Team Focus: Vital Flo, Inc.

As the program wraps up, Luke Marshall, CEO of VitalFlo, Inc. took some time to share his thoughts on his experience, what keeps him motivated!

Luke Marshall is the cofounder of VitalFlo, a company that is redefining the standard of care for asthma management by providing actionable recommendations to patients when they need it most: before they have an asthma attack. Their handheld medical device and digital health management app enables asthmatic patients to track their lung health and asthma medications at home. Through VitalFlo’s integrated platform, they provide population-level insights to healthcare provider networks, diagnostic support to physicians, and actionable recommendations to patients when they need it most.

Read on to learn more about Luke and VitalFlo, and visit their site to sign up to try their product!

Contact VitalFlo


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

Luke Marshall: I first found about about the Innovators Program through our good friends at NC RIoT. Tom Snyder had previously partnered with IP and knew about all the great education and community resources it has to offer to young companies like VitalFlo. Once learning about it, we jumped at the chance to apply!

IP: What are you most looking forward to in this program?

LM: We have been really thrilled to become a part of the great network of entrepreneurs, community partners and investors that Liz and Nick have developed for the Innovators Program! Getting to work directly with great companies like Becton Dickenson, Citrix and Red Hat, and seeing how they operate and approach problems at scale, has really helped us think about what systems we’re putting into place in our company as we envision reaching that level. Also, getting feedback from IP’s Executive Counsel has been huge for us – the experience all the executives bring to bear is really inspiring, and their advice is second to none.

IP: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?

LM: We have a great core team at VitalFlo, with each person bringing different skills to bear. James Dieffenderfer, CTO and inventor of the VitalFlo mobile spirometer, just wrapped up his Biomedical Engineering doctorate at NCSU where he worked on projects like VitalFlo as part of the ASSIST program. He has been a rockstar of digital health technologies from all angles, with great experience in hardware, embedded code, and machine learning technologies. Ravi Chilukuri, COO, has over 20 years of product development experience in hardware. He’s had great success leading development teams as they scale from small operations into dominant players (and did so most recently as VP of Product Development at local RTP late-stage startup, Phononic). We also have an amazing team of contract developers, manufacturers, and regulatory experts that position VitalFlo for success. As for me, I have been building and leading technical teams focused on commercializing university-based technologies for the last eight years. It has been a priviledge to work with this great team as we work to build VitalFlo into a company with enough scale to really make an impact for asthmatics everywhere.

IP: What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?

LM: VitalFlo was born from an interaction between James and Dr. David Peden, a really top-notch pediatric asthma specialist from UNC School of Medicine who is now on our Board of Advisors. Dr. Peden basically described the current state of affairs in asthma management to James: how current lung health monitoring can only be done in-clinic and therefore infrequently. He asked James, “Can you solve this?” So James went to work on developing our patented technology.
Ravi and I met James a little while later while prospecting for promising university-based technologies to commercialize. When James showed us his solution we were blown away, and we immediately went to work.
All three of us on the management team have a history of respiratory ailments in our families, so building a solution for this was exciting for its promise and potential impact, but it is also personal.

IP: What problem are you trying to solve?

LM: There are 25 million Americans currently suffering from asthma symptoms – that’s 25 million Americans that aren’t sure about whether they’ll have trouble breathing today, whether they’ll miss school or work today, or about whether they’ll be one of the 10 Americans that will die today from asthma.

Our solution empowers these patients to take control of their asthma. VitalFlo’s mobile spirometer and smartphone app let’s patients monitor their lung function and asthma medications on a daily basis. With our powerful machine learning analytics, we can help predict whether they’re at risk of an asthma attack, and then notify them and their doctor so that they can avoid missed days, trips to the emergency room, or worse. VitalFlo lets asthma patients and their families breath easy.

IP: Any big takeaways from the Innovators Program that you’re excited to integrate into your business?

I was super excited to learn some of the design principals, and to incorporate them into our development cycle going forward! Since so much of our design choices had been before I joined the team, going through this process with IP was a great opportunity for me to do a deep dive into our design and product pipeline. We’ll definitely be using the processes we learned to continually iterate our product to better serve our customers.

