Beyond the Pitch

MIND THE GAP: Rev1 Provides the Right Connections at the Right Time to Solve Critical Startup Challenges



If you’ve ever ridden the London Underground, you can probably still hear those words echoing in your head—spoken in a toney English accent of course.

Over there, “Mind the Gap” warns rail passengers to beware of the spatial gap between the station platform and the train door.

Here in the heart of the Midwest’s expanding entrepreneurial ecosystem, we don’t speak in especially toney accents, but, to borrow from the Brits, we do have some gaps to mind.

Our job at Rev1 Ventures is the help build sustainable companies. To do that, we look for gaps in our portfolio companies’ business plans, and figure out how we can narrow up or eliminate those gaps.

Identifying the gaps that we can help Rev1 clients fill.

The reason most startups fail isn’t because of execution or because they didn’t raise enough capital. It’s because they don’t have a market for their product. Or put another way, they don’t understand their customer or their customer’s needs. They make products that customers don’t want to buy.

In Rev1’s Concept Academy, entrepreneurs learn what their target markets need, want, and will pay for. Concept Academy companies that become Rev1 portfolio companies gain access to the First Connect Network for advice, professional services, and access to those all-important early customers through First Connect: Customer.

When a startup is looking at sales, it is simple to talk about what needs to be done. It’s far more difficult to get started and execute. At Rev1 Ventures, through First Connect: Customer,  we help enhance the revenue of the companies we’re working with.

We give our portfolio companies a leg up by connecting them with pre-qualified customers.

Here’s how First Connect: Customer works.

1. We fill in a startup’s revenue gaps by looking for gaps in a corporation’s application portfolio.

Rev1 begins this process well before we have a particular startup’s solution in mind. We gather intelligence on the corporation, understanding their culture, how they buy, what they buy and how aggressive they are in the whole area of innovative mindset. The way to finding an early adopter is to find the innovation lead within a company.

We start the conversation by asking if there are things that the company knows it wants to do or should be doing, but isn’t. We ask about the challenges they face in their business application portfolio that are so important they’ve decided to make or build solutions versus buying.

2. We demonstrate that we want to be an active participant with these corporations in gathering information about solutions. With the Internet companies are faced with much more advanced consumers. That goes for B2B sales, too. Corporations understand what the market looks like in their area for vendors—or lack thereof.

Once we gather intelligence about a corporation’s unfilled needs, we match that to Rev1 portfolio of companies to determine where there is a potential match between corporation and startup—where they might fill each other’s gaps.

3. After we gain interest from the corporation, we introduce the portfolio company for a deeper dive. Now the solution-seeking process begins in earnest. There are no guarantees, but if we’ve done our job right, there’s at least a high level, somewhat qualified opportunity match between what the corporation needs and the startup can provide, and with our connections, we’ve helped an entrepreneur gain ready access to companies and decision-makers that likely would have taken months or longer to reach.

We’ve completed this connection process with more than 30 corporations, identifying their “gaps” and secured portfolio companies access. Eight of these firms became customers to Rev 1 clients in 2014, including Cardinal Health, Safelite® AutoGlass, M/I Homes, and others.

First Connect: Customer has five contract sale engagements confirmed this year, with another 20 or so in the pipeline.

Rev1 helps portfolio companies close the gap in more ways than one.

Gaining commitment from those all-important first customers demands superior execution—all while the startup is juggling all the other demands of successfully building out a company infrastructure and team.

Rev1 is there shoulder to shoulder, providing execution models, advisors with real world expertise, a cadre of professional service providers, and access to remarkable talent, all within the frame of proven execution models that help mitigate risk.

1. First Connect: Advisors – 101 professional advisors selected to support startup success. This cadre of the most experienced advisors work directly with Rev1 startup clients to provide more than 800 hours of service.

2. First Connect: Experts – 45 hand-picked industry experts who provided more than $778,000 in services in 2014, helping startups tackle their legal needs, accounting, H/R, and more.

3. First Connect: Talent – Rev1 is closely aligned with Venture for America (VFA), helping place VFA fellows in Columbus startups. We also provide a CA).

In Concept Academy, companies survey their markets, talk to real customers, create validation points, and then move forward, pivot, or stop. Startups that become Rev1 companies are assigned a Rev1 venture advisor who helps them create a roadmap that includes full access to the full potential of First Connect.

Most venture development organizations don’t do this. They don’t help their portfolio companies get advice so valuable, it’s beyond a price. They don’t deliver top drawer expert services at greatly reduced rates. And they don’t open doors to pre-vetted potential customers.

But Rev1 isn’t like most venture development organizations. And Columbus isn’t like most regions.

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