Three startups have earned the top seed-stage investment awards in the Center for Creative Economy’s Velocity Creative Accelerator.
In the organization’s fifth annual education and seed funding program, ten creative entrepreneurs completed a 9-week entrepreneur education program that refined their business plans and pitches to investors to be one of the top three startups to split a pool of $50,000 in seed-stage investment.
The Agent Accelerator, a Winston-Salem based startup that helps real estate brokerages scale their business by providing innovative training solutions, took the top award of $25,000, presented by NC IDEA Foundation CEO and President, Thom Ruhe. The Agent Accelerator founder, Chelsea Goodwin, was invited by Winston Starts President, Bob Boles, into their eight-week Explore Program, a startup incubator that provides office space and supportive services to Winston-Salem entrepreneurs.
LiveMo from Seattle received the second-place award of $15,000 with their startup that empowers artists to easily share and monetize their content through LiveMo’s concert live-streaming platform. LiveMo founder, Fernando Turrent, also received a consultation package for $5,000 from Sightsource to further develop their technology.
Running third, receiving $10,000, was FELOH, founded by Camille Heard in Cleveland. FELOH is a social marketplace for hair care and beauty enthusiasts. FELOH also received a day of consulting from Sightsource and $2,500 of in-kind social media marketing services from Royalty Marketing.
Daryl Shaw with Royalty Marketing also presented a marketing and social media award for $2,500 to Y’all Company, uniting people through food and Y’all Sauce, southern charm in a bottle, and Wavlength, a creative agency that helps musicians build their brand and enhance their creative direction by connecting them with a global network of creatives.
Winston Starts also welcomed Upshots, a line of premium alcoholic desserts and savory shots, and MAXIMYZ, a mind focused, gamification platform designed to build smarter and healthier communicating teams, into their Explore program.
Other awards include additional one-day technology consultations provided by Sightsource, pro bono legal services from Kilpatrick Townsend, business coaching packages from ActionCOACH – Team Hauser, and the Velocity Connections Award presented by SueMo Consulting.
40 startups from 11 U.S. states and 11 countries globally applied to participate in this year’s accelerator. Of the 10 startups chosen for the program, 50% are run by women entrepreneurs and 50% are founded by people of color.
According to Executive Director, Margaret Collins, “We are so proud of the progress made during Velocity this year. The startups really worked hard, honed their business models, and financials. They made informative and compelling pitches at the October 1st Demo Day.”
The other companies that completed the Velocity Creative Accelerator included:
- 2923 Comics (Kansas City, MO): Creates comic books that show the abuse of power in underserved communities, and how to overcome it. Founder Jauquan Herron showcases a wide representation of diverse urban communities within the stories.
- Mobiiuz (Lyon, France): A patented add-on for standing desks that encourage users to naturally maintain a healthy posture and expend energy without fatigue while working.
- OWOGAME (Malaga, Spain): A wireless suit that allows players to feel over 30 different sensations in real-time while playing video games, and controlled through a mobile application, which allows users to increase or decrease the intensity of the sensations.
Melissa Capps is on a mission to make data fun and efficient for creative entrepreneurs who keep track of their business online. She is the founder of AstraHive, a dashboard for creatives that allows business owners to see data and key metrics in one place.
Melissa is a part of our 2019 Velocity Creative Accelerator cohort. She was encouraged to apply by colleagues at SightSource, a software development firm in Winston-Salem, NC. CCE’s mission of helping creatives immediately resonated with her.
She and her husband moved to Winston-Salem a year ago and wanted to make new connections. Being part of the Velocity cohort gives her the opportunity to be part of the creative community in the place she now calls home while giving her startup the time and attention she feels it deserves.
Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Melissa. “I’ve always been creative and I love to learn and teach. I ran side hustles throughout high school and always had several jobs since I was a teenager”, says Melissa.
Before AstraHive, Melissa started a women’s clothing line. In 2010, she read something that made her decide to become an entrepreneur. She began asking herself what her strengths were and after realizing she has been sewing since she was a child, the women’s clothing line came alive.
