Innovators Program Raleigh Now Accepting Applications

The Innovators Program Inc. and its sponsors, Citrix and Red Hat, Inc., announced that they are accepting applications for the 2017 Innovators Program in Raleigh. The three-month accelerator program lays the foundation for talented and motivated startup founders and internal innovators to develop the skill set and mindset to build high-growth technology businesses.

Early applications are due by June 14th, final applications must be submitted by June 23rd, and the program kicks off on July 17th.

Learn more >>    |    Apply now >>

The cohort-driven, mentor-assisted program is open to three external startups, and three internal teams. All of the selected teams will gain best-practice expertise, coaching, and mentorship to help develop their startup ideas, build and market customer-centric products in high growth markets, and prepare to raise their first round of funding.

Innovators Program – Raleigh 2016 participants: Glance.io co-founders Chris Comerie and Kameron Kales, and the program team, Alex Kehaya, Liz Tracy and Nick O’Connor at the Kick off at Cherokee Investment Partners in downtown Raleigh.

The Innovators Program Inc. is a partnership between HQ Raleigh, a workspace and community for high-impact startups, and Nick O’Connor, an Angel Investor based in Silicon Valley, and founder / head of program success at Venture Toolkit, a services company that designs and operates innovation programs for Fortune 500 companies. Nick was also the designer and operator of previous Innovators Programs run by the Citrix Startup Accelerator in Raleigh, Silicon Valley, Santa Barbara, and Bangalore, India. Since 2014, the program has included 22 internal innovation teams from both Red Hat and Citrix, as well as 37 startups, 10 of which have received $500,000 or more in seed funding.

This unique program allows companies like Citrix and Red Hat to engage their local startup ecosystem in ways that are both startup-friendly and impactful, with a program designed to provide a “high signal to noise” for the startups on their ability to get market traction. So far, this approach has produced four seed-funded local startups, one startup acquired by Citrix, a number of cash-flow-positive, bootstrapped startups, and a vibrant community of external and internal innovators.

The program also enables organizations to make the change from going “all in” on one idea to a more “sophisticated, angel investor-like” approach by rapidly innovating a few high-potential business ideas for three months, and deciding whether to invest based on market traction and opportunity.

Selected participants will learn and apply core principles used by successful technology startups to gain traction and develop their brand, business model, and growth strategy during the program. Each participating startup will receive one-on-one mentorship, weekly workshops, and a $10,000 grant. At the end of the program, the program will award additional grants of $10,000 per startup based on successful completion and commitment to the program. Internal teams will pitch internally to their organization for funding.

Innovators Program Raleigh alumni that subsequently received seed funding include health-tech startups Savii Care and Medicom, Ag-tech startup Smart Farm, and HR recruiting startup EmployUs.

Graduates from last year’s Raleigh program are Glance.ai, Nebula, ShineBig, Vision LTC, and Malartu.

Early applications are due by June 14th, final applications must be submitted by June 23rd, and the program kicks off on July 17th. Learn more or apply at: innovatorsprogram.co.

 

Learn more >>    |    Apply now >>

 


Adolfo Rodriguez, Vice President, ShareFile Platform and Workflows, Citrix

“At Citrix, we are deeply committed to creating and cultivating an innovative environment for our employees. In many ways, this is not just an investment in our people as we help them to continue extending their skillset and experience, but also in our solutions and, ultimately, our customers. The Innovator’s Program provides a terrific opportunity for us to practice lean thinking and entrepreneurial mechanisms in creating incredible new technologies that align to our company’s mission. It allows us to explore ways to leverage fresh, new thinking to deliver capabilities that better address our customers’ needs.

Over the past three years, we have had 9 internal teams enter the program here in Raleigh and 20 teams globally. The majority of these projects are now either in the hands of customers or on schedule to be. The insights our teams gained through their participation was invaluable, enabling us to focus on evolving critical contributions to our customers’ success. In addition, our employees have leveraged the budding start-up community in downtown Raleigh, allowing us to better participate in the thriving culture.

As we enter the 2017 season, another three Citrix teams will enter the program. The impact will be tremendous.”


 DeLisa Alexander, executive vice president and chief people officer, Red Hat

“At Red Hat, we’re passionate about doing our part to spur innovation and entrepreneurship — both internally and in the growing startup ecosystem in Raleigh. The projects our Red Hat teams worked on last year continue to bring value to our organization. We’re excited to collaborate with Citrix and HQ Raleigh to bring this program to life for the fourth year.” 


Malcolm Benitz, Co- founder and CEO at Medicom and 2015 Innovators Program alumni

“The frameworks and the mentorship in the Raleigh Innovators Program really helped us learn what it takes to develop our idea into a high growth business. In 2016, we processed 500 million images for our customers and moved our growing team into a larger office space in downtown Raleigh and the growth has continued into 2017.”


 Kameron Kales, co- founder, Glance.ai, and 2016 Innovators Program alumni

“The Raleigh innovators program helped our company focus on what matters for our customers. As two recent college graduates, we didn’t have a luxury of experience or connections to the recruiting industry. The program helped us iterate quickly, focus on what stuck and continue to bootstrap our venture. Lots of founders get distracted with raising capital, and the programs mentorship enabled us to stay cash conscious and iterate quickly. Today we have a profitable 100% founder owned company and we couldn’t have done it without the programs help.”