IP: When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?

LM: None of this would be possible without the support of my amazing wife, Hillary! She keeps me level-headed (well… mostly) through the highs and lows that come with startup life. Because of that, carving out quality time with her has always been a top priority. We really love to cook together – especially for guests! We also like to unplug and take our dog Eddy out into the woods for a hike.

IP: How do you stay energized for the long workdays of entrepreneurship? go-to snacks? rituals?

LM: We’re hugely motivated to solve this problem. In the US alone, 10 people die per day of asthma related causes – if working to solve a problem of that importance and scale is not energizing… you’re in the wrong business! That said, I also try to stay sharp by taking care of myself. My most focused and productive days tend to start with 15 minutes of meditation and 3 to 5 mile run with our dog.


Thanks Luke for sharing your experience with us, can’t wait for VitalFlo to blow us all away!

If you’d like to learn more about VitalFlo or the Innovators Program, check out more here.

VitalFlo  Innovators Program

Visit us soon for more interviews with this year’s participants!

Cheers! -Magdalyn

 

Team Focus: Allstacks!

The Innovators Program is chugging along, and I was excited to learn more about one of our awesome external teams last week, Allstacks. CEO Hersh Tapadia and CTO Jeremy Freeman have partnered together for 10 years, and after years of collaborating on project after project, they identified a hole in the project management market for a good analytics tool that gave useful data to drive decision-making.

Allstacks is business intelligence tool for engineering management in which they pul together all the data that is generated by the team and give them leading indicators of project health so they can better direct their attention and ship better quality products on time without having to spend a lot of time digging around trying to figure out what’s actually going on.

Dashboard of Allstacks

We had the chance to chat with Hersh and learn more about what drove their team to build Allstacks and how years of experience can groom you for building the perfect product! 

If you’d like to learn more about Allstacks and how it can transform your project management, learn more today!

Learn more about Allstacks!


Magdalyn: Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?

Hersh: Primarily what made us want to apply was the partnership with Citrix and Red Hat. They’re two prototypical customers for our company, so it gave us the opportunity to work really closely with that type of customers to build a good product.

M: Awesome! What are you most looking forward to in this program?

H: We’ve been able to define some structure around working with our customers that allows us to recognize patterns and identify areas where we can make small changes that have large impact, and what really drove that was the tools that have been taught in the program. 

M: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?

H: It’s kind of an interesting story about me and my partner, we’ve been working together for over ten years, and this is our fourth company together. We met when we were in undergrad and i was spinning a company out of the university that was a medical device, and my partner jeremy was my first hire. that company was more bleeding-edge, and jeremy and the team wrote all the software for that. We ended up getting picked up and acqui-hired (before acqui-hiring was a thing) by a startup coming out of Johnson and Johnson. So I joined as a cofounder of that company and i was able to bring over the technology. I was able to hire back the critical parts of that team, so once again Jeremy was the first hire. We ran product there for 6 years, and we were ready to do something new, so we ended up building a business for 2 years looking for our next idea. We ended up working on a confluence of factors – data science projects, API development, and other algorithm development tools – we didn’t realize it then, but basically over the past 10 years we had trained ourselves in all the different components that allowed us to develop Allstacks really quickly. We built and launched the product in less than three months. 

M: What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?

H: The idea came to us kind of two ways – my partner and i had actually had launched another data-based company, and when we actually ran the data, we found out that the data from the original product we had didn’t work out, but there was one slice of that product that was really interesting to our customers – people were interested in knowing what the productivity of their employees was inside of the tools that they’re paying for. So we started trying to understand that market and looked deeper into the productivity analytics market, and what we found is that there was a huge hole for engineering management. 

We then came at it from another angle in that we thought back to our experiences – because my partner and i both happen to be engineering and product managers for 10 years – and realized that it was actually a problem. We thought back to our own experiences working with senior management and how frustrating it was that we weren’t able to give good, quantitative answers to how things are going. We realized that the part of the problem was that there wasn’t good data available, and whatever data that was available is very siloed and not holistic. and by looking at that kind of data lead to blinded, partially-informed decision making which was really ineffective.

