Tag: CELect

The Midwest is known as the breadbasket of the United States. Food production was, and continues to be, critical to the growth and development of the United States and nations around the world. As global food scarcity becomes an increasingly urgent issue, governments will grapple with viable methods to increase sustainably the global food supply.

Yield LabYield Lab is an accelerator for agricultural technology startups. The companies in its portfolio receive seed funding and business mentoring in the hopes of harvesting innovations that seek to either increase agricultural yields for farmers or bring efficient solutions in the field. Increasing agricultural yields will grow the global food supply and will have a marked effect in staving off alarming levels of world hunger.

Yield Lab is currently cultivating 15 startups. Each is geared toward assisting farmers to optimize their food production. The Yield Lab recently expanded its operations overseas to Galway, Ireland and, in February 2017, admitted three new startup companies into its accelerator program.

The portfolio is diverse and ranges from a company like Holganix, which produces a 100%-natural bio-nutritional product that promotes strong plant health and sustainable soils while reducing the need for traditional fertilizers and pesticides, to Aptimmune that specializes in the development and application of prophylactic measures against viral diseases of swine.

As part of Washington University’s “CELect” entrepreneur consulting course with Professor Cliff Holekamp, law students Harshil Shukla and Spenser Owens teamed with undergraduate business students Kyle Birns and Josh Moskow to assist local agricultural technology accelerator, Yield Lab, in identifying meaningful ways of collecting and reporting environmental, social, and economic impact metrics to investors.

More information about the Yield Lab can be found at http://www.theyieldlab.com.

Blog post by: Kyle Birns (BSBA’17), Josh Moskow (BSBA’17), Harshil Shukla (JD’18), and Spenser Owens (JD’18).

In 1874, St. Louis was a major hub for industry. Downtown Washington Avenue was thriving with clothing and shoe manufacturers and the city was known as “first in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American league.” Today, the once thriving and populated downtown garment district has transitioned into historic lofts, retail, nightclubs, restaurants, and office space.

As part of the Olin Business School’s CELect practicum, students Emmy Caton, Shaheen Shabrou, Zitong Qiu, and Nancy Zhang are helping the Saint Louis Fashion Fund (SLFF) to revitalize the fashion industry within the community by putting together recommendations and next steps for the fund and SLFF’s fashion incubator.

The Saint Louis Fashion Fund is led by Executive Director Eric Johnson, an industry leader who has successfully launched similar programming and initiatives in New York City.

fashion-fund-incubatorOn October 27th, SLFF will celebrate the organization’s groundbreaking in a state-of-the-art building located at 1533 Washington Avenue (the ArtLofts Building).  As part of the fund’s broader education and outreach on fashion and design, six in-house designers will be welcomed as part of a two-year program to accelerate the development and resurgence of fashion within the larger St. Louis Community.

More information about the Saint Louis Fashion Fund and the incubator’s inaugural class and upcoming events can be found at St. Louis Fashion Incubator.

Blog post by: Emmy Caton (MBA’17), Shaheen Shabrou(PMBA’17), Zitong Qiu (JD’17), and Nancy Zhang (JD’17).

The goal of Arch Grants is to create an entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure to build successful companies in St. Louis. By creating this entrepreneurial culture and bringing companies to St. Louis, Arch Grants has been able to aid in the economic development of downtown St. Louis. In order to continue the economic development of St. Louis, startups brought to St. Louis by Arch Grants need to be sustainable.

In attempting to help build St. Louis and position it as an innovation and entrepreneurship hub for the future, Arch Grants has raised a question about how they could best fund entrepreneurs.

archgrantsLOGOWe, as a team, are helping Arch Grants make an informed decision on this question. We intend to integrate rather scattered data on what St. Louis can offer startups from four different perspectives: financial, human, infrastructural support and customer base. Through this asset mapping, we hope to address community needs and whether it is desirable for Arch Grants to take the industry-focused approach as a community development accelerator.

The team is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Arch Grants in conjunction with Washington University in St. Louis and hopes to contribute to putting St. Louis on the map as the entrepreneurial heart of the Midwest.

CELect Team: Olivia Jones, JD; Victor Li Wang, BS; Tom Smith, PMBA; Hyeseung Suh, JD

Background: Arch Grants accelerates economic development and community revitalization in St. Louis through entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and most notably by providing $50,000 equity- free grants to early-stage entrepreneurs.

Project: Work with Arch Grants Staff to provide Staff and Board of Directors with the necessary evidence and economic landscaping needed in order to make the decision to move to a more industry-focused competition and program.

Guest blogger: Tom Smith

The CELect consulting program gives WashU MBA, law, and undergraduate students the opportunity to work together on a consulting project for a St. Louis based startup. Our team, consisting of one MBA, one law, and two undergraduate students, was assigned to a financial technology startup, Public Funds Investment Tracking Records (PFITR.) In early September, our team met with the CEO and founder of PFITR, Jim Koetting, to understand what he expects and needs from our team. Jim asked us to create a detailed plan of action for the process of preparing for, realizing, and strategizing financing for his company.

PFITR is a software as a service (SaaS) company designed to give public entities the data they need to make better decisions about investing taxpayers’ money. Jim has spent several years developing the software and only in the past few months has started selling the product to customers. Jim is currently in the financial technology accelerator program, SixThirty, and is now seeking next steps in financing the business.