 

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Why building community is essential to startup accelerators

Liz Tracy is the Director of HQ Raleigh, a growing entrepreneurial workspace in downtown Raleigh. She is also the Lead Facilitator for the Raleigh Innovators Program, meeting with and coaching the ten teams each week. In her recent guest blog, Liz weighs in on why community is essential to the success of a startup accelerator program.

I have had the privilege to play a role in cultivating the startup community for the past four years in the Triangle. Building a trusted network of people that can support one another through the triumphs and difficulties of startup life has always been an important element of a vibrant startup eco-system, but now more than ever I see the importance this community plays.

Our local startup community is comprised of a diversity of backgrounds, thoughts and opinions and it is this diversity that makes our community a dynamic one. With the flurry of emotions left over from the election, there is now an even greater importance for leadership from businesses, specifically when it comes to building an inclusive community that respects everyone.

For an accelerator program, the support of mentors, peers and coaches is the backbone and the real recipe for success.

Entrepreneurs know better than anyone how to overcome difficulties, look to the future and push through, but having a support system along the way makes it easier to get up and keep trying.

We’re now in our third year at the Raleigh Innovator’s Program, which means we have more alumni and deeper networks for our cohort to access. We tap into these alumni to speak on panels, help coach the kick-off bootcamp and to be sounding boards to the companies throughout the intense 12 week process. This year, in an effort to give the teams more time to connect outside of the classroom, we held a series of themed dinners that focused on team building and founder stories. They featured alumni who were able to share their experiences and since they had been through the program, they were able to talk from the perspective of how far they had come.

Another cool thing about growing the Innovators Program as an on-going community is that graduates can be beta testers for the current companies in the program.

Getting initial customers and receiving valuable feedback is essential to our customer focused model of teaching, and having a group of willing participants is incredibly helpful.

Finally, having the Executive Council, a group of leaders from Red Hat, Citrix, the investment community, and HQ Raleigh, gives the companies access to a new network of executives who can open doors and make introductions that might normally be much more difficult to access.

Every successful person knows that his or her achievements depend on a community of people working together.

The sense of community and support we have put into place at the Innovator’s Program is one of those critical foundational pieces that will help our young companies move more quickly along the path to success.

How Innclusive generated 50,000 pre-signups in just 5 months

Ready to grow your startup — and fast? Read this interview with Rohan Gilkes by Innovators Program mentor, Alex Kehaya

Rohan Gilkes is easily one of the nicest and most positive entrepreneurs I’ve had the chance to interact with. In my recent interview, Rohan shared the amazing and powerful story behind his latest venture, Innclusive. In his words:

“Innclusive came out of a need where I encountered discriminatory hosts on AirBnB and thought I could build a platform that would take some of the bias for discrimination in these products.” 

For Rohan, Innclusive is about building products and services that allow everyone to participate in the new sharing economy. What started with a focus on fighting discrimination on AirBnB has grown into a movement to give people of all walks of life access to the opportunities to build community and earn a living through ride sharing, home sharing, and the gig economy.

My focus with this interview series is to share specific examples of how successful entrepreneurs have driven growth for their companies. Before we dive into his growth story, I thought it necessary to point out how important his company is for our future. I consider Innclusive a social venture that has the potential to literally create a more inclusive and understanding environment between all those on the platform. In the US, now more than ever we need to be building companies and movements that push us to be more inclusive and open.

For his work to build a more Innclusive sharing economy and as an entrepreneur, Rohan has been featured in many major publications and most recently was invited to the White House.

Enter Rohan:

What’s your background or personal story?

The last 5-6 years I’ve been building businesses (here’s one, and another). I started out as an accountant and a about 6 years ago I started reading on blogs and online about how to execute on ideas.

I’ve learned and gotten a lot better at acquiring customers. And all those things that lead to making money online. In my career, I’ve been successful in hiring myself out of the job in multiple businesses. My last project Wet Shave Club and Innclusive were spawned out of my own experience.

Tell us about your current business.

The home sharing market AirBnB is only 10% of the hotel and hospitality market. The rest of it goes to hotels and established businesses. This is from a study done by PWC. The market for companies like Innclusive and AirBnB is forecast to grow from 10% to 50% of the market in the next 7 years. There is clearly a lot of room for competition and growth. Today, AirBnB and other companies in the space aren’t meeting the needs of people like me.

Almost all of my startups were built based on something I needed. There wasn’t anything that connected with me the way I wanted so I built it for myself. Innclusive came out of a need where I encountered discriminatory hosts on AirBnB and thought I could build a platform that would remove some of the bias for discrimination of these products.

Here’s a case study on discrimination seen through AirBnB. Here’s one about Lyft/Uber.

For us, It’s not about where you sleep when you go on vacation, it’s about how you are able to plan your trip, or call a Lyft or be a participant in this new economy. Are you able to be apart of the future?

