Oregon State University’s Advantage Accelerator/RAIN Corvallis program provides client entrepreneurs with the tools and resources necessary for success with their emerging enterprises. The Accelerator is comprised of three separate programs: Iterate, Accelerate and Launch.
In the Iterate program, clients work to identify and validate a potential idea to match a larger group of customers. This includes building a minimal product and finding a market for their innovative concept. In the Accelerate program, clients move toward product market fit. The clients seek to validate if their product has a viable market. Clients also test the feasibility of their startup, validate target customers, articulate competitive advantages and complete their business models. In the Launch program, clients focus on company building and growing a customer base through a repeatable sales process.
This past summer, a new set of startup businesses graduated from the Accelerate program, including Seiji’s Bridge, Hytchr, Wildwood Towers, JULVIA Technologies Inc. and Tone Tip. One of the Accelerate program interns, Dylan Wright, even started his own company, Tree Dog.
It started out as a fun toy — a flying disc that plays music and lights up when thrown. But when Seiji’s Bridge CEO and inventor Alex Dassise tossed the disc to his brother Stefan, who has autism, it transformed their relationship.
“The first time we threw it, it was amazing,” Dassise says. “It was the first time that there was a real interaction between us. We were engaged. We got to laugh, smile and dance. It was a whole new relationship.”
The product, called DiscJam, includes games and educational lessons that provide guidance and options to people with disabilities.
Dassise developed the DiscJam in the College of Business’ Austin Entrepreneurship Program. Soon after creating a prototype, Dassise pitched his idea to the Bend Venture Conference and sold 50 discs to students. He also won first place and $1,000 in a Shark Tank competition between Oregon State and the University of Oregon.
Dassise says the Accelerate program’s mentors played a huge part in helping his company move from making a prototype to selling a final product.
“I’m really thankful for the Accelerate program,” Dassise says. “If it wasn’t for the mentors, we wouldn’t have pivoted from making a toy to making a tool. I always wanted this to be something effective for people with autism.”
This fall, Dassise and his business partner, Spencer Kleweno, a senior in the College of Business, began the Launch program. They are the first undergraduates to participate in this stage of the Advantage Accelerator.
Dassise and Kleweno have their sights set on several company objectives for the upcoming year.
“We have big goals for this school year,” Dassise says. “We are going to form key partners, sell hundreds and start becoming a real company that helps people through music and motion."
For more information, visit discjamz.com.
Hytchr makes photo attribution easy, too. As soon as photos are uploaded, they are encoded with data using Blockchain technology that tells the user who took the photo, the date and where it was taken, which preserves the intellectual property of the owner.
This app is focused on millennials, as well as businesses, event providers and photographers, both amateur and professional. Businesses and event providers can use Hytchr to crowdsource content or run campaigns, without having to track down images via several different social media sites.
Working with photographers allows Hytchr to provide high-quality photos. Through the use of Blockchain technology, photographers can be paid for their work and retain ownership and royalty rights.
Wrenn says his experience in the Accelerate program has been essential in helping him build his business and develop a memorable pitch.
“Crafting a story around your business is incredibly important in terms of your success,” he says. “When I started out, I was just this guy with an idea. Accelerate helped me craft a message that fits no matter where I go or what I do.”
With the help of the Accelerate program, Hytchr was chosen as one of five finalists at Bend’s Venture Conference, a pitching competition with a top prize of $15,000.
Wrenn’s immediate goals are to finalize his product and get people to test it. After that, he plans to partner with different brands like shoe companies and college sports teams. Those interested in being beta testers can sign up at Hytchr.com.
Wildwood’s beer towers bring self-serve taps right to your table at bars, breweries, tap houses, distilleries and restaurants. Handmade from ash and sourced from a hardwood supplier in Eugene, the stands serve as an aesthetically pleasing table centerpiece. Compared to the average beer pitcher — which also holds 64 ounces — Wildwood Towers are more convenient and keep beer fresh for much longer.
Keenan Hoar, creator of Wildwood Towers, says he wanted to find a better way of serving craft beer. His towers provide a less-exposed surface area, which helps keep beer colder longer and prevents carbonation from escaping — giving the customer a drink that remains fresh.
After he receives feedback on his base models, Hoar would like to add quality enhancers like steel tubes that can be frozen and threaded inside each tower to keep drinks extra cold.
Hoar says his journey to the Advantage Accelerator program was serendipitous. As a student at the University of Oregon, he landed in the Accelerator program by way of RAIN Eugene, FertiLab and a second-place award in Oregon RAIN’s Pitch Stream competition.
He says the network he’s built as a result of the program has been invaluable, and receiving unfiltered feedback was crucial in refining his business model. Hoar adds that his mentors, including Advantage Accelerator co-director Karl Mundorff and operations manager Anna Walsh, were instrumental in helping him build a solid business plan.
