The RiverCity Foundry is a collaboration of local civic, business and professional leaders, including both chambers of commerce (from Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL), local schools and universities, (Troy University, Columbus Tech, CSU and MCSD) and ColumbusMakesIT.
The RiverCity Foundry is the third and final component of an economic development strategy to provide meaningful mentoring and enable access to the tools of free trade and enterprise – namely access to seed and startup capital through angel investors and small business acceleration in our region.
From StartUp Weekend to Summer Accelerator
After running a successful 54-hour StartUp Weekend in April of 2016, we proved to ourselves (and most importantly, local investors) what we already knew – that there is a pent-up demand for the kind of startup culture in this community that we’ve experienced first-hand in Silicon Valley, Austin, Nashville, Boston, New York and Atlanta.
Troy University and ColumbusMakesIT! joined in this endeavor and put togehter a “proof of principle” for a first co-hort or “batch” of interns, students, volunteers, inventors and would-be entrepreneurs through the first 8 week startup summer accelerator. That batch began on Friday, July 8th, and 21 prospective startups pitched that evening and the final 14 pitched on Sunday, July 10th.
Out of those candidates, the goal was to send a handful of startups (4-6) through an 8-week program (like an extended startup weekend) but different in that it includes GrowWork (homework) and weekly education and check-ins with accountability, so it is really more like a “guppie-tank” than a “shark tank”.
Who Pays for All This? Investors.
Unlike startup incubators where you have to pay-to-stay, accelerators choose you, and the service is free* because it is sponsored by potential investors. Local philanthropists and angel investors and syndicates (groups of investors) are sponsoring teams for $5,000 – $10,000 each to go through the rigorous scientific method-based (fact and data) investigation testing the viability and authentic demand of the business startup.
At the end of the 8 weeks (Sept. 1st) each startup will present their company’s product or scalable, exportable service in our first ever investor and press “demo day”. A celebratory block dance party will be held outside that evening!
Demo Day is like speed-dating for potential investors, Venture Capitalists (VCs) and other financial backers. StartUps will present their business concept or minimally viable product (MVP) in a 5-7 minute demonstration and presentation of their product, market potential and investment ask.
The Summer StartUp Accelerator is not the end of the process, but merely a beginning of the journey to long-term sustainable success, high-impact job creation, or the entrepreneurial idea boneyard. Ideas morph and change and quite likely will not look anything like they did coming into the accelerator. This is a normal part of the “pivot or persist” model of lean startup development and customer co-creation.
*A note about FREE: When something is free, you must understand that YOU are the product. By participating for FREE, thanks to the generosity of your sponsors, StartUps are expected to INVEST in themselves and not squander this generous gift of an opportunity.
What’s the difference between an accelerator and a business incubator?
There are differences. You can google it yourself, or pick a primer from any of these great educational pieces from MicroVentures, TechRepublic, BusinessNewsDaily, Forbes, YHP or Inc.. In a nutshell, an incubator is an inexpensive place to grow your business once you’ve figured out what it is. The RiverCity Foundry accelerator invests in you for a very short time to figure out what your business is or should be.
There are likely a bunch of terms that will be new to you. Google is your friend, but here’s a useful glossary of terms from CB Insights.
RiverCity Foundry is an early stage seed Accelerator.
Like Y-Combinator, TechStars and Ga Tech’s FlashPoint, The RiverCity Foundry is the place and program that will help River Cities entrepreneurs figure out how to make scalable businesses and exportable products. Working with successful local business mentors, manufacturers, investors and business schools, we work to coordinate resources with SCORE and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center at Columbus State University. (UGA’s SBDC @ CSU)
- SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They have been doing this for over fifty years. Because their work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to their network of 11,000+ volunteers, they are able to deliver their services at no charge or at very low cost.
- UGA’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Designated as one of Georgia’s top providers of small business assistance, the SBDC has 17 offices ranging from Rome to Valdosta to serve the needs of Georgia’s business community. Since 1976, our network of partners has helped construct a statewide ecosystem to foster the spirit, support, and success of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators.