Startup-centered events are blossoming all around Charlotte, and in my capacity as Head of Regional Partnerships for Northeastern’s Level Data Analytics Bootcamp I get to go to many of them. Last week I attended 1 Million Cups and enjoyed it immensely.
What’s 1 Million Cups? According to the website it is a free, national program designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs. Developed by the Kauffman Foundation, 1MC is based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee.
MC’d by the dynamic Adrienne Craighead of TorchBearer Consulting the event moved at a great pace. Fast enough to keep the audience engaged, but slow enough to allow for ideas to come to fruition from both the presenters and the audience. I had read that 1MC was an event focused on collaborative insights, and I was not disappointed in what I saw. Adrienne Craighead spoke from a position of experience as one that’s journeyed the startup route herself, thus helping to encourage insightful questions from the audience. More on them in a bit.
While holding a early morning startup event in a posh nightclub might at first blush sound like a bad idea, let me assure it was anything but. The facilities were big, visually intriguing, and a place many will likely return to in the near future.
Large and in Charge
The space was large enough to accommodate a big crowd, leaving this budding event room to grow. With several love seats resting against the walls, and around fifty folding chairs the space was maybe a third full, allowing for many more attendees to fit comfortably in the future.
Feast for the Eyes
Visually the space offered enough interesting design features, cowhide rafters being an example, that it actually helped nudge the audience to alertness prior to the event starting. I found myself gazing at the various design features prior to the event and thinking it helped jar out the creative juices a bit.
A Growing Industry
What looked like a nightclub is now part of the ever-growing Industry Coworking. I was fortunate enough to take a tour of the various facilities with Founder Tyler Ford. From common space, to conference rooms, to event space – both traditional and nuevo, Industry seemingly offered all that one would need to start, grow, and run a business. As I walked through I caught a glimpse of a young lawyer grabbing a call in the common space, and a teacher lecturing to a full and engaged Tech Talent South classroom. Quickly it becomes clear the space is an excellent choice for startups. I was really impressed with the substantial growth Industry has had, taking over not just the club space, but also another part of the AvidX Music Factory campus of buildings.
I personally can attest to the delicious coffee after devouring a full two cups. Piping hot in two large cambros the coffee was served by neighbor-focused micro-roaster Enderly. Word has it breakfast food might be on deck for next month.
But of course this is all conjecture in judging a startup event without speaking to the two companies presenting – HoneyFi and 2U Laundry.
Couples are better off managing their finances together via an app. The HoneyFi site breaks it down like this:
We’re a group of mission-driven spouses, partners, bankers, technologists, and startup veterans. Our goal is simple: build tools and services to empower couples and families to make better financial decisions.
Currently the company is seeking 500K in seed investment.
Favorable. Could the app become a household name through branding of marital experts instead of just financial ones? Suggestions for powerful content marketing and social media campaign on such. Major potential for partnerships with diverse groups such as financial advisers and wedding planners.
HoneyFi is a concept that seems to fit the moment. Smartphones and accompanying apps are ubiquitous at this point, and marriages are still in major need of financial management. A perfect match, excuse the pun, for an app like this. As company Co-founder Ramy Serageldin pointed out, many couples have one partner acting as the ‘family CFO’ and one that’s not. With the right branding, content management, partnerships, and software integrations (something I’ve personally emailed them about), the app very possibly could be on a large number of married couple’s phones in the near future.
Intermission with Singer Songwriter Katie Oates
Katie Oates performed during a brief intermission between pitches. She shared her story and struggle to build confidence in her musical career, and how it mirrored the life of so many trying to build something from nothing. Album to come soon. In the meantime check her website out for more info.
Laundry done for you. Picked up, washed to your liking, and dropped off on your doorstep. All for a low monthly payment of $9, and a flat rate of $19 (small 1-2 loads) or $29 (large 4-6 loads) per bag.
In their own words:
Many of us spend the majority of our time at work, stuck in traffic, or running errands. All things we could do without. Fortunately for you, Alex and Dan founded 2ULaundry.What started as a classroom project at Wake Forest University, has now evolved into a market leader in innovative home concierge services.
Guided by an unwavering commitment to the perfect customer experience and an obsessive passion for quality, 2ULaundry operates with a simple goal in mind: to help members maximize every moment of every day.
Not clear the company is looking for more investment. To date 2ULaundry has raised 100K in seed funding.
Very positive. Questions on the customization of laundry detergent preferences led to collective relief to hear about Raleigh NC organic detergent producer partner Charlie’s Soap. Great interest in the revelation that many new customers are not single working professionals, but rather busy moms/housewives doing laundry for family looking to save time. Lots of excitement over high rate of growth and value of high touch business that averages 30 text messages per month.
Investors take notice. That’s my takeaway. This business seems on paper to be another ‘uber for…’ but in actuality it’s so much more. I’m not sure how such a business would fare five or ten years ago when the recession was beating budgets back to bare necessities, but at this time, in Charlotte, it’s working great. I thought the churn rate of customers might be high after a few months of billing, but according to Founder Dan D’Aquisto clients stay close to a year before canceling.
This company is headed places, and I could see them growing into a regional player in the space by this time next year.
An Informed Audience with Powerful Networking Potential
I’ve known people that have spent years trying to meet the right person at networking events. Looking far and wide for an individual that can make their dream a reality. Whether it be for a job, funding, mentorship, or simply a sounding board. While 1MC might not offer a remedy for all when it comes to networking, it certainly carries a lot of significant value for those looking to network.
Audience size (a little shy of 50) makes the event large enough to find a diverse group of individuals, and yet at the same token small enough that one can easily interface freely with those in attendance before and after the pitches.
Personally I found the audience to offer sound advice to presenters – discussing cost per user acquisition, content marketing strategy, and UX/UI platform ideas, which served as a credibility builder for talking with them afterward.
Future of 1MC
The future is bright for 1MC, and as the event grows I believe those that hop on board early will benefit from doing so. The train is just starting to leave the station, and it’s my prediction that in the future we’ll see many more Charlotte startups, and those looking to network with such, hop on board.