“I’m still amazed by the amount of altruism you get when you just ask,” he says. “Karl was great; he always made himself available, and he was always very giving with what he knew. And Anna made a huge impact on the direction I decided to go with my brand.”
Hoar’s immediate goals for Wildwood Towers include testing and validating the functionality of his towers and marketing his company.
For more information, visit wildwoodtowers.com.
Jen Akeroyd, a Ph.D. trained nurse, and Bill Lear, a dermatologist and surgeon, formed a company named after their two daughters, Julia and Olivia. They developed SUTURELOCK™, a wound-closure device that improves the effectiveness of surgical sutures. The device, which looks like several small clips, sits on top of the skin.
Currently, sutures can only remain in the skin for about two weeks, after which the skin begins to grow over the sutures. After sutures are removed, wounds can re-open, as the skin has only regained 5 percent of its pre-injury strength. SUTURELOCK solves that problem, allowing sutures to remain in the skin for up to six weeks.
After six weeks, the skin is back to its optimal strength, and it is much less likely for the wound to re-open. Research also indicates there is less scarring in patients, based on a study JULVIA Technologies conducted on Yucatan hairless pigs — the gold standard model for skin — through Oregon State’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Before their involvement in the Accelerate program, JULVIA Technologies won a medical device pitch competition and an Oregon Business Grant. Akeroyd says Accelerate helped the company fill in what was missing: the customer discovery process.
“I don’t know how you would start a business without it,” she says. “It would be risky, time-consuming and expensive to start a business without talking to potential customers.”
And Akeroyd really did her research. After identifying her customers, she set out to interview 30 different surgeons. As a result of that information, the company further developed its original prototype.
JULVIA Technologies also plans to sell or license its patent-pending technology.
His app, Tone Tip, uses an audio hyperlink — a short audio code that is placed over a radio or video broadcast message — to connect to your phone. The phone detects the code, then pulls an image, website, phone number and address, and sends it directly to you via three links.
Currently, Tone Tip works with Android phones, and Apple is reviewing it for the iPhone.
And it’s more than just an app, it’s a service. Tone Tip is available to anyone who produces audio or video media, as a way of tracking what their listeners are interested in. To designate which broadcasts your phone picks up, media producers create an account with the information they want to tie to the app.
The best part? Tone Tip works in just about any audio environment. And you don’t have to be present to click and open the app. As long as your phone is in the same area as the audio broadcast and it’s at a reasonable volume, the phone will automatically capture all the necessary information. The app also includes a history list of the information your phone has saved, so you can go back to it later.
“It’s really an exciting new technology,” Seemiller says. “It provides media consumers with the information they want and producers with the engagement data they need.”
The value for media produces is that when Tone Tip is accessed, it picks up data like the number of smartphones that have received the message, how many people have responded to it (pushed the phone, address or website button) and the smartphone’s location.
Seemiller says the Accelerate program helped him get out and talk to customers and narrow his list of great ideas down to more manageable ones.
His next steps include gathering customer feedback and making necessary technical adjustments to the app so it’s compliant with Android and iPhone.
For more information or to set up a media producer account, visit tonetip.com.
Most firefighters and loggers use plastic wedges and chainsaws to cut trees down. Plastic wedges are used to lift and direct trees for safe falling. They are hammered into the tree using a hatchet and prevent the back half of the tree from sitting on the chainsaw.
In cases involving large, hazardous trees, plastic wedges require the use of a hydraulic jack for lifting. In these instances, the user must bore a hole in the tree before inserting the jack. Hydraulic jacks can be heavy, time-consuming and difficult to use.
Tree Dog’s device, however, is an automatic metal wedge with the lifting power of a hydraulic jack and the ability to bring trees down as fast — if not faster — than a plastic wedge. It is much easier to carry, weighing only 16 pounds compared to the traditional 25-pound hydraulic jack. Wright says his goal is to decrease the weight of his device by another four pounds before the product launches.
Tree Dog also has an extra safety feature. With traditional wedges, the timber cutter has to hammer the wedge in until the tree begins to fall. With Tree Dog, the user can insert the wedge and step away from the tree. Using a key fob controller — a device similar to the remote locking system on a car — the user can then activate the wedge with a radio-frequency signal.
This fall, Tree Dog was recognized with a People’s Choice award at Portland State University’s Clean Tech Challenge, where startups from seven of Oregon’s colleges and universities pitched their sustainable product ideas. Event attendees chose Tree Dog to receive this $5,000 award.
Starting his own business has served Wright well as one of the undergraduate interns in the Advantage Accelerator program. Over the past year, he has helped other startups by conducting market research, developing a target audience profile, conducting customer surveys and more.
“It has definitely opened up my view of different trades and skills,” Wright says.
Wright plans to participate in the Launch program in January 2017. He says the valuable connections and mentors in the program are just what he needs to put the finishing touches on his product and meet potential partners and investors.