How these startup veterans are sharing their knowledge and boosting Ohio concepts
For established entrepreneurs and their colleagues, it can be easy to find help or resources for the next big idea, especially in Ohio. But plenty of good ideas come from even earlier, before a founder has ever established themselves in the scene. For those ideas (and more), Columbus’s Horizon Two Labs can be a guiding light. The venture studio works with corporate partners and entrepreneurs to co-found new companies, offering everything from marketing and creative services to engineering and tech help.
“We absolutely love the early stage process of developing and conceiving a startup, and we have experience from helping literally hundreds of businesses, mentoring, being on boards, angel investing, operating accelerators and working with corporate innovation,” said partner Matt Armstead. “At Horizon Two Labs, we develop new concepts by building them, founding them, operating them, and then getting them to a place that’s highly de-risked so that we can take on strategic investment and add the future founders of that company. We fund our own concepts and bring in talented people who love to be in the startup space.”
While Ohio has a wealth of accelerators, incubators and other programs to help grow and guide fledgling existing businesses, Horizon Two Labs focuses on the even earlier stages of an idea. From the very inception of a concept to its eventual funding and launch, Horizon’s goal is to provide everything any new startup could need rather than limiting themselves to a particular stage, field or scope. Recently, they created NowGoStart.com to bring those services to would-be founders for free as a result of the pandemic.
“We have a methodology that we start companies with that we’ve developed from working with hundreds of companies, startups and entrepreneurs,” Armstead said. “We turned that into a free curriculum that we made widely available to anybody that wants access to it. We brought in interesting people and helped them understand the fundamentals of getting ideas off the ground, like bringing entrepreneurs or co-founders into the fold, how you think about funding or bootstrapping, all of those various aspects. Many people were either out of work, working from home or didn’t have many options, so we wanted to take our methodology and make it widely available to anybody that wanted to leverage it.”
By working with ideas and concepts from their very inception, Horizon Two Labs has more control over projects and the ability to prioritize the most impactful ideas. Among a variety of burgeoning companies under their umbrella is a project called Emtrey, which provides the perfect example Horizon’s front-to-back involvement in the companies they launch.
“Emtrey works in automated regression testing — when people are building software, websites and other things, there are lots of updates that are going on and collaboration is required between designers, developers and quality assurance teams,” Armstead said. “Emtrey automates the visual side of the website. So if something’s broken or changed, it automatically detects that and allows you to fix that across the collaborative team so that you can get to market a lot faster. Our engineers came up with this concept as a pain point they personally had, we validated it, and have built it. By Q2 of 2022, we’re hoping to get 100 projects on the platform so that we can really refine the service and the product. We were part of TechCrunch Disrupt just a couple of weeks ago.”
Armstead and his Horizon partners are major advocates for Ohio and its people and talent. From their previous work in accelerators and incubators to the companies they currently work with, they know the value of Ohio tech and innovation, and only expect the state and their Columbus home to grow moving forward.
“We’re big proponents of Ohio, and Columbus is fantastic,” Armstead said. “You have the universities with great talent, companies that are finding success and now big venture capital dollars here, with others following suit. When we ran Fintech71, an Ohio-based accelerator, we traveled with the teams and saw that every part of the state has really improved its startup environment. You’re starting to see folks moving on from the existing, well-funded startups and creating their own, so the pipeline is really starting to take shape, and that’s super exciting. The talent’s here and we’re creating great infrastructure, so it’s just a perfect storm. We’re really hitting our stride.”