M: Short answer, what problem are you trying to solve?

H: Helping engineering build better products ahead of schedule and under budget.

M: What’s your biggest take-away from the Innovators Program so far?

H: It’s really important to be consistent in how you interact with your customers so you can identify patterns, and by doing that, it’s been really helpful. 

M:  When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?

I think what’s really important for me is not losing the social connections that make life meaningful, so carving time out for that is really important so you don’t lose yourself in your business. My wife and I dedicate time to our friends and family every week so that’s really helpful.


Thanks Hersh for sharing your thoughts and progress with us, looking forward to seeing Allstacks grow and thrive!

If you’d like to learn more about Allstacks or the Innovators Program, check out more here.

Allstacks   Innovators Program

Visit us soon for more interviews with this year’s participants!

Cheers! -Magdalyn

 

DeLisa Alexander of Red Hat talks innovation and intrapreneurship

DeLisa Alexander is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source software. Since founding in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1993, Red Hat has grown from a small technology startup into a global, $2 billion corporation. The company hasn’t forgotten its entrepreneurial roots, though, which is why leaders like DeLisa are heavily focused on maintaining a culture of innovation both internally and in Red Hat communities. So just how does a global enterprise do that? We sat down with DeLisa to find out why they sponsor a startup accelerator, how they’ve built a meritocracy, and why she doesn’t call herself the head of HR.


Innovators Program: What is your focus as Red Hat’s Chief People Officer?

DeLisa Alexander: As Chief People Officer (head of HR), I lead the organization that is responsible for being a strategic partner to our business by hiring, developing, and retaining talented people. I’m also focused on scaling and sustaining Red Hat’s culture and employment brand as we grow.

For the last 11 years, this role as given me the opportunity to help grow our company from this wild idea—that we could sell free software—into a sustainable business that earned more than two billion dollars in revenue this year.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have always been areas of interest and passion for me, and as Chief People Officer, I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute back to the same business ecosystem that helped make Red Hat a successful, global company.

IP: Why is innovation so important? How has innovation impacted Red Hat’s company culture?

DA: Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical—to our community, to our country, and to the world. Innovators and entrepreneurs are a key part of a robust business ecosystem, because they generate new ideas, challenge the status quo, and help us solve the big problems that our world is facing.

As an open source company, Red Hat’s culture not only fosters this type of innovation and collaboration — it demands it. We’re a meritocracy, where good ideas can come from anywhere, and the best ideas are what we should act on. That’s one of the things I love most about Red Hat: people are free to share their ideas and make an impact.

IP: Why do you think it’s important for a large company like Red Hat to support local startups and entrepreneurs?

DA: At Red Hat, we believe fostering innovation and supporting the growing startup ecosystem is an essential part of our role as a longtime member of the Triangle business community. Red Hat started out as a little company with a wild idea, so we understand many of the challenges these startups face.

Now that we’re a large, successful company, we’ve taken on a larger role as a corporate citizen in this community. We want to be a catalyst in the innovation ecosystem and help another business become the next Red Hat. Sponsoring the Innovators Program and providing enterprise expertise to these startups is one way we’re approaching that.

DeLisa presenting at the Women in Open Source Awards

IP: Why did Red Hat decide to have teams participate in last year’s Innovators Program in addition to your sponsorship?

DA: Knowing that the best ideas can come from anywhere, we take a community-powered approach to almost everything we do at Red Hat. Participating in the Innovators Program was an innovative way for us to redesign two internal talent programs that support our culture.

It also created a tremendous opportunity for some of our Red Hat associates to expand and develop their leadership capabilities. At the end of the twelve weeks, our teams brought their insights from the program back to Red Hat, infusing them into their roles and teams. Here’s what one of our team members said:

“The program was a unique experience because it allowed us to take an entrepreneurial approach in solving a real business challenge through rapid prototyping — all while working with a diverse cross-section of Red Hatters globally.”

