What do you really get out of an incubator, anyway?
Sure, any programming will boast stats on its most successful founders or list mentorship and networking among perks for those selected. But what real, tangible results can you actually expect?
Earlier this year, a few founders learned for themselves at the Spring 2022 Opportunity Intensive hosted by Halcyon in DC. This cohort featured 10 founders, many of whom are based in the DMV area (Halcyon does require fellows to be in DC for the cohort itself, but accepts companies HQed all over into its programs). The Spring 2022 Opportunity Intensive was designed as an incubator for impact-driven founders serving Opportunity Zones in the area.
This cohort class even has a name for itself: $CREW — short for sincerity, curiosity, radical, excellence and welcoming, created from a cohort exercise. But where have they been since graduating in August? We asked a few of the members about their Halcyon experience and what they’ve been up to since flying the coop.
A DC-based startup that helps students aged 15-22 with their careers, GoPursue was one of the earliest-stage startups in the cohort, founder Kathryn Breisch told Technical.ly. The company, which she said began the cohort with an idea and a passionate founder, interviewed hundreds of prospective users, launched a beta app and signed its first paying customer at Halcyon. It also nabbed grant funding from three foundations and is pursuing partnerships with both school districts and mentoring programs.
“Our mission, vision, and primary product have remained true to their original concept from the early days,” Breisch said. “However, we are significantly bolstering our offerings and designing our business model around providing a service rather than a good.”
This fall, it plans on running a few pilot programs with students and mentoring organizations while pursuing a long-term goal of a strong, diversified talent pipeline full of motivated students.
Pause & Ponder (Waldorf, Maryland)
Pause & Ponder Founder Tysha Tolbert said that she actually pitched and entered the incubator with an entirely different program idea. She ultimately pivoted and launched a whole new venture during her time at Halcyon. Now, she heads a career and employee services coaching platform that primarily focuses on individuals, as well as she’s working on an HR tech product that focuses on workplace belonging and human capital development.
Tolbert added that she received some startup funding to develop the revenue-generating tech product. She’s also currently raising a pre-seed round of $1 million to finish the prototype and launch a pilot program.
“[At Halcyon], you can collaborate, find community, leverage support and allies to build something profitable while scaling impact in social enterprise,” Tolbert said. “I am a better entrepreneur and leader after this journey.”
Salveo Innovations (DC)
Fellow cohort members Carlisha Gentles and Kesha Lee created Salveo Innovations to bridge the communication gaps between patients and providers. The program didn’t lead to a core change or a pivot to the company’s focus. It did, however, help the founders navigate the business and fundraising side of early-stage startups, as well as overcome funding roadblocks.
Following the completion of the incubator, Salveo was selected as a recipient of the HBCU founder startup prize at Cisco’s Globa Problem Solver Challenge, which netted the company a $50,000, non-dilutive investment. It’ll use the funds to develop its beta app, host two community pilots and prepare for a launch in the fourth quarter.
“You can truly tell that all of the Halcyon connections genuinely have a vested interest in seeing you succeed, which is apparent in their actions,” Gentles said. “With regards to our current cohort, we have become a family and each other’s battle buddies, which are essential along this social impact-driven startup journey.”
When the incubator began earlier this year, founder Juan Diaz said, Shop Reuse was just an idea. Now, he has his marketplace up and running, reselling remodeling materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill.
Initially, he said, the idea was to focus on work with remodeling contractors. Shop Reuse has since expanded to hone in on reuse warehouses and individuals who want to do sustainable remodeling. This summer, the company received a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the DC Department of Energy and the Environment to continue moving the startup forward.
“Besides the wonderful lessons on everything from pitching to patent law, we built a truly great community with our fellow founders,” Diaz said. “Being able to rely on these other amazing founders for support has provided more value than I could have ever imagined.”
TANTV (Upper Marlboro, Maryland)
TANTV began Halcyon as an editorial platform for Africans and other members of the Black diaspora in the US, founder Adedayo Fashanu said. Since then, it’s added new methods for engaging its audience, including plans to launch a streaming service in the next few months.
Since completing Halcyon, the company is partnering with a massive player in Hollywood (Fashanu was unable to say who just yet) for its platform. It’s also completed some friends and family-round funding, has a few grant opportunities in the works and is raising a pre-seed round. Going forward, Fashanu plans to launch a new membership feature and is working to acquire users and advertisers for TANTV.
“Our biggest takeaway [from Halcyon] has been the access to world-class business coaches, mentors and advisors from reputable organizations like Capital One and Goodwin Procter who were always readily available to guide and provide support,” Fashanu said. “Additionally, we are being supported by organizations like Morgan Stanley, TEDCO and ISBI who are working to guide us through our pre-seed fundraising path.”
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