class and Greater Cincinnati community should correlate well to leading the next Brandery class to success, and contributing to the growing #StartupCincy environment.

Brandery Love Stories


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

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

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

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

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

Brandery company stacks the leadership team with friends of The Brandery

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

Brandery grads invest in another Brandery grad

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

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

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

Two founders of Wax Music merge with Lifecycle

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

Jersey Watch hires former Urban Trials CTO

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

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

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

Our own staff came from close by, too

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

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

Company Highlights: Üluntu and GILD Collective

Another week closer to Demo Day brings yet another week of company highlights! Get to know the names and faces behind Üluntu and GILD as they present their company highlight.

Who’s on your team and how did you find each other?


Daryn Hillhouse – CEO

Nick Rattermann – CTO

John Gordos – Technical Advisor

Daryn: I recently moved to Cincinnati from Cape Town, South Africa. I have a background in operations and logistics and run a successful events company in South Africa. I was introduced to Nick by James Fisher, CEO of Roadtrippers. Nick worked for Roadtrippers when the company started 4 years ago at The Brandery, and more recently worked at a defense contractor as a software programmer. John Gordos and I met through through a combination of networking / office hours events organized by The Brandery, as well as through introductions made by local and ex-Brandery startups.

GILD Collective

Jessie Deye – CEO

Kelsey Pytlik – Chief Experience Officer

Rachel Bauer – Chief Creative Officer

Kelsey: Rachel Bauer McCreary, Jessie Deye, and Kelsey Pytlik (myself) are on our team. We all met a few years ago when I moved to Cincinnati from my hometown in Cleveland, and Rachel returned to Cincinnati after being away for college, traveling abroad, and grad school. Jessie is originally from Cincinnati and had been working here since graduating from UC. We never really talked about starting a company, but it was clear that we were all looking for “something more.” So when the idea for GILD Collective popped into Rachel’s head and she texted us (yes, a text was the start of our company) it was easy for us all to get excited and get on board.

What is your company?


Daryn: We are Üluntu (which means “Community” in the African Zulu language). We are building a social platform for the mass-participation events industry. We build highly engaged communities around their event experiences.

GILD Collective

Kelsey: GILD Collective! We offer women a fun reason to get together in the spirit of creativity by throwing awesomely curated craft parties. We provide all the supplies and instruction, and our party hostesses just provide the space and the friends.

What attracted you to apply to The Brandery?


Daryn: I think it was a combination of what The Brandery offered in terms of providing the environment to build a product and brand, and the revival currently taking place in Cincinnati, particularly in Over-The-Rhine. Being surrounded by like-minded, positive, young people all contributing to building a better future for themselves and the community, is a super powerful attraction.

GILD Collective

Kelsey: We knew very early on that our branding was going to be critical for the success of our company. People need to associate Gild with feelings of fun and excitement, but also with confidence and creativity. Knowing that, we felt like the Brandery would be a great fit for us. Also, being just an “idea on a napkin” around the time of applications, we were eager for mentorship and guidance since we were beginning down a path that we had never been before. It’s also pretty awesome that we have a top accelerator in our back yard, given that we all live just a few minutes away!

What’s been the best part?


Daryn: The network. It’s not everyday that you can get on the phone to the Marketing Director of the Dollar Shave Club, CEO’s of the largest Venture Capital firms in the country, or ex-NFL superstars like Dhani Jones. The access to an incredible network of mentors and investors who are genuinely interesting in your success, and willing to assist wherever needed, again, is an incredible privilege.

GILD Collective

Kelsey: For me, the best part of the Brandery has been the intense support that we have been given. Support can look a lot of different ways – we have an amazing creative agency who has delivered us work that brought us to tears, we have mentors who reassure us when we’re not sure we’re doing the right thing, and we have other teams beside us building us up when we need it the most. We also have the support of the Brandery team, who has not only helped us learn the language of ‘startup’ but more importantly put their faith in us as a company and lit a fire in us to succeed and move quickly. Without The Brandery, we would probably have had a couple parties that nobody paid for, but with The Brandery we’ve had over 20 parties and we’re generating revenue.

Work aside, what’s your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati?


