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Reason #5: High-quality workshops.

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During our accelerator session, we have programming that will keep you on track and inspired. Each week has a different focus, from branding and consumer understanding, to metrics, data, and analysis, to fundraising. We bring in experts on the subject each week to give a brief talk on how to perfect that aspect of your business. They say accelerators may be the new MBA, and our programming is supportive of that.

The Brandery was very hands-on, and provided us day-to-day mentorship. In retrospect, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half of what we did without The Brandery’s help.

– Rujul Zaparde, CEO/Co-founder of FlightCar


FlightCar is a 2012 graduate of The Brandery. Their service allows inbound travelers to rent out outbound travelers’ cars, eliminating the need for long-term parking and traditional rental car services. They are located at SFO, BOS, and LAX. Read more about FlightCar’s Brandery experience here.

Apply now.

All photos courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

Reason #4: You'll pitch at our Demo Day.

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While it’s not the finish line, Demo Day is definitely something to work toward for our startups. It is a fantastic showcase of how much can truly be accomplished in four months. Last year, we held Demo Day at the Aronoff Center’s Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Over 400 investors, mentors, and supporters from around the country attended.

There are a ton of demo days hosted every year but we can only focus on a select few. We always come to The Brandery’s Demo Day because we know every presentation will show a strong team passionate about building a big business. They truly have a gift for finding the next great company."
- Chris Olsen, Partner at Drive Capital


Drive Capital is a new venture capital firm that invests in innovative technology, healthcare, and consumer companies in the Midwest. They recently announced a $250 million fund to focus on startups in the region.

Reason #3: We'll help you understand your consumer.

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From the beginning, we’ve been focused on the consumer, and we believe you should be, too. You’ll work with expert marketers throughout the program to dig deep into where your company fits into your consumer’s life. We want you to have a comprehensive understanding of who your customer is, where they are, how they think, and how you reach them.

During our Growth Hack Day, we had an incredibly powerful and challenging discussion with Stan Joosten at P&G about how to scale. His expertise in digital marketing and growth hacking allowed us to dive deep into our user acquisition channels and our word-of-mouth referral opportunities.

– Marissa Hu, CEO/Co-founder of Co-Ed Supply


Co-Ed Supply is a 2013 graduate of The Brandery. They deliver care packages filled with personal care, healthy snacks, and entertainment items to college students on a monthly basis while providing brands an “in” to a critical mass.

Apply now.
See reason #1 and reason #2 to apply to The Brandery.

Reason #2: A team of rockstar mentors.

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When you arrive at The Brandery on day one of the accelerator program, we’ll hand you a list of about seven mentors that have been handpicked to guide you through the process. You can read all about our experts here.

All accelerators boast a deep mentor list. The difference is the Brandery’s are deeply engaged, available and ready to lend a hand whenever & wherever your business needs assistance. Any introduction, whether it’s top tier VC’s, corporate executives, branding specialists or technical help are always one email / call away."

- Nick Cromydas, CEO/Co-founder of TapFit

TapFit is a mobile app that allows you one-click booking for any fitness option near you without any commitment. The app is available for download on iPhone and Android in the Cincinnati and Chicago markets.

Apply to The Brandery here.

Reason #1 to apply to The Brandery: Unparalleled branding assistance.

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For the entire month of March, we’re sharing all the reasons you should apply to our 2014 accelerator program. The reasons come straight from our alums and supporters. They highlight what our graduates found most beneficial from the program or what makes us different. We hope this will provide insight into the program and eliminate any uncertainty that potential applicants may have. We’ll file each one under the tag “reasons-to-apply.”

When you’re accepted to The Brandery, we’ll pair you 1:1 with a world-class design agency. Last year, our partners were LPK, We Have Become Vikings, Gyro, GoDutch Studio, Resource, Possible, Hyperquake, Rockfish, Rocket Science, and Empower MediaMarketing.

It is by no amount of exaggeration that I say the branding agency we were paired with at The Brandery fundamentally changed the direction of our business. They gave us so much more than just a new logo and name – they helped us redefine our value proposition, which ultimately reshaped our entire product and roadmap. That is one of the reasons we’re here today.

- Ryan Watson, CEO/Co-founder of Sqrl

Sqrl is software that makes collecting information from clients completely painless. The team from Columbus, OH was accepted to The Brandery in 2013 and has since raised a $550K seed round. Their partnership with Gyro has exceeded expectations and continued to assist Sqrl long after the program has ended.

Apply to The Brandery here.

Brandery Storytime: FlightCar

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Quick Facts


Company: FlightCar
Brandery Class: 2012
Launched: 2013
Total Raised: Over $6M
Locations: 3, SFO, BOS, and LAX
Cars Rented Out: Over 5,000



It’s just another day in 2012. Rujul Zaparde and Kevin Petrovic are sitting at Panera Bread, enjoying their last few months of high school. It’s March, and Rujul and Kevin already have their acceptance letters to Harvard and Princeton, respectively. Rujul mentions to the well-traveled Kevin that he’d recently read an article about a startup called Airbnb. They start discussing, and an idea emerges.

