Login | November 21, 2017

Software startups to compete in ‘Shark Tank’-style event

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporter

Published: November 15, 2017

Three software startup companies are gearing up for a “Shark Tank”-style competition that could land them a spot in The Bit Factory accelerator program and provide up to $10,000 in equity from The Bit Factory’s investment funds.

The second annual FUEL Akron competition is a unique live pitch and negotiation event created to help aspiring software startups showcase their ideas as they drum up support from a panel of judges or “Sharks” who are learning about the businesses for the first time.

Hosted and organized by The Bit Factory and sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the event takes place tomorrow at The Bit Factory, located in the Akron Global Business Accelerator.

The teams will pitch their ideas before live audience members, who will get the chance to witness the investment negotiations as they play out.

James Hilton, one of three mentors at The Bit Factory, said the competition is designed to identify entrepreneurs with innovative ideas for apps, software, web devices or hardware that would benefit from the accelerator program.

“We are the city’s only tech accelerator,” said Hilton. “We provide hands-on mentorship to the businesses,” said Hilton. “We get intimately involved with a company’s problems and work with the entrepreneurs to help resolve them.

“We also have money to invest once we accept a client,” he said. “We look at entrepreneurship as a marathon, which requires perseverance. Many of our entrepreneurs have only started running and need encouragement along the way.

“I have a real understanding of their needs since I have co-founded several tech companies.”

This year’s finalists include LineKing, a mobile app that offers residents fast passes to restaurants and other venues; Convos, a chat bot that assists real estate agents in reaching more meaningful prospects via platforms like Facebook Messenger and myCall, a mobile app that provides a high-tech call system to healthcare facilities to enhance patient experiences and streamline care.

LineKing founder and chief executive officer Mike Varley said his app is designed to help merchants fill in the gap when last minute cancellations occur, while offering residents a chance to eat at very popular establishments without a reservation.

“Many people may have heard of or used the online reservation service OpenTable before,” said Varley. “We are not in competition with them. Our app is geared toward walk-ins, where no reservation is required.”

Varley and his brother Ryan launched the app in the summer of 2017. He said he decided to enter the competition in late September after reading an article about last year’s event and seeing it discussed on Twitter.

“We underwent an interview process and found out we were a finalist in late October,” said Varley. “Since our selection, we have undergone a coaching session with the mentors at The Bit Factory to help us refine our presentation.

“Competitions such as FUEL nurture startups in their nascent stages,” said Varley. “We view it as a catalyst to help LineKing emerge from a hyperlocal product to a national brand.”

Nick Jensen, founder of Convos, said his business got off the ground about six or seven months ago.

He entered the competition with the goal of getting more involved in Akron’s startup community.

A native of Stow, Jensen said he believes landing a spot in The Bit Factory will provide him with the tools and mentorship needed to grow “at the speed that technology moves.”

The second annual FUEL Akron competition gets underway at 5 p.m. at 526 S. Main St. in Akron. Mayor Dan Horrigan will kick off the event, which is open to the public. There is no cost to attend, however those interested must register at fuelakron.com


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