Daryn: I really enjoy being able to walk to work. On the weekend, it has to be taking a #CincyRedBike and riding through the parks along the river, then heading back to OTR for some Eagle chicken, washed down with a Rhinegeist Truth. What more do you need? Cincinnati has everything.

GILD Collective

Kelsey: Is eating an okay answer? :) It seems like there is always a new restaurant opening up to try, so it is fun to make your way around to those. There’s also something different to do in Washington Park any day of the week (City Flea, workout classes, movies in the park, CRAFTS IN THE PARK!!) And… I like to run down along the river. The pathways have just been expanded yet again and it is quite beautiful.

Meet Üluntu and GILD Collective in the flesh! Üluntu is throwing the first-ever 5k that combines both physical and mental prowess. Get a team together (anyone can participate, not just the super-fit Spartan Racers) and sign up. Plus, the last Sunday of the month, GILD Collective does crafts in the park for just $20. Registration will open soon for the September 30 event.

Stay tuned for the final company highlights coming within the next few weeks and other Brandery news by subscribing to our email list.

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Photos in this post by Zackariah Cole Photography.

HackOTR Recap


From 4:00 PM Friday, August 7 to 5:00 PM Saturday, August 8, The Brandery’s lights shone bright as groups of talented individuals congregated in one space to compete against one another in an all-out mental brawl. Although there was plenty of food and coffee to be passed around, many teams struggled to keep their eyes wide open as they created programs and solutions to different challenges’ criteria. But in the end, many walked away victorious with a first-place ribbon in their hand and prizes to match.

HackOTR was a complete success, with a great turnout of competitors who worked to the wire to create some really fantastic products. For the overall developing hack, innovative projects such as ice-breaker apps and programs that alert you about Twitter mentions via LED lights made it difficult to decide the final winner. But in the end there could be only one, and after careful deliberation with the event’s judges, only one team walked away with the grand prize. Here’s a quick rundown of who they are and what they created:

Hack: Overall Technology Challenge
Team: Curtis Schumacher, Chris Crowell, Ken Addison, Kenneth Fechter, Michael Richardson
Project: Home-searching and matching algorithm using existing Casamatic data
Prize: Kindle Fire HD 7’s

The hackathon’s first ever marketing hack made its way into the program, and far exceeded our already high-hopes for the challenge. Marketing and designing contestants combined to form teams ready to create new strategies and ideas for Frameri’s business model. Whichever team could make the most impactful and doable business plan would be deemed champion and claim their reward from Frameri founder Konrad Billetz. Recap below:

Hack: Marketing Challenge
Team: Jerry Stoffl, Rolando Archila
Project: New marketing strategies that maximize user engagement
Prize: Free sets of Frameri frames and lenses

For such a short amount of time (which in a lot of ways felt much longer), the number of amazing projects and the dedication the hackers gave was staggering. There is no doubt that many more HackOTR’s will be soon to follow after last weekend’s, so if you missed this one, be sure to sign up for our next!

Stay in touch with us via email to know when our next major event will take place

Company Highlights: AdAdapted and Wyzerr

It’s time for another company highlight! This week we take a deeper look at Wyzerr and AdAdapted, two companies from outside of Cincinnati.

Who’s on your team and how did you find each other?


Mike Pedersen – CEO

Molly McFarland – CMO

Mike: Molly and myself are the two co-founders, but our total team is up to six. The two of us met at another start-up that was in the marketing tech space. I was the architect of the initial platform and worked hand in hand with the sales and marketing team to bring on new clients.

While I was there, I spent a lot of time working with Molly and that lead to us teaming up on AdAdapted.


Natasia Malaihollo – CEO, Lead Programmer

Bjorn Simmons – CMO

Stedmon Harper – CCO

Natasia: We have 3 full-time founders in Cincinnati: Stedmon Harper, Bjorn Simmons, and myself. I met Stedmon in Fayetteville, Arkansas while working on my first startup, Sooligan, 3 years ago. I was in The Ark Challenge accelerator there and we were looking for someone to help us market to the students at the University of Arkansas. Stedmon was a local influencer at the college so we recruited him to help us do outreach and events for students. Stedmon stayed on with the company all three years while we worked on the startup. When Sooligan ended last year, I recruited Stedmon to help me start Wyzerr. He brought on Bjorn to help out with the sales and marketing.