Before we get started talking about growth strategy there are two steps that I think every entrepreneur should focus on when trying to build a successful online business.

There are only really two things you need to do to build a successful online business.

  1. You have to have a website that is setup to convert. Meaning that the branding connects with your customers, the colors are what they’d expect, things look secure and that you’re honest, and the copy matches what people will expect. If you miss that step you make your life ten times harder. We spent some time in the beginning to make sure our branding connects.
  1. Send as much traffic as possible to that website.

What traction channel are you an expert in?

Influencer Marketing is where I always start with each of my businesses.

First we asked ourselves, Who are the people who have an audience around travel? We found that there are tons of bloggers, tons of Youtubers, and Instagrammers. Often times they understand the market better than we do so we can learn a lot by listening to them. They’ve been living in the market and they have all the industry knowledge and they can help us with messaging and so on.

When you decide to go after influencers you need to ask yourself “Where do these people exist”?

For example, if you’re looking at beauty products then you need to focus on YouTube. If you’re in furniture you’ll need to focus on Pinterest.

We started out by searching for top 10 bloggers and even if that person is too expensive or not a good fit, we build a relationship with them and they’ll recommend us to someone else. A lot of times we end up working with the medium size audiences and then work our way up. Medium sized audiences are typically cheaper and will be more willing to work with you when you’re smaller.

How did you get your first 100 customers/users?

Funny enough, we just passed 100 customers (we’re still in beta). For us we’ve been lucky to get a lot of PR. We’ve worked really hard but there’s definitely been luck. There has been a bigger story about discrimination on various platforms so it has been easier for us to pitch our story.

We used that press to capture emails and we captured about 50,000 emails in 5 months and when we launch we’ll send an email to them and they’ll use our service in good numbers.

Another really successful strategy we used was to run referral contests with some of the influencers we found. (Here’s what a referral contest site looks like.)

The most successful referral contest we did was a YouTube giveaway for $1000 free travel on Innclusive including $500 in air travel. We actually did this a couple of times and the first one we did generated 8,000 signups!

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Each time we would do it we could predict how many signups we could get based on the size of the audience and the type of influencer.

What steps/advice would you give to other entrepreneurs to achieve success in this channel?

The thing that comes to mind is how we run these contests. For every single product that is worth selling online there is a community that is obsessed with that product or service. We go and find those communities and inject ourselves into those conversations.

We introduce ourselves as an Admin to the group, so that when we are ready to launch a viral contest people already trust us and are more likely to share it and participate.

For more ideas for launching a successful viral contest read here.

What’s the hardest part of “growth” in your opinion?

I think that part of it is finding product-market fit is the hardest part. I want to say that is the hardest part. We build products and services that already exist and we feel like we can put a small change or speak to a smaller demographic. This helps us miss some of the product market fit process and focus more on customer acquisition and branding..

Starting with the name was our first step for validating our business. We didn’t need to validate our product but we needed to validate our branding. We went to travel communities online and we said we need to come up with a name. We said we’d give a $500 dollar airfare voucher to the person who got it right.

The community came up with our name and voted. It was a 3 to 1 vote for Innclusive.

I feel there are some opportunities to bring your perfect customer into the decision making with every product you build. If you do this, you’ll be able to figure out growth.

What’s one question you never get asked in interviews but wish you’d been asked?

One question that I wish I was asked more is what motivates you to be out here building different companies?

I really think we’re living in the most perfect time in the history of the world for entrepreneurs. There has never been a better time.

With a WordPress theme and a lot of hustle you can sell almost anything online. I feel that we owe it to ourselves to take this opportunity and go after some of our dreams. I want to live a life where I can make my own decisions. I’m able to come to a point where I can be where I want in the world and do what I want. I can help out family and friends, I can do things that impact the world in some way.

I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs through our Facebook group and I really hope that someone who’s listening to this or reading the article and you have an idea of something you want to do. Here’s the best piece of advice I have for you:

Get into an action oriented mindset and do that thing you’ve wanted to do, do it TODAY. Ask yourself,  How can I get started today? I feel like if people can get into that mindset you can do anything.

If people get anything from this interview it’s get into a mindset of taking MASSIVE ACTION!

Meet Shinebig, the North Carolina startup disrupting the $2.1 billion survey market

We’re just a few weeks away from the Innovators Program 3rd Annual Raleigh Demo Day on December 12th. As we gear up for all ten companies to take the stage, we’re spotlighting Shinebig, the final external startup in our Q&A series. Shinebig is focused on grabbing a share of the $2.1 billion survey market by narrowly focusing on delivering simple media-based survey experiences that match audience expectations set by social media.  With Shinebig, organizations can perform market research, crowdsource content, AND connect with audiences at the same time. The startup is led by co-founders Kelly Giles and Tola Oguntoyinbo, both graduates of the School of Media and Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill.  

IP: What made you want to participate in the Innovators Program?
KG: The opportunity to be around other smart, motivated entrepreneurs. The people and environment really push you to make progress.

