More than 100 people filled the Grand Theater in New Albany yesterday to watch Velocity accelerator’s second cohort present their businesses on demo day.
Demo day is not a competition; it’s more like a graduation.
Sterling Lapinski, founder of Genscape and ClipperData, gave the keynote speech. Chrysalis was one of the first investors in Genscape when it was a startup. Lapinski and Genscape co-founder Sean O’Leary founded Genscape in Louisville in 2000. They sold the company in 2006 to London-based Daily Mail for more than $100 million. The company sells real-time energy data to commodities traders.
After the keynote, the five companies presented.
Andrew Klawier presented GroomHQ, “your virtual best man.” The online dashboard helps grooms plan bachelor parties, honeymoons, wedding attire and wedding party gifts. This dashboard can be shared with the entire wedding party so groomsmen can help collaborate on the planning.
In the past 100 days, the team has gotten a site up and running. They have an active blog addressing wedding planning FAQs. They have an online store for groomsmen gifts, including a partnership with Maker’s Mark. The next big push will be to get their bachelor party services up and running. This will include a place to pool money so everyone can chip in on expenses.
Jason Kelly, founder of Drifter Events, moved the business from Florida to Louisville shortly before applying to Velocity. The company plans “fun runs” and bike adventures and also puts together similar events for corporations and nonprofits. Kelly said he liked being active, but didn’t have much fun when he was working out or doing standard 10Ks.
In the past 100 days, Drifter Events has expanded from one race — the Urban Bike Adventure — to having around seven events to offer. Kelly has also expanded his team.
Chris Bailey, founder of GearBrake, presented the first hardware startup with which Velocity has worked. This motorcycle brake-light works with an accelerometer. Motorcycles are efficient at braking by downshifting, but downshifting does not activate the brake lights. GearBrake senses when a bike is slowing down and then flashes the brake lights to alert a trailing car.
GearBrake is working with Uproar Labs, Alex Frommeyer’s new venture, and is taking pre-orders and will start filling those orders soon. In the past 100 days, Bailey has taken on a co-founder, nailed down distributors for the hardware, and has new products, including wireless brake lights, to pursue. The GearBrake sells for $69, but he offered attendees a discount to $49.
Lisa Russell, professor of entrepreneurship at Indiana University Southeast, ordered two.
Toward the end of his presentation, Derrius Quarles, CEO of Million Dollar Scholar, produced a hospital bracelet as evidence of how committed he is to bringing Million Dollar Scholar to profit. The night before, he’d been hospitalized for the violent stomach bug that’s been going around, and indeed he looked a little under the weather and probably should have stayed in bed.
Not that anyone would question Quarles’ commitment to the business he describes as “Khan Academy fused with Kaplan Test prep for scholarships and grants.” He’s been traveling around attending pitch contests and has raised more than $36,000 in prize money. Million Dollar Scholar offers six-month subscriptions to online content for $75 and individual “Million Dollar Essay” and “Million Dollar Résumé” counseling services.
Finally, Ron Karroll of Collabra gave an alumni update for his company. Collabra was in the first cohort of Velocity. We’ve written about Collabra’s pivot away from its initial vision. It was intended to be a music collaboration platform. It is now a platform for music students and their instructors to log practices and share progress.
The first beta test of Collabra was with five students, and the platform broke. The second beta test has 20 students, and it’s going well. On May 1, Mom’s Music in Louisville will begin offering it to all of their students. Subscriptions to Collabra are $10 and a portion of that is shared with instructors.
Tony Schy, the director of Velocity, introduced the event and the keynote speaker. “It’s called an accelerator for a reason,” he said. The job of an accelerator is to get businesses up and running — and hopefully profitable — fast. He also quoted race car driver Mario Andretti as saying, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.”
Schy also filled the crowd in on more details about Velocity’s future.
The third cohort of Velocity will start on June 30 and run through September. This cohort will be expanded from five teams to eight.
The fourth cohort will begin in January 2015, and as we suggested in a previous article, will indeed be focused on the food and beverage industry.
In addition to the accelerator classes, Velocity has begun holding coding classes for children. The next class will center around coding for the wildly popular Minecraft game. These classes are free; contact Velocity for more information and to get your child on the waiting list.