“If people are willing to share their most valuable asset, their house, why wouldn’t they be willling to share their second most valuable asset, their car?” Rujul asks Kevin. People could drop off their cars at the airport with them instead of parking in long-term parking at the airport, and visitors that needed to rent cars could just use the bank of cars they already had. It would save everyone involved money.

The story would be great if they instantly started drawing up plans for their startup, building their business, and raising capital. But that’s not how it goes.

“We thought it was a terrible idea and ignored it for about a month.”

Kevin and Rujul had known each other for about ten years through school, and had already started a non-profit together, called Drinking Water for India, that brings safe drinking water to rural areas of India.
A month or so later, the idea came up again. It didn’t seem so terrible anymore. Rujul and Kevin decided to investigate its potential. At this point, they didn’t know what an accelerator was, let alone think they would be at one in two months.
They began doing some research and, as Rujul puts it, “began asking dumb questions.” Some of this research led them to learn that accelerators exist, and The Brandery seemed like a good option for them. The application deadline was the next day.

They applied, and after picking up their developer, Shri, from MIT, the guys flew to Cincinnati for their interview. “We saw their application and that they were three guys from Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and thought, ‘okay, well that is interesting,’” explained GM Mike Bott. “So we invited them to come interview as a finalist. We offered Google Hangout as an option, but they said they would rather come in person. They asked if they could come interview on a Friday for some reason, and on the way back from the airport— obviously at this point we had realized they were a lot younger than their application had alluded— we asked them why they needed to interview on a Friday. Rujul said, ‘Well, Kevin’s high school graduation is tomorrow. We thought you would take us more seriously if we showed up in person.’ They knew they really had to sell themselves.”

Ultimately, FlightCar was accepted to The Brandery’s 2012 class, making them the youngest co-founders in any class, at 17. In June, they ditched their plans for an Ivy League education, poached their developer from MIT, and moved to Cincinnati to tap their idea.

“We were just excited to meet mentors and be around people that thought we deserved $20k.”


Rujul, Kevin, and Shri showed up to The Brandery with the idea, the name, FlightCar, and a logo that “looked like a car with a shark fin on top of it— it was bad.” Right away, they got to work trying to find parking lots to use for the launch of their car sharing service. It was hard. To add to that, they were beginning to tackle the critical issue of acquiring insurance for the vehicles they would be renting out. About five weeks into the program at The Brandery, they were told that it couldn’t be done. Insurance would be impossible. Should they just shut down? Why would anyone lend their car to a stranger without insurance?

Meanwhile, FlightCar’s agency partner, Landor, was hard at work on their brand.

“They could not have done a better job. Landor was excellent in helping us figure out how to present ourselves. It wasn’t just a logo and a color scheme, which they did give us, but it’s a lot more than that. The concrete stuff was great, but what they really helped us out with was actually creating a brand. We didn’t understand A) what a brand was or B) what our brand was. The tagline, the tone of voice we use, that is all attributed directly to Landor.”

By the end of the program, Rujul, Kevin, and Shri had built a working prototype, established viable markets, acquired early investors, and done the impossible right before Demo Day, had insurance committed. They were prepped to launch.

What happened next?


After FlightCar graduated from The Brandery, they faced more challenges. Investors wanted to see traction, and they didn’t have it yet. They had all the tools to launch, but didn’t have the capital to secure parking lots. This was FlightCar’s “trough of sorrow.” They went from October to December trying to fundraise with no traction. They had the connections from The Brandery, but nothing was lining up. After four tedious months, they raised their first round and were able to launch in their first city, San Francisco.

A few months later, FlightCar applied (again on the last day that applications were open) to Y Combinator and was accepted. They were still scaling, still finding the numbers, and YC helped them through that process while they kept fundraising. FlightCar began to take off— they received tons of press and raised their series A in 14 days. And then they got sued.

The City of San Francisco filed a lawsuit against FlightCar that suggested they be subject to the same fees that the rental car companies have to pay the airport for being on airport property. FlightCar is not located on airport property, but the city argues that they should pay since they are using their customers. They handled the lawsuit with class and kept pressing on.

Today, FlightCar is in San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles, with other cities coming very soon.

How did The Brandery help FlightCar?

“If we hadn’t gone to The Brandery, I don’t think we could have gone through with any of this. I 100% wouldn’t have changed our decision to go through the program. You’re in one location with [GM Mike Bott] and all the other companies who get to know you so well. You can walk 25 feet and get any question you have answered and walk back to your desk and think about their answer. We just had so many questions and it is the absolute best way to get all of those questions answered. That was the number one thing for us. That, and everyone was there all the time, which is unlike other accelerators. Most people even work on Saturdays, which helps you stay on track with the other companies. You saw everyone every day. The Brandery holds your hand a lot more that other accelerators, which is a good thing. We needed that.”



