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Beyond the Pitch

Startups come to class at Rev1’s Concept Academy, Get Schooled

Startups come to class at Rev1’s Concept Academy, Get Schooled originally published in The Columbus Dispatch.

Imagine having an idea for a company and pitching the idea to a potential investor.

Now imagine making that pitch to an investor after having first tweaked the idea based on feedback from potential customers.

That common-sense notion is at the core of the Rev1 Concept Academy, a program for startups run by the technology and business incubator once known as TechColumbus.

The three-day academy is aimed at helping startups save time and money by pushing them to prove — at the earliest stage — that there is a market for their products.

“We’ve stopped the whole notion of investor as ‘celebrity judge,’ ” said Wayne Embree, who heads the investments and venture-acceleration team at Rev1. “Most companies are ready to pitch an idea, but they haven’t validated the idea in an intellectually honest method.”

In the Concept Academy’s first year, Rev1 held six sessions for 150 startups.

Each session takes place in three days, spaced out over a two-week period. The companies pitch to Rev1 representatives and fellow startups.

“We make everyone stand up and make a brief description of the product, the problem they’re solving and how they’ll do it,” Embree said. “Then we ask: Who are the users, who are the buyers, where does the supply come from?”

The startups then have to survey possible customers and return for the second session to report what they’ve learned and how they can apply it to their business.

By the end of the survey process, “they’re pretty whipped, and so are we. I’d say 40 percent are ready to recognize they have lots more work to do — or are just barking up the wrong tree.”

Read the rest of the article on The Columbus Dispatch.

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