IP: Do you remember where you were or what you were doing when you came up with the idea for Shinebig?
TO: I was working on few ideas at the same time that took advantage of browser-based webcam technologies.  After experimenting for a while, the Shinebig concept eventually won the feasibility contest.  

IP: What problem are you solving with Shinebig? Where do you see the biggest value in what you are building?
KG: At its core, Shinebig is about connecting organizations and their audiences. Specifically, we see an opportunity to help conferences and events pick up some of the money that they are leaving on the table. Our product is designed to help our customers establish meaningful year-round communications with attendees that will keep them engaged, help to generate content and insights, and attract sponsors.

IP: How did you two start working together?
KG: We are both graduates of the UNC J-School but didn’t know each other there. A mutual friend and J-School alum introduced us about six months ago. We met for coffee, and here we are.

IP: What do you feel each are other’s strengths as team members?
KG: Tola is equal parts creative visionary and skilled programmer.  
TO: Kelly excels at both business and product development.  

IP: What is the most rewarding part of launching and growing your startup?
KG: There is nothing like creating something from nothing. It’s amazing to see something that started as a kernel of an idea take shape. You’re really willing something into reality.

IP: What mentors have you worked with so far in the program? Any takeaways that you’ve already started applying?
KG: We were really lucky to start out with working with Tom Snyder from RIOT. He gave us tons of great ideas about how to ask interesting questions that benefit both audiences and the brands asking them. Nick and Alex have really pushed us to think of ways to generate quick wins. They push us to get out of our heads and validate quickly.

IP: Have you learned anything from your fellow participants?
KG: We are always blown away during presentations. All the teams are awesome, but the Glance team in particular has shared some great insights about simplicity and usability. The Red Hat crews are all fantastic presenters.  And we’re also petitioning the Malartu folks to start holding start-up bootcamps – their product has some real potential.  

IP: What’s your current focus at Shinebig and where do you hope to go next?
KG: Our current focus is market validation. We’re testing a few different areas and getting traction. Based on these results, we’d like to hone in on one and really go about creating a fantastic user experience. We are definitely in the “do things that don’t scale” phase and plan to be there for a little while.

IP: What’s an ideal workday like for you? And how about an ideal day off?
KG: An ideal workday — meeting with customers, learning how they’re using Shinebig and what we can do to add more value. An ideal day off is doing something outside enjoying this amazing NC fall weather.

IP: Favorite movie quote?
TO: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” 

Learn more about Shinebig here, and make sure to catch their pitch during Demo Day on December 12th. You can register to attend here, or stay tuned for access to the livestream! 

Where are they now? Catching up with Innovators Program alum Michelle Harper

Raleigh-based Savii Care is a home care platform that simplifies the business of in-home care with web and mobile apps that replace paper with collaboration. The female-founded health-tech startup participated in the inaugural Raleigh Innovators Program in 2014 and has continued to scale since then. We caught up with Co-Founder and CEO, Michelle Harper, (now a program mentor) to get her reflections on the accelerator and to find out what’s in store for the company.

IP: When you think back on the Innovators Program two years ago, what’s the biggest impact you feel it had on you & your company?
MH: The program challenged us to be razor focused on the metrics that matter.

IP: Did you learn anything from your fellow participants or the program mentors that you still apply at your company today?
MH: Same as above, we still apply the lesson of focusing on the metrics that matter.

IP: Was there anything you learned or experienced during the program that surprised you?
MH: Yes, that as we did our stakeholder interviews, our marketing messages and value proposition became crystal clear.

IP: Teams in accelerators around the world are preparing for year-end Demo Days. How did you prepare for your Demo Day?
MH: Pray and breathe. I also made sure to go through my entire pitch out loud at least once that day, so my voice was warmed up.

IP: You transitioned from operating as Akili Software to Savii Care. How did you make that decision and what was the process like?
MH: The company is Savii, Inc. and one of our products in Savii Care. As we went through early market validation and even our weekly presentations during the Innovators Program, it became clear that we were creating an unnecessary challenge by naming the company something entirely different from our products. We rebranded our software platform as Savii and within a few short months it had become an easily identifiable brand. It just made sense to brand the organization as Savii.

IP: You have been a big player in the women’s entrepreneurship scene locally. What’s one piece of advice you would share for female technology entrepreneurs? Any resources they should check out?
MH: Find mentors, both men and women, who will be honest with you and challenge you, but mostly believe in you. Be prepared to often be the only female in the room or on the stage and be comfortable with that. Lastly, be true to yourself. If you can’t make your company/vision work while being true to your core values and convictions, do something else.

IP: You have raised over $750K to-date. How did the Innovators Program and other mentorship groups prepare you for investment?
MH: I would say that each program, from the Innovators, to SOAR, to CED and NC Idea, helped move me toward closing our seed round this past summer. As I stated at the CED Tech Venture Conference, the startup ecosystem in the Triangle is committed, beyond just words, to helping companies succeed as long as you are willing to listen to advice with an open mind.

IP: How do you celebrate your successes?
MH: At this stage, we high five and move forward. We try to take time to have fun together as a team especially after really big releases or signing a strategic client.

