Written by Jerred Ziegler.
Five percent: That’s the chance a performing arts student will get accepted into a program after an audition. Some of these students pay thousands of dollars to go to auditions halfway around the world – time and money that could be used to apply to additional programs. To make the application process more efficient, Derek Brown and Don Hunter created Acceptd, a web-based audition and application platform that connects artists with a database of opportunities, no travel required.
“We are essentially creating an efficiency tool for universities, and what drives our passion are the opportunities Acceptd creates for students and artists,” said Brown. “We work with 500 different art institutions around the world, all looking for the best candidates for their programs. Students interested in singing, dancing and acting can upload their resume to our site and apply to all 500 institutions at once.”
Opportunities available through Acceptd cover a wide range of experience, from middle school to professional careers with the country’s biggest orchestras. Some of the nation’s top programs are currently using Acceptd, including Juilliard, the University of Texas, The New School and Pace University. Ohio partners include The Ohio State University, Otterbein University and the University of Cincinnati. The company also works with programs in Switzerland, Japan and the UK.
“Universities are changing the ways they are evaluating students,” said Brown. “The YouTube generation wants to communicate and present themselves in a unique way. We saw an opportunity to streamline the application process using video uploads of auditions.”
Brown and Hunter created the prototype for Acceptd in September 2011 after working closely with faculty at the University of Cincinnati and Otterbein University. The duo spent six months getting feedback on the prototype from students, parents and universities before applying to an accelerator affiliated with Rev1 Ventures, a central Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier. At the end of the accelerator program, Acceptd was awarded $500,000 in seed funding. This allowed the company to create a full version of their web platform and hire a team of sales and operations employees.
“Rev1 has helped us with the intangibles of starting a business,” said Brown. “We were introduced to a ton of contacts in different professional services, plus mentors to help our business grow.”
Brown says the decision to start Acceptd in Columbus was based on the city’s network of professionals in the education space.
“When we first started out, we found that so many previous entrepreneurs and angel investors were willing to meet with us and that really helped us network,” said Brown. “Plus Columbus is a great city for recruiting since it is home to major universities and Fortune 500 companies.”
Since Brown and Hunter founded the company, Acceptd has grown to 12 full-time and 6 part-time employees. The company is currently in growth mode and is experiencing double digit gains every year.