Two former sales and business development professionals have created a cloud-based video screening application tailored to institutions of higher education, and it’s already garnering funding and pilot users.
The first phase of the platform, called Acceptd, will focus on admissions for fine arts programs, which usually require live auditions as part of the application process.
“With Acceptd, students upload their digital audition, which saves them time and money in travel, and faculty can view and discuss candidates online, which saves them time and resources that could be spent with the most qualified applicants,” says Don Hunter, who co-founded Acceptd with Derek Brown.
Although Acceptd won’t debut until the fall, its founders have obtained $70,000 in funding: a $50,000 TechGenesis grant from TechColumbus and $20,000 from the 10-xelerator. (10x is a mentorship-driven investment program with funding provided by the Ohio’s New Entrepreneur Fund.
Additionally, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and Otterbein University, which has a nationally-ranked theater program, have signed on to pilot Acceptd.
To learn what resources Hunter and Brown used to develop their business, why they wanted to participate in the ONE Fund program, and how they landed their clients, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: What inspired you to start Acceptd?
Don Hunter: My co-founder, Derek, and I are passionate about creating opportunities for students. We are originally from Marysville, Ohio and both went to the University of Cincinnati on full-ride business scholarships. Had we not sold ourselves and received those scholarships, our college experience would have looked a lot different since we would both have been self funding our education.
So we set out to create a platform where students would have the ability to sell themselves beyond a written application, but prior to live interviews or, in the case of fine arts programs, live auditions.
As we met with university program directors around the state, we saw a real pain point for programs to efficiently screen applicants and quickly identify the most qualified students. Acceptd allows them to streamline that process with an inbox style video management tool that allows them to view, rate, and collaborate with other decision makers on their applicant pool.
Our solution provides a win-win for both programs and applicants, and we are excited about the opportunity to service both sides of the process.
[M]: When did you and Derek start developing your concept?
DH: We came up with the idea in December 2010 and started meeting with programs in January 2011. Once we validated the opportunity, we formalized the business in February− only five months ago.
[M]: What were some of the first steps you took when launching Acceptd?
DH: As I mentioned, the first step any entrepreneur should take is validating the need for your product. So we meet with schools to identify their pain points and pitch our solution. This step is also critical as you build your product, so you can tailor it to the specific needs of your future clients. If they don’t need bells and whistles, don’t build bells and whistles.
Once we got a clear idea of the need and solution, we contracted our development company −Mindbox Studios in Cincinnati− who helped us build our platform and design the user experience. During this time, we continued to work closely with our contacts at universities to make sure we were right on the money as we built the product.
[M]: What resources −books, websites, organizations− were helpful during that time?
DH: Our development company and their experience was pivotal during the creation process, as well as our constant contact with future clients. From a product standpoint, the book Rework by Jason Fried was very helpful to define a simple solution that meets the needs of clients, as you’re otherwise inclined to go throw in unnecessary bells and whistles.
From a business standpoint, Greg Pugh and others at the TechColumbus office have been a tremendous help in building the foundation for a sustainable, healthy business that will be able to blow clients away for years to come.
[M]: Why did you apply to the ONE Fund pilot program?
DH: Derek and I understood the value in business accelerator programs and had been looking throughout the country at all of the options out there. When we heard about the 10x program and the access to all of the mentors located in Central Ohio, it was a no-brainer. I believe 10x is a game changer in accelerator programs since their mentor base is so extensive and the fact that they provide a $20K stipend without an equity stake in your company. Most other accelerator programs provide $12 to $18K [stipends] with a 6 percent stake in your company.
[M]: Otterbein University and the University of Cincinnati have already signed on to pilot Acceptd. How did you get them on board?
DH: We simply picked up the phone and asked them if we could get their feedback on their current admissions process and the problems that exist. From there, we cast a vision of a better solution and worked closely with them as we developed our product. At the end of the day, it was easy to come on board since they all had a hand in the development, which addresses the specific needs of their programs.
[M]: You’ve already landed some clients. Has that made you less nervous about presenting Acceptd to investors in September?
DH: Absolutely. A business is not a business until it has customers. Until that happens, it’s simply an idea and everything else is speculation. It’s a much easier pitch, in my opinion, to confidently present your business and financial needs when you can say that you have customers on board using your product. For them, a significant amount of risk goes away at that point. We are excited that Investor Pitch Day on September 1st coincides with the launch date with our beta clients, so we look forward to celebrating that in our presentation.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
DH: If anyone is interested in learning more about Acceptd, they can contact us at [email protected]
You can also visit GetAcceptd.com to learn more.