In approaching the project, our team is assessing the problem from multiple angles, such as analyzing Jim’s financial projections and researching venture capital firms in the Midwest that may be interested in investing in PFITR. We are also pursuing research in SaaS companies and the financial technology industry. Come late November we intend on having a document for Jim outlining the financial technology and SaaS industry, venture capital and funding landscape, financial milestones for PFITR to reach, and where Jim can best apply his proceeds to help his business grow. We also intend on collecting a list of potential venture capital firms Jim can reach out to as well as financial models that can be applied in his business.

Overall, this project has been incredibly rewarding for all team members. As each of us comes for different disciplines and backgrounds we all have much to learn from each other. We are excited to present our project to Jim in November and know that our work will help him make PFITR successful in raising funds for its business.

PFITR CELect team: Brian Lee, Law; Brian Maxwell, BSBA; Hannah Perl, BSBA; and Matt Stranz, MBA.

St. Louis is emerging as a hub for start-ups, attracting talented and transformative companies to the city. As part of a larger effort to re-energize downtown St. Louis, the Center for Experiential Learning at Washington University in St. Louis is connecting its students to young, local entrepreneurs. Through relationships with Cultivation Capital (a top St. Louis venture capital firm), the T-Rex incubator, and these local start-ups, multidisciplinary students are able to receive a unique experience working on real-life business opportunities. Our team was matched to work with an emerging CRM company, Hatchbuck. Hatchbuck is elegantly rethinking how to streamline and automate, effortless, small business’ sales and marketing automation processes. Here are some highlights of our experience:

The Client
As lifelong entrepreneurs and small business owners, the Hatchbuck team has always aimed to find easier ways to drive sales with limited time and resources. So when Don Breckenridge, BSBA’95, and Jonathan Herrick–Hatchbuck’s primary developers–used marketing automation software in their previous businesses, they saw an opportunity. At the time, there was a lack of affordable, intuitive and easy-to-use marketing solutions available to small business owners. As a result, Hatchbuck was “hatched” in 2012. Hatchbuck allows small business owners to send emails, capture leads, automate marketing and close deals in just a few simple steps. Its software streamlines sales and marketing efforts overnight – “turning emails into conversations, website visitors into handshakes, and customers into raving fans.” Today, Hatchbuck’s mission is to help small business achieve their goals through its simple and affordable technology.

The Goal
Growth is integral to a young company. To achieve and sustain growth, a burgeoning company must develop and execute a growth strategy plan. These plans can focus on several unique growth strategies, including developing the company’s core business, pursuing new or alternate business opportunities, or attempting an acquisition. Our primary goal is to help formulate a growth strategy plan for Hatchbuck. We intend to analyze potential growth strategies and determine which approach best fits Hatchbuck’s business model. Using this analysis, we aim to project the benefits the proposed plan of action would provide in terms of growth and development at Hatchbuck and present our findings to the CEO for future consideration.

The Approach
Our approach to providing Hatchbuck with a complete growth strategy plan is two-fold. First, we are working to research and analyze successful companies that are significantly similar to Hatchbuck, i.e. those that engage a similar client base. By identifying the strengths and successes of these companies, we hope to find whether there is room for improvement in the current Hatchbuck business plan. Second, we are researching companies within the same industry (CRM and email marketing) that have found success among different clients than those Hatchbuck has traditionally engaged. We hope that through this two-part approach, we can provide Hatchbuck with new avenues for growth and expansion outside of what has been their traditional business model. The results will allow us to propose a growth strategy that maximizes the value of this young company.

The Hatchbuck CELect team: Jeremy Tripp, Law; Ophelia Chen, BSBA; Esteban Sanchez, PMBA; and Bryan Ryan, Law.

Our team’s work on investigating Intellectual Property (IP) issues for Invisible Industries has been very interesting and given us insights into the IP issues that startup companies have to worry about. A startup company not only has to know the various IP issues, but also must prepare a strategy to react if it receives notice of an infringement or discovers others infringing. That is because a startup company has limited resources and so, while the company might be right under the law, it might lack the resources to combat or pursue action with regards to IP.

Patents with relation to software are at a very unique status in patent law history. Because of a court ruling, patents were opened for software uses several years ago as computers were becoming popular. Up until the mid-2000’s, companies were using patents to protect different features of software. Amazon’s 1-click ordering button is the best example. Amazon currently has the patent on that button and defends it vigorously.

However, in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that software couldn’t be patented, and so, two years later (the time it took to get all pending patents evaluated), all software patents stopped. Currently, software patents are not permitted, though some exist because of this window. Moreover, the Supreme Court left the question of software patents open. That is, the Supreme Court ruled that the issue of software patents was not finalized. The Court wanted to see how technology would evolve before making a ruling.

Theoretically, a startup could still file a patent for software and hope that the Supreme Court would rule differently in the near future and decide the open aspect of the current patent law. But, as stated before, a startup has limited resources. A Start-up can’t spend those limited resources on expensive patents that are long-shots at best. Instead, we need to find other ways to help protect IP including trademarks, trade secrets, and copyrights. Again, those other aspects of IP will be analyzed in a legal sense and a strategic business sense to give Invisible Industries the best recommendation.

CELect team: James Bierman, MBA’16; Prateek Gupta, Engineering; Kevin Jacobsen, Law; Max Suiter, Fine Arts