– Rob Trout, Global Product Manager, Red Hat –

IP: What’s the latest with the projects your innovation teams worked on during the program?  

DA: Since Demo Day, we have continued to take a community-powered approach to both projects, with the redesign work from our Innovators Program teams as the foundation. Here’s the most exciting part to me — we’re designing these systems using Red Hat technology. Through our internal innovation labs, we’re iterating and developing the tools to bring these talent programs to life in partnership with Red Hatters from our IT, Consulting, and People teams.

By using our own technology, we’re able to create processes that are truly reflective of Red Hat’s culture. It’s an exciting place to be right now, and I look forward to seeing the final products and the impact they will have.

IP: What are some challenges of running innovation-oriented programs within a big company?

DA: For Red Hat, it’s finding the right balance between moving fast and gathering input. One of the biggest challenges we face as a growing organization is making sure that we stay true to our open culture as we innovate. Making decisions in an open and inclusive way is a large part of that. Feedback is so important to us.

When we decided to participate in the Innovators Program last year, we chose our two projects based on months of feedback from Red Hat associates around the world.

From the start of the twelve-week program, our two internal innovation teams applied the principles of the Open Decision Framework, our collection of best practices for making open business decisions.

They shared their goals, progress, and challenges during each phase of the program with the entire company to give every Red Hat associate an opportunity to contribute, offer feedback, and make their voice heard.

That isn’t a fast process, so trying to squeeze in those opportunities while making progress against the tight deadlines of the program is a real challenge. But it’s a real-world challenge that we face with all of our business decisions, and we know that it’s worth the effort. I’m proud that the teams did this work in the Red Hat way, and that we’re now taking an open approach to continuing these projects using our own technology.

IP: What advice do you have for other leaders who want to focus on innovation?  

DA: Seek out new perspectives and be open to different opinions. If you want to get the best ideas, you need diversity of thought and an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome to participate and offer their perspectives. Research shows that organizations with more diversity—gender, racial, ethnic, and global—benefit in many ways. This is especially true in a startup economy. Leaders who seek out these perspectives will find that their companies are able to better understand customers, mitigate risk, and generate innovative ideas and products.


Thanks so much to DeLisa and our incredible partners at Red Hat for helping move innovation forward in Raleigh and beyond!

If you are executive / manager or intrapreneur that is interested to find out how you can leverage the innovators program at your company be sure to click here and let us know who you are how we can help you!

Contact us  |  Learn more

-Magdalyn

The day has arrived!

INNOVATORS PROGRAM RALEIGH ANNOUNCES THREE EXTERNAL STARTUPS SELECTED FOR 2017 ACCELERATOR COHORT

(Raleigh, NC) The Innovators Program Inc. and its sponsors, Citrix and Red Hat, Inc. and HQ Raleigh, are excited to announce the three selected teams for the 2017 Raleigh program. Out of dozens of applications from across the globe, these three early-stage, high-growth teams will participate in a rigorous 12-week accelerator program alongside internal teams from Citrix that 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.

Kicking off today with the support of our community partner HQ Raleigh, our teams participate in bi-weekly workshops, mentorship and one-on-one sessions where the Innovators Program provides concrete, tactical strategy through action-based items to generate real growth. Each team entering the accelerator receives an equity-free $10K grant with the possibility of an additional $10K if the team makes good progress in the course of the program. The program focuses on the best practices of design thinking and lean startup methods to validate our team’s ideas with the goal of leaving the program with their first customers. At the end of the 12 weeks, teams present their pitch at Demo Day to a network of investors, innovation leaders, and the thriving startup community of Raleigh.

The Innovator Program’s unique curriculum groups both external and internal teams to leverage the strengths of their respective backgrounds. By introducing entrepreneurial thinking to large-scale enterprises and the expertise of successful corporations to early-stage startups, innovation is fostered across the board. 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.

This year’s program marks the fourth cohort in Raleigh, producing many startups that have been acquired or are still driving innovation in their respective markets. Graduates from last year’s Raleigh program are Glance.ai, Nebula, ShineBig, Vision LTC, and Malartu.

