For the next three weeks it might as well be called GoLab, because a van full of founders has hit the road. With new GrowLab Executive Director Jonathan Bixby behind the wheel, the four new companies currently making up the fifth and newest cohort is officially starting class in San Francisco.
It’s interesting seeing people eat their own dogfood. GrowLab is essentially a startup itself. They’re showing that it’s all about listening, learning, iterating and improving along the way. “We’re trying to tighten our relationship with the Valley, and decided to put words into action by heading down,” said Bixby. “We’ll be connecting with people from Facebook, DropBox, Twitter, and key mentors there. It’s about getting our cohort companies integrated into the Valley right off the bat.”
Past cohorts went to the Valley at session’s end, which they’ll still be doing, but Bixby believes they’re sending these founders a strong message by saying “here are the best in the world, see how you feel about being part of it. Let’s up the ante, and really accelerate.” The teams will benefit learning from some of the best minds in technology, developing strategic partnerships, meeting with potential investors, and expanding their network.
It’s a global search for talent. GrowLab received more than 350 applications. After interviewing more than 70 startups they’re now introducing the first four companies. Bixby said “the process was very competitive. The eye opener for me, was the great quality of people we interviewed. It was a really difficult decision. But our approach is making sure that we’re well aligned with each business, and confident in our ability to help.”
He added, “all of the companies that we selected have real traction and are in growing and valuable markets.” This is going to be the first cohort under Bixby’s full leadership since he took the helm of GrowLab in October 2013. Here’s a quick overview of new group:
BitLit is a platform enabling publishers to distribute free or highly discounted eBooks to readers who own physical editions. Readers use the BitLit app to prove they own a paper copy of a book to get the bundled eBook edition, which can be read on any device. BitLit is bridging the digital vs. paper divide by letting readers have the best of both. Publishers and authors have the opportunity to reconnect with their fans.
ethicalDeal is North America’s largest green daily deal site, reaching over 1M green consumers. With over 3 years of social commerce experience they’re creating a unique social sampling platform. This platform is allowing consumers to test products for free in return for sharing their experience via reviews with Facebook friends. With 90% of people trusting peer recommendations, ethicalDeal’s new social sampling platform promises to be the best way for brands to launch new products
PrintToPeer is a cloud print solution for desktop 3D printers, allowing you to print objects from anywhere. Sharing your 3D printer is easy. This hosted web workflow and plug-and-play client, offers the least configuration needed for any 3D printer control software. And with auto-updates, your software never needs to be upgraded again. By providing a common API for 3D printers, PrintToPeer aims to provide a platform for applications and devices to benefit from this fast evolving consumer technology. And by providing the software, 3D printer OEMs can focus on better hardware
Spark CRM is an online platform specifically designed to power the entire process of selling and marketing real estate. Using technology to help turn leads into buyers, inventory into contracts, and information into usable metrics. Spark CRM is advancing real estate software through intuitive design and creating a solution built around the end-user, but designed for the business.
Bixby added “we’re trying to do a rolling cohort. Being big believers in the Startup Visa program, we’re still in progress with some other companies. This process takes more time.”
It’s also worth noting other changes to the program includes offering more business planning. More time will be spent flushing out the lean canvas methodology. As well, there’s going to be a deeper focus on business development and sales. As Bixby put it, “get the hell out of the office. Meet people and talk about your product.”
To date, GrowLab has accelerated 25 startups, which have collectively raised over $11 million in funding, and created over 85 jobs in Canada. Applications for GrowLab Fall 2014 cohort is now open. Interested entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply online at http://growlab.ca/apply-‐now.
For Bixby he’s got a very clear mission for GrowLab, “it’s about creating the best 3 month business experience of someone’s life.”