From Inside Business
SVT Robotics co-founders A.K. Shultz and Mike Howes had it made – prestigious, high paying jobs developing the assembly line robotics system for the electric car giant Tesla.
They gave it all up to follow their dreams of starting their own business.
“We left our cushy jobs at a $3 billion robotics company, because, frankly, we saw a problem in the marketplace and we thought we could do it a better way,” Shultz said.
Shultz’s and four other entrepreneurs pitched their startups and showed off their progress with the 757 Accelerate business program during a community event Nov. 8 in Norfolk.
For 12 weeks, the startups had access to mentors, investors, work space and other resources through the program. Additionally, 757 Accelerate awarded each business with $20,000 without taking equity.
The 81 mentors also donated a total of 212 hours to the program.
“All of which is unpaid volunteer work,” said Anne Conner, board chairwoman for 757 Accelerate. “They want to come in. They want to help these companies.”
Ario co-founder Nate Fender, who presented first, described a scene in a manufacturing facility filled with complex machinery. A part breaks, and a floor worker has to radio in to a supervisor in a command center to figure out the problem. Fender flipped back-and-forth through the two pictures of the workers on a presentation, demonstrating the slow, laborious radio call.
“This isn’t very efficient at all,” Fender said to chuckles. “A lot of money is lost in that process.”
Ario’s solution is to use a computer and mobile app to allow workers to tag and assess the problem in a real-time 3D space using a phone or tablet camera. The system allows newer workers greater access to the knowledge of veteran employees, thereby “saving money, increasing revenue, measuring performance and increasing worker skills over time,” Fender said.
SVT Robotics wants to save companies money when they decide to upgrade to robotic systems. Shultz said implementing robots takes time and money by writing lines and lines of customized code. His company will automate robot integration for these companies, acting as a middle man between them and robotics firms.
Drippy co-founder Mike McCabe saw a need for companies to more effectively market to millennials. His company now helps restaurants and other businesses cater to young consumers through text messages and loyalty programs. He’s already partnered with businesses in Richmond like Saladworks and Which Wich.
Tim Hagerty, with Teaming Pro, described his startup as Match.com for government contractors. He said his company will help save contractors time and money looking for partners.
“The problem is there is no central repository or easy way for these companies to find one another,” Hagerty said.
Through Teaming Pro’s website, contractors can easily sort through companies based on their skill sets and other criteria.
Final presenter and Troopster CEO Chelsea Mandello decided to open an online platform to deliver custom care packages to military personnel overseas. She decided to transform Troopster into a nonprofit with the help of 757 Accelerate and is now aiming to send out thousands of care packages next year.
“I’m really happy not to be working out of my house anymore,” Mandello joked.
All of the startups are now looking to raise capital to expand their reach. Part of that process includes pitching to 757 Angels – a Hampton Roads investor network that has spent $40 million on burgeoning companies over four years.
From Inside Business
By Trevor Metcalfe
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