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

This year’s program starts July 17 with a kick-off bootcamp hosted at HQ Raleigh’s newly announced Glenwood Avenue location at Centerline Digital. Team members will have the opportunity to engage in the startup community through HQ’s multiple locations around Raleigh for the duration of the program. We are excited for our newest group to join the active community of Innovators Program partners and continue the tradition of innovative excellence.

MEET THE EXTERNAL TEAMS:

AllStacks quantifies software team productivity to make engineering managers more effective in managing their teams.

www.allstacks.com

VitalFlo, Inc is redefining the standard of care for asthma by leveraging lung-health data to provide population-level insights to healthcare provider networks

www.vitalflohealth.com

CivicRise is developing technology that mobilize effective, sustained and measurable civic engagement.

 www.civicrise.io


Stay tuned for more as our program kicks off in the next few weeks and get a deeper look at our teams. For more information, please contact us via our website: http://innovatorsprogram.co/.

 

IMPORTANT PROGRAM UPDATE

Hello innovators!

WE’VE GOT 2 BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS Y’ALL!

1. Due to multiple requests, we have decided to EXTEND THE APPLICATION DEADLINE until Wednesday, June 28! We have had lots of great interest in the program and want to give everyone a chance to apply. So get those last-minute applications in, y’all!


2. Though we can’t *officially* announce an exciting new partnership, we are excited to share that we have opened potentially 2 NEW SPOTS for the 2017 Raleigh program. These spots are reserved for companies focused on healthcare and medical tech, so if you or anyone you know would be a good fit, make sure to apply and share!

Participants will be announced soon, so stay tuned as kickoff approaches! 

Apply Now!   |  Learn more

Best,

Magdalyn

5 reasons why the Innovators Program is better than the Hacker Hostel

Hello dear reader! 

As we all know, Silicon Valley is the home of the hottest incubator around, the Hacker Hostel run by Erlick Bachman of the un-famous Aviato. While the HH has produced some big wins (and even bigger busts), we think that the Innovators Program is a great solution for motivated entrepreneurs who want to vigorously pursue their startup.

Here’s 5 reason why we think the Innovators Program is a better fit for you than the Hacker Hostel:

1.  Workshops that produce concrete, tactical actions for your startup

As great as it is sitting around a table day after day with your buddies hacking away, it’s very helpful to have hands-on help when it comes to launching your startup. At the Innovators Program, we work hard to provide real-life action-based strategy and empower our founders to persevere through #startuplife. It’s easy to talk about but hard to implement without good guidance and motivation. Through bi-weekly workshops, office hours, monthly executive council meetings, and alumni dinners, we help you get the job done right.

2.  Equity-free funding

No more equity grabs – our participants maintain 100% ownership of their company. Unlike *SOME* accelerators or incubators, we give our program participants $10K in no-strings-attached, equity-free funding to help you bring your idea to fruition. 

As HH members know well, hosting your web applications can be crazy expensive, so our participants get $120K credit with Amazon Web Services to store, compute, migrate, database, analyze and mobilize your data.

3.  A strong network of alumni and mentors

With the support of our partners Citrix and RedHat, we provide access to expert help and one-on-one mentorship throughout the 12 week program as well as lifetime membership to the Innovators Program network. Our program has great relationships with top VC’s both locally and nationally, and we help foster partnerships through our introductions.

We also *promise* to not highjack any investor meetings.

4. Location, location, location!

While Silicon Valley is the Mecca for startups, Raleigh was recently named the top spot outside of SV for tech startups, thanks to local innovation, access to capital, and a pipeline of talent from UNC, Duke, and NC State.

Our participants get a 15 month membership to HQ Raleigh, a thriving community of entrepreneurs and change-makers located in the heart of Raleigh’s bustling Warehouse District. HQ has great vibes and is the perfect place to immerse yourself in startup life.

5.  No having to live together

Your Fage yogurt is safe.


If you think the Innovators Program is right for you, be sure to apply today!  Thanks for reading!

Apply Now!

Cheers,

– Magdalyn

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.”

 

Red Hat and the Shadowman logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Red Hat, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.

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.

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.