Checking in with Race to Revenue: ND’s Summer Startup Accelerator

Author: Emily Tyson

Race To Revenue Logo

The IDEA Center’s Race to Revenue has been in full motion since May 26. 16 teams have been working hard, putting in time, and making the most of this valuable experience. 

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all programming has been virtual in this second iteration of the 10-week summer accelerator. Rian McDonnell of DeLive says “Everything is working well, with weekly coach check-ins and [everyone] just pushing forward.” Conor Brady, founder of LendingLayer, agrees, “So far so good, [we’re] keeping the ship moving, not always a straight line but it's still moving.”

Each Tuesday and Thursday the Racers attend a virtual Lunch & Learn with a special speaker or two and up to three of the teams pitch their company to the entire group and receive feedback from the guest speaker(s).

So far, the teams have heard from experienced entrepreneurs and business experts on a wide variety of topics of interest:

  • Business development and networking best practices
  • Startup financial modeling and assumptions
  • Getting your metrics down
  • Pivoting and watching metrics impact
  • The South Bend startup scene and investing
  • User interviews and surveys
  • Analytics and growth dashboards
  • Entrepreneurship in manufacturing
  • Understanding what investors are looking for

The presentations from successful entrepreneurs… are very helpful,” comments Luke Jones, founder of BlueCloud. Brian Scanlon, who is working with Smart Shipping Containers, agrees, adding that he “really enjoys the Lunch & Learns and being able to see what other people are doing and learning what worked for them.” Edozie Ezeanolue of NXSTEP appreciates the insights these speakers give, “that I can actually apply to my own startup.”

Racers are also appreciative of the coaching and mentoring they have been receiving from seasoned entrepreneurs who are offering their time and energy. Daniel Jimenez of Debtly says that his weekly check-ins with coaches are working well and that he is “learning a ton.” Mick Assaf (YOKE) has had an “incredible” experience so far and describes his coach as “an invaluable resource… [he] has had our back and coached us through many of the tough situations we have faced over the past few weeks.”  Bruce Nakfoor of Kneekeeper agrees, stating that meetings with his coach have “provided [him] with much-needed direction.” 

Although, as Alden Kane of OptoSwim says, “it would have been nice to see the cohort in person,” Racers are still benefiting from the network they are forming with each other this summer. Eddie Moriarty, who is working this summer with Olu, describes his fellow venture-builders as very willing to reach out, outside of the twice-weekly speaker sessions. This “keeps me feeling connected, and the entrepreneurial drive going.” Nich Lampson of Agape has enjoyed the small group meet-ups Racers have arranged, as a way to more informally chat and get to know his fellow student entrepreneurs.

Even those who joined the accelerator with little previous entrepreneurial experience are finding the program valuable: Liv Anderson of Jüke says, “as a design student, it’s been a blast to learn so rapidly about the business side of things.” Amanda Abner of Kinetic Brewing Co. agrees, “Race to Revenue has opened my eyes to the many facets of an entrepreneurial venture. I am learning about finances, KPIs, consumers, and how to think about more than one part of a business.”

Being given the opportunity to focus full-time on their venture has helped the Racers break through and learn in areas they had previously struggled with. “I think the whole program has definitely cleared up a lot of the assumptions and blind spots we had at the beginning with where our project was going. We’ve had chances to learn new strategies for marketing and product development and hearing about what other companies are up to really gets the ball rolling with the potential for our own project,” says Vaibhav Arora, co-founder of Bia. His co-founder, Ryan Farrow, agrees, claiming that they “have learned a lot about our market and are taking a much more refined approach to developing our product as a result.”

The Racers are just about half-way through the 10 week program and still have a lot left to look forward to and to learn. “Even if [my venture] doesn’t work out,” says Keian Gatewood of Bee Brand, “I will still have learned a lot this year, thanks to Race to Revenue and the IDEA Center!”