By Kevin Volz
For anyone on the verge of transitioning from student to graduate, graduation day is filled with a tidal wave of emotions – reflection, excitement, anxiety. It’s a life-changing day that marks the end of one life chapter and the start of a new one. To most people, graduation means walking across a stage to receive a diploma. For entrepreneurs in an accelerator program, graduation day means making the business pitch of a lifetime.
Demo Day is the culmination of 16 weeks of hard work for the graduating startups at Cleveland, Ohio’s LaunchHouse accelerator program, funded by Ohio Third Frontier. This year, 10 graduating companies battled through weeks of product development meetings, classroom education and one-on-one mentorship, emerging on the other side ready to introduce their ideas to the world. The ultimate goal of Demo Day is to get these new companies in front of investors and start conversations that could lead to further funding.
Most demo days across the country have a standard format with each new startup presenting their pitch one-by-one to an auditorium of investors. Investors often sit through hours of presentations with no real chance to interact with any of the companies until the event is over. LaunchHouse wanted to shake up that concept this year.
“Investing in a startup company takes a lot of faith in the power of an individual,” said Shannon Lyons, a partner and the chief business development officer of LaunchHouse. “This year’s format for our Demo Day allows investors in attendance to make those personal connections in a casual environment to hopefully foster further conversations.”
At LaunchHouse’s Demo Day, personal connections can be made on the exposition floor, which resembles a career fair. Each new startup has their own booth set up for conversations with investors. Formal presentations take place at the same time as the exposition, but are broken into succinct segments of two to three companies at a time. This allows investors to speak individually with each company first on the expo floor and decide which sections of the formal presentations they would like to attend.
From a non-lethal protection device to digital vital document management, the 2014 LaunchHouse graduating class includes varied set of businesses. One thing they all have in common? Their appreciation of the benefits they received from the program.
“LaunchHouse helps put a structure in place to ensure your company is meeting deadlines,” said Cal Al-Dhubaib, CEO/CTO of Triple Analytics, one of this year’s LaunchHouse graduates. “You get to network a lot and talk to a ton of people in the entrepreneurial and investment worlds. LaunchHouse really gives you the resources and opportunities you need to meet your goals.”
This graduating class marks the end of an era for LaunchHouse. The entrepreneurial hub will soon announce exciting new changes for its programming in northeast Ohio.