“Entrepreneurship has always been a part of me – it was always inevitable.”
Often creatives don’t see themselves as entrepreneurs. “It’s not that creatives don’t take themselves seriously – they’re passionate about what they do”, says Melissa, “sometimes creatives feel like they just make things and sell them”.
Melissa feels like creatives don’t realize that their skill set and their creations are valuable to the economy and contribute to the community. She said, “creatives take the skills and resources they have to solve a small problem in their community — and that’s important”.
After seeing a hole in the market for creatives to understand and track key metrics and trends in their businesses, Melissa decided that becoming a software developer could enable her to create a tool to help creatives like herself.
To her, success is learning, teaching, and helping others, while bringing people on a journey with her. It’s the reason why she became a software developer. It’s why she wanted to build AstraHive before it even had a name.
Looking at data and metrics can be daunting and overwhelming for the creative who just wants to make things and sell it. With AstraHive serving as a central hub for key metrics for businesses, Melissa hopes to make data fun and efficient, not just dissemination of information.
“Brené Brown said, “stories are just data with a soul” and that’s what AstraHive is. It’s the story behind the data”, says Melissa.
Melissa shared that success for AstraHive would be employing people and helping them develop their skill set as software developers. In the long-term, AstraHive plans on implementing machine learning and big data to better present key insights to everyday business owners who may not have the resources to do so otherwise.
Outside of wanting to help people, Melissa’s family and friends are what keep her going, especially when things don’t seem to be going right. She shared that her husband often asks her, “what is the worst that can happen?” and that saying has become a mantra for her. Lately, Melissa’s been asking herself “what is the best that can happen? How can this failure turn out to be a success?” Melissa believes that not all failures are permanent, and that good things can come out of them.
See Melissa and the Velocity startups in action on Demo Night on September 26. Explore demo tables and hear each team’s pitch. This is your chance to discover the next big thing in creative entrepreneurship!
Applications open on April 9 for the Center for Creative Economy’s fourth annual Creative Accelerator, an education and seed funding program that helps creative entrepreneurs develop business models and identify resources for growth.
Hosted by the Center for Creative Economy in Winston-Salem, NC, participants complete a 9-week virtual program, now titled “Velocity,” in which the top three startups split a pool of $50,000 in seed-stage investment. Companies throughout the world can apply. Go to CenterForCreativeEconomy.com/Velocity to apply by June 2, 2019.
Running from July 30 to September 27, “Velocity” uses a rigorous educational curriculum developed by Professor of Practice at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Chris Mumford. His program, titled “Joe Startup,” uses a street-smart entrepreneurial education portal organized around the themes of Create, Tell, Sell and Run. Participants interact with whiteboard animations, a startup plan builder, and a social network to create an immersive learning experience for creative entrepreneurs. “Chris and CCE have collaborated to deliver this revitalized curriculum which combines the startup experience of both parties,’” said CCE Director, Margaret Collins.
Ten teams will complete 24 modules and case studies over nine weeks, working with professional mentors to guide them through the program. New in 2019 is an in-person kick-off weekend, August 9-11 in Winston-Salem, for participants to jump-start the program and work with their mentors/peers. The five-day DEEP DIVE, from September 22-27, lets teams work with directly global visionaries and creative leaders. The ever-popular DEMO NIGHT returns on September 26 where teams showcase their innovations to funding prospects, businesses, and the media. The Final Pitch Competition will be held on September 26, when the $50,000 in seed-stage funding will be awarded.
According to the 2018 Creative Startups Impact Report issued by CCE, 30 companies have participated in the program and 87 percent are still thriving. “Our startups have raised $3.1 million in funding and generated $3.4 million in revenues” added Collins. “We are a program with proven success in creating more than 50 jobs and helping creative entrepreneurs succeed. We’re especially proud of the fact that 70 percent of the founders of the companies in our program are women- or minority-owned.”
Learn more about Velocity and how to apply: CenterForCreativeEconomy.com/Velocity