What is your company?


Mike: Have you ever clicked on one of those banner ads at the bottom of your favorite app? Probably not. Can you even name the brand you last saw advertised in one? Again, probably not. Advertising through banner ads and popups is common, yet disruptive and ineffective.

AdAdapted is changing that by creating a native advertising platform specifically for mobile applications. Instead of using a one size fits all solution, AdAdapted provides tools that allows developers to build custom sponsored experiences into their application. Now they can create ads that match the look, feel, and context of their application.

Since house a number of custom ads, our platform can match apps up with brands where there’s a contextual fit. When you’re out grocery shopping, what’s more effective, an ad about a product you can find in two minutes in the store or a message about how Obama wants you to refinance your home?

For brands, they receive a custom experience, at scale, in environments where the user is highly engaged.


Natasia: Wyzerr helps businesses capture customer feedback. We build surveys that look and feel like games.

What attracted you to apply to The Brandery?


Mike: We’re constantly trying to get into the door with brands, saw the name, and applied. Seemed to make sense.


Natasia: I’ve actually been obsessed with The Brandery for the past 4 years. They rejected my first startup twice. I’ve always loved everything about what they stand for. I believe branding is incredibly important to any product or service that is consumer-facing, which Wyzerr is. You want be top of mind when a consumer thinks about something they need, which you offer. The partnerships with the creative agencies is what really made us apply to The Brandery. As a company that is really UX/UI focused, we wanted as many creative minds and thought leaders in this space to help improve our platform.

What’s been the best part?


Mike: The incredible set of mentors who are associated with the Brandery. Since joining the Brandery, we’ve had the opportunity to get advice with some of the best minds in advertising, product, and adtech investing.


Natasia: The creative agencies. We were fortunate enough to have two outstanding partnerships (POSSIBLE and Seed Strategy). They really treat us like a partner and help us with everything from design, logo, UX/UI, to our pitch deck, fundraising strategy, and brand manifesto. In exchange, we bring them fresh ideas and innovation. We’ve learned so much about branding and messaging, and how to position ourselves in the marketplace from our meetings with them.

Work aside, what’s your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati?


Mike: Chill and have a beer at Lachey’s.


Natasia: For me personally, I really enjoy running from Ohio to Kentucky. I love the area around the riverbank, the bridge, and Covington. There’s so much character and it’s gorgeous. I sometimes just sit near the water and sketch new ideas for a user interface.

Big things ahead for these guys! Browse through their websites and products (AdAdapted, Wyzerr) to stay in touch with their companies, and check here soon to take a look at our next two highlighted startups!

Photos in this post by Zackariah Cole Photography.

Company Highlights: Casamatic and Jersey Watch

We love our Class of 2015, and we think you would love them too. As stated in the companies’ description article, we’re going to be posting an article a week focusing on two of our startups at a time, letting the founders speak a few words of their own on behalf of their company. Each post will focus on the founders’ companies, their move to Cincinnati, and how The Brandery has impacted their progress and business.

This week we sit down with the founders of Casamatic and Jersey Watch; both already have active versions of their product available online but are moving well to create an even better product by Demo Day in October. Take a look at some of their responses below and see how joining The Brandery has helped them grow so far.

Who’s on your team and how did you find each other?


Alex Bowman – CEO – Cincinnati, OH

Chris Ridenour – CTO – Cincinnati, OH

John Back – Lead Engineer – Cincinnati, OH

Alex: After I moved back to Cincinnati, I reached out to Chris to join the organizing team of Startup Weekend Cincinnati. As an avid follower during my time in Seattle, I knew I wanted to help make it happen here in Cincinnati—we’ve been buddies since then. We also brought AngelHack to Cincinnati and started a monthly startup meet-up in town with The Brandery’s marketing manager, Emily Cooper. We <3 #StartupCincy.

Chris and John met at Rockfish Interactive, a digital agency in Cincinnati, and they’ve been friends since (literally) day one. Fun fact: John officiated Chris’s wedding this year.