Rujul’s advice to future Brandery companies?

“Use the program as much as you can. Work seven days a week. Take things in stride and focus on what you need to get done.”

Apply to The Brandery now.

Alums Raise Rounds in Q1

With just a few months having passed since Demo Day, we’re extremely proud of the progress that has been made by our alums. 8 of the 9 startups that presented at Demo Day in October have raised capital, many have created jobs, and they are all representing The Brandery and Cincinnati well. Here are two who’ve announced they have a little extra money in the bank:

Sqrl

A B2B solution for client requests, Sqrl, has taken off tremendously since they graduated from The Brandery. They started as a dark horse (or, um, squirrel), but they were able to build their team, adjust their vision, and finish strong by October. Co-founder Craig Baldwin recently detailed their experience at The Brandery in a guest post on Nibletz.
Sqrl just closed their seed round of $550k, led by CincyTech and Hyde Park Venture Partners. You can read more about their funding success in TechCrunch.

Donde

Donde, a mobile locator for retail brands, has also recently closed their seed round of $915k. They’ve started operating from both Cincinnati and Vancouver, and will soon be in New York City. Their round includes investments from Full Stack, Chicago Ventures, and Mercury Fund. You may remember Donde from when they were awarded the Empower MediaMarketing Disruptive Media Fellowship or when they snagged the top prize of the Cincinnati Innovates competition.

Stay tuned for more exciting news from our alums. We’re always updating the In the News page with the latest.

P.S. – we’re officially accepting applications for our 2014 class! You can see the rundown of the events here and and apply here.

Demo Day 2013 and Beyond

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On Wednesday, we held our fourth annual Demo Day at the Aronoff’s Jarson-Kaplan theater in downtown Cincinnati. About 430 investors, mentors, agency partners, community supporters, friends, and family packed the house to see the immense progress that the companies have made in just four months.

It was a beautiful setting to celebrate the hard work of the teams. The Jarson-Kaplan theater’s ambience set the focus on the startups from the beginning. Excitement buzzed in the lobby as attendees waited to hear the newest disruptors present their products to the world. The professionalism of the Aronoff’s crew, our tech friends at Pebble Creek, and catering from Busken, Vonderhaars, and Daisy Mae’s Market made for a great morning from start to finish.

Brandery GM Mike Bott kicked off the morning with background on The Brandery, highlighting the unbelievable growth “up and to the right” of this class of startups— on their keg consumption.

They may play hard, but we have also never seen a class so strong at The Brandery. 8 of the 9 startups were able to generate revenue by Demo Day, which is an absolutely tremendous accomplishment in four months. The pitches were representative of that hard work, with beautifully designed decks and perfect delivery on the part of the presenters.

Attendees were encouraged to share their reactions to the pitches on Twitter, and we got some overwhelming responses.




There’s already been some press about the event, including the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Business Courier.
Right as Demo Day began, the Brandery grads’ portfolio pages went live on our site. You can get overviews of each startup as well as contact information on their respective pages, here.

But Demo Day was never the finish line for the nine startups in our fourth accelerator session.

Yes, Demo Day on Wednesday was their first big step, but now the training wheels are off. On Thursday, the startups had their final official meeting of the program with Mike Bott. “Now the real roller coaster begins,” he said.
Until now, the startups have been in the safe environment of The Brandery, using each other as support and motivation. Now, some of them will return home, some will stay, but the program is officially over. No more hard deadlines, workshops, or speakers.
But while the day-to-day scheduling for the startups is over, they are welcome to work out of The Brandery for free for the next 8 or more months as they transition. Mentoring will still be provided, and we’ll continue to coach them whenever needed. The companies will stay in touch with most of their rockstar teams of mentors and agency partners as well.
If you haven’t met them already, we have the perfect occasion for you: our first Community Pitch Event, open to all, will be on Tuesday at Rhinegeist.

We’re more than confident that these nine teams will do big things. You’ll be hearing from them soon.

And to the 2013 class, thank you for your hard work. Thank you for helping to “Startup Cincy.” We know you’ll make us proud.

App Roundup

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Looking to spice up your phone a bit? Just downloaded iOS 7? Want to support some Brandery startups? We compiled a list of apps you can download (for free!) from our grads and current companies. Download ’em, rate ’em, enjoy ’em.

Choremonster

You’ve surely heard about Choremonster. They’re on a mission to make families happier by making chores easier. Choremonster Their HQ is right down the street from our office in Over-the-Rhine, and they recently painted a massive purple monster on the outside of their building. Yep.