IP: What have you been up to lately and what’s on the horizon for Savii Care?
MH: I just got accepted to my first Board of Directors role with the Forest at Duke and am excited to contribute to this great organization. As for Savii, we continue to look for ways to make tech usable for end users, and will be keeping our heads down and focused, both on this and those metrics that matter. We expect to raise a Series A in 2017 as we start to scale Savii.

Make sure to follow along with Savii Care’s progress and meet the next generation of Innovators Program startups at the Raleigh Demo Day on December 12th!

Register here.

Meet the 3 teams driving internal innovation at Citrix

We’re less than four weeks away from the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh finale! In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re getting to know the three internal innovation teams from Citrix who are developing new cloud, mobile, and workplace technologies.

RecapIt organizes audio, photos, and notes captured on a mobile device into structured projects for easy sharing across clients and collaborators. The team includes Ben Robbins, Tarun Goel, and Nicholas Madariaga.

MediFlow is a mobile app and cloud portal that provides a range of patient intake options for medical providers, resulting in more secure, timely and accurate patient information and communication. The team includes Joe Saponaro, Domenico (Domo) Matteo, and Brian Stengaard.

Cloud Service Broker simplifies the startup process of service setup eliminating the complexity in managing and delivering services to end customers. Citrix Service Providers will be able to reduce their transaction and service delivery times from 90 days to a matter of hours. The team is powered by Nizar Tyrewalla, who is based at Citrix in Fort Lauderdale, along with a team member in Raleigh and development in Nanjing, China.

We asked each team about their experience in the Innovators Program thus far.

It’s a unique opportunity for a full-time, corporate employee to participate in a startup accelerator. What has that experience been like?

Ben Robbins: The energy around the team is amazing and we have been able to focus on quick solutions as we learn more about how our customers will use the product in their typical workflow. The opportunity to focus on a specific customer and a specific need has greatly increased the pace at which we can move and the progress we can make towards building a new offering for Citrix.  

Joe Saponaro: It has been life changing and a testament to Citrix’s commitment to wanting employees to “become the most remarkable version of” ourselves. I completed the part-time version of the Innovators Program, and [gained] added insights and skills that [helped me] perform past my highest sales volume to date. The full-time program has allowed me to dig deeper into the many facets of a successful startup. The organized training is perfect, from the nuts and bolts tools and process building, to the presentational elements critical to conveying a pitch.

Nizar Tyrewalla: The experience has been amazing. I participated in Citrix’s Lean Innovation Challenge, and from there, we got selected to take our idea to the next level and build a product that customers love. The Innovators Program has really given our team an opportunity to collaborate across the globe and bring a new product to market.

Successful businesses are ones that build products people want. What is an example of learning or insight you received from the customer interviews that helped you stay focused and avoid wasted efforts?  

BR: Intuitive use is the most crucial aspect for all users, regardless of vertical or segment.  If a product isn’t intuitive, then it won’t get used, and if your product isn’t used then all profits will be either not existent or very short lived.

JS: Using an InVision prototype, we completed interviews with medical practices to learn customer needs and interest. Those interviews led to 9 medical practices agreeing to a product trial [once it’s ready].  This in itself revealed interest and also guided us to create our next targeted prototype using Podio and Globiflow.

NT: Customer interviews were very enlightening and a crucial part of our journey. These conversations gave us a better understanding of our customer’s problems and helped us build our product with that at the forefront. We discovered that certain things we thought were problems weren’t, and vice versa, helping us focus the direction of the product faster than we could have without doing customer interviews.

What are some skills you have learned so far in the program that you feel will be useful to your day to day job at Citrix?

BR: As a group, we’ve each expanded our customer empathy and we’ve learned a lot about how particular verticals really operate. This will definitely help us as we continue to build products for various customers in the future.

JS:  We’ve gained significant vertical knowledge critical to selling into Healthcare. We’ve also gotten a greater understanding and appreciation for the customer’s workflow needs, which helps us think beyond just offering features or functional tools, and focus more on the experience and solution. The customer interviews also increased our listening skills and customer focus, which will be directly transferable to a ShareFile sales call.

NT: Learning how to validate our hypothesis and understand the customer’s problem before building a solution will be useful in our day to day job. Another important learning that I would like to try out at Citrix is not to build for scale at first. If we let customers test our solution sooner and provide feedback, we can see how they use our solution before spending a lot of time on getting the product out of the door.

What is a typical “day in the life” during the Innovators Program?

BR: The typical day is that there is no typical day.  Some days we are speaking to 3 customers on the phone and others we are out in the field watching customers use our product and uncovering needs that we’ve never identified.  Some days we are celebrating what a great iteration we’ve made to the product and other days we’re finding out that the build isn’t so great.  This is part of what keeps the creativity and the energy so abundant while in the program.  Each day presents its own new challenge.

JS: There is no “typical day” except to say that every day is exciting, challenging and will fly by.  We find focus and structure in weekly learnings and applying the defined process of the program, which follows a typical – dream – select – test – document and dream again cycle. Most days, I was more “customer facing” due to my sales and consulting background, but  I was also selected to build the final prototype using Podio and Globiflow.

