Startup bootcamp fosters new companies, accelerator program

Gathered at Flywheel Co-Work in Winston-Salem this week are eight teams that will be taking a crash course on taking an idea and shepherding it to becoming a viable company. It’s the first Startup Bootcamp that’s a partnership between Flywheel and The Startup Factory out of Durham, with early-stage companies honing their business idea, identifying potential customers and learning how to move to securing funding and launching a successful venture. “We are looking, and — much to our happiness — have found early-stage companies in Winston-Salem who are ready for this kind of immersive program,” said Lizzy Hazeltine, venture associate for The Startup Factory, a seed investment program that mentors startups and fosters funding for their ventures.

But this week is also a startup of sorts for Flywheel, which through this new partnership with The Startup Factory is moving toward creating its own business accelerator program based out of the coworking space in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. “We’re trying to create the idea vortex,” said Brad Bennett, a co-founder of Flywheel. “We’re creating ideas, we’re stirring up the pot and seeing what’s there.” This week’s five-day bootcamp that launched Monday is the first of what is expected to be an ongoing offering by The Startup Factory, with future events to be held elsewhere around North Carolina. Hazeltine said it’s also just the beginning of a relationship between her group and the Winston-Salem entrepreneurial community.

“We plan to spend more time in Winston-Salem, getting to know people and what they’re doing,” she said. “We’re working to develop relationships, and we’ll see what that leads to.”
As a seed investment program, The Startup Factory’s main emphasis is on identifying startups, offering $50,000 in seed capital and hands-on mentorship, and then providing access to a network of investors and experts. It was founded by Chris Heivly, one of the co-founders of MapQuest, and Dave Neal, a co-founder of multiple technology startups. Hazeltine said this week’s bootcamp offers a condensed version of what is typically a 12-week program.

“Our curriculum is modular, so we can take it and make it 12 weeks or we can make it two days,” she said. “The week focuses on both customer validation and product development, with a heavy focus on finding the people for whom this idea or this product or this solution is solving a real problem and is something that people will pay for.” The week’s events include meeting with mentors, working on customer development and coaching startups on making pitches, with the bootcamp culminating Friday in a pitch day event. The relationship between the teams, Flywheel and The Startup Factory could extend beyond this bootcamp, Hazeltine said. “That’s entirely up to the teams. We are all about helping people do what they want to do,” she said. “We will continue to be a resource for them as they continue to develop.”

Bennett said the bootcamp and the partnership with The Startup Factory will help develop a continuum for people moving from an initial entrepreneurial idea to a full-fledged viable company. Flywheel is now offering idea taps and startup grinds, events to help provide feedback and support to budding entrepreneurs, with future bootcamps planned and the eventual launch of a full-scale funded accelerator program similar to what The Startup Factory offers. “The bootcamp is the next stage of moving these entrepreneurs in our area up what could be the ultimate investment stack,” Bennett said. “We want to be the center of entrepreneurship and creating companies for Winston-Salem.”

Courtesy of Triad Business Journal