Written by Robert Leitch.
You might have a great product and startup company, but without the right branding, it could fall flat with investors and customers. That’s where The Brandery comes in. Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, The Brandery is one of the top seed-stage startup accelerators in the United States. It sets itself apart by from its competitors by focusing on brand strategy along with the product being developed. This unique approach positions its graduates for success in the market from day one.
Founded in 2010, The Brandery accepts a class of 10-12 startups each summer. The program specializes in software development, ranging from consumer internet to ad tech. Each company accepted into the program receives a $50,000 grant, made possible by Ohio Third Frontier funding. The four month program is entering its sixth year in 2015 and receives about 1,000 applicants each year. To date, the program has accelerated 45 companies that have raised $70 million – an average of $1.2 million per company.
“We’re doing an equivalent level of work in the middle of the country as the accelerators on the coasts,” said Emily Cooper, marketing and operations manager at The Brandery. “Cincinnati’s more affordable cost of living matched with our high quality mentor network allows us to compete with these other programs.”
One of The Brandery’s key strengths is how the program leverages Cincinnati’s wealth of branding, design and marketing knowledge. The core belief of the program is that by building a strong brand along with a strong product, accelerator companies can emerge more resource efficient and with a greater chance at success. The Brandery helps its companies uncover key consumer insights to develop products for their customers. Cincinnati is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, including Kroger and Proctor & Gamble, and many of The Brandery’s mentors come directly from these high-profile corporations.
“We came to The Brandery because we believed in the mentor network,” said Steve Caldwell, co-founder of Strap, a graduate of The Brandery. “The program helped us zoom out and look at the market on a broader scale. They helped us create a more well-rounded vision for the future. It’s unlikely we would have met our funding goal without The Brandery.”
The Brandery looks for three essential components in each startup that they accept into the program. The first is the team – they want each company to have at least one person with strong business sense, one person who can develop the technology, and one person who can design the product and make it look good. The second criterion is the idea itself – evaluating if the market is big enough to support the product and if it’s the right time for the product to be introduced. The third consideration is how much help The Brandery can provide the company. They want to choose companies that will benefit the most from their unique branding, design and marketing mentor network.
“The established mentor community in Cincinnati is impossible to leave,” said Chris Bergman, CEO of ChoreMonster, another Brandery graduate. “It takes a village to raise a startup, and it’s important to be surrounded by people helping you get where you want to go.”