NT: A “typical day” depends on the phase we are in for the Innovators Program. We met bi-weekly to share our progress and get feedback, and between those meetings, our activities varied from customer calls, gathering feedback on our prototype, designing or making changes to the workflows, and getting together to make code changes.

See these teams in action during the Innovators Program Demo Day in downtown Raleigh on December 12th.

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-innovators-program-demo-day-with-citrix-red-hat-tickets-29221254559

Innovators Program Announces Third Annual Demo Day in Raleigh

Organizers of the Raleigh Innovators Program today announced details for their third annual Demo Day. The event, a culmination of the 12-week accelerator, will take place on Monday, Dec. 12, at 2:30 – 5 p.m. in Pittman Auditorium at Saint Mary’s School in downtown Raleigh.

The Innovators Program is a three-month, cohort-driven, mentor-assisted accelerator program powered by a coalition of organizations, including Citrix Systems, Red Hat, HQ Raleigh and the City of Raleigh, in an effort to make Raleigh a leading center of innovation. This is the third year the Innovators Program returns to Raleigh, with previous programs also taking place in California and India.

Ten teams joined the Raleigh accelerator in September, participating in intensive design thinking and lean startup coaching, conducting more than 1,000 customer interviews, and receiving a $10K grant to make their products market and investment-ready. This year’s cohort includes five external early-stage startups: Nebula, a modular, customizable workstation suite; VisionLTC, a geospatial market analytics platform for the senior housing industry; Malartu, a fully functioning online investment platform; Glance, a text-messaged based job search platform; and ShineBig, a multimedia platform for customer engagement.

The cohort also includes five internal innovation teams from Red Hat and Citrix, spearheaded by full-time employees who are developing or redesigning products for their companies. Red Hat is supporting two groups, the Performance Management and Development team and the Red Hat Ambassadors team, and Citrix is supporting three: MediFlow, RecapIt and Citrix CSP.

During the Dec. 12, Demo Day, each team will pitch an idea and share insights learned throughout their experience in the program. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the innovators, view product demonstrations and enjoy a reception following the pitches.

All teams who graduate from the Innovators Program have the chance to receive workspace at HQ Raleigh for up to one year through support from the City of Raleigh Economic Development. Additionally, the Innovators Program selection committee will award three months of coaching and additional grants of up to $50K based on the investment attractiveness of each startup.

For more information and to register, click here

Meet the corporate innovators shaking things up at Red Hat

We’re officially halfway through the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh! The three-month accelerator program, sponsored by Red Hat, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, helps early-stage tech startups develop a go-to-market strategy, find customers, and prepare for their first round of funding.

In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re taking a closer look at two internal innovation teams from Red Hat. Both teams are focused on creating next-generation people programs for internal use.

The Red Hat Performance Management and Development team is working on a performance management process that focuses on associate development and is scalable for Red Hat’s future. The team includes Arrie Brown, Jorge Herrera, Beverly Heustess, and Kim Jokisch, and is supported by Geri Duncan.

The Red Hat Ambassadors team is creating a transparent, efficient, and scalable referral program that can enhance both the associate and candidate experience. This team includes Jonathan Edwards, Jorge Herrera, and Jenna Slawson, and is supported by Rob Trout.

We asked both teams about their experience in the program so far.

Tell us about a typical “day in the life” for your team during the Innovators Program.

Beverly Heustess (BH): The pace of the project is so fast and our schedule so dynamic that nothing is routine. We regularly discuss what we need to accomplish daily and for that week, but we plan for the plan to change.

Jorge Herrera (JH): I don’t think there’s such thing as a “typical” day in this project!

Arrie Brown (AB): Even our workspaces change from day to day. We split our time between Red Hat Tower, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, which is a cool co-working space in downtown Raleigh.

What’s it like to be on a team with fellow Red Hat associates from different departments within the company?

BH: Partnering with Red Hatters from completely different departments has been neat. We each bring unique experiences, knowledge, and specialties to the table that together cover the breadth of this project. I’ve been learning a lot about how to leverage our individual personalities and work styles as we navigate through challenges.

Kim Jokisch (KJ): It has been a great experience to work with smart, hard working people from other teams that I otherwise wouldn’t get to work with. We all have different skill sets and it’s rewarding to see how our diverse talents come together to tackle the same problem.

Jonathan Edwards (JE): This is one of the biggest benefits of the program. As a company that prides itself on meritocracy and collaboration, you don’t always get the chance to work with everyone. This has given me an opportunity to work with people like Jenna and Jorge, and it reminds me how much hard work is happening in every department at every level.

Jenna Slawson (JS): It’s been a great change of pace. I’ve learned so much from Jonathan and Rob about Talent Acquisition around organizational structure, process, and associate referrals. Jorge has taught me how our systems are setup and supported, as well as how vendors fit into that process.

It’s a unique opportunity for a full-time, corporate employee to participate in a startup accelerator. What has the experience been like?

JS: One of the great opportunities has been working and researching in an area that I’m interested in but wouldn’t normally get to experience. As a sociology minor in college and a current member of a diversity and inclusion group here at Red Hat, it’s been great to research, interview, and learn more about diversity and inclusion best practices across top companies in the industry.