Jersey Watch

David Carter – Co-founder – Athens, OH

Tim Gusweiler – Co-founder – Cincinnati, OH

David: Tim and I were student-athletes at Ohio University (me- football, Tim- golf) and connected while studying in Ohio University’s prestigious dual MBA/MSA (Masters of Sports Administration) program. We were interested in the underserved and disorganized world of youth and high school sports and have worked together for over two years. Collectively we have built a team culture that blends aggressive tactics with disciplined execution, and a relentless focus on activities that matter. We care about sports, living balanced lives and providing remarkable service to our customers.

What is your company?


Alex: Casamatic matches buyers to their perfect home by learning about the people and activities they love. We’ve curated home listings—no giant maps, no huge lists of homes—we only show you your perfect homes.

Did you know that Zillow and other home search sites are selling page views to real estate agents? They’re basically being rewarded for making you browse a zillion homes. And Zillow’s only search filters are lot size, square footage, price range, and number of bedrooms and bathrooms. Those aren’t the only things that people care about when buying a home… in fact, they barely scratch the surface!

Chris: By demo day, we’ll be launched in a handful of cities (just Cincinnati right now) with an awesome new design from our agency friends at Landor.

Jersey Watch

David: Jersey Watch makes it easy to organize and empower youth sports with free, made-to-order websites and online tools. Youth sports organizations want a simple, low-cost solution that includes real service. We deliver on this, and have a particular strength with:

  • Strong Product/Market Fit – Competitive groups over-deliver on features and price-points
  • No cost– Jersey Watch is free through our sponsors. This is not seen in the market.
  • Commitment to Service – We on-board clients faster and service them better than the competition.

By the end of September we hope to have finalized our scaling model and national rollout strategy. We expect to have a variety of new features on our product, and have successfully tested a handful of new tactics to acquire and onboard customers faster. Finally, this fall we aim to begin expanding our team significantly, and hope that recruiting efforts are well on their way come September.

What attracted you to apply to The Brandery?


Alex: Since we’re from Cincinnati, we’ve worked with and are friends with many other founders that have gone through The Brandery, so we knew first-hand how awesome it was and what it meant for Casamatic. It was an easy decision for us to make.

Jersey Watch

David: We always knew we were going to stay near Cincinnati, and it just worked out perfectly that The Brandery was only a few blocks away from the heart of downtown.

What’s been the best part?


Alex: Getting paired up with our new friends & agency partner Landor has been amazing. It’s crazy that we’re working with the same agency that creates brands that permeate our households—and it’s incredibly humbling!

We love the day-to-day interactions with Tony Alexander too—a seasoned entrepreneur-turned-angel investor who’s been through this before. His regular advice has been incredibly impactful. Our mentors are amazing too.

John: On top of all that, the gigabit internet is definitely a plus.

Jersey Watch

David: The variety and quality of the Brandery mentors and Cincinnati startup ecosystem has been tremendous. Our mentors have been incredibly supportive and inspiring to push the boundaries on our vision.

Work aside, what’s your favorite thing to do in Cincinnati?


Alex: Eat food and drink beer. We’re currently exploring Northside, one of the amazing neighborhoods in Cincinnati. We’re going to Urban Artifact, a new brewery in Northside that specializes in sour beers, this weekend, and probably hitting up another one of Northside’s amazing taco joints!

John: Riding the tidal wave of excitement, influence, and change that is going through Cincinnati/Over-the-Rhine right now is a real source of pride for me.

Jersey Watch

David: The city has been a great experience for us, but we especially have enjoyed visiting all the local restaurants around OTR.

Whether you’re looking for a new perfect home to move into or managing your own youth sports team, these guys easily have you covered. We chose these startups for our program based on both their idea and their team’s ability to deliver that idea— so far, so good.

Curious about their products? Take a look through their websites (Casamatic, Jersey Watch) to get a glimpse at what they’ve created so far. Let others know how awesome these companies are by sharing below, and subscribe to our email list to see the next set of company one-on-ones coming soon!

Photos by Zackariah Cole Photography

HackOTR is Coming


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introducing The Brandery Class of 2015

After teasing you with some information and demographics about our Brandery 2015 Class, we think it’s about time to announce who exactly these entrepreneurs are and what they’re cooking up in our lab. This week we’ll give a brief introduction for each startup, followed by a one-on-one interview with each company coming in the following weeks. But for now, without further ado, let’s take a look at who we’ll be housing in OTR over the next few months.

