Nearly seven weeks ago, fourteen teams of entrepreneurs, eager to accelerate the growth of their startup companies, joined the 2015 Georgetown Summer Launch Program. During last week’s session, participants learned about the realities of startup life from the founders of three DC-based early stage companies – Encore Alert, Soapbox, and Urbanstems.
Since the kick-off bootcamp on May 28th, participants have been diligently refining and revising their business models to maximize growth potential and competitiveness. The incubator program, for Georgetown students and recent graduates, is distinct in its focus on customer development, mentoring startup companies through building a substantive case to present to seed investors.
“The Summer Launch Program teaches students to look at ideas from a hypothesis test approach, rather than from gut instinct,” Tonja Hardyman (MSB’15), the entrepreneur behind Barkzy, said. Hardyman is in the process of launching a minimal viable product (MVP) for Barkzy, a pet telemedicine platform, which will allow her to test her online consultation website and its attractiveness to her target customer segment.
Co-founder of MisFit Juicery, Ann Yang (SFS ’16), is grateful for the mentorship Launch Program provides. Thanks to the facilitation of their mentor Gareth Moore, MisFit Juicery is scheduled to appear at Blue Hill Farm’s wastED pop-up restaurant this summer, which exclusively serves dishes cooked from surplus foods that would otherwise be discarded.
The Launch Program weekly workshops have also contributed to participants’ growth and development. Sessions take place either on campus or in other co-working spaces, like 1776 DC and Crystal Tech, and address a different aspect of startups. Just last week, the group heard from local entrepreneurs about the challenges of building sustainable startups and the lessons learned while interacting with both investors and customers.
In late June, participants met with Prof Jim Hunt. who advised on specific strategies students should employ when pitching their company to seed investors. “The perspective angel investors have is different from the perspective of startup entrepreneurs,” said Vanessa Pan (MSB’16), the co-founder of the Altruist Network. The Altruist Network, a volunteer management system for nonprofits and NGOs, is currently meeting with developers to design a mobile app, which they intend to launch in the fall.
With just two sessions remaining, participants are continuing to collect data and strengthen their business models. The goal is to position their companies for a successful launch – and they will be describing their own lessons learned and next steps at the showcase on July 29 at 1776.