KJ: It has been interesting to figure out how to take the best of the startup approach and apply it to Red Hat. Yes, we are a large company, and we have an open culture that demands transparency and agility. It has been fun to see what works and what we need to supplement to make the start-up approach work within an open culture with 10,000+ associates.

BH: It’s awesome to jump into a totally different space on a project like this. I am learning about trends in the HR field, which is completely different than my regular work in IT. What’s really cool is how using Red Hat’s Open Decision Framework comes naturally, even though the subject area is new to me. That’s our transparent culture at work!

What’s one thing you’ve learned from the program that you’d like to take back to your day job?

AB: I’ve become more comfortable with asking for help!

Geri Duncan (GD): As the portfolio manager for talent management, and as a relatively new Red Hatter, I have learned the immense value of the Open Decision Framework [Red Hat’s process for making inclusive decisions]. It is so powerful to understand what people across the company and globe think about performance management, and every voice has been factored into how we’re shaping our team recommendations.

JE: Taking four days to conduct a “sprint” is an amazingly productive use of time. Within a high-growth company like Red Hat, we are often just trying to keep up with all that we do. Taking time to reflect on a problem and work intensely to propose solutions to it is extremely valuable.

JH: From the IT developer perspective, it’s the insights that collaborating with our customers brings. From the designing phase to implementation, collaboration is key.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on the program?

KJ: I’m a new mom so I love playing with my son and making him laugh. I also love to decorate, eat, cook, and read.

AB: I’m on a kick of making terrariums right now. Bring me your weird, your old, your interesting glass vessels, and I’ll put a clump of pretty moss in it.

JE: All things Bruce Springsteen, Cape Cod, and running.

JS: I’m currently working on slowly renovating our house which is a few miles from Red Hat.

Stay tuned for more updates from the other Innovators Program participants in the coming weeks.

Job searches suck. These young North Carolina entrepreneurs are fixing that.

It’s officially been one month since the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh kicked off! The three-month accelerator program, a partnership between Red Hat, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, helps early-stage tech startups develop a go-to-market strategy, find customers, and prepare for their first round of funding. Teams also receive a $10K grant.

In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re taking a closer look at Glance, a text-messaged based job search platform founded by Chris Comrie and Kameron Kales. Students can be notified of part-time jobs via text message, and can send a one-word reply to easily apply for the role. Glance was the Audience Choice Winner at the Big Idea Pitch in March and a Finalist at the Charlotte Venture Challenge in April.

Find out why they got started and what life has been like since joining the Innovators Program.

kameron-chris-alex-2

Innovators Program (IP): What are you most looking forward to in this program?

Kameron Kales (KK): We are extremely thankful to be a part of the program this year. We are most looking forward to working with the incredible mentors and advisors the Innovators Program connects you with. Those mentors will provide invaluable feedback instrumental to our product and customer development.

IP: How did you guys meet and team up?

KK: We have worked on a variety of things together throughout college [at Appalachian State]. We both were passionate about tech, startups, and knew the struggles of searching for a job really well. We were successful in finding a job but most of our peers were not. And that’s a problem. We wanted to work on solving that.

IP: Tell us a bit more about that.

KK: We are trying to design a process that makes the job search experience not suck. There have been hundreds of job boards and career sites which focused on the employer’s experience and no one has yet to nail the candidate experience. We set out to create a product which job seekers love to use, that provides them excellent listings based on their previous experience and enables them to learn more about the company before applying. It’s time the job seeker was treated like the incredible asset he/she is.

IP: What originally gave you the idea or inspiration to start Glance?

KK: We both were incredibly frustrated with the job search experience. The process is is slow and disconnected. I have yet to meet someone who was excited to download a new job board app or create another login. We wanted to work on making the experience a fun one, while still providing excellent value. It’s an incredibly hard problem but we are lucky to have the backing of the Innovators Program to enable us to go full force in solving it.

IP: Is there an entrepreneur or business leader you admire?

There are a few!

We admire Sheryl Sandberg and her ability to communicate incredibly well. She is an incredible executive who helped scale Facebook internationally. We’ve learned half the battle is having a great business/product, the other half is being great at communicating that to others. She is the best at that.

Elon Musk continues to amaze us in his ability to contribute across multiple industries. The knowledge he is able to consume and comprehend is absolutely incredible.

Tristan Walker (Walker and Co) is an underrated leader but is inspiring in his CODE2040 efforts to provide technical education/experience to top engineering talent, regardless of background. His ability to motivate young people to tackle hard engineering challenges is noteworthy.

IP: What’s one big lesson you’ve learned thus far in the program?

KK: The only thing that matters is your customers. In our experiences, a lot of “entrepreneurial” classes hype up all of these other things (hiring, PR, pitching, etc) and while these things do matter, until you have customers who LOVE your product, they are noise distracting you until you have solved that essential problem.

IP: Which mentors & experts have you worked with so far during the program? Any tidbits they shared with you that left a mark?

