In entrepreneurship, validation is the most important stage in the life of a startup. Our Get Started cohort helps startups at this stage test their ideas through two moths of customer discovery and market research. Seven companies were selected to join the Spring 2016 cohort and, after arduous work, all of them made it to the finish line. After their final presentation, a panel of judges awarded A-to-B the $5,000 grand prize, courtesy of Carr Riggs & Ingram.

Get Started is a program designed to help our local startup community grow and we would like to thank our mentors, staff and Carr Riggs & Ingram for making this class possible. We are very proud of the work these startups put into the program and wanted to know how the class impacted their ideas. This is what they had to say:

A-to-B | Carl Forney

Our idea for A to B was to provide transit authorities with a dynamic solution to their routing strategy and to be able to leverage on their existing resources. A to B would basically make public transportation quicker, easier, and less expensive. Our idea has evolved since the beginning of Get Started. The most prominent advance we've made has come from the validation process. We learned we need to keep flexible and nimble about the product and the market. Based on customer discovery, we also learned that we need to shift away from some of our initial pricing assumptions and even make changes to the pricing model itself. The size of our transportation vehicles has also shifted thanks to customer feedback. We now expect future changes to our product based on recent and future conversations with StartMetro, who we hope will be a potential pilot partner.  

Codeslam | Geoffrey Miller

The core mission of Codeslam was to make programming a more accessible field of study regardless of background, experience or education. Coming into Get Started, I initially intended to integrate multiple features into my product like online courses, personal mentoring, games, competitions, and tool-assisted programing systems. However, after going through weeks of customer discovery, I decided my product needed to change. Getting out and actually talking to potential customers made me realize that my original product, while some people were interested, no one actually needed it. Listening to customers has made me more aware of opportunities that actually exist in the marketplace for Codeslam. Now, I am working on prototyping a product that people tell me they want, rather than one I think they want.

Blue Planet Kids | Miranda Manning

When I began the Get Started program, Blue Planet Kids was meant to be a subscription-based science kit provider. We would sell cutting edge science experiments to homeschool children and other interested parties. However, I have made some changes throughout the past two months. The biggest shift happened when I really forced myself to understand what I was trying to accomplish with BPK and if my method was in fact the best approach. During the course of my interviews, I realized that a community lab would be much more effective. I want to bring innovation and exploration in STEM fields to middle and high school students. In order to really do that effectively, these students need real lab equipment and a clean space to conduct long-term experiments. Current public schools have very little, if any, lab time. There is no encouragement for exploration and I strongly believe that access to a space like this could fix that. I am currently working on a plan and interviewing key people to really get an understanding on the best way to execute this project. 

A-to-B team receiving the $5,000 prize from Carr Riggs & Ingram.

A-to-B team receiving the $5,000 prize from Carr Riggs & Ingram.

EyeDope | Ronald McCoy

The idea for EyeDope began as a premium sunglass company targeting African-American millennials. While going through the Get Started program, that idea has certainly evolved. I am now more strategic and thorough when thinking about how my product fits in the market. Instead of simply putting up a website and expecting the masses to show up, I'm now thinking about how my customers behave and live their day-to-day, as well as how to better reach them. For example, most millennials go to barbershops and hair salons. This unconventional venue could be an excellent place to advertise, or even make some product available for purchase. I would have never considered that idea as an option.

I have also decided to raise funds for EyeDope's launch by selling non-branded sunglasses for fraternities and sororities. When Christine first made this suggestion, it didn't resonate with me. But now I see the potential and value in this initial proposition to get the line started. The Get Started program has definitely put me on the path to success with my business! 

LiveWire | Jennifer Paul

LiveWire is a crowdfunding platform for social entrepreneurship. It allows startups to validate their business ideas by the amount of funding they receive and be geared towards investing those funds in a project that provides meaningful social change. Since I joined Get Started, LiveWire has gone through some changes. The customer discovery phase allowed me to learn what my customer needed in order to engage with the platform. I have really focused on my value proposition and made it fit the specific needs of my market. 

OwnIt | Helen Giraitis

Prior to Get Started, OwnIt was intended to be a public charter high school geared specifically towards 11th and 12th graders. The curriculum would focus on teaching entrepreneurial business skills, while still meeting all state requirements. After going through some customer discovery, I have decided to expand the program to grades 9th to 12th. Many folks expressed an interest in a full four-year experience for their children so they don't have to rebuild their social networks in a new school. Additions to the curriculum were also made based on the validation process. Aside from business and entrepreneurial skills, the community also wants students to have access to personal financial literacy. There has been a tremendous amount of interest being shown for a charter school where students can learn about startups and nonprofits, while earning credit, through a hands-on experience. I'm excited to be able to provide this environment to them. 

OCPerfectionist | Karl Bertelsen

OCPerfectionist is a cleaning service for allergy sufferers, OCD and cleanliness neurotics, and overall perfectionists. For me, cleaning is an art-form and I aim to provide the best service in the industry. Through Get Started, the evolution of my idea has been mainly perceptual. Being introduced to a customer-centric approach has made me aware of a better way to position my company. The customer discovery process has really helped validate the product and has opened my eyes to new market opportunities. I have also become more aware of the existing risks for OCPerfectionist, which ultimately helps me put my business plan into action.


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