Cue drumroll please.

AdAdapted, led by Mike Pedersen (CEO) and Molly McFarland (CMO), is a context-aware mobile advertising platform with the ability to make advertisements feel more connected to the user. It also helps app publishers unlock new inventory while providing brands with the tools to access that inventory at scale and with transparency. Mike has a strong past of programming with Amplifinity but also has great experience designing and selling programs for large companies such as Visa, Walmart, and DirecTV. Molly is an alum from Tulane University and also worked with Amplifinity as the Director of Marketing, and brings her experience from her former position to AdAdapted as a killer marketing expert.

The Burnout Games is a Cincinnati-based customer acquisition and retention tool for mass participation events. The three musketeers of this team consist of Daryn Hillhouse (CEO), Nick Rattermann (CTO), and John Gordos (Technical Advisor). From Aegis Defense Systems in London to large-scale oil and gas contracts in Washington DC, Daryn has had experience with event management and other fields from numerous countries across the world. Nick is an expert when it comes to the tech-y stuff, having created technological projects and worked for Engility Corp up at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. When it comes to computers and coding, John brings years of wisdom to the class. John led teams responsible for implementing the Sunny Delight’s ERP system, the Warehouse Management System, Business Intelligence, and the Data Warehouse.

GILD Collective provides unique in-home craft parties with curated project kits and detailed instruction. Led by three women with a passion for building others’ confidence and self-esteem, GILD provides events and parties with a unique crafting experience that can’t be matched nor duplicated by other services. Jessie Deye (CEO), Kelsey Pytlik (Chief Experience Officer), and Rachel Bauer (Chief Creative Officer) combine to form GILD’s all-star team of event experts. Jessie worked for a number of firms dealing with shopper behavior and consumer analytics, making her a pro on ever-changing market demands. Kelsey is a UI/UX-pert and is helping GILD achieve its goal of empowering women’s self-confidence while driving the GILD business forward through consumer acquisition and satisfaction. Rachel, a proud Cincinnatian but world-wide traveler, is the left-side of the brain behind GILD’s operations. Being a professional calligrapher and watercolor artist, Rachel’s art-driven mind provides the designs and ideas behind GILD’s unique and innovative creations.

GoSkip empowers shoppers to scan, pay, and skip the checkout line with the convenience of their phone. GoSkip’s founders—Chase Thompson (CEO) and David Tolioupov (CTO)—are here to re-define the shopping experience make life easier for the all of us, allowing shoppers of all kinds to skip those long checkout lines hassle-free. Chase holds strong experience through the management of HRM and CRM Systems at Property Solutions and also through his involvement with Moki as the Director of Business Development. David does not fall short of the highly talented Brandery pool, being able to speak four languages and having past work experience with software at M86 Security. And if that doesn’t impress you, perhaps one of his four of his degrees from Boston College will.

Lukla uses the same technology applied by NASA as insulation in their spacesuits to make outerwear slimmer, warmer, and sleeker. Whether you’re hiking a mountain, hitting the slopes, or traveling space itself, Lukla keeps you warm without sacrificing style. Michael Markesbery (CEO) graduated from Miami University with degrees in Zoology, Neuroscience, and Entrepreneurship. He has also received numerous publications on his work in developing a therapeutic treatment for cancer, a scholarship from NASA’s Astronaut Foundation— and he has presented his work to the United States Congress. His Co-Founder, Massimiliano Squire, graduated from Bocconi University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Economics, Management, and Finance. Like David from GoSkip, Massimiliano speaks four different languages and has traveled across a number of different countries.

Triplust lets travelers message trusted locals for insider advice in cities around the world, allowing visitors to partake in a true, native experience that is unique for each city. Jordan Axani (CEO) may be known globally for his trip around the world, but around The Brandery he is known as the leader of Tripust and the Canadian organizer of our 4th of July party. He grew up learning the basics of business from his family’s advertising agency, and later studied marketing, consulting, and real estate development to become an eminent figure in one of North America’s preeminent boutique firms. Andrew Vine (COO) is a bit of an international man himself, having worked with and helping manage Canada’s former Prime Minister, Paul Martin. He would later help train agriculture entrepreneurs and develop sustainable supply-chains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The last team member, Sebastien Filion (CTO), owns a vast amount of intellect and expertise in the startup world. After working for a large hotelier and traveling the world, he decided to create his own company. Although some problems arose with his first startup, he learned a great amount about the startup world and would later find Andrew and Sebastien to create the driven team they are today. Check out Triplust’s test product if you’re in Cincinnati for All Star festivities.