KK: We have been exposed to incredible mentors in the program. A few small tidbits that stick out most so far:

Nick [O’Connor, program director] has hammered into our heads to talk to our users as much as possible. The fluff around building a business doesn’t matter if you don’t have a dedicated user/customer base who LOVES your product.

Grady provided incredible product support. He has reminded us to quickly make changes and get feedback, even if a product is not perfect. All of the features we want to build don’t have to work 100% yet. Any time we have available should be spent on interviewing users. We can build the perfect product based on what our users love once we know exactly what that is.

IP: Tell us about a typical “day in the life” during the Innovators Program.

KK: A typical day starts with Chris blasting music at the crack of dawn (and I’m not a morning person). [Kameron and Chris live together in theThinkHouse living and learning accelerator] We get to the office around 8 or 9am and try to go over what we finished the day before and what needs work. We spend probably 80% of our time talking to our users and the other 20% iterating on our product based on their feedback. We are still in the discovery and learning phase so staying close to our users is the most important thing we do. We spend the late hours of each day building our product based on the data we have gathered from users.

IP: What do you guys like to do when you’re not working on Glance?

KK: I like to read, mess around with new programming languages and attend pitch events. I like hearing other people present their ideas and progress and taking the best parts to incorporate into what we are doing at Glance.

Chris Comrie: I really enjoy anything hockey. I grew up playing and still keep up with it when I can. I also enjoy reading, and building new things in software or hacking together a cool weekend project. I am a big believer in weekend projects because they push your imagination and help you learn new skills that you can apply to your weekly tasks.

IP: Favorite song to get you motivated for a long workday?

KK: I love pretty much anything Chase Rice. A big cup of coffee and Spotify on repeat makes the day easy.

CC: Two step by Dave Matthews Band gets the juices flowing.

Learn more about Glance or start your text message-based job search here. We promise it won’t suck.

These NC entrepreneurs are changing the $1 trillion health care real estate market

Grant Hamm and Arick Morton, two Raleigh, NC-based serial entrepreneurs, have teamed up to tackle the $1 trillion healthcare real estate market with their latest startup, VisionLTC. The company is a geospatial market analytics platform for the senior housing, medical office, and healthcare industries. VisionLTC’s platform provides operators, owners, investors, lenders, developers and other industry stakeholders with critical market analytics to facilitate improved strategic decision making.

Arick Morton (left) and Grant Hamm (right), co-founders of VisionLTC.
Arick Morton (left) and Grant Hamm (right), co-founders of VisionLTC.

The duo, along with Executive Co-Founders Steve Vick and Stephen Morton, hatched the idea in late 2014, began product development last fall, and are already focused on scaling and generating revenue — goals they hope to amplify during the Innovators Program.

Read more about their process in our latest Q&A:

Innovators Program (IP): Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?

Arick Morton (AM): We decided to apply for the Innovators Program in an effort to bring a rigorous process to determining our go to market strategy. We have a lot of directions that we can take our business so we really wanted to make sure that we were selecting our path forward in the most efficient and effective way. We felt that the Innovator’s Program would bring that discipline and it most certainly has!

IP: How did you and your co-founder meet?

AM: We have been close friends since middle school!

IP: What do you think are each other’s strong suits as co-founders?

AM: Grant is an incredibly talented developer. He built a wireless Palm Pilot-based auction system when he was 13 years old. There’s not really a technology problem that he can’t solve. Most importantly, he’s also incredibly business savvy — so he instantly grasps the business objective and marries that with his technology skills.

GH: Arick has deep content knowledge in health care and senior housing and is a strong product evangelist. He’s very strong at identifying the market opportunity and mapping a solution vision that is likely to maximize aggregate profitability.

IP: Was there an “ah-ha” moment that led to starting VisionLTC?

AM: We showed our rudimentary product to a few REITs and senior housing operators and they said “we’ve never seen anything like that. We want to buy that.”

IP: What is one outcome you are hoping for at the end of the Innovators Program?

AM: We are hoping to be profitable with a scalable product by the end of the Innovators Program.

IP: What’s one big lesson you’ve learned thus far in the program?

AM: Go deep and narrow to start and then grow up from there.

IP: Tell us about a typical “day in the life” so far during the Innovators Program.

AM: Selling, selling, selling and delivering to existing customers.

IP: Entrepreneurship comes with constant ups and downs. What motivates you to keep going? Any go-to rituals or things that help energize you?

AM: We are motivated by the desire to make a positive impact on the world, so seeing our vision come to reality is our primary motivator. On the days when we’re down, we both usually turn to our families and our dogs to cheer us up!

IP: Dogs always help! Speaking of, how do you spend your time when you’re not working on VisionLTC?

Grant likes solving new and challenging computer problems, watching football, spending time with his wife Erin and his 3 dogs, and hanging out with good friends.

Arick likes to spend his time playing tennis, taking walks with his wife Rachael and his two Vizslas, hanging out with friends, and working to support progressive political causes.

With a base of founding customers already in place and growing interest from industry players, these guys are set to scale VisionLTC rapidly. Check back here or on Twitter to follow their progress!