Available on the App Store

ChorePicker by Choremonster

To compliment their original app, our friends at Choremonster recently released ChorePicker to make it even easier to facilitate chores in your household. It integrates with Choremonster to provide a great experience for you and your kids. Read more about the big release in their blog.

Available on the App Store

KeepUp


Courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

KeepUp is a company currently in our accelerator program. Their app serves to make your communications more efficient and timely by reminding you what conversations you forgot about. With hundreds of emails pouring into your inbox each day, it’s easy to forget about contacts you need to keep up with. Let the KeepUp team remind you.

Available on the App Store

Impulcity


Courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

Your weekends need an upgrade. A graduate of The Brandery, the Impulcity app seeks to connect people to awesome events going on in their city. This beta will currently display results for Cincinnati, but more cities are to come. They’ve been working hard behind the scenes, so expect to see awesome stuff from the Impulcity team soon.

Available on the App Store
Coming soon to Android

Roadtrippers

Speaking of weekends, Roadtrippers wants you to discover the open road. Plan on the web, then take this app with you to find sweet spots to stop on your next drive. Fall is here, which means road trippin’ it to the best autumn views you can find… like these.

Available in the App Store

TapFit


Courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

TapFit is also currently in our accelerator. They’ve created a beautifully designed app to streamline fitness. It currently will locate any fitness class in Cincinnati, and more features are on the way. Check out TapFit— they’re taking the friction out of fitness.

Available in the App Store

SocialThreader Wins Rio Info 2013 Top Prize

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Brandery alum SocialThreader has been chosen as the winner of the Rio Info 2013 IT Innovation Competition for the USA. The competition is part of the 11th year of the Rio Info Conference in Rio de Janeiro, the largest national IT event in Brazil and one of the largest in Latin America. A panel of judges rated each of the hundreds of applicants on the following criteria: degree of innovation of the product or service, competitive advantages of the company, consistency and feasibility of the proposal, market potential of the product, financial returns possible, quality of the marketing strategy, and quality of the primary staff.

SocialThreader CEO Vinay Murthy will be attending the event to accept the prestigious award and showcase the company. SocialThreader will be recognized at the conference along with the winners of the European and Latin American countries’ competitions.

SocialThreader is a leader in social media based content marketing and advertising. SocialThreader’s seamless integration of a customer’s brand spectrum increases brand awareness, fosters social engagement, and increases conversions. They are a 2012 graduate of The Brandery. For more info on SocialThreader, check out their website and follow them on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Zackariah Cole Photography.

Company Update: Roadtrippers

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We’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Brandery graduate Roadtrippers lately. Their rockin’ social media presence, new partnerships with visitors bureaus around the country, and recently closing a round has us very excited, and we had to get the scoop from co-founder Tatiana.

Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what company are you with?

My name is Tatiana Parent, and I am co-founder of Roadtrippers.com.

What is Roadtrippers?

Roadtrippers is a road trip planner that’s on the web and mobile. Our goal is to help you plan the best road trip ever, whether it’s just a weekend away or an epic cross-country trek.

Anything new and exciting happening at Roadtrippers?

We’ve seen crazy growth recently. Currently, we’re the fastest growing travel planning app in the US. Last month we had about 750k unique visitors, with every visitor staying over 7 minutes on average, which is almost unheard of in online travel.
We recently secured $2.5 million investment from Drive Capital. We also began a partnership with Travel Oregon, and our new mobile app is launching this week. So, lots of good stuff going on.

What’s it like to work there?

Our office rocks. :) We’re located in an old, abandoned brewery, right here in OTR. We’re in the process of renovating more space as our team is quickly expanding. We’ve got an old-school keggerator, full of local beer from breweries in town like Rhinegeist, Madtree, and 50West.






Your social media presence is rad. What types of content do you focus on for your online strategy?

We use tons of photos of the craziest and most beautiful places, like insane treehouse hotels, gorgeous Florida springs, and offbeat attractions, like spooky abandoned asylums.

Why is social media so important to leverage as a startup?

Social media is a great way to build and engage a community. It also helps make you accessible, which is pretty important when you’re first starting out as a company.

Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs that want to create more content online and increase their company’s following?

Don’t be part of the noise. Say something different. Don’t create throw-away content. Be genuine and be authentic. Don’t underestimate consumers. People can see through bullshit. Be real.

To learn even more about Tatiana, her co-founder, James, and their journey building a successful startup, sign up for Startup Grind at The Brandery on September 19. We had a packed house for our last Startup Grind with FlightCar, so make sure to grab your tickets early!

Dan Gilbert's DVP invests in ChoreMonster

ChoreMonster, the Over-the-Rhine startup that aims to make chores fun for kids and less stressful for their parents, has closed a $1.5 million early stage round of funding and is announcing a partnership with the Procter & Gamble toothpaste brand Crest Oral-B.

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