Wyzerr is reinventing the way businesses collect and analyze consumer feedback by building fun, fast, and easy smart-technology that looks and feels like games. Natasia Malaihollo (CEO and Lead Programmer) has an extensive history of expertise in legal studies and programming. She first learned to code as a freshman at UC Berkeley, but later followed her desire to become a lawyer and even partake in infringement cases between Apple and Samsung. Bjorn “BK” Simmons (CMO) combines his knowledge and experience of politics with marketing to create an asset key to Wyzerr’s success. Graduating with a BSBA in Marketing from the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville and later spending four years with the Georgia State Legislature, BK now greatly aids Wyzerr in brand development, strategic partnerships, and business relations. Stedmon Harper is working on his third startup with Wyzerr, aiding the company through his engagement with experiential marketing, market research, and creative services.

Jersey Watch is growing a local sports network that offers team websites and online payments, while connecting brands to targeted communities and households. Founders Tim Gusweiler and David Carter are proud Ohioans who have a knack for sports and the athletic world. Tim manages the sales, operations, and customer service of Jersey Watch while David leads the company in business strategy and development. Tim and David met and graduated from Ohio University, and continue to work fervently to create a better sports experience for teams and individuals alike.

Benchmark Intelligence is a location analytics platform for retail and restaurant chains that reveals why certain locations make more money than others. Jordan Skole has been a long-time outdoors enthusiast, and has grown up in a geospatial world. He previously ran his own digital agency, led a reputation management department for GM and Chrysler, and was the director of marketing and growth for a venture-backed startup in the enterprise software space. Eric Santos conducts himself as a great business partner with Jordan after becoming a successful entrepreneur himself. From launching startups and co-founding companies such as Soshowise, Scheduly, WishBooklet, and Dwibbles, Eric has nothing but ingenuity and potential to bring to the Benchmark team.

Casamatic matches you to the perfect home by learning about the people and activities that you love, through an engaging and highly personalized experience. When you find the perfect home, we pair you up with an expert real estate agent to go see it in-person—instantly. Alex Bowman (CEO) is a marketing and analytics expert with experience stemming from his time spent working with Blackberry and Kindle Fire. He later helped ChoreMonster with its growth marketing and became a huge fan and co-organizer of Startup Weekend Cincinnati, among other local tech meetups. Chris Ridenour (CTO) began his work as an undergrad within Procter and Gamble’s GBS Innovation group and later joined Rockfish Digital to help them build mobile and web applications for some of the world’s biggest brands. Chris also founded Cincinnati-based startup LISNR as CTO, but followed his passion and joined with Alex to create Casamatic only two years later.

The Brandery is proud to call these ten companies our Class of 2015, and we see nothing but potential for their aspirations to grow. With roughly three months left on our calendar until Demo Day, the quick moving and even quicker thinking entrepreneurs are hustling to get work done and show their progress along the way. Make sure to stay tuned into our blog for further updates and interviews with our class and visit HackOTR site to check out our next major upcoming event!

The Brandery Class of 2015

The Class of 2015 is officially locked, and we couldn’t be happier. We have a killer lineup of founders ready to take their startups to the next level. Here’s some fun facts about the group. We’ll be sharing one hint about the startups every day on our social media accounts for the next ten days— the cartoons will demonstrate the problem each of the startups is solving. Any guesses to the markets we’re tackling this year?

2015 Application Data Is Out


New year, new records. Applicants to our Class of 2015 have, again, topped our charts. Here are the stats:

  • Total applications increased by 10% — our most ever.
  • Applications came from 32 states— the most being Ohio, California, and New York, in that order.
  • About 20% of applicants were from Ohio.
  • Applications came from 48 countries— after the U.S., the most being India, Canada, and the UK.
  • A little over 50% of applicants had at least one minority or female co-founder.
  • Roughly two-thirds of our finalists visited Cincinnati over the last few weeks— many of them flew in just for their 30 minute interview. That is dedication!

