Crossposted from the Herald-Times, this is The Mill’s regular column from Executive Director Pat East.
Imagine you own a small local business. You’ve done some advertising, but you can’t really tell if it’s worth what you’ve spent. You know nothing works like word of mouth to grow your bottom line. What if you could get your biggest fans to spread the word wider and faster?
Imagine you had to buy an expensive truck to tow a swaying recreational vehicle across the country. What if you could simply drive your own car while a small, powerful autonomous vehicle followed, pulling the camper for you safely and easily?
Imagine spending $16 billion to develop self-driving vehicles. Wouldn’t you want a tool that could continuously monitor the whole fleet remotely, collect data, and report any performance glitches—before a terrible accident that costs lives and forces a recall?
These were three of the five innovative ideas we heard on gBETA Pitch Night, December 9 at The Mill. And these aren’t just dreams: local entrepreneurs have already built companies around these ideas. They’ve got patents and prototypes, and some even have customers. And thanks to gBETA Bloomington-Columbus, they’ve also got new insight into how to grow their businesses.
gBETA is a seven-week pre-accelerator program developed by Wisconsin-based company gener8tor. A pre-accelerator program helps entrepreneurs hone and grow their startups through intensive, individualized coaching. Unlike other accelerators, gBETA doesn’t require participating companies to pay fees or trade equity to participate. Enrollment is competitive, and only five startups are admitted at a time to ensure meaningful engagement and deep learning. Founders gain early customer traction on their product or idea and establish metrics that can make them competitive applicants for full-time, equity-based accelerators or seed investment.
Here at The Mill, our most successful startups are graduates of gBETA, and we recommend it to any founder who wants to follow in their footsteps. The gBETA program offers:
- Individualized coaching and mentorship from the gBETA team
- One-on-one meetings with dozens of mentors, including serial entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, and investors
- Lunch & Learn series on topics relevant to startups, including understanding market size, choosing a revenue model, and pitching to investors
- Pitch Night and celebration reception with an audience of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and community members
- Connections to the gBETA network and alumni
- $1M + in deals and perks from vendors like IBM Cloud, Rackspace, Amazon, PayPal, Zendesk and Microsoft
Gener8tor launched the Bloomington-Columbus program earlier in 2021 in response to our lively entrepreneurial ecosystem. Twenty-four companies applied for the five slots open in the fall 2021 program. We’re thrilled that gBETA reports over 40% of this year’s applications came from minority, female, and/or veteran founders.
Five companies were admitted into the final cohort.
Mill member WayZada inspires athletes by making their epic achievements visible, shareable, and tangible with custom, interactive 3D visualizations and 3D printed artwork.
C2X harvests data with an end-to-end, customizable hardware and software solution that drives ROI by allowing organizations to detect, analyze, and resolve problems in the transportation industry.
Kupros revolutionizes the 3D printing electronic market with an all-metal copper filament that offers a more cost-effective, versatile, and efficient printing process than any other existing solution.
Mill member Townee connects local businesses with their biggest advocates through an all-inclusive platform that eliminates less-targeted marketing strategies through unique offers and referral incentives.
UnTowed envisions a world where any vehicle can tow through a semi-autonomous Towable Autonomous Dray (TOAD) that eliminates the need for a physical connection between two vehicles.
Thanks to an initiative from ecosystem partners Velocities and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, the fall 2021 gBETA Bloomington-Columbus cohort was able to support a new initiative from Columbus-based LHP Engineering Solutions. LHP Venture Studio takes intellectual property and innovations developed at LHP and spins them out into new ventures. The first of these new ventures, Daxeos, was spun out in 2020 and backed by investment from Elevate Ventures. Early-stage spin-offs C2X and UnTowed participated in the fall gBETA cohort.
LHP co-founder Dave Glass hopes to foster innovation in the automotive and autonomous space through this initiative. Elise Young, Director of gBETA Bloomington-Columbus, told us, “This was a unique opportunity to partner with industry leaders to accelerate ambitious innovation. gBETA looks forward to future collaboration with LHP Venture Studio, supporting our local best and brightest.”