When choosing companies, we look for 1) a great idea with a sizable market, 2) a great team with varied skill sets, and 3) how well the startups’ needs fit into our capabilities. We saw dozens and dozens (maybe even hundreds) of startups who fulfilled the first two requirements, but just weren’t a good fit for us. It’s not fair to either of us to take equity in a business we can’t help.

That being said, our sixth class of startups begins on June 16. We couldn’t be more excited to finish up the selection process and welcome the founders. If you applied, look for a decision email by the end of the week. Thank you to all applicants— this pool was the highest in quality and number we’ve ever seen. We remain dedicated to finding a resource for entrepreneurs in Cincinnati that fits— either way, we hope to see you at a Brandery event soon!

As for the new class, our plan is to share some information about the founders in June. You’ll hear more about the startups in July, but trust us, this class has serious promise. Looking forward to sharing more soon.

RentShare and Chalky Announce Acquisitions

“This acquisition is a huge milestone and is a testament to all the hard work and dedication we’ve put towards our product and company. We’re thrilled to be joining the i3 Verticals team and I’m incredibly appreciative of all The Brandery did for us over the years to assist in kick-starting and growing RentShare, helping lead us to this opportunity.”

- Ian Halpern, CEO, RentShare

We’re thrilled to announce that two graduates of The Brandery, RentShare (2011) and Chalky (2013), have been acquired. RentShare has been acquired by i3 Verticals, a technology-centric payment company focused on providing solutions to its clients throughout the U.S. Chalky has been acquired by Admittedly, a platform that helps high school students find their dream schools and get accepted.

Charlie and Isaac, the co-founders of Chalky

“The Brandery had a strong positive influence on our foundation and early progress,” said Isaac Madan, CEO of Chalky. “We learned aggressively during the program via a diverse set of mentors and fellow founders.”

When companies enter The Brandery each year, many dream of some day being acquired. It’s exciting to see our graduates reach that inflection point, and we’re anxiously anticipating the next big thing these founders will do. Congratulations to the RentShare and Chalky teams!

Startups in the Class of 2015 to Have New Housing Option

Picture this: You’re a three-person team of entrepreneurs with the next big idea, from, let’s say, San Francisco or NYC or Vancouver. You just got accepted to The Brandery and need to move to Cincinnati within three weeks for the kickoff of the program. You’re spending 18+ hours a day working on your startup. Housing in a new city is the last thing you have time to worry about.

We’re constantly asking ourselves (and our alums), “What can we do to make our entrepreneurs’ lives a little easier?” Year after year, finding affordable housing, close to the office, with a landlord who’s willing to negotiate a short-term lease is a major pain point. What if you could just check a box and know you’re getting the best deal in the best neighborhood?

We’re thrilled to be working with Urban Sites to bring affordable startup housing to our neighborhood in downtown Cincinnati, Over-the-Rhine. For those who live in town, we know the renaissance of the neighborhood is one of the most incredible success stories in the city. The way the few blocks around our office have exploded with restaurants, bars, businesses, and startup offices in the past few years has been inspiring. However, living in the “trendy” neighborhood sometimes comes with trendy prices. Instead of more entrepreneurs moving into the neighborhood where the entrepreneurial spirit is so perfectly represented, more were moving away. If we want this area to become the startup hub we know it can be, we need founders living in it. Rent prices will be slightly subsidized, making them affordable for entrepreneurs’ budgets.

Here’s what’s within proximity of our new startup house:

  • The Brandery – 3 blocks
  • Frameri (2013 graduate) HQ – 3 blocks
  • Sqrl (2013 graduate) HQ – 4 blocks
  • The new Cincinnati startup hub, which will eventually house The Brandery, Cintrifuse, and CincyTech – 2 blocks
  • Roadtrippers (2011 graduate) HQ – 6 blocks
  • Modulus (2012 graduate) HQ – 7 blocks
  • Choremonster (2012 graduate) HQ – 6 blocks
  • Dozens and dozens of incredible, award-winning restaurants and bars, an urban market, concert venues, breweries, and a huge portion of the creative class living and working within 10 blocks

The building will be ready for move-in on June 1, just in time for our 6th accelerator class. Read more about the initiative in the Business Courier.